Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;The Lessons of Childliness
It is the great mark of the Gospel that its deepest truths are presented to us in forms taken from our daily life. The cleansing water and the simple meal are made sacraments—revelations—of Divine mysteries. The ties of family are the chosen emblems of our heavenly fellowship. One of these relations is set before us in the words which I have taken for my text. We all are as children in His household, heirs, indeed of a glorious inheritance, but yet children and then nearest Him when we realise most fully our childly duties at His feet. Let us then dwell on three lessons of childliness.
I. The Lesson of Dependence.—A child never forgets his dependence. He sees before him the image of a noble future, but he makes no haste to escape from the bonds of grateful service For he, too, has a service to render. Effort, vigour, patience, are included in all action, and the child's reward is that his work is like his father's work, or in harmony with it. And this is a just description of our position with regard to our heavenly Father.
II. The Lesson of Trustfulness.—A child has no doubts, no misgivings. It is enough that his father has spoken. He examines not the message but the credentials of the bearer. There is something sublime in such a faith, which in later years is wholly unattainable. But all human powers fall below the claims which it makes. It can be satisfied only in its spiritual aspect There, indeed, the childly heart will find no rude disappointment The Christian will not yet see all, but all which he sees will strengthen his trust.
III. For the lessons of dependence and trustfulness are completed in The Lesson of Partial Knowledge. The Christian professes that he knows in part. At present his Father knoweth all things, and when that which is in part is done away, then will he know even as he is known.
—Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 101.
References.—V. 1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1725. F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Reading (2nd Series), p. 45. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 101. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 270.
To the Dear Children
The text calls on all of us, as God's dear children, to try to follow, not our own pleasures and our own tastes, but to walk in the footsteps of Christ our Saviour. And we cannot do this without some care, and pains, and watchfulness over ourselves. I. What are the faults, the temptations, to which you feel yourselves most liable? (1) There is, first of all, selfishness, the caring much, or the caring only for your own comfort and pleasure, and the caring not in the least, or very little for that of others. (2) Again, there is meanness; the readiness to tell an untruth, a lie, plain and direct, in order to gain something for which you wish. (3) Boastfulness. It is not the attempt to get everything for yourself, but it is the constant making yourself, not other persons, or other things—but yourself, and yourself only, the subject of all your thoughts and words. (4) Faults of temper. (5) Fits of sullenness.
II. Let me add one or two words on two different kinds of unselfishness. 'Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous,' says St. Peter. (1) Let me take the last first Remember that by politeness or courtesy we mean nothing more than the showing in our outward manners, and often in little things, that we think of others, not merely of ourselves. It is not a very hard task if you go to the root of the matter—strive to be glad to make those around you happy, and you will soon learn the welcome secret of true politeness, true courtesy, and find in it no sham piece of artificial polish, but a means of making yourself near and dear, not only to others, but to your Saviour and your God. (2) And lastly, be pitiful. Never, never, let your after memory, when you grow up, be stained with recollections of cruelty. Learn to find a joy and pleasure in kindness and tenderheartedness, in making others happy, in obeying the royal law that bids us do to others as we would have them do to us.
—G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. LXI. p. 20.
References.—V. 1, 2.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 18. Marcus Dods, Christ and Man, p. 25. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 45. V. 1-7.—Ibid. vol. xii. p. 131. V. 1-14.—E. J. Kennedy, Old Theology Restated, p. 128. V. 2.—C. S. Home, The Soul's Awakening, p. 83. A. Tucker, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 176. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 287. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 225. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 230. V. 4.—A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 296. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 63. V. 6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 23.
Darkness and Light
I. This word 'darkness' is not indicative of mere dim or transient fog or inconvenient grading of light; it is a deeper, severer, ghastlier word. 'Ye were sometimes darkness,' not dark, but darkness itself, sevenfold night, yea, more than night ever was; for surely every night must have somewhere and somehow its relieving star. It was not so with you in your former state; you were living darkness, without ray or glint or beam of light, as far away from light as it is possible to be. That is a wonderful conception of human nature and of human condition before the Father of lights. You were not merely broken lights, scattered beams, that it was impossible to put together; there was no beam in you, you had never been illumined, you had never been warmed, you had never even heard of the summer of holiness; ye were simply incarnate, embodied darkness. Who could call us out of that state? What matchmaker could strike a little flash that would drive away such gloom? Where the darkness is so dense God Himself must handle the occasion, or there is nothing for it but fatal night. Sometimes we have said of a great singer, he is not musical, he is music; that is to say, he is not a merely mechanical player, a man who has got into his memory what is written in a book, but the music is in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting melody. So, reversing the picture, the Gentiles were not dark, they were darkness; un-penetrated, and but for the Divine mercy, impenetrable clouds. Occasionally we say of a man, He is not eloquent, he is eloquence, embodied, incarnate, breathing, walking, living eloquence; he has not learned something by rote, he has not recited something of which his memory is in charge, but the holy gift is moving in him like a spirit, a genius, a heavenly choir. Reverse the picture, and you have the Apostle's idea: Ye were not dark, you were darkness, the thing itself, sevenfold night; no imagination could conceive the intensity of the darkness of your condition.
II. Then the contrastive 'but'—'but now... light'; not partial light, not a grey light, not a mere hint of light, but as truly as you were once darkness, so truly are you now light. 'Walk as children of light.' The miracle is as great on the one side as on the other. Chaos was not partial chaos; chaos was not a mere mood or transient phase of disorder; it was utter confusion, without date, without measure, without figure, a tumultuousness and disorderliness not to be spoken of in words in any adequate sense or with any adequate fitness. Chaos is not partly order and partly confusion; the old chaos on which the Holy Spirit brooded was utter chaos, shapelessness, amorphousness, that which could not be ruled into order by any skill created; but now, since the beginning, chaos has given place to order, proportion, music, perspective, and all the apocalypse and summer of colour. That is the difference. Chaos has no history. People want to know when the creation began. They can never know it. All depends upon what you mean by creation. The thing upon which creation operated may be calculable, but the thing out of which creation took its materials may lie back, so to say, in the memory of God alone. Transfer the figure to the Christian life, and then you have first the darkness, utter dense darkness, on which moon and star never shone, not to speak of dawning light and wakening morning. Then you have light, glory, midday, points of extreme. Unless we recognise the extremity of the points we shall lose the whole movement of the miracle. Let us keep our memories well refreshed with the fact that once we were darkness; let us pity those who are in darkness still. Do not imagine for a moment that the man on the street can come into the sanctuary of God and partake of it and be as one of the called saints of heaven all in a moment. He cannot; nor can he hear the Gospel, much less understand it. He is darkness. A great mystery of movement must take place in his soul by the power of the Holy Ghost. We want again Genesis first chapter and first few verses; we want especially the Spirit brooding over the infinite night, the infinite disorder, with a view to having brought out of it proportion and harmony and rest.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. II. p. 220.
