Sermon #21 Genesis Sermons
Title: Jacob’s Ladder - A Picture of Grace
Text: Genesis 28:12-13
Subject: Christ our Ladder
Date: Tuesday Evening - December 10, 1991
This ladder which Jacob saw in his dream was our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that this is the true and proper interpretation of this text, because our Lord himself gave this interpretation of it (See John 1:51). When the Lord God revealed his Son to Jacob, he revealed him as a ladder. What an instructive and helpful representation that is of our Savior!
The Lord Jesus Christ is made of God unto us a ladder!
The title of my message tonight is Jacob’s Ladder - A Picture of Grace. You all know what a ladder is and how it is used. When you need to get from a low place to a high place, or you need to fetch something from a high place to a low place, you need a ladder to do it. Nothing will serve your purpose so well as a ladder. Everyone knows how to use a ladder. Tonight, I want everyone here to see that Christ is a ladder; and I want us to use him as a ladder. Now, take notice of what our text says about Christ our Ladder.
1. This ladder stood upon the earth, but the top reached into heaven. So Christ, the Son of God, although he stood upon the earth in human flesh is yet the most high God. Though he stood upon the earth as a man, he never ceased to be God. He never left the bosom of the Father (John 1:18; 3:13).
2. The angels of God went up and down on the ladder which Jacob saw. Even so, we are able to ascend to God in heaven only by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6); and it is by and through Christ that God comes down to us. God almighty meets with, deals with, and blesses sinners only in Christ.
3. The Lord God stood above the ladder and made all his promises of grace to Jacob. This shows us that all the promises of God’s grace come to us through Christ. All spiritual blessings, all the promises of eternal life, all the glory of heaven is in Christ. All things come to us through Christ, our Mediator, or Ladder (Eph. 1:3-14).
When Christ is revealed to us as our Ladder, five questions arise in my mind which I want to answer tonight.
1. What kind of Ladder is Christ?
2. How are we to use Christ as a Ladder?
3. If Christ is our Ladder, why did Jacob see the angels of God ascending and descending upon Him?
4. If Christ is the Ladder, what are the rounds of the Ladder?
5. Why is the word “Behold” used in connection with this Ladder?
I. WHAT KIND OF LADDER IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST?
There are many kinds of ladders for many different uses: step ladders, long ladders, extension ladders, strong ladders, and shakey ladders; but Christ is in all respects an extra ordinary Ladder. There is none other like him!
A. Christ is a Living Ladder.
As he is called “a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20), in the same sense, he is “a new and living Ladder”. Other ladders are dead things; but this Ladder lives. It is true, he once died, but he is alive again and lives for evermore (Rev. 1:18). Because he lives, we shall live also!
B. Christ is a Long Ladder.
Here is a Ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. Jacob saw the foot of it upon the earth, “and the top of it reached to heaven!”
1. This represents the two natures of our Redeemer.
He is both God and man in one glorious Person, as fully God as though he were not man and as fully man as though he were not God.
a. As a man, he was set up on the earth (Gal. 4:4-5).
b. As God he was always in heaven - He was always in heaven, the eternally begotten Son of God, infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, unchangeable (John 1:14; 3:13; 1:18).
Philip Henry wrote, “The uniting of these two natures, the nature of God and the nature of man, in one Person, is the mystery of all mysteries (1 Tim. 3:16). That the glory of the Godhead did not destroy the meanness of the manhood, nor the meanness of the manhood destroy the glory of the Godhead, is mysterious indeed.”
The incarnation of Christ is like the bush that Moses saw, burning with the glory of God, but not consumed with the fire!
2. Why was the foot of the Ladder upon the earth? Why was it necessary for the Son of God, our Redeemer to become a man?
If Christ would redeem us, he had to have a body in which to bear our sins, to suffer and die as our Substitute. He had to have a body and nature like ours. A man he must be who would redeem man. Man sinned. Therefore, a man must suffer for sin. For this reason, God the Holy Spirit prepared a body for God the Son in the womb of the virgin (Heb. 10:5).
