A gospel message from A. C. Gaebelein
2. A More Wonderful Fact
HE BECAME POOR FOR OUR SAKES.
“For ye know the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
If we have wondered at His eternal Riches, how much greater must be our amazement that such a One, whose Riches are incomprehensible, became poor. Indeed it is more wonderful that He became poor and furthermore that He became poor for our sakes.
“Your sakes.” This precious Gospel text before us enlarges and expands and opens up the gracious, unfathomable depths of God’s Love. We shall find that He, Who was so rich, became so poor in that He was stripped of all He had. And it was for us, reader. It was for my sake and for your sake. Can we ever hear enough of it? Do we ever get tired of hearing that which is, the old, but ever new, the blessed account of His Love? There are too many who seem to have gotten beyond the facts of the precious Gospel.”We want something deeper than the Gospel,” some said to this writer some short time ago. It did not take us long to find out that they had never actually fully tasted nor received even the basics of the sweetness of “the old, old story of Jesus and His Love.” The one who knows the gospel and lives in fellowship with the Father and the Son can never hear it enough. The more we hear, the more we realize its preciousness and its marvelous depths. It is not possible to get beyond the Gospel of the grace of God. “Amazing Grace,” it is in every way!
But let us look at this more wonderful fact, that, “He became poor for your sakes.”
What does it mean? The Holy Spirit in the epistle to the Philippians gives us more of the wonderful fact of the path of Him, Who came from Glory to this dark, sin-cursed earth.
Let us first of all read His words.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).
First of all we mention His incarnation. He made Himself of no reputation. He was made in the likeness of men, fashioned as a man. The Mighty Creator, Who in the hour of creation had formed the body of man from the dust of the earth, took upon Himself that same form and entered the world He had called into existence. He did not empty Himself of His Deity; He came as Jehovah manifest in the flesh.
We read the holy, blessed facts of His entrance into the world in the Gospel of Luke. The angel Gabriel said to Mary after he had announced the coming birth of the Savior, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
And then He was born. On the bosom of Mary rests He Who ever was in the bosom of the Father. In that simple village, Bethlehem, He begins His earthly life as a little babe.
“And she brought forth her Firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). What a poverty it was, the poverty of incarnation! For He Who created all, Who has all, Whose glorious place was with the Father before the world was, for Him there was no room and His first resting place was a cattle manger.
And yet this poverty in incarnation is far from being the fullest meaning of His poverty. All the poverty of the incarnation could not give peace and rest to the conscience of a guilty sinner. There is a deeper poverty of Him Who was rich than the poverty of incarnation.
It has not pleased the Holy Spirit to give us a detailed record of the Blessed One as He grew up to manhood. There is just one occasion recorded at the close of the second chapter in the Gospel of Luke, when He spoke that significant word, “How is it that ye have sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)? What consciousness of His Personality and His Work these words reveal.
And then we read, “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject unto them.” Nazareth was a poor little place with a poor reputation. There He went to that place Nazareth, He Whose fellowship had been from everlasting with the Father.
Had the Holy Spirit given us the story of those years in Nazareth we would read, no doubt, a record of very simple living, of toil and perhaps even want. In the Gospel of Mark we hear Him mentioned as “the carpenter.” He Who later declared in the presence of the Jews in the Gospel of John “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17), He worked patiently, and toiled on for years with His own hands. And yet those years of toil and poverty in Nazareth do not make known the full extent of His poverty. Were He to still labor today and toil upon the earth and live here in deepest poverty, all this would not save a single soul from death, nor give a single sinner acceptance with God.
How poor He was we also read as recorded in the Gospels. He had no where to lay His head. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58). Such was His own clear utterance; for there was often no resting place for that blessed head.
He hungered and came to a fig tree and found nothing there. His disciples, who had followed Him, were also hungry and plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day. Women, the weaker vessel, ministered unto Him, and gave to Him of Whom, it is said, “The silver and gold is mine and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” Great as this social poverty was, it is still not that greatest poverty, into which He went, for our sake. He became infinitely poorer than all of this earthly poverty.
As He walked in humiliation upon the earth in the likeness of man, though poor outwardly, poor in Nazareth, poor among His own, He was nevertheless rich. He always enjoyed the riches of the Father’s Love. As a boy He spoke of “My Father.” The Father’s smile was upon Him. God could do nothing else but love Him Who had left the Father’s bosom and become man. There was never a moment in that holy spotless life when the Father’s presence and the Father’s Love were absent. How precious it must have been for Him, in all the poverty that He had taken upon Himself, to still enjoy the presence and fellowship of Him, with Whom He was and is One.
