For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea…
I. ITS DESIGN. "That their hearts might be comforted." There may be pleasure in which mirth is frolicsome and laughter mad; a thrill of lone delight may sweep across the soul beneath some grand or peaceful scene. There may be brief and dangerous rapture in some wild moment; but no heart was ever comforted amidst scenes like these, either in possession or memory. The word has a hearty English sound about it, and embodies all the unutterable meanings that lie hidden in that word "home." The leading idea is that of quiet after tempests, a present of peace after a past of trouble. And so no heart can be comforted in Christ which has not agonized in penitence. The great calm comes to the soul after the storm raised by the convincing Spirit, when it finds the atonement sufficient and the Saviour willing. It must spring from faith.
II. ITS CONSTITUENTS.
1. "Being knit together in love."(1) The word applies to the fitting of the parts of a house in harmony. Modern architecture delights in the symmetry of buildings, different parts are arranged to be mutually strengthening without external aid.
(2) So the heart in love is to be knit together, the strongest and surest of bonds. It is the root of all other graces, the ground on which the temple is to rise; "rooted and grounded in love." It is the bracelet that clasps the other graces, at once a protection and decoration. "Above all put on charity." It is the mark of the Divine relationship, indwelling, image.
(3) The necessity of this to comfort is obvious. Without it hope will be a transient emotion, labour an intolerable drudgery, God alienated, the Church rent.
2. "Unto all riches," etc.
(1) The possession of an assured faith, the importance of an intellectual perception of the truth, and of a decisive grasp of its great principles, is often urged by Paul; and Christ prayed that Peter's faith might not fail amidst the siftings of Satan. Do not our own hearts witness to the necessity of this? There is comfort in trust, but none in suspicion and misgiving.
(2) Mark the wealthy repetition of the apostle's words. When Solomon speaks of understanding he can scarcely find imagery sufficiently brilliant to set its value forth. The apostle is not satisfied that that only shall be the believer's dowry; there is not only understanding, but "assurance" — knowledge deepening into conviction; "full," no doubt hungering upon the Spirit, the truth so thoroughly appreciated that the principle becomes enfibred with man's nature, a belonging of his, his riches which no panic can scatter and no thief steal.
(3) The tendency of the present age is to leave old beliefs behind, and it is considered a proof of manliness to have outgrown the faith of our childhood, which yet was the faith upon which the sturdy manhood of our fathers grew. But surely it were a weary world if in this nineteenth century there is nothing settled. Life is all too short to be spent in dreams. Men die while we are battling with problems. And in all doubt there is discomfort, danger, and death. To the sincere and candid Christianity offers her evidences and all her "riches of the full assurance," etc. Press forward, you shall know if you follow on to know the Lord.
3. There must be testimony if the heart is "knit together in love," etc.
(1) It is not to be kept within like a concealed treasure, but it is to be "acknowledged." The duty of confession is parallel with that of faith, and if faith be hid it will die.
(2) The "mystery" is to be acknowledged. The greatest triumph of faith is when proud reason bows, the rebel will submits, and the awed senses fear as they enter into the cloud. This is the mystery of God in Christ. Do not let us do the Saviour the dishonour of denying Him either by the lie of speech or the lie of silence. Bold witness-bearing will be found to be a solid comfort to the soul.
4. In regard to this mystery the apostle's words are cumulative, and each has a distinct significance.
(1) "Of God." How much of mystery is here! Yet what a comfort! How sad it would be to sit down in a world like ours without a God, with chance as our creator and circumstances our governor; or with gods like those of heathenism. But while the atheist cannot find a God, and the deist denies His existence, and the pantheist reduces Him to an abstraction, the Christian rejoices to believe that there is around him God, living, acting, personal.
(2) "Of the Father," a greater mystery. He who is omnipotent, etc., maintains a relationship analogous to that of human fatherhood only, of infinite power and tenderness. What a comfort is this mystery! We live not under a despot's tyranny, but a Father's smile; this makes duty light, and sorrow bearable.
(3) "Of Christ." The mystery deepens as we travel on. This makes God "Immanuel." God's own Son stoops to take on Himself a curse that none but Omnipotence could inflict, and none but Omnipotence bear. But vast as is the mystery the comfort is vaster. Heaven and earth reconciled; salvation for the most abandoned.
(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;