Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
Christ's Acts of Love the Christian's Model.
I. Christ took our flesh that in it He might go up and down among us; that in it He might be seen by us; that in it He might speak to us, and leave deeds and words which might, in characters of love, be traced in our souls, and there live on for ever. He came among us in order to set before us, in His own Divine person, the loveliness, and beauty, and majesty of Divine love and Divine holiness. The life of Christ is the whole sum of the Christian's life. Whatever holiness the Holy Spirit has wrought in any of the saints is wrought after that pattern. By meditating on that life, we live with Him, converse with Him, enter into His holy and hallowing society. Through studying Him we know how to follow Him; through following Him we understand what we study. And so, by a continual round, the contemplation of Him kindles our souls to long to be like Him and to copy Him; to copy Him enlightens our eyes, and clears away the film which dims their sight; and that sight, through His Spirit, transforms our spirits into the likeness of Him whom we behold.
II. And now what should we so behold, so adore, so copy, as the love of Jesus in act, in word, in thought? Our love must be (1) supernatural, (2) self-sacrificing; (3) it must embrace all whom Christ loves; (4) it must not be deterred by that which is repugnant to nature.
E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 197.
References: Ephesians 5:1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1725; J. H. Thorn, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, 2nd series, p. 61; Homilist, vol. i., p. 241; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 239. Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, p. 158; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 347; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 156.
Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:8I. "Walk in love." Here we have a command founded upon a reason: "Walk in love, as Christ hath loved us." Yes, of all forces love is the most powerful as a force to act upon others. Pure, disinterested love is all but irresistible, all but, not quite; for if it were quite irresistible, then the world had been converted long ago. I think St. Augustine was right when he said that the most wonderful thing he knew was that God could love man so much, and man could love God so little. It looks sometimes as if God had never loved the world, as if Jesus had never died for the world, as if there were no such thing as love at all.
II. But then we come to the other command: "Walk as children of light." Now light, of course, is put for knowledge, as darkness is put for ignorance. Well, the light shows us what otherwise could not be seen; it reveals to us what otherwise were unknown. Now the one who walks as a child of light sees the things that it is needful for him to behold, if he too would avoid the perils, would escape the evils, of the journey, and direct his way aright towards the everlasting home. But then, again, remember that the light shines. It falls on others. The child of light not only walks wisely and safely, but he shines; he is a reflected light, not like the sun, which shines with its own inherent intrinsic light, but like the planets, which shine with borrowed light. It is Christ shining on them and in them which makes Christian people to walk as children of light.
Bishop Walsham How, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 161.
Reference: Ephesians 5:4.—A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 296.
Ephesians 5:6Light-hearted Wickedness.
I. Trifling with sin is open disobedience to God. No one can say that the directions of our heavenly Father are not very plain on this subject. There is no disguise in His word; there is nothing that can be misunderstood. All through the Bible, like a low, rolling thunder, as it were, afar off, is heard this utterance from heaven: "Because of these things cometh the wrath of God." Neither is there any disguise in the acts of His providence. Here, if anywhere, we see His visible hand. In the decrepitude of tainted lives, in the disappearance of polluted races, is written with large letters in His own hand that "because of these things cometh the wrath of God."
II. The certainty of God's wrath on sin. The deception of vain words with regard to it takes, I suppose, this form: Is God's wrath so certain? Are we sure we see it? Are there not so many instances of evil lives unpunished as greatly to qualify that certainty? I would ask you, first of all, to notice that St. Paul by no means says, "The wrath of God is come." He says, "It will come," or more exactly, "It is coming," and while we do say that God's displeasure is already very visible and not to be mistaken, we say also that there is no reason to think that even where it has been most visible it is spent or exhausted.
III. St. Paul speaks of disobedience, and he speaks of punishment, as for outsiders, not for those to whom he directly writes. To them he uses different arguments: sin and trifling with sin in word or jest for them are not convenient, i.e., not appropriate. What is appropriate for them is that which becometh saints. They have no consciousness henceforth of guilty secrets, nor even of doubtful acts and words. This is the actual service of God; this is a happy service: killing with a good will evil inclinations which we have determined and vowed to kill, carefully preserving, carefully gaining, all old, all new, ideas and habits which we have proved tend to holiness, or which we have reason to believe will help us still onward.
