Chapter 13 offers us the third conclusion concerning the final part of the text, and that is that "Christ's government will be victorious". This will prove to be a very important chapter in seasons of doubt. Particularly strong is the section where Sibbes asks, "Why is it thus with the church of God, and with many a gracious Christian? The victory seems to be with the enemy".
- Why Christ's Kingdom Must Prevail
- Why the Enemy Seems Victorious
- Consolation for Weak Christians
- Evidences of Christ's Rule in Us
There are six reasons that Sibbes gives for why Christ's kingdom must prevail. First we see that it will prevail because "Christ has conquered all in his own person first, and he is 'over all, God blessed for ever'". And if Christ has set up his throne in our hearts we can be assured that He will conquer. Secondly, he will prevail because the enemies that we face are "accursed and damned". Even if they rise up it will only be to their eventual greater fall. Thirdly, "the Spirit of truth...abide forever". Because that which is spiritual is eternal we can be confident that the Spirit of truth within us will reign victorious. Fourthly, "the victory over corruption or temptation is a pledge of victory". The truth is that heaven is ours already, and whenever we are granted victory over these corruptions it is an evidence of that which is to come. Fifthly, Christ is a king and "bows the neck" of the inner man. Lastly, one of the purposes of "Christ's coming was to destroy the works of the devil, both for us and in us". We see this accomplished through the resurrection. We can be certain that Christ will accomplish this resurrection in us as well. He will accomplish His purpose. Therefore, given the above we can be certain that Christ will reign victorious.
But, some will object, it seems as if Satan is the victor. Why does it not appear to be so? Sibbes will now give us four reasons that even though it appears Satan is victorious, he is not, but Christ is. The first reason that this is so is because "God's children usually, in their troubles, overcome by suffering." Secondly, and this is very important to understand, "victory is by degrees". Thirdly, "God often works by contraries". What Sibbes means by that is that God often works in an opposite way than we would expect. As an example, "when he means to comfort, he will terrify us first...when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first". And lastly, Christ's work "often goes backward so that it may go forward better". All of this is to show that even though it might appear that Satan is victorious, he is not. Even in our weakness we are accepted.
As always, Sibbes now offers consolation for those that are weak. The above is nice to know, but in the midst of great weaknesses and temptations, sometimes, we need more. We are continuously reminded in this book, that though a spark from heaven might be weak, it is still a spark from heaven and therefore glorious. And this is what leads to our victory: "Grace conquers us first, and we, by it, conquer all else..."
But how do I know that Christ's rule is in me? How do I know that my spark is indeed a spark from heaven? I know Christ will be victorious in all hearts he rules in, but how can I be certain that he rules in my heart? Sibbes will give eight reasons. 1) Being able from experience to justify all Christ's ways. 2) Reasons of religion are the strongest reasons 3) We are true to our ends and steadfast to our rule 4) The truth is more dear to us than our lives 5) We have a delight in the inner man of Christ's government 6) We have a well-ordered and uniform life 7) The heart willingly stoops to Christ. 8) We practice duties pleasing to Christ. In all of these victory is in different degrees. Sometimes we resist though we are foiled. Other times, grace gets the better, though with conflict. And in the greatest time, all corruption is perfectly subdued.
This is a very good chapter, especially if you like lists. It is especially helpful to know that while it may appear Satan is victorious (in our own hearts and in the Bride of Christ), he indeed is not; our Savior will reign victorious! That is very encouraging.
One part I found a little weak, and this could be chalked up to misunderstanding, is Sibbes' section on "evidence that Christ's rule is in us". I know that all of these are to be seen through the lens that Sibbes has provided us--that even if the least is apparent it is to be considered a spark. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if other evidences might have been better. Is there anything objective that we could put? All of these appear to be subjective. But what else do we have to go upon? Do you like Sibbes' list? Would you have added anything? Deleted anything?
Pearls and Diamonds:
"Heaven is ours already, only we strive till we have full possession." (p.92)
"Weakness, with acknowledgement of it, is the fittest seat and subject for God to perfect his strength in; for consciousness of our infirmities drives us out of ourselves to him in whom our strength lies." (p.96)
"Grace conquers us first, and we, by it, conquer all else; whether corruptions within us, or temptations from outside us." (p.97)
"...the truest trial of the power of grace is in particular cases which touch us most closely, for there our corruption makes the greatest head." (p.99)