Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,Our Motto
Primarily these words refer to our duty as Christian citizens. But I think we may very well enlarge the scope of the words, so that we may take them as our motto for our whole life, and not only for our lives as Christian citizens.
I. What do we Mean by Good Work?—The Christian is to be ready for every beautiful work, because the work of God is always beautiful. Good works are beautiful, and they call forth the admiration of all true beholders. It requires a certain amount of courage to do good works. There are many men who are not men enough to do good works, cowardly men, men who just follow the multitude to do evil. And therefore the good works are not only those that are beautiful in themselves, but that require a certain amount of courage and manliness on the part of Christian men to engage in them.
II. Well, then, why should we be Ready for every Good Work?—(1) Because we were created for good works by God in Christ Jesus. (2) We must be ready for good works because in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew, and in the sixteenth verse, it is these good works that glorify God. 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,' your beautiful works, 'and glorify your Father which is in heaven'. (3) By doing these good works we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. (4) In order to provoke one another to good works (Hebrews 10:23), in order that we may be thus a pattern to other men. (5) These good works are your best adornment
III. You must be Ready to every Good Work.—Well, now, how are you to do it? (1) You must be consecrated to Him, you must be ready to do whatever He appoints. (2) You must be cleansed, sanctified, meet for the Master's use. (3) In the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews: 'That great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ'. The Greek word there means, to set a dislocated arm, to put something right which has got wrong. When this dislocation is set right, then there will be the prospect of our being ready for every good work.
(4) In the third chapter of the second Epistle to Timothy, and in the seventeenth verse: 'That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works'. Furnished for all good works.
(5) There must be a real keen anxiety to do them.
(6) You want to be stablished for every good work if you are to fulfil the purpose for which God has called you. (7) In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and in the tenth verse, 'Fruitful in every good work'. Because after all it is not so much how much we do, but what we do in the doing of it
—E. A. Stuart, The True Citizen and other Sermons, vol. IX. p. 65.
Equipped for Well-doing
These words describe the normal attitude of mind which the Christian believers in the island of Crete were to maintain with steadfast resolution. Calls to service, like the Lord's coming to judgment, may sometimes be upon us when we are not looking for them. 'Ready unto every good work.' It is much more likely that we shall miss the pregnant occasion than that the occasion will fail to arrive. The history of failure is the story of unreadiness. This malady sometimes shows itself in a disabling sense of personal unfitness for the task which solicits us. This infirmity which hampers our life-work sometimes arises from the fact that we project our own unfitness into the minds of others, and assume that they are not ready to improve by the good works we are sent to do.
I. The first condition of this habitual fitness for service is a mind attuned to the Divine kindness, and in constant agreement with the goodwill of God. We shall never falter in good works, or miss the great opportunities which lie in our providential pathway, if we are possessed by the remembrance of God and His mercy to just and unjust alike. It is but another way of stating the same truth to affirm that Christ and His Word must be in us as the foundation of this fitness. In sending Marconigraphs across the sea, it is necessary that the instruments should be 'syntonised' with each other. Unless receiver and transmitter are keyed into a fine correspondence the message will be lost, and the electric vibrations which indicate it will wander unread through the wide spaces of the air. The Bible 'syntonises' us with the mind of God, making us sensitive subjects of His fine commands.
II. A further essential of this daily fitness for service is a firm assurance that since God has made it the chief function of the new life that it should abound in good works, He cannot possibly put us under conditions where this high function will be thwarted. He has so ordained the world into which we are sent, that it is a meet sphere for this Christlike vocation.
III. This fitness for every kind of gracious service must be maintained by diligent daily exercise. A French writer has said: 'If Paganini, who uttered his soul through the strings of his violin, spent three days without practising, he lost what he called the stops of his instrument, meaning the sympathy between the wooden frame, the strings, the bow, and himself. If he had lost this alliance, he would have been no more than an ordinary player.' And that sympathy between the soul of the worker, the written word, the stricken race and the God who redeemed it, which is the mainspring of all great achievement, may be lost by neglect Nothing can make up for the lack of this inward readiness. If we are ready for every good work we are ready for the coming of the King.
References.—III. 1, 2.—H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, p. 172. III. 1-4.—Expository Sermons on the New Testament, p. 248. III. 3-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2042.
The Philanthropy of God (for Christmas Day)
The message of Christmas affects each of us in different ways at different times, for it deeply concerns our whole humanity. It never loses its power. Men and women whose hearts are untouched by other great facts of Divine revelation feel strangely thrilled as their ears catch the angels' tidings of the birth of the Virgin's Son. Christmas appeals to the primary instincts of humanity; it meets man's deepest needs; and if those without the Church feel a new glow at this season, surely we who are accustomed to meet here must be more deeply moved still. We pass beyond the outward expressions of the joy to the inner meaning of which everything else is but a sign. 'The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.' The Incarnation is the making of God poor that we may be made rich.
I. The Philanthropy of God.—In what does wealth consist? Not surely in money, not even in knowledge. What are the most precious things, the things we hold most dear? We think of home, and we realise the glory of motherhood and the dignity of childhood, and we understand that through the Incarnation we have become inestimably wealthy in the power of home which binds hearts together indestructibly. We think of the riches of Christian literature and art springing through the centuries from that humble home at Bethlehem. We think of the new spirit which helps us in that work which is so trying to body and brain, for the whole routine of life is known to God Who became a labourer in the city of Nazareth. And if all this true wealth is ours in this world through the Incarnation, what shall we say of the treasure and Divine riches given to us for the sustenance of our spiritual life, of the grace of Jesus Christ in His Church and in His Sacrament, of the knowledge of His will in His inspired Word and through His ministers, of the hope of everlasting life which binds earth and heaven? The kindness and philanthropy of God I In all parts of the world men are even now gleaning these riches of Christ's poverty, the riches of an inheritance which is incorruptible and fadeth not away.
II. 'Let this Mind be in You.'—Surely, as we consider the message of Christmas and realise all that that means, we find in it not only a gospel of infinite joy but also a challenge to imitate the example of Him Who has made this wealth ours. 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus'—the mind of true philanthropy. Christmas is the festival of kindness. Through the Incarnation philanthropy has acquired a new meaning. It is not to be asserted indeed that there were no efforts to alleviate poverty and suffering before the Incarnation. The sympathies of humanity have had some expression at every period of the world's history, and we know that the Roman noble gloried in giving alms to the beggar. But still there was nothing like the Christian conviction of the obligation resting upon each man to do all in his power wisely to alleviate misery. The example of Christ in His Incarnation is followed again and again by His disciples, for the true Christian realises that the unfortunate have around them the halo of the suffering of Christ But at the same time it must be remembered that there is nothing in Christ's teaching, or in the teaching of His Apostles, which approves of indiscriminate almsgiving. We must give ourselves trouble to see that our charity is always well advised, and that it is not a generous giving to comfort ourselves independently of the result of our bounty. The kindness and philanthropy exhibited in the Incarnation is our pattern.
References.—III. 4.—Archbishop Alexander, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 20. III. 5.—J. C. Lees, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. p. 27. D. L. Moody, The Fulness of the Gospel, p. 62. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 198. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 60. III. 7.—B. J. Snell, Sermons on Immortality, p. 20. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 204. III. 8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Titus, p. 189. III. 9.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 371. III. 15.—Ibid. vol. viii. p. 167.
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.
Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.
And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.