And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
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.
He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves.
I. THERE IS A SPIRITUAL LIFE. Note —
1. The correspondence between common life and this life of grace.(1) The natural life supposes generation, so does the spiritual (John 3:3; 1 John 2:27),(2) Where there is life there is sense and feeling, especially if wrong and violence be offered to it, and so is the spiritual life bewrayed by the tenderness of the heart and the sense that we have of the interest of God. Can a man be alive and not feel it? And can you have the life of grace and not feel the decays and interruptions of it, and neither be sensible of comforts or injuries?(3) Where there is life there is appetite, an earnest desire after that which may feed and support this life. So spiritually (1 Peter 2:2; John 6:27). The new nature hath its proper supports, and there will be something relished besides such things as gratify the animal life. In correspondence with this there will be a desire that carrieth us to that which is food to the soul, to Christ especially, and to the ordinances in which He is exhibited to us.(4) Where there is life there will be growth; so do the children of God grow in grace (Psalm 92:13).(5) Life is active and stirring. So spiritual life hath its operations; it cannot well be hid. Some only "have a name to live, and are dead."
2. The differences. They differ —(1) In dignity. Natural life is but a "wind," a "vapour," a continued sickness, but this is the life of God, and was a life bought at a dearer rate than the life of nature (John 6:51).(2) In origin. The natural life is brought down unto us by many generations from the "first Adam." All that our parents could do was to make way for the union of soul and body together. But by this life we mid Christ are united together, and He becomes a life-making spirit unto us.(3) In duration. All our labour here is to maintain a lamp that soon goes out, or to prop up a tabernacle that is always falling. But the spiritual life begins in grace and ends in glory.
II. THE RESPECT THAT IS BETWEEN THIS LIFE AND CHRIST'S RESURRECTION. Christ's resurrection is —
1. An example of it.(1) Christ died before He rose, and usually God killeth us before He maketh us alive. The word is a killing letter before it is a word of life (Romans 7:9).(2) The same Spirit of holiness that quickened Christ quickeneth us (Romans 1:4; Romans 8:14).(3) Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more (Romans 11:9). So is a Christian put into an unchangeable state; sin hath no more dominion over him (John 11:25, 26).
2. A pledge of it. And therefore He is called the firstfruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). His resurrection was in our name; therefore we are said to be raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1), and quickened together with Christ (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:4, 5).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
I. WHAT IS THE MANNER OF LIFE WHICH SHOULD NOT BE; OR, WHAT IS BY NATURE THE LIFE UNTO SELF? The text is pretty clear in its condemnation of such a life, "That they should not live unto themselves." We may, then, usefully inquire, What is life to, or living to, oneself? It may be said to consist in following or pursuing our own wills, glory, ends, and lusts.
1. The will of man is by nature in direct opposition to the will of God.
2. But, besides following his own will, the natural man follows his own glory.
3. But we may be so unambitious, perhaps, as that the word glory may seem to be utterly inapplicable in our case; yet all have ends in view, though there may be no glory in them — plans, or something to which God's great end, for us, and which He sets before us in the Bible, is subordinated. First and foremost is self's end; it may be a lawful or reasonable end in itself, except as it is brought unduly and unlawfully forward.
4. There is a fourth following, which is neither glorious nor profitable, yet common, and the grossest; it is lust. Christ died that they who lived might live to some purpose.
II. AS TO THE MANNER OF LIFE WHICH SHOULD BE, OR LIFE NOT TO SELF, BUT TO CHRIST.
1. The pattern Saint — with reverence be it said — whom God proposed for our imitation in the matter of the will, as in all things else, is an example. He was subjected to sufferings that He might, in the entire subjection of His own will to His Father's, teach us by example as well as precept. Our blessed Lord says, "I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me."
2. To live to Christ, also, they must seek not their own glory, but the glory of God. This did Christ Himself.
3. Living to Christ will also involve seeking the interests of Christ — not our own, but Christ's ends.
4. And there is a fourth pursuit if the believer is to crucify and to mortify the old man with his lusts and affections. "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice," And among the fruits of the Spirit enumerated by St. Paul in writing to the Galatians (6.) are "joy and peace." But you will observe an important clause of our text to have been as yet unnoticed — "That they which live." A third and coneluding inquiry should be made concerning this life.
