Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Bearing One Another's Burdens
We sometimes read that in shipwrecks, and the like times of great danger, the cry is 'Every man for himself, and God for us all'. It cannot be so in reality. If every man be for himself and himself alone, then God will not be for any of us.
I. We read in the Collect for Michaelmas Day that God has constituted the services of men as well as angels in a wonderful order. He has made us all to lean on one another; He has so ordered the world that in something the weakest may help the strongest. There is a certain amount of suffering, known only to God, which the whole Church has to go through, and when that shall have been borne, then the warfare of the Church will be accomplished, then her iniquity will be pardoned, then we shall be received into the land of the living, and all tears will be wiped from all faces. Therefore the more any single person bears, the less he leaves to be borne by others. I should not have dared to say it unless the Holy Ghost, who cannot lie, had spoken it by the mouth of Paul. But now I say it boldly that in all our sufferings, in a certain sense, we are suffering for others, and therefore so far we are like Christ.
II. But this is not the bearing of one another's burdens which St. Paul here speaks of. He means that every day, yes, and every hour, we must all help and all be helped. None of us must be too selfish to help, none of us must be too proud to be helped. You have all noticed in great buildings how cunningly and wisely the stones of the arches are fitted in together; take out one and they all come to the ground; but let them thus hang on one another, and they bear up a huge mass of buildings, the weight of which one cannot reckon.
III. It is by being helped that we help; it is by being comforted that we comfort. We know how St. Paul comforted the feeble-minded, supported the weak, consoled the afflicted. But did he obtain no help and comfort himself in his turn. Certainly. 'Ye are our glory and joy,' he says. And again, 'For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayers'. And so yet again, 'Ye are our hope and joy, a crown of rejoicing'.
So let us have no more to do with that saying, 'Every man for himself, and God for us all'. Let it rather be, 'Every man for his neighbour, and God for us all'. That would be a true saying—that would be a prophecy as well as a proverb. Everyone of us can give something; none of us is above receiving something.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. II. p. 139.
'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.' That is the formula of the religious life earthwards. And the reason which creates the necessity for the canon is not far off—'For every man shall bear his own burden'. No one may break the moral law—every one shall bear his own burden; but, the law once broken, or the special need once created, the work of self-sacrificing love begins, and the law of Christ must be fulfilled in mutual sympathy and helpfulness.
—Memoirs of Henry Holbeach, vol. II. pp. 58, 59.
References.—VI. 2.—R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 50. J. H. Jowett, British Congregationalist, 4th October, 1906, p. 229. I. Hartill, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 186. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 269. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 253. H. S. Lunn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 267. C. S. Macfarland, The Spirit Christlike, p. 115. W. J. Knox-Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 248. VI. 2-5.—M. G. Glazebrook, Prospice, p. 191. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2831. T. B. McCorkindale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. p. 298. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 171. VI. 3.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 89.
The direct reference is to the burden of temptation, but the words of the Apostle allow a larger interpretation, and we may justly regard him as implying here the burden of personal responsibility. The text reminds us of the universality of responsibility. 'Every man,' 'each man'. The text reminds us also of the individuality of responsibility. 'His own burden.' There is something singular and incommunicable in each individual lot. We must help others because we have a burden of our own, is the touching argument of the Apostle; but it is also implied that we must not shirk our personal burden. Let us notice several ways by which the sense of individual responsibility may be injured, and the serious consequences of such injury.
I. See how the sense of responsibility is threatened by the philosophy of our day. Much of our modern science and philosophy strives to show that we are, one way or other, the victims of necessity. The teachings of this philosophy we must steadily resist. Physical laws do not explain our character, our conduct, our experience, our graces and vices, our consciousness of innocence or guilt There is something in us that there is not in nature. If we exert aright our energy of will nature enters into league with us, and her richest outcome will be the noble men and women who knew how to use without abusing her.
