“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:18
Recently, I was in a used bookstore browsing for some treasures. To my delight, I found six volumes; three of which I had in my library and three others that I had never seen before. The unseen treasures where works by Harry A. Ironside, “Miscellaneous Papers.” One article that caught my attention was the funeral of Billy Sunday which was preached by Dr. Ironside at Moody Church. The Lord used Dr. Ironside’s message to not only comfort, but to challenge my heart and I want to develop some of those thoughts!
If there is one thing that time has taught all men, it is the fact that no man can escape his appointment with death. Death leaps across the boundaries of race, color, and creed! Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die.” It is at that appointed time that the individual is either meet with comfort or condemnation, peace or punishment, rest or remorse. What is it that makes the difference? It is the individual’s relationship to the “Lord Jesus Christ!” While this relationship could be expanded to encompass more; I want to magnify four.
Man “Without Christ” – Ephesians 2:12
Speaking of all men, Paul said, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Without Christ testifies to the state of all men previous to conversion; rich or poor, black or white, young or old. In this state man abides under the wrath and condemnation of a Holy God. To die in that state would mean being separated from God and being cast into the lake of fire for all of eternity; this is what is referred to as “the second death”(see Revelation 20:14&21:8).
Man “In Christ” – II Corinthians 5:17
Having been made aware of our hopeless condition of being “without Christ” man is enlightened to the invitation of salvation; it is a message of hope by the means of grace. Paul said, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Having responded to God’s invitation by faith, the person is placed “in Christ.” Paul said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Men that were once a foe, have now been made family; “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).
Man “For Christ” – II Corinthians 5:20
Having experienced “So Great Salvation” (Hebrews 2:3), the individual is not only a new person, but has a new purpose; “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they are “ambassadors” which means, to be a senior by implication to act as a representative. Christ is not only the Saviour, He is the Sovereign! He is to be the Lord of our life and we are to live for Him! Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31).
Man “With Christ” – “Philippians 1:23
When man’s race is run and the time of his departure is a hand; for the individual that is “in Christ” there awaits the privilege “to be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). This is not a hope so or a maybe so; speaking assuredly, Paul said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
Dr. Ironside closed Billy Sunday’s funeral with these words, “What a history this is! Once “without Christ,” then through grace “in Christ;” to become for many years an ambassador “for Christ.” And now his labor ended, the victory won, he is at Home “with Christ,” waiting the glad hour when all the redeemed shall meet in the Father’s house.” These are truly words of Comfort.