III. WHAT IS IT? WHENCE COMES IT? It is the Spirit's work, and it is Christ's work, for "the Son quickeneth whom He will," and it "is the Spirit that quickeneth." Christ is called a "quickening Spirit" because of the power He exercises in this matter, and perhaps the first indication of His work is giving liberty .to the will.
(O. W. W. Forester, M. A.)1. Self is the chief end of every natural man. "That they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves" — implying that all men living, who are not under the actual benefit and efficacy of our Saviour's death, do live to themselves.
2. The end of our Saviour's dying and rising again was to change the corrupt end of the creature.
3. Therefore we must be taken off from ourselves as our end, and be fixed upon another, even upon Christ, else we answer not the end of Christ's death and resurrection.
4. It is highly equitable that, if Christ died for us and was raised for us as our happiness, we should live to His glory, and make Him our end in all our actions and the whole course of our lives. The apostle uses this consideration as an argument, and as a copy and exemplar. Therefore, as He rose to justify us, we must rise to glorify Him.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
I. WHAT PRECEDES IT. There are three descriptions of the life before conversion given by Paul.
1. In the verse before us. To live unto ourselves is to make self the ruler, and selfishness the motive of our existence. Everybody hisses at the miser, but many actions which are accounted noble are just as selfish as his.
2. In Ephesians 4:7. Walking "as other Gentiles walk" exactly delineates the kind of life which multitudes are leading. They do as other people do; and if a thing is customary, that is held by them to be a sufficient reason for their practising it. They never ask what is the will of God in the matter. Is a man asked to contribute to some good object, then instead of inquiring whether in God's sight he ought to give, and if so, how much, he will say, "Let me see who are subscribing, and what amounts." Is he besought to help some struggling cause, then his inquiry will be, not what Christ would have him do, but whether any persons of respectability are connected with it. Is he in doubt as to the propriety of some course of conduct, his scruples are removed when you tell him that this one and that one of the fashionables do the same.
3. In Romans 6:6. Up to the "henceforth" they had been serving sin; and, indeed, this is said in so many words in the 17th verse. This is the most terrible description of the three — "Ye were the slaves of sin," and the meaning is that in the unconverted sin has the entire mastery. By habitual indulgence in it they have given it the upper hand, and now it holds them in chains which they themselves have formed.
II. WHAT FOLLOWS IT. We have no such variety as in the former case, for though error is manifold, truth is one. There are different ways to perdition, but there is only one to glory. There may be diversity of phase, but the same root principle exists in every true believer. "To me to live is Christ"; "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." These profound utterances imply that what before was self in the apostle was now Christ. "What things before were gain to him, those he counted loss for Christ." Now it is the same with every real Christian. When a man truly passes this "henceforth," his whole being runs Christward. The volume of the river may be small at first; but, small as it is, its direction is decided, and it gathers magnitude as it flows. He has Christ enthroned in his heart as the Lord of his love; over his intellect as his instructor in knowledge; over his will as the guide of his choice; over his life as the director of his conduct; yea, he can say with truth that he is Christ's, as well as that Christ is his.
III. WHAT PRODUCES IT. The influence .on a man's heart of the love of Christ as that is manifested in His atoning death for him. Look at the history of Paul's own conversion, and you will see that the change in him was brought about through his belief that Jesus died for his sins and rose again for his justification. Now it is the same with the convert yet. It is his faith that Jesus Christ the Son of God loved him and gave Himself for him, which through the agency of the Holy Ghost brings about this transformation. Christ is only a Saviour, or at most the Saviour, till I appropriate Him, but when I do that He is my Saviour; and that moment is the "henceforth" of my life. Conclusion: But some one may ask, Why should I seek to pass this "henceforth"? What is there about conversion that makes it of such importance?
1. It is essential to your reconciliation with God, and your enjoyment of the blessedness of heaven.
2. It will intensify your happiness.
3. It will increase your usefulness.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the fleshI. OF MEN.
1. He once estimated them by their earthly circumstances.
2. He now esteems them according to their moral and religious worth.
II. OF CHRIST.
1. He once despised and lightly esteemed Him.
2. He now regards Him as his Saviour and Lord.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)I. OF CHRIST.
1. Is not that the same as wanting to forget the Saviour's humanity? Should we have only a glorified Christ as the object of our contention? No. Paul simply refuses to boast, as did those false teachers who troubled his ministry, of having known Christ in Judaea; he knows Christ only according to the spirit — i.e., as his Saviour, which is the essential thing.