II. Let us note how the sense of responsibility is endangered by ecclesiasticism. If revelation teaches any one doctrine with perfect clearness, it is that of our personal relation to God, our personal accountability to God, and really everything in character and practical life seems to depend upon the full recognition of this fundamental truth. When the Church takes upon itself to see to the salvation of my soul, it has done its best to ruin me for time and for eternity. Whatever ecclesiasticism assumes or promises, we must bravely bear our burden. Anatole France says: 'An education which does not exercise the will is an education which depraves the soul'.
III. Let us mark the sense of personal responsibility as it is endangered by legislation. In our day there is a strong tendency to put more and more responsibility upon the State, that is, to make the multitude responsible for the individual. So far from the State taking our burdens, we must regard the State as part of our burden. In a spirit of noble patriotism loyally bear your share of the burden of civic and national life.
IV. Finally, note the sense of personal responsibility as it is affected by business and domestic life. In our business life let us realise our obligation. In domestic life realise individual responsibility. Respect your individuality. Do not confound yourself with other people, do not lean upon other people, stand on your feet. We may not put our burden on our brother, but we may lean on God.
—W. L. Watkinson, The Blind Spot, p. 167.
These words embody one of the most rudimentary and yet one of the weightiest truths of the Gospel, the individual responsibility of each man to God. Without a distinct perception of this our religion must necessarily be vague and feeble in its practical effects, but let it be firmly grasped and consistently acted upon, and it will sink into the very foundations of our life, and shape its whole character and growth.
I. To this sense of responsibility, then, there are two things that are requisite. (1) There must be a clear and authoritative definition of duty. This is provided for us by revelation. It is primarily a disclosure of the character of God, and consequently of what that character requires. It lays down firmly the great landmarks of morality, and calls upon us to shape our course accordingly. (2) The second condition of responsibility is freedom to act upon the directions which God has thus given to us. This is not provided by revelation, but is an integral part of our nature, which revelation everywhere recognises and appeals to. It is, in fact, our highest and crowning prerogative, for all our powers are entrusted to its keeping, and absolutely lie at its mercy. It places our destiny in our own hands.
II. These, then, being the two conditions essential to our responsibility to God, and conditions that are present in the case of each of us, let us see how the sense of it gradually develops and grows up between them. (1) In childhood and early youth it makes itself but feebly felt, its pressure being wisely relieved and adjusted to our strength. This is accomplished by that abridgment of oar freedom which our own ignorance and incapacity necessitate. Because we cannot provide for ourselves, and know little or nothing of the world beyond our own homes, we are placed under the care and guidance of others. (2) But, while the parental thus, to a large extent and for a considerable period, supersedes the Divine authority, other competitors soon come in to dispute the ground. Now against, or at least above, the influence of all other rivals and claimants for our respect, Christianity sets up continually a counter claim which it presses persistently upon us. It says with an imperative voice: 'Honour thy father and mother'; but it never says, 'Honour society, or fashion, or professional or public opinion'. It sanctions only one transference of our allegiance, and that is from our parents to God. And the time when this transference ought to take place is the next critical time in our lives. The question comes to be whether we shall put ourselves under guidance now of our free and deliberate will. But it is plain you will not consider, or consent to, God's offer unless His authority assumes a commanding position in your thoughts and becomes definite and even irresistible in its appeals. There are two ways in which Scripture endeavours to bring this about. (a) The first of these is by throwing a clear light on the personality of God, as the ultimate ground of right and wrong. (b) Besides this revelation which Scripture gives us of God it asserts with solemn reiteration the great fact of retribution.
—C. Moinet, The Great Alternative and other Sermons, p. 155.
References.—VI. 5.—G. H. Morrison, The Scottish Review, vol. ii. p. 215. VI. 6.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 24. VI. 7.—J. Learmount, The Examiner, 3rd May, 1906, p. 418. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 248. W. R. Inge, All Saints' Sermons, 1905-7, p. 124.
Sowing and Reaping
We have here a great and important law of human life. We might indeed call it the law of human life. Let us spend a little time in looking at the law, so that, if possible, we may see clearly what we have to do with it, and what it has to do with us.
