Sibbe’s third and final point in these sermons is that Christ’s ministry in his people is progressive, but will be victorious and end in glory.  Sibbes explains, “The constant progress of Christ’s gracious power, until he hath set up such an absolute government in us, which shall prevail over all our corruptions.”[1]  In other words, the good work which Jesus has begun in us he will complete (Phil 1:6).  In addition, Sibbes elaborates on this idea, “The meaning then is, that the gracious frame of holiness set up in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ, shall go forward until all contrary power be brought under.”[2]  Christ by the Spirit will destroy the works of the flesh in us, so that ultimately “he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27).” 

From this third main point, Sibbes lays out several conclusions for the comfort of his people.  The first is “Christ is upon those terms mild, so that he will set up his government in those whom he is so gentle and tender over.”[3]  The same people that Jesus does minister to in such a comforting and gracious way, he will also bring their sanctification to completion.  The same Christ that has died for us must be the good shepherd king of our hearts.  Sibbes further clarifies,

“the first and chief ground of our comfort is, that Christ as a priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father for us.  The guilty soul flieth first to Christ crucified, made a curse for us.  Thence it is that Christ hath right to govern us, thence it is that he giveth us his Spirit as our guide to lead us home.”[4]     

So, Sibbes shows that first the sinner must come to Christ for mercy to be forgiven, but this is only the beginning.  Conversion is not an end, but a genesis where Christ begins to reign in our hearts by the Spirit. 

The second conclusion is “that Christ’s government in his church and in his children is a wise and well-ordered government.”[5]  The ministry of Christ is comparable to the creation, when it was chaotic and disorderly, but the Spirit came and God spoke and told things where to go and what to do.  The result was a well ordered universe and a place of rest.  Sin has so shattered all that, but Christ comes to reverse the curse of sin and to make all things new.  Sibbes says, “Where Christ by his Spirit as a prophet teaches, he likewise as a king by his Spirit subdueth the heart to obedience of what is taught.”[6]  The work that Jesus begins and then continues in the heart of a sinner will produce an ordered life. 

Sibbes’ third conclusion is “that this government is victorious.”[7]  Jesus has conquered all his enemies in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.  However, the work that he has completed in himself, he also will do in those who trust in him.  He saves them from sin, death, hell, and Satan.  Regarding this idea, Sibbes observes about the conscience, “If it subject itself by grace to Christ’s truth, then it boldly overlooks death, hell, judgment, and all spiritual enemies, because then Christ sets up his kingdom in the conscience, and makes it a kind of paradise.”[8]  So, Christ’s victorious work is also applied to life of the believer (Rom 6). 

 The fourth conclusion is, “judgment shall be victorious, but that Christ will bring it openly forth to victory.”[9]  Christ’s victory over the spiritual forces of darkness in this present world often times goes unnoticed; only seen by those who have eyes to see.  His kingdom and work take place in and through the church which is not of this world.  However, when “Christ who is your life appears (Col 3:4),” Sibbes says, “grace shall be glory and run into the eyes of all.”[10]  What the church has known by faith shall become sight and what the world has regarded as nonsense shall become their greatest fear.  Jesus’ victory in the end will be evident. 

The fifth conclusion is “that this government is advanced and set up by Christ alone; he bringeth it to victory.”  Such a colossal work can only be accomplished by Jesus.  There is none who can bring themselves to glory with the help of Christ.  When we have escaped such enticing sins and evaded so many suffering to whom do we owe it?  Sibbes answerers,

“To make so little grace so victorious over so great a mass of corruption, this requireth a spirit more than human; this is as to preserve fire in the sea, and a part of heaven even as it were in hell.  Here we know where to have this power, and to whom to return the praise of it.  And it is our happiness, that it is so freely hid in Christ for us, in one so near unto God and us.”[11]   

Indeed, this work that Jesus brings to pass in the life of a believer is truly a work of no ordinary human, but of one that should cause us to stand back and ask “Who then is this (Mark 4:41)?”

The sixth conclusion is “that this prevailing government should not be without fighting…There can be no victory where there is no combat.”[12]  Yes, Christ alone will bring this good work to completion, but he has prescribed the manner for doing so.  His prescription involves that Christians take up arms and join him in fighting against their enemies.  He will not allow us to sit back passively and somehow magically fight all our battles.  He will be victorious in us, but only as we take up the full armor of the Lord.  Sibbes concludes, “We have more for us than against us.  What coward would not fight when he is sure of victory?”[13] 

 


[1] Ibid., 77, 78.  

[2] Ibid., 78.   

[3] Ibid., 79.   

[4] Ibid., 79.   

[5] Ibid., 80.  

[6] Ibid., 82.   

[7] Ibid., 84.   

[8] Ibid., 84.  

[9] Ibid., 91.   

[10] Ibid., 91.   

[11] Ibid., 95.   

[12]Ibid., 95, 96.  

[13]Ibid., 98.

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