2. Let us draw from this thought an important lesson. Who has not envied Christ's contemporaries? It seems to us that had we seen and heard Him, our hearts would have been more moved, and doubt would have been impossible.(1) Now listen to Christ Himself. A woman cries out, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee." He answers, "Rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it." A man says, "Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without." He answers, "My mother and My brethren are those who hear the Word of God and do it." His apostles would like to retain Him. He says, "It is expedient for you that I go away." Mary Magdalene would lay hold on Him. Jesus answers her, "Touch Me not!" What does all this mean if not that it is by the soul, before everything, by faith that Jesus would be known and possessed. This, then, is the consoling conclusion, that neither time nor distance hinders Jesus from being known and His presence felt. And is not all this bright with evidence? Was not the Church which saw Christ feeble, timid, and sluggish, and did not Christ have to leave her that she might receive the baptism from on high? Did His discourses ever produce the wonderful effect which they have produced since? Why, He touches more hearts in a single day now than during the three years of His ministry!(2) You envy the privilege of His disciples. Are you certain that His mean condition would not have turned you from Him? Who knows if you would not have denied Him? Supposing, however, that you had remained faithful to Him, would you have understood His work? Would you not have been attached to His earthly person more than to His Divine mission — would you have loved Him according to the spirit, as He would have Himself loved?
3. What is knowing Christ after the flesh to-day? This: To melt at the recollection of Jesus with an emotion entirely human; to weep over Him as the victim of human fanaticism; to honour His relics and memory. He is known according to the spirit. When at the foot of His Cross, it is not over Him, but over ourselves, that people weep; when in His death they contemplate not His sufferings merely, but more especially His sacrifice; when they act in union with His work, rejoice in His triumphs, and prepare for His coming.
II. OF MEN.
1. A signification has been given to these words which provokes a righteous protest. We see Christians, under the pretext of an imaginary perfection, break in sunder all the ties of flesh and blood, renounce their families, and, having put before them the wall of monastic vows, say to them, "I know you no longer!" Spiritual heroism, people exclaimed — brilliant triumphs gained over the flesh! Is that what the gospel teaches us? No! St. Paul tells us that the Christian who neglects his kindred is worse than an infidel. If, then, under pretext of renouncing the flesh, people should violate or neglect natural laws, they have against them not only Nature's voice, but God's. There will be cited here the numerous passages in which our Lord unsparingly condemns all those who, before following Him, consult flesh and blood. "If any man hate not," etc. But He speaks of choosing between duty and delight — between the law of God and the affections of the family. Here our conscience gives Christ a full assent. But far from this be the system which condemns the life of the heart, the joys of existence and the flesh, as evil in themselves.
2. What must, then, be understood by "I know no one after the flesh"? In every man there are two natures — flesh and spirit. To the eyes of flesh you are rich, poor — a master, a servant, etc.; to the eyes of the spirit you are a child of God. Now, St. Paul declares to us that henceforth what he would know in every man is the spiritual and immortal nature. Before Christ, what was a poor man, a slave, a publican? Now, to the eyes of Jesus the soul of the lowest harlot weighs as much when put in the scales as the soul of Caesar. Everywhere He only sees sinners to be saved; to all He offers the same language, grants the same love. In the school of Christ Paul learnt to see in the Festuses and Agrippas only lost souls, whom he will cause to hear the truth which saves without being preoccupied with their sceptre or their crown; it is there that he learnt to preach the gospel to an Aquila and a Lydia, with the very same love as had it been the soul of the Pro-consul Sergius or the Governor Publius. It is thus that we must know men. The world has its distinctions of rank, of learning, of fortune, and they are necessary. Should you overturn them to-day they would reappear to-morrow. Let us respect them. But let us know men by what they have that is great and immortal.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
1. Natural men have no delight in anything but secular concerns; love nothing but for their own advantage; admire not any true spiritual worth.
2. An evidence of being taken off from ourselves and living to Christ is our valuation either of ourselves or others, according to holiness. And as a new creature is framed after the image of God, so his affections and valuations of men or things are according to God's esteem of them.
3. Our professions of Christ, serving Him and loving Him barely for ourselves and for fleshly ends doth not consist with regeneration. Such a love is a love to ourselves, not to Christ.
