Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
know that if this earthly tent be destroyed, it will be followed by an enduring habitation - a mansion, not a tabernacle. In the earthly body he groans, not because it is a body, but because it is flesh and blood suffering under the effects of sin, and hence he longs for the house which is from heaven." It is a heaven for body as well as soul that he so ardently desires. To be bodiless even in glory is repulsive to his nature, since it would be nakedness. Death is repugnant. The separation of soul and body, however, is only temporary; it is not for unclothing, but for a better clothing, one suited to the capacities of spirit. If the fourth verse repeats the second verse, it enlarges the idea and qualifies it by stating the reason why he would be "clothed upon," viz. "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." And this longing is no mere instinct or natural desire, but a feeling inspired of God, who "hath wrought us for the selfsame thing." A Divine preparation was going on in this provisional tabernacle - a training of the spirit for the vision of Christ and a training of the body for the immortal companionship of the spirit. An "earnest" or pledge of this was already in possession. The sufferings sanctified by the Spirit, the longing, the animation of hope, were so many proofs and tokens of awaiting blessedness. How could he be otherwise than confident? Yea; he is "always confident." Though now confined to the body, yet it is a home that admits of affections and loving fellowships; and though it necessitates absence from the Lord and the house of "many mansions," nevertheless it is a home illumined by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." The home is in the midst of visible objects that exercise our sense of sight, but our Christian walk, or movement from one world to another, is not directed by the eye, but by faith, the sense of the invisible. We know what are the functions of the eye. If we did not, the antithesis would convey no meaning. The eye receives impressions from external things, communicates them to the soul, is a main organ in developing thought and feeling, acts on the imagination and the will, and is continually adding something to the contents of the inward nature. Faith is like it as a medium of reception, unlike it in all else. Faith is not conversant with appearances. We do not see Christ in his glory; we see him (using the term figuratively) in his Word by means of the Spirit; and this seeing is faith. How do we know when we have faith? It attests itself in our capacity to see the path leading to eternal glory, and it enables us to walk therein. The path is from one home to another - from the home on the footstool to the home by the throne of Christ, and faith has the reality and vigour of a home sentiment. So strong and assuring is St. Paul's confidence that he prefers to depart and be with Christ. "At home in the body;" yes, but it is a sad home at best, and trial and affliction had begun to make it dreary to him. To die is to be with the Lord, and he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Whether absent or present, at home or away from home, we labour that we "may be accepted of him." To make himself and his life acceptable to Christ was paramount to every other desire; to labour was his absorbing thought. Such an energetic soul as his must have felt that its energies were immortal. There was no selfishness in his hope of heaven, no longing to be freed from work, no yearning for the luxury of mere rest. It was to be with Christ, for Christ was his heaven. If this was his confidence, if he was labouring untiringly to be acceptable to the Lord Jesus, was he understood and appreciated as Christ's apostle and servant among men? The burden of life was not the work he did, but the obstacles thrown in his way - the slanders he had to bear, the persecutions open and secret that followed him everywhere. He thinks of the "judgment seat of Christ." It will be a judicial inquiry into works done and "every one" shall "receive ['receive back'] the things done in his body." Measure for measure, whatsoever has been done here shall return to every one. The individuality of the judgment, the complete unveiling of personal character, the correspondence between the reward and the good done on earth and between the retribution and the evil done here, he brings out distinctly. This was with him a fixed habit of thought. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." How near the two worlds are - the growing field here, the harvest in another existence hereafter! But observe another idea. "We must all appear," we must be made manifest, every one shown in his true character. Not only will there be recompense as a judicial procedure, but a revelation "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." St. Paul had vindicated himself again and again from the charges made against him; but the battle was now going on, nor was there any sign of its speedy abatement. It was natural that he should have the idea of manifestation prominent in his mind, since we all think of the future world very much according to some peculiarity in our experience on earth. How engrossed, heart and soul, in his apostleship is beautifully indicated by the fact that heaven itself was the heaven of St. Paul as the apostle of Christ. The sufferings of the man are never mentioned. First and last, we have the autobiography of an apostle, and hence, looking forward to the glory to be revealed, the supreme felicity is that he will appear in his true character as the Lord's servant. - L.
I. THE BODY THAT NOW IS.
3. Often a burden.
4. Frequently a temptation.
5. Not helpful to spiritual life.
6. Subject to many pains.
II. THE BODY THAT SHALL BE.
1. Eternal. (Ver. 1.) Having no tendencies towards decay, no marks of coming death. A body of life. Stamped with the eternalness of God.
2. Heavenly. (Ver. 1.) The first body is of the earth, earthy; the second body is spiritual and heavenly in origin and character. Capable of heavenly joys. Fitted for heavenly service. Free from earthly weaknesses, pains, and soil.
3. From God. (Ver. 1.) The present body is this in a certain sense, but it has passed through the hands of the devil. The resurrection body shall be of God and only of God, his unmarred workmanship. It shall be like the glorified body united to Deity in the person of Jesus Christ: "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory" (Philippians 3:21).
III. THE SAINT'S CONDITION WHILST IN THE EARTHLY BODY. Frequently a condition of sorrow. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" (ver. 4). There are
(1) the ordinary afflictions which befall mankind;
(2) the special chastisements of God inflicted for the saint's welfare, but still painful;
(3) the sense of living in a strange country, not in his own - uncongenial surroundings;
(4) struggles against temptations: the presence and power of hated sin.
IV. THE SAINT'S ASSURANCE OF THE HEAVENLY BODY.
2. Preparation. "He that wrought us for this very thing" (ver. 5).
3. The Spirit's witness. We have the earnest of the Spirit, which is a pledge of the fulness of the Spirit (ver. 5). In the next life we shall be dominated by the Spirit; shall have a spiritual body - one pervaded by the Spirit. The apostle's confidence is strong; he says, "We know;" there was no uncertainty about the matter.
V. THE SAINT'S LONGING FOR THE HEAVENLY BODY. The desire is very intense especially when the lot is hard and the nature spiritual. "We groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven" (ver. 2). The paramount attraction is, however, not in the body itself, but. in the fact that the union with Christ will be closer. We shall be present with the Lord - at home with the Lord (ver. 8). Now we walk by faith; then we shall see him as he is, and be like him. The gaining of the heavenly body will be the gain of closer access to our Lord, and will be the entering into our heavenly home, out of which we shall go no more forever.
VI. THE SAINT'S DESIRE FOR A SPEEDY CHANGE FROM ONE BODY TO THE OTHER. (Ver. 4.)
1. The intermediate state between death and the resurrection will probably not be so perfect as that which follows.
2. There is a natural shrinking from death. "Not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon" (ver. 4). The apostle seems to desire what is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 - a translation, not death and tarrying for the resurrection.
