For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
I. THE UNSPEAKABLE AND ALL-POWERFUL GIFT. Christ began to give Himself when from the depths of eternity He passed within the limitations of men, and, drawn by our need, and impelled by filial obedience and fraternal love, entered within the conditions of our existence, "and, forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, Himself likewise took part of the same." It was much that Christ should stretch out His hand to bless, should "give His back to the smiter and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair," and bear His cross on His own shoulders, and should be fastened to it on Calvary. Did you ever think that it was perhaps more that He should have a hand with which to bless, and a back to be bared to the scourge, a cheek that did not flush with one angry spot when rude spittings were shot upon it and traitorous kisses touched it; shoulders to bear His cross, and a body to be nailed upon it. Why had He these but because, ere He had them, He gave Himself for us? And so, having its roots in eternity, that gift included all His wonderful self-oblivious and world-blessing life and culminated in the death upon the cross. But then, mark still further, that the apostle here gives us another thought which deepens the wonderfulness and the preciousness of this gift; for, speaking to a man who had never come near Jesus Christ in the flesh, and including in his words the whole race of mankind to the last syllable of recorded time, he declares that "He gave Himself for us." How did He give Himself for us unless in the giving He had the knowledge of us and His heart turned to us; unless when He yielded Himself to life and to death, the thoughts of all the men in the world, and that should thereafter be in it, were the motives that impelled Him? And how did "He give Himself for us" unless He gave Himself for me and for thee?
II. THE REDEEMING POWER OF THE GIFT. It is noteworthy, that here, in the apostle's summing up of the great purpose of the life and death of Jesus Christ, he isolates from all other consequences of that mighty fact, blessed as those are, and selects as the sole object to he considered this power to deliver men from the bondage of evil. Jesus Christ died for — not only that He might redeem you from the penalties of sin, nor from its guilt, but that He might redeem you from doing it. You want more than culture, more than the morality of prudence, more than education of conscience, in order to weaken passion and to strengthen will, so that a man may shake off the bondage of the evil which he has done, and may begin to walk in newness of life. I know of no power that enables a poor man, beset and burdened by torturing tyrants of his own passions, and feeble against the strong seductions of outward temptation, to stand fast and overcome them all, shaking their fetters from his emancipated limbs, but the realisation of that infinite sacrifice, that changeless Divine human love, that mighty pure Brother's life, from which there flow into men's hearts motives and powers and impulses which, and which alone, are strong enough to make them free.
III. THE ANSWERING GIFT THAT CORRESPONDS TO, AND IS EVOKED BY, CHRIST'S GIFT OF HIMSELF. The only way by which we can win another for ourselves is by giving ourselves to that other. Hearts are only bought by hearts; love's flame can only be kindled by love's flame. The only way by which one spiritual being can possess another is when the possessed loves and yields to the love of the possessor. And thus Jesus Christ makes us His own by giving Himself to us for our own. There is no power known in humanity that can, I was going to say, decentralise a human life and lift it clean off its pivot of self except the power of the unspeakable love of Jesus Christ on the cross. We revolve round our own centres, self is our centre; but that great Sun of Righteousness has mass enough to draw hearts and lives from their little orbit, and to turn them into satellites of its own. And then they move in music and in light around the Sun of their souls.
IV. THE ENTHUSIASM FOR GOOD WHICH THAT GREAT GIFT WILL KINDLE. "Zealous of good works." The apostle means substantially the same thing as he and the others mean by "righteousness" — the deeds of all kinds which correspond to men's place and power — "whatsoever things are lovely and of good report." He thinks that if a man has rightly pondered and yielded himself to the influence of that serene and supreme example of a beautiful work, Christ's giving of Himself for us, he will not only do such works, but be passionately desirous of opportunities for doing them. It is a deal easier to be zealous for the Church, for a society, for a political or religious party or school, for a movement or a cause, than to be "zealous for good works." And all that zeal is froth unless the other be with it. All Christ's flock are earmarked thus. They are zealous for good. They like and they seek for good works.
(A. Mclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,