4. We should eye Christ and arise to the knowledge of Him, as He is advanced and exalted by God.
(Bishop Hackett.)i.e., according to God's thoughts and purpose, the whole race, when Christ died, ceased to belong to the visible and transient world; and we, entering into the thought of God, "henceforth know no man after the flesh." In death all earthly distinctions disappear. The rich man is rich, the poor man is poor no longer, etc. But further, "Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more." There were Christian people then living who had seen Christ, and this was surely a great distinction and blessedness; but it may have been a peril to them. I can imagine them assuming a certain superiority over their brethren. "We did not receive the gospel from Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, but from the Christ Himself." And I can also imagine that others, when the memory of our Lord's earthly life was so fresh, would feel an absorbing interest in all that they could learn about Christ as a man among men, and would come to think of Him under the common conditions of human life. There are some of us, Paul seems to say, who have known Christ after the flesh; but what does it matter that we remember His face, voice, manner, dress? To us He is not first of all a fellow-countryman, whom we used to see in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and whose brethren and sisters and friends we knew; or a wonderful religious teacher, who in our presence said many wonderful things and did many wonderful works. To us He is the Eternal Son of God, the Brother of all men. His earthly life has passed into a larger, mightier, and more glorious life. Paul's gospel began where the gospel of those who knew Christ after the flesh ended — with the suffering and the death of Christ. "I delivered unto you among the first things that Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures." All that went before Paul passed over very lightly. Consider:
I. THE NEW KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. To Paul, Christ was infinitely more than an august and pathetic tradition, and He must be infinitely more to us if we are to preach the gospel with any effect.
1. We shall miss the substance of our message if we know Christ after the flesh. From the materials given to us in His teaching and history, we may construct a beautiful system of ethics and a noble conception of God, but we shall still miss the most animating and effective part of the gospel. Christianity is a historical religion; but the history on which our faith is founded did not come to an end eighteen hundred years ago. Through sixty generations men of every land have discovered for themselves that He is living still. Not in the remembrance of Christ, but in the living, personal Christ — a great multitude whom no man can number have found God. The life of every Christian man adds to the great story new miracles of mercy and power wrought by Christ. The Canon is not closed. Every age contributes material for new gospels. We have not to teach men a mere method of salvation revealed by Christ eighteen centuries ago. The Christian method of salvation is the method by which Christ Himself saves men now. With a dead Christ, belonging to a remote age, and not able and eager to save men now, the Christian method of salvation would be worthless.
2. To have seen the Lord after He had risen, was one of the qualifications for the apostleship; and the apostles were not merely witnesses that Christ had died and had risen again. When Christ rose He passed into new and higher regions of life. His appearances during the forty days had this among other purposes, to bring home to them the immense change through which He had passed, and to discipline their faith in the reality of His presence in the invisible and eternal order. They saw that the limitations of His human life had been dissolved, and they were gradually prepared to receive His own wonderful words, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth." Not till they had this new knowledge of Christ could they be sent to make disciples of all nations.
3. Now, have we that kind of knowledge of Christ which is necessary both for our work at home and for our missions to the heathen? Do we think it enough to know Christ after the flesh? During the last forty years there has been a remarkable awakening of interest in the earthly history of our Lord. There are tens of thousands who have been reading the four gospels from their childhood who feel as if they had come to know Jesus of Nazareth for the first time. They have been able to place Him in His true relations to His age and to His country. The whole story has become real and solid to them. They know Him almost as well as the men and women knew Him who actually saw and heard Him. There is a real value in knowledge of this kind. But if our most effective conception of Christ is a mere historical conception, then we know Christ after the flesh. And our knowledge is rudimentary and imperfect. We must see Him descend into the mystery of death, wait for His emergence from darkness, join in the songs which hail His resurrection, see Him ascending to the throne of God, rejoice that He belongs, not merely to the distant past, but that He is the contemporary of all generations; rejoice that He is here, not under the limitations of His earthly life, but in the glorious fulness of Divine power, surrounded with the splendour of God's eternal kingdom.