Archbishop Benson, Boy Life, p. 126.
Reference: Ephesians 5:6.—F. Exton, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 64.
Ephesians 5:8Light in the Lord.
I. "Ye were darkness." Assuredly these words ought not to apply to us at all in the same sense in which they applied to the Ephesians, brought into fellowship as we are at our baptisms with Him who is the Light no less than the Life of men and who illuminated them. They ought not to apply to us, and yet must not each of us set our seal to these words as in their measure only too true of him during all the time that he failed to realise to the full his baptismal privileges and the things which were freely given him of God? And if we are now light, is it any other than light in the Lord? We have tried, some of us, what it is to walk by some other light than His, in sparks of our own kindling, or following those foolish fires which, born of earth, can never guide to heaven, and on earth itself can only mislead and betray. We too have discovered that there is only one light for man, and that light is in Him who is Himself the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
II. If it be asked, What are the sins which the children of light are, so to speak, by their very name pledged to renounce, and what the graces which, by their very name, they are pledged to follow after? I should not hesitate to say that this name does, in the first place, exclude, or ought to exclude, on the part of them that bear it, all fraud, falsehood, trickery, untruthfulness in word or deed; does demand on their parts uprightness, sincerity, straightforwardness, and manly truthfulness of dealing as between man and his brother. You are children of light, and the vocation of the children of light is to remove the darkness, not to share it. This you must do, or if you fail to do it, be sure that a day is coming when the light into which you were called, but in which you refused to walk, shall reprove you and make manifest your deeds, that they were not wrought in God.
R. C. Trench, Sermons in Ireland, p. 133.
References: Ephesians 5:8.—J. Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 10; J. Fraser, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 189; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 142; Obbard, Plain Sermons, p. 134. Ephesians 5:8-10.—E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 127. Ephesians 5:8-32.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., pp. 86, 88, 89.
Ephesians 5:9The Fruit of Light.
We ought to read, "The Fruit of Light." It is all about light and darkness, as we see here. "Spirit" has been introduced instead of the word "light." The text should read, "The fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth."
I. Christ is the revealed God. Me came into the world to brighten it. The true Light now shines; it has continued and spread; it is going all round the world. There is light in the book; there is no such book of light anywhere as the Bible. But God has not put the light in His book merely, but in His people, that are called lights in the world.
II. How does the light tell? Why, by its simple presence. It reproves and exposes the darkness just by its presence. It has no need to make an assault on the darkness and say, "I am opposed to you and going to put you out"; it just puts it out by existing. The light from above shines into the hearts of believers, and that light is to be exhibited to men in their characters, and dispositions, and lives. Three words are here used to describe the fruit of the light, that is to say, three aspects of the Christian character: the good; the right; the true. (1) Goodness. Of course it is a comprehensive term opposed to all evil, but especially to all malice. St. Paul obviously means here kindness in feeling and act: kindness in feeling, which we call benevolence; kindness in act or deed, which we call beneficence. We want this living inherent goodness in ourselves, and then ours will be good deeds, goodness which finds its loving outlet without difficulty in words or works or patient and unselfish kindness. (2) What is the second point? Righteousness. That is opposed to all crookedness and dishonesty, and it is inseparable from the highest types of goodness. This is the very strength of our religion: that it maintains the eternal rule of right and twines its tenderness and its hopefulness round about the immutable pillars of justice. (3) Truth. Of course this is opposed to lying, which is one of the works of darkness, and must be put away. God desires truth in the inward parts, and He knows that naturally we have not got it. He puts truth into our heart by putting Christ into it.
D. Fraser, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 344.
Reference: Ephesians 5:11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 137.
Ephesians 5:13The Light of God.
I. Light comes from God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all; and therefore He wishes to give light to His children. He willeth not that the least of them should be kept in darkness about any matter. Darkness is of the devil; and he who keeps any human soul in darkness, let his pretences be as reverent and as religious as they may, is doing the devil's work. True, there are errors of which we will not speak to the young, but they are not made by God; they are the works of darkness. Our duty is to teach the young what God has made, what He has done, what He has ordained, to make them freely partakers of whatsoever light God has given to us. Then, by means of that light, they will be able to reprove the works of darkness.
