Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE PURPOSES TO WHICH CHURCH GIFTS SHOULD BE DEVOTED. The contributions gathered in Achaia, Macedonia, and other places, at the instance of the apostle, were for the poor Christians of Jewish race at Jerusalem. There is no reason to suppose that all the methods and practices of the primitive Churches were unexceptionable. We have to deal with aims, with impulses and principles, not with details of method and administration. And we cannot question that the relief of the poor, and especially of the Christian poor, is a lawful and becoming means of displaying practical brotherly love. Wisdom, discrimination, ought indeed to be exercised, but for the direction and not for the extinction of liberality.
II. THE METHOD IN WHICH CHURCH CONTRIBUTIONS SHOULD BE MADE. From this passage, containing principles of apostolic authority, we learn that such setting apart of our substance to benevolent and ecclesiastical purposes should be:
1. Periodical. Some have, indeed, held that the words of the apostle especially sanction the devotion of money as an observance peculiarly appropriate to the Lord's day. In any case, regularity is enjoined.
2. In proportion to means. There is both common sense and Christian feeling in the apostle's direction as to the measure of liberality. The poor man gives of his poverty, and the rich man of his wealth; whatever is consecrated being regarded as an acknowledgment that all is from God.
3. In preparation and accumulation. To avoid a sudden levy or collection upon the apostle's arrival, he recommends that each shall lay by him in store, so that the product may be ready to hand when the day comes that it is wanted.
III. THE WAY IN WHICH CHURCH GIFTS SHOULD BE APPROPRIATED AND ADMINISTERED. Paul showed his wonted wisdom in the arrangements he suggested.
1. Personal ministration should be employed. Everything, especially everything connected with money, should be open and above board. The givers choose the bearers of the gift.
2. The manner of apportionment should be altogether above any possibility of suspicion. Of such precautions Paul has set us an admirable and excellent example. - T.
I. THE NECESSITY OF GIVING.
1. For maintenance of public worship in our own community. Churches should aim at self support. Assuredly there should be no unwillingness to give where we ourselves reap the advantage. And often the return, being spiritual, infinitely exceeds all that we part with.
2. For various works which have for their object the dissemination of the truth or the relief of the needy. Gospel at home is good, but we must see that the gospel is sent abroad. There are many societies aiming to reach the heathen in this land and in other lands; ready support should be rendered. "Go ye into all the world," etc. (Matthew 28:19). Relief of the destitute is a bounden duty of the Christian. Here we have a beautiful example. The apostle is no doubt referring to the distressed believers in Jerusalem and Judaea (Romans 15:26). The largely Gentile Church is incited to aid the largely Jewish. This will form a new bond, and do the double work of relieving suffering and breaking down prejudice. Our charity should know no limits but the limits of need and ability.
3. For givers individually. Christians who do not give do not grow. The cultivation of charity is the cultivation, not of one grace, but of many. It is usual to plead the needs of others; our personal need of giving is a strong argument. Parting with some ballast prospers our voyage, and, instead of imperilling our safety, increases it. Right giving is great gaining. We cannot be like Christ unless we give. He "gave himself for us."
4. For the Church. That Church which is not a giving Church will not be a prospering Church. A spirit of charity in a religious community exercises a gracious influence upon everything that that community attempts, and is ever prompting fresh efforts. Church charity should be wide. There is such a thing as Church selfishness. A Church may bestow too much thought upon itself. High shutting in walls are not good for gardens.
5. For the glory of God. Giving manifests the power of the Christian faith. It is a very powerful testimony in the eyes of the world. The world is apt to scoff at profession, even at worship; but this practical outcome often startles, and has sometimes staggered, the world. It is a great instrument of conversion. Moreover, every gift should be a direct offering to God. We must see in the hand of the needy the treasury of the Lord. The Master often sits over against that treasury.
II. THE APOSTOLIC SUGGESTIONS.
1. Setting apart each week. This is very convenient for many. It also ensures frequent and regular giving. Further, and what is of far more importance than is generally thought, it facilitates our knowing how much we give. Those who do not know how much they give think they give three times as much as they really do. Perhaps the most certain way to increase our giving would be to keep a strict account of how little we give! Setting apart each week would provide us with a store from which we could draw as necessity arose. We are ready for the collection in the sanctuary when we have first made the collection in the home.
2. On the first day of the week. How appropriate a time! Associated with so many hallowed memories, and pre-eminently with the completion by his resurrection of Christ's great gift to us. His charity should be the inspirer of ours. A beautiful act for a holy day. How could we refuse to give then, or how could we give grudgingly?
3. The amount of gift to be determined by the measure of prosperity. All gifts are not expected to be of the same value. "She hath done what she could" was the Master's gracious expression of approval. Note: Our prosperity is of God. He gives that we may give. If we take all to ourselves, we are robbers, not Christians. And in so far as we do not give what we know he would have us to, we are defrauders of God. He trusts us with so much: let us see that we do not abuse the trust. Stewards are we, not proprietors. Christ's commendation of the widow's two mites is abused by some well to do folks; they always aim to give that amount. Alas! when the chill of adversity comes to many men it kills at once all offerings to the Lord - retrenchment "begins at the house of God" - and when prosperity comes they give but the old sum, which in the altered circumstances is a beggarly and disgraceful offering.
4. All to give. All have received. The widow gave "all her living? None are too poor to give something. Every Christian should be a giving Christian; it is a part of his Christianity. The gift of a Church is specially valuable when it is a gift of all its members. And right giving is such a joy, that when the most destitute part with something for Christ's sake they do not lose now, but gain. When we give we get.
5. Giving is to be voluntary. It is to be giving. The apostle does not propose to make an assessment. The matter is left between the individual and his God. Giving is valuable only as it springs from the heart. Where compulsion (and there are many sorts) begins, there charity ends. The beauty of Christ's offering was that it was voluntary. No man took his life from him; he laid it down of himself.
III. GIFTS SHOULD BE CAREFULLY ADMINISTERED. Charity is greatly checked if suspicion arises that gifts do not reach their intended destination. The apostle uses great care here. He arranges that those who give should elect custodians of their gifts, who might bear the offering to Judaea. The loose way in which some Churches manage their finances tends to lessen liberality. A Church should keep its accounts more carefully than a bank! The administration of a Church's gifts is no mean work. The apostle offers to take part in it, if this shall seem well. Not alone - lest some should take opportunity to slander: ministers cannot be too careful in money matters. But with others he is willing even to journey to Jerusalem. - H.
