Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim that anything comes from us, but our competence comes from God.
men firm, confident, bold; but always before God humble and dependent. The expression, "through Christ to God-ward," probably means "that our eyes are directed towards God, the Source of our confidence, and that it is through Jesus Christ alone that we possess the right thus to lean on him." Illustrate, from Old Testament Scriptures, the Jewish habit of mind which referred all events to God's direct working, confounding the cause with the agency. For instance, God is said to harden Pharaoh's heart, and to send a lying spirit among the prophets. Such direct reference of all things to God is characteristic of the imaginative, uncultured, superstitions ages; but, in intelligent form, it is found in Christianity. There is no confusion of power and agent, but behind agency the "power" is fully and humbly recognized. This we further unfold, noting the following points: -
I. IN CHRISTIANITY THE MAN STILL WORKS. God proposes to save the world by man. He does not use miracle, but deals with men as moral beings, subject to various moral influences arising from their relations one to another. Every man is a force upon his fellow man. Some, by reason of particular positions and endowments, exert great influence on other men. It is at once true that man must be saved by man, and that man cannot be saved by man. The paradox is not a difficult one to explain from the Christian point of view. Christianity asks, therefore, from every man three things.
1. The consecration of his talents and trusts.
2. The sanctifying of his relationships.
3. And the faithful use of his opportunities.
True of man in his ordinary life spheres, this is more especially true of man as occupied in the Christian ministry.
II. IN CHRISTIANITY THE MAN IS ONLY AGENT. He has no sort of independent authority. He is not fittingly likened to the plenipotentiary, who has a matter wholly committed to his judgment and decision. The Christian minister or worker is never free of his close and intimate relations with God. His "sufficiency" is never of himself.
1. He works for another, and has no self-seeking ends to gain.
2. He works at the will of another, holding himself ever in attitudes of dependent and submissive obedience, saying continually, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
3. He works in the strength of another, leaning upon the "everlasting arms." Taking these as characteristic features of the Christian ministry, it will be readily shown in what a marked way they contrast with the spirit of the self-depending and self-seeking worldly man. dick
III. IN CHRISTIANITY THE MAN IS ACTUALLY ENDUED WITH DIVINE POWER. "Our sufficiency is of God." It is this truth that needs such distinct assertion for the sake of the Christian worker himself, as well as for the sake of those to whom his work is a witness. The Christian is a man quickened with a new life; it is that "new life" which finds expression in his working. The Christian is a man sealed by the Holy Ghost, who dwells in him, and that Holy Ghost is his secret strength and inspiration. Two figures may be contrasted. The water flowing in pipes, and the sap flowing in the branch. The latter is the only figure that efficiently represents the relation of power and agency in the Christian worker, and it is the figure used by our Lord himself. The union and relation are such that, while the full manhood is retained, and even nourished into vigour, the vitality, the real force behind the manhood, and the direction of all details of action, are God's. The Christian conceives of himself as not even able to think anything as of himself, much less to do anything. He is "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." - R.T.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves... our sufficiency is of God.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS SUFFICIENCY. The sufficiency of God may be considered either as proper or communicative. By His proper sufficiency we mean that He is self-existent, self-sufficient, independently happy. It is, however, of the sufficiency of God in relation to His creatures that we have now to speak. He is sufficient —
1. For the preservation of the universe. "The heavens were made by Him, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth." And as nothing earthly has within it the power to sustain itself, tie upholdeth all things by the word of His power. Reason refers all this to the operation of second causes; piety looks through the complications of the mechanism to the hand that formed it. The whole universe is one vast laboratory of benevolent art, over every department of which Deity presides; a sanctuary, every part of which Deity inhabits — a circle, whose circumference is unfathomed, but whose every section is filled with God.
