This entry is part 10 of 16 in the series: The Fountain of Life (Flavel)
- The excellency of knowing Christ crucified
- Christ’s primeval glory
- Christ’s wonderful person
- Christ’s humiliation in his incarnation
- Christ’s humiliation in his life
- Christ’s prayer for his people
- The Lord’s Supper
- Christ’s illegal trial and condemnation
- The nature of Christ’s death
- ‘Father, forgive them’
- Flavel on Jesus’ cry of dereliction
- “It is finished”
- ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’
- The resurrection of Christ
- The ascension of Christ
- Christ’s exaltation
A summary of ch. 30 of John Flavel’s The Fountain of Life
In Lk 23:34, says Flavel, we find the best of mercies desired for the worst of sinners.
Peter (Acts 3:17) and Paul (1 Cor 2:8) also stress the ignorance of those who crucified the Lord Jesus. These people may have known many things, but they did not know that this was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. This was because
- though they had the Scriptures, they misunderstood them: they could not believe that the Messiah would arise out of Galilee (Jn 7:52), or that he would die (Jn 12:34; cf. Isa 9:7), or that it could be known where he came from (Jn 7:27; cf. Mic 5:2);
- they expected a Messiah who would come with outward glory, not in the form of a servant (Mk 10:37f; cf. Isa 53:3);
- they followed the lead of their teachers and leaders, who utterly misled them in this matter.
How this ignorance disposed them to such enmity against Christ
Where there is ignorance of God’s law, there conscience lacks proper checks and balances, and evil is unrestrained. The soul is left exposed to the rule of Satan, Eph 6:12. Ignorance will not only lead a man to oppose Christ, but let him think it is his duty to do so, Jn 16:3.
Inferences: It is not the gospel, but ignorance of it, that is responsible for so much trouble in the world. The light of the gospel brings, not discord, but peace. ‘We owe much of our civil liberty and outward tranquility to gospel light. If a sword, or variance at any time follow the gospel, it is but an accidental, not a direct and proper effect of it.
If Christ pleads their ignorance as an argument to procure their pardon, it must be a dreadful thing to oppose him knowingly, 1 Tim 1:13.
Holiness is such a majestic thing, that few dare to oppose it knowingly, Mk 6:20; 1 Pet 3:13.
The enemies of Christ are objects of pity. We should look upon them as a physician looks upon his diseased patient.
Be careful that you do not mistake ignorance for wickedness in others, and thus oppose the wrong thing.
There is forgiveness for those who oppose Christ through ignorance
Even those who wickedly crucified Christ may be forgiven, Acts 2:23, 38. Forgiveness is God’s work (Mk 2:7; Mt 6:12); his gracious work, founded on the redeeming work of Christ, Eph 1:7; discharging the recipient from the guilt of sin, Rom 8:33; received by the believing penitent sinner, Acts 3:19; 10:43; for the sake of Christ; Eph 4:32.
Let us consider: that the blood of Christ is more than adequate to secure the forgiveness of the most terrible sin,1 Jn 2:2; that the offer of forgiveness is generous and free, Isa 55:7; that we have the examples of many such sinners who have already found forgiveness, 1 Tim 1:13,16; that God is patient in offering you opportunity to repent, while you still have life and breath, 2 Pet 3:15.
Inferences: If there is forgiveness for those who have been enemies of God though ignorance, then there is forgiveness for the friends of God who fall unexpectedly into sin. If God offers pardon to his enemies, then how inexcusable they are to persist in their enmity, Isa 55:7. If there is forgiveness for the worst of god’s enemies, if they will turn, then how unlike God are all implacable spirits: should we not deal with others as God deals with us?
A forgiving spirit is the true Christian spirit
Stephen followed Christ in this, Acts 7:59f; cf. Mt 5:44f.
This spirit consists not in a stoical insensitivity to wrongs and injuries, nor a mere concealment of our wrath and revenge, nor a wrongful giving up of our rights to every one who would invade them.
It is, rather, a gentleness of mind, Gal 5:22, that inclines the Christian to pass by injuries, Prov 19:11, in obedience to God’s command, James 4:5.
Such a forgiving spirit is excellent, and singularly becoming the profession of Christ. If the glory of Pagan religion is to hide men’s lusts and passions, then the glory of the Christian faith is to destroy them. ‘Would Christians but live up to the excellent principles of their religion, Christianity would be no more rivalled by Pagan morality.’ See 1 Cor 4:12f; James 3:17.
Inferences: The Christian religion is the greatest friend to national peace and tranquillity, Rom 12:18f; James 3:17f. ‘One of the first effects of the gospel is to civilise those places where it comes, and settle order and peace among men.’ It is a dangerous thing to abuse meek and forgiving Christians: ‘Their readiness to forgive often invites injury’. But though they will not avenge themselves, their God will avenge them, James 5:7; 1 Pet 2:22f. Let us imitate Jesus Christ, and labour for meek, forgiving spirits. He will thus be honoured, and you will have peace in your heart.
Based on ‘The Fountain of Life‘, 361-375.