Sermons on Important Subjects
By J. M. Pendleton
The Christian Profession
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. - Hebrews x:23.
It is a solemn thing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. It is an act which, no doubt, attracts the attention of angels; for they love to see accessions made to the number of those who love and serve their Lord. Making a profession of Christianity, formally draws the line of demarkation between the reputed friends and the reputed enemies of Jesus Christ. Those making such a profession are represented in the context as coming into the house or church of God, over which the Lord Jesus presides as High Priest. They have boldness to enter into the most holy place by the blood of the Redeemer, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN A PROFESSION OF CHRISTIANITY?
1. Faith in Christ. - Christianity is a derivative term - it comes from the proper name Christ, - and it has much to do with Christ. The text refers to the profession of faith. There is an avowal of faith in the Son of God. We enter
into the spirit of Peter's language: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." When Peter had thus expressed himself, Jesus said, "Upon this rock" - that is, upon the fact in which you have now declared your belief, namely, that I am the Messiah - "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." All this implies that the church is to be composed of those and those only who are capable of making the profession which Peter made. This was well understood in apostolic times. Hence, when the "Samaritans believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Men and women were capable of believing, and baptism was restricted to them. Philip also said to the Ethiopian, "If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest," or more literally "it is lawful" implying that according to a fundamental law of the kingdom of Christ, faith must precede baptism. This law is of course violated in the baptism of unbelievers and unconscious infants. In making a profession of our faith, we publicly express our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and we openly avow our reliance on him for salvation. We say that our hope of salvation has his atoning death for its basis.
2. Death to sin and a resurrection to newness of life. - Paul's indignant negative response to the question, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" derives its appropriateness and
force from the fact that Christians are dead to sin. Baptism is the divinely-appointed method of making a profession of Christianity, and, in this solemn ordinance, there is a recognition of the fact that as Christ died for sin, so those who believe in him have died to sin; and as he rose from the grave, so they, experiencing the power of his resurrection, have risen from their death in trespasses and sins to a new life. These facts are emblematically set forth in baptism. Dying to sin and living righteously are among the experimental and practical effects resulting from the atonement of Christ. Peter, therefore, says, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness." In making the Christian profession, we declare our death to sin, and in our baptismal burial we are symbolically separated from it, even as those who are physically dead and buried are separated from the world. In our emersion from the baptismal waters, we symbolically enter into a new sphere of being, as those who are physically raised from the grave on the last day will do. Let Christians never forget that their profession implies that they are dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
3. A solemn declaration that we are the Lord's. - In defining the provisions of the gospel covenant, God says, "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." In making a profession of Christianity, there is
a public declaration of the fact that Jehovah is our God, and that we are his people. There is a formal recognition of what the new covenant does. We are baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We openly avow ourselves the Lord's. Like Timothy, we make "the good profession before many witnesses." We consider the amazing truth that we are bought with a price, and under the practical impression which it makes we honestly and cheerfully say, "We are not our own, but the Lord's." We feel the constraining love of Christ. We declare, before angels and men, our allegiance to the King in Zion. We take the oath of consecration, and assume the badge of discipleship. Renouncing self, sin, and the world, we give ourselves unreservedly to the Lord, acknowledging his right to the adoration of our hearts and the obedience of our lives. The question with us is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And this question implies a willingness to do through life whatever the Lord requires. The declaration that we are the Lord's not only imports that we are his when the declaration is made, but that we will be his in time and through eternity. The covenant we ratify is "an everlasting covenant - never to be forgotten."
II. HOW ARE WE TO HOLD FAST OUR PROFESSION?
1. By a frequent consideration of what it implies. - While we have proper views of the import of
our profession, we shall be likely to hold it fast. We shall cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. But a thoughtless inattention to the import of the Christian profession is vastly injurious to the interests connected with it. Out of this inattention spring the numerous and deplorable evils of a back-slidden state. When we look abroad on the religious world, what sad sights do we behold. Among the professed friends of Christ, we see multitudes whose standard of piety is very low. To say the least, they follow the Savior at a distance. They live too much to themselves. They are too much engrossed with their worldly interests. They indulge in practices dishonorable to the Christian name. Why is this? A comprehensive answer is, that they have no adequate conception of what the Christian profession implies. They are strangely and culpably forgetful of its import. Hence, they hold their profession loosely, and will never hold it fast unless they frequently and habitually consider what it denotes.
2. By a diligent use of the means of grace. - That we may hold fast our profession was certainly one object contemplated in the appointment of those means. For this reason a diligent use should be made of them. Among these means I mention the perusal of the Scripture, attendance on public worship, and fervent prayer.
If we would hold fast our profession, we must devoutly consult the pages of inspiration, and "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all
wisdom and spiritual understanding." "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable," etc. It is highly profitable as a means of enabling us to hold fast our profession. We can not forget what our profession implies, if we familiarize ourselves with the Word of God.
There must be a reverent attendance on the public services of the sanctuary. There the saints meet to praise God. There his name is invoked in prayer. There the words of salvation are spoken. The tendency of all these exercises is to excite to love and good works, and thus induce the worshipers to hold fast their profession. Fervent prayer can not be dispensed with. It secures that assistance from on high without which none will hold their profession fast.
"Long as they live should Christians pray,
For only while they pray they live."
3. By cherishing a sense of constant dependence on Christ. - "Without me," said the Savior, "ye can do nothing." "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch can not bear fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me." Paul said: "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." "The life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." We must hold fast to Christ if we would hold fast to our profession'. Those are most safe who are most sensible of their dependence on Christ. His grace is sufficient for them, and when they are weak, they are strong.
III. WHY SHOULD WE HOLD FAST OUR PROFESSION?
1. To show our sincerity in making it. - The same considerations which prompt us to make a profession of Christianity, should prompt us to hold it fast. If we abandon our profession, it may well be suspected that proper motives did not induce us to make it. If we hold it loosely, we greatly impair our usefulness, and "pierce our souls through with many sorrows." Christian consistency requires those making the good profession to hold it fast.
2. To promote the cause of God. - There is nothing more injurious to this cause than for its professed friends to abandon it. Their adherence to it is one important element to its success. What ever considerations endear the cause of God to Christians, should prompt them to hold fast their profession without wavering.
3. To benefit the world. - God's people are the salt of the earth. If they do not hold fast their profession, the salt loses its savor; they lose their ability to benefit the world. The light in them becomes darkness; and how great is that darkness!
4. To glorify God. - Holding loosely to the Christian profession, dishonors God; relinquishing it, insults him. It is virtually saying he is not worthy of service continued till death. But holding it fast, glorifies him; and Christians should, therefore, hold fast their profession, even if a martyr's death should be the consequence.
5. To justify the indulgence of the hope of heaven.
- Consistency requires that, if we renounce our profession, we should renounce our hope of glory. Those who endure to the end, are to be saved. The crown of life is promised only to those who are faithful unto death. The hope of heaven can not, therefore, be scripturally entertained by those who do not hold fast their profession. In view of all these considerations, let Christians live according to their profession, "holding fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end."
1. Every one who believes in Christ, ought to make the Christian profession. Are not some of you too slow in openly avowing your attachment to the Savior?
2. Some of you are not prepared to make the Christian profession. Why? Because you do not believe in Christ. The wrath of God abides on the unbeliever.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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