Romans 12

 

 

From ch. 12:1-14:23 is the hortatory (exhortations; advice) section of the epistle.

It is Paul’s way to supplement his doctrinal treatises with detailed practical

directions as to the conduct that should of necessity ensue on belief in the

doctrines propounded. So also in Ephesians 4:1, etc., where, as here, he

connects his exhortations with what has gone before by the initiatory

παρακαλῶ οϋνparakalo ouvI beseech then; I am entreating.   Beyond

his exposition of the truth for its own sake, he has always a further practical aim.

Saving faith is ever with him a living faith, to be shown by its fruits. Nor, according

to him, will these fruits follow, unless the believer himself does his part in

cultivating them: else were these earnest and particular exhortations

needless. If, on the one hand, he is the great assertor of our salvation being

through faith and all of grace, he is no less distinct for the necessity of

works following, and of the power of man’s free-will to use or resist grace;

I Corinthians 15:10, where, speaking of himself, he does not mean to say that

grace had made him what he was in spite of himself, but that grace had not been

in vain, because he himself had worked with grace. All was of grace, but he

himself had labored, assisted by grace working with him. It will be observed how

comprehensive is the survey of Christian duty that here follows, reaching to all the

relations of life, as well as to internal disposition.

 

 

Various Practical Duties Enforced (vs. 1-ch. 13:14)

 

1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your

bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable

service.” I beseech you therefore, brethren (he does not command, as did Moses in

the Law; he beseeches; he is but a fellow-servant, with his brethren, of Christ; he

 does not “lord it over God’s heritage” (I Peter 5:3), but trusts that they will of

their own accord respond to “the mercies of God” in Christ, which he has set

before them), by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living

sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

The verb παραστῆσαι parstaesaipresent – is the usual one for the presenting

of sacrificial animals at the altar.  The Septuagint in Leviticus 16:7, 10, has στήσει.

staeseiset; present -  Luke 2:22; Colossians 1:22, 28, and ch. 6:13). Our bodies are

here  specified, with probable reference to the bodies of victims which were offered in

the old ritual. But our offering differs from them in being “a living sacrifice,” replete

with life and energy to do God’s will (Psalm 40:6-8, and Hebrews 10:5-7), yea, and

even inspired with a new life — a life from the dead (ch.6:13).  Further, the thought

is suggested of the abuse of the body to uncleanness prevalent in heathen society

(ch.1:24). The bodies of Christians are “members of Christ,” “temples of the

Holy Ghost,” consecrated to God, and to be devoted to His service (I Corinthians

6:15); and not in heart only, but in actual life, of which the body is the agent, we

are  to offer ourselves, after the example of Christ.  (τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν

taen logikaen latreian humon - your reasonable or logical  servic ) must

be taken in apposition to “present your bodies,” rather than to “sacrifice,” it being

the act of offering, and not the thing offered. that constitutes the λατρεία (Divine

service).   This word is especially used for the ceremonial worship of the Old

Testament (Exodus 12:25-26; 13:5; ch. 9:4; Hebrews 8:5; 9:1, 6, 9; 10:2; 13:10),

the counterpart of which in Christians is, according to Paul, not ceremonial service,

but rather that of a devoted life (Acts 27:23; ch.1:9; Philippians 3:3; II Timothy

1:3; Hebrews 12:28). The epithet λογικὴν (reasonable) has been variously

understood.  It probably means rational, denoting a moral and spiritual serving of

God, in implied opposition to mechanical acts of outward worship.  It may be taken

to express the same idea as οἱ Πνεῦματι Θεῷ λατρεύοντες – hoi Pneumati

Theo latreuontesworship God in the Spirit -  (Philippians 3:3), and

πνευματικὴν θυσίαν pneumatikaen Thusianspiritual sacrifices –

 (I Peter 2:5; John 4:24). Though the offering of the body is being spoken of, yet

bodily self-sacrifice is an ethical act.  (I Corinthians 6:20).

 

 

 

Christian Sacrifice and Worship (v. 1)

 

In commencing the practical part of this Epistle, Paul adopts a tone of

gentle and affectionate persuasion. He might have addressed his readers as

disciples, and have used towards them the language of authority and

command. But, on the contrary, he calls them his “brethren,” and he

beseeches,” entreats them, as employing the appeals of love to enforce the

precepts of duty. At the same time, his language implies that compliance

with his admonitions is not a matter optional and indifferent. He beseeches

them because they are brethren, and because he has a right to expect that

they will not only listen with respect, but obey with alacrity. Before

entering upon the specific duties of the Christian life, and depicting in detail

the Christian character, the apostle exhibits in this verse the general ,and

comprehensive principle of practical Christianity. As religious men, these

Roman Christians must, as a matter of course, offer a sacrifice and a

service of worship. And they are here told that the presentation to God of

themselves is the one great act in which all specific acts of obedience are

summed up and involved. Let them enter into the temple of God, and bring

with them a living sacrifice; let them join in offering to Heaven a

reasonable, a spiritual worship; for with such the Father will be well

pleased.

 

  • Consider THE MOTIVE WHICH THE APOSTLE URGES in order to

induce to consecration. “By the mercies of God.” To every sensitive and

appreciative mind this is a cogent motive. The mercies of God have been,

and are, so many, so varied, so suited to our case, so unfailing, that we

cannot meditate upon them without acknowledging the claim they

constitute upon us. (He daily loadeth us with benefits – Psalm 68:19 –

CY – 2011)  The word used here is peculiar; the apostle speaks of

the pity, the compassions, of the Lord. Language this which brings out our

condition as one of dependence, helplessness, and even misery, and which

brings out also the condescension and loving-kindness of our heavenly

Father. There is, no doubt, an especial reference to the spiritual favors

which have been so fully and powerfully described in the earlier portion of

the Epistle. The mercies of God are nowhere so apparent as in redemption;

and human sin requires a great salvation. In exhibiting the marvelous

interposition of Divine grace on behalf of sinful humanity, in explaining the

reconciling work of Christ, in depicting the immunities, privileges, and

hopes of those who receive the gospel, the apostle has laid a good

foundation for the appeal of the text. Mercies may well excite gratitude, for

they are undeserved, sovereign, and free; and gratitude in the mind of the

Christian, who is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is a motive of no

mean order. And gratitude to such a God, and for such gifts, can only be a

motive to virtue and holiness.

 

  • Consider WHAT THE APOSTLE ENJOINS US TO PRESENT TO

GOD. “Your bodies.” The vigorous understanding of Paul preserved

him from that sentimental form of religion which many, professing to be

his followers, have adopted and advocated. It will not do to treat men, to

regard ourselves, as possessing only a spiritual nature. We have body as

well as soul. The most ethereal and ecstatic spiritual experiences do not

prove a man to be a true Christian. God requires that body, soul, and spirit

should be consecrated to Him. For the bodily nature is intended to express

and manifest the character, the spiritual life, the true man. If the spirit be

renewed and purified, the effect of this Divine work within will be apparent

in the outer life. Thus it is that the new creation, which is the work of the

Holy Spirit, extends to the whole nature and life. The body, therefore,

shares in the death unto sin, and in the new life unto righteousness and

holiness. The body is consecrated to Him who has redeemed the body as

well as the soul; and its members are employed as weapons or instruments,

not of sin, but of righteousness. It cannot be supposed that the apostle

intends us to understand that bodily service alone is sufficient. Nothing

would have been more alien from his whole teaching, or from the spirit of

the New Testament, than such a doctrine. Christ has taught us that

worship, in order to being acceptable, must be in spirit and in truth

(John 4:23-24); and Paul himself has assured us that bodily exercise

profiteth nothing, that circumcision availeth nothing, but a new creation.

In presenting our bodies unto God, we offer the praises of our lips and

the service of our hands. The body is the instrument of toil. The Christian’s

daily activity is consecrated to his redeeming God; and this is so, whatever

be the employment to which Providence has called him (Colossians 3:23).

The body is also the agent of spiritual ministry. Accordingly, the Christian’s

special efforts to do good, his teaching and preaching, his ministering to

the wants of his fellowmen and relieving them from their sufferings, his

evangelistic journeys in order to seek the lost and to proclaim the gospel, -

all are instances of his consecration of the body as well as of the soul to

his redeeming Lord.

 

  • Remark that such PRESENTATION ON THE PART OF THE

CHRISTIAN IS REGARDED AS SACRIFICE. From a study of the

religions of mankind, we learn that the sacrifices, alike of the heathen and

of the Jews, may be regarded as

 

Ø      offering, and

Ø      propitiation.

 

Now, as far as expiation, propitiation, is concerned, we, as Christians,

know that there has been one, and only one, real and acceptable sacrifice of

this kind — the sacrifice of himself offered to the Father by our Lord Jesus

Christ. This was the substance of which all that went before was merely the

shadow, and which can neither be repeated nor imitated. But as far as the

tribute of thanksgiving, adoration, and obedience is concerned, we are

taught that this is to be offered to God continually (Hebrews 13:15-16).

It is in this respect that all Christians are priests unto God; all,

irrespective of the position they hold in the Church, or the special services

they render in the congregations of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jewish

sacrifice, which this perpetual offering most closely resembles, is the burnt

offering, which the Hebrew worshipper brought to Jehovah as the

expression of his personal devotion and consecration to Heaven, as the

public declaration that he owed everything to the Lord, and that he

withheld from Him nothing which he possessed. In like manner Christians

present their bodies — their whole nature and life to Him who gave

Himself for them. “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price;

therefore glorify God with your bodies, which are his.” (I Corinthians

6:20)  Of this sacrifice, in which all Christians unite, the apostle reminds

us that it possesses three qualities.

 

Ø      It is living. The sacrifices which the Jews offered were either living

creatures, or substances which by their nature ministered to life; and

in offering such gifts the worshipper was presenting a symbol of

his own life.  But ordinary sacrifices were slain; the life was

consumed in the offering. The Christian’s life is not forfeited in

being presented to God. Yet in the presentation there is both

death and life. It has been said, “There is in every sacrifice a death,

and in this sacrifice a death unto sin, out of which there arises a

new life of righteousness unto God. Thus the living sacrifice is that

in which, though the natural life is not lost, a new life of holiness is

gained.” What a privilege is ours, who are expected to bring unto

God, not the bodies of brute animals, not the blood of bulls and

goats, but our own bodies — our very selves, our living nature —

and gratefully and willingly to lay this sacrifice upon the altar of

God!

 

Ø      It is holy. The animals which were presented under the Mosaic

economy were, according to the prescribed regulations, to be

free from blemish. This was doubtless an ordinance intended to

impress upon the mind of the worshipper a sense of the holiness

of the Being who was approached. All who officiated were to

be ceremonially clean. The substance, of which these symbols were

the shadow, was holiness, spiritual purity, freedom from iniquity.

There is nothing upon which greater stress is laid than the

requirement that every offering to God shall be such as a Being of

perfect purity can accept. A sprinkled body is not sufficient; a pure

heart is the demand of Him who is Himself the all-holy Lord.

 

Ø      And such an offering is well pleasing to God. This, indeed, may be

inferred from a consideration of God’s moral character as a truth-

loving and holy Governor, who cannot endure dissimulation and

hypocrisy. The enlightened among the ancient Hebrews saw clearly

enough that ceremonial purity and ritual correctness were not

enough to secure Divine acceptance and favor. And none who

enters into the teaching of our Savior, and sympathizes with the

spirit of Him, can fail to discern the necessity of a living and holy

sacrifice in order to please the Searcher of hearts, and satisfy the

requirements of Christ.

 

  • The offering of the Christian is further represented as A REASONABLE

SERVICE OR WORSHIP. The Revisers have, in the margin, “spiritual.”

It is a service rendered by the intelligent, reasonable, spiritual part of our

nature. Though the body is presented, the presentation of the body is the

expression of inner, spiritual worship. For the word means “worship”

“an outward act of religious worship.” Worship is a universal expression of

the religious nature of man. The heathen practiced their ritual of ceremony,

sacrifice, prayer, adoration; and the Jewish religion imposed an elaborate

system of public worship. The superiority of Christian worship is marked.

Obedience is the highest and most acceptable form of worship which can

be offered to God. This “reasonable worship” is distinguished from worship

that is merely mechanical and formal. It is similarly distinguished from all

substitutionary worship. It is personal, not representative; not by a priest

who worships for the congregation, and professes to offer sacrifice as their

representative, but by each individual Christian who has his own tribute

to offer, his own service to render.  (Revelation 1:5-6)

 

The language of the text appeals to those who neglect or withhold this sacrifice,

this service, and reproaches them as unreasonable, ungrateful, indefensible,

disobedient, self-destructive. It urges them to yield what God asks, through

Christ, who makes obedience and praise acceptable offerings to God.

 

 

 

 

                                    The Living Sacrifice (v. 1)

 

In the oldest records that can be found of the various nations of the earth,

sacrifice is always found to have formed part of their religious services.

Thus we find an idea universally existing that something was needed to

obtain pardon for guilt, and to express gratitude to the supreme being or

beings whom they regarded as the givers and benefactors of their life. But

it is only when we come to the religion of Israel that we find the idea of

sacrifice having any influence upon the life. The other nations offered

sacrifices, but there was no turning away from evil. Nay, in the case of

many heathen countries, their acts of religious worship became, and have

become, associated with immoral and degrading practices. The religion of

Israel, however, taught the necessity of personal holiness. True, their

religion was largely composed of rites and ceremonies, but it was a religion

of practical morality also. Very plainly the Jewish psalmist recognizes that

it is the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart that is most acceptable to

God, and that without this it is vain to offer the blood of bulls and goats.

(Psalm 51:17)  But the high precepts of their religion were sadly neglected by the

Jews in later years. In the time of Jesus Christ on earth, the religion of most of

them was a religion of ritual and routine. He told the Pharisees that though

they outwardly appeared righteous unto men, within they were full of

hypocrisy and iniquity. But Jesus came to teach men true religion. The

worship that He demands is a worship in spirit and in truth. The sacrifice

that He requires is a sacrifice of our life. He wants the activities and

energies of body, soul, and spirit to be consecrated to His service. This is

what the apostle means when he speaks of presenting our bodies as a living

sacrifice.

 

·         IT IS TO BE A SACRIFICE OF OUR FEELINGS. The whole heart

must be given up to God, so that whatever is right may be strengthened,

and that whatever is wrong may be taken away. Many Christians render to

Christ an imperfect sacrifice in this respect They keep back part of their life

from Him. They allow themselves to be dominated by feelings which are

inconsistent with His spirit and precepts. They will excuse themselves for

some besetting sin by saying, “That is my nature; I can’t help it.” The evil

nature is still with us, it is true; but it is our duty to strive against it, to

overcome it. Moses appears to have been at first a man of hasty and violent

temper. Yet the Divine discipline, and no doubt also his own obedience to

the Divine will, produced such a change in his character that it is

afterwards recorded of him, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above

all the men who were upon the face of the earth.”  (Numbers 12:3)  It is a

natural thing to be angry when things are said or done to provoke us; but is

it Christian? So with the other feelings of envy, of pride, of revenge,

of hatred — instead of yielding to them or excusing them, the true Christian

will be ashamed of them and sorry for them, and will do his best to overcome

their influence in his heart.

 

·         IT IS TO BE A SACRIFICE OF OUR AFFECTIONS. The love of

God should ever be the chief affection of our heart. Not that we are to love

our friends less, but we are to love God more. Hence, when our natural

affections become hindrances in the Christian life, they must be restrained

and subdued. The strongest temptations to the Christian are not always

those that come from the baser part of his nature, but sometimes those that

come from the purer and better emotions of the soul. The love of a friend

— it might seem strange that there should be anything wrong in that. Yet

even this affection, right and natural in itself, becomes wrong when it

interferes with love to God. The love of home — how can there be

anything wrong in that? Yet there is wrong in it when it interferes with the

call of duty. “He that loveth father or mother more than me,” says Christ,

“is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is

not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)  When the din of war begins to resound

throughout a land, the man who has dedicated himself to the military service of

his country does not hesitate to obey the trumpet-call. His farm or his business

may require his presence, and may suffer seriously by his absence. It is a

sore trial to tear himself away from his wife, from his family, and from his

friends, whose faces he may never see again in this world. But however

pressing the claims of his daily work may be, however strong his domestic

ties, all these considerations must now give way to the demand of

patriotism and of duty. And shall not the Christian soldier sacrifice all

earthly affections rather than be unfaithful to Christ? Shall he not hear the

voice of Jesus above all earthly voices? Of such complete self-denial Christ

Himself has given us the best example. “He pleased not Himself.” (ch. 15:3)

Not merely in His death, but in His life, He gave Himself a living sacrifice.

When we think of how much we owe to Christ, any sacrifice that we can make

will seem but a poor and feeble effort to show our gratitude and our love.

Yet we are encouraged to present even our poor sacrifice by the assurance

that it will be “acceptable unto God.”

 

 

 

                                    A Living Sacrifice (v. 1)

 

The text suggests to us the spiritual teacher’s platform. He does not so

much command or threaten as “beseech his brethren.” Various terms are,

indeed, used in the Authorized Version to translate the word παρακαλέω  -

parakaleobeseech.  But the feature of the word is speaking to some one for a

particular purpose, to get him to do or refrain from something, to help him in

difficulty or console him under trouble. The Saviour is spoken of in John’s

Epistle as our “Advocate,” our Paraclete, according to our Lord’s own

description of Himself when He promised, “I will send you another

Comforter.” (John 14:16)  And who has so great a right to speak faithfully as a

brother?  The very nearness of kin implies affectionate solicitude, precludes evil

suspicions. As brethren should the members of Churches stimulate each

other with kindly jealousy for each other’s welfare.

 

·         THE DEDICATION DESCRIBED. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.”

      The law of offerings is not abrogated, but is spiritually fulfilled. The

daily Christian sacrifice is not propitiatory like the Saviour’s, but

consequent upon that one efficacious atonement, and intended in like

manner to glorify the righteousness and goodness of God, and to redeem

man from evil. Sin has corrupted the entire organism, and the sacrifice is to

consist of the whole being. The body is expressly named as the part which

visibly was immersed in sin, and bowed under idolatry. But as the organ

and symbol of the life, and the vehicle of information and action, bringing

the powers of the soul into exercise, the surrender of the body to Christian

principle means that the entire self is yielded to God. If sacrifice signifies

self denial, there is yet a joy that swallows up the pain of privation in the

thought of the honor conferred on the garlanded victim accepted by the

Most High as an act of worship and praise.

 

Ø      Note some of the qualities of this sacrifice.

 

o       It is “living,” as contrasted with the dead sacrifices of Jewish

rites. True religion is not a galvanized life, but an inward principle

that vivifies the entire frame. The mere saying of prayers,

attendance at God’s house, the avoidance of ill places and

company, is a dead and worthless sacrifice if unaccompanied by

love and devotion. The love of Christ flaming within the body

makes it no longer a dull lump of clay, but an illumined

spiritual temple. It is a “holy” sacrifice; the sacredness of

consecration to a holy Being rests upon it, and there is real and

actual holiness of heart and life.

 

o       It is “acceptable,” well-pleasing to Him who despises not the

      weak, but rejoices in humble, devout sincerity, where the

leaven is cast out in order to a true celebration of the feast.

We need not fear the rejection of our offering, since to us has

been revealed the proper mode of approach; nor will the

shortcomings and sinful accompaniments that in spite of our best

attempts mingle with our words and deeds cause them to be

abhorred of Him who perceives therein the sweet savor of

Christ and incense of the Spirit. The “calves of our lips”

(Hosea 14:2) will not pollute His courts, nor our “doing good

and communicating” (Hebrews 13:16) pollute His holy altar.

 

o       We have also a general characterization of the sacrifice. It is a

      reasonable service. It is engaged in and ratified by the highest

powers, the enlightened intellect and the quickened spirit. Unlike

an unmeaning ritual, the service of the Christian is to him

emblematic of deepest truths. He sees himself not an isolated unit

which has itself merely to please and cherish, but a child of God,

a constituent of society, with the obligation and dignity of

obedience and self-abnegation for the service of God and man.

And there is great meaning in the word employed to denote our

“service.” It compares our lives to the ministrations of the priests

in the temple. When we raise our voices in supplication to the

throne, when we seek to lead others to the Saviour of our choice,

when we strive to discharge the duties of our calling as unto the

Lord, when we relieve the distressed or comfort the afflicted,

we are as much employed in temple-worship as if, like Aaron,

we wore the high priest’s robes, or, like Zacharias, offered

incense before the veil.

 

What a noble idea of the vocation of  the people of God this

metaphor conveys! Expect not a path of flowery ease — that the

mountains should be leveled and the valleys raised to facilitate your

progress! At the altar say, “I feel the cord that binds me; the knife is

keen that severs the tender flesh; the flames are hard to bear; but

withal I can rejoice that I am exalted to the honor of a holocaust

accepted of God, and not consumed but purified by the sacrifice.”

 

·         THE WEIGHTY ARGUMENT TO URGE THE DEDICATION.

There is a therefore in the text; the exhortation is grounded on previous

reasoning and previously stated facts. Herein lies the strength of the

religious teacher. He may have no excommunication with bell, book, and

candle to pronounce, no fire and sword with which to wring reluctant

assent; but he has decisions of a recognized court to allege, and motives of

unequalled potency to appeal to. Every one who has to do with machinery

knows the importance of motive-power. And Christianity is strong where

philosophical systems of ethics are weak. “You admit,” the apostle seems

to say, “these premisses; now supply the practical conclusion” He has been

rehearsing the mercies of God to Jews and Gentiles. Gratitude for the

Divine goodness impels to His service, and the hope of future benefits is a

lawful constraining force. Surely the grace that has granted pardon, peace, and

eternal life, is a voice to demand, a magnet to attract to, such a sacrifice as

that entreated. Providential mercies cry aloud, “Yield yourselves unto

God.”  (ch. 6:13)  Where shall we begin, how end their recital? There are

seasons, such as the beginning of a new year, or the anniversary of a birthday,

when the remembrance of the Divine forethought and loving-kindness

overwhelms the soul with thankfulness and praise. The darkest night has had

its star; in the coldest day some gleam of sunshine has cheered our landscape.

Family and household mercies, blessings bestowed on Church and town and

country, fresh discoveries in nature or art, “sweet voices from the distant

hills,” — all these renewed compassions of a benevolent God  and evoke

the old inquiry, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits

toward me?’  (Psalm 116:12)  The text furnishes the answer, the full

New Testament program, outlined in the psalmist’s :

 

Ø      “cup of salvation,”

Ø      “thanksgiving,”

Ø      “payment of vows” and

Ø      “prayer.”

 

2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing

of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect,

will of God.”  And be not conformed to (rather, fashioned after; the verb is

συσχηματίζεσθαι suschaematizesthe  - conformed -  this world:  but be ye

transformed (the verb here is μεταμορφοῦσθαιmetamorphousthe

transformed ) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove

(or, discern) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

It is a matter of no importance for exegesis that ancient authorities leave it

uncertain whether the verbs at the beginning of this verse should be read as

imperatives (συσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε) or as infinitives

(συσχηματίζεσθαι and μεταμορφοῦσθαι). In the latter case they depend, with

παραστῆσαι (to present) in v. 1, on παρακαλῶ - parakalo -  I am entreating.  

Paul is not in the habit of varying his expressions without a meaning; and he

might have written μετασχηματίζεσθε (transfer in a figure - I Corinthians 4:6;

II Corinthians 11:13-14;  Philippians 3:21)  instead of μεταμορφοῦσθε or

συμμορφοῦσθε - transformed or conformed - (Philippians 3:10) instead of 

συσχηματίζεσθε fashioned.   And there is an essential difference between the

senses in which σχῆμα schaemafashion - and μορφή - morphaeform - may

be used. The former denotes outward fashion, which may be fleeting, and

belonging to accident and circumstance; the latter is used to express

essential  form, in virtue of which a thing is what it is; Philippians 2:6-7; 3:21.

The apostle warns his readers not to follow in their ways of life the

fashions of this present world, which are both false and fleeting (I Corinthians

7:31, Παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτουparagei gar to schaema

Tou kosmou toutouthe fashion of this world), but to undergo such a change

of essential form as to preclude their doing so. If they become συμμόρφοι

summorphousconformed - with Christ (Romans 8:29), the world’s

fashions will not affect them. The phrase, “this world” or “age” (τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ -

to aioni toutoto this eon -  may be understood with reference to

the rabbinical division of time into αἰὼν οῦτοςaion  houtosthis eon –

 and αἰὼν μέλλωνaion mellon -   or ἐρχόμενοςerchomenosage

to come -  the latter denoting the age of the Messiah. The New Testament

writers seem to regard themselves as still in the former, though to them it is

irradiated by beams from the latter, which had already dawned in Christ,

though not to be fully realized till the παρούσιαparousiacoming;

second coming;  - (see note on Hebrews 1:2). The transformation here spoken

of consists in the renewal of the mind (τοῦ νοὸς - tou noosof the mind), which

denotes the understanding, or thinking power, regarded as to its moral activity.

And Christian renewal imparts not only the will and power to do God’s will,

but also intelligence to discern it. Hence follows εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς

eis to dokimazein humasye may prove -  etc. (Ephesians 4:17, 23; I Timothy

6:5; II Timothy 3:8; and also supra ch. 1:28, where the Gentiles were said to have

been given up, in judgment, εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦνeis adokimon noun – a

reprobate mind – when ἀδόκιμον may possibly mean undiscerning. See note

on that passage). It is to be observed, lastly, that the present tenses of the verbs

συσχηματίζεσθε and μεταμορφοῦσθε, unlike the previous aorist

παραστῆσαι, intimate progressive habits – see comments at the beginning

of this verse. The perfect Christian character is not formed all at once on

conversion (Philippians 3:12, seq.; see also previous note on ch. 6:13, with

reference to to παριστάνετε and παραστιήσατε - yield).  So far the exhortation

has been  general. The apostle now passes to particular directions; and first

(vs. 3-9) as to the use of gifts.

 

 

 

                                       The Living Sacrifice (vs. 1-2)

 

The great argument of the Epistle to the Romans is to the effect that God’s

favor is not to be earned, BUT ACCEPTED, and this is justification by faith.

The earlier chapters dealt with this; and the apostle now proceeds to a

development of the doctrine which completely reverses the old ideas.

Judaism sought mercy by sacrifice and service; Paul teaches that God

seeks man’s true sacrifice and service by showing mercy. We are to come

to Him, not that He may love us in the end, but because He loves us from the

beginning. Our obedience to God is to be, therefore, no task-work, but

love-work; not servitude, but sonship. God’s love is the great motive power

of the new life. We consider here the results which such love should

produce: the sacrifice and service of the body; the renewing of the mind.

 

·         THE SACRIFICE AND SERVICE OF THE BODY. There was a total

change from Judaism to Christianity in the point of sacrifice. The old

dispensation was one of blood and death. Daily, weekly, monthly, and

yearly, on various ever-recurring occasions, the altars of the temple ran

with blood from the dead bodies of slain beasts and birds. The temple was

one vast slaughter-house. But Christianity said, “This no more!” For there

has been offered one sacrifice for sins for ever; and what is wanted now,

says the apostle, is your bodies, not the bodies of beasts and birds, and

these bodies living, not dead. There was a vast change in the point of

service (λατρεία - latreia) also. What an elaborate ritual of service had

gathered round the sacrifice! part ordained by God, part added by man. There

were feasting and fasting; times and seasons, days and years; meats and drinks;

purifyings; prayers. Christianity swept this away too, in all its ceremonial

character. And what is wanted now, says the apostle, is not an elaborate

ritual and minute observance, but the life; a service, not mechanical and

befitting children, but rational and befitting men. All this the apostle points

to by his words. Your own living bodies are to be the sacrifice; the holy,

consecrated life of your bodies is to be the service. But let us gather the

significance of his words more fully. The body is an integral part of man:

consider in this connection the creation, death, and the resurrection. The

body is sacred: consider old dualistic heresy, leading to severe repression

or gross sin; also the modern error of despising the body now, and hoping

to be freed from it as from a burden by-and-by. The body? it is the

instrument of our active life in God’s creation — deed, speech, thought.

The spirit in itself may live towards God; but only by the medium of the

body can it live for God amongst men. And to present the body a living

sacrifice is thus TO OFFER THE WHOLE LIFE TO GOD!  Think, then, of

the meaning of this. Think of your life: busy work, with manifold industries of

limb, or speech, or brain, and intervals of rest which continually re-create you

for new work; social relationships, with all the continuous interchange of

affection and thought which they involve; of the life of your own mind,

your reasonings, your beliefs, your fancies, your memories, your hopes:

think of all these things, and a thousand others; and then remember that ALL

OF THIS IS TO BE OFFERED UP TO GOD, A LIVING SACRIFICE! 

This demands that the life be pure. Jewish sacrifices without spot. So conduct,

words, imaginings, must be undefiled. Demands also that the life be consecrated.

Just as sacrifice, when pronounced pure, was offered theon altar, so our activities,

being undefiled, are to be all given to God, that they may be employed for

Him. Nothing is neutral: activities of brain, of tongue, of hand, having many

subordinate ends, must be governed by the great controlling purpose to

please God and do His will. Is it so? Is the undefiled life God’s life? Do you

make everything inexorably bend to this? Is your great “sacrifice” the

sacrifice of the life? your great “service” the service of the life? All else is

as nothing compared with this.

 

·         THE RENEWING OF THE MIND. But how? The “age” is against us.

Whether or not conspicuously an age of impurity, certainly an age of greed

and self-worship. Consider the plastic and binding influences exerted by the

world: it imperceptibly educates us to itself if we yield; it restrains us as

with iron bands if we attempt to break away. And the current of our own

nature sets with the stream (Ephesians 2:2-3). Self-seeking; self-pleasing.

Not only are the lusts (ἐπιθυμίαι - ) of the flesh world-wards, themselves

controllable if the in epithumiailusts ner life were right; but the desire

(θέλημαthelaema - will) of the mind is world-wards too. The interior springs

of life are bad; the “willing” nature (νοῦςnous - mind) is diseased. And the

secret of all this is that the inward life is wrong with God; there is death, not

life (Ephesians 2:1).  For this reason, God’s governance and succor being lost,

the will is sunk in the lusts THAT IT SHOULD CONTROL and it is thus that

the desires of the flesh (ἐπιθυμίαι) have become actually volitions (θελήματα

wills) of the flesh (see Ephesians 2:3 again). Hence “be not conformed” is

immediately followed by “be transformed.” This is the great doctrine of the new

birth: are-attachment to the life of God, which shall make all things new. It has

been fully elaborated in chps. 6.-8. in which the apostle sets forth regeneration

as the natural and necessary accompaniment of true justification. It is here

insisted upon once more, as the only guarantee of a life of consecration

such as he is about to set before his readers in the following chapters,

which are an unfolding of the principle of the first verse of this chapter.

The Spirit of God is the regenerating power: what is the regenerating

principle? Love — love evoked, fed, perfected by the mighty, changeless

love of God. An enthusiasm for the highest good, which wings its way

through all that obstructs a lower energy of life, and triumphs evermore.

So now the νοῦς (mind) is renewed, the θελήματα (desires; wills) set with

the current of the new life, and the ἐπιθυμίαι (lusts) of the flesh fall into

their proper place. Thus a power of nonconformity to the “course of this world”

is ours; the bonds are broken, and the plastic influences break like spray upon a

rocky shore.  And so, with the altar set in order, the sacrifice is offered up; with

the worshipful heart restored, a living service is rendered. We “prove” what is

that good and acceptable and perfect will of God; it is -known, loved and

obeyed.

 

In conclusion, let us remember that we are besought to this renewal and

consecration by the yearning pity (οἰκτιρμῶνoiktirmonpities; mercies)

of our God. His tears! Oh, let us be persuaded to accept our healing at His

hands!

 

Ø      eyesight for blindness,

Ø      love for our dead, cold, barren selfishness.

 

And being alive unto God within, let us live to God without. Away with

fictitious sacrifices and fictitious service! The sacrifice is to be the living

sacrifice of ourselves, the service the rational service of a pure and

consecrated deed and speech and thought.

 

 

 

 

                                    The Two Likenesses (v. 2)

 

The exhortation contained in this verse regards the human mind as

impressionable, pliable, susceptible. It is especially addressed to Christians.

There are two forms which seek to impress themselves upon the Christian,

and the image of which every Christian bears in greater or less degree. The

one is likeness to the world; the other is likeness to God.

 

·        LIKENESS TO THE WORLD. Against this the apostle warns the

Christian: “Be not conformed to this world.”

 

Ø      The exhortation is much needed. The ambition of many Christians is to

be as like the world as possible. They talk of the extreme of Puritanism,

and speak of being too strict. The danger now is from the extremity of

worldliness. If I am to choose, let me have the extreme of being too

scrupulous rather than too careless, ultra-conscientious rather than having

a conscience that sees no harm in anything. Let me be like Abraham, who

would not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet from the King of

Sodom, rather than like worldly minded Lot, who pitched his tent toward

Sodom, and by-and-by came and dwelt in Sodom, though hia righteous

soul was vexed from day to day with the filthy conversation and unlawful

deeds of the people among whom he had chosen to dwell. (Genesis 12) 

Let me be like Elisha rather than Gehazi (II Kings 5), like Daniel rather than

Belshazzar.  (Daniel 5)

 

Ø      Conformity to the world is injurious to the Church. When the Jewish

people came in contact with the heathen nations, they began to imitate

them, to conform to their customs. The result was disastrous to the

spiritual life, and ultimately to the temporal prosperity of Israel. So it was

with the Churches of Asia, Their worldliness proved their ruin. Sardis had

a name to live, but it was dead. Laodicea was lukewarm, and neither cold

nor hot. We may try as Christians to please the world by conforming to it,

but in proportion as we do so we are unfaithful to our Master, and we are

displeasing Him. “The friendship of this world is enmity against God.”

(James 4:4)

 

Ø      The conformity of Christians to the world is injurious to the world.

Some Christians imagine that they will have more influence on the world

by becoming more like it. It is a great mistake. If we want to teach children

to write, we don’t set them imperfect copies. The world was never made

better by LOW IDEALS.   The deities of paganism did not elevate humanity.

It is not the half-and-half Christian, the worldly minded Christian, whose

influence will tell for good upon those around him. If we are to make the

world better, it can only be by keeping before us as Christians a high ideal

of what the Christian life ought to be, and by striving faithfully, and with

the help of Divine grace, to live up to it. Christians are living epistles,

known and read of all men. What kind of copy are we setting to the world?

 

Ø      We are not to imitate the world in its estimate of religion. The world’s

idea of religion is that it is a thing of gloom, an irksome restraint, a weary

bondage, something that it would be desirable to have when death is

approaching, but which it would be well to live without as long as possible?

Too often Christians give encouragement to this idea, Their religion has

too little relation to their daily life, or a relation of routine form rather than

of living and pleasant association.

 

Ø      We are not to imitate the world in its estimate of the soul. In the popular

estimation, and in everyday life, the soul is thrust into the background. The

chief concern is how to provide comfort and luxury for the body. No

expense is grudged for these objects. Bodily health is scrupulously

guarded, and rightly so. Education is carefully attended to. How anxious

parents are, and rightly so, to secure a good education for their children!

But how little trouble is taken to instruct them or have them instructed in

eternal things! How little care, generally, is devoted to the concerns of the

immortal soul! In this respect professing Christians are too liable to be

conformed to the world. They become too much absorbed in the world’s

business to think as much as they ought of their own spiritual life and of

the souls of others. Christian parents are often very careless in regard to

the spiritual instruction of their children. Let us not bear the world’s

likeness. “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate;”

(II Corinthians 6:17) “Be not conformed to this world.”  (v. 2)

 

·         LIKENESS TO GOD.  “But be ye transformed by the renewing of

      your mind.”

 

Ø      This is the way to drive out likeness to the world. Likeness to God will

exclude likeness to the world. The more desire we have for God, the less

we shall have for the world; the more we think of the soul, the less we shall

be anxious about the body; the more we think of eternity, the less we shall

 think of this present world; the more we think of the judgment of God, the

less we shall think of the judgment of men.

 

·         The first step is the renewing of your mind. An external influence is here

implied. We cannot renew our own minds. “Except a man be born from

above, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).  This is rightly called

the saving change. To experience this change is the starting-point of the

Christian life. It is to pass from death to life  (I John 3:14).  Old things pass

away; all things  become new (II Corinthians 5:17).  There is a new way of

looking at things. Things which we once took pleasure in have no attraction

for us now; duties which we once thought irksome now become our delight.

This is the result of the Holy Spirit working in us, producing in us likeness

to God, transforming us into His image, bringing every thought into captivity

to the obedience of Jesus Christ.  (Ibid ch. 10:5).

 

·         This transformation is to be developed by living near to God. Prayer,

and the study of God’s Word, are the means of obtaining this likeness to

God. It is noteworthy that the same Greek word which is here translated

“transformed” is the word which is used to describe the transfiguration

of Christ: “And He was transfigured before them”  (Matthew 17:2).  And

when did Christ’s transfiguration come to Him? When He was on the

mountain-top in prayer.  And as He prayed, the fashion of His

countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering”

(Luke 9:29). Prayer is the true transformation, the true transfiguration,

of the soul. Thus here on earth we shall reflect in some measure the image

of God until we reach that land where “we shall be like Him, for we

shall see Him as He is”  (I John 3:2).

 

 

 

Spiritual Transformation (v.2)

 

The Apostle Paul was great both in theoretical and in practical thought.

Truth and duty were equally his themes. He could introduce new ideas into

men’s minds, and that with a force which made the ideas part of the minds

into which they were introduced. And, at the same time, he could show the

bearing of the grandest ideas upon the commonest actions and the

homeliest life. This is a combination of qualities not always found even in

the greatest of men. It was found in Paul; and accordingly we go to him for

the loftiest representations of Christian truth, for the most elaborate

expositions of Christian doctrine, and also for the counsel we need in

circumstances of difficulty, and the instructions we need in the

development of social and individual life.  (The Apostle Paul was a

special chosen vessel of God, who when called, became obedient

and yielded unto the Holy Spirit – this is the secret of his great success

and is ours also if we will only yield to the calling of the Father and the

leadership of the Holy Spirit – CY – 2011).  It was a grand conception, that

with which the apostle begins the practical part of this treatise. What devout

heart does not, upon having this conception brought before it, burn with an

ardent desire to realize it — to present the body, the self, the all, a living

and holy sacrifice unto God? But then comes the question — How is it to

be done? And, indeed, what is it, precisely and actually, which is to be

done? The apostle proceeds to show us. And in translating the noble idea

of the first verse into the language of practical life, he proceeds wisely and

carefully, first giving us the general rule and law, and then drawing out

from it the special applications in detailed duties of Christian morality. In

studying this chapter we must ever and anon revert to the great principles

contained in the first and second verses. The principle is barren without the

precepts; the precepts are lifeless, flavorless, and impossible without the

principle. The verse contains:

 

  • A DISSUASION; i.e. from conformity to the world. Human character

and life are treated as something to be formed and fashioned by the

personal will. We are dealt with as beings responsible for the form and

fashion we impart to character and life. The apostle does not take it for

granted that those living in a Christian community must, as a matter of

course and necessity, attain to the Divine ideal. There is a temptation, a

danger, against which it is prudent to be warned. It was, no doubt, easier

to understand this dissuasion in the earliest days of Christianity than it is

now. “This world!” “this age!” — what a fulness, an awful fullness of

meaning this expression must have had for a Christian of the first century!

Not the material world, of course, but the world of human society, of

pagan idolatry, and sensuality, and cruelty, and skepticism, and despair,

was the world present to the apostle’s mind. Satan is termed in the New

Testament “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); the

unbelieving, unchristian population are designated “the children of this

world.” “The disputer of this world,” “the wisdom of this world,” apply

to what is unspiritual and godless. The distinction between the heathen

world and the Church of Christ must then have been sharp indeed. And

no reader could be at a loss to understand Paul’s advice to the Roman

Christians not to be fashioned according to this world. For in Rome,

perhaps above all other places, this world was the acknowledged

mistress and sovereign of human society.  And, as a matter of fact, the

Christian community in this and in other cities of the empire did live a

life in utter, manifest, obtrusive contrast to that lived by the multitude

of ambitious, pleasure-loving, superstitious, cynical citizens, by whom

they were surrounded. (How else could we become the “salt of the

earth?”  “The light of the world?”  - Matthew 4:13-14 - CY -2011) 

To make this a practical matter, let us ask — How does this dissuasion

apply to us? What is the world of which we are to beware? Is there such

a world in our England (USA) today? We meet with narrow and

prejudiced opinion on these questions. Some people think it worldly to

have anything to do with politics — especially on one side; others, to mix

with general society; others, to take an interest in painting, architecture,

music, and even literature. To such objections it is enough to answer that,

in becoming a Christian, one does not cease to be a man, but rather learns

to bring to bear upon human interests and occupations the principles of

the highest life and calling. We must beware of narrow and merely

technical definitions of “the world.” In truth, to be “fashioned according

 to the world” is to conform to sinful and prevalent practices. What is

worldliness? It is injustice, untruthfulness, impurity, avarice, slander.

Some of these vices and sins are to be found amongst those who are very

scrupulous in preserving what they call the line between the Church and

the world. But bear in mind that a life devoted to selfish aggrandizement

or pleasure, a life lacking in love and sympathy, is a worldly life. The same

idea is dwelt upon with urgency by the other apostles. John admonishes,

“Love not the world;” (I John 2:15-17) and Peter requires Christians “not

to be fashioned according to their former lusts in their ignorance.”

(I Peter 1:14)

 

  • A DIRECTION; i.e. to spiritual renewal. That the followers of Christ

might present themselves “a living sacrifice” to God, they were taught

that they must become something very different from what they had been

in their unbelieving, unregenerate days. The admonition of the apostle is

very full and strong.

 

Ø      It is to a change. “Repent!” was the first Divine message to men —

alike from the forerunner (John the Baptist) and from the Messiah

(Jesus Christ). Christians they could not be, whether Jews or

Gentiles, until changed. Religion cannot flatter, though priests may.

 

Ø      It is to renewal. How characteristic of the religion of the Lord Jesus

is this counsel! We have a new covenant, and we need a new nature;

we need to become a new creation, that we may live in newness of life

(ch. 6:4), and so prepare to dwell in the new heavens and to join in the

new song.  Christianity is a gospel of renewal. The fact implies the

abandonment and death and crucifixion of the old — the old nature,

“the old man,” as Paul calls it (Ibid. v.6).  Christ takes the individual,

the society, in hand, and molds all afresh from the beginning; implants

new principles, new laws, new aims, new hopes. He makes one new

man, one new humanity. What a gospel it is! It invites men to turn

their back upon their old and sinful ways, to abjure their old and

sinful self; to enter upon a new course — to become a new

creation. Here, surely, is hope and promise for the downcast.

Amendment may be impossible, but not renewal and regeneration;

for the Spirit of God is the mightiest of all powers to transform.

 

Ø      It is to a mental, a spiritual renewal. We are invited to a renovation,

which shall be not merely outward and bodily, but shall commence

with the very center and spring and root of our being. There is

wisdom in this provision. It originates in the Author and Framer

of our being, who knew what was in man. Let the heart be

renewed, and, the fountain being cleansed, sweet water shall flow

from it; and, the tree being made good, fruit ripe and wholesome

shall be borne. Our Lord asks for the heart, and the heart only

will He accept (Proverbs 23:26).  “Be renewed,” says the apostle

elsewhere, “in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).  The

Holy Spirit imparts new affections, new principles, new desires;

encourages to new associations, and inspires with new aims and

hopes.

 

  • AN INDUCEMENT; viz. by following the apostolic instructions the

Christian will prove what God’s will is. It seems a somewhat singular

motive to present. Yet, to a believer in God, it must be a very powerful

motive. The great question which interests men’s minds today is just this

— Are there in the universe signs of the presence, and energy, the moral

character, and conscious purpose of Deity? Is there, in a word, such a

thing as God’s will? and, if so, what is it? According to the apostle, the

consecrated and obedient Christian is in the way to settle this question in

his own experience. It seems almost presumptuous to propose the testing

of God’s will. The boy proves the calculation he has made with figures; the

armorer proves the temper of the gun or sword; the steel-maker, the

strength of the spring; the machinist, the resisting power of his boiler. The

vessel is sent upon a trial trip; the electrician tries his principle practically in

the working of a railway. So in the moral realm. The apostle bids us

“prove all things” (I Thessalonians 5:21; see Malachi 3:10).   Still, to speak

of proving God’s will does seem marvelous, and scarcely reverent. But it

must be borne in mind that Paul speaks of that will, not so much as the

action of the Divine mind, as the Divine law of the human life, of that will

to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now, it is one thing to look at the

Divine will as something to be admired and reverenced, and another thing

to regard it as something to be done. And by doing it, we, as Christians,

prove it; we discover for ourselves what it is, what are its qualities. It is good.

The old Greek idea of what, in moral life, is to be sought, was summed up in

this word — the good, the truly good, the highest good. This is equivalent to

the nature, expressed in the will, of the Supreme. It is acceptable, or well-

pleasing. That is to say, the performance of the Divine will by man is well-

pleasing to Him who has revealed the law of human life, and who is gratified

when His own idea is taken up, and wrought out into practice with vigor and

sympathy. It is perfect, admitting of no amendment, no censure, no

improvement. To attain to it is to reach a moral height above which nothing

towers. The connection between the will of God and the consecration and

sacrifice commended in the previous verse is obvious. As the apostle

elsewhere says, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification”

(I Thessalonians 4:3).  Walking as children of the light, we “prove what is

acceptable unto the Lord.” It is only thus that we show ourselves to

understand what the will of the Lord is.” To understand it as a mere

matter of theory is valueless and vain.

 

The motive to this new life is to be found in the love and sacrifice of JESUS

CHRIST, THE REDEEMER.

 

The power for this new life is to be found in the gracious influences of

the Holy Spirit of God. Let this motive have force and sway in your nature;

let this power be sought, to control, transform, and renew your life.

 

           

 

 

                        Christian Character a Metamorphosis (v. 2)

 

Advice as to conduct, in order to be complete, should be both negative and

positive in exhortation; it should say what ought to be done as well as what

ought to be avoided. Christianity repels from evil and attracts to goodness.

He runs best who not only flees from peril, but knows the refuge for which

to shape his course.

