What a wonderful plan is the plan of redemption! Christ saw that the world had so absorbed the minds of men that they did not see the beautiful image of truth. While men slept, Satan had worked with his bewitching power to bring in traditions and false maxims, and had buried the truth beneath a mass of rubbish. He saw that the world had taken the place of God in man’s affections and mind, and had divorced the soul from him; that the love of God was expelled from the heart, and the eternal world was lost from the vision. Christ himself was the Word, the Wisdom, of God; and in him God himself came down from heaven, and clothed himself in the habiliments of humanity. He engaged in the mysterious conflict with Satan and his hosts, that man might understand elevated themes of truth. He rescued the truth from the companionship of error, and sent it forth free to the world. He caused it to shine in its own native clearness and purity; for he designed that it should illuminate the dense darkness of the earth and the gross darkness of the people. All his work in its many lines was to make man meet for the inheritance of the saints in light; his words of life were given that the darkness which prevailed might pass away, and the true light shine forth.
Only a brief record has been given of the words and works of Christ during the three years and a half that he was with his disciples; there are many things that the pen has not traced. Yet even this brief relation of facts is full of life and lessons, and is of deepest interest to every soul. We may learn how Jesus spent his time from day to day, and we shall find an activity that will surprise us.
The Sea of Galilee was a place to which he often resorted with his disciples. Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida were places highly favored, because they received the largest share of his ministerial labor. In these places at a distance from the metropolis of Judea, the Saviour found people of simple tastes, who would more readily harmonize with his work. Near the ford of Jordan was the road frequented by travelers on the way from Damascus to Jerusalem. Here his words were listened to by men from all parts of the world. Thus the precious truth which he came to unfold was as seed sown beside all waters.
The apostles were Christ’s personal attendants. They traveled with him from place to place throughout the cities and towns of Palestine. They partook with him of his frugal fare, and with him were sometimes hungry and often weary. They followed him through the crowded streets, by the side of the lake, and in the lonely wilderness. They saw Jesus in every phase of his life. They witnessed his miracles, and heard his lessons of instruction. And it was the design of Christ that these followers should be co-partners with himself to build up, strengthen, and advance his kingdom in the world. He therefore commissioned his disciples to go forth and carry the message he had given them. He bade them lift their voices to the traders in vanity, and break the spell of infatuation, bringing to mind eternal interests. “The kingdom of God is at hand,” was to be their message.
The work of the disciples needed molding and correcting by tenderest discipline, and by opening to others a knowledge of the word they themselves had received; and Christ gave them special instruction in regard to their course of action and their work. In his own life he had given them an example of strict conformity to the rules which he now laid down for them. They were not to enter into controversies; this was not their work. They were to reveal and advocate the truth in their own characters, through earnest prayer and meditation revealing personal experience in genuine Christianity. This would be in decided contrast to the religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were to call the attention of their hearers to greater truths yet to be revealed. They were to cast the arrow, and the Spirit of God was to guide the shaft into the heart.
The message which the disciples were to bear was of infinite importance. It was to impregnate every moment of the present life with future, eternal realities. They were enjoined to make known to all who would hear them that the greatness of his kingdom is the wealth of his salvation. And this message was not to be slighted and rejected with impunity. “Into whatsoever city ye enter,” he said, “and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”
Christ designed that his disciples should learn by experience the meaning of faith in him. In healing the sick and casting out devils they would obtain an experience which was new to them, and thus would be brought where they needed special wisdom from above. They desired in all things to exercise sound discretion, and when brought, as they often were, into painful perplexity, they dared not act independently. How they longed to have their Master by their side, that he might tell them what course to pursue! But they obtained an experience by relying on the promises given them by Christ. They claimed the promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” They did pray most earnestly, and were not left without the Holy Spirit. At times they were tempted to move unadvisedly; but the words of the prophet, “Lean not unto thine own understanding,” and, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” led them to One who would not err in counsel.
As the apostles presented the truth, the grace of God made itself manifest, taking possession of the soul. This resulted in giving them a sympathy with Christ. Christ co-operated with them, in all their efforts arousing and quickening their spiritual life. The entrance of the word of God into their souls manifested itself in their character and conversation; and the disciples returned to Christ freighted with a treasure costlier than that with which any earthly business could have repaid them. In a special sense their minds were dealing with both worlds, and were broadening and strengthening for future development which would tax their faith to the uttermost.
This is the experience that the workers of today are to obtain. You are to lean wholly on God. You must not trust to your own wisdom. If you desire to put forth the energies of your spiritual life, if you would have your heart illumined by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, remove every obstruction, throw open the passage of communication between Christ and the soul, that the life which is in him may flow freely to you, and that you may impart the same to others.
Christ attaches great importance to the work of the ministry; but this does not mean preaching merely. It means personal effort also. The Saviour of the world devoted more time and labor to healing the sick than to preaching. His last injunction to his apostles, his representatives upon earth, was to lay hands on the sick, that they might recover. And when the Master shall come again, he will commend those who have visited the sick, and relieved the necessities of the afflicted. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” he will say; “enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
There is need of seeking clearness of spiritual eyesight, that we may discern the best methods of working. We have a wily foe upon our track, and we must not be ignorant of the power that is working against us. Many professed Christians will be seduced by Satan’s delusions. There is safety only in continually seeking counsel of God, refusing to receive the praise of any one, and bracing the mind by the knowledge of the word of God, received through diligent study. Then Satan’s illusions may be resisted. The application of spiritual truth to the heart and conscience by the Holy Spirit’s agency, is saving in its influence. “The entrance of thy words,” says the psalmist, “giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
In receiving and believing the words of God, the understanding is enlightened and strengthened. These truths are of vital, soul-stirring interest, and are designed to engage the attention of all for whom Christ has died. They are truths that reach into eternity, and their greatness and importance correspond to their duration.
The Christian who has a knowledge of God and a sense of his presence will cultivate his reasoning powers, and will live with an eye single to the glory of God. He will have breadth of thought. His mind will be enlarged, his faculties strengthened to examine the scriptures that are difficult and obscure. With humility and caution will he contemplate the Word; and the entrance of the word of God into his heart will give him understanding. The pure principles which he adopts will have a molding influence upon his life and character. The Spirit of Christ will dwell in him as a well of water, springing up into eternal life.
Though many do not positively reject the message which the Lord sends them, they give little response to it in life and character, in comparison with what the Lord has a right to expect from them. But it is God’s design that the truth shall be carried into the sanctuary of the soul, and work upon the conscience, and that its presence there shall be revealed by the works done to restore the moral image of God in man. Every one may find something to do in saving souls and advancing the truth of God. And all who engage in this work are laboring for time and for eternity. The promise of Inspiration is, “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, February 1, 1898