POSTED - 5/24/2001
A Display of Christ - Part VI (Of the Authority by which Christ, as Mediator, Acted
- John Flavel
"For him hath God the Father sealed." - John, 6:27.
This Scripture is a part of Christ's excellent reply to an earthly-minded multitude, who followed him, not for any spiritual excellencies that they saw in him, or soul-advantages they expected by him, but for bread. Instead of making his service their meat and drink, they only served him that they might eat and drink. Self may creep into the best hearts and actions; but it only predominates in the hypocrite. These people had sought Christ from place to place, and having at last found him, they salute him with the question, "Rabbi, whence camest thou hither?" verse 25. Christ's reply is partly dissuasive, and partly directive. He dissuades them from putting the secondary and subordinate in the place of the principal and ultimate end; from preferring their bodies to their souls, their fleshly accommodations to the glory of God. "Labor not for the meat that perisheth:" by which he does not take them off from their lawful labors and callings, but dissuades them from minding those things too intently; and from the odious sin of making religion but a pretense for sensual gratification. "But labor for that meat which endureth to eternal life:" to get bread for your souls to live by eternally. And, that he might engage their diligence in seeking it to purpose, he shows them not only where they may have it,-"which the Son of man shall give you,"-but also how they may be fully satisfied that he hath it for them, "For him hath God the Father sealed." In these words are three parts observable.
Jesus Christ did not of himself undertake the work of our redemption, but was solemnly sealed unto it by God the Father.
- The Person sealing or investing Christ with authority and power; which is said to be God the Father. Though all the persons in the Godhead are equal in nature, dignity, and power, yet in their operation there is an order observed among them: the Father sends the Son, the Son is sent by the Father, the Holy Ghost is sent by both.
- The subject in which God the Father lodges this authority, "Him," that is, the Son of man. God the Father hath so sealed him, as he never sealed any other before him, or that shall arise after him. No name is given in heaven, or earth, but this name, by which we are saved. Acts, 4:12. "The government is upon his shoulder." Isa. 9:6.
- The way and manner of the Father's delegating and committing this authority to Christ; and that is, by sealing him. Where. we have both a metonymy, the symbol of authority being put for the authority itself; and a metaphor, sealing, which is a human act for ratifying and confirming an instrument or grant, being here applied to God. Like as princes, by sealed credentials, confirm the authority of those they send. Hence,
When I say be did not of himself undertake this work, I mean not that he was unwilling, for his heart was as fully and ardently engaged in it as the Father's: so he tells us, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; thy law is in my heart." Psa. 40:7,8. But the meaning is, he came not without a due call, and full commission from his Father. And this is the meaning of that scripture, "I proceeded and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." John, 8:42. And this the apostle plainly expresses, "No man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron: so also Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son." Heb. 5:4, 5. And on account of these sealed credentials which he received from the Father, he is called "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession," Heb. 3:1, that is, one called and sent forth by the Father's authority. Our present business, then, is to open Christ's commission, and to view the great seal of heaven by which it was ratified.
I. What was that office, or work, to which his Father sealed him? I answer, more generally, he was sealed to the whole work of mediation for us, thereby to recover and save all whom the Father had given him: so John, 17:2; it was to "give eternal life to as many as were given him" it was "to bring Jacob again to him," Isa. 49:5, or, as the apostle expresses it, "that he might bring us to God." 1 Pet. 3:18. More particularly, in order to the sure and full effecting of this most glorious design. he was sealed to the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King, that so be might bring about and compass this work.
II. What doth the Father's sealing of Christ to this work and office imply?
- God sealed him a commission to preach the glad tidings of salvation to sinners. This commission Christ opened and read in the audience of the people; "And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, &c. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Luke, 4:17-21.
- He also sealed him to the priesthood, and that the most excellent; authorizing him to execute both the parts of it, namely, expiatory and intercessory. He called him to offer up himself a sacrifice for us: "I have power (saith he) to lay down my life; this commandment have I received of my Father." John, 10:18, And upon that account, his offering up of his blood is, by the apostle, styled an act of obedience: "He became obedient unto death." Phil. 2:8. He, also called him to intercede for us. "Those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath, by him that said unto him, The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever," Heb. 7:21,24,25: his sacrifice is virtually continued, in his living for ever to make intercession, as verse 24.