Acts 4:36). His thought and feeling in this matter had very probably influenced his companion St. Paul. We can well understand that the Jewish Christians, dwelling in the holy city, would be placed under great disabilities. Many of them were very poor; their opinions would prevent their obtaining the ordinary charities; perhaps they found it even difficult to secure remunerative labour; and, when times of famine and distress came, they would be the first to suffer. When Christianity was proclaimed freely to the Gentiles, there was this grave danger to face; the separation between Jew and Gentile might be kept up within Christianity, and the conception of one Church - one flock under one Shepherd - might fail to be realized. To correct this tendency, St. Paul sought to keep up the sympathy of the newer Gentile with the older Jewish Church, and guided the expression of such sympathy, letting it take the form of collections and money gifts. In the passage now before us the principles upon which Christian giving should be regulated are indicated. They concern -
I. THE CLAIM OF ALL TO A SHARE IN CHRISTIAN GIFTS. Nothing that a man possesses is his own. Money, talents, position, influence, - all are Divine gifts and trusts; none are sent for the man's sake alone who receives them. He is only made an agent for ministering God's good gifts to others. The whole Church has its claim to share in whatever good things any of its members possesses. It should be impossible to find, among Christians, an unrelieved sufferer, or a helpless, poverty stricken beggar. We must distinguish between charity and the meeting of the family claims of our brethren in the Lord. It is not charity, it is duty, it is faithfulness, that leads us to share what is entrusted to us with those who share m the same salvation, and who have the same "good hope through grace." We do not speak of charity among brothers and sisters of the same family, and the right view of Christian giving is taken only when the Christian Church is regarded as a family.
II. THE NEED FOR PREPARATION BY PREVIOUS STORING. The claims upon us only come at times, but they do come at times in forms quite beyond our meeting, if we have made no preparations. And there is the further danger that when, through circumstances of distress, our feelings are unusually moved, we act from impulse, not from principle. So St. Paul urges that the separation of shares for the needy brethren be made regularly, as a matter of duty; that a proportion of all our acquisitions be regularly set aside and stored up for due occasions, and that so we keep our brethren and their needs constantly in mind.
III. THE TIME MOST SUITABLE FOR SUCH STORING. "First day of the week." The Lord's day. The memorial day of the Lord's resurrection; which, we cannot doubt, had become the Christian day for worship. When minds were directed more especially to Christian privileges and duties, the separations and storings would be more liberally done, and would be made acts of worship. It seems probable that the amounts thus regularly laid by were not stored privately, but made offerings at public worship, and stored by the treasurers.
IV. THE RULE THAT REGULATES THE AMOUNT STORED. Many have argued for a tenth, but it was not in St. Paul's way to fix any limitations upon the free expression of Christian feeling. He does not mean to suggest any proportion by his law, "As God hath prospered him." Really he means, "Let your separation for others be according to your sense of God's goodness to you." And this he suggests because, while the due provision for the poor is of grave importance, it is even more important that our storing and giving should be a means of grace to ourselves, an agency of spiritual culture. Practically it is found that brotherly and generous regard for our needy fellow Christians bears most directly on the efficiency of our own graces and the culture of the true Christian spirit. "The liberal soul is made fat." - R.T.
(1) its ground;
(2) its character;
(3) its examples;
(4) its natural forms of expression.
These may be treated in connection with the personal and individual relationships of life, and also in connection with the social and Church relationships. Then in practical detail, varying according to the sentiments and associations of the Christian bodies to which we may belong, we may consider -
I. BROTHERLINESS AS EXPRESSED TO EQUAL CHURCHES. In this case the brotherliness will take such forms as:
1. Fellowship in worship.
2. Mutual aid in enterprise and work.
3. Due watchfulness of each other's honour and spiritual health.
4. Anxious repression of all jealousies of each other's successes.
5. Manifestations of sympathy in times of Church depression or sorrow.
Among equal Churches there is little opportunity for the charity of material help.
II. BROTHERLINESS EXPRESSED TO INFERIOR OR DEPENDENT CHURCHES. Besides those already dealt with, there should be these further expressions.
1. Careful conservation of the rights of the dependent Church.
2. Readiness to give material and moral help, as occasion demands.
3. Avoidance of superior airs or assumptions of authority.
4. Use of all opportunities that may be offered for the manifestation of sympathy.
While it is true that times of calamity find special occasions for brotherliness, it is also true that those in any way dependent on us would not have us wait for the trial times. True Christian brotherhood wants to find utterance for itself every day, and to fill all the ordinary associations of life with its helpful spirit. - R.T.
I. WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE ON OUR MASTER'S BUSINESS. This we may be if we are engaged in "secular" affairs. Every part of life is to be consecrated to God. A Christian is a Christian always, and a servant always. Everything may be consecrated. Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we may do all to the glory of God. Secular engagements become truly sacred if in them
(1) we act justly;
(2) seek to please God;
(3) avoid injury to our fellows;
(4) endeavour to display a Christian spirit.
To do this as we travel, we should
(1) preserve a prayerful frame of mind;
(2) watch vigilantly for temptations.
These are often very numerous and strong when we are away from our usual surroundings, and not amongst those who know us. We should embrace every opportunity of doing good. Not only to men in things temporal, but also in things spiritual. At last it will seem marvellous to some that their "cheerily" and "love" extended only to men's lower needs.
II. OUR MOVEMENTS SHOULD BE ORDERED OF THE LORD.
1. In secular affairs we should seek the mind of the Lord. He who can help us in the great can help us in the small. There is nothing too insignificant to pray over.
2. In sacred affairs we need ever say, "If the Lord permit." "D.V." on a bill amounts to little; we need it engraved on the heart.
3. Those who, evangelizing, pass from place to place will do well to study the conduct of their apostolic prototype.
(1) He did not think a difficult post meant a post to be abandoned as speedily as possible. Some are all for running away. They are ever "seeking rest," but they are ever "finding none." There is no "rest" out of the path of duty.
(2) He was not overwhelmed by a little opposition, nor by much. Many adversaries being there was a reason why he should be there. Where the enemy is strongest, there the loyal soldiery should be strongest.