II. Under the influence of true science, God will no longer be looked upon, as He was in those superstitions which we call dark, as a proud, angry, capricious Being, as a stern Taskmaster, as One far removed from the sympathy of men, but as One of whom we may cheerfully say, Thy name be hallowed, for Thy name is Father; Thy kingdom come, for it is a Father's kingdom; Thy will be done, for it is a Father's will, and in doing Thy will alone men claim their true dignity of being the sons of God.
III. Our progress, alas! is not yet perfect. We still see through a glass darkly, and we are still too apt to impute to God Himself the darkness of these very hearts of ours in which He is so dimly mirrored. Let the dead bury their dead, and let us follow Christ. Believe indeed that He is the likeness of God's glory and the express image of God's person, and you will be safe from the dark dreams with which men ensnare diseased and superstitious consciences. Let them be. Light is stronger than darkness, love stronger than cruelty, perfect God stronger than fallen man, and the day shall come when all shall be light in the Lord.
C. Kingsley, Sermons for the Times, p. 160.
References: Ephesians 5:13, Ephesians 5:14.—C. Kingsley, National Sermons, p. 190. Ephesians 5:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 716; R. W. Church, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 233; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 213; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 376; vol. viii., p. 227; C. J. Vaughan, Words of Hope, p. 137.
Ephesians 5:15Christian Prudence.
I. We Christians were never meant to be remiss and insensible; Christ came to redeem and renew us in every legitimate faculty and every salutary use of it. It was never intended that the world should go onward in improvement and the Church should stand still. The redemption of Jesus Christ was wrought to comprehend man's whole nature and man's whole history; there is no lawful advance of mankind, no wholesome invention, which the Church may not include in its instruments for God's glory, and by neglecting which it does not lose space and power for its work, no symptom of the state of men's minds and of society which it ought not to turn to account for its high purposes.
II. We need to walk circumspectly both in belief and in practice. We have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by more search, more light, more intelligence, surer ground. Every new discovery, every new good argument, will serve, not damage, Christ and His work. Here, then, let us walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Lament not, stand not aloof from, the questioning, searching spirit of the age; but take it and use it for good. In practice also we need many a circumspect walking as to both the good and the bad habits and influences around us. There are better things in life than being rich, than being powerful, than being notable. Measure thyself, not by thy wishes, but by thy graces; not by thine ambition, but by thy capacities. Strive to do what thou canst do well, and to serve when thou canst serve with a pure conscience; but aim not at duties which thou canst/never thoroughly perform, and at offices which thou canst not satisfactorily fill. If we are walking circumspectly, can we avoid hearing such voices as these sounding about us? If we are not fools, but wise, shall we not admit them to a place in our counsels and in the formation of our plans in life?
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 136.
References: Ephesians 5:15.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 172; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 25; F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 110; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 203. Ephesians 5:15, Ephesians 5:16.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. x., p. 353.
Ephesians 5:16-17Redeeming the Time.
I. The words of the text in the English version have become proverbial, "Redeeming the time"; but the words of the original, although they would hardly bear to be differently translated, are even more expressive: buying up the opportunity; not missing anything of what the passing moment has to give. And if the call is significant, so also is the reason of the call: "because the days are evil." To some men the feeling that they have fallen on evil days has an enervating and paralysing effect. They spend their time in inquiring why the former days were better than these, or torment themselves and others with timorous apprehensions concerning the future. Not so reasoned, not so acted, the leaders of the early Christian congregation. Although "the days darkened round them, and the years;" although they thought that the world in which they lived was doomed to destruction, coming suddenly in an instant; yet this made to them only more imperative the duty of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven, of using this world as not abusing it, of living to the glory of God. And if the same spirit is amongst us still, making those who partake of it in any measure to be as He was in the world, it will be like a sharp goad within them, ever driving them onward to "redeem the time." It is true that as individuals severally we can do very little; but that is the reason why we should all together resolve to be up and doing, to awake and live.