- He called him to his regal office; he was set upon the highest throne of authority by his Father's commission: "All power in heaven and earth is given to me." Matt. 28:18. To all this was Christ sealed and authorized by his Father.
III. Let us inquire how God the Father sealed Jesus Christ to this work.
- The validity and efficacy of all his mediatorial acts. For by virtue of this his sealing, whatever he did was fully ratified. And in this very thing lies much of a believer's comfort and security; forasmuch as all acts done without commission and authority, how great or able soever the person that performs them, are in themselves null and void. But what is done by commission and authority, is authentic, and valid among men.
- It imports the great obligation lying upon Jesus Christ to be faithful in the work to which he was sealed: for the Father, in this commission, devolves a great trust upon him, and relies upon him for his most faithful discharge of it. And, indeed, upon this very account Christ reckons himself specially obliged to pursue the Father's design and end: "I must work the works of him that sent me." John, 9:4. And, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." John, 5:30. His eye is still upon that work and will of his Father. He reckons himself under a necessity of punctual and precise obedience to it; and, as a faithful servant, will have his own will swallowed up in his Father's will.
- It imports Christ's complete qualification and fitness to serve the Father's design and end of our recovery. Had not God known him to be every way fit and qualified for the work, he would never have sealed him a commission for it. Men may, but God will not seal an unfit or incapable person for his work. And, indeed, whatever is desirable in a servant, was eminently found in Christ. For faithfulness, none like him. Moses, indeed, was faithful in every point, but still as a servant; but Christ as a Son. Heb. 3:6. He is "the faithful and true witness." Rev. 1:5. For zeal, none like him. The zeal of God's house did eat him up. John, 2:16, 17. He was so intent upon his Father's work that he forgot to eat bread, counting his work his meat and drink. John, 4:32. Yea, love to his Father carried him on through all his work, and made him delight in the hardest piece of his service; for be served him as a Son. Heb. 3:5,6. All that ever he did was done in love. For wisdom, none like him. The Father knew him to be most wise, and said of him before he was employed, "Behold, my Servant shall deal prudently." Isa. 52:13. For self-denial, never any like him; he sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him. John, 8:50. Had he not been thus faithful, zealous, full of love, prudent, and self-denying, he had never been employed in this great affair.
- It implies Christ's sole authority in the church, to appoint and enjoin what he pleaseth; and this is his peculiar prerogative. God's sealing him is a single, not a joint commission; he hath sealed him, and none beside him. Indeed there were some that pretended a call and commission from God; but all that came before him, giving themselves out for the Messiah, were "thieves and robbers," that came not in at the door, as he did. John, 10:8. And he himself foretells, that after him some should arise, and labor to deceive the world with a feigned commission, and a counterfeit seal: "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch, that if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect." Matt. 24:24. But God never commissioned any besides him, neither is there any other name under heaven. Acts, 4:12.
IV. We will inquire why it was necessary Christ should be sealed by his Father to this work.
- By solemn designation to this work. He singled him out and set him apart for it: and therefore the prophet Isaiah calls him God's elect, chap. 42:1; and the apostle Peter, Chosen of God. 1 Pet. 2:4. This word which we render elect, not only signifies one that in himself is surpassing, worthy, and excellent, but also one that is set apart and designed, as Christ was, for the work of mediation. And so much is included in John, 10:36, where the Father is said to sanctify him, that is, to separate and devote him to this service.