4. It was one of the innumerable evils which Romanism inflicted on Christendom that it held constantly before the eyes the exhausted, agonised form of Christ on the Cross, and so deprived men of the animation and courage inspired by the knowledge that He is now on the throne of the Eternal. A similar loss may be inflicted on ourselves if our thoughts are imprisoned within the limits of His earthly life, and if we do not exult in His resurrection and in His constant presence in the Church. Are we, then, to forget His earthly history? Ah, no! But we know Him, not as His contemporaries knew Him, but with a larger and deeper knowledge. That poverty, that homelessness, that physical exhaustion, that agony — behind them all we see the Divine glory. In Christ, even during His earthly years, we look "not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at the things which are not seen and eternal."
5. And there are times when, if the story of the historic Christ is to command confidence, it must be sustained by the testimony of living men who have been delivered by the living Christ from the consciousness of guilt, from evil passion, and habit, and eternal death. Indeed, according to the ordinary methods of the Divine mercy, it is this personal testimony that moves the hearts of men to repent and inspires them with faith.
II. THE NEW KNOWLEDGE OF MAN. It is not enough that we cease to know Christ after the flesh. The fires of missionary enthusiasm will burn low unless we are also able to say we henceforth know no man after the flesh. We must see men not merely in their place in the visible and temporal order, but environed with the invisible and the eternal order.
1. This man has immense wealth, but has he risen with Christ and made sure of the everlasting inheritance? If not, how poor! That man is poor, ill-clad, lives a hard and cheerless life, but is he in Christ? Yes; then how rich, for he is the heir of God's eternal righteousness and glory! So with regard to princes and paupers, learned and ignorant, moralists and profligates, to achieve the dignity to which the eternal purpose of God destined even the obscurest of mankind. That man is a slave, but is he one with Christ? If he is, eternal glories sit already on his brow, and he may stand at last among the principalities and powers of the kingdom of heaven. This man has learning, keen and vigorous intellect, genius which will give him fame through many generations, but does he know the Eternal? If not, he has missed the knowledge which it supremely concerns him to possess. That man, as men deem, knows nothing, his mind is dull and uninstructed, he has never mastered even the elements of science, the songs of great poets have never kindled his imagination, he has never heard even the names of the great teachers of the race; but does he know Christ? Yes? Then he has been taught of God and received the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and has a wisdom transcending all the wisdom of the schools.
2. And in the presence of races degraded through a long succession of generations, we must not despair, for they are living in a redeemed world; every man is dear to God, and by the power of His Spirit may rise to unknown heights of righteousness and glory. We must know no man "after the flesh."
3. We must not know ourselves after the flesh if we are to have the strength which the great tasks to which we are called demand. Who are we that we should hope to change the religious faith of hundreds of millions of men? What resources have we for so immense a work? We should lose all heart and courage if we measured ourselves against the difficulties, the impossibilities of our enterprise. But we are greater than we seem. We are one with Christ, who descended from the heights of God to seek and to save the lost, and who, now that He has returned to His glory, is seeking and saving them still. And it is He that is seeking, He that is saving them, through us. His power sustains our weakness, and in our very weakness is perfected. Let us be of good courage; all things are possible to us, for we are one with Him.
(R. W. Dale, D. D.)
I. WE SEE THE WORTH OF OUR OWN SOULS, AND THAT THE SOULS OF OTHERS ARE OF EQUAL WORTH. The father realises that his children have souls, which, like his own, will exist for ever. The mother, as she rocks her infant to rest on her bosom, knows that the heart which has begun to beat in that little frame will not find rest till it is laid on the breast of Jesus. We are not surrounded by the mere creatures of a day, but by responsible and undying men, whose souls shalt exist as long as God Himself.
II. WE SEE THAT AS BY NATURE WE ARE UNDER THE SENTENCE OF CONDEMNATION, SO OTHERS ARE UNDER THE SAME SENTENCE. When is it that we think most of an earthly friend, and are most deeply interested in his welfare? Is it when he is known to be in safety, or is it not rather when he is in peril? When is it that the wife thinks most of the husband, and the sister feels the deepest interest in the brother? Is it not when laid on a bed of distress, or when fighting with the billows of death? It was to seek and save that which was lost that Christ left the bosom of the Father and came to this cold world, and died amidst the agonies of the Cross. Those who have the same mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus will hasten to be fellow-workers with Him in saving souls from death.
III. AS HAVING ATTAINED THE ENJOYMENT OF CHRIST'S PEACE, WE SEEK THAT OTHERS MAY SHARE IT WITH US. As long as we were without Christ and Christ's peace, we did not know the value of them, and so could not be expected heartily to recommend them to others. But when we have "tasted that the Lord is good," then we can enlarge upon our own experience, and we feel that if we were but the instruments of communicating that peace to others, we would be conveying a greater amount of good than by the largest temporal benefits.
IV. WHEN WE LOVE CHRIST OURSELVES, THEN OUR HEARTS ARE DRAWN TOWARDS THOSE WHO, LIKE US, LOVE THE LORD JESUS. Man is, in his very nature, a social being. It is this principle abused which congregates the wicked. It is the same attraction, now sanctified, which brings together the children of God. And how often has it happened that, when holding sacred converse with one another, Jesus Himself has joined us, as He did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?
V. THESE VIEWS AND MOTIVES WILL IMPEL THOSE WHO ARE SWAYED BY THEM TO DO GOOD AS GOD MAY GIVE THEE OPPORTUNITY. All genuine religion begins within, but while it begins within, it does not end there; it begins within only as all streams commence in some mountain where are their heaven-fed fountains; but it flows out like the stream, and carries with it a refreshing and fertilising influence. Watering, in this way, the objects immediately around them, Christian faith and zeal will flow towards more distant objects, towards the world at large. The prayer will be that, beginning at Jerusalem — that is, at home — the gospel be preached to every creature. Conclusion: From this survey we see —
1. What is the grand function of the organised Church; it is to proclaim the way, sustain the truth, and propagate the life.
2. The grand aim of Church ordinances. We are to secure, in regard to them, that they be in thorough accordance with the Word of God, and that they be employed to edify the Church, and not for the purpose of gratifying the senses or stimulating the imagination.
3. What is the style of preaching most fitted to advance the kingdom of God? It is preaching founded on Scripture, that speaks of Christ, and speaks to all — to rich and poor, to rich and barbarian, to old and young. It is a great evil in our community, the separation of rich and poor, especially in our great cities. But it is vastly greater when it is permitted to enter the house of God, which is meant to counteract and soften the severances of the world.
(J. McCosh, D. D.)Galatians 2:6). He declares that their knowledge of Christ after the flesh was no advantage to them; and in the passage before us he goes so far as to say that if he himself had known Christ after the flesh he would have rid himself of the knowledge, for that knowledge at that particular time was a danger and a temptation. It led men to exaggerate the importance of those things about Christ which were seen and temporal, and to overlook to some extent those things which alone were of everlasting importance. As a matter of fact, those who did thus know Christ after the flesh either never realised His true glory, or were many long years in coming to the knowledge of Him. Have you ever realised the startling fact that St. Paul never once refers to the lovely life of our Lord as recorded in the gospels? He never mentions any of His miracles, parables, words, or deeds. His silence teaches us, even more significantly than his speech, that the essence of the gospel lies far below the mere details, incomparable as they are, of the human life of our Lord. You and I are particularly interested in this remarkable feature of St. Paul's experience, for we are like him. We are not like St. Peter, who was a disciple from the beginning. We never met Christ, we never heard His loving voice. We may have an immeasurably better knowledge of Him. We may know Him as St Paul himself knew Him, in the deepest sense of the word, better than any one else, except St. John. How did he know Him? His knowledge is expressed in that ever-memorable phrase, "It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother's womb, to reveal His Son in me." Not outside of me, but in me. O, what does that mean? It means that there are two totally different ways of contemplating Jesus Christ. We may dwell on the known incidents of that lovely life just as we might dwell upon Plato's incomparable account of the trial and death of Socrates. Any such study of the mere fragmentary history of the beautiful incidents in the human life of our Lord is as inspiring as it is ennobling. But it is outside of us. It does not stir the depths of our being. Or, on the other hand, we may think of Jesus Christ in a totally different way — as the Risen Christ, the Living Christ, the Christ in whom we all at this very moment live and move and have our being; the Christ who is literally in every one of us. This, indeed, is what St. Paul called "my gospel" — the gospel which God sent to him by revelation, the gospel which he was better qualified to propound, because he was not confused by any knowledge of Christ after the flesh. St. Paul himself was amazed and perplexed and agitated, and said, What is the matter with me? I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I have kept all the law, and yet I am as wretched as I can be. Then he discovered that it was Christ who made him wretched. At last, he said, "It pleased God to reveal Himself in me. Then I realised that there could be no happiness for me until I submitted to the Divine Saviour. Thank God, I did not know Him after the flesh, for I might then have been prevented from knowing as I know now, that He is the great light of God, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Take the case of an agnostic, who declares that he never felt the least religious emotion, a man of high character and very scrupulous conscience. You say to me, How do you reconcile that case with your theory of Christ being in the heart of every man? Quite easily. If in midwinter you wander with me into the wood, would you say it was dead? Not a leaf, not a bud, not a blade of grass. But you are not deceived by the superficial appearance. You wait for the sunshine and the rain, and you shall see the summer. And in the case of this agnostic, wait until your Father in heaven has sent him the sunshine of His love and the rain of His grace, and you shall find strange stirrings in the depths of his soul, for Christ is in him, as He is in all of us. This is, indeed, what St. Paul meant in the first part of my text, where he says, "We henceforth know no man after the flesh." He not only refused to know Christ after the flesh, but he refused to know anybody else after the flesh. He could not think of any man apart from the Divine Christ. He never thought of any man without realising that Christ was in every man. You are not a mere man or woman to me. You are men and women redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. You are human beings dear to God, dearer than you are to yourself or anybody else.