Reference.—V. 8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 277.
The Fruition of Fuller Life
Abundant fruit-bearing, whether it appear in character or in service, depends on the quickening of spiritual life. Everything else is subordinate to this, although much else is to be desired. It may not seem to outsiders that success in religious work depends on this. They may attribute it to social or intellectual influences, but in so far as success is spiritual (and that alone abides) its source is not in us. Spiritual power only passes through us from above to enrich the world. We believe that spiritual life in the soul of man depends on the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, who both initiates and intensifies it. Our enjoyment of it simply depends on our fulfilling the condition laid down by the risen Christ. 'If any man open the door, we will come in to him.'
I. We are often reminded in Scripture that fruit is expected of us. I will point out a few specimens of those fruits we too seldom see in the debilitated Christian life with which we are sadly familiar. (1) Zeal for the salvation of souls has become with some professing Christians an unmeaning phrase, or at least an unpopular one, although sinners never needed more than now a Saviour from sin, from self, from pessimism, and from hell here and hereafter. Let us never forget that the world will test us by the presence or absence of this Divine fire. (2) Amid the fruitage of a fuller Christian life will be found that love which our Lord makes much of, and of which some of His followers think so little.
II. It remains that we should notice certain conditions on which fuller spiritual life depends. (1) Like all other life, it requires nourishment, and this we are to take, not with fitful infrequency, but constantly, as those who have been taught to pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread'. (2) Atmosphere is as important as nourishment. Children require fresh air as well as food. Even the strongest man becomes depressed and his vitality lowered if he remains long in a vitiated atmosphere; but he becomes exhilarated, shaking off gloom and brooding, when he strides onward in the bracing air of a sunny hillside. And that is the idea suggested to my mind by the declaration of the Psalmist about the happy 'people who know the joyful sound, they shall walk all day in the light of Thy countenance'.
—A. Rowland, The Burdens of Life, p. 157.
The Fruit of the Light
I. The Light which is Fruitful.—The light of which my text speaks is not natural to men, but is the result of the entrance into their darkness of a new element. Now I do not suppose that we should be entitled to say that Paul here is formally anticipating the deep teaching of the Apostle John that Jesus Christ is 'the Light of men,' and especially of Christian men. He is here asserting that the only way by which any man can cease to be in the doleful depths of his nature, darkness in its saddest sense, is by opening his heart through faith, that into it may rush, as the light ever does where an opening—be it only a single tiny cranny—is made, the light which is Christ, and without Whom is darkness.
II. The Fruitfulness of this Indwelling Light.—Fruit is generally used in Scripture in a good sense. It conveys the notion of something which is the natural outcome of a vital power. And so when we talk about the light being fruitful, we are setting in a striking image the great Christian thought that if you want to get right conduct you must have renewed character.
III. The Specific Fruits which the Apostle here Dwells Upon.—They consist, says he, in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Now all these three types of excellence are apt to be separated. For the first of them—amiability, kindliness, gentleness—is apt to become too soft, to lose its grip of righteousness. Righteousness, on the other hand, is apt to become stern, and needs the softening of goodness to make it human and attractive. Truth needs kindliness and righteousness, and they need truth. He desires that each of us should try to make our own a fully developed, all-round perfection—all goodness and righteousness and truth. We should seek to appropriate types of excellence to which we are least inclined, as well as those which are most in harmony with our natural dispositions.
—A. Maclaren, Christ's Musts, p. 239.
References.—V. 9.—R. C. Lewis, Sermons by Welshmen, p. 296. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 279. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 286.
What pleases Christ is the Christian's highest duty.
I. The only attitude which corresponds to our relations to Christ. How remarkable it is that this Apostle should go on the assumption that our conduct affects Him, that it is possible for us to please or displease Jesus Christ now. That loving Lord, not merely by the omniscience of His Divinity but by the perpetual knowledge and sympathy of His perfect manhood is not only cognisant of but is affected by the conduct of His professed followers here on earth. Then, surely, the only thing that corresponds to such a relationship as at present subsists between the Christian soul and the Lord is that we should take as our supreme and continual aim that 'whether present or absent, we should be well-pleasing to Him'.
II. We have here the all-sufficient guide for practical life. What is it that pleases Jesus Christ? His own likeness. And what is the likeness to Jesus Christ which it is thus our supreme obligation and our truest wisdom and perfection to bear? Well, we can put it all into two words—self-suppression and continual consciousness of obedience to the Divine will—crucify self and commune with God. But not only does this guide prove its sufficiency by reason of its comprehensiveness, but also because there is no difficulty in ascertaining what at each moment it prescribes. If a man wants to know Christ's will, and takes the way of knowing it which Christ has appointed, he shall not be left in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
III. We have here an all-powerful motive for Christian life. No motive which can be brought to bear upon men is stronger when there are loving hearts concerned than this simple one, 'Do it to please me'. And that is what Jesus Christ really says. So we have the secret of blessedness in these words. For self-submission and suppression are blessedness.
—A. Maclaren, Christ's Musts, p. 249.
References.—V. 10.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 295. V. 11.—Ibid. p. 303. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2401. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 205. V. 11-21.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 313. V. 13, 14.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 163.
