ALMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may alway serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Epistle 1 John 5.4-12
Gospel S. John 20:19-23
The Epistle for today speaks of the victory of the Christian over the world, and he tells us that the secret of the victory is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the vicgtory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Every man is once born; we all have a natural birth in order to live and be in the world. But the Christian is twice-born. we have the xlassic statement of this in our Lord’s words to Nicodemus. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Nicodemus thought that as a natural man, without any inward, spiritual change, he could see the Kingdom of God when it came, but Jesus tells him that is not so. Despite his learning, his pedigree, his religion, without an inward, spiritual change, brought about by the grace and Spirit of God he could neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit works in close association with the word of od to bring about this change, and enable men to see and enter into the Kingdom of God. Paul asks the Galatians, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or the hearing of faith?” It is by the rpeaching of the Gospel of Christ, not by works, that people are born again and admitted to the kingdom of God.
And as there are three Persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and they all agree in one, so on earth there are three witnesses which testify to the new birth—the Holy Spirit, of whom we have been speaking, who reveals to us the things of God; the water—that is, the water of baptism which symbolises the new birth, and the blood—that is, the blood of Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross for our redepmtion, and by virtue of which we are cleansed and given new life.
It is by the operation of all these things in concert, that thebeliever becomes a new creature in Christ, and they all testify to that. John Bunyan described very vividly the power of this change when he wrote, “I saw with the eyes of my sould Christ-crucified for me, as clearly as ever I saw a penny bun bought for a penny”.
The Gospel for today, from the Gospel of John, tells of the resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples. Though the doors of the room were shut, Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace”, and then showed them his hands and his side. This witnessed to them not only of his recurrection but also his atoning death. This was the sign that his offering and sacrifice for sins had been accepted and that they might have peace with God. He also breathed on them, to imart to them the Holy Spirit that they might have authority to go forth and preach the Gospel of forgiveness of sins, and peace and reconciliation with God, “Whoseoever sins ye remit, they are reimtted unto them; and whoseover sins ye retain they are retained.” By this was meant the authority to declare the remission of sins, that is o preach the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy. To continue with our theme, they were to be witnesses of the resurrection, of the finished work of God in Christ, by whom sins are forgiven, and grace and reconciliation proclaimed between God and man. And his breathing on them signified not only that they were commissioned to do so, but that they were also empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit.