Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure…
These words come at the close of a noble delineation of Christian life. It is as if having unfolded tract after tract the vision suddenly expanded, and a sense of the boundlessness of that life came over the apostle, and then under the stress of that feeling he pours the fulness of his soul into one utterance, emphasizing its breadth by the six-fold repetition of "whatsoever things." As much as to say "all things conceivable, attainable, include them in your view of Christian life." Christian life is greater than any description of it, and no experience has yet exhausted it.
I. CHRIST IS LORD OVER THE KINGDOM OF TRUTH; THERE IS, THEREFORE, NOTHING IN THAT KINGDOM WHICH A CHRISTIAN MAY NOT ASPIRE TO POSSESS. Our enemies are surprised at this claim. Because we put the Cross in the centre they fancy there is nothing but the centre.
1. Some deny the originality of Christian truth, and say of some fragments of it, "It is in Seneca or Confucius." But whatever true things are in any of the wise teachers of the past, we shall not resent their being found anterior to Christ. They were in God before they were in them, and they have their place in the kingdom of truth of which Christ is the King, and of which we are now the heirs.
2. Detractors of another sort have put the stigma on the narrowness of our life. The large, full, free life is that which philosophy, art, science, literature, and travel make possible. But all things here are beforehand in Christ. They may not be classed as yet, but they belong to the kingdom of truth, and therefore to us.
3. Men who say that "It is all over with Christian life. It is an old-world story, a thing past and done. The real life — the life of the future — has its roots in material forces, and in the views, hopes, and aims to which these forces are giving shape." But whatever is here is part of the heritage of our life.
II. THE EARLIEST ACTINGS OF CHRISTIAN LIFE WERE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS EXPANSIVENESS.
1. Hardly was its voice heard among men than it began to bring the teaching of the lilies and the birds, and the sunshine and rain into its glad tidings. It no sooner stepped into heathen life than it commended the faith of centurions, Syro-Phoenician women, the endurance of Roman soldiers, and the self-denial of Grecian wrestlers and runners. It went after the waifs and strays of Jewish society.
2. While Christian life denounced the awful abysses that lay in the moral life of heathenism, it accepted whatever was Divine in its civilization. It recognized in it the working of the Divine Spirit, heard its poets preluding the song of Christian brotherhood in the words, "Ye are God's offspring"; saw the glory of Roman law; and in Greek wisdom questions which God had helped to formulate, and God's Son had come to answer. It asserted its inheritance in all the virtues of Greek and Roman life, and found an asylum for its slaves.
III. Another illustration of the expansiveness is that IT IS NOT PRESENTED TO US IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS DEVELOPMENTS, BUT IN ITS GERMS. It is leaven, seed, a new spiritual force, developing, penetrating, taking possession of, allying itself to all experiences, manners, customs, countries, races.
IV. LOOK AT THE EXPANSIVE CHARACTER OF THE BOOK BY WHICH CHRISTIAN LIFE IS FED. The Bible grows in the experience of the individual. It is a greater Book to the man than to the boy. It grows in the experience of the Church. It is not the Bible that changes, but the eyes that pore over it grow wider as they read. Something of this is due, to the fact that it is in the main a book of principles. In their expansion the Bible expands. New circumstances demand new aspects of truth, new applications of principle. And every new application is a discovery of the wealth that remains to be dug out of the Book of God.
V. THIS HAS A PRACTICAL BEARING ON THE ATTITUDE OF CHURCHES TO EACH OTHER.
1. No one Church, however venerable in age, or fresh with the dew of youth, has a monopoly of the good things of God. Let us covet earnestly each other's gifts — the fervour of the Wesleyan, the self-dependence of the Congregationalist, the ordered government of the Presbyterian, the beautiful worship of the Episcopalian.
2. And why should Church yearnings stop short here: think of the many things, great and good, in the social life of our country. We want the business habits, direct dealing, and honour among her commercial men; the free play and force of her public opinion, her respect for rights, her forbearance; the noble self-renunciation of her soldiers and sailors; the enthusiasm of her men of science, and the gravity of her lawyers.
(A. Macleod, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
WEB: Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.