Sleepers, Wake (for Advent Sunday)
No eye but a man's own can gaze, almost as the eye of God, on the unveiled human heart. But when men's eyes are opened, and they have been brought to look fairly and fully on themselves; when they have entered that awful solitude in which the soul is alone with God; when they have been brought to connect their own personality with the shame and guilt of sin; when the voluble spirit of excuse is at last dumb—what follows? I know no word which will describe the result of self-revelation so briefly as 'awakenment'. The ordinary moral and spiritual condition of most men, in their common life, can only be pictured by the metaphor of sleep. There are many degrees and forms of this spiritual sleep. There is that of human feebleness, that venial imperfection to which our Lord referred when He said, 'The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'. Then deeper and worse is the sleep of those who, though not guilty of flagrant sin, are yet absorbed in the worldly life; given up to its dissipations and trivialities; losing, for the sake of living, all that constitutes a true life. But deepest and deadliest of all is the slumber of those who have sold themselves to do evil; who work all uncleanness with greediness; who have abandoned themselves to a life of falsehood, or avarice, or drink, or sensualism, or crime. Yet so common is this sleep, in one or other of its forms, that the Scriptures are constantly striving to arouse men from its fatal torpor.
This sleep, in any of its forms, cannot and will not last for ever. In vain men may fold their hands; in vain they may cry, 'A little more sleep, a little more slumber'—they must be awakened. Either in this world or the next must come the awakenment which results from seeing ourselves as we are. Thus, then, to each one of us—either by our own repentance or with penal retribution, either here or in the world hereafter—awakenment will come.
I. It conies in different ways. 'There are those to whom it comes in storms and tempests; others it has summoned in hours of revelry and idle vanity; others have heard its "still small voice" in leisure and placid contentment; and others during seasons of sorrow and affliction, to whom tears have been the softening showers which caused the seed of heaven to take root, and spring up in the human heart.' But when it comes penally, and in the way of catastrophe, it is then an awful moment.
(1) Awakenment has its awfulness even for the best of men. 'Behold,' cried David, 'I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me' (see Job 9:30-31). And Peter: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord'. And Paul: 'Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' And Augustine: 'Liberate me from a bad man—myself!' And so many others. Such are the confessions of the holiest; yet so ignorant is the world of the depth of the true soul's contrition when it sees its own sinfulness, that it has interpreted these confessions as a proof of unusual personal vileness, and not the self-reproach of souls who longed only to be pure as He is pure.
(2) But if awakenment has its awfulness for the holiest and best, what must it be to the man who, in spite of the self-revelation, still loves, and refuses to forsake, his sins? It is a tremendous moment which first reveals to a man that he, too, is hitherto a lost soul. What must be the feelings of a man who for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years has been outwardly honest and moral, but who, suddenly held by the accelerating impulse of sins secretly cherished, forced to own to the bond to which he has set his own seal, commits a crime, and is forced to sit down amid the ruins of his own life? The man who first deviates from rectitude takes a first step toward a precipice; and he soon finds that to stand still is impossible, that to retreat would be ruin, and that to advance is destruction.
II. How terrible the awakenment when nothing of the sin is left but the ruin it has wrought; when the man realises that the beautiful life God gave him has been lost and wasted; that he has been an utter and inexcusable fool; that it had been better for him that he had not been born—in that moment the man must know what Christ meant by the 'outer darkness,' the 'worm that dieth not,' and the 'fire that is not quenched'. And yet it is a most blessed thing for any man if that awakenment—so he neglect it not—comes during life; yea, even if it comes in the very hour of death. But remember how much more often death ends not in contrition, therefore not in repentance, but in dull torpor or hard defiance.
III. Has not Christ died for us?—died to save us and all mankind? He offers us peace here and beyond the grave; and not to us only, but to all who believe in His name. All that we have to do is to trust Him; to seek Him now—now—in the accepted time; to love one another; to work for Him; to obey His laws; to spread His kingdom. If, happily for us, the awakenment from the dream of sin have come, not in terror and as with the thunder-clap, but through 'still small voices,' let us seek to make those voices heard by others. And let us, while there is yet time, pray: 'God be merciful to me a sinner'; 'That it may please Thee to have mercy upon all men; we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord'.
—F. W. Farrar, Sermons in America.
Christ the Light-giver
The progress of thought in later times has resulted in our becoming more alive to the seriousness and difficulty of questions concerning our very existence and destiny. In all ages there have been some who have asked these questions anxiously, and at times indeed they have convulsed the world. But now (more than ever) we are sent straight to nature and to fact, and we are told to be real; to think of what our words mean; and these questions of the whence and whither of mankind are felt by us more than by our forefathers to be formidable ones. Eyes have been opened to see the wonders and the mysteries of the most familiar things of life: the triple mystery of certain inexplicable facts; the mystery of sin, of pain, of will. Whence and why do I come into life? What is to become of me? What am I on the way to? These questions cany with them to those in the street, and by the domestic hearth, happiness or distress, hope or darkness, life or death. And one thing further has been brought home to our consciousness, and that is, that Nature by itself cannot give the answer. Nature does indeed speak of God, of duty, of immortality. 'The heavens declare the glory of God.' Conscience cannot escape from Right and Wrong. The human soul in the face of death believes that it is not to die. But though Nature does teach us of God and hope, of justice, purity, and prayer, its answers to our questions are dark and imperfect. The gainsayer declares that it is silent; the doubter that it is ambiguous. It hardly helps man to understand himself.
I. Whence come we? Where are we? Whither are we going? Who can help asking? It is impossible to measure the hopelessness of such an answer as science only gives us. Have we indeed nothing besides? Ah, yes! Encompassed in mystery as we are, little as we know of the infinite, yet that dreadful sense of not knowing what we are, and why we are, of being fatherless, uncared for, has passed away from the world. 'The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death; and to guide our feet into the way of peace.' But whatever we know or. do not know, we know this—that One has come, as no one ever came to the world before, Who came to make quite certain questions on which men have been in the deepest perplexity; Who came to tell us whence and why we are, and what we have before us in the after-time. He came to tell us, once for all, that we are not orphans and castaways; He came to tell us of our Father in heaven, even God. We know that He is come, we know that He died, we know that He is risen from the dead. Some one among the sons of men has conquered death; and we know that this tremendous event has changed, not only the course, but the aspects of the world and human life. Neither are, nor can be, what they were before it—what they would be without it. 'Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' He has come, and He has spoken. He has given light by His victory over the grave, and in that light all that He was, and said, and promised stands before us in the illumination of a Divine unveiling: 'God manifest in the flesh'. 'We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.'
II. The answer, as far as it goes, is as clear, as real, as the question. It is given in terms of which we can measure the meaning and the force For we know what death is, and we know what must be meant by 'One being alive from the dead'. We ask—what Nature cannot tell us—from whose hands we came? One from the dead tells us that we come from, and are ever in, our Father's hand. We grope in darkness among the tremendous problems of moral evil. One from the dead has come, and tells us that sin indeed is a reality; that He died for the sin of men, and that its forgiveness and cure are in His hands. We ask, What is death? He is come from the grave itself, and He tells us, and shows us in His own Person, that death is but an incident, an appearance; that there is life beyond it—life with its purpose fulfilled; life and righteousness; life and immortality. We stand silent when the sufferers ask us why they suffer. What is the meaning, or justice, or use of those tremendous dispensations of agony which seem to visit without distinction the innocent and guilty—the misery of the helpless child, the pangs of the brute creation? Pain and its phenomena are ultimate facts, insoluble as they are awful. But this we know, that He Who was the conqueror of death and the Redeemer of His creatures drank together with them the cup of pain.
III. And we know more. We know that He is come, and has conversed with men. We know that He has promised, though He went away, yet still to be with us in our course through the storms and pains of life. 'Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the end of the world.' 'Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.' We have Him Who once appeared among us; who was dead, and is alive for evermore. We have Him, the King and Master of all living men, to our comfort and blessing and guidance, if we will. He is here unseen, watching us, judging us. He is here, though they know it not, to the proud and insolent; He is here, to the humble and meek.
References.—V. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 716. Basil Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, p. 25. T. J. Madden, Tombs or Temples? p. 69. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 289. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p. 143. T. Rhondda Williams, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 189. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 126. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 87. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 351. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 318. V. 14, 15.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 396.
Not As Fools, But As Wise
I. 'Not as fools, but as wise.' St Paul appeals to us as reasonable creatures; he appeals to our common sense—to what must be clear to our mind and judgment as soon as we give the subject serious thought.
Judge for yourselves, he seems to say; the things which you know and believe of yourself and the world around you must make a difference to your way of living. A fool is he who will take no count of his circumstances. Consider your real circumstances; think of what you have learned to believe without any kind of doubt of what this life is, what it was given you for, and what is to come after it. Think of the part God has taken in it to help and save you; what Christ has done, given, and promised; and then, consider how 'wise men' ought to shape their lives. But—
II. Suppose it had been different. Suppose, for a moment, that all we know and believe had never been; that we had never heard of God; that we found ourselves here on earth, not knowing how we came, why we were living, or what we were meant for; and that all we knew of life were that there it was. Or suppose that we had only heard of God, our Maker and Ruler, by dim and uncertain report, as the heathen may, but that He had never had any dealings with us, and that we knew not where to find Him, or what He was. Imagine this to be our state—passing through life without the faintest notion of what life is, where it comes from, and whither it goes; having no light to guide us but what we could get for ourselves; no help out of this world, no comfort, no refuge, no prospects, nothing but the dark, unknown, hopeless grave. Suppose this were the condition of things in which we were living. Then there would be no prayer, for there would be no God to pray to, or to hope in. There would be no faith, no love of God, no obedience. There might be a certain sense of right and wrong, but there would be nothing to support right and condemn wrong. We should be in the world as forlorn outcasts, knowing their own bitterness, pain, heartache, and death—all the evils of the world—and knowing, too, all the evils of the world and of our own hearts, but without anyone above to look up to; without redemption, without remedy, without hope.
III. And now consider what is, in fact, the case with us. We cannot imagine, without difficulty, what we have been supposing. Even the very heathen dimly see the awful Power and Godhead amid their foul idolatries.
Not we only, but the whole world, knows God. The heathen know something of Him; forgetful Jews know more; but we Christians have a knowledge which leaves all this behind. We know that God has been with men, spoken to them, made them know something of His mind. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Everlasting Son of the Father, the Maker, the Light and Life of men. We believe that He took upon Him to deliver man, and that, for this purpose, He did not abhor the Virgin's womb. We believe more—that He died for our sins, that He overcame the sharpness of death, and did open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. We believe that He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father, and that He shall come to be our Judge. And we believe that we now have in Him One who hears all prayers, heals all wrongs, and can bind up every broken heart. Men may now appeal to a love which has made God's world look new. 'We therefore pray Thee help Thy servants, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.' Look where we will, our eyes ever encounter something which reminds us of the cross of Christ.
IV. Put these two pictures side by side: life as we supposed it without knowing anything of God, or our origin or destiny; and, on the other side, life in which man throws himself on the love of God, as His servant, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ Then 'walk not as fools, but as wise'. St Paul appeals to us as men of common sense. Would any man of sense, who knew and believed the facts last stated, think of living as if all that we knew were depicted in the first picture? And yet it is one of the commonest sights of our experience to see men living a life which they would live just as well if they were absolutely without God in the world. Many still live as those who, in their ignorance, said: 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'. Are not St. Paul's words the words of truth and soberness when he calls us 'not as fools, but as wise'—knowing and believing what we do—not to live as if we knew it not; as if we had nothing but this life and this world before us, but to live as Christian men and women ought to live—doing the will and fulfilling the purposes of the God with Whom they have so much to do?
References.—V. 15.—Bishop Westcott, Disciplined Life, No. ix. V. 15, 16.—C. M. Betts, Eight Sermons, p. 19. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 259. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Ephesians, p. 327.
Watch—Yourselves, Your Opportunities
These are admonitions addressed to Christian people by an inspired Apostle; not only to Christian people as individuals, but to Christian people organised into communities. The passage might be compressed into two lines:—
Look diligently to yourselves,
...and your opportunities.
I. Yourselves first. There are two kinds of temper to be steadfastly guarded against The temper of levity, which turns everything into a jest. And the other temper to be guarded against is sleepy self-satisfaction. (1) A Christian man needs to make constant and fresh effort to remember who he is and Whose he is. That He is the property of Christ—redeemed by the agony of the Son of God. (2) And then he is to realise clearly and sharply where he is. Do not let us make any mistake on this point; he is in an unfriendly world, a world, that, to say the least of it, cares nothing for the things which most interest him. (3) The Christian man must remember that the world is hostile to God. (4) We are not only in an unfriendly world; we are in a world that is to be won to God, and won by us. (5) We are not only surrounded by an unfriendly world—we are still more closely surrounded by an unfavourable spiritual atmosphere; by invisible agents whose aim is to weaken and destroy the finest fruits of the spiritual life.
