Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Among Those For Whom Jesus Prayed

"Father, that which thou hast given me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with me; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John xvii. 24 R.V.)

Our text is a part of the high-priestly prayer of Jesus. It is its tenderest strain, revealing the human heart of the Son of God which he has carried with him "into the heavens," a heart magnetic with human sympathy and love. It always touches my heart; it dips a bucket into the deep fountain of my tears. Whenever I read this text it raises in me a flood of mingled emotions — astonishment at the condescending love of Christ for me, then love responsive to his self-sacrificing love, followed by an adoring gratitude to my divine benefactor.

It answers the question: What are the feelings of the Son of God crowned King of kings, sitting on his Father's throne and swaying his scepter of universal empire? Have I, an atom in the vast whole of the universe, escaped his special notice? Have I faded from his recognition, forgotten by him who is surrounded by "the helmed cherubim, the sworded seraphim," thrones, dominions, angels and archangels? In his exaltation has he dropped me out of his regard, me so distant while he is surrounded by majestic orders of spiritual intelligences so near, me so low in the scale of moral being in contrast with those who stand so high? What chance has one marred by depravity from his very birth and disfigured by sins whose scars are indelible blemishes, even after forgiveness, rendering him repulsive to the love of the sinless one who hateth iniquity? The text assures me of his continual regard for me, despite the hideous traces of my past sins. They are my card of invitation to be present at his public coronation and to share the glory of that hour which will stretch away into the countless ages of eternity.

Be it ever borne in mind that this prayer is only a specimen of that intercession which our High Priest above is ever silently presenting to his Father. That we might know the contents of that supplication which is poured out behind the drapery of the skies and beyond the hearing of ears of clay, Jesus rehearsed in the presence of his disciples that prayer which is to be the burden of his desire from the day of his ascension to the day of his descent to judge the quick and the dead. In this prayer Jesus remembers me. How do I know? In two ways: He prayed not only for those who had believed his words, but for many others then unborn. Hear him: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Including as he does believers in all future ages "he counts me in the whosoever."

But perhaps I am not one of those given by the Father to the Son as intimated in the text. I know that he prays for me and invites me to share his glory if I can convince myself that I am of the number of those who have been given by the Father to the Son. Who are they? There are two answers: first, that of the predestinarian, that a definite number — which cannot be increased nor diminished have been unconditionally elected to eternal life and their names are written in the secret will of God which he keeps locked up in his own bosom, a register on which no other eye can look till the day of judgment. But since the God whom we Arminians worship is no respecter of persons we cannot accept this exposition. Our second and better answer is that God has though the atonement bestowed upon all men the gracious ability to repent and perseveringly believe on his Son. As many as use this gracious ability and freely come to Christ by repentance and faith are said to he given to him by the Father. The first answer magnifies God's sovereignty, assuming that he can do so irrational an act as to make a choice without any reason. We are told that there is no arbitrary sovereignty in a choice which is dictated by reason. If we accept this doctrine, we must accept a limited atonement, irresistible grace, bound will, and the doctrine once in grace always in grace, or the final perseverance of the saints. These five points of Calvinism I can find neither in my reason, my conscience nor my Bible. It turns man into a machine and. God into a despot. The practical effect of this doctrine is distressing to contemplate. It leaves the believer in suspense respecting the gravest question, "Am I saved?" He can never consistently say, "Yes," since he is uncertain whether his name is on the secret register of the elect. Hence this doctrine hinders saving faith, obstructs the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and a clear assurance of acceptance with God.

But I find from the time of Pentecost all along through the New Testament that Christians are brimful and running over with joy, conscious of pardon, regeneration and sanctification. They have not only knowledge of forgiveness and knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, but they use a stronger word and speak of a full, certain, thorough, exact and perfect knowledge of spiritual realities. This experimental knowledge is in the Greek word ἐπίγνωσις (epignosis) frequently used by Paul and Peter after Pentecost, that great spiritual eye-opener. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to cry in the believer's heart, "Abba, Father!" inspiring an assurance of adoption. The first means by which the Father gives men to the Son is the law which is our schoolmaster, or rather the child leader, to bring us to Christ. In patrician families among the Romans a trusty slave was charged with the duties of a παιδαγωγός (paidagogos), who took the child by the hand and led him to school and placed him in the care of the teacher. From this custom Paul borrows the metaphor, "The law is our child-leader." The second agency by which a soul is given to Christ is "the convicting Spirit, who applies the law and awakens a sense of guilt and the wrath of God. He then reveals the mercy of God as administered through the atoning death of his Son. This heavenly monitor points the sinner first to mount Sinai to awaken a sense of need, and then to mount Calvary for the supply of that need. All whose wills assume the attitude of obedience toward God and trust in his Son as both Savior and Lord are given to Christ by the Father, who does not drag them but rather draws them with an attraction persuasive, but not by an irresistible and necessitating power overriding free agency. Hence the provision for the conditional salvation of all men having been made, the question who will make their election sure by repentance toward God and faith in his Son is determined by each individual will, says the Arminian interpreter of the Bible. The Calvinist declares that God determines who shall be saved. This doctrine necessarily implies that God also determines who shall be damned. Every coin has two faces, the obverse and the reverse. The reverse face of election is reprobation. The same misinterpreted scripture texts alleged in proof of the unconditional election of some prove the unconditional reprobation of the rest of mankind. This impeaches the moral attributes of God.

Those who freely receive Christ receive from him the privilege of becoming sons of God. These are led by the Spirit of God as his gift to the Son.

— edited from Jesus Exultant (1899) Chapter 4.