- He was sealed, not only by solemn designation, but also by supereminent and unparalleled sanctification. He was anointed, as well as appointed to it. The Lord filled him with the Spirit, and that without measure, to qualify him for this service. So Isa. 61:1-3, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach," &c. Yea, the Spirit of the Lord was not only upon him, but he was full of the Spirit, Luke, 4:1, and so full as was never any beside him; for God "anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows." Psa. 45:7. Believers are his fellows, or co-partners of this Spirit ; they have an anointing also, but not as Christ had: in him it dwelt in its fullness, in them according to measure. It was poured out on Christ, our Head, abundantly, and ran dawn to the hem of his garment. "God gave not the Spirit to him by measure." John, 3:34. God filled Christ's human nature, to the utmost capacity, with all fullness of the Spirit of knowledge, wisdom, love, &c. beyond all creatures, for the plenary and more effectual administration of his mediatorship. He was full extensively, with all kinds of grace; and full, intensively, with all degrees of grace. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell," Col. 1:19, as light in the sun, or water in a fountain; so that the holy oil that was poured out upon the head of kings and priests, whereby they were consecrated to their offices, was but typical of the Spirit by which Christ was consecrated or sealed to his offices. Exod. 30: 23-25; 30-32.
- Christ was sealed by the Father's immediate testimony from heaven, whereby he was declared to be the person whom the Father had solemnly designed and appointed to this work. And God gave this extraordinary testimony of him at two remarkable seasons: the one was just at his entrance on his public ministry, Matt. 3:17; the other but a little before his sufferings. Matt. 17:5. By this God owned, approved, and, as by a seal, ratified his work.
- Christ was sealed by the Father, in all those extraordinary miraculous works wrought by him, by which the Father gave yet more full and convincing testimonies to the world, that this was he whom he had appointed to be our Mediator. These proved to the world that God had sent him, and that his doctrine was of God. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." Acts, 10:38. And so, John, 5:36, "I have a greater witness than that of John; for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." Therefore he still referred those that doubted of him, or of his doctrine, to the seal of his Father, even the miraculous works he wrought in the power of God. Matt. 9:3-5.
- He had not otherwise corresponded with the types which prefigured him; and in him it was necessary that they should be all accomplished. Under the law, the kings and high priests had their inauguration by solemn unctions, in all which this consecration, or sealing of Christ to his work, was shadowed out: and therefore you find, Heb. 5:4, 5, "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also," (mark the necessary correspondence between Christ and them,) "Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son."
- Hereby the hearts of believers are the more engaged to love the Father, inasmuch as the Father's love and good will to them was the origin and spring of their redemption. For had not the Father sealed him such a commission, he had not come; but now he comes in the Father's name, and in the Father's love as well as his name; and so all men are bound to ascribe equal glory and honor to them both, as John, 5:23.
- Christ would not come without a commission, because we should have had no ground for our faith in him. How should we have been satisfied that this is indeed the true Messiah, except he had opened his commission to the world, and showed his Father's seal annexed to it? If he had come without his credentials from heaven, and only told the world that God had sent him, and that they must take his bare word for it, who could have rested his faith on that testimony? This is the true meaning of John, 5:31, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true." How so? you will say, does not this contradict what he says, John, 8:14, "Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true?" I answer: You must understand the word truth here, not as opposed to reality; but the meaning is, If I had only given you my bare word for it, and not brought other evidence from my Father, my testimony had not been authentic and valid according to human laws; but now all doubting is precluded.
- The unreasonableness of infidelity, and how inexcusable are those who reject Christ. You see he hath opened his commission in the Gospel, shown the world his Father's hand and seal to it, given as ample satisfaction as reason itself could desire or expect; yet even his own received him not. John, 1:11. And he knew it beforehand, and therefore complained by the prophet, "Who hath believed our report? &c. Isa.53;1. Yea, and that He is believed on in the world, is by the apostle put among the great mysteries of godliness. 1 Tim. 3:16. A man that well considers with what convincing evidence Christ comes, would rather think it a mystery that any should not believe. And it is equally wonderful to see the facility with which men embrace the most foolish imposture. Let a false Christ arise, and he shall deceive many. Matt. 24:24. Of this Christ complains, and not without great reason; "I am comE in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another come in his own name, him will ye receive." John, 5:43. As if he had said, You are incredulous to none but me: every deceiver, every pitiful cheat that has but wit, or rather wickedness enough to tell you the Lord hath sent him, though you must take his own single word for it, he shall obtain and get disciples; but though I come in my Father's name, showing you a commission signed and sealed by him, doing those works which none but God can do; yet ye receive me not. But in all this we must adore the justice of God in permitting it to be so, giving men up to such unreasonable obstinacy and hardness. It is a sore plague that lies upon the world, and a wonder that we all are not ingulfed in the same infidelity.