II. We need to look carefully to our work. There is no reason why there should be any folly in Christian work. Enthusiasm does not mean irrationalism. (1) 'Understand,' the Apostle says; use that faculty, and understand what the will of the Lord is. (2) And having understood it, we are to do it, and to do it promptly. That is the meaning of the phrase, 'Buying up the opportunity'. The psychological moment comes, and you must act, or it goes, and carries the opportunity with it. Every department, of life abounds in illustrations of the importance of this precept—of the fatality of neglecting it. Why does the Apostle speak about buying up the opportunity? Because the embracing of it means cost. You yourself were not redeemed without sacrifice. You will never carry out the will of God without cost to yourself.
—Charles Brown, Light and Life, p. 91.
References.—V. 15-17.—A. P. Stanley, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 118. V. 15-33.—E. J. Kennedy, Old Theology Restated, p. 140. V. 16.—Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 314. Archbishop Maclagan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 248. W. Baird, The Hallowing of our Common Life, p. 6. R. Appleton, The Pulpit, vol. i. p. 31. J. S. Bartlett, Sermons, p. 172. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 115. S. Cox, Expositions, p. 1. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 335. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 50. H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, p. 206. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons (2nd Series), p. 176. V. 17.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 190.
The Plenitude of the Spirit
What is meant by the Plenitude of the Spirit?
I. The phrase occurs in a command or exhortation; the Apostle makes use of the imperative mood. We are bidden to do, or to be—a demand is made upon us. Yet the verb is passive in form, and it is natural to object that the process described is God's work, not ours. That august Breath of God blows when and where He lists; we can neither originate nor control Divine influence The 'baptism of the Spirit,' the 'outpouring of the Spirit,' the 'descent of the Spirit,' do not denote action on our part, but the reception of an essentially Divine gift. When we read of the Primitive Church that they were 'all filled with the Holy Ghost,' or that Stephen or Barnabas was 'full of the Holy Ghost,' the impression conveyed is one of supernatural power resting on these men. Self-inspiration is absurd. To issue a command that men should acquire what God alone can confer might seem to imply either a blunder or a blasphemy.
II. The injunction 'be filled' means that we may, we can, and therefore we ought to play our part 'Ye must be born again' implies that we can be so born, and then a glorious possibility of privilege becomes a sacred duty. The relation between the Divine and the human is not that of an alien supernatural power energising passive clay into fresh life. That is a heathenish notion of inspiration which would regard the Holy Spirit as a magical, external power which must be invoked in the fashion of the prophets of Baal, who cut themselves with knives to procure the boon of supernatural fire from heaven. The Spirit is here, waiting—oh, how He waits! He is unspeakably near to every heart of man—longing, wooing, drawing, striving, filling each soul as far as He can whenever there is room to receive Him, quickening when the faintest movement of response makes it possible for Him to infuse new life; or as a favouring wind to fill the sails of the soul still further, and carry the frail vessel on its forward, homeward way.
But that is not precisely the thought of the text. It is addressed not to mankind at large, but to the Church. It refers not to the vague indefinable Divine Spirit of the Pantheist or the Mystic, but to the Spirit of Christ The Spirit who is known, loved, understood, and obeyed; the Spirit who originated the new life in the heart of every member, and made each man who is in Christ a new creation; the Spirit who operates in us every moment, though in scanty measure because of our meagre faith and lukewarm love; the Spirit who at every moment—at this moment—waits, longing to raise, inspire, purify, and empower us as He has never done before.
We are directed to find our fulness in Him, and in Him alone. That does not mean the cessation of effort till a Higher Power shall quicken us. Nor does it mean a feverish and anxious occupation in good works and religious ordinances, as if we could kindle loftier affection by sedulous attention to detailed duties. It means that we are to go back to the Fountain-head at once, and always with a directness and immediacy that takes no denial; that every Church and every member is to be in his own place an organ of a Higher Will, intelligently and earnestly co-operating with a Power which informs and sustains and animates the whole. The work that was done at first was not done by us, but by a Higher Power in us and through us; decline begins when men forget this and concentrate attention upon their own efforts. Renewal implies a requickening from the primal source—the love of God in Christ poured abroad in the heart of the Holy Spirit given unto us.
III. The heart that would be Spirit-filled must first be empty. Empty, that is, of everything that would prevent the Spirit from doing His characteristic work. For there is no necessary antagonism between the operation of the Spirit of God and a thousand varied aims for which the Church legitimately strives, a thousand interests in the world which she seeks to promote. Distinguish between a true and a false spirituality. Not by withdrawing the leaven from the mass of meal can the lump be leavened, but by the potency of a ferment mighty enough to quicken the whole. Still it is clear that the Holy Spirit of God cannot fill as He would an already full vessel, and there simply is not room enough for the Spirit to work in some churches that are calling loudly for His presence, in many hearts that are praying earnestly for His indwelling. Apart from subtle forms of sin, with which we are not now concerned, the pathways of the soul may be blocked, the Divine channel may be obstructed, the soil of the heart choked with a tangle of thorns and weeds, and thus not the entrance, but the plenary work of the Spirit be effectually hindered.
—W. T. Davison, The Indwelling Spirit, p. 235.
The Spirit-filled Life
The Spirit dwells in the believer, and the believer lives in the Spirit. The Spirit finds in the believer His home, medium, and means; and the believer finds in the Spirit his sphere and element. Every need of spiritual life and Christian service is supplied in the fulness of the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is every believer's birthright, but there are many Esaus. Fleshly desires hinder the work of the Spirit, and the inheritance is bartered for the things of earth. Jesus Christ is the supreme example of the spirit-filled life. To Him the Spirit was given without measure. His life was lived in abiding surrender to the will of the Spirit. He is the ideal and pattern of the life made possible to all by the coming of the Spirit. The leading features of the Spirit's work in Him are marked by special mention of the Spirit as directly connected with them, and in the study of them we may find the distinctive marks of the Spirit-filled life.
