Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THEIR DUTY IS SUMMED UP IN THE ONE WORD "OBEDIENCE." But it includes four important elements.
1. Love. This is an instinctive feeling, but it is not the less a commanded duty, for it is the spring of all hearty obedience. It makes obedience easy. Yet we are not to love our parents more than the Lord; we are rather to love them in the Lord.
2. Honor. This is only another form of obedience: "Honor thy father and thy mother." Children are never to set light by their parents (Deuteronomy 27:17); "A son honoureth his father" (Malachi 1:6); "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man" (Leviticus 19:32). God has, indeed, given his own honor to parents. We may not always be called to obey them, but we are always to honor them. "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22). This honor is allied to reverence: "We have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence" (Hebrews 12:9).
3. Gratitude. It is our duty to requite our parents (1 Timothy 5:4), and our Lord implies that we are to do them good (Matthew 15:4). We ought to remember their love, their care, their concern for us. Joseph provided for his father Jacob in old age, and the women said to Naomi of Boaz, "He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age."
4. Subjection. "Children, obey your parents in all things;" that is, in all things falling within the sphere of a parent's authority. If parents command their children to steal, or lie, or commit idolatry, they are not to be obeyed. They are to be obeyed "in the Lord." There are several reasons to make obedience natural.
(1) Parents know more than their children; therefore "a wise son heareth his father's instruction" (Proverbs 13:1). The child must take much of his knowledge for granted on the mere authority of his father.
(2) The habit of obedience is good as a discipline. It is even good for the health of a child, as a desultory and dawdling obedience breaks its temper and injures its health.
(3) Children are not able to guide themselves; for "folly is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15).
(4) Society is benefited by the due subordination of family life.
II. THE REASON OF OBEDIENCE ASSIGNED IN THIS PASSAGE IS SIMPLY "FOR THIS IS RIGHT." It is right
(1) according to the light of nature;
(2) according to the Law of God. "It is well-pleasing unto the Lord (Colossians 3:20). It is embodied in the Decalogue, and holds the first place among the duties of the second table, and "is the first commandment with promise" - the promise of a long life. This implies
(1) that the fifth commandment is still binding on the Christians of this dispensation;
(2) that long life is to be desired;
(3) that disobedience to parents tends to shorten life. There may be undutiful children who live to old age, and dutiful children who die young, but the promise abides in its general purpose. It is like the saying, "The hand of the diligent maketh rich," yet diligent persons have felt the bitterness of poverty. Children are therefore justified in having regard firstly to the command of God, and then to the recompense of the reward. - T.C.
I. PARENTAL QUALIFICATIONS. And here we fall back upon the previous section. It is when husbands and wives are related as Christ is to the Church, when self-sacrificing love is met by reverential obedience, that the parents are qualified to train up the children. It is surely significant also that upon the father the burden of the nurture is laid. For he is in danger of provoking the children by severity, and so is not naturally so sympathetic as the mother. Besides, if the Christian father keep Christ before him as his great Ideal, then the Divine fatherhood regulates his conscience and he nurtures the little ones accordingly.
II. THE NURTURE ITSELF. The children are not to be provoked, but" nurtured in the chastening and admonition of the Lord" (Revised Version). The former of these words (παιδεία) might mean, as Harless suggests, "education in general" (allgemeine Begriff); but it is better to restrict it to the discipline, made up of order and of act, under which the children grow, while the latter word (νουθεσία) will indicate education by word. "The same spirit," says Monod, in loco, "which in our day relaxes filial obedience, softens paternal power; the abuse of independence among inferiors and the forgetfulness of authority among superiors, march hand-in-hand. Parents who have known how to guard themselves against an excessive rigor, whether as a matter of principle or of temperament, fall usually into the contrary excess; chastisement is banished from their household, and as for corporal punishment in particular, it is held most frequently for a mark of a hard heart or of a base-born spirit. Let us oppose to these prejudices Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13, 14; Proverbs 29:17. By the rod we do not mean corporal punishment alone; we simply say that one ought not to exclude it (cf. Proverbs 23:14), and that there are some cases where nothing else will do. As for the rest, behold the principle which should direct Christian parents in such a case - to employ discipline of the sweetest possible character, but discipline sufficient to repress the sin." Let this careful discipline be supplemented by a careful instruction and the children shall be faithfully "nurtured" for the Lord.
III. THE EVOKED OBEDIENCE. (Vers. 1-3.) Children are to obey their parents; they are to honor their father and mother. There is to be reverence in the obedience. This will be secured if the parents are qualified by being God-like. It should, however, be rendered even when the parents are far from perfect. The loyalty of the children must not be determined by the character of the parents; as the natural governors, the parents are entitled to obedience even though they do not morally deserve it. The obedience has no exception. Nor does any majority make the obligation to cease. Our obedience as God's "dear children" should be the model of our filial obedience. Let us be loyal to our parents, just as we feel bound to be loyal to our Father in heaven!
IV. THE ATTENDANT BLESSING. (Ver. 3.) All God's commandments carry blessings in their bosoms. In the keeping of them there is great reward (Psalm 19:11). But the fifth commandment has this temporal blessing associated with it of longevity. Obedient children, by a Divine law, live longer than disobedient ones. Dr. Crosby goes so far as to assert that this law of longevity has only "one apparent exception - where the soul itself prefers to leave this world for a better, and where, therefore, the letter of the promise yields to its spirit, and God, instead of continuing the saint upon earth, takes him to his desired home in heaven. Where this exception does not occur, we must believe that every one who dies before old age has disregarded this command." Now, Christianity, in promoting nurture and evoking obedience, is so far securing the longevity of its children. We can see that the unity of Christian families must, ceteris paribus, foster health and longevity. In this way Bushnell's assurance may come true of "the out-populating power of the Christian stock." - R.M.E.
I. DUTY OF CHILDREN. "Children, obey your parents."
1. Sphere in which the obedience is to take place. "In the Lord." It was said in Ephesians 5:21, as determining the character of the whole subjection that there is between human beings, that it is to be "in the fear of Christ." That is to be interpreted as meaning that, in each ease, Christ is to be regarded as the authority (behind the visible) before which those who are subjected are to bow. The husband, we have seen, represents Christ (so far as it goes) to the wife. And so the parents represent Christ to the children. And then only can the children obey in the Lord when they regard their parents as placed over them in the Lord. In baptism parents acknowledge that their children belong to the Lord as standing over them. And, in accordance with this, children are to look to their parents as standing in the place of Christ to them, and to obey them as though they were obeying Christ.
2. Natural ground of the duty. "For this is right." There is a relationship founded deep in nature between parents and those to whom they have given being. This is associated with an affection which is one of the most beautiful things in our nature. The strength of the parental affection qualifies the parents for being placed in authority over their children. And the filial affection leads the children to look to their parents as the natural source of authority ever them.
3. Scriptural confirmation. "Honor thy father and mother." This is the fifth commandment, and is wider in its range than obedience to parents. Contents of fifth commandment.
(1) Children are to honor their parents by treating them with proper respect. Children are to respect their parents on the ground of their superior age. We are commanded to rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man. So children should show reverence to their parents because of their years. And those years are associated with superior attainments. A big ship leaving for another land needs to be cautiously piloted out of the dock and past the other ships in the harbor or river, away beyond the bar, and, it may be, through the channel, until it is out to the open sea. Men of special knowledge need to be employed for this, that the ship may not get on to the sandbanks or on to the rocks. So children in their inexperience, their ignorance of the shoals and rocks and seamanship, need to be piloted by the superior wisdom of their parents until they are out to the open sea of life. And it is right that they should think of themselves with humility, and treat with respect those who are appointed their guides. There are certain natural signs by which this may be shown - a readiness to give place to them, to give them the best seat, to be silent when they speak, a tone of deference (while at the same time of confidence), and a certain courtesy in address which is not inconsistent with familiarity. When Solomon on his throne saw his mother approaching (inferior though she was to him in one relationship), he rose to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and caused a seat to be set for her on his right hand. It would be well for children (who are sometimes inclined to be rude to their parents) to take an example from the wise king. "Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother." "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it;" that is, something terrible shall overtake him who dares to make light of his parents.
(2) Children are to honor their parents by showing gratitude to them. How much are children laid under obligation to their parents! There was a time when they were entirely helpless, could neither walk nor speak, and, but for the care of parents, they would have perished. And parental cares for them do not soon cease. How they need to be watched, to be kept out of harm's way! And when they are sick, how they need to be attended to day and night! The mother needs to labor on all day in the house (sometimes when she is not strong) to keep things right for them. And the father needs to go out and work that he may provide shelter, and clothing, and food, and schooling for them. The children are not in a position to know all the sacrifices their parents make for them, and the amount of thought that is bestowed on them, and the prayers that are put up for them. But they are receiving daily marks of their kindness, and they should receive these, not as though they were entitled to them, but with feelings of gratitude ever fresh. They will never have on earth better friends, greater benefactors, than Christ has given them in their parents. And let them value the gift.
(3) Children are to honor their parents by being obedient to them. This is the point on which stress is laid (as though it summed up the command) by the apostle. There is nothing by which children can better requite all the trouble that their parents have had on their account than by their obedience. This is the most beautiful flower that there can be in their character as children. It is true of them (as of those who have not come out of the childish state) that they are creatures of impulse, and inclined to, seize upon present gratification, without thinking whether it is for their good or not. Parents, as preferring their future happiness to present gratification, must lay commands on them, and the commands should be felt to be easy as coming from those who are at the same time heaping kindness on them. Children should be prompt to obey. They should not wait until they are threatened. They should not yield with a grudge. They should not think of opposing their untutored wills and crude wishes to the disciplined wills and ripe judgments of their parents. Let them honor their parents by giving them all obedience.
(4) Children are to honor their parents by being helpful to them. There are little services which, from an early age, children can render to their parents. They should be pleased even to leave their play to run an errand for them. They should not grudge doing things about the house to relieve an overworked mother. Sometimes sick parents have been thrown on their children, and then it has been seen what little hands can do. Some Parents have a very hard struggle, and children may relieve them of much care and save them not a little expense by taking care of what takes money to replace. There are some children who only think now much they can get out of their parents (do not think whether their parents can afford it, or have to want to give them). Children who wish to honor their parents will be unwilling that they should want for them, and will think how much they can save to their parents of labor and expense.
(5) Children are to honor their parents by placing confidence in them. Parents and children are friends, and there is nothing on Which friendship more hinges than confidence. Parents are intended to know all that their children do, and it is wrong for children to conceal anything from them. If they wish to undertake anything, let them ask their parents' consent. Let nothing be done on which they would not wish their parents' eyes to rest. If they have done wrong, let them frankly come forward and confess their faults, and ask forgiveness. But let there be no concealment, no artifice, no untruthfulness. Children who practice deceit on their parents are likely to form character according to one of the most detestable types. All will come to regard them with distrust.
(6) Children are to honor their parents by attending to their instructions. Children are to take full advantage of the provision made by their parents for their education; but their duty does not end there. They are to lend a ready ear to their parents when they talk to them, especially about serious subjects. They should love to hear the story of Christ and his love. They should not turn away their ear when their parents tell them what dispositions they are to cultivate, what temptations they are to shun, what company they are to keep, what books they are to read; when they tell them to be respectful, truthful, honest, kind, and above all dutiful to their Father in heaven. "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck." Promise annexed to the fifth commandment. "Which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." It is no longer the land of Canaan that is mentioned, as it was when the promise was first given. The whole earth (not merely the heavenly Canaan) is to be regarded as the land of promise nosy for God's people. The promise is not to be understood as absolutely guaranteeing long life to dutiful children. For there are some who die in childhood and who have not been less exemplary than those who get the blessing of a longer life. "The good die first," it is said, and there is truth in the saying. Some who have been early taken away have exhibited a singular sweetness and a ripeness beyond their years. Still, it is true (apart from other considerations that may come in) that long life is promised to children who honor their father and mother. And we can see how God (in his ordinary providence) works towards this end. Those who are dutiful to their parents are likely to grow up good members of society. They are not likely to bring their life to an untimely end in disgraceful quarrels or by crime. They are not likely to shorten their days by intemperance or by idleness. They are likely, too, to grow up good members of the Church, and may have their lives prolonged to them because of their usefulness. When Peter's life was in danger, prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. And his life was spared because of its felt valuableness. So if we interest people in us, by services rendered to them, their good wishes and prayers may go to our days being lengthened out for us.
II. DUTY OF PARENTS. Fathers are addressed; mothers might have been addressed as well. But one class only being mentioned it is those who represent the others.
1. Negatively. "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." Parents have not a right to act as they please toward their children. They are responsible to him who has placed them over their children, and are bound to act in his spirit. Parents provoke their children to wrath when they give them a sense of wrong.
(1) By over-commandment. Parents have a right to exact of their children; but there are limits to what is to be exacted of them. To heap command upon command, prohibition upon prohibition, is not to accomplish the end aimed at. When the requirement is more than can reasonably be rendered, it becomes vexatious. The children lose the sense of their ability to obey, and under compulsion are provoked to wrath.
(2) By unreasonable blame. It is true of children that they need a great amount of encouragement. And where it is deserved it ought to be freely bestowed. To bestow it where it is not deserved is to encourage unreality. Faults (at least the more serious, where they are numerous)are to be dealt with. But extreme care must be taken never to impute blame undeservedly or tentatively to children. There should be no hint of blame unless there is sure ground to go upon. For if children are stung with a sense of injustice, then, provoked to wrath, they are apt to think that they may as well do the things with which they are credited.
(3) By passionateness. Children can understand a burst of indignation for some serious offence, and are the better for it. But they are also quick to understand. When their parents lose command of themselves and punish beyond what the offence deserves. This is carefully to be avoided, for passionateness provokes passionateness; the passionate father makes a passionate son.
2. Positively. "But nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." Such nurture is to be understood as a tender plant needs. If it is to be brought to any perfection, then it needs to be suited as to soil, as to exposure, as to temperature, as to nourishment, as to protection from insects, as to its particular habits. So parents have tender plants given them in their children to rear up, sometimes exceptionally tender, but tender in any circumstances. They have to keep them from the storms and blasts that would wither them. They have their physical development carefully to watch over. Their intellectual development, too, needs great care, that they may not grow up stunted. And especially has care to be bestowed on the nurture of their spiritual powers.
(1) This nurture is to have a distinctively Christian character. The appliances mentioned are described as being "of the Lord." That is, they are such appliances as those acting for Christ should use. They are to be used toward Christian ends. They are to be used toward the children being trained up as Christians. Parents are to train up their children as those committed to their care by Christ. They are to train them up for Christ. They are to indoctrinate them with Christian truth. They are to seek to attach them, not merely to themselves, but through themselves to Christ. They are to seek that their whole being may be subject to and center round Christ.
(2) The Christian appliances.
(a) Chastening. It is difficult (apparently impossible) to get words in the English language to represent the two words that are in the Greek original. They are in a general way to be distinguished as discipline by power and discipline by reason. This distinction is effected in the words which are used in the Revised translation ("chastening and admonition"), but by an undue limitation of the meaning. The first word is more than discipline by punishment; the punishment is accidental, or what is only occasionally to be resorted to in discipline. It is rather all that drilling which a parent gives his children in virtue of the executive (magisterial) power which is placed in him. He has certain rules by which he goes in training his children, and he has got the power to enforce them. The first lesson he has to teach them is that he is their master. And so they are, at first, purely in his strong grasp. In vain is all their resistance. As soon as they can lisp words they must use them in prayer. They are passive in his hand, and he can make them utter what he pleases, he makes them observe simplicity, restraint, good manners in eating, that they may not learn to make too much of the pleasures of the table. He makes them say "grace before meat," that they may learn betimes from whom all table-comforts come. He makes them attend to their lessons, that they may know that they have got to work and not to be idlers. He makes them be select as to their companionships, that they may not get out into evil associations. He appoints certain hours for the house, that they may learn order and punctuality. He does not ask them if they will go to church, but he makes them go to church with him. That is the kind of drilling that is meant here, and when it is necessary it must be backed up by chastening, or judicious punishment for good.
(b) Admonition. This is also a word of too narrow a meaning. The Greek word means generally an appeal to reason. This commences at a later stage, viz. when intellect begins to open. It is not necessary that a parent should always explain to a child the reasons of his procedure. But it is important that, as a rule, children should have explained to them the evil of the course they are asked to avoid, and the advantages of the course they are asked to follow. And if they evince a tendency to any evil course, it is right that they should be remonstrated with or reproved. The importance of an appeal to reason is that it has in view the emancipation of the children from parental authority. The time has to come when they have to go from under their parents, and be thrown upon their own responsibilities and resources. And it is all-important that, when they go out to the world and meet its temptations, they should be fortified with good habits and reasons which they have in their minds for a course of sobriety, of industry, and of godliness. Parents, then, should feel their responsibility with regard to the proper up-bringing of their children. This responsibility is great in view of the evil that is so natural to them, and in view of the evil example with which they are surrounded. They should see to it that they are first of all Christians themselves, leading a Christian life before their children. They are especially to see that they are Christians in the methods which they use with their children. - R.F.
relative duties of parents and children.
I. THE DUTY OF CHILDREN. The words lead us to consider the nature and reason of the obligation which children owe to their parents.
1. The nature. The duty is:
(1) "Obedience." "Children, obey your parents." This duty has its limitation. When, for example, the command is impracticable, it is not binding. When the parent makes demands surpassing the child's capacity, he is a tyrant, and the child is free from the obligation. Or when the command is morally wrong, when it clashes with the rights of conscience and the claims of God, obedience to it is no duty, but would be a sin. The duty is obedience rendered in a Christian spirit. "In the Lord." Any conduct towards parents, mankind in general, or to the great God, that is not inspired with love to Christ, has no virtue in it. All acts to be acceptable to God must be done in the name and spirit of his blessed Son.
(2) "Honor." "Honor thy father and mother." That is, reverence them. This implies, of court, that they are honor-worthy. It is, alas! often the duty of children to abhor and despise the character of their parents, because of its falsehood, intemperance, profligacy, and crime. Paul supposes parents to be what their relation to their children and God demands - pure, generous, and noble. Such parents are to be honored. Not to honor them is to dishonor God.
2. The reason. What is the reason for this obedience and reverence?
(1) Because it is right. "For this is right." Nature teaches the rectitude of it. There is implanted in every child's mind the feeling that he is bound to obey and reverence his parents. This feeling of obligation in some form or other is universal. The Bible teaches the rectitude of it. It was engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone; it was inculcated in the teaching and exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ.
(2) Because it is expedient. "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." A happy and a long life depends upon it. Children who are regardless of their filial duties will be regardless of all others, and rendered liable to fall into those habits of depravity which will render their life a misery, and cut short their days on the earth.
II. THE DUTY OF PARENTS. The duty of parents is here set forth in two forms, negatively and positively.
1. Negatively. "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." The temper of a child is of transcendent moment; it is that which determines his character and destiny. To act upon that temper in its opening years so as to fret and sour it is to do an incalculable mischief. Against this evil it is the duty of parents strenuously to guard. Petty interferences, trivial prohibitions, incessant chidings, and an irritable spirit, are the things in parental conduct which "provoke children to wrath."
2. Positively. "But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Train their faculties, bring out their latent powers, teach them to think with accuracy, to love with purity, to act with adroitness and promptitude. Do this by admonishing them "in the Lord." Let the lessons of instruction and warning be drawn from the existence, the life, the character, and the teachings of the Lord. The child's faculties cannot be developed apart from God. Secular education is a contradiction in terms; it is as great a solecism as a sunless vegetation. Let parents look well to the minds of their children. The farmer who neglects the culture of his fields will soon have his acres overrun with thorns and briars and noxious weeds; and the parent who neglects the culture of his child will soon discover evils far more hideous and disastrous. The following from the quaint pen of smart old Fuller will be read with interest and profit on the subject: - "The good parent. He showeth them, in his own practice, what to follow and imitate; and, in others, what to shun and avoid. For though ' the words of the wise be as nails fastened by the masters of the assemblies' (Ecclesiastes 12:11), yet, sure their examples are the hammer to drive them in, to take the deeper hold. A father that whipped his son for swearing, and swore himself whilst he whipped him, did more harm by his example than good by his correction. He doth not welcome and embrace the first essays of sin in his children. Weeds are counted herbs in the beginning of spring: nettles are put in pottage, and salads are made of elder buds. Thus fond fathers like the oaths and wanton talk of their little children, and please themselves to hear them displease God. But our wise parent both instructs his children in piety and with correction blasts the first buds of profaneness in them. He that will not use the rod on his child, his child shall be used as a rod on him. He allows his children maintenance according to their quality. Otherwise it will make them base, acquaint them with bad company and shocking tricks; and it makes them surfeit the sooner when they come to their estates. It is observed of camels, that having traveled long without water through sandy deserts, implentur, cum bibendi est occasio, et in praeteritum et infuturum ('when they find an opportunity they fill themselves both for the past and the future'); and so these thirsty heirs soak it when they come to their means, who, whilst their fathers were living might not touch the top of their money, and think they shall never feel the bottom of it when they are dead. In choosing a profession, he is directed by his child's disposition, whose inclination is the strongest indenture to bind him to a trade. But when they set Abel to till the ground, and send Cain to keep sheep; Jacob to hunt, and Esau to live in tents; drive some to school, and others from it; they commit a violence on nature, and it will thrive accordingly. Yet he burnouts not his child when he makes an unworthy choice beneath himself, or rather for ease than use, pleasure than profit. If his son proves wild, he doth not cast him off so far but he marks the place where he lights. With the mother of Moses, he doth not suffer his son so to sink or swim but he leaves one to stand afar off to watch what will become of him (Exodus 2:4). He is careful, while quenched his luxury, not withal to put out his life; the rather, because their souls who have broken and run out in their youth have proved the more healthful for it afterwards. He moves him to marriage rather by argument drawn from his good than his own authority. It is a style too princely for a parent herein to 'will and command;' but, sure, he may will and desire. Affections, like the conscience, are rather to be led than drawn; and it is to be feared, they that marry where they do not love, will love where they do not marry. He doth not give away his loaf to his children and then come to them for a piece of bread. He holds the reins (though loosely) in his own hands; and keeps, to reward duty and punish undutifulness. Yet, on good occasion, for his children's advancement, he will depart from part of his means. Base is their nature who will not have their branches lopped till their body be felled; and will let go none of their goods, as if it presaged their speedy death; whereas it doth not follow that he that puts off his cloak must presently go to bed. On his death-bed he bequeaths his blessing to all his children. Nor rejoiceth he so much to leave them great portions as honestly obtained. Only money well and lawfully gotten is good and lawful money. And if he leaves his children young, he principally nominates God to be their guardian; and, next to him, is careful to appoint provident overseers. The good child. He reverenceth the person of his parent, the old, poor, and froward. As his parent bore with him when a child, he bears with his parent if twice a child; nor doth his dignity above him cancel his duty unto him. When Sir Thomas More was Lord Chancellor of England, and Sir John his father one of the judges of the King's Bench, he would in Westminster fall beg his blessing of him on his knees. He observes his lawful commands, and practiseth his precepts with all obedience. I cannot, therefore, excuse St. Barbara from undutifulness, and occasioning her own death. The matter this: her father, being a pagan, commanded his workmen, building his house, to make two windows in a room. Barbara, knowing her father's pleasure; in his absence enjoined them to make three, that, seeing them, she might the better contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Methinks two windows might as well have raised her meditations, and the light arising from both would as properly have minded her of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. Her father, enraged at his return, thus came to the knowledge of her religion, and accused her to the magistrate, which cost her her life. Having practiced, then, himself, he entails his parents' precepts on his posterity. Therefore such instructions are by Solomon (Proverbs 1:9) compared to frontlets and chains (not to a suit of clothes, which serves but one, and quickly wears out, or out of fashion), which have in them a real lasting worth, and are bequeathed as legacies to another age. The same counsels observed, are chains to grace, which, neglected, prove halters to strangle undutiful children. He is a stork to his parent, and feeds him in his old age. