"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1:5,6)
John is simply writing an introduction to this deep, mysterious book of his, and yet he cannot go far before he seems to get into the very heart of things. It is only an introduction, and the moment he commences his salutation his heart seems filled with Christ, and he at once begins to bear testimony of Christ, Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness. Jesus Christ was not only a servant, but He was likewise a witness. He bore testimony to His Father, and therefore He is called a "Faithful Witness." Everything, then, that the Lord Jesus Christ speaks is to be believed. This is a faithful word and worthy of all acceptation, because Christ Himself was a faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth; that is to say, He rules all the kings of the earth. I want to feel that sometimes. I want to know the Lord Jesus Christ is at the helm sometimes; and when I look upon the evil forces of nature, and the evil forces of men, and the wicked forces of wicked people, it greatly tries my faith, and I want to see the Lord Jesus Christ ruling over the kings of the earth. They may be great men; they may be very powerful men; they may have much influence amongst men; but when the Lord Jesus Christ rules over them, then He subdues, then He checks, they can only go thus far; and in due time Christ says even to the kings of the earth, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:11). Yes, it is a grand thought of John. John gives us what the Holy Spirit inspires: the Lord Jesus Christ is the Ruler of the kings of the earth.
And then comes our text: "Unto Him that loved us." We see the Divine order of things, and we cannot be far wrong if we follow the Divine order. We do not want to reverse things; we would put them exactly as we find them arranged by God Himself, and the Divine order of these Divine things is, that we were first loved, and then we were washed, and then we were dignified, and then we were made sacred, and then we praised. This is the Divine order of things. Many people are exhorting others to serve God. Our text shows us how they are brought into that service. Our text shows us the relationship that exists between God and such as serve Him, and we are not at all justified in accepting any other order than this Divine order of things. "Unto Him that loved us;" and having loved us, and washed us, and dignified us by making us kings, and put us into his sacred office of the priesthood, as kings and priests unto God and His Father, unto Him that hath done this, "be glory and dominion forever and ever." You see the Divine order.
"He saw us ruined in the Fall,
Yet loved us notwithstanding all."
And that is a big "all." We were defiled; we were rebels; we were lepers; we were diseased; we had gone a great distance from Him; we had wandered as far as sheep can run; and yet all the while, while you were still a sinner, while you were still in the very depth of your degradation, the Lord Jesus Christ loved you, that is to say, if you are the character spoken of in our text. Your sin made no difference to His love; He did not love your sin; He never loved your iniquity, but He loved the sheep, He loved the children, He loved the men, He loved the women, though He saw them ruined in the Fall.
John tells us that He loved us before we loved Him, and therefore we loved Him because He first loved us. There was nothing at all meritorious in you, nothing at all attractive in you, nothing at all that could merit the Father's esteem; and yet from everlasting, yea, and the wise man tells us that many waters cannot quench this love, neither can the floods drown it. The love of a man may change, the love of a woman may cool, but never, never the love of our Redeemer. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3), the love of God in Jesus Christ. You read the eighth of Romans right to the very end, and you see there that Paul shows you how utterly impossible it is for anything to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I know perfectly well men teach another doctrine, just as I know men reverse the order of our text; not so Paul, not so the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, because of His great love He came, because of His undying love He assumed our nature, because of His everlasting love He left glory, left the mansions above, left the Father, left the angels, and came and tabernacled amongst men. I tell you no man can rightly speak of this great love; we shall have to die to prove His worth, and we shall have to die to prove His love. We only get sips and tastes of it here, and when we get a sip even of His love, when His love is shed abroad in our own heart, it makes everything right, it seems like a little heaven below. You have your trials; you have your bitterness in your cup; you have your afflictions; you have your little losses and you have your greater crosses; but I say, when the love of God is shed abroad in your heart, it seems to put everything right for the time being.
"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood," then we must have been deep-dyed sinners if nothing short of His own blood could cleanse us. We must indeed have been deep-dyed sinners. Sin must be exceeding sinful if it requires a fountain, if it requires His own precious blood to remove it. And it does. Deep stains are on our conscience; our hearts are black with iniquity; our whole lives are defiled and stained. It is not that there is just a patch of iniquity here and a smaller patch of iniquity there. It seems as though throughout we are defiled, and no amount of mortification can cleanse us. You may read all the penitential psalms from morning till night; that will not cleanse you. You may put all manner of hardships upon yourself; that will not cleanse you. Yea, you may do penance every hour of the day, and every day of your life; and that will not cleanse you. You may resolve and resolve again, you may set a seal on your lips and a watch before your mouth; and that will not cleanse you. There is nothing, nothing that can take out the stain of sin, but His own blood. We that have been washed are clean, as clean as though we had never sinned; and yet we daily sin, and that is one reason why we need re-washing every day. You come before the Throne of grace and confess your sin; you fail here, and you fail there. That was very sweet to me the other day in John's Epistle, where John says the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth us from all sin. Cleanseth! That somehow seized upon my mind, or my mind seized upon that. It was as though faith gripped the word, faith made a meal of the word, and it was sweet to my taste. It does not say "did cleanse," it does not say "will cleanse," but cleanseth, in the present tense. It means, "always." It means, "every moment." It means, "every day." It is continuous. Cleanseth! We need it every day, and John put it right, and put it in a very encouraging form when he said, "cleanseth" us from all sin. There are backsliders, and there are lukewarm people, and there are people that get very carnal, and there are people that get very worldly, and there are people that seem to be forever departing from Christ, and yet their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. I cannot possibly tell you how far a saint may sink and yet be saved, or how far in the path a Pharisee may go and yet not be right, cannot tell. Therefore, that word becomes doubly valuable to me--cleanseth. I can use it tomorrow. I can use it the next time I come to your service. Maybe I can use it down to my dying day. It cleanseth from all sin. His own blood--called sometimes the blood of sprinkling that "speaketh better things" than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24). Now had there been no love, there would have been no washing; He only washes those He loves. This fountain was opened for that very purpose. He lays down His life for His sheep. He tells us so plainly. "Unto Him that loved us"--when we were worthless, when we were defiled, while we were rebels, when there was everything in us to repel, everything that was repulsive, yet He loved; knowing full well we needed washing, and having loved, He washes us from sin in His own blood.
Sin may be spoken of as a state; sin may be described as a nature. Sin as an act, violates the will of God; sin as a state, is where righteousness is entirely and altogether absent; sin as a nature, is enmity with God. That is sin. A word, a thought, an act, a state, continuously, day after day; as though it was a formal, fixed habit ingrained through every part of our manhood, our womanhood, our childhood, tainting everything that we do. Sin! Would to God we could realize how exceeding sinful sin is. When under the weight of it, and realizing the filth of it, we come and cry, "O Lord, plunge me; plunge me, O Lord, in that crimson blood that I may be washed from all sin;" and He does it. "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins." The marginal rendering is, and that "loosed us." Sin is a bond, sin is a fetter, sin is a chain. Sin being a bond, a chain, a fetter, it holds us fast; we cannot move Godward, we cannot move heavenward, we cannot turn to the Lord and live; we cannot give our heart to God; we cannot serve Him in our unregeneracy. We are held in chains, we are bound fast, and the blood of Christ is the ransom price, so that we become redeemed by His precious blood; and mark well what John says, "redeemed to God," redeemed to God. No half-way house! I like that. It means the Lord does not begin a work of grace in your heart and then you are gone, you are lost. It does not mean that the Lord redeems you from one iniquity to land you in another iniquity. You are redeemed to God, right to God, right to glory. That is what it means. There is no possibility of damnation where the fountain has cleansed, where the blood of Christ has been applied. None at all; we are redeemed unto God.
"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father." Exodus 19 is a remarkable chapter. There is gospel in it, typical of what we are speaking of tonight. You remember how Moses spoke the words of the Lord unto the people, and then when Moses had spoken all the words of the Lord the people cried, "All that the Lord hath commanded us that will we do." They did not do it, mind you, but they said they would. And when they had thus yielded to the commands of God, Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant upon them, and the Lord speaking of them declares that they shall be unto Him kings and priests. We usually attach sovereign power to the title of king. There is a sense in which the Lord's people are dignified. I do not object to that term, do you? Does not Peter tell you that "ye are a chosen generation? (1 Pet. 2:9). Does not Peter tell you that "ye are a royal priesthood?" And there is surely a realm where grace reigns. I grant I am very feeble. I have to say sometimes, "I am a worm, and no man" (Ps. 22:6); but I also feel just a little at times as though the Lord Jesus Christ had raised me up and brought me into relationship with Himself; as though I was one with Him, and although that will not confer sovereign power upon me, so that I say to one, "Come! And he cometh; and to another, Go! And he goeth" I cannot do that, cannot possibly do that; yet there is a realm where grace is expected to wield her sceptre, reign over self. Grace must reign. "Sin shall not have dominion over you." I take it for granted that dominion there means exactly what dominion means in our text; and sin, therefore, shall not have this dominion. Sin cannot possibly have the same dominion over your heart as the Lord Jesus Christ has over all other things. No, sin shall not have dominion. It is your plague; it is a tyrant; it sometimes rules; it sometimes seems to reign; it goes with you to the house of God; it distracts your mind; it accompanies you when you bend your knee before God; it is about you when your read your Bible; it seems to fill you with unrest, and you wonder sometimes shall you ever be free from this tyrant sin. It shall not have dominion. That is to say, it shall never have complete sway. If it had complete sway, it would subject every thought to itself, and there would not be any room for Christ at all, and there would not be any room for any spiritual desire in your heart; there would not be room for a sigh; there would not be any room for a groan; there would not be any tenderness of spirit, any contrition of heart at all; sin would have dominion over every part of your heart, and every corner it would enter and fill. You dare not say that sin thus has dominion. I could not. Because you are not under sin, you are under grace. Therefore, if you are under grace, grace reigns. If grace reigns, Christ is in you. Then Christ graciously speaks of you as a person whom He has dignified with a royal spirit, with a gracious heart. Now, if you could only realize this, that you are kings, that you are a royal priesthood, that you are raised, that you are one with Christ, that the earth is beneath your feet, that so far as you are concerned Satan is overcome, and that you are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, if you realize this, you can afford to pass by a fault; you are a King's son, you are raised, you are dignified, you are exalted, you are one with Christ. He loved, He hath washed, He cleanseth, He raiseth, and has made us kings and priests unto God.