(3) He read. in an open door the mind of the Lord directing him to remain. He did not read this in
Some communities have attempted to sterotype the mind of the Lord in a three years' pastorate; this looks more like the mind of man than the mind of the Lord. Some divines can only hear certain, "calls" of the Lord: it is to be feared that these "calls" are, after all, nothing more than the echoes of their own voices. - H.
by the way) will not satisfy his love. But, for the present, he must "tarry at Ephesus." Why he would stay in this city, he states - "a great and effectual door is opened unto me;" the field of usefulness is large and promises vast results. Stay he would, moreover, because "there are many adversaries." Adversaries were the men to convert; if not that, to silence; but, any way, he will not desert a post of duty to gratify his desire to see the Corinthian brethren. If the Lord will permit, he will refresh himself among them, but, for a time, he will face the worshippers of Diana and bear the brunt of persecution. Then he thinks of the young Timotheus. If he visit you according to his expectation, be thoughtful of his youth, be specially considerate of his modesty, and see that his stay among you is "without fear," disturbed by none of your rivalries and factions. Honour him for his work's sake, for "he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do." "Let no man therefore despise him;" on the contrary, "send him on without annoyance, with good understanding, and kindly affection," that he and his travelling companions may come unto me. Again, some of the partisans at Corinth might suspect him of jealousy as to Apollos. The name of the eloquent and holy man had become a watchword of strife. Lest they should do St. Paul this dishonour, he tells them of the affectionate relations between them; nor will he say my brother, but "our brother Apollos," whom he wishes "greatly" to visit the Church at Corinth. But see! One of those sudden changes which originate in the soul, which pass from the soul into the nerves, and from the nerves into the muscles - one of those quick escapes from memory and stored up emotion - occurs, and what an intenser expression settles in the muscles about the eyes, and in the eyes themselves! There is a break in the thought. Two verses intervene before the main idea is resumed. And it could hardly have been otherwise. It is nature to the life; it is St. Paul in the very soul of his temperament. It was scarcely possible for the apostle to mention Apollos without being reminded of the unhappy divisions at Corinth, for we can neither think nor feel except by means of association and suggestion. Each faculty, each sensibility, is an individual centre of these activities. No wonder, then, that there is an abrupt transition, all the more true to the laws of mind because abrupt. "Watch ye." Ah! if there had been Christian watchfulness in the Corinthian Church, what criminations, what reproaches, what humiliations, had been averted! To be a man, one must be apprehensive of the dangers ever lurking in ambush; must have the sentinel spirit and habit, and must exert it every moment. "Stand fast in the faith." Occasional watching will not do; steadfastness must go along with watchfulness, and fortify you against the wiliest assault. "Quit you like men." No manhood can live without courage; be manful. Fighting is your safety, business, profession; fight like men, fight on, fight to the end. "Be strong," or as it is in Ephesians 3:16, "Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." But fight how? There are many sorts of fighting - business fighting, professional fighting, legislative fighting, alas! even Church fighting. And there they are, each class of fighters with his particular weapons and his code of warfare. Only in this are they all alike, viz. the fighter gets the help of the animal soul. Beastly fighting he abhors; the fighting which brings hot blood and excited nerves and quick breathing into service, he admires, encourages, and depends upon for victory. Not so is St. Paul's view. "Let all your things be done with charity" - love, and, after his grand discourse on "love," an allusion is enough. To have a gentlemanly intellect in our fighting is a rare thing and a great thing, but to have a loving intellect in fighting for what we believe to be truth is much rarer and infinitely greater. Christian fighting is a very unusual excellence. From this emotional digression, he returns to "the house of Stephanas." This family were "the firstfruits of Achaia." How he likes the figure! St. Paul had baptized this household. They have "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." What the precise ministry was, we know not, but we know that it was a kind, beautiful, noble service, fur it was rendered to the "saints." Think of the manifold ministries that Christianity set a going. It is Anno Domini, say, 57. Christianity has in its Churches men of the generation that saw Christ die, that beheld him risen, that witnessed Pentecost. Jerusalem, though approaching her overthrow, still shows the temple where he taught, the spot where he was crucified, and the grave where he was buried. In this short space of time, what numerous workers have entered on careers of beneficence! From the apostles downward through all grades of kind and loving agencies, mark the variety, the diffusion, the heterogeneous civilizations, the unity, the accordant response, the consecration, pervading these Christian ministries. Mark it, we say; for it is a solitary phenomenon, up to this time, in human annals. Mark it, we repeat; for all the antagonistic forces of the world are in league to crush it, and they are reinforced and augmented by Satanic power. Take a single specimen, the household of Stephanas. No information is given as to his social position, no mention made of the sphere or spheres of usefulness filled. Enough to know, it was a "ministry" and a blessed one, since it was "a ministry to the saints." Yet we may picture that Corinthian home in the midst of a mongrel and licentious population, keeping alive the fervour of its love and the purity of its private heart, watching, standing fast in the faith, courageous and strong, and abounding in the work of the Lord. We may be sure that the poor, the sick, the infirm, were duly cared for and helped, and that the home itself was devoted to hospitality. Now, says the apostle, "submit yourselves unto such." There are two kinds of submission - one to authority, the other to influence. We need both. We need law, we need grace. Law and grace are coexisting constituents in modern civilization so far as Christianity has permeated, and, in our times, influence has assumed a very significant relation to government and society. We are governed much more by influence than authority. St. Paul urges that Stephanas and his household be respected and honoured, their wishes consulted, their judgments followed. And not only they, but "every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had come from Corinth and visited St. Paul at Ephesus, and "they have refreshed my spirit and yours." They had been sent as representatives of the Corinthian Church. The comfort and cheer were mutual; let them be acknowledged (valued, recognized) for these good offices. Wise instruction this; to be influenced by excellence in others, and submit our minds to such a gracious power, is the strongest of all evidences that we are on the path of culture and piety. For it has pleased God, our Father, not only to reveal himself in Jesus our Lord, but he manifests himself also in those who are Christ's. Discipleship is a revelation and an inspiration. All the ministries are of God. They are his presence, his helpfulness, his glory, among the habitations of men. And whether it be the "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," or the lowly ministrations that fall in the silent dew and breathe in the hidden violet, they are alike from him who "worketh all in all." - L.
I. THE OPPORTUNITY OF SERVICE FOR CHRIST REPRESENTED IN THIS FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. A door offers the means of admittance to a house, and an open door invites approach and entrance. In Scripture a door is often used to express the opportunity to do God's will and advance his cause. So here, the apostle represents by this figurative language the summons which Providence addressed to him to evangelize this great city of Asia Minor. The citizens and visitors were numerous, the idolatry and vice which prevailed were flagrant, human sorrows and difficulties and temptations abounded; so that there was abundant room for evangelistic and pastoral labour. Further, there seems to have been in some quarters a remarkable and gratifying readiness to hear the gospel of Christ.
II. THE HINDRANCES TO SERVICE FOR CHRIST HERE ALLUDED TO.
1. Observe from what quarters it came. The narrative in the Book of the Acts makes it evident that opposition to Christian preaching arose from both Jews and Gentiles. On different grounds sinful men oppose the truth. It always has been so. It was so in the time of our Lord, and the disciple, the servant, must not expect or desire to be above his Master.
