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John 11:15 PDF Print E-mail
Written by W.M. Mitchell   


Brother H. F. Stevens, of LaGrange, Ga., having requested us to write on the following text, we will try to do so according to the limited time and ability given us. “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there to the intent you may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him.”—John xi. 15.

It will be seen, by referring to this chapter, that it contains an account of the sickness and death of Lazarus, which occurred in his native town, Bethany. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, and himself, constituted the family so far as we know. They were a family of wonderful riches—riches beyond anything this world could bestow—even the riches of God’s love and mercy. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”— John xi. 5. The riches of Jesus’ love is heavenly wealth, which neither sickness, sorrow nor death, can take away. Nothing in life or death, things present or things to come, can separate a soul from the love of Christ the Lord.”—Rom. viii. 35. Whom he loves he loves to the end.”—John xiii.

But the love of Jesus to his people bears fruit. It is the cause of their love to him. “We love him because he first loved us,” is the sentiment of all who have had the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them.—1 John iv. and Horn. v. 5. Yea, there is not a single fruit manifested in the disciples of Christ, but what is the result of Jesus’ love to them. Hence, in the text to which Bro. Stevens calls attention, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am glad for your sakes.” Jesus sought the good of those for whom he suffered and for whom he died. “His divine power,” saith the apostle, “hath given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”—2 Peter i. 4. Nothing more than this is needful. But we must hasten to notice briefly a few other things in this connection. And for the comfort and consolation of the poor and afflicted children of God, let it be noted here that though Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and though they loved him as the result of his love to them, this love did not exempt them from sickness, sorrows, bereavements and death. They loved Jesus. No greater thing could ever truthfully be said of any poor sinner, than to say, “he loves Jesus,” and we knew if he loves Jesus, Jesus loves him, and will love him forever, and under all circumstances, in sickness or health, life or death. Mary had anointed the head of Jesus with precious ointment, and humbly fell at his feet and wiped them with the hairs of her head. And when her precious brother, Lazarus, was sick, it was very reasonable that she and her sister Martha, should desire, above all others, to have the company and personal presence of Jesus. His very name signifies Saviour. It is a Name above every name and most precious to the believer in him. “Thy name as ointment poured forth.” Song i. 3.

But though Mary and Martha loved Jesus and longed for his personal presence at that time of trial, it was not for the glory of God, nor for the good of his people, for Jesus to be there. They must wait. Therefore, he says to his disciples, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe.” Jesus does nothing at random. There is a wise purpose, design or intent in all he does, and all he says. His meat and drink was to do the will of him that sent him and to finish his work.—John iv. 34. His whole soul was swallowed up in this glorious work of salvation to lost and ruined sinners. “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John vi. 38. He came to save the people from their sins. “It is a faithful saying and worthy lb of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”—l Tim. i. 15. And, unless the sinful will of man prevails and the will of God is defeated, Christ Jesus will save all that the Father hath given him to save; for, says Jesus, “This is the Father’s will that sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”—John vi. 39. In this great work of salvation we see that the Lord Jesus Christ took great delight. It was the joy of his heart. “I delight,” saith he, “to do thy will, O, God; thy law is within my heart.” For the “joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame.”—Heb. xii. 2. Anything and everything that was given him to do, to say or to suffer to the intent that his people should believe and joy and rejoice with him, was joy and gladness to him. “I am glad for your sakes.”

The disciples of Jesus were in their infancy, so to speak, with regard to the kingdom and reigning power of Jesus. Their faith needed enlargement, and among other things designed, purposed and predestinated of God, by the sickness, death and resurrection of Lazarus, was an increase of their faith. I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe.” Here is the intention, design and predestination of God, even in this seemingly small matter of not being at Bethany during the sickness and death of Lazarus.