Now, what has a priest to do, then, in the service of God? Look at it squarely in the face. You are not always led by another, you are not always led by custom. Custom did not bring you to this table the first time, custom did not bring you to this baptistery or any other, not if you are rightly led. Nature yielded, nature was put down, nature was held in check, nature never approved of the step you took when you followed Christ. Then is kingly power, and then comes the sacredness of service and the solemnity of worship. Not only loved, and washed, and raised, but installed a priest. You have something to offer. You have got something to offer if the Lord has done all this for you, and you sometimes come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and you say:
"Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it to Thy courts above!"
You are offering your own heart, then. Yes, priests were men who were first washed. A laver was provided, and they must first wash before they entered the tabernacle. So John puts it rightly. We are washed, and we serve. We come, and we offer. We have not much, we grant we have not much; but sometimes we have got feeling, and while that feeling is in exercise we dare to say, "Lord Thou art worthy of all." We come and we offer our service; we come and we offer our prayers; we come and we offer our praises; we come and we offer what Christ has done for us, and lay it upon the altar of God; and God Himself has said, "Then will I accept thine offerings upon Mine own altar." There we bring our offerings, and there we lay them, hoping that God in His infinite mercy will accept us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). I am not speaking of any carnal thing, I am speaking of what God the Spirit does in the heart of a believer. What comes from God flows back to God. What flows back to God is offered through the Lord Jesus Christ.
No sooner, then, has John commenced this Epistle, this deeply mysterious book, than he breaks into a doxology. A doxology ought to be at the end, he prefixes it here. "Unto Him" none other man, none other angel, unto Him, not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto Thy Name give glory (Ps. 115:1). He that called us, He that quickened us, He that passed by and saw us. It was He who spoke unto us; it was He who bid us live; it was He who cast His skirt over us; it was He who washed us from our filth and from our pollution when we were as a child cast out into the open field to the loathing of its person, and Christ saw us and had compassion upon us, and opened a fountain and cleansed us (Ezek. 16); and therefore John says, "Let the song flow unto Him. Unto Him be all praise; unto Him be glory, the glory of my salvation, the glory of your salvation. Unto Him be all power and dominion." Can we go so far? Dare we go so far? Can we ascribe unto Christ glory, and in the same breath say, "Let Him have dominion," perfectly willing that He should have dominion. Note what it means. When Christ takes thy child He is exercising His dominion. Canst thou say, "Take it, then, Lord. Let Him have dominion"? When Christ takes thy wife He is exercising His dominion. Canst thou say, "Let dominion be Thine?" When Christ lays thee on a bed of affliction He is exercising dominion. Art thou willing He should? If not, thou hast no part at present in this glorious doxology. Thou canst not say, "Unto Him," because you want to follow yourself; you want to rule your own family; you want to retain what God wants to take; you want to withhold what God asks for. You claim what He removes. It is a conflict between you and God as to who shall have dominion. Now where are we, then? We have read those words many a time. We have thought, how nice they are, how beautiful they are; but we want to get down into the core of them, into the heart of them, and out of the very depth of the heart of the words be able to say, "Unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Blessed John! And all people who have the grace to be willing to be nothing at their at their Saviour's feet, and never, never rebel at His dominion, His exercised sovereignty, divine power. May He grant us the grace to give unto Him this ascription, "Unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."