VII. THE SAINT'S RESOLUTION WHETHER IN THE EARTHLY OR HEAVENLY BODY. To please Christ. This the apostle made his "aim" (ver. 9). This was his supreme ambition. He resolved to live, not to himself, but to Christ and for Christ. Note, that the life for the heavenly and earthly body is to be the same. We must do now what we hope to do by and by. Heavenly life in the earthly body is the preparation for the heavenly life in the heavenly body. - H.
I. THE CONTRAST EXPLAINED. The foundation of this passage is to be found in 2 Corinthians 4:18, where a contrast is drawn between "the things seen," viz. the toils and afflictions endured in the service of Christ, and "the things not yet seen," viz. the joys of resting in Christ from present labours and of receiving from him approval and reward. Pursuing this train of thought, St. Paul writes, "We are here in a tent upon the earth, surrounded, affected, and limited by the things which are seen. But this tent will be struck, to be set up no more. The things which are seen are temporal. The present conditions of our life of toil and suffering will cease, and we shall enter a house of everlasting habitation." The apostle mixes together the figures of a dwelling in which we reside and that of a garment with which we are clothed. It was not an unnatural combination of metaphors; for the haircloth tents with which Paul was familiar, and which his own hands had made, suggested almost equally the idea of a dwelling and that of a vesture. The tent is to be taken down, the clothing to be removed. The present condition of labour and trial will come to an end. What then? Things not yet seen; a building from God; a new condition of life and order of things which will be permanent. Hands of men have not provided it and cannot destroy it. It is a house where nothing fades, nothing falls to ruin, nothing decays or dies - a house eternal in the heavens.
II. THE CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE OF THE FUTURE. It was St. Paul's habit to regard the state after death and the state after resurrection as from one angle of vision, and to describe them together. Probably he had no idea of the long interval which was to extend through all the Christian centuries. In his first letter to the Corinthians he had said, "We shall not all sleep," as though some of that generation might not see death. But now the feebleness of his body was as "a sentence of death" in himself. He expected and even wished to die; and yet his thoughts never paused on death or even on the rest of the departed, but rushed past death to the coming of Christ and the glory to be revealed. There is a real and obvious distinction between the post-decease and the post-resurrection state; but let us not overdo distinctions between conditions of blessedness which to an apostle's eye were so intimately blended. If some of the things which belong to the ultimate state are supposed by any to belong to the proximate, no great harm is done. The future is not mapped out with the precision of a chart. It is not for definite knowledge, but for hope. St. Paul, as we have said, never paused on death, took no pleasure in the thought of being "unclothed." At the resurrection he would be clothed with a body of incorruption and immortality. Nay; before that great day of triumph over death, he knew that he would be well clothed or guarded. He would be in God's building, "clothed upon" with the house which is from heaven.
III. THE MOOD OF MIND THAT WISHES FOR DEATH. St. Paul wrote this in dejection of spirit. To his sickness, which had much enfeebled him, was added at that time much anxiety about the condition of the Churches in Greece and their feelings toward himself. So his heart, as tender and sensitive as it was ardent and brave, was bruised and weary; and he fell a-thinking of death as welcome. Let the outward man perish; let the earthen vessel break; let the weary spirit escape and be at rest. A mood this into which, at one time or other, many Christians tall; but it should not be elevated into a pattern or rule, as though it were the duty of every Christian to long and sigh for death. Our holy faith requires nothing so unnatural. They who are in health and well employed ought to make the most of life - to value and not despise it. Enough that they do not forget death; and they need not fear it if they live well. We must do Paul the justice to acknowledge that there was nothing peevish or impatient in his mood. So long as there was service for him to render to the Church on earth, he was willing to abide in the flesh and to endure any toil or suffering in order to finish his course. But the mood that was on him led him to long for the finish, when he might leave the little horsehair tent on earth and be at home in God's building in the heavens. - F.
I. THE TENT AND THE HOUSE. No figure could be more appropriate than this for the apostle, who gained his living as a tentmaker, and was familiar with its material, its construction, and its use. We can well imagine how, as he wrought, either at weaving the rough Cilician cloth, or at sewing together the various lengths, and the holes for the poles and ropes, he would meditate on the frailty of the tent which he was thus making, contrasting it with the stable marble and stone mansions found in such cities as Corinth. In his day tents were chiefly made for travellers; for those who journeyed from place to place, either for business or for pleasure, in districts where accommodation at inns could not be found. They had their settled homes in the great cities, and they went forth on their travels with quiet hearts, because of the cherished feeling that they had a home. They used the tent awhile, camping out in the open country; but if the wild storm did come, and even lift and carry away the tent; if the midnight robber did overthrow it, and seize the spoil, - the traveller might bear the hardship and the loss, in pleasant confidence that he had a home. If the worst came, it could be but the shadow of his home passing away; in yonder city stood his secure dwelling.
II. THE DOCTRINE AND THE TRUTH. For doctrine is like the frail tent, and truth is like the granite mansion that outlasts the passing ages. We cannot be too thankful for the forms in which sacred truth is conveyed to us, unfolded before us, or impressed upon us. We bless God for all holy and helpful words, full of tender and dear associations; words of simple catechism for our childhood's weakness; words of formal doctrine fashioned to help us when, in our youth time, we tried to get personal hold of mysterious and many-sided truth. Let no man despise the doctrines which, like tents, have often given us their shelter and their help. And yet they are only like "earthly houses of this tabernacle." Truth is the "building of God, the house not made with hands," wherein alone human souls may find quietness from controversy or from fears. Doctrines are only symbols and shadows, the human representations of the Divine and eternal things, the unspeakable realities which yet our souls may apprehend. Within, behind, above, around, the doctrine ever dwells the truth; and, at first, we are very dependent on the forms which it gains for mortal eyes and ears and minds; but, as the soul grows, and gains its vision, its hearing, and its touch, we get loosened from our dependence on the forms, we can calmly see them change and pass. Resting in the stable house of truth, we calmly look on all transitory forms, even of doctrine, and say, "We have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
III. NATURE AND GOD. Nature, the world of things seen - the firmament, golden-glowing, cloud-shaded, and star-sprinkled; earth, with its vales, and hills, and flowers, and trees; the great and wide sea - is in a very serious sense God. It is God manifest to our senses. Behind what is called pantheism there is a deeply poetical and spiritual truth, Nature is God seen; God in toned picture for mortal eyes to see; God, if we may so say, in photograph. Earth is the plate which has caught all that human eyes may see of the figure of God. Nature is the tent symbol of the eternal house. The Jew called his mountains "the hills of God," because they brought to him the sense of the highness and almightiness of God. He called the splendid trees "the cedars of Jehovah," because they brought to him a sense of the stately beauty of God. Yet nature is not really God himself, only God in expression for our apprehending, only the veil that he shines through. Therefore we turn from the shadow to the substance which throws it; from the form to the reality which it does but exhibit. And if all nature passed away, we should lose nothing. It would be but dropping the veil that we might see the face.
IV. OUR EARTHLY AND OUR HEAVENLY BODIES. St. Paul was plainly thinking of his body, the vehicle by means of which our souls come into contact with the world of created things. But he cherished the idea of a spiritual body, which could be the clothing and vehicle of his soul through the long, the eternal ages. Thinking of it he could say, "What matter if my tent body be destroyed? I have a building of God, a house not made with hands." - R.T.
2 Corinthians 1:22 and Romans 8:1-11). Observe that the Holy Spirit is presented to us under many aspects and figures; no one representation of his Divine mission can exhaust his relations to us. We must see his work on one side after another, and be willing to learn from all She figures under which it is presented.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY AN "EARNEST"? It is something offered as a pledge and assurance that what is promised shall surely be given. But it has been well pointed out that an "earnest" materially differs from a "pledge." A pledge is something different in kind, given as assurance for something else, as may be illustrated by the sacraments; but an earnest is a part of the thing to be given, as when a purchase is made and a portion of the money is paid down at once. The idea of the "earnest" may be seen in the "firstfruits," which are a beginning of, and assure the character of, the coming harvest.
II. WHAT IS THE SPIRIT AS "EARNEST" TO US NOW? St. Paul's one point here is that it is an assurance of the final victory of the higher life over the lower. We have indeed that higher life now, in its initial and rudimentary stages, in having the Spirit dwelling in us.
III. WHAT FUTURE IS PLEDGED IN OUR HAVING THE SPIRIT NOW? Precisely a future in which the spiritual life shall be victorious and supreme, and our vehicle of a body simply within the use of the Spirit. That is full redemption, glory, and heaven. - R.T.
I. THIS ABSENCE IS NOT SPIRITUAL, BUT BODILY. His own word is fulfilled, "A little while, and ye shall not see me." The exclamation of his people is verified, "Him, not having seen, we love."
II. THIS ABSENCE IS APPOINTED BY DIVINE WISDOM AND LOVE. It cannot be regarded as a matter of chance or of fate. It. is the will of him who most loves us and who most cares for us, which is apparent in this provision.
III. THERE IS A BENEFICENT PURPOSE IN THIS ABSENCE. Such was the obvious intention of our Saviour himself. "It is good for you," he said, "that I go away." His aim was to lead his people into a life of faith, and to excite our confidence in himself who has gone to prepare a place for us.
IV. THERE ARE CERTAIN DANGERS INVOLVED IN THIS ABSENCE, There is danger lest, separated from our Lord, we should grow worldly and carnal, lest our love to Jesus should wax cold, lest we should magnify ourselves, lest we should be ashamed of a religion whose Head is not visibly among us.
V. YET THERE ARE COMPENSATIONS IN THIS ABSENCE. It is intended to fortify and perfect the truly Christian character. It will make the meeting, when it takes place, more delightful and welcome.
VI. WHAT EXERCISES ARE SUGGESTED BY THIS ABSENCE?
1. Remembrance of Christ.
2. Faith in Christ.
3. Communion with Christ.
4. Fidelity to Christ in his absence.
5. Anticipation of his speedy return.
VII. THE TERMINATION OF THIS PERIOD OF ABSENCE IS AT HAND. Those who live until the Lord's return shall welcome him to his inheritance. Others must be absent from Christ until they are absent from the body, when they shall be "present with the Lord. - T.
parenthesis St. Paul very succinctly and very impressively describes the nature of that pilgrimage which he had adopted and with which he was satisfied.
I. THE WALK WITH WHICH THAT OF THE CHRISTIAN IS CONTRASTED. This, which is that of the unenlightened and unrenewed, is the walk by sight; i.e. by repressing the spiritual nature and walking by the light which earth offers, by the mere guidance of the senses, by the influence of society, the approval and esteem of men, by considerations drown from earth and limited to earth. This is a course of life in which there is no satisfaction, no safety, and no blessed prospect.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WALK OF FAITH. Faith in itself is neutral; its excellence depends upon its object. The Christian regulates his course through this life of temptation, danger, and discipline by:
1. Faith in the existence of God, the God who possesses all. moral excellences as his attributes.
2. Faith in Providence; i.e. in the personal interest and care of him who is called Friend and Father.
3. Faith in God as a Saviour, which is faith in Christ, the salvation of the Lord revealed to man.
4. Faith in a righteous and authoritative taw.
5. Faith in ever-present spiritual aid - guidance, protection, bounty, etc.
6. Faith in Divine promises, by which the pilgrim is assured that he shall reach home at last.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS TO UNDERTAKE AND TO PERSEVERE IN THE WALK OF FAITH.
1. It is the one principle enjoined throughout revelation, from the day of Abraham, the father of the faithful, down to the apostolic age.
2. The possibility of the walk by faith has been proved by the example of the great and the good who have gone before us (vide Hebrews 11.).
3. To those who live by faith life has a meaning and. dignity which otherwise cannot possibly attach to it.
4. Faith can sustain amidst the trials and sorrows of earth.
5. And faith is the blossom of which the vision of the glorified Saviour shall, be the heavenly and immortal fruit. - T.
I. WALK AS DESCRIPTIVE OF HUMAN LIFE. Its suitability will be seen if we notice:
1. That it is a moving on. The days of our life go by as do the scenes in a panorama.
2. It is a slow moving on, steady and regular as the clock; time moves on, bearing all its sons away.
3. It is a moving on through ever-changing scenes, as is the path of the traveller, now up the hillside, now along the dusty highway, and now through the shaded valleys, with ever-varying sights and sounds around us.
4. It is a moving on somewhere; for he who walks has some end before him or some home in view. So our human life has its goal. We pass on into the eternal, where we may find our home.
II. WALK BY SIGHT AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE WORLDLY LIFE. "Walk by sight" does not mean "in the power of our vision," but "under the influence and persuasion of things seen and temporal." It is the one essential characteristic of the worldly man that his judgments and decisions are made, his affections are ruled, and his conduct is ordered by what may be gathered under the term "the fashion of this world." Sense condi-tions determine his place. Sense-requirements command his allegiance. Sense principles inspire his doings and decide his relations. He "walks" with a horizon no further off than yonder ridge of hills, and with no thought really bigger in his soul than "What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and what shall we enjoy?" Saying this is the saddest revelation of man's essential wrongness before the God who "made him for himself."
III. WALK BY FAITH AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We are not yet face to face with the eternal realities, but faith as the "substance of things hoped for" gives us a present actual possession of those eternal things, and makes them exert their power on our "walk." Faith in the unseen and eternal can
(2) raise the tone;
(3) bring steadfastness into our walk and conversation.
The realities are revealed to faith; human sight can only see passing shadows of things. - R.T.
I. THE JUDGMENT IS CERTAIN.
1. It is a matter of most definite revelation.
2. It is necessary for the vindication of Divine justice.
II. CHRIST WILL BE THE JUDGE. "The judgment seat of Christ."
1. A very solemn fact
(1) for those who have rejected his salvation and his rule;
(2) or who have treated his claims with neglect and indifference;
(3) or who have professed to believe on him, but in works have denied him.
2. A very joyous fact for those who have loved, confessed, and served him.
3. A very impressive tact that the One who died for men will judge men.
III. ALL WILL STAND BEFORE CHRIST'S JUDGMENT SEAT. Not one will be missing. How vast an assemblage! A great multitude, and yet no one test in the crowd! We shall be conscious of the great number which no man can number, and yet be impressed with our own individuality. "Each one will receive (ver. 10) - one by one. Every day we are brought a day nearer to that dread convocation.
IV. AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST THERE WILL BE A GREAT REVELATION.
1. Of character.
2. Of condition.
3. Of life.
We shall be made manifest." Life secrets will cease. Successful deceptions will be successful no longer. All veils and disguises will be torn off. The world as well as God will see us as we are.
V. AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST WE SHALL RECEIVE OUR DOOM. This will be according to the deeds of our life. Will the faithful then be justified by faith? Yes; by faith which produces works. Profession will then go for very little. "Lord, Lord," will be but an empty cry. Ability to pray fluently or to preach eloquently will not come into the account. Nor the ability to look extremely pious. Nor facility of talk respecting "blessed seasons" enjoyed on earth, What faith has wrought in us will be the question. What our Christianity has amounted to really and practically. "A name to live" then will be nothing if we are found "dead." Upon the branch professedly united to the Vine fruit will then be sought. "Faith without works is dead." At the judgment it will seem very dead indeed. Yet not by the mere outward act shall we be judged. The motive will be considered as well as the actual deed. "Faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6) will be diligently sought for. Note:
1. The distinction between good and evil will be strictly drawn at the judgment.
2. There will be degrees of reward and punishment. Some "saved as by fire;" some having an "abundant entrance;" some beaten with few stripes, some with many. It will be "according to what he hath done."
3. The dependence of the future upon the present. We shall receive the things done in the body. A remarkable expression. What we do now we shall receive then. We are now writing the sentence of the judgment! Time is sowing. Judgment is reaping. "What manner of persons ought we to be?" - H.
we - that is, we Christians - must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Such a judgment, or appraisement, of our conduct is involved in the very idea of our mastership to Christ. He will be sure one day to take account of his servants, and this Jesus himself taught as in his parables of the talents and pounds. Christians are as stewards, men entrusted for a time with their Master's goods. They are even to be thought of as "slaves," wholly the Master's possession; and he has full power to estimate their conduct, reward faithfulness, and punish neglect and disobedience. St. Paul even loves to think of himself as the bondslave of Jesus. And the apostles long to prove so faithful in all things that they may not be ashamed, or terrified, or loth to meet their Master at his coming. "The feeling of accountability may take two forms. In a free and generous spirit it may be simply a sense of duty; in a slavish and cowardly spirit it will be a sense of compulsion." To us it should be a joy and an inspiration that our own loved Master will appraise our lives; and that, if he is true to observe our faults, he will be no less gracious to recognize what he may call our goodnesses and our obediences. The thought of his judgment can only be a terror to the rebellious, disobedient, and wilful among his servants. We notice three things.
I. LOYALTY TO CHRIST IS OUR SPIRIT. "We call him Master and Lord, and we say well; for so he is." The rule of our life is the will of our glorified and ever-present Lord. We have voluntarily given ourselves to him. To him we owe our supreme allegiance. He is to us what his queen and country are to the general who leads forth his army. We must be ever true to him; and he, and he alone, is the Lord whose approval or condemnation of our work we should seek. Because I am loyal to Christ I will care about nobody's judgment of my life until I know his.
II. SERVICE OF CHRIST IN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OUR LIFE. This is the very essence of the matter. Christ is served by righteousness, and really by nothing else. Our place of service, our kind of service, our success in service, are quite the secondary things. The first thing is the rightness with which we do the service. Was the work good? - this it is that Christ asks. Herein Christ differs from all other masters. They can only judge the work; he judges the character which found expression through the work. It is that personal righteousness that Christ will search for when he judges his servants.
III. THE APPRAISEMENT OF CHRIST IS OUR EXPECTATION AND OUR HOPE. A day of final judgment is men's expectation, but not their hope. It is too often a terror to them, a thought put away in fear. Christ's judgment of his saints is our hope; it is the first day of our glory. The thought of it may make us serious and watchful, but it never can make us sad. Christ will test and try our lives. Christ will weigh us in his balances. Christ will apportion our future place. Christ will chastise if there be found evil in us, and his chastisements shall be our joy; for we too want all the evil in us found out and put away. We even glory in this coming appraisement by our Lord; for if, in subtle disguises, evil lurks in any of our secret places of heart and life, Jesus will find it out, and will not leave us until we stand in the likeness of his own spotless purity. And upon our Lord's judgment of us our future, our eternal location and work, must depend. Tested in this life, he will know what we can do; and it may be that he will give us trust of higher things, "authority over ten cities." - R.T.
Romans 3:25, 26, Revised Version). There is a "ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." Forgiveness through Christ, the Propitiation, is free to all who believe in him. Nor are we left in doubt as to the substance of our belief. It is faith in Christ, God in Christ, the Reconciler, who pardons our sins and makes us new creatures in him. To make this reconciliation known, to demonstrate its infinite excellence as the method of grace, to show its Divine results in the very men who proclaimed the gospel, Christ had instituted the ministry, and its title was, "ministry of reconciliation." Recall, O Corinthians, what I have said in defence of my apostleship. Recall my sufferings in your behalf. See the reason of it all. Whom are these factious Judaizers fighting? Whom did those beasts at Ephesus try to destroy? Who is this man, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, dying everywhere, dying always? This is the character he sustains, the office he fills - an "ambassador for Christ." Has he manifested himself to your consciences? Does he look forward to the day of judgment as a day of revelation as well as a day of reward and punishment? Know we not a man, not even Christ, after the flesh! Behold your minister, your servant, as an "ambassador," commissioned to offer you the terms of reconciliation. "We pray you in Christ's stead [on behalf of Christ], be ye reconciled to God." Nothing remains to be done but tot you to accept the offered reconciliation. And he enforces this idea by stating that he who "died for all," since "all were dead," had been made "sin for us, who knew no sin." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" yet he was "made to be sin for us," made a substitute or ransom, an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away. Reconciliation is accomplished not by our repentance and confession of sin, nor by any suffering on our part, nor by any merit of our work, but altogether by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. God's righteousness is thus set forth. The plan of salvation changed nothing in the character of Almighty God. Neither his righteousness nor his love was modified integrally by Christ's atonement. "God is righteous," "God is love," are no truer facts now than they eternally were. What the gospel teaches is that the righteousness and the love of God have assumed special forms of manifestation and operative activity through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness, not in the normal relation of Law to the original transgressor, but in an instituted relation of Law to one who took the place of the transgressor. It is love as grace, the form of love that provided for the righteousness on which St. Paul lays such an emphasis. It is not a change in the Law, but in the administration of Law, and the glory of it lies in the fact that the Divine government presents in this higher form the resplendent spectacle of that progression from the "natural" to the "spiritual," which St. Paul discusses in his argument on the resurrection. Whatever obstacles existed in the way of this sublime advance have been removed by Christ. "Mercy and truth have their existence as attributes of the Divine nature; they have met together." "Righteousness and peace are not to be confounded, but they have kissed each other." - L.
I. THE OBJECTS OF CHRIST'S LOVE. Look at his earthly life and ministry, and the comprehensive range within which the love of Jesus operates becomes at once and gloriously obvious.
1. His friends. Of this fact - Christ's love to his friends - we have abundant proof: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
2. His enemies. This is more wonderful, yet the truth of what the apostle says is undeniable: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And we cannot forget his prayer offered for his enemies as they nailed him to the cross: "Father, forgive them."
3. All mankind. During his ministry the Lord Jesus was gracious to all with whom he came into contact. His aim was by the bands of love to draw all men unto himself, that they might rest and live in his Divine and mighty heart.
II. THE PROOFS OF CHRIST'S LOVE. The great facts of his ministry and mediation are evidences of his benevolence.
1. His advent. "Nothing brought him from above - Nothing but redeeming love."
2. His ministry. He went about doing good, animated by the mighty principle of love to man. Eyed sickness he healed, every demon he expelled, every sinner he pardoned, was a witness to the love of Christ.
3. His death. His was the love "stronger than death:" for not only could not death destroy it, death gave it a new life and power in the world and over men.
4. His prevailing intercession and brotherly care.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST'S LOVE.
1. It is sympathizing and. tender, "passing the love of women."
2. It is thoughtful and wise, ever providing for the true welfare of those to whom it is revealed.
3. It is forbearing and patient, otherwise it might often have been checked and repressed.
4. It is self-sacrificing, counting nothing too great to be given up in order to secure its ends.
5. It is faithful "Having loved his own, he loveth them even unto the end."
6. It is unquenchable and everlasting: "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?" - T.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS CONSTRAINT. Men are influenced by many and various motives, some lower and some higher. Their natural instincts and impulses, their interests, their regard for public opinion and their ambition, the laws of the land, - these are among the admitted and powerful inducements to human conduct. But these are not the highest motives, and are unworthy of the nature and possibilities of man, unless in conjunction with something better. Even the sacred obligation of duty is insufficient. But Christ's love in his redemptive work, revealed to us in the gospel, is a moral and spiritual force of vast power? It awakens gratitude, love, devotion, obedience. It is the universal Christian motive. He who does not feel it, however correct his creed and conduct, is not in the proper sense of the term a Christian. Happy they who live under its sweet and constant constraint!
II. THE DIRECTION OF THIS CONSTRAINT. Physical power is of two kinds - it is either energy or resistance; e.g. the ocean and the dyke, the powder and the cannon, the steam and the boiler. As with physical, so with moral power.
1. Christ's love acts by way of restraint. It withholds those who experience it from self-indulgence, from worldliness, and from other sins to which men are naturally prone, and from which only a Divine power can deliver.
2. It acts by way of impulse, inducing to the imitation of Jesus in character and conduct; to obedience such as he enjoins when he says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" to consecration such as Paul exemplified when he said, "We live unto the Lord."
III. THE EFFICACY OF THIS CONSTRAINT. This depends upon a just interpretation of the passage. Were it our love to Christ which is imputed, this would be a feeble and vacillating motive; but it is something far greater and better, viz. Christ's love to us. The power of this motive may be seen in the life of every faithful friend of Jesus; e.g. in the apostles, as Paul, Peter, John; in the confessors and martyrs and reformers; in the missionaries and philanthropists, etc. It may be seen in the dangers braved, the opposition encountered, the persecutions suffered, the efforts undertaken and persevered in. What of noble and beautiful and beneficent conduct has not this Divine motive proved able to inspire! Greater deeds and more heroic sufferings than the love of Christ has accounted for, the annals of mankind do not record. It is to this motive that we must look for all that in the future shall bless our common humanity. What nothing inferior can effect the love of Christ will certainly prove powerful to accomplish. - T.
I. CONSIDER THE LOVE OF CHRIST. Shown in:
1. Advent. Relinquishment of heavenly glory. The highest place above exchanged for one of the lowest on earth.
2. Assumption of human nature. A vast condescension. A most striking proof of love.
3. Life. Miracles, acts of kindness, words, spirit.
4. Death. A transcendent proof.
(1) Death for enemies.
(2) Death at the hands of those he came to save.
(3) Most painful death,
(b) mentally, and
(c) spiritually. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
(4) A death the object of which was the redemption, purification, exaltation, and eternal happiness of men.
5. Intercession. "He ever liveth to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:25).
II. CONSIDER THE EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It constrained the apostle - "compressed with irresistible power all his energies into one channel." "Constraineth" - its influence was continuous. Its power was not soon spent; rather that power increased as the love of Christ was increasingly realized.
1. Negatively. Not to live to himself (ver. 15). There was now a greater power operating upon him than the mighty power of self.
2. Positively. To live to Christ (ver. 15). The love of Christ overmastered him. He felt that through it he had been purchased with a great price, and therefore sought to glorify Christ in his body and spirit which were peculiarly his.
(1) By a blameless life.
(2) By seeking to show forth Christ in his character, spirit, acts, etc.
(3) By submitting his will to Christ's in all things.
(4) By cherishing a deep love for Christ.
(5) By seeking to extend the kingdom and to increase the glory of Christ.
(6) By being wholly devoted to Christ. He was wont to speak of himself as the "slave of Christ." - H.
I. THE MOVING PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS. It is the strong unchanging love of Christ to his people, assured to them by his Spirit and his Word. Paul had a fear of God, a reverence for the Law, and walked in all good conscience; but when the love of Christ was revealed to him and suffused his spirit it made a new man of him - thrilled, stirred, animated, constrained him to love and serve Christ and the Church. And as the apostle grew old and experienced, this motive lost nothing of its power. The love of Christ became to him, as it does to all experienced Christians, more and more wonderful - a Shepherd's love, that led him to die for us, and that now secures that we "shall not want;" a Brother's love, and "love beyond a brother's;" a Bridegroom's love, who gave himself for the Church and will present the Church to himself.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE MOTIVE ACTS. It is through no mere gush of feeling, but through consideration of the purpose and efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection.
1. He died for all to this intent and with this result, that all of them died. Virtually and in the estimate of God this crucifixion of the whole Church took place when Christ was crucified. In the actual realization of it it becomes true to each man as and when he looks to Christ crucified and is united to him by faith. And with effects both legal and moral. He who was married to the Law dies to the Law, and is freed from its claims, so as to be married to the risen Christ. He who lived in sin dies to sin, and may not any longer live therein. He who loved the world is crucified to it, that he may love and live to God.
2. He rose again; and all the crucified ones live by him. So they have justification, as represented by the accepted One, who has gone to the Father; and sanctification too, as separated to God in holy living and guided by the indwelling Spirit The former manner of life is marked by self regard. The new manner of life exchanges this for the habit of regarding Christ. So his constraining love induces his followers "to live unto him."
III. USES OF THIS DOCTRINE.
1. Let it instruct us. Many are very ill informed on the relation of our Lord's death and resurrection to the Divine will and to human salvation; and for this reason they are much less constrained by his love than they ought to be. Study these things. Bring thought and consideration as well as emotion to the theme. The love constrains "because we judge."
2. Let it humble us. Has the Son of the living God so loved us, and where is our love to him?
"Lord, it is my chief complaint
3. Let it impel us. What we need to overcome our moral indolence and habits of self-pleasing is the pressure of strong convictions and motives; and we can best get these in contemplating the love, the death, and the resurrection of Christ. This, too, is a great security against departure from the Lord. When we know and feel little of Christ's love we are easily tempted; but when this is in our thoughts and affections we abhor and repel whatever might separate us from him.
4. Let it comfort us. We are delivered from the wrath to come. Christ loves us. Then the Father also loves us. Duties are pleasant, afflictions are light; to live is Christ, to die is gain. - F.
I. THE SOURCE OF THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE. "Because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died in him." Apparently that life of the apostle was the life of an enthusiast. But if you used that word in any bad sense he would indignantly deny such an accusation. It was indeed a life to which he was constrained, held fast, impelled, coerced, and that by the intense love of his soul for another - a love passing the love of women. But St. Paul would most earnestly urge that this love of his was no mere passion, no mere impulse, no blind force taking sudden mastery of his heart, and crushing down and silencing thought and judgment and will. He declares it to be a love based on judgment, and strengthened by maturer judgment. If that love was first won by the gracious vision granted to him when be was nearing Damascus, it was more truly a love confirmed and established by the serious meditations and calm decisions of his time of blindness, and by the Scripture studies of his lonely days in the desert. That sober consideration took up:
1. The sadness of man's condition. "Then were all dead;" or, as otherwise read, "then all died."
2. St. Paul's judgment decided that it was quite true about Jesus Christ - he had intervened to save men by his own sufferings and death. "He died for all." Paul - or Saul, as he was then called - was nearing the fulness of manhood when he heard of the appearance of a new prophet teacher in the land of his fathers. But all his prejudices arrayed themselves against the acceptance of him and against belief in his special commission and authority. It appeared from the reports that he was a poor man; that he came from the despised Galilean Nazareth, about which Old Testament Scriptures prophesied no such great thing; that he made himself the "friend of publicans and sinners;" that he was an unsparing foe of Paul's own sect, the Pharisees; but that at last he had been stopped in his mischievous career, and made a public example of by an ignominious and shameful death. And then one day prejudice was overthrown. Prejudice was made to see the living glory of him whom it had tried to believe was disgraced and dead. Prejudice heard the authoritative voice of the supposed impostor speaking out of the heavenly places. Prejudice was conquered; the reason, the judgment, and the heart were enthroned, and set to form a judgment concerning Christ. And what a different thing the career of the Lord Jesus became when it was soberly, thoughtfully judged! Poor was he? It was the worthy outer garb of the unspeakable humiliation of the Divine Lord to the weakness of men. It was the fit outward seeming for "Immanuel," God with us. Out of Nazareth did he come? That was only one of the thousandfold proofs that he was indeed the Messiah promised to the fathers, now in dimmer and now in clearer outlines. Friend of publicans and sinners was he? No wonder; for he well knew that the real want of men is, not the removal of diseases, or the extensions of ceremonial worship, or even the unfolding of new truths, but the pardon of sin, the cleansing away of iniquity, and the assurance, carried home to the very soul, that God loves and would save the sinner. Despised and rejected of men was he? Yes; and it must have been so. Sinful humanity could not bear the reproach of the presence of perfect virtue. The forces of evil would be sure to wrestle hard against him who came that he might cast them out and destroy them. Die, did he, a mournful, shameful death? Judgment says - There, amid the very shame of the cross, thrown up by the very darkness that lies behind it, shine forth rays of transcendent glory. There, in those hours of agony, may be seen sublime self-sacrifice, mystery of spiritual suffering, Divine sin bearing, and the most persuasive manifestation of God's love to men. There is God "not sparing his own Son, but delivering him up for us all;" and there is God's Son "bearing our sins in his own body on the tree." On that sober judgment the apostle based his new life motive. He set the love of that dying Saviour so high in his soul that it became from henceforth the master motive of all that he did.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE WORKS. "They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." The motive works by establishing a new law for the ruling of our life and conduct. It is the not-unto-self law. We do not know ourselves as we really are in our carnal state if we think that is not a new law. Gratification of self is the great unnatural human law. The not-unto-self law is the chosen life principle of all the good. It is the law of God, the life rule of Jesus the Christ; and, learnt of him, it has made many a human story since then beautiful and gracious. Could it be established in all hearts, the golden age would have come, in which the unselfish King can reign forever and ever. The only possible deliverance from the sway of the old self law is found in the elevating of some new and inspiring love to the throne of the heart. And Jesus makes himself the Object of just such love. The new motive also works in another way. It gives an inner spiritual force to sustain us in the endeavour to obey the law. Love becomes to us what it is to the child. The love of the parent becomes the law of the child's life; but the love, as it dwells in the heart of the child, makes obedience easy. So our love to Christ can become the inner force by which our obedience is sustained day by day. - R.T.