The absence of Jesus from Bethany and the death of Lazarus had caused much distress to Mary, Martha and their Jewish friends. All hope of Lazarus’ recovery from sickness had fled. Death had come and all the distressing consequences of bereavement had come up before these two lonely sisters. Many friends had come to comfort them concerning their brother. At length Martha heard that Jesus was coming and went out to meet him, saying, “Lord, if thou hast been here, my brother had not died.” Mary also soon came and fell at his feet weeping, and saying the same words. Here was a time of trial. It was a time to sow in tears that they might reap in joy. Jesus mingled his groans and tears with them, for when he saw Mary weeping and the Jewish friends also weeping, “he groaned in the Spirit and was troubled.”—John xi. 33. Their troubles were his troubles, and it is a blessed thing that we have a High Priest who can be touched with, and feel sympathy and compassion for our infirmities, our weakness and our ignorance. This circumstance concerning Lazarus’ death furnished an occasion for a glorious display of the life-giving power of Jesus, to the intent that his disciples might believe and have their faith increased with regard to the divine character and Godhead of our Lord Jesus.

We are aware that self-righteous persons, who know not God and hate Jesus, place all the power of believing in the will of the helpless and dead sinner. But the word of the Lord and the experience of all who are born of God has it in this way “It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”—Rom. ix. 15. And again, in speaking of those who received Christ and believed on his name, the inspired writers say they “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”—John 1. 15. Surely, none can have the face to insist that any one ever believed in Jesus to the saving of the soul, before he has born of God. The new and spiritual birth is not the result of belief or of faith, but belief in the name and character of Jesus, the Son of God, is the result of being begotten and born of God. Thus the apostle tells us in so many words that “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”— 1 John v. 7. His believing is the evidence that he is born of God, and not the cause of it. On this point many are bewildered by Arminian teaching and take the effect for the cause, and make the turning point of the eternal salvation of sinners to rest upon the depraved will of man instead of the sovereign grace and mercy of God.

We are aware that there is a disposition in the corrupt heart of men to have the honor of doing that which none but God can do. Some of the people who thronged about Jesus, once asked him, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” This is a bold question, and the answer to it fully settles the matter by what power or by whose work we believe on the Lord Jesus. He answered and said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”— John vi. 29. Now, if faith, or believing on the name of the Son of God, in a saving sense, were by the strivings, workings and willings of men, why should our Saviour Jesus, have so far misled the people as to say it is the work of God? No, he hath not misled his people, but hath led them in the right way. Every step in the christian experience is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible. They know assuredly that every step from their first heart convictions for sin up to the moment they were enabled by faith to receive Jesus as their Saviour, they believed “according to the working of the mighty power of God, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him, from the dead.”

If indeed, we believe that the mighty power of God was necessary to raise up our Lord Jesus from the dead, we may know assuredly that the same mighty power is necessary to bring any sinner to a knowledge of the truth, as it is in Jesus, and enable him to believe. Hence, it is written by inspiration of God, that the saints of Ephesus believed “according to the mighty power of God, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”—Eph. i. 20. This is called the “exceeding greatness” of God’s “mighty power,” because it exceeds in greatness all other powers.

It will be seen in the text that the intent, purpose or predestination of God is that his disciples believe, and no stone is to be left unturned or any part of his work left undone till that result is accomplished, for they are chosen of God unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. They are God’s elect people for whom Christ died, and he has chosen and ordained that they believe in Jesus. For this reason, and according to this scriptural plan of salvation, it is written of Gentile sinners, that “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”—Acts xiii. 48. Had they not been ordained of God unto eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord, would they ever have believed, and would they ever have been “glad and glorified the word of the Lord,” as the text in Acts xiii. 48, says they did?

We know of no religious sect on earth, save the Primitive Baptists, that hold that the eternal salvation of sinners is wholly and entirely by the sovereign power and grace of God. All other sects, though many of them may agree with us in many things, make the turning point of salvation to depend upon the sinner himself. But we have not so learned Christ or his word as to believe that God hath saved and called us accord-lug to our works and not according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. May God ever save and preserve us from becoming wise above what is written iii his word.—1 Tim. i. 9.

Having thus hurriedly written, we submit it for the consideration of Bro. Stevens and all others who may read it, and trust that God will incline their hearts daily to search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so or not.—Acts xvii. 11.—M.

Last Updated ( Friday, 22 September 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.