 

·         NOT THE FASHION OF THE AGE, BUT THE WILL OF GOD, IS

THE TRUE STANDARD OF DUTY. The Scriptures contrast this world

with the kingdom of God.

 

Ø      The one is fleeting, the other eternal.

Ø      The one is carnal, the other spiritual;

Ø      the one appears to the bodily senses, the other is a vision of faith.

 

The kingdom which Christ has established realizes the desire and purpose of

God’s heart. Those who enter it are not thereby removed from the sphere of

worldly need and influence and activity, but there is a difference in the spirit

with which these temporal objects are pursued. A touchstone of value is

introduced, and occupations and possessions are appraised according to its

decisions. The will of God is the Ariadne clew (ball of thread) which guides

the traveler safely  through the maze of shifting opinions and bewildering

dictates. The disciple of Christ asks not — What will my companions say?

what is the prevailing etiquette? what is the code of honor prescribed by

the circle to which I belong? or what is the amount of kindness, purity,

and justice which will save me from public censure? but — What would

God have me do? what will He approve? what is His Divine intent in my

upbringing and redemption? From how many petty anxieties is

such a man freed, and what noble cares supplant his former subservience to

custom! Commerce, politics, the Church, every arena needs such men. The

face of God is not reflected in His servants like coins stamped with the

sovereign’s identical image, but varies like the reflection of the sky,

according to the lake, river, or sea that mirrors its/His glory.

 

·         A RENEWED MIND IS THE CHANNEL OF TRANSFORMATION.

God has created man intelligent, and men act generally according to their

perception of the fitness of things. Alter their views, modify their tastes,

direct their inclinations, and their career is changed. If they do the same

things, they do them with reference to a higher Being and a wider

landscape. Some things loved before appear loathsome now; the eyes are

opened, and the old order is deserted for the beauties and satisfactions of

the new state. The will of God may be traced in His works and ways, in

creation and providence; but Jesus Christ in the Scriptures is to us the

fullest revelation granted of the mind of God, and by studying Him is:

 

Ø      the conscience quickened,

Ø      the reason enlightened, and

Ø      the affection sanctified.

 

Christianity thus works from within outward. It does not try to transfigure

appearances by gilding the apples of the tree, or appending fruit to its

boughs, but it transforms the sap, and lets the new life produce its

appropriate harvest. The renewing of the judgment implies a restoration of

man to a primitive condition from which he has fallen. The lineaments of

God in human nature which had grown dull, almost obliterated by the wear

and tear of A GODLESS EXISTENCE are made vivid again. Like the

whitewash removed from the walls of an ancient edifice, and no longer

allowed to conceal the glorious frescoes or carving beneath, so the chamber

of the heart is renovated by the reception of the Spirit of Christ, and the

defilements and deceptions give place to the pristine conception of man in

the likeness of God, retouched, remodeled by Him who maketh all things

new. The blood-stained cross is the measure of devotion to the will of God

and of self-sacrifice for the common good. The risen Christ is THE IDEAL

OF THE FUTURE to which Christian hopes turn and to which conformity

is lovingly sought.

 

·         THE COMPLETER THE TRANSFORMATION, THE MORE

SURELY IS THE WILL OF GOD DISCERNED, AND THE MORE

INTENSELY IS IT PRIZED. It is the universal law condensed into a

proverb that “experience teaches.” Not all at once can the ear distinguish

sounds, or the eye form and colors. Not immediately does the reason

discriminate between logical and illogical arguments and procedures, nor

the taste discover and apply its canons of judgment. Practice and discipline

are required. And it were absurd to expect that in the regenerated man the

old habits of liking and behavior could be thrown off by one effort like a

worn-out garment. The man rescued from drowning slowly comes to

himself, and gradually does the eye of the saved believer learn to recognize

in every place the presence of his Lord, and his ear to at all times catch the

faintest whisper of His voice. The early converts made sad blunders in their

celebration of Christian ordinances, in their governance of the gifts with

which they were endowed, and in their application of Divine morality to

the questions of the day. But they were in the school of Christ, and MADE

STEADY PROGRESS!   And every advance in knowledge and life has

confirmed our appreciation of the will of God as being good, and worthy of

the utmost maturity of ethical manhood. The Saviour’s prayer is the verdict of

the saintliest lives, the last word of Christian judgment: “Thy will, not

mine, be done.”  (Luke 22:42)  As an encouragement it may be noted that our

standard of duty ever rises as we understand better the mind of God and

approximate to its requirements. And we must not be disappointed if to

ourselves we seem as far off as ever from the ideal development. This is

only as, in climbing to some mountain summit, the top appears more distant

            because progress reveals more accurately the total height.

 

3   For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you,

not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly,

according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

For I say, through the grace given unto me, (the grace of apostleship to

the Gentiles (ch.1:5; 15:15). He is about to warn against either neglecting or

exceeding the special graces given to each person; and he may, perhaps, mean

to imply here that he himself, in giving these admonitions, is exercising, without

exceeding, his own special grace) to every man that is among you (this is

emphatic. The pretensions to superiority of some at Corinth who possessed more

showy gifts than others had shown how the admonition might need to be pressed

on all; and in a community like that of the Romans there might well be a special

tendency to assumption on the part of some), not to think of himself more

highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly (rather, as in the Revised

Version so to think as to think soberly, or, more literally, to be minded so

as to be sober-minded), according as God hath dealt to every man the

measure of faith.  Why of faith? One might have expected the expression

to be, “of grace,” as in v. 6, “according to the grace that is given to us;”

or as in Ephesians 4:7, “according to the measure [μέτρονmetron

measure - as here] of the gift of Christ.” It seems to be because by faith we

become receptive of the grace given to each of us. Hence the faith assigned

by God to each is regarded as the regulative standard; the subjective condition.

Cf. also Matthew 17:20 and I Corinthians 13:2, where miraculous powers are

spoken of as dependent on the amount of faith. Tholuck explains thus: “Faith in

an unseen Christ brings man into connection with a world unseen, in which he

moves without distinctly apprehending it; and in proportion as he learns to look

with faith to that world, the more is the measure of his spiritual powers elevated.”

 

 

 

                                    Individualism (vs. 1-3)

 

After the lengthened exposition of the Divine “mercies” given in the

preceding eleven chapters, the apostle feels himself in a position to apply

the truth and enforce Christian morals. He accordingly proceeds to base his

exhortation upon the “mercies of God,” and the first matter he urges is

becoming individuality. These brethren at Rome ought to dedicate

themselves as living sacrifices unto God, realizing how reasonable such a

service is, and exhibiting due unworldliness of character in all things. Let

us, then, with Paul as guide, consider the elements of Christian

individualism as here set before us.

 

·         OUR BODIES ARE TO BE LAID AS LIVING SACRIFICES ON

GOD’S ALTAR. (v. 1.) If we have been called with a holy calling, if the

risen Saviour has given us the needed helping hand, then we are bound to

realize our obligation to Him in dedicating our bodies as “living sacrifices”

unto Him. The reason why we can dedicate them as living sacrifices is that

He has offered the atoning sacrifice our pardon and acceptance require,

and we can consequently dedicate ourselves living to His glory. Now, when

we look into the order of the Jewish sacrifices, we find that the sin offering

came first, then the burnt offering, and then the peace offering. The leading

idea in each was:

 

Ø      atonement,

Ø      consecration, and

Ø      fellowship.

 

The sin offering emphasized atonement, the burnt offering or holocaust emphasized consecration, and the peace offering emphasized fellowship.

Now, the self-dedication to which the apostle here calls us corresponds in the ritual to the burnt offering; and just as in this particular sacrifice the entire

carcass was consumed in the sacred fire, so the idea is that our whole personality, body, soul, and spirit, is to be consecrated by the fire of the Holy Spirit to the

service of our Lord and Master. The idea, in short, is that our bodies

should be organs of the Holy Ghost. What a holy and blessed thought is

thus associated with the body of the believer! It dare not be dedicated to

any profane use. It is a holy thing, and is to be laid on God’s altar and thus

dedicated in its entirety to Him. Miss Havergal’s “Hymn of Consecration”

will occur to every one, with the dedication of” hands,” and “feet,” and

“voice,” and “lips” and, in a word, “all’ we are, to the glory of our Lord.

Dean Goulburn, in his suggestive work on the ‘ Study of the Holy

Scriptures,’ gives a sketch upon this passage, from which the following will

be found useful: “Consider the members of the body which must thus be

yielded:

 

(1) The eyes. The lust of the eye must be mortified, and the eye employed

in reading God’s Word, or surveying His works.

(2) The ears. We must be ‘swift to hear’ the voice of instruction, and must

turn away the ear from temptation and from flattery (see Acts 12:22-23).

(3) The hands. ‘Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor,

working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give

to him that needeth(Ephesians 4:28).

(4) The feet. ‘I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came

unto me’ (Matthew 25:36).

(5) The mouth. ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your

mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister

grace unto the hearers’ (Ephesians 4:29). ‘Let your speech be alway

with grace, seasoned with salt’ (Colossians 4:6).”

 

·         WE ARE TO REALIZE THAT THIS ENTIRE DEDICATION IS

ONLY OUR REASONABLE SERVICE. (v. 1.) It seems at first a large

demand. But it becomes reasonable the moment we consider our

obligation. If Jesus has dedicated His body in life and in death to our

interests and salvation, the dedication of our living bodies in return to Him

is surely a reasonable service. M. de Rougemont has brought out the

reasonable character of this self-dedication in his own pointed fashion.

Writing in his ‘La Vie Humaine avec et sans la Foi’ upon this passage, he

says, “The word body signifies here the complete man; the victim, it is

ourselves, and the sacrifice, to which Paul exhorts us, is that of our

soul, of our will, of our thought, of our heart, without which that of our

flesh would be impossible. But on hearing this term ‘sacrifice,’ the vicious

takes to flight, the honest man is up in arms (resiste), the semi-Christian

frets. All say it is impossible, or at least it is too difficult. And Paul

contends that it is reasonable! Yes, reasonable, and irrational, senseless,

absurd, to refuse God such a worship (culte). In fact, to refuse it to Him is

to refuse Him all worship; it is to condemn ourselves to a life of worldliness

and irreligion. Is it a true religion which consists in giving to prayer a half-hour

a day, to the Divine service two or three hours on Sunday, when,

even during those hours, one says to God, ‘I give thee, indeed, a part of

my time; but my heart? — no, I keep that for myself’? If at least, by

guarding thus for ourselves our heart, we were happy! Let us leave aside

here the lusts and passions which enslave and shame us. Let us speak only

of our plans of happiness, of our favorite occupations, of our legitimate

affections. We cannot bring ourselves to lay them on the altar, to present

them to God, and minus these to sacrifice ourselves to Him. But are we

then our masters? do we dispose events according to our will? do we hold

in our hands the threads of our life and of the life of our relatives (la vie

des notres)? Can we do anything against God? If he wishes to take away

from us the objects of our affections, to snatch us away from our labor or

our pleasures, to over- turn all our projects, who are we to struggle against

Him? Is it not more reasonable to offer ourselves altogether unto Him, like

docile and trustful lambs, and to say to Him, ‘Here we are; make us what

thou pleasest: thou canst take no more from us, since we have given all to

thee; we are besides without fear, because we know by Jesus Christ HOW

GREAT ARE THY MERCIES? Can such living and holy victims be anything

but acceptable to God? and is not this worship the only reasonable one, as

it is also the only loyal, free, and joyous one?” (pp. 122-124).

 

·         SUCH A SELF-DEDICATION IMPLIES NONCONFORMITY TO

THE WORLD AND TRANSFIGURATION INTO THE DIVINE WILL.

(v. 2.) The conduct of others is not to be our standard, but the will of

God. Worldliness consists essentially in this — making the fashion our

standard of life. Now, in this respect we are not to conform to the worldly

and prevailing ideas. Saurin has a fine sermon on this verse, in which he

exhorts his hearers not to conform to the multitude in faith, or in worship,

or in morals, or in our exodus at death.  And then, if we take the Divine

will as our proper standard, we shall find ourselves “transfigured”

(μεταμορφοῦσθε) by the renewing of our minds, so that we shall “test”

(δοκιμάζειν) and so come to understand what is that good and

acceptable and perfect will of God (cf. Shedd, in loc.). Now, it is in this

way, by surrendering ourselves to the Divine idea concerning us, that we

shall realize that individuality and influence among men which is so

desirable. In fact, we become most original, in the best sense of that term,

when we do not try to be original, but simply to be and do what is God’s

will concerning us. It was the same with our blessed Master. He professed

to do nothing of Himself, but simply to mediate to men what the Father

gave Him (John 5:19); and yet He has been out of sight the most original

personality which has ever appeared in this world. So will it be with us in

our little spheres if we will only allow God to transfigure us.

 

·         SUCH ABANDONMENT TO THE DIVINE WILL SECURES DUE

SOBRIETY IN OUR ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES. (v. 3.) The

gospel delivers us from egotism; we dare not think highly of ourselves; we

can only think of how we are realizing God’s will concerning us. And so,

as merely mediating God’s wiser will, we think soberly and humbly of

ourselves. The apostle thus commends to the Romans and to all men what

Leighton calls that “gracing grace of humility, the ornament and safety of

all other graces, and what is so peculiarly Christian.” Our individualism will

thus be found delivered from the egotism and self-esteem of worldly men,

and projected along the path of meekness and lowliness of heart which the

Master trod before us. Such sober self-knowledge makes the Christian life

a wondrous power. Contrasting with the self-assertion and self-esteem

which are so valuable in the world’s regard, the humility of the Christian

becomes a power and influence radically different in kind from, but far

more fruitful in results than, the noisy efforts of the world. May the Master

help us all to follow in His meek and lowly steps!   (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

 

 

                                    A Proper Estimate of Self (v. 3)

 

The fount of knowledge and utterance is the “grace” of God. The apostle

claims to be heard as one who, has received a message, not excogitated a

thought, which it is his business to deliver and enforce. This is ever the

prophet’s function, TO ANNOUNCE THE MIND OF GOD and he needs

continual “grace” to be faithful to the truth, not to hide nor to alter nor to add.

 

·         IT IS NOT SELF-DEPRECIATION WHICH IS HERE

COMMANDED. Aristotle’s dictum of right action is that virtuous

behavior lies in a mean between two extremes. And whilst not a sufficient

account, this often serves as a ready criterion. Proper humility is not to be

confounded with mock modesty and diffidence on the one hand, nor on the

other hand with arrogance and pride. He acts injuriously to himself who,

comparing himself with others, despises what he is and can do, because

higher and larger gifts have been bestowed on his fellows. Such self-

despising is ingratitude to God, and casts a slur on the Divine equity. We

dare not make light of any post He enables us to fill, or of the simplest

service He permits us to render. He who has dignified humanity, first by

creating it “in His own image after His likeness,” and then by the incarnation

of His beloved Son, may expect in every man a certain reasonable degree of

self-respect. And the apostle implies that there is a way in which each

“ought think” of himself, ought to honor his position and abilities. Shall

the lark refuse to trill forth melody in his upward flight because he cannot

pour forth the luscious changeful notes of the nightingale? or the robin

refuse to chirp merrily in the winter because he cannot undertake the long

flight of the swallow? Shall the violet withhold its delicious fragrance

because the sunflower is so conspicuously gorgeous? or the lofty elm not

clap its hands in praise of God because of its nearness to the wide-spreading

beech? That is not true humility, but scornful indolence, which

buries its talent in the earth. Of a lowly beast of burden it was said, “The

Lord hath need of him.”  (Luke 19:31)

 

·         IT IS UNDUE SELF-ESTEEM WHICH IS REPROVED. An

immoderate estimate of our personal worth is unmindful of obvious facts.

It forgets that God regards quality rather than quantity, and that all we

possess we have received (I Corinthians 4:7),  even the ability to use our gifts,

and by use to augment and perfect our capacity. We gain a humble estimate of

our powers by coming into the society of truly great men. As we measure little

hills by the sky-piercing mountains, so we may profitably turn our thoughts

to the almighty and all-wise, the ever-living and holy God. And, to assist us

in our judgments, His grace has sent a pattern of merit in the character and

life of His Son, attempering the glory of the Most High to our weak vision,

and allowing us to see Divine greatness humbling itself to the form of a

servant and the death of a criminal. We have to own our imperfect

rectitude when we place it side by side with THE OBEDIENCE AND

RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST!  As with a splash of cold water, is the most

intoxicated with his own grandeur sobered into due modesty. Through

pride the angels “kept not their first estate” (Jude 1:6), and it is a favorite

device of the tempter to allure men into a sense of self-sufficiency and

importance. “Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of

the pit whence ye were digged.” (Isaiah 51:1)  Wounded vanity prevents

many a member of the Church from seeking to glorify a lowly position; the

foot wants to be where the eye is, and the hand objects to serve the head.

The elder brother loses the joy of the prodigal’s return. (Luke 15)  Remember

that in the Saviours reckoning the widow’s offering far outweighed the costly

contributions of the wealthy.  (Mark 12:41-44)  (Charles Spurgeon once said,

“It remains to be seen what God can do with a man that will not touch the

glory!”  CY – 2020)

 

·         THE RULE IS TO BE UNIVERSALLY APPLIED. “I say to every

man that is among you.” Every man needs this regulation. The precepts

and promises of Scripture addressed to all are only effective as each

severally appropriates them. We are individualized in God’s sight, not

lumped together in the mass. The danger lies at the door of each, and each

must calculate his proper worth and position. We cannot do this for one

another; to his own Master does each stand or fall Every Christian

obtained some amount of faith. There are gradations in spiritual as in

temporal life, and the rank of honor is according to the service rendered

to the body to which we belong. But none is entirely destitute; let none,

therefore, be despised or downhearted. All Christians are landed

proprietors; an estate large or small is allotted to them to occupy and

cultivate. The Spirit distributeth as He will. (I Corinthians 12;11)

Our business is not to quarrel with the distribution, but to be diligent

stewards of the deposit entrusted to our care. He that is faithful in little

or in much shall be rewarded. Such a consideration abates envy and

discontent, abolishes boasting and self-complacency.

 

4   “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have

not the same office:  5  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and

every one members one of another.”  The illustration of the body with its

members to set forth the mutual dependence on each other of the several

members of the Church with their several gifts and functions, and the importance

of all for the well-being of the whole, is further carried out in I Corinthians 12:12, seq.

In Ephesians 1:22 and 4:15-16, Christ is regarded, somewhat differently, as the

exalted Head over the Church which is His body. Here and in I Corinthians 12.,

the head is not thus distinguished from the rest of the body (Ibid. v. 21); the whole

is “one body in Christ,” who is the living Person who unites and animates it.

 

 

 

                                    Christian Humility (vs. 3-5)

 

The life of Christian consecration is now set forth in its practical bearings.

We have life in the Church, including its attitude towards those that are

without (ch. 12.), and life in the state (ch. 13.). The life of members of the

Church, as such, is set forth as controlled by two great vital principles:

 

  1. humility, as regards one’s self;
  2. love, as regards others.

 

Here the grace of humility is insisted on, as regulating each one’s thoughts and work.

 

·         First, we are to have a sober and proper estimate of ourselves and our

aptitudes.

 

Ø      The tendency amongst men is to exalt themselves in their own thoughts

as compared with others. An unholy rivalry of heart is easily possible even

in the Christian brotherhood. We magnify our own importance out of all

proportion to the actual place we fill. How contrary to the very initial

requisite of the kingdom of heaven: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”!

(Matthew 5:3)  We must, on the contrary, think soberly. We must in all

seriousness know ourselves and our place. We must indeed gauge and

estimate our sanctified powers, but only that we may know to what holy

purpose we shall put there ‘‘according to the capacity, in the realm of faith,

which God has given us.”

 

Ø      And so we must think of our various gifts, not as in rivalry, but as

supplementing one another. The figure of the many members, and their

diverse offices: so the body of Christ. Variety in unity: this the lesson

taught us by God’s works, and by His constitution of human society in

general; we Christians must learn the lesson, as teaching us that we all are

members one of another.”

 

·         Secondly, we are to give ourselves with all diligence to the fulfillment of

our several works. We trench here upon the second principle. If humility

teaches us to confine ourselves soberly to our own God-appointed labor,

love teaches us to throw ourselves with holy zeal into such labor that the

several members may all profit by our diligence. And the great truth

brought out prominently here is that the cause of Christ is best advanced

when each one does earnestly what he can do best. The apostle says, “Use

your own sanctified gifts to the best of your ability, so will God be well-

pleased, and your brethren and the world be blessed.”

 

Ø      Prophecy: the spiritual insight that apprehends with increasing clearness

God’s purposes of saving grace.

 

Ø      Ministry: the official attention to financial and business matters of the Church,

in which the “deacon” wins his good degree.

 

Ø      Teaching: the assiduous inculcation of received truth, that the

people of God may be built up in the faith.

 

Ø      Exhorting: the earnest pleading with men, that their hearts may be won,

or more fully won, to that which is Divine and good.

 

Such the more official duties.

 

The more private and spontaneous duties are to be similarly performed.

 

Ø      Giving: for some who are so favored have it as their special work to hold

in trust for others, and to bestow as they have opportunity, the good things

of this world. Let this be with all liberality of heart.

 

Ø      Ruling: there will be committees for such philanthropic work, and men

      of enterprise will have it as their special business to lead the way. Let

this be with diligence, for success or failure will follow according to their

devotion or half-heartedness.

 

Ø      Showing -mercy: some will have it for their work personally

to dispense the help which perhaps the liberality of others affords. Let it be

with a cheerfulness that shall make the blessing doubly blessed; let their

presence be hailed everywhere as it were sunshine in the gloom.

Such is the principle of a true Christian humility, merging into love. The

old Greek wisdom urged upon its students, “Know thyself.” Our Christian

faith inculcates the same lesson upon us. Not by our seeking to do others’

work, but by our fulfilling, as best we may, our own, will the common weal

be advanced. Yes, know thyself, and know thy Saviour; so shalt thou save

thyself, and promote the salvation of the world.

 

 

 

Membership in Christ (vs. 3-5)

 

The great principles laid down at the outset of this chapter have to be

followed out into practice. Paul shows how consecration and renewal are

to manifest themselves in actual life, and how the will of God is to be

practically proved. In so doing — perhaps because he is writing to a

Church, and not to an individual — he first treats of the obligations of

social Christianity, and shows how members of a brotherhood ought to act

in their association with one another, in their Church-life. Yet he does not

lose sight of the fact that a congregation, a community, is composed of

individuals; accordingly, the message he delivers he delivers expressly to

“every man that is among you.” His first caution is against self-exaltation

and self-praise; his first counsel is to unity and mutual consideration. This

is very natural; for the early Christians were but few in number, and, being

so decidedly distinguished from the world around, they were thrown very

much into one another’s society, and their Christian life had both the

advantages and dangers attaching to its social character.

 

PRIDE IS CONDEMNED

  AND

SOBRIETY OF JUDGMENT ENJOINED.

 

  • This was a necessary caution and admonition. It is a besetting

temptation of human nature to think too highly of ourselves. Men are

prone to exaggerate their own abilities and merits, and to extenuate their

own faults; and, at the same time, alas! to depreciate the gifts and deserts

of their neighbors, and to magnify their failings. It is the infirmity of

selfishness, of self-importance, of self-glorification. In old times, the

Christian moralists reckoned pride among the seven deadly sins. There

was an additional reason for this apostolic caution in the case of the early

Christians. There were imparted to many of them very remarkable and

striking gifts, in some instances of a miraculous character. Within the

boundary of these societies, these gifts were held in high esteem, and were

often unduly prized and even coveted. The possessors of supernatural

powers, gifts of tongues or of healing, may have been persons of no more

than average Christian character, and may have been specially in danger

of being puffed up by spiritual pride. Let it be remembered that there is

scarcely any possession or endowment which may not furnish occasion for

sinful pride.

 

  • There is a special propriety in modesty, in sobriety of judgment

concerning ourselves. What we have we received from the Giver of

every good gift, and every perfect boon (James 1:17).  Our “measure

of faith” He bestowed.  Who, then, made us to differ? In fact, what

are we, the best of us, but poor helpless sinners, saved by sovereign

grace? The more we reflect, the more we shall see how unreasonable,

indefensible, and absurd it is to indulge sentiments of self-importance and

self-esteem. Humiliation and contrition are far more appropriate to all.

 

  • This is an admonition easy to misconstrue. Insincere professions of

humility are repugnant to the Searcher of hearts; yet there is reason to

believe that they are frequent. There is a “pride that apes humility” And

there are those who need to be put upon their guard against undue

depreciation of themselves and their abilities; such persons do little good,

because they have a rooted conviction that they have no power for service.

It is desirable, neither to neglect the one talent, nor to boast of the five.

(25:14-30)

 

  • We have an example of the virtue of sobriety in Paul’s own case. Even

here, instead of commanding or dictating, he words his counsel modestly:

“I say, through the grace given to me” Not that he doubted his apostolic

authority, but that he disclaimed any personal merit or claim. For he could

sincerely speak of himself as “the least of the apostles”“not meet to

 be called an apostle;” (I Corinthians 15:9); “less than the least of all

 saints.” (Ephesians 3:8) He, therefore, may justly be said to have enforced

his precepts by his own personal, living example.

 

MEMBERSHIP IN CHRIST IS SHOWN TO BE THE ROOT OF

HUMILITY AND MUTUAL CONSIDERATION.

 

How can we enough admire in the apostle his habit of laying the foundation of every

duty and virtue in Christ? In order to think modestly of ourselves, and kindly and

respectfully of our Christian brethren, we should bear in mind our common

dependence upon the same Savior, and our mutual relation one to another.

The principle here stated was one very familiar to Paul’s mind; for it is propounded

in several of his Epistles, and enforced with great beauty, and at some length, in the

First Epistle to the Corinthians.

 

  • Christians are in common members of the Lord Christ. He is the Head;

the Divine Personality, revealing Himself through the body. He Himself

had taught this great and precious doctrine. “Abide in me,” said Christ,

“and I in you” (John 15:4).  He dwells in and inspires His body, the

Church, by His own gracious and mighty Spirit. It is His presence that

gives life and guidance, energy and blessing, to the body. Now, if this be so,

surely it is obvious that to exalt ourselves and to despise others is

inconsistent with such a relation. Can we regard with neglect, or with scorn,

those whom the Lord terms members of His own mystical body?

 

  • There is diversity among the members of the spiritual body. As in the

human frame, so in the Church, every member has its own office. In

subsequent verses Paul explains what some of these offices are. It is an

instructive thought, impressing lessons of modesty and mutual esteem, that

Christ has a use for every one of us. Instead of fretting that you have not

your neighbor’s gift, rather rejoice that he has it. Instead of thinking so

much of your own work as to fill up the whole horizon of your vision with

what is yours, turn an interested and kindly eye upon the ministry of your

neighbor. Almost all men are prone to be one-sided. Receive inspired

counsel: “Look every man also upon the things of others” (Philippians

2:4).  There is room in the Church for the Christian scholar, the Christian

philosopher, the Christian preacher, the Christian man of business, the

Christian man of science, the Christian workman; for those who give

themselves to healing, to education, to domestic life, to civil government,

to social amelioration; in fact, there is room for all whom Christ has

called and qualified for His own service. The great Maker has

fashioned no two alike; let each be content to be himselfto be just

what the Lord of the body intended him to be.

 

  • There is unity and harmony among the members of Christ’s body. The

inspired view is this: We cannot be all Christ’s without coming into relation

with one another, very close and vital. Common dependence upon the

Head creates mutual affections, and calls for mutual services. How

destructive is this teaching of that pride, from which the apostle dissuades!

The health of each member, and his efficiency for service, depends upon

the condition of the other members of the spiritual organism and structure.

It is not uniformity which is to be cultivated and expected; it is organic

unity, which implies unity in diversity. Subordination to the one

Head, the indwelling of the one Spirit, will produce this happy result.

Thus are secured the growth of the body and the glory of Christ.

 

6  “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us,

whether prophecy, according to the proportion of our  faith;  7  Or ministry,

let us wait on our ministering:  or he that teacheth, on teaching;  8 Or he that

exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that

ruleth, with (literally, in) diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with (literally, in)

cheerfulness.”  The elliptical form of the original has been retained in the above

translation, without the words interposed for elucidation in the Authorized Version.

There are two ways in which the construction of the passage might

possibly be understood:

 

  • Taking ἔχοντες δὲ - echontes de –having then -  in v. 6 as dependent on

ἐσμεν esmenwe are -  in v. 5, and κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως

kata taen analogian taes pisteosaccording to the proportion of faith -  

not as hortatory (tending to exhort), but as parallel to κατὰ τὴν χάριν τὴν

δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν - kata taen charin taen dotheisan huminaccording to the

grace that is given to us - and understanding in a like sense the clauses that

follow. Thus the general meaning would be – we are all one body, etc., but

having our several gifts, to be used in  accordance with the purpose for which

they are severally given.

 

  • As in the Authorized Version, which is decidedly preferable, hortation

being evidently intended from the beginning of v. 6. The drift is that the

various members of the body having various gifts, each is to be content to

exercise his own gift in the line of usefulness it fits him for, and to

 do so well. The references are not to distinct orders of ministry, in the

Church, but rather to gifts and consequent capacities of all Christians.

The gift of prophecy, which is mentioned first, being of especial value and

Importance (I Corinthians 14:1, seq.), was the gift of inspired utterance, not

of necessity in the way of prediction, but also, and especially, for “edification,

and exhortation, and comfort” (Ibid. v.3), for “convincing,” and for

“making manifest the secrets of the heart” (Ibid. vs.24-25).  He that has

this special gift is to use it “according to the proportion of his faith;” for

 the meaning of which expression see on μέτρον πίστεως (measure of

faith above v. 3). According to the prophet’s power of faith to be receptive

of this special gift, and to apprehend it if granted to him, would be the

intensity and truth of its manifestation. It would seem that prophets might

be in danger of mistaking their own ideas for a true Divine revelation

(Jeremiah 23:28); and also that they might speak hastily and with a view

to self-display (I Corinthians 14:29-33), and that there was a further gift of

διάκρισις πνευμάτων diakrisis pneumatondiscerning of the

spirits - required for distinguishing between true and imagined inspiration

(see I Corinthians 12:10; 14:29). Further, the spirits of the prophets were

subject to the prophets (Ibid. v.32); they were not carried away, as the

heathen μάντις - mantis – rave; soothsaying;?? - was supposed

to be, by an irresistible Divine impulse; they retained their reason and

consciousness, and were responsible for rightly estimating and faithfully

rendering any revelation (ἀποκάλυψις,apokalupsisrevealed –

Ibid. v.30) granted to them. Delusion, inconsiderate utterance, extravagance,

as well as repression of any real inspiration may be meant to be

forbidden in the phrase. (The view of τῆς πίστεως taes pisteos

of the faith - being meant objectively of the general Christian doctrine,

from which the prophecy was not to deviate — whence the common use

of the expression, analogia fidei – analogy of faith -  is precluded by the

whole drift of the passage).  The gift of ministry - διακονίαdiakonia

must be understood in a general sense, and not as having exclusive reference

to the order of deacons (Acts 6:1-6; Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:8; ch.16:1),

who were so called specifically because their office was one of διακονία -

ministry.  The words διακονεῖν diakoneinserving; ministering –

διακονία dikoniaservice; ministry - διάκονοςdiakonos

 minister -  though sometimes denoting any kind of ministry, even of the

highest kind, were used and understood in a more specific sense with

reference to subordinate ministrations, especially in temporal matters

(Acts 6:2, “It is not reason that we should leave the Word

of God, and (διακονεῖν τραπέζως - diakonein  trapezias

serve tables.”)  If any had a gift for any such kind of administrative

work under others, they were to devote themselves to it, and be

content if they could do it well.   (διδασκαλίαdidaskalia

teaching) may denote a gift for mere instruction in facts or doctrines,

catechetical or otherwise, different from that of the inspired eloquence of

prophecy. (παράκλησις,paraklaesis - exhortation which bears also

            the sense of consolation, seems here to be rightly rendered) may be

understood with reference to admonitory addresses, in the congregation

or in private, less inspired and rousing than prophetic utterances. In Acts

13:15 the word παράκλησις denotes the exhortation which any person

n the synagogue might be called upon by the rulers to address to the people

after the (ἀνάγνωσινanagnosin - reading of the Law and the prophets;

I Timothy 4:13, where Timothy is told to give attendance to reading

 (ἀνάγνωσιν), to exhortation (παράκλησιν), and to teaching

(διδασκαλίαν). He that giveth (οὁ μεταδιδοὺς – ho metadidous

he that giveth; the one sharing) points to the gift of liberality, to the

endowment with which both means supplied by Providence and a spirit

of generosity might contribute. The almsgivers of the Church had their

special gift and function; and they must exercise them (ἐν ἀπλότητι

en haplotaeti -  in simplicity; in liberality), which may perhaps mean

singleness of heart, without partiality, or ostentation, (show) or secondary

aims.  But in II Corinthians 8:2; 9:11, 13, the word seems to have the sense

of liberality, and this may be the meaning here. [The idea that the almoners

of the Church, rather than the almsgivers, are intended, viz. the deacons

(Acts 6:3, seq.), is inconsistent with the general purport of the passage, as

explained above. Besides, μεταδιδόναι metadidonaito be giving;

to be sharing –  means elsewhere (Ephesians 4:28) to give up what is one’s

own, not to distribute the funds of others. διαδιδούς (he that giveth)

might rather have been expected in the latter case (Acts. 4:35).] He that

ruleth (προιστάμενος – ho proistamenos ) means, according to

our view all along, any one in a leading position, with authority over others;

and not, as some have thought, exclusively the presbyters. Such are not to

presume on their position of superiority so as to relax in zealous

attention to its duties. He that showeth mercy (ἐλεῶν – ho eleon) –

 is one who is moved by the Spirit to devote himself especially to works

of mercy, such as visiting the sick and succoring the distressed. Such

a one is to allow no austerity or gloominess of demeanor to mar the

sweetness of his charity. On the general subject of these gifts for various

administrations (I Corinthians 12. & 14.; Ephesians 4:11, seq.) it is to be

observed that in the apostolic period, though presbyters and deacons,

under the general superintendence of the apostles, seem to have been

appointed in all organized Churches for ordinary ministrations (Acts 11:30;

14:23; 15:2, seq.; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:l, 8; 5:17;

Titus 1:5), yet there were other spiritual agencies in activity, recognized as

divinely empowered. The “prophets and teachers” at Antioch (Acts 13:1)

who, moved by the Holy Ghost, separated and ordained Barnabas and Saul

for apostolic ministry, do not appear to have been what we should now call

the regular clergy of the place, but persons, whether in any definite office or

not, divinely inspired with the gifts of προφητεία prophaeteia

prophecy – and διδασκαλίαdidaskaliateaching. In like manner, the

appointment of Timothy to the office he was commissioned to fill, though he

was formally ordained by the laying on of hands of Paul himself (II Timothy 1:6)

and of the presbyters (I Timothy 4:14), appears to have been accompanied —

perhaps sanctioned — by prophecy (Ibid). Persons thus divinely inspired,

or supposed to be so, appear, as time went on, to have visited the various

Churches, claiming authority — some, it would seem, even the authority of

apostles; the term “apostle” not being then confined exclusively to the

original twelve; else Barnabas could not have been called one, as he is

(Acts 14:14), or indeed even Paul himself. But such claims to inspiration

were not always genuine; and against false prophets we find various

warnings (II Corinthians 11:3, seq.; Galatians 1:6, seq.; 3:1; I John 4:1, seq.;

II John 10; Revelation 2:2). Still, these extraordinary agencies and ministrations,

in addition to the ordinary ministry of the presbyters and deacons, were

recognized as part of the Divine order for the edification of the Church

as long as the special charismata (gifts) of the apostolic age continued.

Afterwards, as is well known, the episcopate, in the later sense of the word as

denoting an order above the general presbytery, succeeded the apostolate,

though how soon this system of Church government became universal is still

a subject of controversy. It appears, however, from ‘The Teaching of the

Twelve Apostles’ (Διδαχὴ τῶν Δώδεκα 'ΑποστόλωνDidachae

Ton Dodeka Apostolon), recently brought to light by Archbishop Bryennius

(the date of which appears to have been towards the end of the first century

or the beginning of the second), that the earlier and less regular system

continued, in some regions at least (it does not follow that it was so everywhere),

after the original apostles had passed away. For in this early and interesting

document, while directions are given for the ordination (or election; the word

is χειροτονήσατεcheirotonaesateordained; hand selected -  the

same as in Acts 14:23) of bishops and deacons in the several Churches, there

is no allusion to an episcopate of a higher order above them, but marked

mention of teachers, apostles, and prophets (especially the last two,

apostles being also spoken of as prophets), who appear to have been

itinerant, visiting the various Churches from time to time, and claiming

authority as “speaking in the Spirit.” To these prophets great deference is

to be paid; they are to be maintained during their sojourn; they are to be

allowed to celebrate the Eucharist in such words as they will (I Corinthians

14:16); while speaking in the Spirit they are not to be tried or proved

(οὐδὲ διακρινεῖτεoude diakrineitenot judge; discern – ( I question

the Pulpit Commentary’s words in orange above.  I have probably worked an

hour on this paragraph and still am not satisfied – the way I present it we are

taught in I John 4:1 and in I Corinthians 14:29 differently – I would like to

think the Pulpit made a mistake by placing the word not in the above but

οὐδὲ is a negative.  If a person is truly a man of God, we are not to judge,

but I trust that we do anyway, because if the Spirit of God that dwells in me

agrees with the Spirit of God that I perceive dwells in the man of God, I

accept him, but if just the opposite, I do not and can not – I am not an

authority, nor an intellectual, but I do profess to desire to know the truth

and will of God!  He will lead me by His Spirit and He will lead you –

CY – 2011) - compare. δια κρίσεις πνευμάτων diakriseis pneumaton

 discerning of the spirits -I Corinthians 12:10; and οἱ ἄλλοι

διακρινέτωσαν – hoi alloi diakrinetosanlet them  judge; be

 discriminating -  Ibid. v.29), lest risk be run of blasphemy against the

Holy Ghost. Still, among these itinerants there might often be false prophets

(ψευδοπροφήται - pseudoprophaetaifalse prophets - Matthew 7:15;

24:11, 24; Mark 13:22 I John 4:1), and the Churches are to exercise

judgment in testing them. If they taught anything contrary to the received

doctrine; if they remained for the sake of maintenance without working

for more than two days; if they asked in the Spirit for worldly goods for

themselves; if their manner of life was not what it should be; — they were

false prophets, and to be rejected.  Similarly, in the ‘Shepherd of Hermas

(apparently a document of the first half of the second century, and in some

parts corresponding closely with the Teaching, from which such parts may

have been derived) like directions are given for distinguishing between true

and false prophets, between those who had τὸ Πνεῦ,α τὸ Θεῖον

to Pneuma to Theionthe Spirit of God - and those whose πνεῦμα -

pneumaspirit - was ἐπίγειονepigeionearthly - (mandatum 11.).

And even in the ‘Apostolical Constitutions’ (a compilation supposed to

date from the middle of the third to the middle of the fourth century) there

is a passage corresponding to what is said in the Teaching about

distinguishing between true and false prophets or teachers who might

visit Churches). The Teaching seems to denote a state of things,

after the apostolic period, in which the special charismata (gifts) of that

period were believed to be still in activity, though with growing doubts

as to their genuineness in all cases. As has been said above, it does not

follow that this order of things continued everywhere at the time of the

compilation of the Teaching; but that it was so, at any rate in some parts,

seems evident; and hence some light is thrown on the system of things

alluded to in the apostolical Epistles. It is quite consistent with the

evidence of the Teaching to suppose that in Churches which had been

organized by Paul or other true apostles, the more settled order of

government which soon afterwards became universal, and the transition

to which seems to be plainly marked in the pastoral Epistles, already prevailed.

 

 

 

 

                        Diversity and Unity in the Church of Christ (vs. 3-8)

 

The subject of union among the various branches of the Church of Christ is

one to which much attention has of late years been turned. The efforts of

the Evangelical Alliance have been largely directed to secure a more

brotherly relationship and more hearty co-operation between the different

denominations of Christians. Some Christians desire an organic union of all

sections of the Church, but the passage before us indicates that there may

be outward diversity along with inward and real unity.

 

·         DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE BODY. “We have many members

in one body, and all members have not the same office” (v. 4). There we

have diversity. What diversity there is between the organs of hearing and

seeing, tasting and touching, speaking and smelling! What a complex

organism is that of heart and brain, and veins and arteries, and nerves and

sinews! Yet there too we have unity. There is one body. One life throbs in

all the parts.

 

·         DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH.So we, being many,

are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (v. 5).

There we have diversity. There is room for diversity in the Church of

Christ — for varied forms of worship, for varied views of doctrine, for

varied methods of Church government. A dull uniformity is undesirable.

“Acts of Uniformity” only made more diversity, and produced discord

instead of unity. When the Church of England had no room for John

Wesley, she only prepared the way for a larger secession from the ranks of

her membership. So, too, in individual congregations, there is room for

varied gifts and activities. There, also, we have unity. “One body, and

every one members one of another.” There is the unity of the Spirit, the

unity that arises from the common bond of faith in Christ and love to Him,

of obedience to the same Divine law, and of the inspiring hope of the same

heaven.

 

·         TWO PRACTICAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      A lesson of humility. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to

every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he

ought to think; but to think soberly’ (v. 3). The recognition of the fact

that there are varied gifts in the Church of Christ will prevent any one from

being unduly proud of any gifts he may possess, or any work he may have

done. All the members of the body have need of one another. There is a

place for the humble and unlearned workers in the Church of Christ, just as

much as for the wealthy and the cultured and the learned.

 

Ø      A lesson of concentration. Division of labor and concentration of

individuals upon particular branches is one of the great principles of

modern manufacturing and commerce. Paul applies the same principle

to Christian work. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that

is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the

proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that

teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth,

let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth

mercy, with cheerfulness.”  (vs. 6-8)  There are three special spheres of

Christian work.

 

o        Teaching. Under this head may be comprised what the apostle speaks

of as “prophecy,” “teaching,” “exhortation.” This is the work of

ministers of the gospel, of professors in colleges, of teachers in daily

schools and in Sunday schools. There could be no more important work

than that of instructing others, mouding immortal souls, inspiring old

and young with the power of great principles. When Socrates was asked

why he did not commit to writing his philosophic opinions and teachings,

his answer was, “I write upon human souls. That writing will last

eternally.” How important that all who engage in any department of

teaching should realize the abiding consequences of their work, and

should devote their best energies to it!

 

o        Ruling. There must of necessity be authority and discipline in the

Christian Church. Impenitent offenders against Christian morality

need to be excluded. Differences of opinion or quarrels between

brethren need to be wisely considered, and breaches healed. How

necessary that those who are placed in positions of authority should

rule “with diligence,” realizing their high responsibility to preserve

the peace and maintain the purity of the Church of Christ!

 

o        Giving. Under this head may be included not only what is here called

“giving,” but also those branches spoken of as “ministering” and

“showing mercy.” Christians who are not teachers or rulers ought at

least to be givers. If they have money to give for Christ’s cause, let

them give it, and give it, too, with liberality, in no selfish and in no

miserly spirit. Every Christian can give something for the building

up of the Church of Christ. We can give our time. We can give our

attention to the poor, to the sick, to the stranger. Let Christians remember

that in the natural body there are no useless or idle members. Each

member has its own distinct function. So is it in the Christian Church.

                        There is some special work for every one to do.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                Churchmanship (vs. 4-8)

 

Having seen what Christian individualism is meant to be in the preceding

verses, we now enter upon the wider relation of Churchmanship. For the

apostle is not here speaking of human nature in its social aspects, as we

find it so powerfully expounded for us in Bishop Butler’s ‘Sermons upon

Human Nature,’ but in its Church aspect, the relation of the individual to

the one body which has its organic existence “in Christ.” The apostle

would have us to believe that we are united as closely to our fellow-believers

as the members of one body are to one another. In fact, we are

members one of another. A selfish individualism is out of the question; we

are bound to the body of believers by vital and eternal ties. Hence we are

to consider in this section the constitution of the body of Christ, that is the

Church. And:

 

·         BELIEVERS ARE TO REGARD THEMSELVES AS ORGANICALLY      UNITED, AND ARE CONSEQUENTLY TO COOPERATE FOR THE   COMMON END. (vs. 4-5.) We are not meant to be isolated units, but members          in sympathy. We are “joint-heirs” with Jesus Christ; we are consequently       partners with one another in the great Christian enterprise. Co-operation, rather      than competition, should be the guiding star of Christian people. We are

      distinctly made for the Christian Church, and it is our duty to promote the             happiness and welfare of all our fellow-believers. Organic connection implies

      co-operation and sympathy of the sincerest character.

 

·         AS MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER, BELIEVERS WILL FIND

THEMSELVES DISTRIBUTED A VARIETY OF POSITIONS, JUST

AS THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY. (vs. 6-8.) While believers are

members one of another, we are not reduced to a dead level of uniformity.

Edification is doubtless to be in the body as every joint supplieth it, but the

joints are not all alike; if they were, it would be a curious medley — a

conglomeration of mere atoms, which we should have in place of a body.

In the body there is subordination of member to member, and part to part.

The foot is not to usurp the place of the head, nor the hand that of the eye,

else will the body be turned upside down, and become a monstrosity

instead of a thing and form of beauty. Consequently, we find that in the

apostolic Church there were a variety of offices, and the apostle here

specifies the spirit in which they should be filled and their duties

discharged. Let us briefly notice the offices as here described.

 

1. Prophecy. The apostle puts this in the very forefront. Parallel passages

go to prove that it was most highly esteemed in the apostolic Church. Thus

it is placed immediately after the working of miracles (I Corinthians

12:10). In another place it is spoken of as “the gift of prophecy,” and is

associated with the “understanding of all mysteries, and of all knowledge”

(ibid. ch. 13:2). It is further represented as the necessary adjunct

to speaking with tongues (ibid.  ch. 14:6, 22). And it was evidently

regarded as the prime requisite in the edification of the public

congregation; for Paul declares, “If all prophesy, and there come in one

that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of

all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down

on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth”

(ibid. ch. 14:24-25). Now, the more this matter is looked into, the

more clearly are we landed in the conclusion that we have the prophetical

office continued in Christ’s Church in the ministry of the Word. Every

minister who is called by Christ to the preaching of the gospel, and

endowed by Him for the work, is a prophet of the Highest just as really as

Elijah or John the Baptist. If, then, to any of us this grace of prophecy has

been committed, we must exercise it “according to the proportion of faith”

(ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεωςanalogian taes pisteos). That is, “the prophet must be true and sincere, communicating only what God has given him.” Moreover, and chiefly, must he show no disposition to exaggerations in the exposition of

religion, but must give to each subject its due place and proportion.f3

Hence Dr. Shedd, in his ‘Commentary’ upon the passage, declares, “This

injunction of Paul is the key to systematic theology. No alleged

Christian tenet can be correct which conflicts with other Christian tenets.

All Christian truth must be consistent with Christianity. For example, the

Deity of Christ supposes the doctrine of the Trinity; monergistic

regeneration involves the doctrine of election; and an infinite atonement for

sin, by God incarnate, logically implies an infinite penalty for sin.”

Monergism states that the regeneration of an individual is the work of God through the Holy Spirit alone, as opposed to Synergism, which, in its simplest form, argues that the human will cooperates with God's grace in order to be regenerated.  (Wikipedia)

 

2. The diaconate. For it is evidently to this particular ministry

(διακονίανdiakonian - ) the apostle is here referring. To the apostolic Church this set of officers was given to attend to the temporalities of the Church,

especially the care of the poor, the sick, and such like. The idea, then, is

that thoroughness should characterize the diaconate just as well as the

prophetical office.

 

3. Teaching. Now, the office of teacher is distinguished from that of

prophet in such passages as I Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11. It

has been suggested that the prophetical office implies inspiration, while the

teacher’s only the common knowledge of a devout and disciplined

Christian mind (Shedd, in loc.). There is evidently need of a teaching order

in the Church as well as of a preaching or prophetical order. If any is called

to teach, let him be thorough in his teaching.

 

4. Exhortation. This is a gift which can be exercised by men who do not

aspire to either the prophetical or the teaching office. It deals with the heart

and will. “Evangelists” are for the most part of this character: they go

about to stir up the souls of men to decision and activity, while their

teaching is of necessity of a very limited description.

 

5. Giving. This applies to the distribution by the deacon of the Church’s

charity, and it may also apply to the private beneficence of the Church

member.  In either case simplicity of motive and of aim is to characterize

the giver. Charity should be exercised without parade and without any

ulterior or selfish end.

 

6. Ruling. This undoubtedly refers to the function exercised by the officers

of the Church, and it implies that nothing but diligence can succeed. Zeal

(σπουδή - spoudae - earnestness) for the Church’s purity and honor, and for

the glory of the Church’s Head, should characterize all who have authority

in the Church.

 

7. Showing mercy. This applies to the attention the deacons and private

Christians show to the sick and the suffering. Well, it is to be exercised

with hilarity” (ἱλαρότητιhilarotaeti - cheerfulness). What a difference

it often makes when we set cheerfully about our merciful ministrations,

entering with alacrity into them, and not doing them “against the grain”? Our “pity,” as it has been very properly said, “should be impulsive, and not an effort; an inclination, and not a volition” (so Shedd, in loc.). Now, if Churchmanship were entered into in this noble and sympathetic spirit, what a different tale would

our different Churches have to tell! It would be a tale of tender and

gracious ministration, a tale of real because spiritual success? May the

merciful Master grant it!

 

 

 

Grace and Gifts (vs. 6-8)

 

It is presumed that every member not only refrains from disparaging or

envying the offices of fellow-members, but fulfills his own office. And it is

also presumed that, as there is no member in the human body without a

function, so, in Christian society, the Creator and Lord has assigned to

every individual a place to fill, a work to do, and service to render as well

as to receive. In this comprehensive passage several great principles are

explicitly or implicitly presented.

 

  • GOD’S GRACE ACCOUNTS FOR HUMAN GIFTS. We speak of

our fellow-creatures’ “gifts,” and say of some that they are “gifted,” that

they “have talents;” but what is involved in this language does not always

come before our minds. Yet, if from the Father of lights cometh down every

good gift and every perfect boon, surely the gifts of intellect and heart, the

gifts of sympathy and ministration, are as truly and really from above, as

are those we term the gifts of Providence. The risen and glorified

Redeemer bestows gifts upon men. The Holy Spirit is given, and that

Spirit’s presence imparts moral power and adaptation and influence.

Freely, and not of constraint, or because of our desert, is the Spirit given.

It is ours to receive with gratitude, and to use with fidelity; but our

receiving and employing are only possible through Divine grace and

liberality.

 

  • GOD’S INFINITE RESOURCES SUPPLY MAN’S MANIFOLD

NEED. We may well admire the goodness of our Father in heaven, in the

bestowal of His gifts; His bounty, manifest in the universal diffusion of those

gifts; and His wisdom, conspicuous in their endless variety. God has created

man with many wants, and has so constituted human society that “no man

liveth unto himself” (ch. 14:7); that we are mutually dependent one upon

another for all our knowledge, happiness, and means of usefulness. Every

congregation of Christians may be regarded as a collection of spiritual,

as well as of more obvious and physical, necessities. The young need to

be taught and trained; the misled need to be recovered; the feeble need

to be confirmed; the sorrowful need to be comforted; the presumptuous

need to be repressed; the petulant and quarrelsome need to be corrected;

 the inexperienced need to be advised. These, and other cases, can only be

met by a provision inexhaustible in quantity and exquisitely adapted in

character. In this and parallel passages the apostle takes pleasure in

dwelling upon the vastness and variety of the resources which the Lord of

all places at the disposal of His people. It is indeed a delightful thought:

“All things are yours,” (I Corinthians 3:21).

 

  • THE WORK OF CHRISTIANS IN THIS WORLD IS THE

FULFILLING A TRUST FROM GOD. We live, not certainly to seek

our own pleasure, not certainly to respond to every passing social impulse, not

even merely to develop our own nature and cultivate our own powers. We

are summoned to take a higher view of life and its opportunities. As S

Peter expresses it, “According as each hath received a gift, ministering it

among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God”

(I Peter 4:10).  It is good for the young and unformed to come under the

control of a superior human mind and will, and so to shape life as to secure

approval and commendation from a master, a leader. How much better for

us all to live as those whose fidelity the Master in heaven is testing, and who

are held responsible to Him! When we read of God’s gifts, we are not to infer

that we possess them absolutely, in such a sense that it is in our option either to

use or neglect them (Matthew 25:14-30), that we are at liberty to treat them

otherwise than as a sacred trust. On the contrary, “every one of us must give

 an account of himself to God” (ch. 14:12).  The talents the Lord has

entrusted to His servants are for them so to employ that, when He comes in

judgment, they may give in their account with joy and not with  grief.

 

  • EVERY CHRISTIAN IS CALLED TO USE HIS GIFTS FOR THE

BENEFIT OF HIS FELLOWS. It is observable that every several

admonition in this passage has reference to benefits to be conferred upon

others. The Christian is called to look, not upon his own things, but also

upon the things of others (Philippians 2:4).  This is the lesson which Christianity

has from the beginning been inculcating; and modern society is for it under a

debt, which is not always frankly and fully acknowledged. Some modern

systems of morality and schemes of human life, as positivism, make the whole

of religion consist in living for others (altruism). But it is vain to rear a

superstructure without first laying the foundation. To induce and sustain an

unselfish life, it is needful to begin with the counsels of God; to feel the

one, sacred motive of the cross of Christ, to seek the guidance and aid of

the Spirit of God. At the same time, unselfishness and self-denying

benevolence are one great evidence of a renewed nature, and of the action

of Christian principle.

 

  • CHRISTIAN MINISTRATION IS CONFINED TO NO CLASS,

BUT DEVOLVES UPON THE WHOLE CHURCH. The apostle is

not writing to the officers of the society at Rome, but to all in the city, who

are “beloved of God, and called to be saints” (ch. 1:7).  The duties here

enumerated are diffused amongst the community, amongst whom the gifts

necessary for their discharge are graciously and wisely distributed. (See

I Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11-12)  There is a mischievous

tendency in human nature towards doing good by deputy. It is, indeed,

right that a man should not meddle with work which is not his;

but some, who profess to act upon this principle, not only neglect other

people’s business, but neglect their own. You may not be gifted with much

power of teaching, but you may be able to show mercy. You may have

little to give, but you may, if you will exercise your gift, prove able to

console and sympathize. In any case, let us not fall into the error of

supposing that, because we cannot do everything, therefore we can do

nothing. One of the disadvantages attending a professional ministry is this

— that many suppose that it is the exclusive business of the clergy to

attend to the consolation of the saints and to labor for the evangelization

of the world. The fact is that, wherever the gift has been bestowed and the

opportunity for its exercise provided, there the responsibility lies, and there

the service is required.  Let us ask as the apostle did at his conversion,

 “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

 

 

 

                                                Gifts (vs. 6-8)

 

In enumerating the various gifts imparted by the Lord to His Church, the various

services its members are called to render to one another, the apostle writes for all

time. In the primitive congregations there were persons endowed with special

and supernatural gifts; but these, with one exception, the apostle does not include

in this instructive catalogue; he rather chooses to put upon record his own judgment

as to the graces and qualifications necessary, through all ages, for:

 

            a.   the edification of the Church and

            b.  the evangelization of mankind.

 

We observe:

 

·         GIFTS INTELLECTUAL AND INSTRUCTIVE. The truth is the great

gift and deposit entrusted by the Head of the Church. The truth is first

apprehended and appropriated; and then, as a natural result, is

communicated and propagated. And this has been and is done in various

methods.

 

Ø      By prophecy. This is, in the strictest sense of the term, a supernatural

gift; the word designates the power of uttering forth the mind and will of

God, and implies a special illumination from above. There are traces, in the

Book of the Acts, of the existence and ministry of such a class, who

authoritatively announced the will of Heaven, and sometimes foretold

events to come. We may justly regard the apostles as themselves

prophetically endowed; so that we, and the whole Church, are benefited

through the impartation of this gift.

 

Ø      By teaching. Christianity is a teaching religion, and commits to every

generation the sacred duties of instructing the succeeding race, and assigns

to the enlightened the office of evangelizing those who are in spiritual

darkness and ignorance. When the Son of God became incarnate, He

condescended to live the life of a Teacher; and when He committed to His

apostles the final trust, He bade them go forth and teach all nations. In the

early Church the office of the teacher was magnified; and it was an evil

time for Christianity when the teacher became a priest. It is true that not

every Christian has the qualifications of the teacher. Yet there is a vast

amount of teaching power in many Christian congregations, which needs to

be called out, sanctified, and employed in the holy cause of religion.

 

Ø      By exhortation, or consolation. Teaching appeals to the understanding;

exhortation to the heart, the conscience, the will. We are reminded that

human nature is reached in various ways. Teaching alone is apt to become

dull and mechanical; exhortation, unless based upon sound, sober

instruction, is vapid and unpractical. It is in the combination of the two that

a spiritual ministry reaches its perfection.

 

·         GIFTS PRACTICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE.

 

Ø       By ministry seems to be meant all practical service. The deacons or

ministers of the early Churches were no doubt entrusted with the charge of

the poor, and the administration of the secular affairs of the Christian

community; yet their service seems to have been varied and general, and

was limited only by their own powers and the several opportunities of their

lives. The apostle here specifies several forms of ministry, as samples of the

rest, and as of peculiar interest and value.

 

Ø      These gifts may take the practical form of government. Rule is a Divine

idea, just as is teaching; and WITHOUT RULE, in some form and to

some extent, NO SOCIETY OF IMPERFECT HUMAN BEINGS CAN

BE HELD TOGETHER.   There is order and rule in the Church, which

fails to answer its Founder’s ends, and fails to produce a right impression

upon the world, unless decency and order and harmony are maintained.

There must be rule in the State, which is an organism in which the head

must needs direct and control the members.  And there should be order and

law in the household, which should be the Church in miniature.

 

Ø      Some possess the gift, and are entrusted with the privilege of giving, of

liberality. It is obvious that there is propriety in regarding this as a proper

consequence of receiving from Heaven. “Freely ye have received; freely

give.” (Matthew 10:8)  Gifts may be either for the relief of the poor and

needy, or for the promotion of evangelization. In any case, we are here

taught that giving should be with simplicity, without ostentation, and with

a single eye to the glory of God.

 

Ø      Closely allied to this gift is that of showing mercy. Whether in

ministrations to the aged, the sick, and the dying, in the release or ransom

of captives, in the instruction of the young, or in the recovery of the

degraded and the lost, there has ever been, and there still is, abundant room

in sinful human society for the showing of mercy. We are admonished that

this gift — that of compassion and kindness — should be exercised with

cheerfulness. There should be a sense of the dignity and privilege of being

called to so Christ-like, so God-like, a vocation. Not grudgingly, not even

from a constraining sense of duty, merely; but with the spirit of the Divine

Physician, the Divine Liberator, should the followers of Jesus engage in

these sacred and beautiful ministrations.

 

 

 

Various Admonitions, Applicable to All; Headed by

    Inculcation of the All-Pervading Principle of Love (vs. 9-21)

 

9  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which

is good.”  Let love be without dissimulation (unfeigned).  So is rendered elsewhere

ἀνυπόκριτος anupokritosunfeigned; without dissumlation; without

hypocrisy -  in the Authorized Version, of  II Corinthians 6:6; I Timothy 1:5;

II Timothy 1:5; I Peter 1:22). Abhor (literally, abhorring) that which is evil;

cleave (literally, cleaving) to that which is good.   The participles ἀποστυγοῦντες

apostugountesabhorring - here and afterwards, may be understood

as mildly imperative. Or perhaps the apostle connected them in thought with

ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτοςhae agapae anupokritos -  as if he had said, Love ye

unfeignedly.

 

10  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor

preferring one another.”  Be kindly affectioned (φιλόστοργοιphilostorgoi

kindly affectioned )  one to another with brotherly love (φιλαδελφίᾳ - philadelphia

brotherly love) - expressing the love of Christians for each other, is a special form or

manifestation of general ἀγάπηagapae -  love.  In it there should be ever the warmth

of family affection, στοργή - storgae); in honor preferring one another; literally,

according to the proper sense of προηγούμενοι -  proaegoumenoi - taking the lead

of each other in honor - i.e., in showing honor, rather than equivalent to ἀλλήλους

ἡγούμενοι ὑπερέχοντας ἑαυτῶνallaelous haegoumenoi huperechontas heauton

deeming one another superior to oneself in Philippians 2:3.

 

 

ἀγαπάω agapao – love – a verb – and the corresponding noun ἀγάπη agapae -  

love - are the characteristic word(s) of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation

has used it/them to express ideas  previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in

Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive

meaning in the New Testament, however, see (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5).

 

ἀγάπη - agape and ἀγαπάω - agapao are used in the New Testament:

 

  • to describe the attitude of God toward His Son (John 17:26); the human race,

generally, (John 3:16; ch.5:8), and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

particularly (John 14:21, 23);

 

  • to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude one toward another,

(John 13:34-35), and toward all men, (I Thessalonians 3:12; I Corinthians 16:14;

II Peter 1:7);

 

  • to express the essential nature of God, (I John 4:8).

 

“Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift

of His Son, (I John 4:9-10). But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or

affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects, (ch.5:8).

It was an exercise of the Divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable

cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself, (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

 

“Love had its perfect expression among men in the LORD JESUS CHRIST,

(II Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 2:4; 3:19; 5:2); Christian love is the fruit of His Spirit

in the Christian, (Galatians 5:22).

 

“Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in

implicit obedience to His commandments, (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; I John 2:5; 5:3;

II John 1:6) . Selfwill, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.

 

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally,

is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations,

nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. LOVE

SEEKS THE WELFARE OF ALL,  (ch.15:2), and works no ill to any,

(ch.13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward

 them that are of the household of the faith,’ (Galatians 6:10). See further

(I Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3:12-14.”  [From notes on Thessalonians from

Hogg and Vine, p. 105]

 

In respect of agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant “love”

and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing

and fostering a reverential “love” in them towards the Giver, and a practical “love”

 towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to

seek the Giver.  (The notes above in this color were taken from Vine’s

Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words – CY – 2011)

 

 

 

Love Unfeigned (vs. 9-10)

 

Church-life is very important; but human life is wider and more important

still. In the first age, and when Christian communities were few and small

and persecuted, the life the followers of Jesus led was very much a life in

common, and very distinct from that of the world around. We cannot

wonder that so many of the apostolic counsels and injunctions referred to

the conduct of Church-members towards one another, and towards one

another as connected with actually existing societies. Still, many

admonitions were given to Christians as men and women moving more or

less in general society. They were bidden to “honor all men” (I Peter 2:17),

to “walk in wisdom towards those without” (Colossians 4:5).  So, in this

practical chapter, when Paul has instructed the Roman Christians in their mutual

duties as members of a society, and has shown how each ministry is to be

discharged, how each office is to be filled, and how each gift is to be employed,

he proceeds to more general counsels. He describes the spirit which is to be

displayed in the common intercourse of life, both amongst themselves and

in their association with the unchristian world. First and foremost among his

exhortations is this to brotherly love and kindness. For all precepts beside

are merely the unfolding of that Divine law of charity which is designated

“the bond of perfectness.”  (Ibid. 3:14)

 

  • Consider THE DIVINE PRINCIPLE AND MOTIVE OF CHRISTIAN

BENEVOLENCE AND LOVE. We are sometimes told that mutual good

will is evolved in settled society, being found advantageous to all, and

preferable to suspicion, distrust, and malevolence. But the fact is that this is

very much a matter of individual character, and that in very primitive

societies there are found Christians who are superior to the malice and

hatred which prevail around them; whilst in the most civilized communities

there are multitudes who prefer their own pleasure and interest to all

beside. Christianity reveals to us the true principle of universal

brotherhood, basing it upon the Fatherhood of God and the redemption

 of Christ. John, the apostle of love, tells us that “God is love” (I John 4:8),

and makes this the Christian’s motive to the love of his brother. And Paul,

writing to the Ephesians, says, “Walk in love, even as Christ also loved us,

 and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God”

(Ephesians 5:2).  And here the precepts of the apostle must be taken along

with what goes before in this Epistle, and it must be remembered that the

entreaty is urged “by the mercies of God” (v.1).  All earthly duties have

 a heavenly origin. Religion is designed to govern our whole spirit and life.

The man who believes in the infinite love, in the fatherly heart, of God, who

believes that God sent His Son to save us from hatred and all other sins, has

a root for his renewed dispositions and his changed habits of regarding and

treating his fellow-creatures; it becomes natural to him to live a life of love.

 

  • LOVE INVOLVES ALL VIRTUE, AND IS THE COMPENDIUM

OF THE MORAL LAW. We have the unquestioned authority of our Lord

for this view of love; for Jesus approved of the summing-up of all duty, of

the whole Decalogue, in both tables, in the two precepts, “Love God,” and

“Love thy neighbor” (Mark 12:29-31).  Where there is true love, vice and

crime are banished. And every virtue and grace may be regarded in practice

as the fruit of this plant. Even justice, the first of the virtues, is not above this

alliance; for how can we wrong those whom we love? It is thus we must

account for the exhortation, with which v. 9 closes, coming in this place.

Evil is hatred, and is therefore abhorred; good is love, and is therefore so

right and held fast with a firm grasp. Some, indeed, interpret this clause,

“Cleave to the Good One, i.e. Christ,” bringing; the motive of A

PERSONAL ATTACHMENT TO THE SAVIOUR to bear upon the

redeemed nature. Let us not neglect the Divine method, or spurn the aid

which infinite wisdom and grace have preferred. Is it in any respect hard

for us to obey God, and follow in the steps of Christ? Then let us call to

mind the love of God revealed in His dear Son, and allow that love to

prompt us to obedience, gratitude, and consecration. (“For the love

of Christ constraineth us” – II Corinthians 5:14)  And let us, adopting

Christ’s new commandment, “A new commandment I give unto you,

That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love

one another” (John 13:34); live in the spirit of love and kindness. This,

BY THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT will render difficult duties easy,

and will enable us to fulfill, in the right spirit and in the right way, the will of

God concerning us, in all our relations with our fellow-creatures.

 

  • CHRISTIAN LOVE SHOULD BE UNFEIGNED. As variously

rendered, “without dissimulation,” “without hypocrisy.” There were

hypocrites, not only among the Jewish Pharisees, whom Christ denounced

for their pretences and insincerity, but also among the Christian

communities. Thus Ananias and Sapphira professed love and generosity,

but there was no reality corresponding to the profession (Acts 5:1-11).

It is hard to understand how, in those times, there could have been any

inducement to hypocrisy. However, the language of the apostle here seems

to imply that there was a danger of some professing disciples of Christ

avowing a love which they did not really feel. There is certainly such

danger now. Public sentiment requires that charity should be professed

among Christians. Yet there remains very much which is inconsistent with

such profession. There are those who call one another “dear brethren,” who

nevertheless slander and injure one another when opportunity occurs. It is

the curse of the so called religious world; and it would be well for a while

to have in this matter a little less profession and a little more practice.

The pretence of brotherly love without the reality is self-delusion, and it

 is most pernicious in its influence over the unbelieving world.

 

  • CHRISTIAN LOVE SHOULD BE CHARACTERIZED BY

SYMPATHY AND TENDERNESS. The language used by the apostle

here is very remarkable: “Be tenderly affectioned one to another.” There

is a quality in Christian love which is peculiar to our religion, which was but

little known previously to our Saviour’s coming, and which may be sought

almost in vain in the secular  world today. We are not to show kindness

merely from a sense of duty; but to do so in the spirit of Him who brake not

the bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20), who was often moved with

compassion, who, even on the cross, was meek and gentle, considerate and

foraying. Paul had much of the same spirit. A keen logical mind, a rhetorical

style, a commanding will, were in him united with the tenderness of the nurse,

the mother. His was the love of forbearance and patience, of sympathy and

pity. Now, there are many classes whom it is especially desirable that we, as

Christians, should deal with in this spirit and temper. For instance, the young,

the destitute, the afflicted, the wayward. All of these need to be approached

in the spirit commended in this passage; not in a hard, cold, mechanical manner,

such as seems habitual with some people, who in some respects might be

called good; but in a Christ-like attitude, and with Christ-like tones, such as are

proper to disciples of Him who is touched with a feeling of human infirmities.

(Hebrews 4:15)

 

  • CHRISTIAN LOVE SHOULD DISPLAY ITSELF IN MUTUAL

RESPECT AND HONOUR. Brotherly affection is opposed to self-seeking,

pride, and arrogance, as pole to pole. It fosters humility as regards

self, and it prompts to put honor upon others. In both these respects the

Christian spirit is opposed to the spirit of the world, which impels men to

push themselves forward, to urge their own claims, and, on the other hand,

to depreciate their neighbors and to thrust them into obscurity. It is a

precept of Christianity, “Be courteous” (I Peter 3).  And true courtesy

has its deep, Divine root in brotherly love, springing from the soil

of fellowship with God in Christ.  Let all Christians cultivate that spirit

of love which will fit for the immortal fellowship of heaven, the abode

of harmony and charity.

 

11  “Not slothful in business (rather, diligence);  fervent in spirit

(we are to do with our might whatever our hand finds to do; yea, with

fervent zeal); serving the Lord;”  For τῷ Κυρίῳ – to Kurio - the Lord),

 some manuscripts have τῷ καιρῷ - to kairo - the time, or the opportunity),

which reading is preferred by some commentators on the ground that it is less

likely to have been instituted for the familiar τῷ Κυρίῳ than vice versa. But tw~|

Kuri>w| is best supported, and has an obvious meaning, viz. that in the zealous

 performance of all our duties we are to feel that we are serving the Lord.

 

 

 

The Spirit of Christian Service (v. 11)

 

Religion is a personal, individual matter. Its seat is in the heart. Christianity

is both an intelligible truth and a living power. It enters into and takes

possession of a man’s spiritual nature; and controls and governs his life,

and affects his social relations. Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and rules

in the heart by the energy of the Divine Spirit. Let us look at the matter thus,

and consider what Christianity proposes to do in the character and life of every

person who truly receives Christ.

 

  • THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, It is

service, rendered to Christ.

 

Ø      Life should be neither aimless nor selfish. A desultory way of

spending time, with no definite purpose, no unity, is most unsuitable

to the professed Christian. To seek simply the satisfaction of one’s

own wants, the gratification of one’s own appetites and tastes, is

flagrant violation of the Divine law. How can such a life be termed

a service? The bondman has one occupation, doing his master’s will;

and one aim, securing his master’s approval. So with the Christian;

the life which is not service cannot be his.

 

Ø      Life should be, consciously and deliberately, a service rendered to

`the Lord Jesus. This is what our Divine Master expects. “Ye call

 Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13).

This is what His inspired servants acknowledge to be right. “We serve

the Lord Christ.”   This is, in fact, the proper designation of all true

Christians — servants of the Lord. The will of God, revealed in

Christ Jesus, is our proper law. The glory of God, in the advancement

of the kingdom of righteousness, is our proper aim. The disciples of

Christ are our congenial fellow-servants. The wages of our service,

what are they? “The gift of God is eternal life.” (ch. 6:23)

 

Ø      Our service rendered to Christ should be an acknowledgment of His

incomparable service rendered to us. Jesus was the Servant as well

as the Son of God. He was the Servant of God for us. Such was His

own declaration:  “The Son of man came not to be ministered

 unto, but to minister” (Matthew 20:28).  And the apostle says

of Him, “He took upon Him the form of a servant” (Philippians

2:7).  This amazing condescension, perfected in His sacrificial death,

demands a grateful recognition and return from us; and is, indeed,

divinely adapted to awaken within us the purpose and resolve to

devote all our powers to Him who withheld not His labors and

His life from us. Hence we draw the motive and the power to obey

and serve. To express our gratitude and love and consecration to

Him, no devotion can be too unqualified, no effort too strenuous, no

sacrifice too great.

 

  • We have here described THE PRACTICAL DILIGENCE WHICH

SHOULD DISTINGUISH THE CHRISTIAN’S SERVICE.

“Not slothful [or, ‘remiss’] in diligence.” “Business” is a misleading term,

as it seems to refer to the occupation by which a man gains his livelihood.

It is a quality or habit which is thus designated.

 

Ø      With regard to the scope for diligence, there is no limitation; except

that, as a matter of course, the employment in which we are to be

diligent is to be one which conscience and the God of conscience

approve. The Christian should be diligent in the discharge of the

common duties of life. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,

do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Whether the

sphere of your activity be in the family and household, in the Church,

or in what is called secular life, the same rule applies. Let young

people especially take advice in this matter, and, remembering the

flight of time, (I recommend The Preciousness of Time by

Jonathan Edwards, 1754 - # 6 this web site – CY – 2011)

and their responsibility to Heaven, be alert and active.

 

Ø      How needful is this admonition! All men have some, and there are

those who have many, temptations to indolence. Natural disposition

or the example of idle companions may induce some to remit their

efforts. Others may become weary in well-doing, or may be

discouraged because all their glowing expectations are not fulfilled;

or because they are left, they fancy, to work without sympathy and

alone. The work of the Lord may seem so vast, and your powers

may seem so limited, that you may be tempted to say, “My exertions

are worthless, and can issue in no result; I may as well fold my hands,

and wait for some supernatural interposition.” But the right spirit is this —

Work as if all depended upon you; pray as if all depended upon God.

 

Ø      We have in Jesus Christ the motive and the example of diligence.

Who can do too much, who can do enough, for Him who has done

and suffered all for us? His meat and drink were to do the will of Him

who sent Him.  Strenuous were His exertions in his earthly ministry;

limitless His devotion. “It is enough for the servant that he be as

his Master.”  (Matthew 10:25).  Learn, therefore, of Him.

 

  • We have here described THE FERVENT SPIRIT IN WHICH THE

CHRISTIAN’S SERVICE SHOULD BE DISCHARGED. What counsel

shall be given to those professed followers of the Saviour who are deficient

in spiritual fervor? In every Christian society there are, it is to be feared, some

who, in the judgment even of charity, must be accounted lukewarm. How

displeasing to the great Head of the Church are such characters need scarcely

be said; His word to them is, “I would thou wert cold or hot!” (Revelation

3:15) - When you are:

 

Ø      careless as to your spiritual state,

Ø      indifferent to God’s Word and to the exercises of prayer and praise,

Ø      negligent and irregular in attendance upon the public means of grace,

Ø      slow to reform yourself and quick to censure your neighbors,

Ø      illiberal in your gifts and slothful in your services to Christ and his cause,

 

it cannot but be presumed that you are wanting in fervor of spirit. There is but

one remedy. You must draw near to that Saviour from whom you have

wandered. You must repent, renew your first love, and do your first works

(Ibid ch. 2:5).  Seeking forgiveness for culpable lukewarmness, you must

revive the flame of piety by kindling it anew at the sacred altar of Divine love.

Contemplate the grace and compassion of the Redeemer as evinced in the

anguish of Gethsemane and the woe of Calvary. Call to mind the fervor

He displayed when, in the anticipation of His sacrifice, He exclaimed,

 Father, glorify thy Name! .... Thy will Be done!” (John 17:1; Luke

22:42) - Thus shall your languid zeal be revived, thus shall your flagging

devotion be reanimated. And your service shall no longer be cold and

mechanical, but it shall be rendered gratefully and joyfully; it shall be the

tribute of a loyal subject, and the offering of a loving child.

 

·         APPLICATION.

 

Ø      Let all hearers of the gospel clearly understand what are the claims of

Christ upon them. What the Lord Jesus asks is the devotion of the heart,

and the service of all the powers.

 

Ø      Let members of Christian Churches ask themselves how far the tone of

their piety and the conduct of their life agree with the language of the text.

And let them be on their guard against the insidious approach of

lukewarmness.

 

Ø      Let communicants approach the Lord’s table with the desire of so

meeting with Christ that the fervor of their love may be renewed, and that

they may be led to consecrate all their energies anew unto the hallowed

service of their Saviour and their Lord.

 

12    “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant; in prayer;”

 

 

 

                        The Christian’s Duty to Himself (vs. 11-12)

 

While we are to think of others, we are to think of ourselves also. Herbert

Spencer has contrasted the “religion of enmity,” or the religion of

heathenism, with what he calls the “religion of amity,” or the religion of

Christianity. But he speaks as if the Christian precept was, “Thou shalt love

thy neighbour better than thyself.” It is not so. The command is, “Thou shalt

love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31)

 

“To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

                        William Shakespeare

 

The apostle enumerates some duties which the Christian owes to himself.

 

·         DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS. Each man should have some definite

work or business in life. Especially should the Christian be free from the sin

of idleness. Whatever our work is, let us be diligent in the performance of

it. “The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)  Seest thou

a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not

stand before mean (obscure) men.”  (ibid. ch. 22:29)

 

·         EARNESTNESS OF SPIRIT. “Fervent in spirit.” It is a strong phrase.

Fervent means “burning,” “on fire.” Yes, we need more Christians who are

on fire. It is the enthusiasts who have done the best and most lasting work

in the world. They are usually called fanatics at first, but the day comes

when their memory is blessed. Paul was a fanatic to Festus. Festus

could not understand the fire that burned in Paul’s heart and in his words.

“Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad.”

(Acts 26:24) William Wilberforce, the emancipator of the slaves; John Howard,

the prisoner’s friend; Samuel Plimsoll, the sailor’s friend; Lord Shaftesbury, the

friend of the overworked artisan; — all these men at first were sneered at

and ridiculed by the multitude of indifferent and interested men.

Earnestness and enthusiasm may be incomprehensible to the world, but

they are indispensable to the true Christian.

 

·         A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT. “Serving the Lord.” That spirit consecrates

life, sweetens life, saves life. Serving the Lord does not lead us to the

drunkard’s degradation, the disgrace of the dishonest or fraudulent, the cell

of the murderer or the grave of the suicide. The Christian will serve the

Lord in every relationship of life — in his home, in his business, in his

amusements. Can we all say as Paul did (Acts 27:23), “Whose I am,

and whom I serve”?

 

·         HOPEFULNESS AND JOY. “Rejoicing in hope.” The apostle

elsewhere in this Epistle uses the same phrase, “And rejoice in hope of the

glory of God” (ch. 5:2). Dr. Chalmers has somewhere said, “That

which distinguishes wisdom from folly is the power and habit of

anticipation.” The Saviour Himself, in his earthly life, was sustained by the

hope of what lay beyond. “Who for the joy that was set before him endured

the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). So it was with Paul. He looked forward

to the crown of righteousness. Therefore the Christian should be full of

joyousness. (ibid. ch. 5:9)Why should we groan under life’s heavy burdens

when we think of the rest that remaineth to the people of God? Why should we

be unduly distressed by life’s trials when we remember that they that are tried

shall receive the crown of life? This, too, is a duty the Christian owes to

himself. Work becomes no longer a burden when it is done with

hopefulness and joy.

 

·         PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE. “Patient in tribulation.” The true

Christian will know how to suffer. He knows that trials have their meaning

and their place in the discipline of the children of God. He knows that

whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and that “though no chastisement for

the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it

yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised

thereby.”  (Hebrews 12:11)

 

·         PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER. “Continuing instant in prayer.”

Prayer is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. We should ever go

forth to the discharge of our duties, humbly asking for the Divine guidance

and the Divine help. And then, when the duties are performed, we should

not forget to pray that the Divine blessing should follow the work that we

have done. This thought is well brought out by Paul in his description

of the Christian’s armor (Ephesians 6:11-18). Having exhorted his

readers to put on the whole armor of God:

 

Ø      the girdle of truth,

Ø      the breastplate of righteousness,

Ø      the sandals of the gospel of peace,

Ø      the shield of faith,

Ø      the helmet of salvation, and

Ø      the sword of the Spirit — he adds,

 

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” This is the

fitting climax of the whole. It is the fitting conclusion of any exhortation

about Christian warfare or Christian work. “Except the Lord build the

house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127;1)

 

Such, then, are the Christian’s duties to himself. Diligence. Earnestness.

Religious spirit. Hopefulness. Patience. Prayerfulness. Let us cultivate

            them.

 

 

 

            Patience, Hope, and Prayer (v. 12)

 

In the preceding verse the active, energetic side of religion is presented

with vivacity and completeness. And this is perhaps the most important of

all the trustful results of true Christianity. It was an end worthy of the

Divine interposition to introduce amongst men the purpose and the power

to serve the Lord with fervor and with diligence.   “But as many as

received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,

even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)  Yet this is

not all which our religion does for us. Our life is not altogether in our own hands;

we cannot control and govern all that concerns us. We have all to learn the

lesson that Divine providence has appointed for us; not only to work, but

to submit; that we have not only to serve, but to suffer. True religion must

give us, not only a law and impulse for fulfilling life’s duties, but also a

power by which we shall endure life’s calamities and weakness. However

our natural character may make active exertion congenial, however our lot

may be, on the whole, one of cheerful and devoted service; there comes a

time to all — a time, it may be, of sickness, or of infirmity, of calamity, or

of old age — when another aspect of religion must be realized; when we

must turn to Christ for grace, that we may be found “in hope joyful, in trial

patient, in prayer unwearied.”

 

  • TO CHRISTIANS TRIBULATION IS DIVINE DISCIPLINE. The text

implies, not only that the human lot is characterized by affliction, but that

affliction is the occasion of the calling forth of Christian virtues. There

would scarcely be such an emotion as hope unless the present were a

condition from which (in some respects) it is desirable to be released, or, at

all events, a condition susceptible of great improvement. Unless we had

something to bear, there would be no scope for the virtue of patience. If all

things were as we could wish them, if we had nothing to contend with, if

nothing occurred to make us feel our own helplessness — in such case

prayer would scarcely be felt to be urgently, or at all events constantly,

necessary. Life is a very different thing to those who are enlightened by

revelation, as this verse conclusively shows us. How truly Christian are

these precepts, and how truly Christians those who fulfill them, appears, if

we think of the heathen, and realize how they failed alike in patience, in

hope, and in prayer. Philosophers inculcated patience in adversity, but they

imparted no principle or power which enabled people generally to cherish

this disposition. The hope which the unenlightened pagans cherished

respected this life alone, and even the wisest and best knew nothing of a

hope of immortality so vivid and powerful as to awaken joy. Their prayers

were either purely matter of custom and form, or, being addressed to

deities morally imperfect and capricious, were faithless, fitful, and

uninfluential even upon their own nature. It is the glory of Christianity to

have changed all this. Among the lowliest of the Saviour’s followers we

find fortitude in the endurance of affliction, arising from the conviction

that it is the chastening of a Divine Father. Hope-especially as reaching

beyond this brief existence, and as a mighty sustaining power — is a virtue

distinctively Christian. Whilst prayer, instead of being an occasional,

doubting, and unprofitable exercise, is the atmosphere the Christian

breathes, the power which sustains him in all trouble, and which inspires

within him a hope founded upon the faithfulness and the promises of his

redeeming God.

 

  • AS RESPECTS THE PRESENT, THE CHRISTIAN IS SUPPORTED

BY PATIENCE. Patience suffers without murmuring the ills which

Providence permits. Patience waits for the relief which, in due time,

PROVIDENCE WILL SEND!   Suffering and waiting complete this unusual

virtue. It is not easy for any one to be patient; it is easier to work with diligence

and strenuousness than to endure trial without complaint — than to wait until a

power not our own shall bring the trial to a close. Christian patience is not

a stoical acquiescence in the inevitable, upon the principle “What can’t be

cured must be endured.”

 

Ø      It is the result of a belief in a wise and merciful Providence. We do

Not bow to fate; we submit to a Father in heaven. Often we cannot

understand why He should permit all that befalls us. But faith assures

us that the counsels of God towards us are counsels of love. We cannot

shut out from the universe the unseen hand that guides and governs all

for our highest and eternal good. We believed in our own earthly father’s

heart, though sense could never have told us of it; and similarly our souls

are patient, because we are assured that a heavenly Parent cares for us,

and strengthens and heals as well as smites.

 

Ø      It is the fruit of fellowship with Jesus. There was no quality for which

our Saviour was more to be admired than for His patience. He was patient

with the misunderstandings of His own disciples; He was patient with His

enemies and murderers; He was patient under insult and agony. In all this He

left us an example; (that we “should follow His steps” (I Peter 2:21) –

and an apostle prays that God may direct our hearts into the patience of

Christ. Many, through faith in the meek and patient Saviour, have been

enabled by Divine grace to overcome a naturally impatient and imperious,

hasty and violent temper.

 

Ø      It is a virtue in which we are instructed and practically disciplined

by the Spirit of God. “Tribulation worketh patience.” The lesson is

not learned all at once. Let not those dispositions to which it is not

naturally easy be discouraged. “Let patience have its perfect work.”

(James 1:4)  Patience is tried, not that it may give way, but that it may

be established. It is the handiwork of the living Spirit; and the day

shall come when the Maker shall pronounce this and all his works to

be very good.

 

  • AS RESPECTS THE FUTURE, THE CHRISTIAN IS INSPIRED

BY HOPE. NOW, hope is an easier and more natural exercise of the

human spirit than is patience. A person may rebel and fret under present

discipline, and yet may hope for better times.

 

“……..the darkest day,

    Live till to-morrow, will have passed away.”

 

The Christian’s hope is, however, far superior to any other. Whilst he has

higher pleasures and stronger supports now, he has brighter prospects for

the great hereafter. There are several elements of superiority in this hope.

 

Ø      It is well-founded, resting as it does upon the faithful promises of God.

God is designated “the God of hope” (ch. 15:13).  Hence the

Christian’s hope is not vague, but definite; it is not hesitating, but sure.

 

Ø      It is hope of grace for all the needs that are to come. This means

hope of deliverance from all dangers, support under all difficulties,

consolation under all troubles, guidance in all perplexities.

 

Ø      It is hope which reaches beyond this present life; such hope as

none has been able to inspire but He who “abolished death, and

brought life and immortality to light by the gospel” (II Timothy

1:10).  Hope of rest, of victory, of a kingdom; a hope as “an anchor

unto the soul, sure and steadfast, which entereth into that

within the veil.”  (Hebrews 6:19)

 

Ø      It is hope which brings joy. Making the future real, bringing the

future near, hope chases away the gloom and darkness, and creates

a spiritual joy, pure, serene, and unspeakable. Thus, in the night,

songs of joy and gladness ascend to heaven. “Patience worketh

experience, and experience hope.” (ch. 5:4)

 

  • BY PRAYER, PATIENCE IS PERFECTED AND HOPE INSPIRED.

It is evident that the admonition to prayer is introduced here with a special

purpose in view. It is intended to point out to us that the demeanor here

commended can only be maintained through cultivating a prayerful

spirit. It is not easy, whilst pursuing this pilgrimage, to be patient

amidst its difficulties, to be joyful when the present is dark, and the ray of

hope alone illuminates the night. Still, though not easy, it is possible. That

is to say, it becomes possible by prayer. Grace can be obtained, if sought in

God’s appointed way; but it must be sought, not occasionally or fitfully,

but steadfastly, perseveringly, constantly, habitually. This is reasonable

enough. There is nothing in our condition that should put a close to our

prayers, and nothing in our hearts. We do not become independent of the

aid which such fellowship with Heaven alone can bring. There is every

inducement, in the declarations and promises of God’s Word, to “pray

without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), “always to pray and not to

 faint” (Luke 18:1).  God’s fatherly heart does not cease to pity; Christ

does not cease to intercede for His people. As long as our Lord is on the

throne of power, and we are in poverty and need and helplessness, we may

well continue our prayers. Private, domestic, and public; silent and uttered;

stated and ejaculatory; — the prayers of God’s people are acceptable,

and are heard.

 

The tribulations of life are common to all mankind. Why should any

hearer of the gospel endure those tribulations without the grace that can

sustain and comfort, the hopes that can animate and inspire?

 

13  “Distributing to the necessities of the saints (i.e. Christians); given to

(literally, pursuing) hospitality.  14  Bless them which persecute you: bless,

and curse not.”   In v. 14 the form of the admonition passes from participles

to direct imperatives, a positive command of Christ being adduced. In v. 15

the gentler admonitory form of the infinitive is taken up, passing to participles,

as before in v. 16.

 

 

Treatment of Friends and Foes (vs. 13-14)

 

Christianity is a practical religion. The New Testament is not simply a

repertory of general principles; it draws out those Divine principles into the

detailed duties and difficulties of daily life. For example, whilst love is the

new commandment of Jesus to His disciples, and whilst love is described as

the sum of the Divine Law, as the greatest of the virtues, as the bond of

perfectness, we are shown how to manifest love in the occupations and

relationships of daily existence. In this passage we learn how the Spirit of

Christ will govern our conduct both to friends and to foes.

 

  • CHRISTIAN TREATMENT OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDS. In the first

age of the gospel there were formed, in the cities of the empire, societies

professing to trust Christ as the Divine Saviour, and to obey Christ as the

Divine Lord. In many respects the proceedings and habits of the members

of these societies differed from those of the people around, and this with a

profound and wide difference. This is exemplified in these admonitions.

 

Ø      Charity should be exhibited to those in need. In every community

There were the very poor, the aged, the infirm and disabled, the

oppressed and persecuted, the widows and orphans. “The poor

ye have always with you”  (Matthew 26:11).  Among the heathen

it was too common to treat these classes with contempt and neglect.

Christianity introduced a better mode of dealing with the necessitous.

Teaching the brotherhood of men in Christ, it encouraged the

sentiment of community, and led each practically to share

with his neighbor the good of this world.

 

Ø      Hospitality is another form of the same virtue. By this is not meant

sumptuous banquets, often given for ostentation and for purposes of

policy. But in early times Christians would often come as strangers to a

town, it might be in pursuit of work, it might be to escape from

persecution, it might be as the bearers of messages of greeting and

sympathy. Accordingly, we find some Christians commended for

receiving such into their houses and entertaining them, and we find

admonitions to others to adopt such a practice — the encouragement

being added, “Forget not to entertain strangers: for thereby

some have entertained angels unawares.”  (Hebrews 13:2)

 

Ø      The motive and model of such conduct are to be found in the

Lord Jesus Himself. His very coming to this world was occasioned

by His compassion upon our necessities: how much more His sacrifice

and redemption! Look at His example; and you find Him and His

disciples keeping a bag, and from their slender store relieving the poor;

you find Him providing bread for hungering multitudes; you find Him

healing the sick and helpless; you find Him inviting young men to visit

and to converse with Him. After His ascension, Christ’s followers,

under the influence of the Spirit poured out from on high,

 imitated their Lord’s example. Officers were appointed in the

societies for the ministration of alms; gifts were voluntarily made for

the support of the poor; collections were made for indigent fellow-

Christians; men were raised up whose ministry as hosts was

deemed worthy of apostolic approval. All this was the working of

Christ in the community; and in proportion as Christ lives in

your hearts will you follow these examples.

 

Ø      Wisdom and discretion are needed in the fulfilLment of these

Honorable duties. Circumstances differ as the state of society

changes. Impostors abound. Indolence must not be countenanced.

Each Christian must be guided in the exercise of charity and hospitality

by his means and by his opportunities.

 

  • CHRISTIAN TREATMENT OF FOES. Those who curse, revile,

calumniate, injure them, Christians are bound, as followers of Christ, to

bless, to pray for, and to benefit.  (Matthew 5:39-44)

 

Ø      Christ Himself has commanded such conduct. There can be

no doubt that the sermon on the mount was well known to Paul,

and that he was quoting from it here.

 

Ø      Christ Himself has exemplified it. In His life He never injured

those who hated Him, but rendered, contrariwise, blessing. When

He came to die, He furnished the most amazing and Divine

instance the world has ever known of returning good for evil.

He prayed for and forgave His murderers (Luke 23:34); further than

this He could not have gone.  And He has left us “....an example

that ye should follow His steps.”  (I Peter 2:21)

 

15  “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

 

 

Christian Sympathy (v. 15)

 

Joy and sorrow are great facts of human life. If there is such an element as

purpose in the universe, it is clear that men were made to experience

gladness and grief, and that both experiences are intended to act as

discipline by which human character may be tested and trained. Both

emotions are experienced in childhood, and manifest themselves most

strikingly in early life, when what the mature think trivial causes are wont

to awaken feeling. In manhood, feeling is less easily enkindled, and it less

easily dies away. To the selfish, causes of rejoicing must diminish, both in

frequency and in force, with advancing years; whilst, probably to most,

occasions of sorrow are multiplied, for bereavements, the causes of

bitterest sorrow, naturally befall the most frequently those who have

trodden the path of life the longest. The religion of the Lord Jesus does not

seek either to subdue or to blame these natural emotions; it aims at

controlling them, at enlarging their scope, at purifying them, at making

them all minister to our spiritual good. To quote from the Old Testament,

“There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).  To quote

from the New Testament, “Is any among you suffering? let him pray. Is any

 cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).  And, to bring out the special

lesson of the text, Christianity teaches us that both joy and sorrow are to be

shared, and yet extended; to be heightened, sanctified, and blessed, by true

Christian sympathy.

 

  • THE NATURE OF SYMPATHY. This habit of mind is simply sharing

the feelings of others, entering into the experiences of their hearts, making

them our own. We do this by virtue of a natural principle. Sinful selfishness

often overcomes this principle, checks it, and prevents it from, displaying

itself. Yet sympathy may sometimes be observed where there is no

reverence or faith toward our Saviour; and, alas! is sometimes absent

where there is a loud profession of such faith. When we participate in a

brother’s feelings, a Divine law appoints that such participation shall be for

his good; we relieve him of some of the burden of his grief and anxiety,

or we heighten his happiness. This quality of sympathy is, perhaps, more

natural to some minds than to others; yet it may be either cultivated or

repressed. It may be manifested in various ways — by the expression of the

countenance, by the language of congratulation or condolence, by the

tones of the voice, by the offer of companionship, by the extension of such

assistance as the case may render possible. If there be two stringed

instruments in a room, and a note of one be struck, it is said that the

corresponding string of the neighboring instrument responds to the sister

tone. When the horn is wound among the rocks of the winding river, the

cliffs give back the music in repeated and orderly response.

 

“Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

And grow for ever and for ever;

Blow, bugles, blow! set the wild echo flying;

And answer, echo! answer, dying, dying, dying!”

 

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.”

(Proverbs 27:19)

 

  • THE FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. Our religion

lays the deep basis of all virtues in the character of God and in the

redemption of Christ. The New Testament always, in admonitions as to

conduct, either states or assumes this principle. Whatever is right is

commended to us as the will of God. Christ died to redeem us from

iniquity, and to sanctify us unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of

 good works; (Titus 2:14) and the Holy Spirit is the power of life

whose fruit is holiness.

 

Ø      In Christ’s mediation we have an instance — the highest and most

wonderful of all instances — of true sympathy. Why did our Lord

visit this world? Why did He take the form of a servant, and become

obedient unto death? It was because He was impelled by Divine

compassion, which is one part of sympathy. He wept with those

who weep because of sin and misery and helplessness. He

“bore our sins and carried our sorrows:” (Isaiah 53:4) - was

not that practical sympathy? He “tasted death for every man

(Hebrews 2:9), and “gave Himself for us” (Titus 24):  what more

could he have done? (Isaiah 5:4) - Yet the other side of sympathy

was present in His nature. He rejoiced in the joy of our deliverance,

in the prospect of our participation in the blessings of life

eternal.  For the joy that was set before him which was joy over us —

He endured the cross!  (Hebrews 12:2)

 

Ø      In Christ’s ministry we have beautiful examples of sympathy. He pitied

the widow of Nain; He wept at the grave of Lazarus; He shed tears

over the doomed Jerusalem; He commiserated the distressed daughters

of the city:  On the other hand, He rejoiced with those who rejoiced;

He came eating and drinking; He was present at a marriage-feast,

and contributed to its festivity. And when any poor wandering sinner

was by His compassion recovered to the fold, the language of His heart

was this: “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was

 lost”  (Luke 15:6).

 

Ø      The religion of Christ provides for mutual sympathy among those who in

common acknowledge Him. In restoring peace between man and God,

Jesus has virtually restored peace between man and man. As the Head,

He brings all the members into a unity — living, organic, mutually helpful,

and mutually sympathetic. Hence one great peculiarity of His Church,

Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or

 one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

(I Corinthians 12:26)

 

  • THE RANGE OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. We may sympathize

with another’s anxieties, fears, faith, fortitude, or hopes. But the apostle

here refers to the two widest and commonest forms of emotion — joy and

sorrow.

 

Ø      We are admonished to participate in one another’s rejoicing.

Thank God, there are very many occasions on which this is possible;

the cup of  gladness is handed round, and few are those who have

not tasted. When our neighbor experiences some piece of good fortune,

when after sickness he is restored to health, when he is spared in the

midst of danger, when he is happy in his family life, prosperous in his

business, honored among his associates, let us rejoice with him.

The mind that cannot so rejoice must indeed be grudging and envious.

(Yea, even malicious – CY – 2011) Of all vices, envy and jealousy

are the pettiest and vulgarest, the remotest from a liberal, generous,

Christian nature. No excuse or extenuation can be imagined for these

faults, as for some others. And how shall we rejoice over the spiritual

happiness of our fellow-men! When an undecided friend has yielded

heart and life to the Saviour, when a disobedient one has been brought

to contrition and repentance, when a brother has been enabled to

exercise some Christian virtue by which good has been done to

others, on such occasions it is meet and right, divinely natural and

beautiful, to rejoice in our brother’s joy. Paul would say, “I joy

and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17), and John had “no

 greater joy than to see his children walk in the truth.”

(III John 1:4)

 

Ø      We are admonished to participate in one another’s grief — to

“weep with those who weep.” This is said to be easier than the

former exercise of sympathy; for the other seems to imply our

inferiority; this, our superiority. We are said to sympathize more

easily with the greater sorrows, and with the lesser joys, of our

neighbors. If envy refuses to rejoice with the happy, inhumanity

refuses to sorrow with the afflicted. What a depth of malice

does that heart reveal which can rejoice in the misfortunes and griefs

of others! Yet, though this extreme of malignity is uncommon, it is

not an uncommon thing even for Christians to be unmoved by others’

woes.  Naturally, sympathy will be more intense towards those in

closest association with ourselves; those of widest sympathies can

with difficulty weep for the woes of the distant and unknown. With

our own family and congregation, with our own circle of friends,

sympathy will, in time of trial, be ready, tender, and warm. With the

widow and the fatherless, the aged and the infirm, the unfortunate

and the deserted, the oppressed and the persecuted, with the sons

and daughters of affliction, let us sympathize with Christian forwardness

and sincerity. And let it not be forgotten that sympathy will, in many

cases, evince itself in practical forms. There are some, who are in

elevated positions, towards whom we can show, when they are in

grief, no other sympathy than such as expresses itself in demeanor and

in words. But there are others, in poverty and in need, with

 whom it would be a mockery to express sympathy and yet to

withhold from them relief and help.  (I John 3:17)

 

  • THE BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY. Not only is such a

disposition, as is commended here, in harmony with the Divine will, and

in itself beautiful and admirable, but it is contributive to the welfare and

happiness of all concerned.

 

Ø      Sympathy is the occasion of happiness to those who exercise it.

Those who are sympathetic need not be told this; those who are not,

and are incredulous, may make the trial. To lose sight, as far as may

be, of personal pleasure and trouble; to interest ourselves in the

emotions of our neighbors; — this is the sure way to happiness.

(James 1:27)

 

Ø      Sympathy is the occasion of relief and of profit to those to whom

 it is extended. The burdened spirit parts with half its load when a

kindly friend extends a ready and tender sympathy. The tear is dried,

the heart is cheered, when the sufferer feels that he is not left to

suffer all alone. And joy, when the rejoicing spreads, is purified from

selfishness, and is heightened tenfold. A torch burns brightly; but let

ten torches be applied to it, and you have eleven flames instead of one.

Thus gladness spreads from heart to heart. And in the Church of Christ,

what is more beautiful than to behold the gleam of gladness on a

hundred faces, to hear the song of gladness from a hundred

harmonious lips! One soul afire with love to Jesus calls upon other

souls to share the devotion and the praise; sympathy spreads, and

general joy prevails.

 

Ø      Thus the Church of Christ is edified. The purposes of Divine grace in

appointing Christian fellowship are fulfilled when each bears his brother’s

burdens and joins his brother’s song. (“Bear ye one another’s burdens,

and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  There is no surer sign

of the Saviour’s spiritual presence, of His gracious work, than the

prevalence of such sympathy.

 

Ø      What a testimony is thus offered to the world! Men complain of the

world that it is heartless; that every one is engrossed in his own pursuits,

his own interests, his own pleasures, his own troubles. It should be

otherwise in the Church. And when it is otherwise, a proof is given of a

Divine presence, a superhuman power.  An energy of attraction is

recognized; and men are drawn to the society of those who feel the

winning and consolatory power of the emphatically CHRISTIAN

SPIRIT OF LOVE  and MUTUAL SYMPATHY!

 

 

 

 

                                                Sympathy (v. 15)

 

The two clauses of this verse remind us of the two main emotions of the

human breast, of their diverse nature, and their common association.

Sorrow ever treads at the heels of joy. The sigh and the laugh may be heard

at once. Scarce has prosperity brightened one threshold than adversity

overshadows another. As in the plagues, there is light in Goshen and

darkness in Egypt. If every house were painted to reveal the condition of

the inmates, what startling contrasts would be seen side by side! It is of

little use to try and measure the sum of happiness and of misery, to

calculate which preponderates in life; better is it to adapt ourselves to these

two prevailing states, and by appropriate words and deeds to evince our

sympathy both with those who mourn and those who exult, not shrinking

from distress nor envying the fortunate. Many reasons concur in

recommending the apostle’s injunction.

 

·         GOD HAS MADE MAN A SOCIAL BEING. He is the “God of the

families of Israel.”  (Jeremiah 31:1)  The Law commanded convocations, social

observances; the people encamped not as individuals, but as households and

tribes. Besides the appetites and affections that concern ourselves personally,

there are others which respect our fellows and cannot be gratified without

their presence. Love, gratitude, pity, all suppose their existent objects, so

that the moral constitution of man exhibits the social capacities with which

he has been endowed. There is a basis for sympathy in our physical nature.

The appearance of one man acts and reacts on his companions. The

mirthful induces merriment in the company, and the entrance of a gloomy

countenance damps the spirits of a whole party. Infants are quickly affected

by the attitude of those near them; and the lower animals are prone to frisk

and leap when their masters are glad, and to be depressed by their

melancholy. To shut one’s self up in solitude, to take no notice of the

circumstances of others, is therefore to sin against the laws of our being.

 

·         JESUS CHRIST HAS PROVIDED FOR THESE SOCIAL

INSTINCTS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS CHURCH. He has

instituted a community of believers, united for mutual counsel and support.

One by one we resort to the Saviour for individual teaching and healing,

but “those that are being saved” are “added to the Church”  (Acts 2:47)

and the visibility of the fact assists in that redemption from selfishness which

is the essence of sin. “Bear ye one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) is the

recognition of our unity. The limb which shares not in the thrill of pain or

pleasure is on the way to atrophy, disunion, death. Love and service to the

Head of the body bind the members together as an organism, and love

ministers to trouble and enhances joy. Such sympathy cannot, however, be

restricted to the members of the Church. Family ties lead to efforts for the

salvation of outsiders, and a desire for the glory of the Lord and the enlarging

usefulness of His kingdom prompts to imitation of His beneficence who

came to lighten our woes and to augment our gladness.

 

·         OUR DEVELOPMENT UNTO PERFECTION DEMANDS THE

CULTIVATION OF SYMPATHY. It was not “good” for Adam to be

alone. (Genesis 2:18)  A high pitch of civilization cannot be reached or

maintained in isolation. Left to ourselves, we grow careless of refinement or

progress. To shut ourselves up like flowers that close their petals at the rude

blast, to crawl inside our shell, and, closing the aperture, to dwell simply on

our own satisfactions and uneasinesses, is the pleading of mistaken self-love

that overreaches itself and misses the pure happiness of sharing others’

delights and of doing good. Spiritual growth is not attainable any more

than physical strength by a life within-doors. Avoid the heat and the icy

wind, and health suffers by too-great confinement. What lessons may be

learned from the successes and misfortunes of our neighbors! Their lot may

be ours soon; it were well to be wise betimes. To look on others is to gaze

at a mirror that reflects our own image.

 

·         THE FULFILMENT OF THIS PRECEPT WOULD MATERIALLY

LIGHTEN THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLD. The savageness

of unrestricted competition vanishes where a due regard is paid to the

happiness or suffering of our companions. Nothing like a visit from the

employer to the homes of his servants, or a sight by the speculator of the

misery his unjust gains have entailed, to abate the fierceness of greed and

to remedy grievances and wrongs. The world sorely needs brotherly

kindness. Then would men and nations realize that what elevates one raises

all, what depresses one truly enriches none. We may note that obedience to

the latter clause of the text is perhaps more needful than compliance with

the former. The distressed require help, the prosperous can do without it.

But any separation of the two duties weakens both. It is not always easy to

congratulate a fortunate peer, any more than to assist the needy. No

doubt we like to bask in the sunshine, and to withdraw from gloom. But

the “elder brother” refused to join in the household felicitations (Luke 15),

and the Levite and the Pharisee “passed by” the wounded traveler.

(ibid. ch. 10:30-37)  Guard against the mere indulgence of passive sympathy.

The rejoicing and mourning of the text imply an active sympathy, and action

forms habits of good will and benevolence! COPY THE REDEEMER!  No

ascetic or misanthrope (a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human

society) was He, who multiplied the innocent gaiety of the marriage

feast, and mingled His tears with those of the weeping sisters of Lazarus.

Even a hearty grasp of the hand adds to joy, and a moistened eye comforts

those that mourn. The poorest in point of worldly goods may be rich in

God-like sympathy. Many a man has been saved from utter despair by the

knowledge that another was interested in his welfare.

 

16  Be of the same mind one toward another. (denoting mutual good feeling

and unanimity of sentiment; not, of course, agreement in opinion on all subjects).

Mind not high things, but condescend to (literally, being led away with)

men of low estate.”   It is a question whether τοῖς ταπεινοῖς tois tapeinois

to men of low estate; the humble - should not be understood as neuter, so as

to correspond with τὰ ὐψηλὰ - ta hupsaelahigh things; the high;  the meaning

thus being that, instead of being ambitious, we should let ourselves be drawn

willingly to the lowlier spheres of usefulness to which we may be called. The main

objection to this view is that the adjective ταπεινὸς (low estate) is not elsewhere

applied to things, but to persons. “Be not wise in your own conceits. 

17  Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide (in the sense of take

forethought for) things honest (or fair, or honorable) in the sight of all men.”

This is a citation from Proverbs 3:4, where the Septuagint has, καὶ προνοοῦ καλὰ

ἐνώπιον κυρίου καὶ ἀνθρώπωνkai pronoou kala anopion Kuriou kai anthropon

So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”   

We are not only to do what  we know to be right in the sight of God, but also

 to have regard to the view that  will be taken of our conduct by other men;  we must

not give any just cause for our good being evil spoken of (ch. 14:16 and Peter. 2:12). 

18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

 

 

 

                        Honorableness and Peaceableness (vs. 17-18)

 

Men do and must live in society. And all civilized communities have their

own codes of conduct, which must be observed by those who wish to

enjoy the benefits of social life and the protection of political government.

Civil society enjoins the observance of justice and the maintenance of

peace. But public opinion often requires simply a compliance with the letter

of the law, and is very tolerant as to infractions of its spirit. The code of

society or the laws of honor require that a man shall deal honorably with

his equals, but in some instances allow him to act, within the limits of the

law, dishonestly towards his inferiors; thus he must pay his gambling debts,

but he may cheat his tradesmen if he can. The same rules prohibit murder,

but in some places admit of dueling, and generally sanction resentment and

revenge. Christianity requires that honorable and peaceable conduct

should be distinctive of our life in our relations to all men.

 

·         HONORABLENESS. The word means more than honesty. It was not

a very lofty morality which dictated the saying, “An honest man’s the

noblest work of God.” Bare honesty is a small part of religion; it may keep

a man out of jail, but it cannot fit a man for the Church of Christ. The

apostle enjoins honorable, fair, praiseworthy, noble conduct. Deceitful,

shifty, tortuous ways of acting should be far from the Christian’s soul.

Sincerity, straightforwardness, truthfulness, fairness, should dwell in his

soul and speak from his lips. In the midst of a crooked and perverse

generation he should shine. (Philippians 2:15) That the Christian should

provide or take thought for such a coarse of action is in harmony with our

reasonable and reflective nature. Deliberate preference, diligent pursuit,

steadfast adherence to things honorable, are thus enjoined. Impulse is good

when directed to what is right; but principle is better, for it is more trustworthy.

When the apostle commends such conduct towards all men, he provides

for the social influence of Christians being felt by all around. Not merely

within the pale of Christian society, not merely amongst personal friends

and associates, but in the sight of all men, uprightness and honor should

express the power of religion. The advantages accruing to the world in

consequence of such a practice as is here commended are manifest. The

credit of religion will be promoted, and the favor of men conciliated

towards doctrines so fruitful of good works. Christianity and morality will

appear as twin sisters, bringing congenial blessings to an ignorant and

misguided world.

 

·         PEACEABLENESS. The New Testament makes it evident that the

introduction of peace to a distracted and discordant humanity was one of

the great ends of Christianity. Christ is the “Prince of peace;” His coming

was the advent of peace; His kingdom is the reign of peace, AND SHALL

HAVE NO END!  (Isaiah 9:7)  From enjoyment of peace with God, and of

peace of conscience within, the Christian passes to a wider sphere; cultivates

peace as a mark of the Divine presence within the Church, and seeks its

diffusion throughout human society generally. Amongst Christians there

should prevail mutual forbearance, sympathy, and co-operation. But in saying

this we do not exhaust the reference of this passage. “All men” are contemplated

by the inspired writer. Men of all stations — superiors, equals, and inferiors; men

of all characters — the litigious and quarrelsome as well as the meek and

yielding — are all to be treated in the distinctively Christian temper.

Sometimes opinions and interests conflict, sometimes natural temperaments

differ; still the peace is to be maintained. Yet the apostle, who was both a

reasonable man, and a man who had large experience of life, mentions a

condition. It may not always be possible to live peaceably. But the

impossibility must not be upon our part; we must not make such excuses

as, “I could not keep my temper;” “I could not treat such and such a

person with my usual self-possession.” But there will sometimes arise an

impossibility on the part of others. The enemies of religion may resolve

upon breaking the peace; persecutors may rage and imagine a vain thing; as

we see from passages in the life of our Lord and His apostles, and in

abundance at later periods of history. Violent and unreasonable professors

of Christianity may resent the exposure of their errors, or the rebuke of

their sins and follies. There is a higher duty even than that of

peaceableness; peace must not be sought at any price; we must not, for its

sake, sacrifice conscience and displease God.  Happy is the society in which

this picture is realized! Let not our spirit and habits prevent or delay the

delightful realization.

 

19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto

wrath:” -  The thought in v. 19 seems to follow from what precedes. It may

sometimes be impossible to he at peace with all; but at any rate, do not

increase bitterness by avenging yourselves. Give place unto wrath (τῇ ὀργῇ -

tae orgaewrath; anger; indignation), has been taken by some to

mean that we are to give scope to the wrath of our enemy, instead of being

exasperated to resist it (Matthew 5:39, etc.). But there has been no particular

reference to a wrathful adversary. Another view is that our own wrath is

intended, to which we are to allow time to expend itself before following its

impulse; δότε τόπον – dote topovgive place - being taken as equivalent

to data spatium in Latin  There seems, however, to be no known instance

elsewhere of this use of the Greek phrase. Chrysostom, Augustine, Theodoret,

and most commentators, understand the meaning to be that we are to give

place to the wrath of God, not presuming to forestall it. The wrath, used

absolutely, might be an understood expression for the Divine wrath against

sin (ch.5:9; I Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16); and this interpretation suits the usual

sense of δότε τόπον. It is not thus implied that the falling of Divine vengeance

on our enemy should be our desire and purpose, but only this — that, if

punishment is due, we must leave it to the righteous God to inflict it;

it is not for us to do so. And this interpretation suits what immediately follows –

“for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

(Deuteronomy 32:35, quoted freely from the Hebrew, but with the words

ἐκδίκησις ekdikaesisvengeance - and ἀνταποδώσω antapodoso

will repay -  as found in the Septuagint. The fact that the same form of quotation

occurs also in Hebrews 10:30 seems to show that it was one in current use).

20  “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him

drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”  This whole

verse is from Proverbs 25:21-22, where is added, “and the Lord shall reward

 thee.”  What is meant by the “coals of fire,” both in the original and in Paul’s

citation, has been much discussed. Undoubtedly, the expression in itself, in

view of its usual significance in the Old Testament, suggests only the idea

of Divine vengeance (see Psalm 11:6; 18:12; 120:4; 140:10; Habakkuk 3:5);

and this especially as it occurs here almost immediately after “Vengeance is mine.”

But if the “coals of fire” mean the Divine judgment on our enemy, there is nothing

to suggest a corrective purpose. The view, held by some, that the softening

effect of fire on metals is intended, is hardly tenable. Heaping coals of fire

on a person’s head would be an unnatural way of denoting the softening of

his heart. More likely is the view which retains the idea of coals of fire

carrying with it, as elsewhere, that of punishment and the infliction of pain,

but regards the pain as that of shame and compunction, which may induce

penitence. This appears to be the most generally received view. It is,

however, a question whether any such effect is definitely in the writer’s

view. He may mean simply this: Men in general desire vengeance on their

enemies, expressed proverbially by heaping coals of fire on the head. Hast

thou an enemy? Do him good. This is the only vengeance, the only coals of

fire, allowed to a Christian. Then follows naturally,  21 “Be not overcome of

evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

 

 

                                    Christian Love (vs. 9-21)

 

Now we come to the great central principle of the Christian life in its social

relations among menTRUE LOVE!   And, as the apostle addresses Church

members, he paints this love, by a few vivid strokes, as they owe it to their

fellow-members, and also to those that are without.

 

·         First, as members of Christ, they are to love one another.

 

Ø      The ethical character of this love. It is holy. Not a mere sentimental

tenderness, but a love that abhors the evil, in whomsoever found, and

cleaves only to the good (compare James 3:17, “first pure, then

peaceable, gentle, and east to be entreated, full of mercy and good

fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”)

 

Ø      The manifestations of the love. Tender affection, as of the members of

one loving family; self-sacrificing respect, so contrary to the spirit which

asks, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” — zealous to

practice this regard for others with a diligent industry; animated to this

diligence by the fervor of the spiritual life; sanctifying the love and

service by loving and serving them in Christ.

 

Ø      The supports of such love. The exultant joy of Christian hope, in view

      of that appearing of our Lord; the patient endurance of trial and pain, by

the power of that hope; the abiding fellowship with God, which ever

rekindles the hope and makes it holy.

 

Ø      The practical working of this love in the matters of the life that now is.

Relief of needy ones, as being the needy ones of God’s household;

hospitality to all who for the Lord’s sake have left their home and rest.

 

Ø      The forbearance of this love. When, unhappily, even Christian brethren

misunderstand and strive and persecute, they are still to be loved and

blessed; not for any provocation is cursing to be rendered back.

 

Ø      The sympathies of the love. A real and manifested joy, in sympathy with

rejoicing ones; a real and manifested sorrow, in sympathy with sorrowing

ones.

