Ryle’s Holiness: Chapter 12 (The Ruler of the Waves)

RyleI haven’t posted on J. C. Ryle’s classic book Holiness for a long time. However, it has continued to be a great blessing to me, and now that blessing is extended to two men in the church who I’m discipling and with whom I’m growing as we study it together. I’d recommend this book to you personally, and I’d also recommend it as a tremendous discipleship resource, pastors. It’s been a great blessing at TCBC.

In chapter 12 (available on-line here), Ryle draws lessons for the Christian life from Christ’s calming of the sea in Mark 4:37-40. He’s generally careful not to allegorize the passage, though he suggests that the reader “regard every one of [Jesus’] miracles as an emblem and figure of spiritual things”—a perilous method of interpretation. Nevertheless, he legitimately and effectively brings this particular miracle to bear on the believer’s walk with God by drawing out timeless principles and making thoughtful applications. After commending a more thorough study of the life of Christ revealed in the 4 gospels, Ryle makes the following points from the passage:

1. Following Christ will not prevent our having earthly sorrows and troubles.

I’ve enjoyed all of the book, but this particular section particularly ministered to my heart in light of recent challenges at TCBC. My friend and I both agreed that if we didn’t know better, we’d think Ryle was writing this as a rebuttal to Osteen-ism:

“It is good to understand this clearly. It is good to understand that Christ’s service never did secure a man from all the ills that flesh is heir to, and never will. If you are a believer, you must reckon on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements, of partings and separations, of vexations and disappointments, so long as you are in the body. Christ never undertakes that you shall get to heaven without these. He has undertaken that all who come to Him shall have all things pertaining to life and godliness; but He has never undertaken that He will make them prosperous, or rich, or healthy, and that death and sorrow shall never come to their family.

I have the privilege of being one of Christ’s ambassadors. In His name I can offer eternal life to any man, woman or child who is willing to have it. In His name I do offer pardon, peace, grace, glory, to any son or daughter of Adam who reads this message. But I dare not offer that person worldly prosperity as part and parcel of the Gospel. I dare not offer him long life, an increased income and freedom from pain. I dare not promise the man who takes up the cross and follows Christ that in following Him he shall never meet with a storm.

I know well that many do not like these terms. They would prefer having Christ and good health, Christ and plenty of money, Christ and no deaths in their family, Christ and no wearing cares, Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross, Christ and tribulation, Christ and the conflict, Christ and the howling wind, Christ and the storm.

Is this the secret thought of anyone who is reading this message? Believe me, if it is, you are very wrong.”

2. Jesus Christ is truly and really Man.

Here Ryle demonstrates from Jesus’ weariness and sleep that He is as much man as He is God. He draws great comfort from our Lord’s ability to understand and extend compassion on us because He himself has experienced our hardships. His applications of this point to the poor, the lonely, the misunderstood, the tempted, etc. are precious, and his exposing the Roman Catholic idea that Mary is somehow more merciful than Christ for the blasphemy that it is is refreshing.

3. There may be much weakness and infirmity, even in a true Christian.

Ryle encourages believers with the fact that the best of Christians struggle. His tone in this section is refreshing. He doesn’t use the passage to berate the disciples or modern believers. Rather, he finds comfort in the fact that the pillars of the church were as frail as we are today. His application: pursue holiness, but don’t expect such perfection from yourself that you become despondent when you fail. And better yet, don’t expect perfection from others:

“There are flaws in some of the finest diamonds in the world, and yet they do not prevent their being rated at a priceless value. Away with this morbid squeamishness, which makes many ready to excommunicate a man if he only has a few faults! Let us be quick to see grace, and more slow to see imperfections!”

4. The Lord Jesus Christ is powerful.

This is really the primary point of the parable in its context, for it shows Christ’s mastery over nature. Christ’s omnipotence is displayed here, and we would be moved to awe and worship if we would meditate on it. Lord, deliver us from the typical “I’ve known this story since childhood” response of the spiritual sluggard.

5. How tenderly and patiently the Lord Jesus deals with weak believers.

Ryle rehearses the frailty of the disciples throughout Christ’s earthly ministry: their doubting Him,their eagerness to call down fire from heaven on sinners, their stubborn refusal to grasp His prophecies of the crucifixion, their posturing for prominence, their sleepiness when prayer was in order. Ryle’s point is not to magnify their failures, but to note that their weakness “throws a beautiful light on the compassion and patience that there is in Him.” Amen! How grateful we should be that Christ was longsuffering with them, and that He continues to put up with us!

Get a copy of Ryle’s book. In fact, get two, and study it with a friend!


Previous posts on Holiness:


4 Responses

  1. Amen to JC Ryle. What he just described there is the charismatic/pentecostal church to a TEE. I’m not sure how it is in the States, but in Mexico, Christ is always offered as a deal so that people will get some kind of physical benefit or blessing if they “receive” Christ. I put that in quotes because most people have no idea what it even means to receive Christ Biblically speaking. They are promised relief and healing from sicknesses, money (as they are now princes with the Prince, and have you ever seen a poor prince?), no problems, etc.
    For to you it has been given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to SUFFER for His sake.
    Yea, and ALL who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution.
    May God give us all strength to fight against making Christ a panacea for all things, and proclaim Him as He really is, a Saviour from sin.

  2. Mike,

    Knowing what your family has suffered—be it the loss of your child, the debilitation of your father, or the difficulty of living in the squalor that is Mexico City—your words are a great, great blessing. Your life demonstrates your beliefs, especially in this area. Thank you, friend, for your gospel focus and for loving and serving Christ for His own sake.

  3. chris,
    couldn’t agree more with you or mike. this work has been and continues to be a blessing to me even when it hurts (which is quite often). thanks for all the water you pour on me. i pray that in time you may see some growth as a result.

  4. Chris,
    Thank you for your kind words friend.
    If I could just give a plug for Ryle, I have used his commentary on John (little 3 volume paperback) and it is excellent. He is extremely well-read (He has read about 80 different and diverse commentaries on that gospel) and gives about all the different points of view on difficult passages and interpretations. He’ll often give the 3 or 4 or 5 differing viewpoints and then say something like, “In my opinion, I lean toward the third view, but admit that one cannot be certain.” He is charitable to others with differing views, but also strong for the truth. I really like to read him.
    Some of the things that he says remind me of Pastor Ashbrook, although I think Pastor Ashbrook would have left the Anglican church instead of staying in it. :-)
    You know, that neo JC Ryle. :-)

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