II. The Apostle warns us that in order to redeem the time, to buy up the opportunity, we must seek to understand the problem of our age; in other words, we must ask what our Lord would have us do as Christians. We cannot err in thinking that God is calling us in this present age to diffuse as widely as possible every element of good; to draw class and class together, or rather to draw together man and man; to diffuse the treasure that was saved to us in the ark of the early Church; to bring all the rays of goodness and truth that shine upon us from the past or from distant lands into one focus, to harmonise them through a liberal application of the Spirit of Christ. Let us then make full use of the opportunity, and eagerly buy up the golden hours while they last, in the deeply grounded hope and faith that even this age may be made a means of blessing to the coming ages. The Christian aim and motive are not bounded by the horizon of time, and we believe that every true endeavour on the side of good, every right word and noble act, though it may fail of earthly continuance, though it may find no acceptance amongst men, has yet a place among the eternal things, and is of enduring value in the sight of God.
L. Campbell, The Christian Ideal, p. 223.
References: Ephesians 5:15-17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 31. Ephesians 5:15-21.—Ibid., vol. ii., p. 302.
Ephesians 5:16I. "The days are evil." They are felt to be so (1) on this account, for one thing: that they are subject to so many things which are out of men's power, independent of their will and control. They are liable to have so many untoward things happening to them, which no one can prevent or even foresee. (2) Another point of experience to the same effect is that the days are darkened by spectacles of evil, especially to persons of much moral and religious sensibility. (3) Men as individuals are forced to feel that their days are affected by the general evils of the times; and there is to each one more or less the share of the evils of mortal life: the bodily disorders and pains; the cares; the disappointments; the afflictive deprivations. (4) The uncertainty of our days may be regarded as in some respects an evil circumstance. (5) All the days partake of death.
II. "Redeeming the time." The evils incident to the days render it a very difficult thing effectually to redeem the time; they form a grand conspiracy to waste and devastate it, to seize and plunder it from us. But this all enforces so much the more the benefit, the obligation, the necessity, to redeem it. (1) To this end, it is of the highest importance that time should be a reality in our perception and estimate; that we should verify it as an actual something, like a substance to which we can attach a positive value, and see it as wasting or as improved as palpably as the contents of a granary or as one of the precious metals. (2) Another main thing towards redeeming the time is this: to keep in mind certain important purposes or objects that absolutely must be attained. Nothing short of the redemption of the soul is the true and effectual redemption of time, and this object gives the supreme rule for the redeeming of time. Let us apply this rule, and implore the Divine Spirit to make its authority irresistible upon us.
J. Foster, Lectures, vol. ii., p. 93.
References: Ephesians 5:16—W. Baird, The Hallowing of our Common Life, p. 6; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, p. 45; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 55; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 153; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 126; M. Nicholson, Redeeming the Time, p. 1.
Ephesians 5:17Christian Discernment of God's Will.
I. The great thing after which an intelligent Christian should strive as his daily guide in life is, not a diplomatic reference to the literal text of Scripture, still less to this or that tenet or watchword of a party or system, but a large measure of the spirit which was in Christ—the spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind, that he should walk and live not a fettered man, subject to a few forms of words never perhaps examined as to their true sense, but a free man, consulting and judging and determining for himself by the help of God's word, ready, in case of emergency or difficulty, to act on his own behalf, for the good of others, and for God's glory in all, without that hesitation which sacrifices opportunity, without that scrupulousness which is the death of energy and the worst omen for success; that he should be able to fulfil, at all the turns and occasions of life, that Scripture command, the very secret of all real action and abiding good, "Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
II. Let us not be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is, as regards our fellow-countrymen. They want the means of grace; let us be wise in time, and supply them. It is our duty to cast aside all punctilious adherence to conventionalities which will repulse them and to try every expedient which God has placed in our power to bring the Gospel of Christ under their notice. We know it to be the only remedy for their social and moral ends; let us be eager and in earnest in applying that remedy.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, p. 80.
References: Ephesians 5:17.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii.,p. 190. Ephesians 5:17, Ephesians 5:18.—W. B. Pope, Sermons, p. 231.
Ephesians 5:18Christianity and Temperance.
St. Paul here contrasts two kinds of excitement. God does not love the sort of languid and lazy being which nothing stirs, and nothing stimulates. Excitement has its place in the Christian system. That flow and rush of the natural spirits which is so dear to youth and health, finding expression alike in the games of the boy and in the recreations of the man, is not in itself a wrong thing. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ makes room for it.
I. St. Paul introduces the particular precept of the text in subordination to two others. One is the precept of charity, and the other is the precept of purity. St. Paul knew how to keep the proportion of Christian morals as well as of Christian doctrines, and never misplaced and never exaggerated in the enumeration or in the enforcement of particular vices and virtues. At last he reaches the text, which comes in as an example of that circumspect and accurate walking, "not as fools, but as wise," which suits those who live, as we all live, in evil days, that is, days of great peril, arising out of strong temptation: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."
II. In fighting against drunkenness, we fight against vice of every kind and of all kinds. The war which lames one antagonist is virtually the war against a legion. We must be filled with the Spirit. Of all the treasures of the Church in this age surely this is the greatest and the most prevailing; and surely of all the crimes of this age the greatest is not the disregard of Christ the Propitiator, but the neglect of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. How faint and intermittent are our prayers for the Spirit; how feeble and how vacillating is our hold upon His presence. We would force ourselves back into the days of Christ's flesh, or at the best we would sit for ever at the foot of the cross or at the mouth of the rich man's tomb, closed, sealed, and watched. We will not live in the light of the great Easter, and we will not bask in the sunshine of the great Pentecost, and therefore it is that we live this half-life, downcast, disconsolate, and sin-bound, and never listen to the experience which tells of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus setting us free from the law of sin and death.
C. J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 308.
References: Ephesians 5:18.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. x., p. 589; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. viii., p. 163. Ephesians 5:19.—F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 305; Ibid., Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 121; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 56.
Ephesians 5:20I. The duty of giving thanks is that duty which of all others may be declared natural to man, and which can be declined by none but those whose dispositions almost prove themselves not human. Men are capable of gratitude and well accustomed to give it expression, but, through some mysterious blindness or perverseness, they overlook or deny the prime Benefactor, and, recognising not His hand, they give Him no praise. There are two reasons to be given for this phenomenon. (1) The first is the practical atheism which loses sight of a First Cause, and idolises second causes; the second is the repugnance there is in our nature to own itself dependent.
II. The duty of thanksgiving becomes still more evident when we consider the subject matter of gratitude. Look (1) at the small or everyday mercies. There is no stronger evidence of human littleness than the disposition to overlook this or that thing as little. God cannot give what is small; He can give nothing which required not Christ's blood as its purchase money. And shall a favour which was worth the Crucifixion, a favour which Deity could not have granted unless Deity had taken flesh—shall this be defined as small by our narrow arithmetic? (2) We also owe God thanks for what men count evils. The advantages of affliction are so many and great, affliction serving as medicine to the soul, and medicine being so needful to souls diseased with sin, that we have reason, not only to be content, but to rejoice in all the crosses and vexations with which we meet. Let a man be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and he will not fail, if visited by troubles, to believe and feel that "all things work together for good," and therefore to class afflictions amongst benefits.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2204.
The Duty of Thankfulness in all Things.
I. Each person has some one particular trial under which he is not disposed to be thankful, but secretly to complain. He is inclined to think that this trouble or trial is of all others that which is the most difficult for him to bear, that any other than that which oppresses him he could bear with patience. It is very likely the case that the trial which he labours under is indeed of all others the severest to him.. The most obvious reason why our heavenly Father sends any trial or affliction upon us is, doubtless, often this: to draw our hearts off from the world and to fix them more upon Himself. The point, therefore, in which He is most likely to disappoint, and therefore to distress, each one of us is that on which our worldly hearts are most set, for there our particular danger most lies. Many are the cases of this kind in which we may see that the trial which is put upon us may indeed be the very hardest for us to bear with thankfulness. We must make such trials a subject of prayer, and if we continue to do this, praying that God's will may be done in us, and not our own, they will at length become subjects of praise also. If we had nothing to lament, we should have nothing to desire.