 

Ø      The unity of love. Of the same mind.

 

Ø      The humility of love. Not high, ambitious aspirations, but willingness for

lowly work; and to this end, not self-conceited wisdom, but the heart of a

little child.

 

·         Secondly, as showing forth Christ to men, they are to love even those

that are without.

 

Ø      No revenge to be allowed. Think of their temptations to old habits and

practices.

 

Ø      Honourable conduct to be strictly maintained. Yes, even with the

emphatically heathen man.

 

Ø      Peace to be sought with all. On our side at least it is possible, and so the

sanctities of the Christian’s own heart shall not be violated.

 

Ø      Again, no vengeance towards those whose crimes may seem to cry for

vengeance upon them. No, not even in the way of justice, for a higher

One is Judge, and all wrath must be left to Him, whose very wrath is

love; and, in truth, our rising wrath itself must be transformed to love,

a love which shall even feed and give drink to the enemy in his distress.

And shall not this shame his heart? and his shame may be to him for

salvation. So shall the evil not conquer us, but be itself conquered by

the good. “Who is sufficient for these things?” (II Corinthians 2:16)

The high perfection of this Christian love seems far beyond our reach.

But it has been shown forth once, in Him who said, “I have overcome

the world.” (John 16:33) Yes, its evil was vanquished by His sacrifice

of love. And, through Him, we may conquer too. May the living

Christ be ours, and His grace shall be sufficient!

 

 

 

                                    Christian Socialism (vs. 9-21)

 

From Churchmanship, which was discussed by the apostle in the preceding

verses, we now pass to the Christian in society; and our endeavor will be

to appreciate the Christian socialism which Paul here inculcates. The great

error of the Christless socialism which prevails, alas! in many lands, is that

it tries to do from without and by mere material manipulation what can

only come from within through the Christian spirit. Into the various forms

which socialism has assumed it would be improper here to enter; but any

who wish to get some idea of the subject will do well to get the late Dr.

Roswell D. Hitchcock’s powerful and compendious treatise on ‘Socialism,’

where, after treating of “Socialism in General,” “Communistic Socialism,”

and “Anti-Communistic Socialism,” he reaches his climax in expounding

the meaning of “Christian Socialism.  Our duty just now is to appreciate

the spirit of love WHICH CHRISTIANITY INFUSES INTO SOCIETY

thereby securing all that socialism could possibly reach by its coarse materialistic methods, and infinitely more.

 

·         CONSIDER THE CHARACTER OF LOVE. (vs. 9-10.) For this is

the one thing needful (1 Corinthians 13.). Well, the apostle tells us it is not

to be hypocritical (ἀνυπόκριτοςanupokritosunfeigned; unhypocritical);

not to be a profession, but the reality of love. It is from this loving spirit that Christianity proceeds to the regeneration of society. If, then, we start with a genuine spirit of love, we shall not be found rejoicing at evil, but always abhorring it; while to good at all costs we shall ever cleave. Thus

pure Christian love” manifests itself in two phases — the ethical recoil from moral evil, and the cleaving to moral good. The former, full as much as the

latter, evinces the sincerity of the affection. Indifference towards sin, and especially an indulgent temper towards it, proves that there is no real love of holiness. The true measurement of a man’s love of God is the intensity with which he hates evil (compare Psalm 97:10: 139:19-22). The ethics produced by the sentimental idea of God and of moral evil, is ‘easy virtue’” (so Shedd, in loc.). Such love, then, will bloom into the intense “brotherly love” (φιλαδελφίᾳ - philadelphia fond brotherness; brotherly affection), which is

the great evidence of the Christian spirit.  “By this shall all men know

that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35).

And when brotherly love is entertained, instead of a selfish race for honors,

there will be a pushing of worthy brethren forwards — a contest not for the

first rank, but for worthier men than we are to put therein. How striking a

Christian spirit becomes in presence of the severe competition going on

around it, when it is seen exerting itself to honor others rather than to

honor itself! It is this self-effacement which the world cannot understand.

 

·         LIFE IN EARNEST. (vs. 11-13.) Now, when a Christian declines

honor, and seeks to put the better man thereinto, it is not that he may

shirk work. For, as a matter of fact, hard work and honor are not

inseparably associated in this world. Hence the Christian can show his “zeal

for the Lord” (II Kings 10:16) while setting no store by honor for it. The next element, therefore, in the Christian life and spirit is earnestness. As Luther puts

it, “In regard to zeal, be not lazy.” The Christian will show a zealous spirit in

all legitimate lines of effort.   His life will be intense. And to maintain it in

intensity, it will require to be “fervent in spirit,” and in all “serving the

Lord.” The serving of the opportunity, as in some ancient manuscripts, is

not so likely, nor so emphatic, as “serving the Lord;” for the Christian is

one who has learned TO SERVE GOD IN EVERYTHING — to

do everything as unto the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the

Lord he shall receive the reward of the inheritance as he serves the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). Moreover, with this fervent, faithful spirit there

will come a buoyancy and hopefulness which is most important in all

Christian work; a patience too in tribulation; a prayerfulness at all times; a liberality towards the saints; a hospitality towards all men. The Christian

keeps “open house” because he is open-hearted. Now, if such an earnestness

were infused into all Christian living, SOCIETY WOULD SOON BE

REGENERATED!

 

·         LIFE MAGNANIMOUS AND SYMPATHETIC. (vs. 14-16.)

Jesus set the great example of magnanimity.

 

Ø      He blessed His persecutors;

Ø      He prayed for His murderers;

Ø      He converted some of them at Pentecost.

 

Hence, if we would carry out his spirit, we must bless them that persecute us;

we must meet the weak spirit which descends to intolerance and persecution

with the one weapon of blessing. The Christian martyrs have crushed the

opposition to the gospel by blessing their persecutors. But we must show

sympathy as well as magnanimity, prepared to congratulate those in joy, to

weep along with those in tears. Sympathy adds largely to the experience

and benefit of life. And this sympathy is to be genuine all round; we are

to be “of the same mind one towards another.”  (v. 16)  We are not to be selecting for our sympathy those in good positions, but we are to “condescend

to men of low estate.” (ibid.)  This is, indeed, the luxury of the Christian spirit to be able to take men up in a low condition, and treat them as God has treated

us. We are also to avoid being “wise in our own conceits.” In this way the

Christian will exhibit large-heartedness; there will be nothing small or petty

about his movements; he will be the noble brother-man in his little sphere

that Christ has been AND IS in the wide sphere of the Church!

 

·         LIFE LOVINGLY AGGRESSIVE. (vs. 17-21.) We pass, lastly, to

love encountering opposition, yet triumphing over it. And first we are not

to take the law into our own hand and recompense evil for evil Now, the

world cannot well understand THIS CHRISTIAN SPIRIT!  It can

appreciate better “the blow for blow” which characterized the early ages. “Thomas Paine, in reference to our Lord’s injunction to turn the other cheek to

the smiter, charges Christianity with the ‘spirit of a spaniel,’ asserting that it destroys proper self-respect, and renders man indifferent to insult and affront”

(And this spirit continues in modern Progressives who are pupils of Paine.

CY – 2020).  But when the Christian is charged to “provide things

honest in the sight of all men,” the meaning being “things honorable”

(Revised Version), then it couples with forbearance true Christian dignity.

In strict accordance with this Christian dignity is to be our living peaceably

with ALL MEN, if possible. It may be necessary by Christian testimony

sometimes to provoke and exasperate the worldling; but, at the same time,

pugnacity (quarrelsomeness) will be seen not to belong to the Christian spirit. And as for vengeance, let us leave all that WITH GOD!   He will do justly at last. Meanwhile it is our prerogative to feed and give drink to an enemy; and by

every means in our power to heap coals of fire on his head. The only

vengeance allowed in the code of love is to kill our enemy with kindness.

As the king was directed by Elisha to feed the Syrian soldiers and send

them home in peace, and as they came not in that generation into Palestine

again, so we are to avenge ourselves by kindness.  (II Kings 6;22)  The apostle leaves us here in the last verse with the great principle in the aggressive

Christian life. Evil can only be overcome by good. We are not to be

exasperated by the enemy; we are to turn the tables on him by love. And has

not this been God s own plan? Is not His government and administration to overcome evil by good? Even “everlasting punishment will be covered by the

principle of good. May we entertain and practice the Christian spirit in all

our relationships with men!

 

 

 

                        The Christian’s Duty to His Fellow-Men (vs. 9-21)

 

In these closing verses of this chapter the apostle sets before us the duty of

a Christian man. It is a picture of what the Christian ought to be. WHAT A

WORLD IT WOULD BE IF THESE PRECEPTS WERE CARRIED OUT!

If even every Christian was careful to observe them! (I have often said what a

different world it would be if men would try to do right!  CY – 2020)  Six features

the apostle mentions which should characterize our dealings with others.

 

·         SINCERITY. “Let love be without dissimulation” (v. 9). Unreality,

falsehood, insincerity, untruthfulness, — these are prevalent evils in our

day. They weaken all confidence between man and man. They destroy

domestic peace, social intercourse, and commercial morality. Truthfulness

and sincerity are much needed.

 

·         DISCRIMINATION. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is

good” (v. 9). The spirit of indifference is another prevalent evil of our

time. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Dr. Arnold at Rugby, trying to elevate the standard of character there, found

this difficulty — indifference about evil. He said, “What I want to see in the

school, and what I cannot find, is an abhorrence of evil; I always think of

the psalm, ‘Neither doth he abhor that which is evil.’” (Psalm 36:4)  We

want more discrimination. The young especially need to discriminate in their

friendships, and to choose the society of good men and good women.

 

·         GENEROSITY. “Distributing to the necessity of saints” (v. 13). In

exercising generosity, God’s people, our brethren in Christ, should have

the first claim upon us. But we are not to limit our attentions to them.

“Given to hospitality,” we shall show kindness to strangers, just because

they are strangers and are away from home and friends. How truly the

Christian religion teaches men consideration for others!

 

·         SYMPATHY. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with

them that weep” (v. 15). Sympathy is a Christ-like quality. Sympathy for

the perishing brought Jesus Christ to earth. Sympathy sent Henry Martyn

to Persia, Adoniram Judson to Burmah, David Brainerd to the Red Indians,

David Livingstone and Bishop Hannington to Africa. Sympathy led Mr. E.

J. Mather to brave the dangers of the deep in order to do something for the

temporal and spiritual welfare of the deep-sea fishermen of the North Sea.

We want more sympathy for those near us — for the poor, the sick, the

suffering, the careless, at our own doors. We need to learn also how to

sympathize with innocent enjoyment. The mission of the Christian Church

is not a mission of amusement, but it can show that it does not frown upon,

and can thoroughly enter into, the innocent pleasures and recreations of

life. We are not only to “weep with them that weep,” but also “rejoice with

them that do rejoice.”

 

·         HUMILITY. “Mind not high things, but condescend to man of low

estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” There is too much pride even in

the Church of Christ — pride of rank, pride of wealth, pride of learning.

The condition of things so severely satirized and rebuked in the second

chapter of James is still too common in the Christian Church. The Church

of Christ needs to condescend a little more than it does “to men of low

estate.” Christian ministers need to think more of the humbler members of

their congregations, while they do not neglect the spiritual welfare of the

rich. A little more of the humility of Christ would make the Church of

Christ and the ministers of religion more respected among the working

classes and the poor.

 

·         PEACEFULNESS. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live

peaceably with all men” (v. 18). This peaceful relation may be secured:

 

Ø      By not cherishing a vindictive spirit. “Recompense to no man evil for

evil” (v. 17). “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves” (v. 19).

Offenders against peace would do little harm if they did not find others

only too ready to take offence. What an example is that of Cranmer!

 

To do him any wrong was to beget

A kindness from him; for his heart was rich,

Of such fine mold, that if you sowed therein

The seed of hate, it blossomed charity.”

 

Ø      By meeting enmity with kindness. “Bless them which persecute you:

bless, and curse not” (v. 14). “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed

him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals

 of fire on his head.” Your kindness will be like coals of fire to melt his

hardened heart, just as Jacob’s prudent act of kindness, following on

his prayer, turned away the anger of his injured brother Esau. So we

may destroy our enemies, as the Chinese emperor is said to have done,

                        by making them our friends. Thus we shall “overcome evil with good.”

 

 

 

The Way to Victory (v. 21)

 

Although the world is full of strife, and although the Scriptures constantly

represent the good man as engaged in conflict, still we cannot regard

warfare, either physical or moral, as the true occupation and the final

satisfaction of man. The state of humanity is, however, such that only

through the battling of opposed principles can true peace be gained and the

ideal condition be reached. We are accordingly accustomed to think of

resistance as the necessary incident and of victory as the hard-won end of

the moral life (“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of

Jesus Christ.”  - II Timothy 2:3).  And, for us, the good man is the man

who spends his strength, and passes his time, in antagonism to error and to evil.

(“And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city of

Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and

that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

Ezekiel 9:4)

 

  • THERE IS A GREAT CONFLICT AND WARFARE UPON EARTH

CARRIED ON BETWEEN EVIL AND GOOD. Truth contends with

error, reason with superstition, conscience with passion, virtue with vice,

law with crime, order with turbulence, religion with infidelity. There are

wars and fightings in which it may be said that light contends with

darkness. But for the most part the campaign is not so simple, so

intelligible; the combatants are not on the one side all good, nor on the

other all evil; opposing principles are distributed irregularly through the

armies.

 

  • NONE CAN BE NEUTRAL IN THIS STRUGGLE, Whether or not

we consciously and deliberately engage in the moral war, it is ever raging.

Not only so; we are constrained to take a side. He who professedly

withdraws from the moral conflict does in reality side with the enemy of

God. For to deem the war one of no interest, ere which has no moral claim

upon us, is to fail to respond to the trumpet-call of duty, and to decline the

noblest of all careers — that of the soldier of the cross.   (Jesus said,

“He that is not with me is against me.” Matthew 12:30).

 

  • THE FORCES OF EVIL ARE POWERFUL AND OFTEN

VICTORIOUS. Christians do ill to despise the power of their spiritual

foe; for such an estimate may lead them to over-confidence, and to the

neglect of necessary means of defense. They may then be taken unawares,

and being surprised may succumb to their foe; or in any case the foe may

in all likelihood gain an advantage over them. An example is given by Paul

in this passage. There is a natural tendency to revenge. A Christian who

has been wronged is urged by the surging of resentful passion within to

turn upon his injurer, to retaliate, to inflict evil for evil. But, if he do so,

in such case he will in fact be overcome by evil. Many are the cases in

which the unspiritual principle or impulse gains the mastery in the heart

and in the actions of the individual. Who is there who cannot from his

own experience bear witness to this? And what state of society, what

age of the world, can be pointed out which has been exempt from such

spectacles as the temporary defeat of truth, justice, and goodness? Apart

from Christianity, it does not seem that things have a natural tendency to

improve. He who studies the history of any unchristian community will

observe forms of sin continually varying, sometimes more and sometimes

less repulsive, but he will not find truth and righteousness progressively

powerful and finally triumphant. Now and again the snow-white standard

sinks in the tumult of the strife.

 

  • CHRIST, AS THE CAPTAIN OF THE RIGHTEOUS HOST, TOOK

PART IN THE CONFLICT, AND CONQUERED EVIL WITH GOOD.

It is true that the Lord Jesus was the Prince of peace, yet His whole life was

one long struggle with sin and error. He knew well that there was but one

way to a peace which should be acceptable to God and serviceable to man;

and that that way was the way of spiritual conflict. It was in this sense that

he came to send, not peace, but a sword, upon earth (Matthew 10:34). 

Now, the supreme illustration of the method enjoined in the text, where

we are bidden to overcome evil with good, is that furnished in the ministry

of our Lord and Leader. He has proved Himself the Conqueror, and if the

world’s sin is finally to be vanquished, it will be through Christ. And what

were the tactics of the Divine Commander? He did not turn against His foes

the weapons with which they attacked Him. He did not render injury for

injury, slander for slander, hatred for hatred. He relied upon the power of

the highest and purest morality. Such strategy, if the word may be used in a

good and not an evil sense, was not likely to be immediately successful; but

under the government of God it cannot ultimately fail. By the compassion

of His heart, by the ungrudging sympathy He ever showed to sufferers, by

the patience with which He endured the contradiction of sinners against

Himself, by His forgiving spirit, by His voluntary sacrifice, — by these

Means Christ procured His victory. Our Saviour’s ministry was a conflict

with the powers of darkness and of iniquity. In this conflict He was never

really worsted. And that He was at last victorious was made manifest when

He arose from the dead and ascended to the Father.

 

  • CHRISTIANS ARE SUMMONED TO FOLLOW THEIR MASTER

IN THIS HOLY WAR. Have not their own hearts been the battle-field

upon which the Saviour has fought and conquered? Has not their evil been

overcome by His good? Such being the case, if they now yield to the

adversary and espouse his cause, how inconsistent and indefensible will be

such a course! And it must needs be that their own nature and character

must be the field upon which the struggle is to be maintained even to the

end. Nor is this all. We have as Christians a battle to wage with the

ungodly world around. In every condition of life, in every relation, in every

calling and service, there occur opportunities for us to withstand the forces

of evil. And this we are called upon to do in the Saviour’s Name, and by

the might of the Saviour’s cross. It is by honor and integrity, by purity

and truth, by courage and patience, by meekness and love, that this holy

war is to be waged. “Fight the good fight of faith.”  (I Timothy 6:12-13).

 

 

 

  • VICTORY MAY BE DEFERRED, BUT IT IS ASSURED AND

CERTAIN TO THE ARMY OF THE LORD. It is not denied that the

conflict will certainly be arduous, will probably be long. Why, we cannot

tell; yet we can see that the protracted moral strife is a means of testing the

faith and zeal of those combatants who have vowed to follow the banner of

the Son of God. But the attributes and the promises of God Himself, the

glorious work of Christ, the precious and faithful declarations of Scripture,

all assure us that the issue of the strife is in no way doubtful. Victory is

pledged to the followers of the Lamb. We may unfalteringly rely upon the

express assurance of the great Captain of our salvation: “To him that

overcometh will I grant to sit down with me upon my throne.”

(Revelation 3:21)

 

 

 

            The Christian’s Assurance and the Christian’s Duty (v. 21)

 

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” There is a great

danger to the spiritual life of many, which arises from undervaluing the

power of sin. But there is another danger. It is the danger of thinking too

much of the power of evil. A Christian may be overcome by evil, not

because he thinks too little of it, but because he thinks so much of its

power that he regards the struggle as hopeless, and gives up striving

against it. Against this spirit of pessimism or despondency the exhortation

of this verse is well fitted to fortify us.

 

·         THE CHRISTIAN’S ASSURANCE. When the apostle says,

“Overcome evil with good,” he implies that the good has power to

overcome the evil. He implies even more than this; he implies that the

good, as manifested and practiced by the Christian, will prove a sufficient

weapon with which to vanquish the forces of sin. It is not merely that the

good, in some general or abstract sense, will overcome the evil, but that

you Christians, men and women, flesh and blood though you be, may

overcome the evil by the good which you can exhibit and exercise. Is not

this something worth having the assurance of? Is not this something worth

living for? (“For as many as received Him, to them gave He power to

become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”  John 1:12)

My life, if it be a good one, shall not then be in vain. Humble

though my position, my talents, my influence, I may, nevertheless, be a part

of the Divine power against evil, a laborer together with God, and a

partaker of the great and final triumph of righteousness over sin. This is

faith in Jesus Christ in its practical side. In ourselves we could not vanquish

sin. But we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.

(Philippians 4:13)  This is the Christian’s assurance. Ever afraid of evil,

yet never afraid of it. Ever on the watch against sin, yet never disheartened

by its power. Ever distrustful of self, yet never distrustful of God, never

wavering in our confidence that when God is on our side SUCCESS AND

VICTORY ARE SURE!  If men had only this trust in God, they would never

transgress His law to obtain a temporal blessing or a temporary success.

They would not be so impatient to vindicate themselves. Committing their

character and their cause into God’s hands, they would not be so ready to

revenge themselves on those who do them injury or wrong. Let this, then,

be our confidence, that the good is always better than the evil; that it is

always best to do the right, no matter how hard it may be; and that the

day is coming when evil shall be entirely vanquished and overthrown,

and righteousness shall prevail throughout the earth. Fret not thyself

because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious of the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good.… Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also

in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”  (Psalm 37:1-5)

 

·         THE CHRISTIAN’S DUTY. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome

evil with good.” Not only is there a warfare between the evil and the good,

a warfare which shall ultimately result in the triumph of what is good; but it

is the duty of every Christian to take part in that warfare. (“Thou therefore

endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  - II Timothy 2:3)

This duty applies first to his own character and life. The best way to drive

out evil thoughts, evil passions, is to fill your mind with what is good. Seek

the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Be filled with all the fullness of God. Let

your thoughts be much occupied with the precepts and promises of God’s

Word, and then sin will not easily gain dominion over you. Those who occupy

their days with all the good they may do will not have time to think of what

things they may not do. The same rule of duty holds good in regard to others, in

our relations to the world without us. When evil things are said of us, when

unkind or angry words are spoken to us, it is hard not to feel provoked, it

is hard not to answer back, it is hard to keep down the desire for revenge.

But here again we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.

Divine grace can wonderfully restrain such tendencies of our human nature.

To feel anger, or to exhibit anger in such a case, is to be “overcome of

evil.” To look upwards for help. and in the strength of Divine grace to

restrain our anger — this is to “overcome evil with good.” To crucify the

flesh, this is the Christian’s work. This to so show that Christ is our Life,

when we try to act as He would have acted, and speak as He would have

spoken. Christians may overcome the evil in the world both by being good

and by doing good. By being good. For every consistent Christian life tells

upon the world. It is a light shining in the darkness. It bears witness to the

power of Divine grace. It is a protest against worldliness, ungodliness, and

sin. If the personal character of every professing Christian was what it

ought to be, WHAT A POWER OF GOOD THE CHURCH OF GOD

WOULD EXERCISE!  By doing good also. Ignorance and error are to be

overcome by the activity of Christians in educational and evangelistic effort.

Unkindness and uncharitableness are to be overcome by the active

manifestation of kindness, charity, and love. “He that overcometh shall

            inherit all things.”  (Revelation 21:7) 

 

 

 

 

 

            Victory that Blesses Both the Conqueror and the Conquered

                                                   (v. 21)

 

No chapter in the Bible is richer and more benign than this in practical

exhortation. It breathes the spirit of the sermon on the mount, and the

apostolic teaching has the advantage of the illustration and commentary

furnished by the beneficent life and self-sacrificing death of Jesus Christ.

 

·         THE MOMENTOUS CONFLICT. “Be not overcome of evil.” A man

has been wronged by his neighbor. The feeling of injury begets a desire

for retaliation. The resentment is just, is a testimony to the sense of

righteousness imbedded in the conscience. But the feeling tends to go too

far, and to become a longing for revenge in any shape that may present

itself. Here is the subtlety of temptation, making evil appear as good.

Undisguised vice is easy to repel, but a righteous indignation may open the

gate through which unrighteous passion enters like a flood. This is one

form of the universal battle against sin, which is ever ready to take

advantage of lawful natural impulses and to push them to excess. The

warning of the text applies, therefore, to the whole sphere of life. All good