2. Observe what forms it took. Slander and secret misrepresentation was one way in which adversaries sought to hinder the truth. And another was open hostility and violence. This we know to have been put in motion at Ephesus against the apostle. The ignorant and impassioned mob was stirred up to oppose the work of Paul; in this sense, at all events, he fought with beasts at Ephesus.
III. THE COMPATIBILITY OF GREAT OPPORTUNITIES AND MANY ADVERSARIES. It is certainly a paradoxical statement. Yet reflection will show that there is no real inconsistency.
1. Hindrances, calumnies, serve to draw attention to any cause, and the gospel is sure to profit by anything which leads men to inquire into it.
2. These obstacles serve to test the quality of the labourers, and to bring out courage and resolution and patience where such qualities are required.
3. They always answer a valuable purpose in testing the sincerity of the converts. Times of persecution are times of testing.
IV. THE ATTRACTION THIS COMBINATION HAD FOR THE APOSTLE.
1. It called forth and employed his many and remarkable powers.
2. It enabled him to realize his fellowship with his Master.
3. It promised great results of spiritual good.
1. Enter in, Christian labourers, at every open door!
2. Be fearless of adversaries! - T.
Acts 14:27; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. For the narrative which illustrates the expression here used, see Acts 19:19, 20. Of hindrances affecting St. Paul, we may think of
(1) his own frail health;
(2) the difficulties and dangers of travelling;
(3) the wilfulness sometimes shown by his travelling companions;
(4) the sudden and unexpected claims of the Churches altering his plans;
(5) the persistent and watchful opposition of his Jewish enemies; and we may even add
(6) the sometimes strange and trying limitations put by the guiding Spirit, as in Acts 16:6, 7.
That which was so evidently true of St. Paul is the common experience of God's servants; and we must accept the conditions, and win virtue out of the very limitations.
I. GOD'S PROVIDENCE IS EVER MAKING OPEN DOORS FOR US. This is true in educational life, and in business life. Every man sooner or later gets his turn and opportunity. But we observe how true it is both of personal Christian life and of Church life. God sets before us open doors, shows us spheres of service which we may occupy. And such we enter upon with great hopes and expectations, assuming that if Providence has so manifestly opened the door, the path within must be straight and plain and easy. This we find is not always true; for -
II. GOD'S PROVIDENCE IS ALSO EVER MAKING HINDRANCES.
1. Often health fails at the moment of opportunity.
2. Sometimes the will to do it fades when the opportunity for doing appears.
3. Events as providential seem to block the path just inside the open door.
4. The work involves labour which seriously taxes energy and faith.
5. Too often we faint and fail, and prove the greatest hinderers of our work. We must fully accept the fact that, here on earth, God has put open doors and hindrances together, that the combination might nurture and develop the noblest qualities in his servants. - R.T.
I. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A SCENE OF WARFARE. It is an opportunity for bearing witness to the grace of God, an opportunity for faithful and diligent service. But this is not all. Who can, in any station of life, sincerely endeavor to live as a Christian, without finding out that life is a campaign, a scene of discipline, of conflict? Surely the language of the New Testament in which we are addressed as soldiers of the cross, is not mere poetry, the utterance of imagination!
II. THE FOES WHOM THE CHRISTIAN IS CALLED TO ENCOUNTER ARE SPIRITUAL. As the apostle, expresses it elsewhere, "We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers," etc. Whether at Corinth or at Ephesus, or in modern London, or far away beyond the seas, he who is bent upon doing the will of God must needs make up his mind to face the adversary. Many are the forms assumed by the foe of souls, many his devices, great his craft and power. In his temptation, our Divine Lord and Leader, the Captain of our salvation, himself faced the enemy, and withstood his repeated and various assaults.
III. OUR POSITION OF DANGER CALLS FOR THE EXERCISE OF THE SOLDIER LIKE VIRTUES OF COURAGE AND ENDURANCE.
1. Watchfulness; lest the soldier be surprised at his post, and fall a victim to his foe. What stress our Lord and his apostles have laid upon this attitude of vigilance! If we know ourselves, our weakness, our liability to sin; if we know the resources of our enemies - we shall feel the necessity of watching, lest we enter into temptation.
2. Steadfastness in the faith; lest we be tossed to and fro by our indecision and vacillation. Persecution and prosperity are alike in this, that they expose us to this danger.
3. Manliness is, no doubt, in contrast to the spirit of effeminacy and sloth. "Quit you like men!" is the ringing battle cry of one whose own life illustrated the precept.
4. Strength is needed in such a combat, in which only the weapons of warfare which are not carnal are mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds.
IV. DIVINE GRACE ALONE CAN EQUIP AND UPHOLD THE SOLDIERS IN THIS HOLY WAR. This great truth is always, when not expressed, in the background, when admonitions to vigilance and courage are addressed to Christians. It is not to be supposed that in our own strength we can comply with requirements so stringent and conduct a warfare so perilous. But "if God be for us, who can be against us?" The warfare is not ours, but God's, and his are the weapons and his the might, even as his is the glory of the victory. - T.
1 Corinthians 3:1); so the apostle incites them to seek more of the qualities of manhood: "Quit you like men." They were enfeebled by false doctrine, Church abuses, irregularity of spiritual life; so he says, "Be strong." They were more remarkable for jealousy, rivalry, contempt, pride, than for the pre-eminent Christian grace; so Paul says, "Let all that ye do be done in love." Corinthian perils are our perils. Corinthian failures may be our failures - perhaps are. Let us heed the apostolic exhortation to -
1. Against dangers from without. False teachers, bad examples, unholy influences, Satanic attacks. We who are of the day should be awake.
2. Against danger from within. We often tempt ourselves, often deceive ourselves, often injure ourselves. Our greatest enemy is within, not without. It is the traitor in the camp who does the mischief.
3. For opportunities of usefulness. Our day is short. Soon the final account must be rendered. We have many opportunities, but they never wait for us. We must watch for them, and catch them as they come. Opportunities have no resurrection.
4. For the coming of Christ. The Master himself enjoined this: "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:37).
II. STEADFASTNESS. We have to abide in the faith. He that "endureth to the end" shall be saved. Lack of steadfastness
(1) hinders our spiritual growth;
(2) mars our usefulness;
(3) imperils our salvation;
(4) is a stumbling block to others;
(5) a great offence to Christ;
(6) spoils our spiritual joys.
III. MANLINESS. Christians should be robust. They are not always to be children in the faith. They need a manly temper,
(1) to contend with difficulties;
(2) to bear up under opposition;
(3) to endure temporary defeat.
Christians should be bold and fearless. Every Christian should be a courageous Christian. The service in which we are engaged is grand beyond conception - the issues how momentous! "Quit you like men!"
IV. STRENGTH. Does it seem strange that we are commanded to be strong? Some will say we can only be what we are, and it is worse than futile to say to a weak man, "Be strong." But Paul said, "When I am weak then am I strong." When we are bidden to be strong, then we often feel most our weakness; but then we go to the Strong for strength. The Lion of the tribe of Judah can give to us a lionlike might. As to means: if we would be strong we must
(1) abound in prayer
(2) and in work - using all the strength we have;
(3) avoid evil influences - not be more than duty calls us in pestilential worldly atmospheres;
(4) seek solid knowledge of things Divine;
(5) strive against sin.
V. LOVE. Love should rule all our thoughts, purposes, words, and acts. We are nothing if we are without love (ch. 13.). This is the key to the preceding exhortations. If we have a real living love towards God and man, it will become easy to live in watchfulness; we shall not want to relinquish our faith; our Christian manliness will rapidly develop; and we shall be strong, for we shall be like God. "God is love." Love is salt; it will preserve from corruption our whole spiritual life. - H.
I. THE MODEL OF THE LIFE OF LOVE IS TO BE FOUND IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST. Who that reads the incomparable story of our Lord's earthly ministry can be insensible to this fact, which distinguishes that ministry from, and raises it above, every other life and work this world has witnessed? Love gleamed from his countenance, spoke in his tones, flowed from his presence, wrought by his hands. And love led him to his cross.
II. THE AUTHORITY FOR THE LIFE OF LOVE IS TO BE FOUND IN THE WORDS OF CHRIST. Again and again did the Saviour enjoin upon his disciples the virtue of brotherly love. It was his new commandment. It was his test of discipleship. Love to God and love to man constituted, according to him, the sum of obedience, righteousness, religion.
III. THE UNIVERSAL APPLICATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE. It is too common to regard Christian charity as a grace to be displayed in certain relations and upon certain occasions. But this is not the New Testament idea. Love is to govern the whole life, and is to permeate the Christian society. There is no limitation in the language of the text: " Let all that ye do be done in love!" It is a lofty motive, a far-reaching principle. The precept is doubtless one not easy of application so general. Yet nothing less than its universal adoption and prevalence can satisfy the Lord of the kingdom.
IV. THE ADVANTAGES ACCRUING TO THE CHURCH FROM THE ADOPTION OF THIS PRINCIPLE. How different is the selfish principle adopted by the unchristian world, is at once apparent. This is a new, an antagonistic principle, yet, in its proper influence, the principle which is to pacify strife, to harmonize conflicting interests, to breathe new life into human society. "All ye are brethren" was the Master's explicit declaration concerning the members of his Church. "See how these Christians love one another!" was the exclamation of a surprised and admiring world.
V. THE IMPRESSION PRODUCED UPON THE WORLD BY THE PRACTICAL EMBODIMENT OF THIS PRINCIPLE. The world is doubtless impressed by the novelty, the beauty, the celestial dignity, of Christian doctrine. Yet the expression of that doctrine in the life of brotherly love is more effective; and the realization of Christ's idea, the fulfilment of Christ's law, will do more than all preaching to convince the world of the Divine mission of the Christ. - T.
Watch, as though they slept; stand, as though they were rocking to and fro; quit you like men, as though they were playing the coward; let all your things be done with charity, as though they were in dissensions. And the first caution refers to the deceivers, viz. watch, stand; the next to those who plot against us, quit you like men; the third to those who make parties and endeavour to distract, let all your things be done with charity, which thing is the bond of perfectness, and the root and fountain of all blessings." In the teaching both of our Lord and of his apostles, the passive and gentle graces were so constantly commended that the enemies of Christianity might easily, and with some show of reason, say that it was a weak, unmanly thing, with yielding and patiently enduring and quietly waiting, as its chief and characteristic virtues. Therefore St. Paul makes so much of his point, that Christianity was the only force that could really and harmoniously culture the full manhood. Only this is true - the supreme grace of Christianity is love, charity, and it must tone and qualify and direct all other graces, all expressions of character in action. Consider -
I. THE TENDENCY OF HUMAN NATURE TO CORRUPT EVERYTHING. All the good things men may possess or attain are in constant peril of running over into extremes and exaggeratiors. Observe two points.
1. A man's strong side becomes inspired by self will, and spoiled.
2. Some sides are unduly cultured by expression, and the whole character is put out of harmony and fair balance. Self reliance, which has a small place in every good character, becomes corrupted into self conceit; and so of other features of character.
II. HOW FAR IS THIS HUMAN NATURE FORCE KEPT IN THE REGENERATE? It might seem that St. Paul's counsel only suited the worldly, and was hardly needed by the Christian. But we have to accept the fact, which both observation and experience attest, that the renewal of the principle on which our life is conducted does not involve an immediate deliverance from the ordinary deteriorating influences which affect men. Christian men's very graces may become so exaggerated as to be really vices. Strong-willed men may "love to have the pre-eminence," and be masterful and inconsiderate. The Christian life in a man ought to hold the evil tendency in strong bonds, but we cannot get free from the evil influence while we dwell in a body and are surrounded by earthly scenes.
III. HOW DOES THE CHRISTIAN SPIRIT AFFECT THIS EVIL? Apply especially to the robuster virtues. Manliness is liable to become masterfulness. Those who can watch come to despise the weak ones who must sleep. The strong try to force the frail to go at their pace, and easily quarrel with them when they cannot. Now, the Christian spirit proposes one effective triumph over all these evils. Tone all your life and relations with charity, which is, as treated in the New Testament, precisely this - consideration for others rather than self. All the evil comes out of thinking of and glorifying self, and the conquest surely comes by thinking of and glorifying others: getting the mind of Christ, who "pleased not himself." - R.T.
I. THE VOCATION TO SPIRITUAL MINISTRY.
1. Its first condition is sincere personal adhesion to Christianity. Stephanas and his household were converted, baptized, and well instructed in the Christian faith. It was when their had become penetrated with the Spirit of Christ that they were impelled to holy and devoted service. We cannot expect men and women to become unselfish labourers for the welfare of their fellow men, until they have come under the new and Divine motive and power.
2. Christian ministries are of many and very various kinds. These vary with the capacity and opportunity of the labourers, and the necessities of those whose welfare is sought. Too limited a view of ministry is frequently taken; the fact is, that whatever service men render to their fellow men, for the sake of Christ, is a Christian ministry. Not only the preaching of the gospel, but the instruction of the young, the nursing and healing of the sick, the showing of kindness and hospitality, the supporting with generosity of benevolent undertakings, all fall into this class.
3. Services of such kinds involve both labour and cooperation. His people find a pleasure in offering to Christ, their Lord, that which costs them something. And. they delight to help one another; some leading and others following, but all setting before them the same end, and toiling in the same spirit.
4. Ministering "unto the saints" is an especial form of acceptable service. From the beginning Churches have cared for their widows, and for their poor and aged members. The household of faith has a peculiar claim upon the sympathy and affection and liberal support of the Saviour's friends.
II. THE HONOUR AND SUBJECTION DUE TO THOSE ENGAGED IN SPIRITUAL MINISTRY.
1. They should be treated with especial regard and gratitude. Paul himself honoured the good Stephanas and his like-minded wife and household, and he reminded the Corinthians that a family among themselves so distinguished in the annals of the Church, and so dear to the apostle's heart, should be esteemed highly in love for their work's sake.
2. They had a claim upon such as were in a position to render them help in the good cause. Doubtless it was the case at Corinth, as elsewhere, that the burden was too readily left upon the shoulders of those disposed to bear it. But this ought not to be. "When one man is seen working hard for Christ, his neighbour should put to himself the question, "Can I help my brother, relieve him of some pressure, or render his labour more effective?"
3. Submission is, in many cases, a duty in Christian Churches. There are those whom we should be ready not only to work with but to work under. - T.
I. A VERY NEEDFUL WORK. Many of God's children are poor children. The saints who presently shall inherit all things, at present often lack the necessaries of life. Not a few of God's choicest servants are afflicted, and need sympathy and aid. Persecution for the faith should be counteracted as far as possible by careful ministration. In early days imprisoned saints were specially cared for by those at liberty. "Remember those who are in bonds." In modern forms of persecution aid is equally needful. Many need to be "taken by the hand." "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
II. A VERY HONOURABLE AND BEAUTIFUL WORK. Angel like: they are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). Christ like: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Matthew 20:28). At last the Lord will say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). Many do not rightly estimate this "high calling." True love for the brethren (a sign of our salvation, 1 John 3:14) will make us diligent in this service.
III. A WORK WHICH CAN BE EXERCISED IN MANY WAYS. Thus suited to the abilities and opportunities of a large number. Many are idle in our Churches because they can find nothing to do. Let them look in this direction. Visiting the sick, condoling with the bereaved, relieving the destitute, cheering the depressed, securing rest for the overworked, guiding the perplexed, encouraging despondent workers (ministers, sabbath school teachers, etc.), - how many might find a suitable sphere in such holy ministries as these!
IV. A WORK WHICH MERITS RECOGNITION ON THE PART OF THE CHURCH. Those who engage actively in such service as this should be:
1. Highly esteemed. It is no slight service which they render. They do much to elevate the tone of the Church; much to preserve it in peace and content; much to stimulate its zeal.
2. Encouraged. The work is trying. Those who seek to encourage others often need very much encouragement themselves.
3. Aided. This is probably what the apostle means by "Submit yourselves unto such." "As they serve you, do you serve them." Above all, no obstacles should be put in their way.
V. A WORK VERY BENEFICIAL TO THOSE WHO ENGAGE IN IT. "They who water others shall themselves be watered." Here when we give we take. We grow rich by bestowing. Christians stagnate because they think of themselves. Saints take so much care of themselves that they become spiritual invalids. We may "sit under" our own ministry with great profit. A sure way of getting to heaven is resolving that some one else shall get there. Labours for others make us blind to our own troubles. If our ears are filled with the cries of the needy, we shall not be able to hear the croakings of sceptics or the evil prognostications of Satan. True ministering to the saints is truest ministry to ourselves. - H.
Romans 16:5: "Salute my well-beloved Epsenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ." The meaning need only be that the household of Stephanas was among those brought to Christ at St. Paul's first missionary visit. The apostle had an affectionate regard for his first converts in new spheres, as may be illustrated in the case of Lydia at Philippi. The interest we always feel in first things can be illustrated by way of introduction.
1. Firstborn children.
2. First forms of enterprise.
3. Firstfruits of our labour, etc.
Natural feeling gives all first things prominence; and the Old Testament history and religion rested on the recognition of the rights of the firstborn and the interest of first things. They are the key to the life; the strong impress of the character. They are like the first proofs of an engraving; every line is sharply defined in them. They may become the reproach of our weaker after doings, for they show what we did actually attain once, and prove that we could, through life, have done better. It is, however, the hope and promise of first things on which we now propose to dwell.
I. FIRST THINGS ARE DONE WITH INTENSE FEELING. Illustrate from the youth beginning business life; the man entering on a new undertaking; the missionary going forth to his new sphere, etc. Men brace themselves up to deal with new things. They have no experience to tell them what amount of strength the new work will demand, so they are likely to put too much into it. A vague but arousing wonder clings all about new things, and imagination makes them bigger and better than they are. At first we fail to estimate difficulties, qualifications, hindrances; we start out like Israel, and expect to reach our Canaan quickly: so all our hearts go out into our first things. And happily life is full of them, especially early life, and they exert a most gracious influence on us, for they again and again lift us out of ourselves and above ourselves.
II. FIRST THINGS HAVE A NATURAL PRE-EMINENCE. Of this the position and rights of the firstborn sons are but the illustration. First things are felt to have a representative character; they are the natural leaders of all that come after them - the specimens and examples of their sort. In all the spheres of life we give prominence to beginnings. When a servant comes to a new situation, the master or mistress watch the first actions to see "how they will frame." When a convert joins a Church, the pastor give prominence to the first forms in which Church responsibilities are met. Turning their thoughts back to their hopeful "first things," the apostle reproaches his converts thus: "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?"
III. FIRST THINGS HAVE PROMISE FOR THE FOLLOWING THINGS. As firstfruits have for harvest. The harvest need not be worse than the specimen firstfruits, but it may be much better. A man's first work need not be his maximum standard, but it ought to be his minimum standard. A first result may tell of power, and power always holds the promise of what culture can make it. Or, applying the point in relation to our text, one convert made in a new sphere of Christian labour holds the promise of a great ingathering; as we find at first one star in the darkening evening sky, which is the "glorious prospect of millions more."