- If Christ was sealed to his work by his Father, how great the sin of rejecting and despising such as are sent and sealed by Jesus Christ. As he came to us in his Father's name, so he hath sent forth, by the same authority, ministers in his name; and as he acts in his Father's, so they in his authority. "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." John, 17:18. "As my Father hath sent me, even so have I sent you." 20:21. You may think it a small matter to reject a minister of Christ; but in so doing you despise and slight both the Father who sent his Son, and Christ who sent his minister to you. This reverence and submission are not due to them as men, but as Christ's ambassadors. And by the way, this may instruct ministers, that the way to maintain that veneration and respect that is due to them, in the consciences of their hearers, is to keep close to their commission.
- How great an evil is it to intrude into the office of the ministry without a due call. It is more than Christ himself would do; he glorified not himself; the honors and advantages attending that office have invited many to run before they were sent. But, surely this is an insufferable violation of Christ's order.
- The blessing there may be in all gospel ordinance., duly administered. Christ having received full commission from his Father, and by virtue thereof having instituted and appointed these ordinances in the church, all the power in heaven is engaged to make them good, to confirm and ratify them. Hence in the censures of the church, you have that great expression, "Whatsoever ye bind or loose on earth, shall be bound or loosed in heaven." Matt. 18:18. And so for the word and ordinances, "All power in heaven and earth is given unto me. Go therefore," &c. Matt. 28:18-20. These are not the appointments of men; your faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. That very power which God the Father committed to Christ, is the fountain whence all Gospel institutions flow. And he hath promised to be with his officers, not only the extraordinary officers of that age, but with his ministers in succeeding ages to the end of the world. Oh therefore, when ye come to an ordinance, come not with slight thoughts, but with great reverence, and great expectations, remembering Christ is there to make all good.
- Again, here you have another call to admire the grace and love both of the Father and Son to your souls: it is not lawful to compare them, but it is duty to admire them. Was it not wonderful grace in the Father to seal a commission for the death of his Son, for humbling him as low as hell, and in that method to save you, when you might have expected he should have sealed your doom to hell, rather than a commission for your salvation? He might rather have set his irreversible seal to the sentence of your damnation, than to a commission for his Son's humiliation for you. And no less is the love of Christ to be wondered at, that would accept such a commission as this for us, and receive this seal, understanding fully, as he did, what were the contents of that commission: that the Father delivered him thus sealed, and knowing that there could be no reversing of it afterwards.
Oh, then, love the Lord Jesus, all ye his saints, for still you see more and more of his love breaking forth for you. I commend to you a sealed Saviour; oh that every one that reads these lines might, in a pang of love, cry out with the enamored spouse, "Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy, is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which have a most vehement flame." Cant. 8:6.
- Hath God sealed Christ for you, then draw forth the comfort of his sealing for you, and rest not till ye also be sealed by him.
Remember, that hereby God stands engaged, even by his own seal, to allow and confirm whatever Christ hath done in the business of our salvation. And on this ground you may thus plead with God: Lord, thou hast sealed Christ to this office, and therefore I depend upon it, that thou allowest all that he hath done, and all that he hath suffered for me, and wilt make good all that he hath promised me. If men will not deny their own seals, much less wilt thou.
Get your interest in Christ sealed to you by the Spirit, else you cannot have the comfort of Christ's being sealed for you. Now the Spirit seals by working those graces in us which are the conditions of the promises; and also by shining upon his own work, and helping the soul to discern it; which follows the other both in order of nature and of time. The person sealed is the true believer, Eph. 1:13; and the comfort and aid imparted are ever consonant to the written word. Isaiah, 8:20. The Spirit produces in the sealed soul, great care and caution to avoid sin. Eph. 4:30. Great love to God. 1 John, 2:5. Readiness to suffer any thing for Christ. Rom. 5:3-5. Confidence in addresses to God. 1 John, 5:13,14 ; and great humility and self-abasement, as in Abraham, who lay on his face when God sealed the covenant to him. Gen. 17:1-3. This, oh this brings home the sweet and good of all, when the peace and comfort of all graces of the Spirit are sealed upon the soul.
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