II. As far as this world is in our hearts, we may well go mourning and disquieted all our days, and see in all things great and small and in all persons matter of complaint; and if we live in this temper, doubtless we shall die in it, and if we die in it, we shall be no company for happy angels, but rather for unhappy and lost spirits, for of him who loves the world we know that the love of the Father is not in him. It may be said that a thankful spirit is a happy spirit; but this temper is required of us, both because this thankfulness is in itself a great duty to our heavenly Father, and because we shall never be able to fulfil our great and important duties to God and our neighbour without it.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 217.
I. That many things are occasions of thankfulness to God all will naturally allow, but that in Jesus Christ we are to give thanks for all things and at all times sounds almost strange in our ears, and we too little consider how very certain and how very important this duty is. If we will only remember what it is that all true religion consists in, as set before us in the Bible, we shall perceive how very necessary a part of it is thankfulness, not as an occasional feeling, or to be called forth by particular circumstances only, but for all things and at all times. Every Christian is required to love God with all his heart, and soul, and strength, and he who does this, or sincerely endeavours to do so, will be thankful, not merely for one thing only that God sends, and murmur at another, but will be thankful for all things that his heavenly Father is pleased to give him. For this is the very nature of love; he who loves another will receive anything from him, not weighing the value of the gift, but receiving it with welcome because it comes from him he loves. And the love of God implies the fullest confidence and rest in His infinite goodness and a full assurance that He ever gives that which is best for us.
II. If we consider all religion to consist in faith, we must still come to the same conclusion. And if there is any misgiving, any difficulty, any impossibility, of being cured and benefited by Him, it is on account of our want of faith. So far, therefore, as we have this faith, it is very evident that we shall give thanks for all things at all times. No Christian can have life without this love of God and this faith in Him, and no one can have this love and faith without being always thankful; and, therefore, every Christian must be always thankful. No one can be truly thankful but he who is humble; and we cannot be humble unless we mourn constantly for our sins. Let us give thanks to God always for all things, not only for the daily comforts which He showers down upon us, but, above all, giving Him thanks for His fatherly chastisements.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 211.
References: Ephesians 5:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1094; W. V. Robinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 13; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 406. Ephesians 5:22-24.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 17.
Ephesians 5:22-31On Marriage.
I. Consider how the earthly and the heavenly views of Christian marriage which the Apostle presents to us are thoroughly one, and cannot be separated. It was an old delusion that the Christian who wished to give himself up to the influences of the Spirit, to obtain the salvation of his soul, and to win even in this life something higher than its transitory things, could do no better than to withdraw himself as far as possible from this world and to flee at once from its pleasures and its business, its sufferings and its cares. From this delusion arose a long-continued and mistaken idea of looking on the holy state of matrimony. How very far is this delusion from being sanctioned by the Apostle's words. For when he points to the connection between Christ and the Church, is that union in any sense identified with a morbid contemplative life? Must it not have cost the Lord toil to take captive all these thousands? It is only in common, social life that men's happiness and well-being have room to grow, and only by a judicious division of work that each becomes distinctly conscious of his own powers; and so also it is only through this Divine arrangement that we find out what special gifts the Spirit of God has created in each family, and both husband and wife, earnestly working together at their everyday duty, at once find out what is their own work and enjoy their work in the vineyard of the Lord.
II. While there is in these two sides of marriage a great apparent dissimilarity, it is needful that we be convinced that even this dissimilarity resolves itself into the most perfect likeness. Look, first, at the dissimilarity. When the Apostle says husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, we know that this is a love which not only permits, but requires, love in return, seeing how constantly we are exhorted to love Him who has so greatly loved us; but we know also that it is, from another point of view, a love that is raised far above all reciprocal love, seeing that the Church cannot in any way repay Christ, her Redeemer, and can do nothing for Him, but only go on receiving from Him a more and more complete redemption. Now if, in the same way, the wife can do nothing for her husband, but be always receiving from him, then the wife is in a bad case as regards the husband, and the woman is always at a disadvantage. But let us remember that it is impossible for a comparison between Christ and men to apply at every point; and of course the relation of wife to her husband cannot in every particular present a parallel to that of the Church to Christ. Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her; the husband is to take this self-sacrificing love as his example, gladly returning from his wider circle in the busy world to the quiet of his fireside, there to share with the wife of his heart all that is purifying or elevating in what he has met or done or felt. And thus in their life together will be more and more fully realised that which is only promised to the Church in her relation to Christ in the distant future, that we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is, as the wife, without leaving her quiet, modest sphere, becomes ever more like her husband, because she both understands and influences him in all his ways and actions.