2. For the preservation and for the perpetuity of the gospel plan is the salvation and ultimate happiness of every individual believer.(1) Christianity is not to be viewed by us merely as a moral system; it is a course of Divine operations. We are not to regard it as a mere statement of doctrine, we must remember the Divine agency by which it is always conducted and inspired. Human eloquence and reasoning are persuasive and powerful things; they can charm a Herod, make a Felix tremble; but they can do no more. Inanimate truth can produce no abiding change. Pardon and sanctification are not the necessary consequences of statement of doctrine. Scripture cannot produce them. But let the Spirit animate it, and it has the power of God. Hearers who sit under the ministration of the truth without the Spirit may be likened to a man standing upon the brow of a hill, which commands the prospect of an extensive landscape. The varied beauties of field and dell are before him, but there is one drawback — the man is blind. So the truth is in the Bible, but the man has no eyes to see it. Prevailing truth is not of the letter, but of the Spirit (ver. 6).(2) There will be considerable difficulties about the mode of procedure. Man is a moral agent, and God has endowed him with talents, and invested him with an immense delegation of power in the distribution of those talents, in the exercise of that power. He has got such a respect for the will that He has placed within us, that He will never force an entrance. He will do everything else. But notwithstanding opposition, the gospel shall triumph. We can conceive of no enemies more powerful than those it has already vanquished. God is with the gospel — that is the great secret of its success. She does not trust in her inherent energy; She does not trust in her exquisite adaptation to the wants of men; she does not trust in the indefatigable and self-denying labours of her ministers. God is with the gospel, and under His guidance she shall march triumphantly forward reclaiming the world unto herself. And, oh, what a comfortable doctrine is this! If this gospel is thus to be conducted from step to step in its progressive march to triumph, I shall share, surely, in its succours and salvation by the way. It guarantees individual salvation and individual defence. Thy sufficiency is of God. What frightens thee — affliction? God is thy health. Persecution? God is thy crown. Perplexity? God is thy counsel. Death? God is thine everlasting life. Only trust in God, and all shall be well; life shall glide thee into death, and death shall glide thee into heaven.
II. THE AUTHORITY WHICH BELIEVERS HAVE TO EXPECT THIS SUFFICIENCY FOR THEMSELVES. We have a right to expect it, because it is found and promised in the Bible. It is not my Bible, your Bible, it is common property, it belongs to the universal Church.
1. Listen, "Thus saith the Lord, who created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel; fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name." Now think of all this, believers, past, present, and future, and then come and hear God saying, "I have called thee by thy name," to every one out of that mass; "Thou art not lost in the crowd. Thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; through the rivers — deeper than the waters — they shall not overflow thee," etc. "The Lord God is a sun and a shield," light and defence; we do not want much more in our passage. "He will give grace and glory"; and if any of you are so perversely clever that you can think of some blessing that is not wrapped up either in grace or glory, "No good thing shall He withhold from them that walk uprightly."
2. Are you still dissatisfied? God condescends to expostulate with you upon your unbelief. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speaketh, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord?" How often have you said that! Are you still distrustful? Then ponder Scripture examples — Abraham on Moriah, Israel at the Red Sea, Nehemiah building the wall.
3. But you are not satisfied yet. You say, "Those are all instances taken from the Old Testament times." Well, come into common life. In that house a man is dying. He is a Christian, and knowing whom he has believed, he is not afraid to die. But the thought that he will leave his family without a protector pressed upon his spirit somewhat, and when you look at him there is a shade of sadness upon his countenance. But you gaze awhile, and you see that shade is chased away by a smile. What has wrought the change? What! why, a ministering angel whispered him, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive." You call the next morning; the widow is sitting in sorrow. But she too is a Christian, and flies to the Christian refuge, and her eye traces these comfortable words, "Thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name."
(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
I. And I remark in the first place THAT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD IN RESPECT TO OUR TEMPORAL BLESSINGS AND EVERYDAY MERCIES. We are wholly indebted to Him for the past, and wholly dependent on Him for the future. Have we a comfortable home to live in, and does not peace reign in our household? These blessings are of the Lord's bestowing. Nor should we imagine that our sufficiency in temporal blessing is less of God in ordinary circumstances than in extraordinary occasions.
II. But I remark secondly THAT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD IN RESPECT OF OUR SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES.
1. In respect of justifying righteousness. We are not sufficient to work out a righteousness for ourselves.
2. Our sufficiency for holiness is of God. Old principles must be forsaken, and new ones adopted. Old habits must be given up and new ones formed. New tastes are to be cultivated and new desires cherished. But are we able to perform these duties of ourselves? Assuredly not. But what then? Does our inability excuse unbelief, impenitence, or indolence? No, verily; for while we are without strength in ourselves, there is strength in God if we will take hold of it.
3. Our sufficiency is of God in respect of usefulness
(J G. Dalgliesh.)
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