The One Thing Needful
James Smith, 1842
"Only one thing is needful." Luke 10:42
And what is this one thing needful? It is . . .
to know Christ,
to be united to Immanuel, and
to live in communion with Jesus.
The knowledge of Jesus, as communicated to the mind by the Holy Spirit — is an unspeakable blessing; all the Lord's people are the subjects of it; all who are saved, receive it. The Holy Spirit leads them to see Christ as set forth in the Word, as . . .
full of grace and truth,
the sole and all-sufficient Savior of sinners,
the altogether lovely One.
They view Him as . . .
the only desirable object,
the one great blessing, and
the soul's sufficient portion.
They embrace Him in . . .
the glory of His wondrous person,
the riches of His boundless grace, and
the merit of His righteousness and blood.
They receive Him as . . .
their and redemption.
They rely upon Him . . .
for peace, and
for everlasting salvation.
In a word, they so know Christ as to love, esteem, and prefer Him above all things besides!
This knowledge of Christ is spiritual — it spiritualizes the mind, and leads out the soul to Jesus, and fixes it upon Jesus.
This knowledge of Christ is influential — the possessor of it finds, that it is utterly impossible to be, to live, and to do as he formerly did.
This knowledge of Christ is overcoming — it overcomes nature, prejudice, and custom; the person must be singular for Jesus, and devoted to Jesus, "He counts all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus His Lord."
This knowledge of Christ is altogether divine — the Lord must give us the "heart to know," Jeremiah 24:7; "the understanding to perceive," 1 John 5:20; and bring us to he taught, John 6:44, 45. In the looking-glass of the gospel, we see, 2 Corinthians 3:18; by light communicated to the mind, we discover, 2 Corinthians 4:6; and Jesus Himself must reveal, Matthew 11:27.
Jehovah has promised that His children shall be taught, Hebrews 8:11; Jesus betroths them to Himself that they may know, Hosea 2:19, 20; and life eternal is the result, John 17:3. The man that is taught of God to know a little of Christ, is most desirous to know more, and goes onwards to Heaven praying, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death!" Philippians 3:10.
The one thing needful includes union to Christ. Without union to Jesus — there can be no spiritual comfort, satisfaction, or salvation. In order to our being united to Him, we must first know Him; having received some spiritual knowledge of Him, the Holy Spirit leads the soul to Him, the sinner cries, calls, and waits before Him; and being led to see that Jesus is most exactly suited to him, and possesses all that can be desired by him, or that can make him safe, holy, and happy — he cannot be satisfied with anything short of Him. There is . . .
a secret outgoing of heart to Him,
an earnest desire for Him, and
a fixing of the affections upon Him.
And when this is the case — nothing but Christ will do. The soul must have Christ, or be wretched here, and miserable forever.
Now there must be a union to His person, an interest in His salvation, and some pledge of His unutterable love. Now the sinner becomes divorced from the law, from the world, and from self. Christ is the one object, subject, and all in all; nor can there be any rest until Holy Spirit gives the soul to feel union to Christ, oneness with Christ, and persuades it of its salvation by Christ. And when this is brought to pass, then the man exclaims, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth I desire beside you!" Now the world is left, fellowship with the saints is sought, and God's precepts are kept. The cry is, "I will run in the way of your commandments, for you have enlarged my heart." And the soul sings,
"Compared with Christ, in all beside
No loveliness I see;
The one thing needful, dearest Lord,
Is to be one with Thee!"
The one thing needful then, is communion with Christ — springing from a knowledge of, and union to Christ. This was Mary's happy portion; she sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His words; and this is the blessed privilege of all who are truly born of God. They live in fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. They communicate their troubles, afflictions, temptations, desires, and requests to Him — and He imparts His love, grace, strength, promises, and consolations to them! They carry all to Him in prayer — and He supports them under all by His Spirit! They spread their needs before Him at His throne — and He supplies them out of His fullness in His ways. Blessed are the people that are in such a case; yes, happy are the people who have the Lord for their God.
True, they are often cast down, tried, and troubled — but Jesus is ever gracious, pitiful, and kind; and He attends to their cries, relieves them in their distresses, and grants their requests. He invites them to Him, manifests Himself to them, and often fills them with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He opens His loving heart, discloses His kind intentions, and gives them the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Happy, yes, unspeakably happy, is he who has the God of Jacob for His help, whose hope is in the Lord His God. He lives above the vanities of this vain world, lives by faith in the Son of God, and lives to the glory of the God of all grace.
Christ is the object of His faith,
the throne of grace is His delight,
communion with Jesus is His privilege,
trials and troubles are for His benefit,
death is to him a real blessing,
and Heaven is His final home.
He has the one thing needful indeed, all that is really needful in life, necessary at death, or valuable at the judgment day.
Reader, is this your happiness? Is it given to you to know Jesus spiritually, scripturally, and experimentally? Are you truly united to Christ? Are you as one with him — as the branch is one with the vine, the members of the body with the head, or, the foundation with the building? This is how the scriptures represent, and set forth the one thing needful.
Remember, a mere name, a form, a profession — is nothing without vital union to Christ. You must receive Him, you must be one with Him, you must live upon Him, or perish everlastingly. Only those who know Christ now, are united to Christ here, and who live in communion with Christ below — will be welcomed by Him, accepted by Him, and glorified with Him in another world. Of what infinite importance then it is, to possess the one thing needful.
Reader, do you know what Jesus will say to you if you are destitute of this one thing at last? He has told us that His language will be, "I know you not; depart from me, you workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out!" Luke 13:26, 27
My dear fellow-sinner, the time is not far distant, when you will be called out of the present world; and, oh how dreadful it will be, if, on a sick and dying bed, conscience should echo to your soul the words of Jesus, "One thing you lack! "May the Holy Spirit lead you to seek the Lord while He may be found — and oh may you find mercy of the Lord in that day.
Remember now there is mercy with Him, He is ready to pardon, and is engaged to save all who fly for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel. May you win Christ, and be found in Him, not having on your own righteousness, which is of the law — but that which is through the faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. May you know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death.