I. How THE NEWNESS ORIGINATES.
1. The believer has died with Christ. (Ver. 14.) Christ is his Substitute, has borne his sins, has made complete satisfaction for his guilt. By faith he is so united to Christ that what Christ has done is imputed to him. He is thus new in relation to God. He was condemned; now he is justified.
2. The believer partakes of the life of Christ. He is "risen with Christ" (Colossians 3:1). He has received the Spirit of Christ. Having been justified, he is now being sanctified. The likeness of the Redeemer is being wrought upon and in him by the Holy Ghost. There is thus a "new creation." The old life was a life of sin, but the new life to which he has risen is a life of righteousness. The love of Christ constrains him (ver. 14) to live, not to himself, but to Christ.
II. HOW THE NEWNESS IS MANIFESTED. In the believer's
(5) plans, purposes, desires, etc. All things are become new (ver. 17). There is no part of the believer's life from which the newness should be absent. Whilst not yet perfect, manifestly a great change has taken place: "Old things are passed away" (ver. 17).
III. THIS NEWNESS FURNISHES A TEST. What have we more than our profession of Christianity? Have we been transformed; made new creatures? "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Can faith save a man - faith which has a name to live, but is dead; faith which we only know a man possesses because he tells us so? We are not in Christ at all unless thereby we have become new creatures. The test is beyond appeal. The sentence of the judgment will proceed upon the assumption of its infallibility (ver. 10). All men in Christ become new creatures. "If any man," etc. A decided change takes place in the best as well as in the worst. .All men may become new creatures in Christ. The vilest can be recreated equally with the most moral. This newness is not to be waited for till we enter another world. It belongs to this sphere in which we now are. Unless we are new creatures in this world we shall not be new creatures in another. It is on earth that "new creatures" are specially needed. - H.
I. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY PRESUMES THE NEED OF RECONCILIATION.
1. There is a moral Ruler and a moral law, righteous and authoritative.
2. Against this Ruler men have rebelled, they have broken the law, and thus introduced enmity and conflict.
3. Divine displeasure has thus been incurred, and Divine penalties, by which just displeasure is expressed.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY IS AUTHORIZED BY HIM WHO ALONE CAN INTRODUCE RECONCILIATION. God is the greater, and not only so, he is the wronged, offended party. If any overtures for reconciliation are to be made, they must proceed from him. He must provide the basis of peace and he must commission the heralds of peace.
III. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY PROCLAIMS THE MEDIATOR OF RECONCILIATION. The Lord Jesus has every qualification which can be desired in an efficient Mediator. He partakes the nature of God and of man; he is appointed and accepted by the Divine Sovereign; he has effected by his sacrifice a work of atonement or reconciliation; his Spirit is a Spirit of peace. And in fact he has "made peace," removing all obstacles on God's side and providing for the removal of all on man's.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY CONSISTS IN THE OFFER OF RECONCILIATION. It is a moral and not a sacerdotal ministry; it is experimental, being entrusted to those who are themselves reconciled; it is a ministry accompanied with supernatural power, even the energy of the Spirit of God; it is an authoritative ministry, which men are not at liberty to disregard or despise; it is an effectual ministry, for those who discharge it faithfully are unto many the "savour of life unto life." - T.
I. THE NEED OF RECONCILIATION. The world is not in harmony or at peace with God. Sin has done it. On the one hand, God's displeasure is declared against the workers of iniquity; on the other, those workers are afraid of God and alienated from him. A great gulf yawns between God and man; and the need of reconciliation is the need of a bridge across that chasm. Or, a great mountain is cast up between God and man; and the need of reconciliation is the need of that mountain becoming a plain, so that God and man may not merely approach, but unite and be at peace. "What can be the difficulty," some exclaim, "if God desires it? Is he not omnipotent, and can he not accomplish whatever he pleases?" But we speak of a moral obstacle, not a physical. And, while God can certainly do what he pleases, he cannot please to do anything but what is perfectly righteous. So there is a difficulty. It is twofold: there is a sentence of condemnation in heaven against the transgressors of the law of righteousness; and there is an enmity to God or a cowering dread of him in the hearts of those transgressors on earth.
II. THE AUTHOR OF RECONCILIATION. "All things [i.e. all the things of the new creation] are of God, who has reconciled us to himself." Man, the creature and the sinner, should have been the first to seek the healing of the breach, by suing for pardon and imploring mercy from God. But it has not been so. The initiative has been taken by God, who is rich in mercy, and, loving the world, has provided for its reconciliation by Jesus Christ.
III. THE METHOD OF RECONCILIATION. Messages sent from a distant heaven or throne of God could not suffice. There was need of an authorized Messenger. So God sent his only begotten Son. For so great a work was constituted a unique and wonderful personality. The Son of God became man and yet continued Divine. So, in the very constitution of his person, he brought the Divine and the human together. And thus his relation to both parties was such as perfectly fitted him to be the Reconciler. He loved God, and therefore was faithful to all Divine claims and prerogatives; while at the same time he loved man and was intent on securing his salvation.
1. He dealt with the difficulty on the side of eternal righteousness. He did so by taking the room and the responsibility of the transgressors and making atonement for them. And the hand of God was in this. "He hath made him," etc. (ver. 21). "Made... sin," though he never was a sinner, and laden with it as a burden, enveloped in it as a mantle of shame. "Jehovah laid upon him the iniquity of us all." The issue is that we "become the righteousness of God in him." And in this is nothing illusive or fictitious. There was a real laying of our sins on the Lamb of God, that there may be a real laying or conferring of Divine righteousness on us who believe in his Name.
2. He deals with the difficulty of alienated feeling. No change is needed in the mind or disposition of God. He does not need to be persuaded to love the world. All the salvation in Christ proceeds from his love. But the enmity of men to God must be removed, and this is effected by the revelation of God as gracious and propitious to sinners in Christ Jesus. When this is known and believed, the heart turns to God and actual reconciliation is made.
IV. THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION. (Vers. 19, 20.) When St. Paul preached the gospel it was as though God entreated or exhorted the people through his servant's lips. He was an ambassador, not a plenipotentiary with powers to discuss and negotiate terms of peace, but a King's messenger sent to proclaim terms of free grace and to press the acceptance of them on the enemies of the King. This embassy continues. Do not meet it with excuses and delays. - F.
at-oned), and brought into concord with God. It will be noted that the work is described as originating with the Father and accomplished by the mediation of the Son" (Plumptre).
