Heb. iv. 14-16.
Taken from: THE BIBLE TREASURY, Edited by William Kelly #6 (New Series), June, 1896
And such is the Priest we have before God. Hence we see the great force of the words, “In that he himself suffered, being tempted.” Truly He did suffer. Where you yield to evil, you do not suffer when you are tempted. When there is only evil, it is yielded to; and evil is gratified by its own indulgence. The sinner does his own will, pleasing himself without the fear of God. This is sin—the exercise of one’s own will or lawlessness, than which nothing is more pleasant to any ungodly one. This the Lord never did, never wished, never wavered about for an instant; and this we surely find throughout the whole of His course. ‘Lo, Iain come to do thy will, O God.” So it was before; so it was at the end; and all before God. He was the doer of God’s will—of all things, to my mind, the most astonishing in the Lord Jesus regarded as God's servant here below. He never sought, never once, His own will; He always did or suffered the will of God. It was the perfection of man morally. No miracles, no deeds of power, can be compared with it. God could work wonders by a worm, as He has often wrought by the merest sinners. But there never was that only did the will of God except One; and He was the One therefore that was called to suffer as no one else could; for it is just in proportion to love and holiness that one suffers, not to speak of His intrinsic glory.
Just so with a child of God now. You refuse to do your own will. Assuredly it costs no trifle to cleave to God's will in a world where nothing else is dong but man’s; for the world lives, moves, and has its being in seeking out its own will. The Lord Jesus was just the contrary, and so those that are of Him, the sanctified. For this indeed they are, as the apostle Peter teaches, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by (ἐν) sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This, I believe, goes very far too, as it means the same kind of obedience as the Lord’s; for He here below never obeyed in a single instance as under compulsion or resisting an influence within that was opposed to the will of God.
Our Lord Jesus suffered; but the suffering because of Satan’s devices against Him Who always pleased God, refusing absolutely and always to swerve from obedience, besides the holy horror of His soul, not at evil within, because none was there, but at evil everywhere else outside Himself. The suggestions too of the enemy, instead of awakening will, only inflicted pain and suffering on Him. He was a sufferer just because He was the Holy One, not in the least degree (as with us) from the sense of the mind of flesh; and therefore it is said, “In that he himself suffered, being tempted.” When man as he is yields in anything, it is of course to gratify his nature; it is self-pleasing, whatever be the bitter result. There neither was nor could be aught like this in Jesus. He “ suffered, being tempted,” and He is “able to succour them that are tempted.” But the remarkable thing to note here is, that an obedience similar to His is looked for from us: to obey God as sons in the new nature, and by the Spirit of God. In this path there is and must be trial.
In exact accordance are Christians viewed here below in the Epistle to the Hebrews. They are redeemed ; they are sanctified; they are children ; they are Christ’s brethren; and meanwhile they are in the place of temptation, which the wilderness is and must be. So we find the Psalmist reminding the children of Israel of “the day of temptation in the wilderness.” For us too now, as for them, there is the substantially same trial. The scene around is the wilderness, the time is the day of temptation. We are tried and thoroughly put to the proof. And this our God turns to our good; for we are in a place too where every spring of power, all the food that sustains, the light, and the direction that guides, are from above, not from within ourselves, nor from the world without of course. There is nothing here around us, any more than in our own old nature, to help us on ; but just the contrary, to impede and defile, to injure and destroy. Above the rest in malice is the great enemy that tempts to evil. Christ knows it, having His wakeful eye on him as well as on us.
As the general, who in a beleaguered city had to stand and beat off the enemy, though he suffered, is just the one most of all to feel for his friends, who, being besieged by the same foe, have besides to contend with a traitor within: how much more cannot Jesus feel for you and sympathise with you? Never was a greater mistake than the supposition that He must have the traitorous old man within in order to sympathise. Had there been evil within Him, it would simply have destroyed the person of Christ in His moral glory and perfection, as well as His sacrifice and its consequences. There would have been no ‘Saviour at all. This is what unbelief ever comes to—a virtual denial of Jesus, of the Son and His work. And hence, therefore, it matters but little whether men deny His Godhead or undermine His spotless and perfect humanity: either way, no Christ remains for God, no Saviour can be for man. It is the merest naturalism to imagine that the perfectness of the Saviour and of His salvation takes away from the completeness of His sympathy. Divine love and holiness in our nature tried here below, with suffering to the utmost, are the basis of His sympathy; and He, if one may repeat, Who knew fully what it was to suffer in having to do with the tempter, knows best how to feel for you who, besides the same tempter, have to watch against traitorous flesh within you. If He had this not, does He therefore care for you the less? Nay, but the more and perfectly ; for the old man occupies one with self in one way or another: He was absolutely free to love, serve, and suffer.
But then the succour that the Lord renders is to holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. They are “the sanctified.” The priesthood of Christ applies itself only to saints. This is so true that we never find the slightest raising of the question of sins when Christ’s priesthood is discussed by the apostle. It is a common enough thought among believers that Christ acts as a priest for us when we fall into sins from time to time. This you will not find in scripture. The teaching of the Epistle applies His priesthood to succour and sympathy when we are tempted as Christ was; and I have no doubt there was the holiest wisdom in this.
Another opportunity I hope to have for showing what is the admirable and gracious provision for us, whatever may be the depth of our need in failure. We shall then see that, if a believer sin, his sad case is not overlooked, but that God does in His own most merciful and wise goodness provide for it, whatever the want maybe.
But your attention is now drawn to the first great truth, which, believe me, ought to be gravely weighed; for not the least unhappy feature of modern Christendom is this, that people have imbibed the notion that we must sin, and that there is no adequate help or power against it. They are apt therefore to regard sin as a small, or at least inevitable, matter, making up their minds for it because we are only “poor sinners:” such is the language constantly adopted, and by evangelicals pre-eminently, whether Anglicans or dissenters.
Now, I do not deny that the Christian may be viewed as a sinner, yea, as the chief, looking back at what one had been, or at what one is in oneself apart from Christ, as the apostle Paul speaks of himself in 1 Tim. i. But surely he did not mean that he was then going on in his sins? or in constant failures as a believer? This is the way many people use it ; and i grieve to think that the object desired is to reduce the holy apostle to their own level as much as possible. Sad to say, they would like to get a license for a little sin out of the Bible. Hence, one party try to make sin only a violation of known law ; others take advantage of the later portion of Romans vii., and the ineffectual struggle against sin there described in a quickened but undelivered soul, as if it were the ordinary and normal state of a Christian here below. What can one call this but Antinomianism? And yet you will find that these evil thoughts reign most with a great many persons who think themselves the most opposed to Antinomians. But there is no one thing more remarkable in the present confusion than the fact that the very people who most fail take credit for what they least possess, and bandy charges against those too who, through the mercy of God, seek to be as far as possible from affording ground for them.