I. The Spirit-filled life is a life of conquest over temptation. Being full of the Spirit does not bring immunity from temptation but exposure to it. I Jesus was tempted like as we are. it follows we shall be tempted as He was. Every man's Pentecost is the signal for Satan to gird himself. Temptation comes to the spiritual man in its intensest and most subtle forms. (1) The first temptation in the Spirit-filled life is the temptation of bread. The temptation is to use the gift of God for self-gratification. Satan urges the use of the power for selfish ends: to make it a means of getting bread. (2) The second temptation deals at the root with the same question as the first. It is still self, only at the other extreme. The first appeal was to give self the first care, the second to give it no care at all. (3) The third temptation is also a question of adjustment. The Spirit is given for ministering, and to the Spirit-called and Spirit-filled worker there comes the problem of the relative positions of the human and the Divine, the natural and the spiritual, in the work of God. In his zeal there is urged upon him the use of carnal weapons for spiritual ends.
II. The Spirit-filled life is a life of service. The preparation, the call, and the equipment for Christian service is of the Holy Ghost. Our need is not more churches and better appliances, but a universal baptism of the Spirit of God.
III. The Spirit-filled life is full of joy. We cannot be gladsome by resolution. Joy is a fruit, the natural product of an inner life. How does the fulness of the Spirit open a fountain of joy? The Spirit makes men glad with the consciousness of God, and a Godlike enthusiasm for out-flowing. There is no life like the life filled with the Spirit.
—S. Chadwick, Humanity and God, p. 227.
The Enthusiasm of the Spirit
I. The enthusiasm of the Spirit takes a man out of himself. A man hampered by circumstances is like a bird in a cage. He continually strikes against the cruel iron bars; he frets with impatience at his stern limitations, and he wants to escape somewhere. Well, he can escape into the forgetfulness of sleep, or the madness of intoxication, but it is the wrong way of dodging his limitations. The right way is to seek refuge in God. There is an escape from self, there is an actual transfiguration of a man's personality. There is such a thing as being lifted up out of the drudgery and routine of life. There is such a thing as being possessed by a power nobler than ourselves, and it is to be filled with the Spirit.
II. The enthusiasm of the Spirit, instead of destroying a man's personality, ennobles it and builds it up. Wine makes me forget my troubles, but it dissolves my character, makes my personality fall into pieces, spoils and mars and destroys my manhood. But when the Spirit of God comes, He simply finds my nobler self, and causes it to blossom and to fructify. You can be your worst self by being filled with the Spirit of greed and selfishness and wine, but you can only be your higher self, the self that you are intended to be, by being filled with the Spirit of God.
III. The enthusiasm of the Spirit produces harmony and order and joy. One of its manifestations is to speak to each other in psalms and hymns, and 'making melody in our hearts'. This is in striking contrast to the intoxication that comes from wine, which agitates and upsets the life, and engenders wretchedness and misery. We are possessed of a great number of faculties, and each faculty under proper stimulation yields joy and pleasure. But the joys resulting from the exercise of the lower faculties are more tumultuous and transient and less satisfying and wholesome, while the joys that ring forth from what is noblest in our nature are calm and deep and permanent.
IV. The enthusiasm of the Spirit leads a man to a right relationship with his fellowmen, 'subjecting yourself one to another in the fear of God'. False excitement leads into the exaggeration of a man's self-importance. But the Spirit of God leads to service and self-denial, to patience and humility, to the obliteration of self, and the appreciation and helpfulness of others. The Holy Ghost is ethical and social. Whatever the Pentecost means, it means a baptism of humility and love.
—T. Phillips, Baptist Times and Freemen, vol. LIV. p. 447.
After being drunk at Corrichatachin, Boswell rose next morning and 'went into Dr. Johnson's room, and taking up Mrs. McKinnon's Prayer-book, I opened it at the twentieth Sunday after Trinity, in the Epistle for which I read, "and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess". Some would have taken this as a Divine interposition.
'The energy natural to the English race degenerates to savage brutality,' wrote Cobden, in one of his letters, 'under the influence of habitual drunkenness; and one of the worst effects of intemperate habits is to destroy that self-respect which lies at the bottom of all virtuous ambition.'
References.—V. 18.—W. F. Adeney, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 59. J. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 218. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2111. Bishop Winnington-Ingram, A Mission of the Spirit, p. 111. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 57. V. 18, 19.—J. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 228. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 137. V. 19.—E. Griffith-Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 387. R. Moffat Gautrey, ibid. vol. lxxviii. p. 294. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 202. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii, p. 27. Ibid. vol. iii. p. 402. V. 19, 20.—F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 63.
The Thankful Life
I. Live the thankful life. Let us have no more groaning and complaining, but let us have music and psalm and hymn and spiritual song, an inward and outward melody. The Church has forgotten all its exhortations to thankfulness and to music; it has made for itself a series of threnodies very depressing and soul-enslaving, services and tests of discipline and standards of heartless and often hypocritical solemnity. The Apostle says, Let us have no more of this; there is a sunny side even to Christian faith; there are whole days, long bright summer days, in which it becomes us to sing one to another in psalm and hymn and spiritual song and to match the summer with a human melody. Let a cheerful life be added to the evidences of the truth of the Christian religion. Paul was never ashamed of his overflowings of joy; he mingled the cup of life so dexterously and with so sweet and sacred a cunning that no man ever drank such a cup as Paul drank; he said, Yea, we glory in tribulations also. Nothing could repress him or depress him; his religion forced its way through fog and smoke and storm and pain and loss; he took tribulation with a strong man's hand, and added it to his wealth. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Always hear the music that is in everything. There is fire in ice; there is music in silence, there is music in the radiance of the face.
II. If we have had our psalm and hymn and spiritual song, what then, thou great disciplinarian of the Church? I will tell you, says Paul; after the song must come the discipline. You will find all along the Christian line that song and discipline alternate; they seem to balance one another; in that, as in the record of Genesis, the evening balances the morning, and the evening and the morning are the whole day. Discipline succeeds melody: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.' We shall miss the whole point of this if we take it out of its connection and make a jest of it. There are no jests in the Bible. The buffoon can find them on the altar, almost on the Cross, but the wise man finds no such blots. Observe the atmosphere in which the Apostle is now writing; take note of the atmosphere which he has created around these Gentile converts. Do not place the Ephesian converts on a level with Christian and experienced nations. When the temperature is at the highest, when joy is at the zenith, when all the summer fruits are growing and all the summer birds are singing, he says, Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God. And in that atmosphere it is easy to do so; in any other atmosphere it is impossible That is the exposition. Where the atmosphere is right there will be no difficulty. 'Submitting yourselves one to another.' That is the key of all that follows. The submission is never to be on one side only; and where there is submission on both sides there is no humiliation, there is sympathy, there is union, there is a mysterious kin.
