And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE PAST: THE CHRISTIAN IS WASHED FROM MORAL FOULNESS. The language of this passage must have gone home with power to some hearts: "Such were some of you!" They had indulged in sins of the flesh and of the spirit, in vices which were deemed pardonable, and in vices which were deemed vile, in transgressions against their own nature and against society. Some had been notorious and flagrant, others ordinary, offenders. But all had contracted moral defilement. And what had Christianity done for them? What has it done for all to whom it has come? It has purified them from their old sins. "Ye were washed." The lustration of baptismal waters was a symbol of the purification wrought in the spirit by the redemption of Christ, by the Holy Spirit of God.
II. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE PRESENT: THE CHRISTIAN IS RENEWED IN HOLINESS. Forgiveness and cleansing from impurity may justly be regarded as the means to an end; i.e. to hallowing or sanctification. This is the positive, to which the other is the negative, side. Set free from vice and crime, the subject of the Divine power of the cross comes under a new and inspiring influence. The Holy Spirit creates the nature afresh. No inferior power is adequate to produce a change so vast. It is a proof of the Divine origin and adaptation of Christianity that it attempts and achieves a task so superhuman. These moral miracles of sanctification constitute an evidence of Christianity which is to many minds the most conclusive of all.
III. A BLESSING AS RESPECTS THE FUTURE: THE CHRISTIAN IS JUSTIFIED FROM CONDEMNATION. The expression employed refers to the government of God and our relation to it. Justification is acquittal at the bar of the righteous Judge. By anticipation Scripture represents this acquittal as already pronounced in the case of those who have accepted the terms of salvation. For such the Name of Jesus Christ avails, and in such the Spirit of God graciously works. Justification is conferred now; but the full benefit of it will appear by contrast in the day of judgment.
1. The question is suggested to every hearer of the gospel - Could the apostle have used this language with reference to me? Are the signs of this mighty change manifest in my life?
2. The reflection is suggested to those who have experienced this moral transformation - How wonderful and how effectual is the grace of God! How vast is the debt of gratitude we owe to the Father who loved us, the Saviour who redeemed us, the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us! - T.
And such were some of you, but ye are washed... sanctified... Justified.
I. THE PAST STATE OF THE REDEEMED. "And such were some of you."
1. They were void of moral rectitude. Their conscience was burdened with guilt.
2. They were subject to impure influences. Their affections were defiled. When conscience loses its authority there is nothing to prevent the soul becoming the slave of the most debasing influences.
3. They were slaves of wrong habits. "Their deeds were evil." When both the conscience and affections are wrong, the deeds must be inconsistent with truth and righteousness.
4. They were incapable of spiritual enjoyment. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" The unrighteous have no capacity, taste, or fitness for it.
II. THE PRESENT STATE OF THE REDEEMED "But ye are washed," &c. Note —
1. The change.(1) An initiatory act. "But ye are washed." There is probably an allusion here to baptism, the emblem of moral cleansing. But as the water of baptism cannot wash away sin, the apostle evidently refers to the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart.(2) A progressive development. "But ye are sanctified." This does not imply faultless perfection, but consecration. Christian graces, like living plants, gradually mature.
3. A beautiful completion. "But ye are justified." This act, though mentioned last, is generally considered the first. There are three great causes at work in man's justification.(1) The merits of Christ. "Being justified freely by His grace," &c.(2) The faith of the believer. "Man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."(3) The influence of the Holy Spirit. "And by the Spirit of our God." Think of a man who, having fallen overboard, is carried away by the current. At last a rope is thrown towards him — he eagerly grasps it — and he is thereby rescued. We have here a combination of causes. The kind friend who threw the rope — the rope itself — and the man's own eager grasp. Thus the Saviour's merits, the penitent's faith, and the influence of the Spirit are necessary to secure the salvation of the soul.
2. The means. "In the name of the Lord Jesus." Nothing but that has sufficient power to change the heart.
3. The agency. And by "the Spirit of our God." It is He that gives effect to the word preached — moves the heart, destroys the yoke of sin, and creates the man a new creature in Christ Jesus.
(J. H. Hughes.)I. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS ABUNDANTLY SUFFICIENT FOR SAVING THE GREATEST SINNERS.
1. The salvation of a sinner consists in his deliverance from the guilt and punishment of sin; and his recovery to the Divine image, i.e., his justification and his sanctification. Let either of these blessings be wanting, and his salvation would be unfinished. But in both these respects the gospel remedy is abundantly sufficient.
2. The instance in the text is to the point. Surely, if there could have been any sinners, whose case the gospel remedy would not reach, these Corinthians would have been the persons. If you require any more witnesses, look at many celebrated in the Scripture for their piety, and see what they had formerly been. What had the Ephesian converts been? (Ephesians 2:1, 3, 12.) What had Matthew, Onesimus, and St. Paul himself been? But for all these the gospel proved sufficient, for the thief upon the cross, for the jailer at Philippi, for thousands among the wicked Jews — for tens of thousands among the idolatrous Gentiles.
