In the eye of God the man under judgment has gone in judgment. But you are not in liberty until you are delivered from the body of this death. ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’
When the prodigal’s father covered him with kisses, he could not doubt his reception. He did not make his intended proposition: ‘Make me as one of thy hired servants’ (Luke 15:19). You are justified when you believe that God has raised Christ from the dead. In the eye of God the man under judgment has gone in judgment. But you are not in liberty until you are delivered from the body of this death. ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:2).
Romans 5 is acceptance, and the Holy Spirit given: Romans 8 is deliverance. The Holy Spirit tells me that God loves me, also tells me that I have life in Christ (see Romans 8:2) Before then I could not be truly happy. I was happy when I looked up to God, but mererable when I looked at myself, conscious of my unfitness. I saw that ‘that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing’ (Romans 7:18), then I cried, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (v.24).
We see it with Israel. They were out of Egypt, but it was only near the end when they looked to Spirit (Numbers 21). That was after they had learned their wretchedness. It took 39 years before they saw the brazen serpent.
The blood – you are sheltered from judgment.
The Red Sea – you see a way through by the death of Christ
The brazen serpent – you know that you are in Christ, and live
The Jordan – you are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world.
The Father’s House with the Best Robe
Then you can enjoy the Father’s house with the best robe. It is joy unspeakable!
In answer to a question ‘Do you say that peace is not enjoyed till we know that the old man is crucified?’, Stoney took a more positive response. Instead of concentrating on the old man, he looked to enjoying of the great supper, and making merry which you can do only if you are in liberty [*]. A sailor said he did not mind any weather so long as he could see the sun. You must keep your eye on Christ.
If our old man has gone on the cross we would not be occupied by ‘holiness by faith’ teaching. If the old man has gone in the eye of God in the cross, then it should be gone from my own eye. I change my man: ‘not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:20). There are two sides; one, that you are cleared in the eye of God in the cross; the other that you know you are in Christ. Then you are free: ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:2) . The flesh is set aside as you walk in the Spirit. You must accept the fact that you have died with Christ. To this you are committed in baptism. The mark of a man walking in the Spirit is that his body is a living sacrifice (See Romans 12:1).
[*] My take on this is that we should be occupied with what the Lord has done, and not whether we are crucified with Him. Enjoying the merriment in the Father’s house stops us being occupied with what we are naturally. Occupation with whether we are crucified with Him, is occupation with self.
James Butler Stoney was born in Portland, County Tipperary, on May 13, 1814, and when only 15, he entered Trinity College Dublin to study for the Bar. In 1831 during an outbreak of cholera, he was taken ill, and his first thought was “How can I meet a holy God?” Alone, he threw himself on his face and cried to the God he had heard of as a boy, who alone could receive the chief of sinners because the “Crucified One” was at His right hand. A long sleep restored him but he had been “born again.” “No more law for me,” he said, “I’ll be a witness to grace”—the grace that could only be revealed from glory for sinners. He joined the Divinity Class at the same College and completed his studies but was not ordained. During this period he spent time studying the Scriptures.
He married Mary Frances Elwood in Dublin in 1838. She was a daughter of Robert Elwood of Knockadoo County Roscommon in the West of Ireland. They spent their early married life in County Tipperary and County Mayo in Ireland and at Gooding Lodge, Pembrey (near Llanelli) Carmarthenshire. They had one daughter and four or five sons. The daughter, Anna, was the eldest child (1839 – 1932). By 1871 they had settled in London living at 23 Lonsdale Square, Islington. In 1901 they were at 106 Falsgrave Road, Scarborough.
Mr Stoney did not go abroad to serve God, as far as is known, as did J N Darby and others, such service being limited to Great Britain and Ireland, but for almost 60 years he served God actively and faithfully. Besides his oral ministry, he “contributed to a number of Christian periodicals”. For many years he edited and contributed to one called ‘A Voice to the Faithful.’
He served in a series of bible readings in Edinburgh in October 1895, and following these meetings he had a fall. He was indisposed until his death on 1st May 1897. His daughter wrote a diary of his closing days which is entitled “From Glory to Glory”. It covers the period of his life from his return from Edinburgh until his death. At one point she read to him the notes of the Bible reading at Edinburgh on the Priesthood of Christ, then contained in ‘A Voice to the Faithful’ (see JBS vol 6 p. 315.) and she was deeply touched to see how his own words, almost his last words in public, are being made true to himself now. He said at the end of the same reading “It is the time you spend with the Lord that is everything to you” (vol. 6.] p. 324.)
