The reproach of the gospel
‘… Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.’ John 3:2
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Acts 5:12–33
Our Lord foretold that his gospel, after his ascension, would meet with the same reception as his person, that those who preached in his name should do the same works which he did, or even greater, that they should be chiefly owned (as he was) by the poor and ignorant, and generally rejected by those who were in most esteem with the world for their seeming goodness, or their rank in life. We find his words fulfilled. As the scribes and the Pharisees, who professed great regard to the Scriptures, taught the people falsehood from truth, and opposed Christ, so in many countries called Christian there is a sort of doctrine generally taught which cannot be from God because it is attended with no mighty works, nor does it glorify Jesus, which is the great object of the Christian ministry. But here and there another sort of preaching prevails which tends to lay low the haughty looks of man, that the Lord alone may be exalted. It proclaims a feast of good things for the hungry, but sends those who are rich and wise in their own conceits empty away. But wherever this is heard the world is presently in an uproar. It is charged with licentiousness, folly and madness. The preachers and believers of it are loaded with reproach, and all who are disposed to hear it are either pitied as out of their wits, or opposed as if they had been guilty of some great crime. However there are such mighty effects attending it as lead some before they hear it to reason as Nicodemus—Surely it must be of God, or else how can these things be?
FOR MEDITATION: I conceive therefore, that an upright, conscientious man cannot, by the most circumspect and prudent behaviour, wholly avoid the censure and dislike of the world, so far as his religious principles are concerned, and he is determined to square his life according to the precepts and spirit of the gospel. He must expect to be misunderstood by some, and misinterpreted by others. For in a degree, and upon some occasions at least, all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.
John Newton to William Wilberforce, 1 November 1787
[in reply to advice sought as the MP set out to abolish the slave trade]
SERMON SERIES: JOHN 3:1–2, NO. 2 [2/6]