By Paul M. Sadler
The story is told of how a wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.”
The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t very much, I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.” The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.” The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the great works of art he had collected.
The man died a few months later. Shortly thereafter, there was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having the opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?” There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.” But the auctioneer persisted. “Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?” Another voice shouted angrily. “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!” But still the auctioneer continued. “The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?”
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.” Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters.” The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, going twice, SOLD for $10!” A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now let’s get on with the collection.”
The auctioneer laid down his gavel. “I’m sorry, the auction is over.” “What about the paintings?” “I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets every thing!”
God gave His Son 2000 years ago to die on a cruel Cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, “The Son, the Son, who’ll take the Son?” Because, you see, whoever takes the Son inherits everything! 1
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (II Cor. 4:7).
In biblical times earthen vessels were clay pots that had been thoroughly baked in an oven. They were fraught with imperfections, which meant that no two were exactly alike. Archeologists have discovered that those who lived during that period secretly buried their treasures in clay pots for safekeeping. As we shall see, the master illustrator uses this facet of everyday life to illustrate a grand spiritual truth.
Those who have taken the Son are heirs, joint-heirs with Him. As members of the Body of Christ, we are partakers of His glory, His power, and His reign. In short, we are the recipients of the wealth of heaven! While the believing Gentiles will partake of the blessings of the kingdom, they are not said to be heirs. In the kingdom, heirship is a question of nationality. In the present dispensation of Grace, heirship is based upon relationship. We are one in Him. Therefore, what rightfully belongs to Him, we have come into possession of, and will share it mutually with Him for eternity (Rom. 8:17 cf. Eph. 3:6).
Today when men want to safeguard their riches they place them in vaults made of steel and concrete. But God’s ways are not man’s ways. God has deposited the riches of His grace in earthen vessels. We need not wait until we arrive in heaven to learn what we presently possess in Christ. We have this treasure, that is, the gospel of the grace of God in earthen vessels. Those who have been saved by grace are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. But what we positionally enjoy in Christ must become a practical reality in the Christian experience if we ever hope to maintain a godly testimony among men. For example, we are forgiven in Christ, but grace teaches us that we are to forgive others even as Christ has forgiven us.
In the year 1818, Tamatoe, King of Huahine, one of the South Sea Islands, believed the gospel. He discovered a plot among his fellow natives to seize him and other converts and burn them to death. However, he organized a band to attack the plotters and captured them unawares. Having exposed the plot, he forgave them, and set a feast before his would-be captors. This unexpected kindness amazed the savages, who burned their idols and became Christians. 2
But why would God place these unspeakable riches in such an unsecure place? We are unworthy sinners, weak and frail, who have the sentence of death within us. Perhaps the hymn-writer, Robert Robinson, has expressed it best, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” The answer to the question is found in the latter part of our passage. “That the excellency [exceeding greatness] of the power may be of God, and not of us.” While others usually think more highly of us than they should, essentially it is the power of God working through us that produces results in the Lord’s work.
Many years ago I was invited to minister the gospel at a Bible camp in the Rocky Mountains. On the last evening, I spoke on “The Danger of Falling Into the Hands of An Angry God.” Earlier that day I hadn’t been feeling well, due to altitude sickness. In addition to being exhausted that night, I was short of breath. At ten thousand feet it doesn’t take much to get winded. I now understand why it took Moses so long to return from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone. He undoubtedly had to keep stopping on his way down to catch his breath! As I arose to speak that evening I thought to myself, this is going to be an absolute disaster. It was, or at least I thought it was, until I learned two months later that an entire family was saved that night. Brethren, the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom 1:16).
At the Judgment Seat of Christ no one will be able to boast regarding what he or she has accomplished, for the power is solely of God and not of us. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” In the final analysis, God will receive all the glory and honor and praise and adoration for the great things He has done. We are merely vessels through whom God has poured out the riches of His grace to a lost and dying world.
What is your attitude toward the Mystery? When the final chapter of your life is written and the book is closed, will you be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”? May you have no regrets at that day!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.