3. Why was it necessary that the top of the ladder reach into heaven? Why must our Savior be God as well as man?
It was our Savior’s Godhood that gave merit, virtue and infinite worth to the sufferings of his manhood. Someone said, “Christ is both God and man, because God could not suffer and man could not satisfy; but the God-man both suffered the wrath of God and satisfied the justice of God when he bled and died.”
Moreover, it was Christ’s Godhood which supported and sustained his manhood in all his sufferings. Manhood could never have born the agony of Gethsemane and the torments of Calvary, had it not been that the man who suffered is also the eternal God.
In addition to these things, it was necessary that our Mediator be both God and man so that he might bring God and man together. He must be God that he might deal with God, which man, as man, is not fit to do. He must be man that he might deal with man, which God in his holiness could not do without consuming the sinful creature.
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” This is the meaning of our Savior’s incarnation - Immanuel, God with us, God in our nature! Were he not both God and man, he could not be Jesus our Savior (Matt. 1:21-23).
C. Christ is a Lasting Ladder.
Other ladders wear out with use. But here is a Ladder that lasts forever.
· Christ himself is immutable (Heb. 13:8).
· The righteousness he brought in is everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24).
· The redemption he accomplished is eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12).
Sinners, from the beginning of time, have made use of this Ladder. It has never failed one and never shall! “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him” (Heb. 7:25); and the salvation he gives is eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).
D. Christ is a Free Ladder.
That is to say, he is open to all who come to him; and whosoever will may come to this Ladder and make use of it. All who come are welcome!
1. The promise of the gospel is proclaimed in broad, general terms (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 11:28; John 7:37; Rev. 22:17).
2. The Fountain is opened, not shut (Zech. 13:1).
3. The Door is open, not closed (Rev. 4:1).
If you do not exclude yourself by unbelief, God has not excluded you. Predestination does not shut sinners out of heaven. Predestination threw open the door for sinners and built a ladder for sinners, by which men and women who could never come to God may now come to him. That Door is Christ! That Ladder is Christ!
E. Christ is Firm Ladder.
Steady and strong, Jacob’s ladder was seen standing upon the earth, unshaken, unmoved, immovable! Christ Jesus is God almighty to save!
· From the guilt of sin!
· From the dominion of sin!
· From the penalty of sin!
· From the consequence of sin!
· From the being of sin!
F. Christ is a Fitted Ladder.
He is a Savior suited to every purpose for which he is intended and for every need his people have.
G. Christ is the only Ladder there is which reaches from earth to heaven. There is no other way to God!
1. Papists think there are many ladders, many mediators.
2. Free-willers think they need no ladder.
3. Work mongers imagine that they can build a ladder.
4. God declares, “Christ is the Ladder!” (2 Tim. 2:5).
II. HOW ARE WE TO USE CHRIST AS A LADDER?
I told you a minute ago that Christ is a fitted Ladder, suited to every purpose for which he is intended. Now, let me show you how he is useful to us as a Ladder.
A. All the blessings of God descend from heaven to us upon Christ the Ladder (Eph. 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 1:9).
“God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
· “All your needs!”
· “According to His riches!”
· “By Christ Jesus!”
1. All grace comes down this Ladder (John 1:16).
2. All pardon comes down this Ladder (1 John 1:7).
3. All providence comes down this Ladder (John 17:2).
4. All the answers to prayer come down this Ladder (John 16:23).
B. It is by Christ the LADDER, ONLY BY Christ the Ladder, that we ascend to heaven and find acceptance with the Holy Lord God (John 14:6).
Earth to heaven is a long, long way, and up hill too! How can we possibly get there? “Behold, a Ladder!” But how am I to climb such a Ladder? By faith! Faith is the hand by which we take hold of the Ladder and the foot by which we climb. “Reach hither thy hand” and climb (Heb. 11:6).
1. The only way we can come to God is Christ! “No man cometh to the Father” but by him. We cannot come to God’s kingdom, God’s presence, God’s glory, but by Christ.
a. His blood purchased it for us.
b. His Spirit makes us fit for it.
c. His intercession brings us there.
2. The only way any of our performances can ascend to God is upon Christ the Ladder (1 Pet. 2:5; Matt. 17:5).
God bathes our prayers, our praises and our works in the blood of Christ, and accepts both us and what we do for him for Christ’s sake.
III. IF CHRIST IS OUR LADDER, WHY DID JACOB SEE THE ANGELS OF GOD ASCENDING AND DESCENDING UPON HIM?
The angels of God are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). The purpose of this vision was to comfort Jacob in the face of danger.
A. Sons of Jacob, behold the angels of God ascending!
· To get fresh orders from our God (Zech. 1:10-17).
· To give account of what they have done (Job 1:6).
· To carry the departed souls of God’s saints into Abraham’s bosom (Lk. 16:22).
B. Behold the angels of God descending too.
· To surround and protect God’s Jacobs!
· To provide for and preserve God’s Jacobs!
· To watch over God’s Jacobs and bring them safely home!
IV. IF CHRIST IS THE LADDER, WHAT ARE THE ROUNDS OF THE LADDER?
I got some help here from Dr. Gill. There are two ways to count the rounds of a ladder, from the top down, or from the bottom up.
A. First, count the rounds of the Ladder from the top down, as you think of Christ coming down to us. “Lo, I come!”
1. Christ’s covenant engagements.
2. Old Testament prophecies and promises, types and pictures.
3. The incarnation.
4. His obedience in life.
5. His sin-atoning death.
B. Now, count the rounds of the Ladder from the bottom up as we find them in experience.
1. Faith in Christ.
2. Regeneration - Believing, I know that I am born of God!
3. Calling - If I am born again and have faith in Christ, it is because I have been called.
4. Redemption - If I am called, I have been redeemed and justified by the blood of Christ.
If you wish to carry the picture a bit further, every ladder has two side pieces to which the rounds are connected, giving it strength and stability. So does this one!
· On one side there is God’s eternal purpose of grace!
· On the other side there is God’s immutable, preserving grace!
V. Now, let me answer one more question - WHY IS THE WORD “BEHOLD” USED IN CONNECTION WITH THIS LADDER?
It is common, in both the Old Testament and the New, when Christ is spoken of, to use the word “behold.”
· “Behold, a virgin shall conceive!” (Isa. 7:14).
· “Behold, my Servant!” (Isa. 42:1).
· “Behold, the Lamb!” (John 1:29).
This word, “Behold,” suggests what our duty is toward Christ.
A. We are to admire and wonder as we think of him whose very name is Wonderful (Isa. 9:6).
Behold the Ladder and bless God for it!
B. To behold Christ is to believe him (Isa. 65:1; 45:22).
As the Israelites beaten by the fiery serpents were bidden to look to the serpent of brass upheld upon the pole, so we are bidden to look to Christ crucified.
· Life begins with a look (John 12:32).
· We persevere in life looking to Christ (Heb. 12:2).
· Our spiritual, eternal life shall consummate in looking to Christ (1 John 3:2).
Our text says, “Behold!” “Behold a ladder!” Here are four special times when we are to behold Christ our Ladder:
1. When we are attempting to do anything for God.
· Christ is our strength!
· Christ is our guide!
· Christ is our acceptance!
2. When we have done anything against our God.
When guilt stares you in the face, when you need pardon, when you need cleansing, when you need reviving - “Behold, a Ladder!”
3. When distress, trouble and danger are before us.
When the Esaus of the world surround you and you have no earthly comfort, when you need peace for your heart and a pillow for your aching head, lay down upon God’s promises, look up to heaven, and “Behold, a Ladder!” See the angels ascending and descending!
4. When death is near.
When the cold sweat of death is on your brow and the rattle is in your throat, “Behold, a Ladder!” (Acts 7:56).