And so, as He walked among His own, the Father was with Him. The Riches of Love He always possessed. The Father opened the heavens above Him and said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This took place at the beginning of His ministry when He came out of the water at Jordan. The same voice spoke on the holy mountain at His transfiguration, when His wonderful Glory shone forth. During the nights He spent in the desert, when upon the mountains alone, He enjoyed always loving fellowship with the Father. When He was in the desert, tempted by the devil, walking among the wild beasts, the loving arms of His Father were always about Him.
The fullest meaning, however, of this more wonderful fact that He became poor for our sake, and your sake, can only be fully learned in one place, and that place is at the Cross of Calvary.
In the record of what transpired at the cross, we learn the deepest poverty of Him Who was rich. There we begin to apprehend what it cost God to bring us to Himself.
Who is able to fully understand His poverty at the Cross? Jeremiah amidst the ruins of his beloved Jerusalem broke out in the most pathetic lament, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord has afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger” (Lam. 1:12). But what was Jeremiah’s sorrow and suffering in comparison with the sorrow of the Man of Sorrows? He alone could fully say, “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.” The sufferings of the blessed Son of God, (1 Peter 1:11) had all been minutely predicted by His own Spirit throughout the Old Testament. His sufferings were foreshadowed in the sufferings of the Old Testament saints such as Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Job, David, Daniel and others. When He came into the world, He fulfilled all those foreshadowings as He suffered the shame and poverty of the cross. Who can measure the agony of that moment at the cross through which this holy One must pass?
The so-called old “masters,” the great artists who sketched Jesus, have pictured from their imagination the crucifixion scene. Those paintings may be works of art from a human standpoint, but spiritually considered, they are mostly miserable productions, and some almost blasphemies.
“There they crucified Him,” is all the Holy Spirit tells us of the awful act itself. What must it have been when He was delivered into the hands of men, when He Who was everlastingly clothed with the Father’s Glory, when He was stripped and cruelly nailed to that cross, bleeding with His face marred, carrying upon His blessed head the crown of thorns. None can fully describe this scene. He is lifted up on that awful cross, a spectacle for human and supernatural beings. There He hung, forsaken by His own, forsaken and alone in the hours of His suffering.
And yet if we were to stop at this and say that we have descended into the deepest place of the poverty of Him Who was rich, we would still miss the mark. Though the suffering, the shame, the sorrows and the agony were so very great (and they cannot be adequately measured,) yet they do not give us the fullest meaning of His poverty.
There is a poverty still deeper than the physical sufferings and shame on the cross. We must consider this poverty in connection with what He suffered, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane.
“And when He was at the place, He said unto them, pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if Thou be willing, to remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:40-44).
Why all this agony? Did He shrink from the physical suffering of the cross and its shame? He certainly did not draw back from it in selfish fear, because for the joy set before Him, He was set to endure the cross and despise the shame of it.
He knew deepest poverty, and experienced the lowest depths into which He was to descend, that He was to drink the bitter cup to the last drop. On account of this, He was in such an agony. What then was the deepest poverty of the Rich One, the Creator, the mighty and glorious Jehovah?
“Now from the sixth hour (midday) there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour (3 o’clock). And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” (Matt. 27:45–46)?
In that darkness that enshrouded Him, He, whose garment is Glory before the foundation of the world; in that solemn, fearful cry that came from His lips from out of that darkness, we come face to face with the deepest poverty of Him Who was rich.
Here we see Him stripped of all. The Riches of Love, the Riches of Glory were all gone. No longer is there above Him the Father’s smiling face, but in its place, a holy and righteous God Whose hand smites the Sufferer on the cross. That Love which He had always enjoyed as the Only Begotten, and which was His delight as He walked the earth, is now removed and replaced with the fearful wrath of God. Stripped of all, smitten of God, He who knew no sin was made sin for us. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He cries, when forsaken on the cross.
It is the only time the Lord Jesus addressed the Father as “My God.” But what does this mean? What did it mean for God to place His hand of judgment upon that beloved One Who was ever His delight, Who pleased Him? What must it have been for the Lamb of God to taste that awful separation, to be forsaken of Him with Whom He was ever in fellowship? Shall we ever know the depth of His suffering? Shall we ever know in all eternity what it cost to pay the price to redeem us? We shall never know “the suffering of death” through which the Lamb of God had to pass, stripped of all His Riches, when He was alone, forsaken on that Cross.
Think now of it, “for your sakes He became poor.” For you, reader, He came into the world, for you He went to that cross, for you He drank that bitter cup, for you He was forsaken of God.
Well may we sing:
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead —
Bear’st all my ill for me.
A victim led, Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.
Death and the curse were in our cup —
O Christ,’twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Left but the love for me.