IV. FIRST THINGS KEEP PROMINENT PLACE IN OUR MEMORY. Illustrate our first school; first steps in business life; first love; first communion; first convert to Christ by our influence; first sickness; first success in life, etc. The most treasured things in our memory are these first things of life; and, as such, their moral mission is
(1) to aid us in the review of life, by fixing attention upon points;
(2) to remind us that the spirit of energy in which we take things up is the spirit in which we should carry them through; and
(3) to show us that we need the Divine help for "patient continuance in well doing," as much as we remember we needed it for our anxious beginnings. - R.T.
I. THE NEED ALL SOMETIMES FEEL OF SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT.
1. Work may be burdensome, and even oppressive, and may weigh down the soul as well as the body.
2. Trials, desertion of friends, disappointment in fellow labourers, etc., may distress the soul and dispose to melancholy.
3. Living much alone and in one's own occupations is wearisome to the spirit; the energies flag; the quality of work suffers; gloom takes possession of the life. These and many other causes render it most desirable that the thirsting, fainting spirit should be reanimated by some suitable influences.
II. THE APPOINTED AGENTS OF SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT. Letters and books are precious, but in the case before us they are inadequate. Living companionship, the society of those like minded with ourselves, alone can meet the requirements of the case. Not only so; sympathizing friends have a peculiar power of restoring the equilibrium of the soul. Sympathy was what Paul sought and valued. It is hard to do even work for Christ without the smile and word of encouragement which our brethren in the Lord are able to give us.
III. THE MEANS OF SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT. The presence of Christian friends is much; but their conversation, the opening of their hearts, the inquiry concerning our labours, successes, and failures, - these are all much to be desired. Not only the communication of knowledge and advice from our superiors, but the friendly conversation of our equals, and even the sympathy and heart revelation of those in some respects beneath us, may prove truly recruiting to our energies and restorative to our spirits.
IV. THE RESULTS OF SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT.
1. Depression gives place to cheerfulness.
2. Weariness gives place to vigour.
3. Sluggishness gives place to vivacity.
4. Despondency gives place to hope.
5. Inefficiency gives place to successful labour.
6. Doubt gives place to living confidence.
In all is seen the operation of that Spirit of grace who does not disdain to work in and through the lowliest of Christ's sincere disciples and friends. - T,
I. FROM WHOM, AND TO WHOM, ARE THESE GREETINGS?
1. Individuals are named. Of Aquila and Priscilla we know that they were regarded by Paul as his dear friends and trusty fellow labourers. Wherever they went they carried the gospel, they formed a circle of Christian friends, they provided a home for workers and a gathering place for worshippers.
2. Households join in the greetings. This is evidently the case, whether we regard the expression "Church in the house" as applying to the Christian family and their dependents and guests, or to a party wont to assemble in a certain house for mutual edification and common worship.
3. Churches send salutations. The Christian congregations of Asia Minor were linked together in bonds of mutual confidence and affection, and expressed their feelings by the medium of the apostolical letter. This practice authorizes communications between Churches and groups of Churches, as promotive of brotherly love.
II. OF WHAT KIND?
1. They are fraternal. In the salutation those who send the messages are termed brethren. Not as fellow professors of one faith, but as members of one family, did these primitive Christians exchange their greetings and good wishes and prayers.
2. Cordial and affectionate. Salutations are often matters of form, and are then cold and all but meaningless. The holy kiss, which was the custom in those primitive communities, was a sign of the warmth and sincerity of the good feeling which prevailed.
3. Mutual; for they were admonished to greet one another. "All ye," Christ had said, "are brethren;" and we see how true an attempt was made to comply with his commands, and to realize his descriptions.
III. UPON WHAT BASIS? Not upon the basis of mere courtesy, or of common interests or expediency, but upon a specially Christian basis; the greeting was "in the Lord." By this we must understand:
1. In fulfilment of the Lord's command, who had so often and emphatically enjoined the cherishing and manifestation of brotherly love.
2. In imitation of the Lord's conduct, who himself, in all his communications with his friends, had been wont to display that love which he desired to witness among his followers.
3. Under the influence of his Spirit, whose presence and gracious operations make themselves felt by the diffusion of courtesy, good will, and kindness. - T.
Acts 18:1-3). A similar reference is found in Romans 16:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:19. At the time of St. Paul's writing this Epistle, Aquila and Priscilla were with the apostle at Ephesus, and it is probable that they opened their house or lodging as a place of worship for the Christian foreigners or strangers who happened to be visiting Ephesus. Some, however, think that St. Paul uses the term "Church" as equivalent to that of "family," or household, probably including servants, children, and workpeople connected with their business. The word "Church" appears to have been used with some variety of meaning, the associations of the term only gradually becoming settled into those with which we are familiar. The first suggestion of the word is a gathering or assembly. But this implied some purpose or design for which people met together. It might be a family object, or a political, or a social, or a religious object. Any assembly called for a purpose could be properly spoken of as a "Church." We know that it was applied to the political meetings of the Greeks; and it may also nave been user for me synagogue meetings of the Jews, for these must be the "Church" to which our Lord referred, when he required his disciples to tell their disputes, or injuries from their fellows, to the "Church." We need to be on our guard against forcing words to bear their modern ecclesiastical meanings when we find them employed in the New Testament. The simple historical fact is that persons lent their rooms or their houses for the Christian congregations to worship in, and so the term "Church" is first used for the Christian friends who met for worship in any place. It subsequently became used for
(1) the building in which the friends met; and
(2) for the entire body of persons who thought alike and worshipped alike.
The "Church" became the "body of Christ." In the treatment of this subject we only give suggestive lines along which thought and illustration may run, because the associations of different Christian bodies with the term "Church" now differ so greatly that detailed treatment would involve the introduction of disputable points.
I. THE SIMPLEST CONCEPTION OF A CHURCH. It is a meeting or assembly. As such it can only be applied to an organized body or to a material building by a figurative use of the term. No ideas of size, quantity, or number seem necessary to its realization. Two or three agreeing to meet for worship or work may properly be called a Church.
II. ITS CLOSE ASSOCIATION WITH A HOME. The "Church in the house" is here spoken of. It is interesting to note the historical fact that the Christian assemblies first sanctified homes. They did not need at first to find any architectural expression, or to fix architectural associations, or to use architectural aids. Home life found a sufficient sphere.
III. ITS FUNDAMENTAL FEATURES. Really only this - family religion extended to embrace the family friends. However the growth of the Church may have overshaded its first idea, we must admit that it began with family worship, and developed on the lines of household religious requirements, not presuming at first to affect either the synagogue or the temple demands. This family origin of the Christian Church needs to be more fully studied.