III. You cannot lay down little rules upon any matters of personal or household discipline. What then can we do? The Apostle has already told us—'Be filled with the Spirit'. To rule without ruling, to lead without leading, to drive without cracking the whip, to be a man without being a fool; that is only possible when we are filled with the Spirit, when we are breathing the vital atmosphere, when we are one with Christ.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. II. p. 242.
The Royal Debt
I. The Spirit of Thankfulness ought to be the temper of our whole life—'giving thanks always for all things'. (1) God merits our thanks, if such an expression may be allowed. Our very being is His wondrous gift. The things which gladden and go to the enrichment and perfecting of life are His gifts. And as He is the supreme giver, so is He the source of all our blessing. (2) God expects our thanks. We cannot believe that the living God is indifferent to the Spirit in which His boons are accepted. Our nature teaches us better. He whom we worship is not the great machinist, chemist, or artist—such a being might be insensible to gratitude; but we give thanks 'to God, even the Father,' and it is impossible to think that love and gratitude have no place in our relation to Him.
II. This spirit of thankfulness is possible only in the grace and power of Jesus Christ. The name of Christ is that general and holy element, as it were, in which everything is to be received, to be enjoined, to be done, and to be suffered. The Spirit of the natural man is the spirit of criticism and depreciation. Dowered with treasures of light and darkness, inheriting a large and wealthy place, the language of discontent is our native speech. Let us see, then, how in the Christian life these infinite repinings are changed into praise. (1) The truth and grace of Jesus Christ make thankfulness possible by convincing us of our true position before God. Ingratitude, in the main, arises out of infinite and inveterate conceit. Satisfied that we are worthy of the greatest of God's gifts, we really appreciate none. Here the truth of the Gospel effects a fundamental change; it convinces us that we are sinners, without merit and rights; and in doing this, gives a new standpoint whence we view the whole field of life. (2) Christ makes thankfulness possible through restoring in us the spiritual faculty by which we discern the greatness and sweetness of all things. Genius shows itself and its transcendence by discerning the grandeur, romance, and joy of all things great or small. The Spirit of Christ creates in us a faculty of spiritual appreciation corresponding to genius in the mental realm. (3) Christ makes the habit of thankfulness possible by assuring us that the painful things of life serve equally with the brightest. The 'all things' must not be limited to agreeable things. 'Forget not all His benefits.' We cannot recall all the treasures of the deep along whose shore we have travelled; but we can keep a few pearly shells which retain the echoes of the vast music of the ocean of the eternal love
—W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 20.
If we had to name any one thing which seems unaccountably to have fallen out of most men's practical religion altogether, it would be the duty of thanksgiving. It is not easy to exaggerate the common neglect of this duty. There is little enough of prayer; but there is still less of thanksgiving.... Alas! it is not hard to find the reason of this. Our own interests drive us obviously to prayer; but it is love alone which leads to thanksgiving.
—Faber, All for Jesus, pp. 208, 209.
References.—V. 20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1094. G. A. Sowter, Sowing and Reaping, p. 96.
The Glory of Submission
These words set before us the spirit of unselfish devotion in which as Christians we are directed to regard the relations of life. And if we consider the words attentively, I believe that we shall find in them one of the very central rules of Christian action. Here if anywhere the contrast between the promptings of our natural spirit and the teaching of our Lord is sharp and decisive. The impulse of benevolence leads to noble acts of devotion; but that devotion which the Holy Spirit teaches is ever present in all the commonest details of our life, converting all into one great sacrifice to God. And it is in this that we have the full account of that submission of which St. Paul speaks.
I. It is a sacrifice of ourselves. Submission in the Christian sense is an act of strength and not of weakness; a victory and not a defeat; a victory over self, felt and realised. This is the first characteristic of that submission to one another by which we must each endeavour to fulfil St. Paul's words. It is not the easy, thoughtless, indifferent acquiescence of a mind which is alike incapable of resolution and resistance; but the calm, steady, deliberate denial of his own wishes by one who knows well the value of that which he forgoes, and knowing still forgoes it.
II. It is also a sacrifice for others—not for one only, but for all among whom God's providence may place us. As Christians we are simply told to submit one to another; and thus we have opened to us a boundless field for the trial of our faith. Every act of our daily business may furnish us with a test whereby we may know whether we are indeed serving God.
III. Thus we come to the third work of Christian submission; it is in the fear of God. This fear is at once the motive and the limit of our submission. Our submission is a sacrifice for Christ, and offered in the fear of Christ. There can be no submission where His honour is endangered; and then only is submission true when His will is its final object. At last submission will be crowned by sovereignty.
—Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 304.
References.—V. 21.—W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 235. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 107, 118, 123, 134, 140 and 145. V. 22, 23.—A. Brown, British Congregationalist, 16th August, 1906, p. 57. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 292. V. 22-25.—C. S. Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 121. V. 22-33, B. J. Snell, The All-Enfolding Love, p. 65. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 123. V. 23.—E. T. J. Marriner, Sermons Preached at Lyme Regis, p. 123. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 281. V. 25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2488. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 423. V. 25-27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 628. V. 27.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 302. V. 28.—F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 239.
The Nourished and Cherished Church
Nothing in St. Paul's conception of the wonderful Church of Christ is more startling than his undoubting faith in the work she was to do, and in the tender, unslumbering love that would for ever guard her. The great Gospel is itself the great paradox, and we need not wonder that it is surrounded by companion paradoxes. Few can be more astonishing than these: the apparent abandonment, which is nevertheless a constant tending of the Church, and the apparent overcoming by world-powers which is nevertheless a victory.