The tempest’s awful voice was heard;
O Christ, it broke on Thee;
Thy open bosom was my ward;
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
Jehovah lifted up His rod –
O Christ, it woke ‘gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake,
Thy heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake my peace to make,
Now sleeps that sword for me.
The Holy One did hide His face;
O Christ, ’twas hid from Thee!
Dumb darkness wrapt Thy soul a space,
The darkness due to me.
But now that face of radiant grace
Shines forth in light on me.
For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee;
Thou art risen: my bands are all untied;
And now Thou liv’st in me.
The Father’s face of radiant grace
Shines forth in light on me.
—Ann Ross Cousin, BHB
Who are we, that He should for us enter into such depths of poverty and be forsaken by God?
Who were these Corinthians to whom these words were written? “for your sakes He became poor.” The First Epistle written to them states: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
What an awful record this is! Yet such as these Corinthians were, the Son of God came down to become poor, even to the poverty of the Cross. “What an awful record,” Some may say, and add, as is done so often, “Such a sinful record and depth I have never fallen.” This is the language of the self-righteous Pharisee, the nominal Christian; those superior in their own eyes, who in their despisement of others, say, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:9–12).
Is this my language? Is this your confession? If so, how little we know of ourselves and how little we have tasted of the sweetness of the precious gospel of God’s Grace.
It is related that the late Bishop Brooks, having preached in the Massachusetts penitentiary, was struck dumb as he saw the long lines of men clad in the uniform of shame, shamble, lock stepped, to their places in the chapel. He said, ‘How can I preach to these men? What do I know of thieves, murderers and forgers? I have done none of these things. Between them and myself is a chasm; hell deep, which I can neither pass over to get to them, nor may they understand me.’ But then at that moment God showed him his own natural heart. Down through the layers of Puritan tradition, through the moral habits inherited from generations of God-fearing ancestors, the revealing ray of light shot through and lifted up the understanding. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17:9)?
That man of God saw there the possibility of every crime represented in the long rows of furtive-eyed, criminal humanity before him, as his possibility also, and then he preached to them as a saved sinful man to sinful men.”
Listen to the description of your own heart, the same natural heart of all men, as given by our blessed Savior, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
All these evil things are in our hearts. There is a murderer there and a fornicator, a thief and a robber. The Grace of God may have kept the practice of it back from its fullest manifestation, but it is there. How true it was when Rowland Hill cried out when he saw a murderer with the rope around his neck led to the gallows; he called out, “There goes Rowland Hill, if it were not for the Grace of God.” Such are we, vile, corrupt sinners; enemies of God.
Again let us point you to the Word of God, and what God has to say of us all, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open Sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes … all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:11–18, 23).
This is what we are by nature. God Himself tells us this, for He alone knows the depths of our degradation, our vileness, our sinfulness, our enmity and ungodliness. And yet knowing this, He gave the best He could give. He gave up, the Son of His Love.
Please listen! He put His hand upon Christ in that awful poverty of the cross and smote Him in our place. How wonderful, such wonderful love! It passes knowledge.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. BUT GOD commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6–8).
Will you just now bow your head and heart in the Presence of God and believe the record. Take your place humbly before God as a lost, guilty sinner. You have not done good; you cannot do good until reconciled to God. Unsaved reader, acknowledge yourself a sinner before God and believe the Son of God.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
What greater proof could God give of His love than the one He has given, by putting His beloved Son representatively in the place of the vilest sinner? He spared not His beloved Son in order that He be able to spare the sinner, who believes the Son.
He became poor for our sakes, for your sake. Do you believe it? Will you accept Him as your Savior and Lord?
And we who have believed and know Him, and that He died for us, may confess with the great apostle “Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We confess we need a greater impression of that mighty Love that went to the cross and into such poverty for the ungodly. We should consider every unsaved one, the lowest, the most miserable, the most unlovable, from a human standpoint, as those for whom the Son of God gave up His eternal Riches to become so abjectly poor.
Look at the masses we see in the great cities.
How often we see them stumbling along or actually in the depth of the gutter.There they are covered with the filth of the street and the world. Gaze upon that miserable one, that homeless tramp as one for whom the Son of God cried when upon the cross, “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
“Christ died for the ungodly.”
His precious life blood was shed as the cost and price to redeem. He tasted that awful death: separation, for the ungodly.
How can we ever adequately love and care for that poor, miserable sinner, that homeless outcast, whom God so loved, and for whom God gave His Son and for whom Christ died? We cannot unless we have Christ and eternal life ourselves.
We are debtors to God and His grace. May God therefore fill our hearts with that same burning love that He has for poor lost sinners, that we may yearn, even agonize, for the salvation of those for whom Christ became so utterly poor.