IV. THE LINES OF ITS PROBABLE DEVELOPMENT. These were fixed by
(1) increase of numbers;
(2) growth of wealth, bringing with it artistic sentiment and desires;
(3) securing of freedom from persecution, and admission of citizen rights and liberties;
(4) rise of a distinction between priesthood and laity, and the consequent development of a ritual in which the distinct priesthood could be employed. Impress in what sense the older idea of a "Church in the house" can even now be maintained. - R.T.
I. THE ABSENCE OF LOVE TO CHRIST. Where there is no love to the Lord Jesus there appears to be:
1. A want of appreciation of his perfect moral character. If Jesus be known by a holy and sympathetic nature, he will appear to such a nature "the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely." Who can gaze upon the sinless and pure, the just and kind, the meek and patient Jesus, and be unaffected by the spectacle? Only those for whom moral excellence and beauty have no charms.
2. A deep sensibility to his infinite compassion. For it must be borne in mind that the Saviour's disposition and ministry, and especially his sacrifice, have a personal relation to ourselves. It was for us men and our salvation that he lived a life of poverty and contempt, that he deigned to die a death of agony and shame. To withhold the heart's best love from One who endured the cross for us argues a callousness of nature beneath the level of common humanity.
3. A base ingratitude for all he has done and is doing on our behalf. Even those who are indifferent to the Lord Jesus owe him a vast debt for the benefits which, by his mediation, he has conferred upon the human race, and for the forbearance with which they have individually been treated. If ingratitude to earthly friends and benefactors be base, how shall the heinousness be described of ingratitude to the Son of man?
II. THE CURSE AND CONDEMNATION INVOLVED IN INDIFFERENCE TOWARDS CHRIST.
1. We can trace this in the moral degradation which such insensibility occasions. Not to love the worthiest and the best is to debase our nature. Character is largely moulded by love; and they who turn away from the love of Immanuel choose death.
2. The condemnation of conscience is inevitable. Its voice may be stifled for a season, but it will be heard, and that voice must needs utter a censure of no feeble or ambiguous kind. The judge is within, and cannot be escaped; that judge will charge the sinner with hating him who was and is supremely worthy to be loved, and the accusation is self evidencing and brings its curse.
3. The judgment of the Lord may tarry, but it will surely come. The Lord himself is at hand, to deliver those who love him, but to execute a righteous sentence upon the unbelieving, the unloving, the unspiritual. - T.
I. THERE ARE SUCH, Alas! how many! Not those who have never heard of him, but those who have heard much of him - those before whom the great revelation of Christ has been spread out. Not those who have been brought up under sceptical influences, but those who have been trained in Christian homes. How many of those to whom Christ has been made known as fully as he can be to any who have not received him, yet do not love him! This is
(3) explicable only upon belief in the extreme virulence of sin.
II. THE HEINOUSNESS OF THEIR SIN. Consider:
1. Christ is altogether lovely and lovable. There is nothing in him to check love, but everything to encourage it.
2. He has never done the slightest evil to any man.
3. He has relinquished heaven for men.
4. He has humbled himself to assume human nature for men.
5. He has lived for men.
6. He has died for men.
7. He is willing to redeem men from all things evil, and to ensure to them all things good.
Not to love such a Being as this is the chief of crimes. No tale of guilt could be sterner. It is a fearful revelation of the "carnal heart," which is enmity against God and Christ, instead of love.
III. THEIR DOOM. They are "anathema" - accursed. Their crime merits completest condemnation. If they can be guilty of this, they can be guilty of anything. Their sentence is "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord;" their home, with "the devil and his angels." Their choice is to be accursed. They choose the curse rather than the blessing which Christ waits to bestow. They choose the curse rather than the One who alone can deliver them from it. They are now accursed; their present condition is this condition, and their future condition will be this unless they "turn to the Lord."
IV. A SOLEMN QUESTION - DO WE LOVE CHRIST?
1. Not - Do we admire him? He is admired even by atheists.
2. Not - Do we abstain from hostility towards him?
3. Not - Do we take his name upon our lips, observe his day, meet with his people?
4. Not even - Do we work for him?
5. But - Has he touched our heart? Do we love him?
Christ is the great test applied to human hearts. The issue reveals condition, character, prospect. - H.
Anathema means "accursed." Maran-atha appears to mean, "The Lord is at hand." It can only be regarded as an exclamation. On it see the Expository portion of the Commentary. "Anathema is the Greek term representing the Hebrew cherem, or devoted to destruction, and indicates the excommunication practised in the Christian Church. The early Christians exercised discipline on offending members in lesser or greater forms. The greater is called Anathema. They regarded themselves as distinctly warranted in cutting off members from their body by our Lord's words (Matthew 18:17); and in using for such excision the term 'Anathema,' they appealed to Paul's employment of the word in Galatians 1:8. They regarded the anathema as cutting off a man from the way of salvation; so that unless he received the grace of repentance he would certainly perish. The word is uniformly used in the Septuagint Version as the equivalent of cherem; and it seems reasonable to suppose that where it occurs in the New Testament Scriptures it is to be understood in the deeper sense as relating to the spiritual condition, and not merely to exclusion from Church privileges." Modern anathematizing is chiefly illustrated by the acts of the Roman Catholic Church; the sentiment of modern life is unfavourable to the exercise of Church discipline in any of the Protestant communities.
I. THE PARTIES ST. PAUL ADDRESSED. The Church at Corinth; regarded as a company who made profession of love to Christ, and pledged themselves to live in accordance with Christ's will and example. Those who did not love Christ, or failed to realize the Christly spirit and purity, were not merely inconsistent - they were unfaithful and unworthy; they were even exerting a mischievous influence, as do dead flies in pots of ointment.
II. THE CONDITION IN WHICH SOME PROFESSED MEMBERS MIGHT BE POUND. A condition involving hypocrisy, the sin against which our Lord spoke most severely. So impossible of rectifying and correcting, because so often connected with self deception. Show how such a condition can be tested and discovered. The great test is the life, the practical conduct. The man who has lost the ruling motive of the "constraining love of Christ," will soon tone his conduct and relations with mere self pleasing, and there will be first the pleasurable, then the questionable, and only too possibly these will lead on to the immoral, as in the case referred to at Corinth.
III. THE TREATMENT WHICH UNWORTHY MEMBERS SHOULD RECEIVE. Not excision, as a mere act of judgment; this man can have no right to do to his fellows. But excision as a matter of tender regard for the soul of the sinner; and as a discipline designed to effect his restoration. Final removal from Christian fellowship no Christian Church has power to arrange. Temporary removal may be the best and most hopeful means of arousing conscience and securing penitence. St. Paul gives minute directions in 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15, "Note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (see also 2 Corinthians 2:5-7). - R.T.