I. First, there is the fact that underlies the law. It is this: human life is a sowing and reaping. It is not a succession of isolated experiences. It is a closely compacted whole. The sowing and reaping are not separated from each other in time, as in the natural harvest. Every day of our life we are sowing something for the future, and reaping something from the past. The sowing and reaping thus go on contemporaneously and continually.
II. Now for the law. 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' A most simple and natural law, necessary, one would think, in the nature of things; yet men live on, and sow on, and hope to find it otherwise in their case. We reap what we sow in kind; but the quantity is largely increased. Sow one sin, and you may have a horrible harvest of ten or more. On the other hand, each act of obedience or self-denial or kindness prepares the way for many more.
III. We come now to the application of the law; and evidently there might be an endlessly varied application of it. But while there may be endless varieties, there are two great kinds; so that we can, looking at the subject broadly, have a twofold application of the law, as in the text. (1) 'He that soweth to his flesh'—what does that mean? Immediately we think perhaps of those whose hearts are set on pampering their baser lusts and passions. But does 'the flesh' mean only the baser lusts and passions? Certainly not. Selfishness belongs to the flesh just as undoubtedly as lust does. And the same kind of harvest is in store in the end. Not at first. There was a difference in the sowing, and there will be a difference in the reaping. (2) If you expect to reap the harvest of a rich and blessed eternity, you must sow to the Spirit. This does not mean the giving up of all the things of the flesh. But it does mean that all our lower desires are to be regulated, subordinated, and controlled by the higher life of the Spirit.
—J. Monro Gibson, A Strong City, p. 229.
Sowing and Reaping
There are certain lessons both of seed-time and harvest which should never be forgotten by the preacher—in fact, they never can be quite forgotten by him, because they enter so largely into Bible teaching, and always form part of his message to man. Everything has been said about them that can be said, and yet it is helpful to stir up the mind by way of remembrance.
I. We always divide and classify human lives by these three terms—spring, summer, and autumn: or, if you prefer it, seed-time, waiting-time, and harvest. Those three times are represented in every congregation. Some of you have done very little reaping yet; your young hands and minds are busily sowing, and you can only guess what the harvest will be. Others of you have done a great deal of labour and thought, and may be of sin, which have not yet brought forth their fruits—the time has not come. You will only understand the outcome of it all when the ripening and mellowing years are upon you. And a few of us have begun to reap. We are gathering what we sowed in earlier years. And it is not until you reach that time of life when the sowing is mainly over and the daily reaping has begun that you fully understand and believe these words of St Paul. You believe them then because every day brings you a new proof of them.
II. A great many people, especially in youth, but more or less all through life, believe that God can be mocked. No one ever makes that mistake about Nature, which is really only another name for God—only a portion of His ways and thoughts. Every one knows that as you deal with Nature so she will deal with you. The sort of life you live in your youth inevitably determines the kind and quality of man and woman that you will be further on, unless there is some complete and fundamental change wrought by God just as you pass into the fuller years, and even then the ill sowing which you have done will have its harvest If you begin by having no faith in God, you end by losing faith in nearly everything. The greater part of this harvest, be it good or bad, is never reaped on earth. There is a hell about which we know nothing, save that it is too terrible for words to describe. And there is a heaven of perfect peace and glad reward, which far exceeds all that our imagination can picture.
—J. G. Greenhough, Jesus in the Cornfield, p. 167.
References.—VI. 7, 8.—J. B. Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, p. 48. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 129. VI. 7-9.—W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 127. VI. 8.—R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 36. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp. 202, 203.