3. Let us then apply the truth —(1) For correcting a common error respecting others. When we see a person notoriously evil, how apt are we to speak of him as being past recovery! But remember that the same grace, which was sufficient for the Corinthians, will be sufficient for him.(2) For consolation and encouragement to convinced and humbled sinners. Are you filled with anxious fears for your safety? Well, suppose that your former state has been as bad as that of the Corinthians, yet He who saved them can save you. But while the truth speaks comfort to the penitent, it leaves the impenitent without excuse. Is the gospel sufficient for saving the greatest sinners? Then why do any of you continue in the practice of sin? Is it not plain that you "love darkness rather than light"; that you prefer slavery to freedom; that you "will not come to Christ, that you may have life"?
II. A MAN'S RELIGION IS TO BE TRIED, not by what he was, but by what he is.
1. True religion makes a real change in a man. Would we then know whether a man be truly religious or not, we must inquire what is his present conduct.
2. Let this truth then correct a too general practice. When a man begins to take up a serious profession of religion, nothing is more common than to hear all the irregularities of his former life charged against him as proofs of his present hypocrisy.
3. But while we apply this truth for correcting our wrong judgment of others, let us also use it for forming a right judgment of ourselves. Are we still the servants of sin? Or have we been made free from sin?
(E. Cooper, M. A.)
I. THE FEARFUL STATE OF UNCONVERTED MEN.
1. Nothing can be more clear than the doctrine of universal depravity; but this depravity exhibits itself under various aspects, and in various degrees. These Corinthians had been uncommonly vile. Nor they only. We know of the thief who was pardoned on the tree. This, indeed, is not uniformly the case. For in the characters of multitudes we see much that is pleasing, even the grace of God. There are many who are "not far from the kingdom," and who yet appear never to reach it.
2. We ought to regard the depravity of man with deep sorrow and compassion, but not with despair. The very glory of the gospel is that it is a message of pardon and mercy to the guilty, the bankrupt, and the undone. But perhaps some of you may despair, not of the conversion of others, but of your own. Such should remember these Corinthians, and the apostle who converted them.
II. THE RENEWED STATE OF THESE CORINTHIANS.
1. "Ye are washed." Since sanctification and justification are mentioned directly afterwards, perhaps this refers to baptism.
2. "Ye are sanctified," i.e., ye are more and more alienated from the world, and conformed to the image and the will of God.
3. "Ye are justified," i.e., your sins are pardoned, and you are accepted as righteous before God, through faith in Christ.
III. THE DIVINE METHOD OF SANCTIFICATION AND JUSTIFICATION HERE EXHIBITED. "In the name of the Lord Jesus" means —
1. Doing anything by the authority of Christ. "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name."
2. Doing anything for the honour of Christ: thus St. Paul says — "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," &c.
3. Receiving anything from the Father, through His dear Son: thus our Lord says — "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name," on account of My merits, "He will give it you." The text, then, teaches us that the only method by which we can approach God, the only method by which God can display His grace and love to man, is through Christ.
(G. Weight, M. A.)
(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
(J. R. Miller.)
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.There are marvellous transformations in the material as also in the moral world. Look in the material world. The full-fed maggot, that has rioted in filth till its tender skin seems ready to burst with repletion, when the appointed time arrives leaves the offensive matters it was ordained to assist in removing, and gets into some convenient hole or crevice; then its body contracts or shortens, and becomes egg-shaped, while the skin hardens, and turns brown and dry, so that, under this form, the creature appears more like a seed than a living animal; after some time passed in this inactive and equivocal form, during which wonderful changes have taken place within the seed-like shell, one end of the shell is burst off, and from the inside comes forth a buzzing fly, that drops its former filthy habits with its cast-off dress, and now, with a more refined taste, seeks only to lap the solid viands of our tables, or sip the liquid contents of our cups. Look again into the moral world. There you see a transformation as wonderful. The selfish debauchee, whose horrid taste has grubbed in every sort of immoral filth, and become habituated to the harsh, the cruel, and the dishonourable, has been brought into contact with the necessary spiritual conditions for a change, and behold from one stage to another he passes until at last his tastes are entirely altered, his existence is changed, and even he is able to soar in the light and purity of the world. Elsewhere, behold, the miser is transformed to the philanthropist, the coward into a hero. We watch the fly's aerial circlings in the sunbeam, and remember with wonder its degraded origin. The preacher looks over his congregation, and he sees those who have become noble and virtuous, he is able to take heart for new work; for as he remembers in their presence the debased and the wicked who are yet to be transformed, he says, "And such were some of you; but you are regenerated by the higher Power," and those others may be changed likewise.
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
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