I. As to the first, let us remember that the saints have never misdoubted Christ and His promises, nor the interest of the Church in these, however they may have misdoubted their own. Alexander Peden is represented by a poet as taking counsel with God whether he should be able to keep true—
So I sought the Lord when we met
At the black Moffat Water to get
Just a blink of light on the way,
And to know whether I should play
The man in the dark times yet.
But He said, 'Content you now,
You shall be where I think best;'
'Yea, Lord,' I said, 'but Thou
Knowest I never did bow
To Baal with the rest,
Nor take the black false test;'
But He said, 'Content you now'.
But even Peden, the gloomiest of all the great witnesses, never feared that the Lord would forsake His Church. 'There shall be brave days such as the Church of Scotland never saw the like; but I shall not see them, though you may.' 'Lord, I die in faith,' said another, 'that Thou wilt not leave Scotland, but that Thou wilt make the blood of Thy witnesses the seed of Thy Church, and return again and be glorious in Thine own land.' Warriston recorded his 'sure hope that the Church would be visited and freed'. In his last moments James Guthrie, too, foresaw the good of God's chosen, the gladness of His nation, the glory of His inheritance. In the very height of their extremity these men never questioned the present nourishing, cherishing love of Christ to His Church and the glory that was to be. If persecution sifted the Church, it was well, for her great danger had ever been that of becoming a bit of the world under another name. An eminent preacher has said, 'I do not myself feel any regret at the departure of monied people. In some places there is such a dependence on a little oligarchy of wealthy people that there seems no alternative for the Lord of the Churches but to send the rich away.' That is pure New Testament doctrine.
II. The strength of the Church appears in her persecution as clearly as her faithfulness. When the shock strikes the slumbering land, men discover that they have to reckon with a power which the world did not originate and cannot subdue. In the darkest and weariest hour of overthrow and pain the Church has wings folded at her side. They will unfold, and then she is free. The strength of the Church is altogether supernatural, and she is mighty just as she knows it All the Church's trial is that the word may be fulfilled, 'Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation'. And then the world knows her, and seeks her for what she is. The world has long since discovered that in the natural there is no redemption. No fibre of its heart is stirred by Gospels which cannot promise deliverance from the prison-house of law. When we touch the illimitable world—unknown, and yet well known—when we tear up our calculations, when we forget the circumstances that are so dead against us, when we regard no more the chains that bind the weakening limbs, the hour of release is at hand. The Church of Christ rises girt for her task, and the world perceives that she is not so weak as she seemed to be. No, nor yet so poor.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten-Minute Sermons, p. 283.
Aspects of the Mystical Union
The depth and intimacy of the mystical union between our Lord and His believers are nowhere more boldly expressed than in the words of the Epistle to the Ephesians, 'We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones'.
Let us see how this great and ruling truth helps us to confront the problems of life.
I. Consider its relation to the social work of the Church. Many of us remember the time when a very sharp line was drawn between the spiritual and the secular, and the spiritual was exalted. The preacher's business was to work for the salvation of souls. The Church was a building for the worship of God and the preaching of the Gospel. It was occupied two or three times a week, and for the rest quite useless. Philanthropy was held to be distinct from Christianity. It was inspired by Christianity, no doubt, and was good in itself, but it was not allowed to invade the sphere of the Church's true activity. As for recreation, it was thought outside the Church's mission, and was even regarded in some quarters as hostile to the spiritual energies of the faithful. By and by there came menaces and reproaches from the leaders of the working people. Worse than that, we became aware of the fact that the people were drifting away from organised Christianity. Many of us well remember that we were irritated by these challenges. We had been brought up to believe that our business was to bring souls to Christ, and that if we could do that, other problems would gradually solve themselves. We forgot that the Church once made it her special business to care for the poor, and that when this became the function of the State, a true and precious link was broken. Now we perceive that the Christ, Who is Incarnate and Supreme, is united to the bodies and the souls of His people, and we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. So we perceive that His work of redemption has gone wider than we thought, and that it extends to the bodies as well as to the souls of men. What is done merely for the body is a step towards salvation. Looking round his great congregation one Sunday night, Mr. Spurgeon spoke of the extremities to which some were reduced. 'Some of you,' he said, 'are hungry, and do not know where to turn for a morsel of bread. Has it even come to this?' Whoever fed the hungry, worked towards the Christian salvation. All social work takes a new colour and a happy radiance when it is done in the thought of the union—in the remembrance that Christ died for the body as well as for the soul, and that He means to have with Him the whole man, body and soul, in the House not made with hands.
II. It is the thought of the mystical union that helps us to understand the resurrection of the body. When we realise that Christ took for our sakes the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost, we know that the body cannot really die. Christ did not take our flesh as a garment to be laid aside. He took it as part of Himself. We have been taught the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the flesh. St. Paul asserted the continuity of the body, and he denied explicitly the literal resurrection of the flesh. In his view, the body is united to Christ as well as the soul. There is an interdependence between the two in Him even when they are separated by death. Body and soul remain in union with Christ, and, in a day to be, body and soul will be united to make the one man in Christ Jesus before the throne of the Incarnate God. St. Paul teaches us that the body which shall be, is not the body that is. Nevertheless, it is not a new creation, but, in some sense known to God, a resurrection of the body in which we are at present. The body which we shall wear in glory is as truly the same body as we are wearing now, as the body we are wearing now is the same body with which we were born. These risen bodies will be like the body of the risen Lord. Changes unthinkable will have passed over them, but they will be the same. When He smote the gates of brass and snapped the bars of iron in sunder, and returned to His disciples from the dead, they did not know Him at first, but after a little time they knew Him. It was as when friends part and go out into foreign lands, and come back after years of toil and separation, and do not know those whose faces they had gazed on from the beginning. But by and by something—a tone of voice, a look of love—brings recognition, and gradually the past is traced in the present. So death comes and separates the body from the soul for a time, but neither from Christ, and we look forward by faith to the ending of separations. A great citizen of Birmingham used to comfort himself very much with this Greek word, σαλπίσει, 'the trumpet shall sound'. Yes, the trumpet shall sound. All the New Testament is meaningless unless it teaches the coming of a day of days, when the old order shall end, and the new everlasting order begin.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, The Lamp of Sacrifice, p. 261.
References.—V. 30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1153, and vol. xxxviii. No. 2244. V. 32.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 177.
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.