F. Schleiermacher, Selected Sermons, p. 130.
References: Ephesians 5:22-31.—W. E. Colles, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 99. Ephesians 5:23.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 265. Ephesians 5:25.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 44; H. P. Hughes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxv., p. 266.
Ephesians 5:25-27I. The love of Christ. None of us, it is truly said, is a stranger to this master emotion of the human soul. Flowing through the earth like streams amid desert sands, shining in life's darkest nights like stars in a wintry sky, throwing its bright bow over every cloud of fortune, this world owes to love more than to anything else what blessedness it enjoys. Life without it would not be worth the having; and without it, though we had a house, and that house a palace, we could not have a home. In human love we see much to admire, but in that of God there is a something that eludes our grasp when we endeavour to fathom it, and which baffles our conception as we try to find it out. God only knows the love of God.
II. The practicalness of Christ's love. He not only loved the Church, but He gave Himself for her. It is an easy thing to make great profession of affection; it is quite another thing to carry out and prove our profession. Christ was not only a Preacher, but a Sacrifice.
III. The sublime design of His love: "That He might sanctify and cleanse His Church with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church." Christ loved the world before ever there was a Church in it, and determined, out of the very ruins of the Fall, to build up for Himself a temple worthy of being inhabited by Himself. He saw the resplendent future to which she was heir by His grace, and so He loved the Church. (1) The Divine Spirit is the efficient cause of this cleansing, but the word or the Gospel is the instrumental cause; the Spirit accomplishes His work of cleansing by means of the truth. (2) That He might present her to Himself a glorious Church—glorious in her position, immunities, and honour, not having a spot, for the redeemed shall be without fault before the throne. No wrinkle of decay shall mar her countenance, or blemish of sin.
J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 976.
References: Ephesians 5:25-27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 628; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 80; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 376; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 13; Sermons on the Catechism, pp. 184, 197; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 101. Ephesians 5:27.—Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, p. 95. Ephesians 5:30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1153; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 101. Ephesians 5:31.—W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 353.
Ephesians 5:32Sacramental Mysteries.
I. The question of baptismal grace—when it is conferred, or the conditions upon which it is conferred at all; the manner in which the body and blood of Christ are really and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper; the nature of that union which consequently takes place between Christ and the soul—all this is veiled and shrouded. We have no reason to believe that God intended these things to be exactly defined; we have no warrant, even if we had ideas, to deal with things so exquisitely pure and intensely spiritual. Why wish to take them out of the regions of pure faith? And yet man and man's tribunals are called upon to reduce these matters to the exactness of a science, and clothe them in terms which shall carry along with them a legal criticism.
II. Mark one or two aspects in which marriage shadows out Christ and the Church. The bride surrenders all her property to the man, and hence calls nothing her own; the bride submits her dependence to the man, calling him lord and master. Her very life from that moment runs in his; and, according to the strictness of law, she can have no private right, she can hold no separate existence, she loses herself, and lives only in her husband: while, on the other hand, he undertakes for her in all things. She bears his name; she claims his love; she shares his property: he represents her before the world; he is responsible to pay all her debts; he provides her all she wants. So Christians have no independence, but find it far happier to lean only upon Christ; they cannot order their own steps, but it is far belter that Christ should order them for them. He steps forward as their Representative; their place is at His side; their home is in His happiness. Far from heaven they can never be, for they can never be divided from Him; and His word has gone forth in covenant love that where He is they shall be for ever and for ever.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 41.
References: Ephesians 5:32.—A. G. Maitland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 398; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2624. Ephesians 6:1.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 149. Ephesians 6:1, Ephesians 6:2.—W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 408.
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.