Mr Stoney continued to serve the Lord and his people even while indisposed. There is a section in Volume 3 of his letters giving details of his communications whether written, dictated or spoken during this period. He did so until two days before the day of his death. Details of his burial are not available except that he was buried in Manor Road Cemetery, Scarborough. His widow and Anna continued to live at Falsgrave Road until Mrs Stoney died on 30th April 1902.
In reading his ministry you feel that he had a distinct impression of the Lord’s greatness and that he was in the gain of what he ministered. On one occasion his daughter said to him that persons were saying servants have a special line or impression given by God. She asked him “What is yours?” he replied “Oh, I think Glory is my impression”.
Mr. Stoney said “I did not know Mr. Darby until after he was in Plymouth in 1833. After leaving the University, I went to stay with him at a brother’s house at Cork, where I was his constant companion; and just to give an idea of the truth that came out, I mention an attempt of mine to compose a hymn, entirely a new idea to me, as a divinity student, raw from the University, and before I was twenty. You may see from this how very clearly was brought out the fact that our place is heaven, and that Christ is our Head there.” The verse is quoted below so that those who read this may share the impress which prompted him to compose it.
HARK! happy saints! loud lift your voice,
Tell to the world how we rejoice –
Yon heaven is our home.
There lives our Head with glory crowned;
And we as for His kingdom bound,
All cry – Lord Jesus, come!
J.B. Stoney (1814-1897)
In 1865 he composed a poem entitled ‘REST’ . . . which shows how near he was to God.
JAMES BUTLER STONEY was born at Portland, Co. Tipperary, on 13th May, 1814. His father was a strict Puritan and his mother (nee Butler) equally strict from a different point of view. Her four sons remarkably answered to her culture in mind, in address, and in manner of life. They had private tutors, and lived in a country home, with only country pursuits and pleasures
J.B.S. entered Trinity College, Dublin, at fifteen, taking his place at 70 out of 92. At nineteen he was Senior Freshman and well up in Classics and Law. His first religious impression was as a boy, when the Rev. Baker Stoney, Rector of Castlebar, the friend and fellow-worker with Mr. Nagle of Achill, came to Portland. At family prayers he read Acts 9, and dwelt on the fact that God’s salvation was so great that He could send a “light out of Heaven” to arrest one soul, and in that light was seen a Saviour in the glory of God for a man on earth who was stamping out His Name from the earth. He saw that just One and heard the voice of His mouth (Acts 22 and 26).
The youthful mind is “wax to receive and marble to retain, ” and he never lost the sense of the revelation in Christ of the “kindness and love to man (philanthropy) of our Saviour God” (Titus 3. 4). But the ambitions and joys of youth left little room for serious thought. He was eagerly following his studies for the Bar; all his prospects in life depended on his success at the Bar.
In 1831 men were dying of cholera all around in Dublin. He was suddenly taken ill, and his first thought was, “How can I meet a holy God ?” The agony of his soul was worse than that of the body. He rang for his servant to go for the doctor. “Thomas, I am afraid I am dying. ” “Surely you are, sir, ” said Thomas. Alone he threw himself on his face, and cried to the God he had heard of as a boy, who could receive the chief of sinners because the “Crucified One” was at His right hand. When the doctor came he was exhausted and appeared dying, but quite calm he said: “Jesus will have me. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
A long sleep restored him, and he was soon able to return to his studies. But he had been “born again,” born for a new world, new hopes, new life. “No more law for me,” he said. “I’ll be a witness to grace, ” the grace that could only be revealed from glory for sinners.
He joined the Divinity Class at Trinity College, Dublin, where there were really good men at that time, but he had to wait nearly four years. He could not be ordained until he was twenty-four years of age. His family were very angry; his uncle would have nothing more to do with him; as his fine talents and opportunities were being thrown away for a curate’s pay.
But during those four years he was studying the Scriptures with all the earnestness of a soul that had learned that unseen things are for eternity, the seen things of this life passing away. As he studied the Epistles he found that the “gifts” for ministry in the Church of God were given directly from the Ascended Man to each one, so that by Christ’s own appointment one became an evangelist or a teacher, etc. (Eph. 4). *He would not wait for a curacy; he would go out at once into the highways and hedges and invite sinners to come to God’s great salvation: “Come, for all things are ready. “
He wrote a little book called “Discipline in the School of God,” dealing with the Old Testament characters, and contributed to several periodicals. He spoke somewhere every day and travelled much. A fervent, impressive speaker, he anxiously avoided anything like eloquence, feeling that the Spirit of God was the only power for holy things.
J.B.S. died on 1st May, 1897, just before his eighty-second birthday. God was his exceeding joy to the end—while telling of Him he gently fell asleep. He rejoiced to say:
“‘Tis the treasure I found in His love
That has made me a pilgrim below.”
“When I look at this place, He is not here; and when I look at myself naturally I am not fit for Him. How happy then to know that I belong to the place where He is; and that through grace I have been made suited to Him in that new position; so that I set my mind and affection there, as the place where my deepest joys are realised.”– J.B. Stoney
God finds, Thou Spotless One, in Thee
Where all perfections dwell,
All that His heart could wish for me,
More than my tongue could tell.
He finds me ransomed, righteous, fair,
Where all His joys transcendent are –
He finds me perfect for His praise,
His glory through eternal days.
Oh, strange that I should ever leave
Such place of rest in Thee;
That I should e’er Thy Spirit grieve,
Or from Thy presence flee.
To turn to creature joys for rest
Is but to wander from Thy breast;
Yielding to sin’s enticing snare
But robs my sweet abiding there.
Oh, keep me then, most blessed Lord,
Abiding in Thee still,
In deep communion, through Thy Word,
Thy life in me fulfil.
Dark shadows here are all around;
I’m only safe as in Thee found;
Soon, and for ever on Thy breast,
Shall be my sweet, eternal rest.
The word ‘Salvation’ is often misused, for it is looked at generally as only what I am saved from, while in Scripture it is also what I am saved to.
There is a significant difference between the two: If I am occupied only with what I am saved from, all I enjoy is relief from misery and judgment. However, if I am occupied only with I am saved to, I have the hope of the gospel and the full joy of the Father’s house.
The Thief on the Cross
In 1 Thessalonians 5:10 it says of the Lord, ‘Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him’. Salvation places me in glory with Him. We see this from the thief on the cross. His eyes were opened, and he saw the just One suffering for the unjust. He saw Jesus as King and said, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom’, but the Lord said to him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise(Luke 23:42-43).
Christ’s work transferred the thief from the lowest, deepest, darkest place of misery ever known to man – crucifixion for crimes for which he was condemned, into the brightest, holiest, most blessed place of unimaginable happiness with the Lord. His death did not entitle him to enter Paradise; Christ’s death obtained it for him. That is the completeness of transition – and Christ has done it!
God’s Presence and Heaven Experienced Now
Two great spheres of blessing are shown in type in Exodus. They are:
We can say that hat the death of Christ procured them both, and they converge in the Father’s house. In the tabernacle we have a travelling companion (the presence of God) in the wilderness. This means that and we can approach Him now, accepted in Christ. This is the true tabernacle in Hebrews 9:24 – the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, has passed into ‘heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’. I have entrance into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus, and I get there in all the perfection of the One who brought me there.
The other sphere of blessing is Canaan – heaven: that is the very brightest place. I am ‘seated in the heavenlies in Christ’, ‘accepted in the beloved’(Ephesians 2:6 and 1:6 ).
Approach to God Now
Every Christian expects to go to heaven when they die, but many Christians do not understand that they have the right to God’s presence now[iii]. I can enter the holiest of all, where all is suited to the holiness and righteousness of God, a scene of spotless purity and light. I can enjoy all this blessedness while on the way to heaven because I am among those seated in the heavenlies in Christ (see Ephesians 2:6).
There are four aspects of the death of Christ from Egypt to Canaan.
The Blood on the lintel – shelter from judgement.
The Red Sea – the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Brazen Serpent – freedom from the law of sin and death
The Jordan – our death and resurrection with Christ
The death of Christ secured all of these at the same time. However, like the Children of Israel who learned them over a period of 40 years, I do not learn them together. The Holy Spirit makes my heart know what Christ has done one step at a time.
The thief on the cross entered into Paradise, and his own death had divested him of the encumbrance of the old man in a moment: he was free because he died that day. We may have years to live, so are not free of the encumbrance as the thief was.