I. THE DISTURBANCE WHICH CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION. This may be presented as a disturbance occurring between
(1) a Creator and his creatures;
(2) a King and his subjects; or
(3) more worthily in this case, a Father and his children.
The point of impression is, that the disturbance is in no sense due to any action or neglect of God as Creator, King, or Father, but is wholly due to the self-willed and rebellious conduct of the creatures, subjects, or children. It involved a state of enmity, a withdrawal of pleasant relations, and acts of judgment on the part of God. All these statements need illustration and enforcement. Only as the difficulty is duly estimated can the grace of the remedy be fully understood.
II. THE SIDE ON WHICH WAS THE EARLIEST DESIRE FOR RECONCILEMENT, Not man's side. The offenders did not seek forgiveness and restoration. Show that this is true
None of us, now, are before God in seeking reconciliation. The offended Creator, King, and Father seeks to make both one, and break down the middle walls of partition. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." The deep ground of redemption is God's pitying love for us sinners. We must not think that we claimed the love or that Christ persuaded God to show it. "God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son." The enmity of man to him grieved him, and love found the ways in which to break the enmity, and win, by a free forgiveness, the very heart of the offenders.
III. THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD EFFECTS THE RECONCILEMENT. All are summed up in Christ. He is the Agent through whom God practically carries out his reconciling purpose. We may gather all the ways under two heads.
1. God reconciles by removing the hindrances.
2. God reconciles by persuading the offenders. For both Christ is the Agency. He takes "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us out of the way, nailing it to his cross." He could say, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Plead, in conclusion, that God's reconciling mercies, embodied in Christ Jesus, ought to be a mighty persuasion on us to yield ourselves to him. They should say in our hearts, "Be ye reconciled to God." - R.T.
I. WHO ARE CHRIST'S AMBASSADORS? Probably the language is most justly applicable to the apostles only, inasmuch as their commission and credentials were altogether special. An ambassador owes his importance, not to himself, but to the power he represents, the message he bears. The preachers of Christ are all heralds, if they cannot be designated ambassadors. They may learn hence the dignity of their office and their personal unworthiness and insufficiency, and they may be admonished as to the imperative duty of fidelity.
II. BY WHAT COURT ARE THESE AMBASSADORS COMMISSIONED? They are the ministers of the King of heaven, and their authority is that of the King's Son. Thus their mission is one entrusted by a superior power and authority; and not only so, it is from an offended and outraged power. This appears when we consider -
III. TO WHOM THESE AMBASSADORS ARE SENT. Properly speaking, an ambassador is one accredited to a power sovereign and equal to that from whom he comes. But in this case the resemblance fails in this respect, inasmuch as the ministers of the gospel address themselves to offenders, to rebels, to those who cannot treat with Heaven upon equal terms, or any terms of right.
IV. WHOSE SUBSTITUTES ARE THESE AMBASSADORS? They act "on Christ's behalf," "in Christ's stead." The Lord himself first came upon an embassage of mercy. He has entrusted to his apostles, and in a sense to all his ministers, the office and trust of acting as his representatives, in so far as they publish the declaration and offer of Divine mercy.
V. WHAT IS THE COMMISSION WHICH THESE AMBASSADORS ARE SENT TO EXECUTE? It is an office of mercy. Their duty is to publish the tidings of redemption, the offer of pardon, and themselves to urge and to entreat men that they accept the gospel and thus enjoy the blessings of reconciliation with God. - T.
I. THE DUTIES OF AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST.
(1) Not to originate their message.
(2) Not to think lightly of their mission.
(3) Not to seek their own glory.
(4) Not to aim at their own comfort and pleasure as a chief object.
(5) Not to depart from their instructions. Not to add to them nor take away.
(1) To go where they are sent.
(2) To communicate the mind of their Lord.
(3) To defend his honour.
(4) To be influenced by the welfare of his kingdom.
(5) To make their Master's business pre-eminent.
(6) To strive in every way to qualify themselves for their work.
(7) To endeavour to do their work in the best possible way.
(8) To endure loss and suffering rather than the interests of their Master's kingdom should be prejudiced.
II. THE MESSAGE OF THE AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST.
1. That God loves men.
2. That he has given Christ for men. A vast proof of love! The first step was on God's side. Whilst we were enemies Christ died for us.
3. That Christ willingly gave himself for men. The death of Christ was perfectly voluntary.
4. That by the death of Christ God has provided the means for the perfect reconciliation of the world to himself. In the death of Christ God does reconcile; i.e. he removes every obstacle to reconciliation. Justification is fully prepared for the sinner. Christ was made sin for us (ver. 21). He bore our sins. Our sins were imputed to him. God's justice was satisfied. Christ is made our Substitute, and this so perfectly that what we are is imputed to him, and what he is is imputed to us. He takes our sins; we take his righteousness. No hindrance to complete restoration thus remains, except hindrance which may lie in the human heart itself.
5. That God earnestly invites men to be reconciled to him. Amazing condescension! The climax of Divine love! "As though God were entreating" (ver. 20).
III. HOW THE MESSAGE IS TO BE CONVEYED.
1. With courtesy.
2. With intense earnestness. It is momentous. What issues depend upon its acceptance or rejection!
3. With zealous pleading.
IV. HOW AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST ARE TO BE REGARDED.
1. As speaking on behalf of Christ.
2. As declaring the mind of God. - H.
2 Corinthians 5:212 Corinthians 5:21. The Sinless counted as a sinner. We give but the bare outline of a course of thought on this subject, because it is so suggestive of controversial theological topics, and can be treated from the points of view of several distinct theological schools.
I. CHRIST AS A SINLESS MAN. What proofs of this have we? And how does such sinlessness separate him from man and ensure his acceptance with God?
II. THE SINLESS CAN NEVER, IN FACT, BE OTHER THAN SINLESS. Neither God nor man can be deceived into regarding Christ as a sinner. No exigencies of theology may make us speak of God as regarding Christ as other than he was.
III. THE SINLESS CAN TAKE, AS A BURDEN ON HEART AND EFFORT, THE SINS OF OTHERS. Show fully in what senses this can be done.
IV. WITH SIN THUS ON HIM, A SINLESS MAN MAY SUBMIT TO BE TREATED AS IF HE WERE HIMSELF A SINNER.
V. WHEN THE SINLESS MAN THUS TAKES THE SINS OF OTHERS ON HIM HE BEARS THE SIN ALTOGETHER AWAY. Jesus took up the matter of our sin that it might be a hindrance and trouble to us no more forever. - R.T.