(H. Price Hughes, M. A.)I. CONSIDER WHAT THE APOSTLE MEANT. It is very probable that he had in view those who underrated his authority because he had not been one of the original disciples, and so seen Christ face to face. And it was of course but natural, that as years stole on, greater interest and authority would attach to those who, like Peter and John, had held converse with the Redeemer. Whether St. Paul ever beheld the Saviour has been questioned. On the one hand, if he had seen Him, we should expect some mention of it; on the other, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, he could scarcely, we imagine, have failed to have his attention drawn to the miracles and teaching of Christ, and if so would scarcely have failed to obtain a sight of Him. The text sounds as though he were himself uncertain about the matter. And it is quite easy to imagine that he may have been in one of the many crowds which at various seasons gathered round our Lord; and yet have been so situated as to be uncertain whether he had really caught sight of His sacred form. However this be, he declares at any rate that henceforth he would neither build nor exalt himself upon that knowledge.
1. But did the apostle mean that from that time he would cease to think of Him as clothed with flesh and meditate only upon His Divinity? Surely not. So to have done would have been to lose sight of one of the most stupendous truths of the gospel — viz., that Christ Jesus is at this moment in the likeness of man. The Eternal Word when He became incarnate became so for ever. Oh! if we desired to set before you in all its marvellousness the great miracle of the incarnation, it is not through the dimness of past centuries to the valleys of Judah that we would try to lead your thoughts. Beyond the third heaven, where the cherubim and seraphim are ever waiting, where the song that none can learn is ever swelling, and the unspeakable words which it is not lawful for men to utter are ever sounding, in the centre of the light inaccessible, we would teach you to behold the form of Man. And we cannot but observe how thorough recognition of the present manhood of Christ satisfies the longing of the human heart for a sympathetic being in the object of worship.
2. Think you it was this truth, so rich in consolation for all who are partakers of human nature, that St. Paul resolved to put from his mind? Rather was it this truth on which he purposed to build exclusive of all others. He would not in completing the Incarnation be ever going back to the remembrance of the Saviour in His body of weakness, when he might fill his soul with the thought of that same body radiant in beauty, the centre of the heavenly host. The form of the Sob of Man as seen at Jerusalem, was but the first and most transitory revelation of the great miracle of Mary's conception; the nobler and more lasting results of the same Divine child-bearing were the sight by faith of the same form of a man for ever enthroned on high. Who wonders then that the inspired apostle, thus looking to the present and the future, was ready to forget the past, and that as the vision of the excellent glory rose up in his mind, he cast behind him the remembrance of his God in His humiliation?
II. THE LESSONS FOR US.
1. There is amongst us a great tendency to view the days of Christ's personal sojourn upon earth as days of extraordinary privilege.
2. Now in opposition to these ideas, we conceive Scripture to intimate that we are the more highly favoured. Christ Himself said, "It is expedient for you that I go away."(1) We can hardly fail to perceive that the sight of God must have been itself a temptation to unbelief. Was there, think you, nothing hard in realising the fact, that the Being to whom they spoke as man to man was very God? If, therefore, His bodily presence was a source of joy, so also was it a source of temptation. Many a man who believes Christ is God, now that He is unseen, would have disbelieved if he had beheld Him in the form of a servant.(2) And this being so, we would remind you that Christ is really present with His redeemed now, as He was with His disciples in Galilee. An object is not less real because it is unseen. What spiritual advantages did the disciples reap from proximity to their Master? He was their counsellor; and will He not teach us? He was their support; and are not His everlasting arms around us? Now, moreover, He is not only present, but omnipresent. They could be separated from Him for awhile; we can never be parted.