It is not necessary to have died though, to be free from such an encumbrance. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:2 of a ‘man in Christ’. The Holy Spirit led him to the third heaven to show him what the work of Christ had accomplished. It was in a greater place than Paradise, and he was received there.
A man dreamed that he went to a great palace and was received well at the door; then he went in, and at each successive room he was better received. At last he entered the presence-chamber, and there he was admitted with acclamation. It is more than that with the man in Christ! The apostle Paul was taken at once into the very highest place, received in the most amazing way, and treated most intimately. However, could not tell anybody about it, because words could not describe it, they were forbidden to utter. Here was a man walking about this world with the secrets of God in his heart which he could not disclose to anyone.
The progress through these rooms is like ‘the light of the glorious gospel of Christ’( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). The light shines from the place I am going to, though I see it from where I am: it leads me to the finish. My income for the journey comes from there; the Holy Spirit comes from there.
In this life we are outside of death, and while passing through this evil world, we are superior to it through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been sent down from our glorified Saviour, making us superior to the power of evil, and filling our hearts with joy, the joys of heaven to which we belong.
The Prodigal’s Reception
The prodigal son would have been content with being a hired servant. Covered by the blood of Christ, but without the full appreciation of the Father’s heart and the Father’s house I become satisfied with human joys and relationships – an earthly Christianity. But this often disappoints. However, the Father’s thoughts were far greater. From the way he was received, I learn the full nature of my salvation: my presence in the Father’s house is not simply for my own benefit. It is to satisfy God’s desire: His delight is in having me there. We see the Father’s pleasure in the reception of the prodigal: ‘It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.’ (Luke 15:32). As the One who loves delights to have the one who is loved in His company, so the Father delights to have me, and His love is divine.
This salvation has been secured in the death of Christ. I have heaven even if I am not there yet. Christ’s work has placed me in two great blessings: the presence of God, heavenly joys. ‘They began to be merry’, (Luke 15:24)) – they began but did not cease[iv].
That is why the reception of the man in Christ was so cordial and so full. If it was the characteristic of the apostle Paul and the prodigal, it could be true of every believer. Every believer now has a home in the Father’s house[v].
The Christian’s Hope
Luke’s gospel shows me that I am not saved for earth but for heaven. The natural man connects joy with temporal things; even Christians are often disappointed because they look for joys in the wrong place: they are trying to derive their happiness from the earth. However, I am to derive everything from the place where joy never ends: I get my joy from heaven! I am not alone: we live together with Him (see 1 Thessalonians 5:10), as Peter says, ‘Joy unspeakable, and full of glory’. (1 Peter 1:8).
In John 7:37-38 I learn, not what I am saved from, but what I am saved to. ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’. I have something in His life that is beyond death even though I am still in this scene of death. We have these joys in the power of the Holy Spirit, who has come down from the glorified Christ to acquaint us with the joys of the place from which He came.
There were for Israel three feasts in the year:
The Passover – for us this represents the death of Christ
The feast of Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Spirit, and
The feast of Tabernacles – the millennium (not yet fulfilled).
What we have is even more than what the saints will have in the millennium. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit make us rejoice more than the earthly feast of Tabernacles. He enriches our hearts with Christ, causing us to know all the joys of the Father’s house. That is the great supper: I am not there yet, but I get my joys from there. I get jyy67home comforts before I get home; my income comes from there. God does not have an earthly people now[vi]; we are a heavenly people, with heavenly joys.
Christ has accomplished our salvation. He has obtained great blessedness for us, and we know it now.
[i]Obtainable from Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, England or from Bibles etc. Wheaton IL, USA. Downloadable from Ministry Search Engine
[ii]Commentators have tried to put the comma after ‘today’, to make out that the blessing was future; but he received the blessing that day.
[iv]It is not simply for my benefit that I am there, but God has a delight in having me there. The Lord here was working out the will of the Father; He says after his conversation with the woman in John 4, ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of’, and ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work’. (John 4:32-34)
[v]We have a great supper in Luke 14:16-24. That was in the Father’s house (as in chapter 15), not in the land of Israel. The feast is Wisdom’s feast, and that is in the Father’s house. How wonderful the present enjoyment that I derive from that which has been obtained for me by the death of Christ!
[vi]Jewish believers are in the assembly and are amongst the heavenly people.