The Cure for Weariness
I. The Keynote of Hope.—St. Paul gives us in our text the keynote of hope and perseverance. 'Let us not be weary in welldoing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.' He reminds us of the need of energy and courage and hope, and tells us of the certainty of final victory if only we go steadily on, trusting less in self and more in the grace of God. A great power for good is lost by that sort of reserve which leads a man to hide away all that is best in his life and character. There is amongst us, and especially amongst men, far more religious feeling than is allowed to appear on the surface; a deeper love of truth, a more reverent spirit of prayer, but this is too often concealed beneath a careless manner and a flippant habit of speech. Many men, active in business or official life, brilliant in social gifts, have a deep sense of their duty to God and man, and a very real desire to know and to do what is right; and yet this higher side of their character is hidden, whereas if it was more apparent it would be a great help and encouragement to others, and especially to the young who are growing up around them. St. Paul once said that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. That may perhaps mean that at the time he wrote he had still the actual scare of scourging and ill-usage in his Master's service; but there is another sense, and a very real one, in which we should all of us bear about the dying of the Lord Jesus, and especially in this season of Lent This is the secret of that kind of influence which is most useful; this is the power common to all true workers for God; they have imprinted on their hearts, and so shining forth in their daily life, the lessons of Gethsemane and Calvary, the great constraining power of self-sacrifice. II. The Cure for Weariness.—It is the lot of all mankind to be weary. Even our Lord bore for us this weariness and heaviness; not only physical suffering which made Him rest by the well, and sleep in the fishing-boat, but He knew also the weariness of disappointment, the heaviness of heart which made Him weep over Jerusalem. There is surely comfort in this thought, for by it we know that it is not wrong to be weary sometimes.
Well I know thy trouble,
O my servant true;
Thou art very weary,
I was weary too.
But if there be sometimes depression and disappointment in the spiritual life, it is the lot still more of those who live without God in the world. The question is, What sort of weariness will you have? The fatigue of work well done, which has its reward in rest, or that weariness which comes from the pursuit of vanity? Surely it is well to be weary if it brings us to rest beneath the cross, if it makes us listen to the voice of love. But there is a kind of weariness which is hard to bear, a weariness in which we can claim the sympathy of our Lord, when our efforts for others seem to fail, when the harder we try the less we seem to succeed. If there be a mother here who has often poured out her heart to God in prayer for a wandering child, if there be a wife who has striven hard to win her husband to God, or a man who has prayed for his friend, you must not give it up, you must not suppose that your prayers are lost Behind that cloud of silence and uncertainty there is the boundless love of God waiting to bless you for your efforts and to give you the answer for which you long, or it may be something better still. Be not weary in welldoing.
III. Another more Personal Form of Weariness and disappointment is when we find that the evil within us is still strong, that the old temptations have still a power to allure, that we have still the root of an old besetting sin. We must not expect that an evil habit which has perhaps been growing for years can be shaken off at once by one impulsive effort or by the strength of one resolution. Remember the expression used in the New Testament to describe the process by which we gain self-mastery; it is a very strong and significant one; we are to crucify the flesh. Now crucifixion was a slow, lingering, painful death. And the figure seems to tell us that our battle with sin must be a long one, and will not soon be over. But, thank God, the final issue is certain if only we are faithful and true.
It is not the fever of superficial impulse that can remove the deep fixed barriers of centuries of ignorance and crime.
—Beaconsfield, in Sybil.
References.—VI. 9.—D. Burns, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 83. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 211. G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 3. Archbishop Benson, Singleheart, p. 17; Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 199. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 234. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 265. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p. 129; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1383. A. H. Moncur Sime, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 250. VI. 9-10.—S. R. Hole, ibid. p. 231.
Darwin added to his Autobiography these words: 'I feel no remorse from having committed any great sin, but have often and often regretted that 1 have not done more direct good to my fellow-creatures.'
References.—VI. 10.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 204. C. Garrett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 331. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 180. VI. 11.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 294; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 383. VI. 11-17.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 215; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 199. VI. 11-18.—Ibid. vol. i. p. 437. VI. 12.—Ibid. vol. vi. p. 27. VI. 13.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 78.
The Incomparable Glory of the Cross
Let us try to understand what Paul means by the cross, and not put too narrow a limitation upon it. He was not using the word in any vulgar sense. He meant by the cross all that was included in the Incarnation mystery—the manifestation of God in the flesh, the spotless and holy manhood, the life of sympathy and healing, the heavenly wisdom of the teachings, the great condescension, the great love, the great sacrifice, and the great redemption: they were all summed up in the one word 'the cross'.