(Bp. Woodford.)i.e., he judged them by earthly standards. These were the questions he would doubtless have asked himself respecting any upon whom he wished to pass judgment: What is his descent? Where has he been instructed? Has he passed through the schools of philosophy sitting at Gamaliel's feet? What are his professions? Does he fast twice a week? But now that he had been brought into contact with Christ Jesus, and had become the recipient of His salvation, he estimated men according to a very different standard. Then, "after the flesh," but now after the spirit. And these, we may reasonably suppose, are the inquiries which would rise within him: Have they the spirit of Christ? Are their hearts right in the sight of God? Do they love and practice the principles of the gospel of peace? This twofold method of estimating men prevails still. If you judge men after the flesh, the undoubted effect will be to narrow and to contract your sympathies. Adopting such a test as this, society will necessarily be broken up into fragments, each caring only for itself; the man of rank caring only for those of noble descent, the man of wealth for those of large possessions, or the man of culture for those of educated tastes, while the mass of those who possess none of the enrichments will be left to themselves. Only let men be judged, not "after the flesh," but according to their character, and large-heartedness, and world-embracing love will take the place of that exclusiveness which the opposite course engenders. "The Lord looketh at the heart." He recognised in the fallen those who were capable of being raised from their degradation, and of loving and serving Him in holiness and righteousness. And beholding thus their moral and spiritual capabilities, His heart yearned for their uplifting. The fulness of time at length arrived. Or think of St. Paul. He resolved that he would henceforth judge men after their character, and not after the flesh, and the effect of this decision was that he saw some around him who had clearly become renewed in the spirit of their minds — who had become new creatures in Christ Jesus. And even so with ourselves, if we only view men in the light of their spiritual character and capacities, the effect will unquestionably be that we shall find among all classes in society men whose lives are marked by the principles of righteousness, and beholding what "the truth as it is in Jesus" has wrought for them, and conscious that it can effect similar results wherever it is received, we shall be constrained to labour for its extension throughout the world, that thus the entire moral aspect of the universe may be changed, the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose, earth becoming like heaven. And thus we see theft the religion of Christ calls forth the sympathy and love of men towards the entire race to which they. belong. The apostle adds: "Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." In this early Church gathered in the city of Corinth there were several parties. In condemning the divisions which had thus arisen, the apostle uses the words: "Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ." Now the question is naturally suggested, what could be the meaning of any who said, "I am of Christ." It would appear that the persons who said this were converts from Judaism, and who claimed some special relationship to Christ, arising from the fact that they had seen Him when He sojourned upon earth. We are now prepared to apprehend the meaning of St. Paul in the words before us. He felt theft he might as justly as any of them rejoice in having seen Christ in the flesh; but he would not, in that he felt there was a far higher view of Christ than that of gazing upon His outward form, even the apprehension by faith of the spiritual presence of the Redeemer; the contemplation of His character and spirit, and the so beholding of this as to enter into it, and to be changed into the same from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. It was after this that his noble spirit aspired. It must not be supposed that the apostle was indifferent to the great fact of the humanity of the Son of God; indeed, is there any writer, save the Evangelist John, who refers more frequently or touchingly to this than St. Paul? Does he not remind the Galatians how that in the fulness of time, "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman," etc. And, in this respect, the apostle presents a worthy pattern to us. Like him, let us not look so much to that which is material, as to that which is spiritual in relation to Christ Jesus. It behoves us, therefore, to be careful that we do not lose sight of that spiritual apprehension of the Saviour which alone can meet the requirements, and satisfy the aspirations of the soul of man. It is even so. He is the eternal One. He is the very Son of God. And having been made perfect through suffering, He has entered into His glory. His humiliation is past, and He is now exalted at God's right hand. The kingly diadem encircles His brow. We have known Him after the flesh, battling with poverty, and with temptation and sin, with woe and death, but henceforth we know Him thus no more. He is the victor now — the King of glory.
(S. D. Hillman.)
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