I. He thought there was nothing within the range of human vision or human imagination worth glorying in, worth boasting of, save that alone; nothing of which the world had any reason to be proud but that. The world of which Paul spoke has melted away. The glory of all that world is little more than a handful of dust, while the cross is still the greatest power in the world—the ever-increasing power; the object of its purest devotion; the source of its richest thoughts and sentiments in art, poetry, music, and worship; the inspiration of all its finest energies and hopes; the fountain which supplies all its grandest ideals. Truly, time has vindicated the foolish dreamer; the foolishness of God has been proved wiser than men.
II. But that is history. That belongs to the past. How does the saying stand in our own times? Is there nothing in this age which gives us cause for unqualified boasting, nothing which should lift up and expand with pride and flatter the human heart, save that one thing in which the Apostle gloried? There are a thousand things in our modern life and surroundings which we cannot help regarding with delight and a measure of admiration and pride. Great are the triumphs of civilisation. Ah, yes! you can fill books with the wonder and glamour of it all, and you might well be elated with pride as you think of it, if there were not always some offset to every part of it—some dark background, some painful accompaniment which suggests humiliation and even tears. What, then, may we glory in? Well, in every exhibition of the cross and its power. All the real radiance of our times comes from the cross. It is the cross which saves our civilisation from corruption. The cross is the gathering-point, the focus, the source, of all that elevates the thought and preserves the hopes of this present time; and therefore we may say with all the emphasis of the Apostle: 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ'.
III. Finally, bring it home to yourselves. If the cross is in your lives, in your thoughts, in your hopes, there is a radiance which nothing can dim; there is the splendour of an inspiring and lovely promise thrown over all the paths you tread.
—J. G. Greenhough, The Cross in Modern Life, p. 1.
Glorying in the Cross
We cannot accustom ourselves to meditate too seriously upon the holiness of the All-pure God. Intrinsically holiness is not terrific, but lovely. It is terrific to unholy creatures, because they have a sense to know that the approach of the Holy One is destruction to all that is unholy.
I. See how the case stands. It pleased God in His wisdom to create man, and to endow him with freedom of will. But freedom of will implies a power to disobey. Man did disobey. But disobedience is unholiness. Man became unholy, and begat an unholy race. But unholiness is alienation from God, and alienation from God is misery. Reconciliation without atonement is, in the nature of things Divinely constituted, impossible. The annihilation of our race would, therefore, have been mercy. Annihilation would have been better than everlasting misery. But, blessed be God, He has in His mercy devised the means by which an exception may be made to that which He has constituted as the rule to all creation, by which an unholy race may be brought back into communion with the Holy God without impeachment of His Holiness; and where the cross of Christ is planted, the misery of those who shall be miserable will be the result merely of their own individual acts.
You see, then, the design of God in the redemption of man. It is to remove the barrier which rendered our approach to the Godhead impossible; to reconcile what, without the interference of Omnipotence, would be irreconcilable; to prove that God can continue holy, and yet bring back to communion with Him, the Holy One, a race of beings by nature unholy.
II. Now, there is in the Deity, with respect to man, one will; that will being that man, though unholy, shall be rendered capable of communion with the Holy One. For the accomplishment of that one Divine Will, each of the Persons in the One Essence has a peculiar office. As in the creation of man you will find a consultation, so to speak, held by the Three Persons in the Godhead—'Let Us make man in our image'; as, also, after the fall—'Behold, man is become as one of Us'; so we find that They acted, as it were, by Covenant, in respect to man's redemption. In this Covenant we find the Everlasting Father set before us as the Person to Whom satisfaction shall be paid, the Person exacting justice, and yet in mercy sending His only begotten Son, preparing a body for Him, appointing Him a Mediatorial Kingdom, giving Him for a Covenant to the people. Hence we find the Lord Jesus Christ represented as the Mediator of a better covenant, and His blood called the blood of the everlasting Covenant (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8).
III. This mystery of mercy, then, is all dependent upon the Cross of Christ. Are we not, then, one and all, ready to exclaim with the Apostle, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ'? For in what else should we glory? Except for the Cross of Christ, what are we? What, but unholy creatures, and, as such, miserable, perishing creatures? Worldly wealth and power, mental endowments, talents, learning: these things, which are merely the means lent us by God by which we are to work out what He hath begun for us, our own salvation, and for the use of which we shall be responsible, are not subjects in which to glory; they soon perish with our perishing selves. There are certain privileges in which we may rejoice—the privileges of Grace, of our election; and, as it was lawful for the Israelites to glory in being of the Circumcision, it is lawful for us, in a higher degree, to glory in having been baptized into the Church, and made the children of God. We may, indeed, rejoice in these privileges, but we may not forget on what those privileges rest—we may not overlook the Cross of Christ; that which is our shame, because it proclaims the unholiness of our race; but which is, nevertheless, our glory, since it brings us back to God.
The Cross of Jesus
The first and the second crosses are easily understood, easily explained. They were the consequences of crime, of offences against the law of God and of man. But the third cross, the cross of Jesus, there comes the difficulty! How shall we understand that? What is its chief mark and character? You can understand it at all, you can give it meaning, only by thinking of it as a sacrificial cross, as atoning, redemptive suffering for sin. Shame and pain and sin meet there, as in the other two crosses, but while His was the pain, His was not the sin. It is not like the other crosses; it is separate from them entirely.
I. Mistakes about the Cross.—As you know, all men nowadays, even many that would call themselves Christians, do not regard the cross in the way that you and I do. Let us just for a minute or two see where mistakes can be made on this matter.
(a) A judicial murder.—Think, for instance, what it would mean if the cross of Jesus is only a judicial murder. What awful confusion it brings into the world! The like we know would be done again in similar circumstances. It is quite possible that such a thing should take place again, but that would only make the confusion thrice confounded, and we should only have to mourn in the case of the death of a man by judicial murder for the wrong that was perpetrated on a sinless or unoffending man. It would do us no good, nobody any good.
(b) The death of a good man.—Or if the cross of Jesus, the death of Jesus on the cross, be only the death of a good man, what is that to you and me? It serves no good purpose. No one in the world can attach a good purpose to such a thing. It will not help you in sorrow, it will not help me or anyone in sin; it only deepens the sorrows of humanity profoundly, and makes the blackness of human history a darker thing than ever.
(c) The death of the greatest martyr.—Or if the death of Jesus, the cross of Jesus, be only that of the greatest martyr that has ever lived, again, I ask, what good is there in that? He may witness to righteousness, He may witness to purity, but where is the good of that? What good is it to you and to me? The world has been very, very slow to follow mere witnesses. Men may weep over the awful wrong done to the great martyr, but why should we go on saddening the world year by year, telling the story of His awful death, and making the world and the hearts of men and women sadder than they need be? Rather, far better, take the cross down from every church, banish it from every ornament, take it away, and beg men to forget the awful thing, the horrid mischance of the death of the greatest martyr that ever lived.
These things will not account for the cross of Jesus as it is now judged by those who love Him, nor will it put any meaning into it that is worth talking about to you or anyone. It will not account for anything that now gathers around the cross. We have to account for men glorying in the cross of their Lord Jesus Christ. We have to find an explanation for men and women and little children dying gladly for the Crucified.
II. The Cross explained:—
(a) It represents God's sorrow for sin.
(b) It shows us God's love.—The cross of Jesus shows us God's love, bringing pardon and righteousness to the sinner.
(c) It represents God's sacrifice.—The cross of Jesus shows us God's love, sacrificing itself in order to do this for you and for me. There is how the possibility becomes actual. It is God's self, it is God's very love, sacrificing itself in order to do this. It is a sacrifice of God or it is nothing. The death of a man, a mere man, can be nothing for you and for me; but if there be the life of God bound up in it, if it be God in a way in which no man can adequately explain, if it be God actually sacrificing Himself, taking the sinners' place, sharing the sinners' sin, bearing the sinners' penalty, then you can see how it is possible for pardon to be given, for righteousness to be ours, and for everlasting glory to be ours also. God has done this, and this is what the cross means.
References.—VI. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No 1859. H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 138, and 148. H. P. Wright, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 460. W. B. Selbie, The Servant of God, p. 179. R. J. Drummond, Faith's Certainties, p. 125. VI. 15.—J. Iverach Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 342. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 190. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 49. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 307. J. Iverach. Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 262. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 112; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 204. VI. 16.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 385.
The Epistle to the Galatians is the one letter of St Paul which is full of expressions of almost unmixed indignation. St. Paul's letters are generally full of gentleness and tenderness, but in this letter to the Galatians his tenderness seems for once to be laid aside. It is a striking and a solemn picture of Apostolic anger.
I. If you will Compare this Letter ever so Hastily with St. Paul's other Letters, you will see how displeased he must have been. To begin with, it opens without a trace of that kindly and affectionate introduction with which all St. Paul's other letters commence. Even when he has much to find fault with, it is St. Paul's manner to begin his letters with the pleasantest and most cheering topic he can think of. In most cases there would be something to commend in his converts; and therefore before he proceeds to correct them he begins by praising them where he could do so truthfully. You see this in the cases of the Epistles to the Romans and the Corinthians, even though in the latter case there was so much to find fault with. It is not so here. After the very briefest salutation, he plunges at once in verse 6 of Chapter I. into the severest rebuke. 'I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you.' And then he goes on to pronounce that solemn and awful curse on any who had taught a different Gospel from his own. Read the letter straight through without stopping for the chapter divisions, and you will find that it bears you on like an impetuous torrent Usually St. Paul writes long sentences. Here they are short and incisive—short, terse, and impetuous, bearing the stamp of the eager earnestness with which they were written. Only when, as we may say, the first vehemence of the composition is beginning to be spent, about the middle of the third chapter, does a word of returning kindness show itself. 'My little children,' at last he calls them, and tells them that he would be glad 'to change his voice' towards them; i.e. not to speak so harshly. But for all his wishes that he might change his voice, still he does not, so far as this letter is concerned. It ends as sternly as it began. No kind messages, no tender greetings, such as are common in the other letters. All is abrupt and severe.
II. What does this Mean?—The meaning of the word is easy to explain, and the fact that St Paul could say this of himself was just the thing which enabled him to be thus angry and sin not, in the way which the whole letter has shown. St. Paul did bear about him abundant marks which showed that he belonged indeed to Christ. In other places St. Paul is fond of calling himself the servant of Jesus Christ, or even the slave of Jesus Christ. Now, in those days it was the custom frequently to mark or brand slaves with some mark or letter to show to whom they belonged. St. Paul then here alludes to the scars of the wounds he had received in the service of his master, the scars of the stonings and the scourgings which he describes in 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:25. These scars he says are as the marks or brands which prove him to be Christ's property. A free man acts on his own account, and on his own responsibility. A slave does what his Master orders him, and nothing else. St. Paul means to say that in all that he has done and taught, he has not been acting on his own responsibility. He has not taught out of his own mind. He has not considered himself free to teach just whatever he pleased. Quite the contrary. He has acted throughout as Christ's slave. He has given up his freewill to Christ He has done and taught nothing but what Christ has bidden him. The responsibility is not with him, but with Christ Thus, then, what St Paul means to say is this: Whatever I have said and done, has been said and done by me as Christ's slave. Whoever resists me resists Him whose property I am. These scars and wounds with which I am branded are the marks which show that I am His. Therefore let all men beware how they resist me. III. To Apply all this to Ourselves:—(a) St. Paul was Christ's slave. You may sum up the whole of the Christian religion in the one word, self-subdual.
(b) The more His servants come up to the true standard of perfect self-surrender to their Master, the more they will bear the marks of Him Whose property and servants they are. And what are the brands or marks which are stamped and burned into those who are not their own, but Christ's? Surely these marks will consist in the similarity of their lot to what was Christ's lot, or rather in the similarity of some portion of their lot to what was Christ's.
References.—VI. 17.—H. R. Haywood, Sermons and Addresses, p. 227. H. D. Rawnsley, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiv. p. 68. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 282. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 467. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. pp. 201, 278; ibid. vol. ix. p. 264; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 139. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Galatians, p. 189.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.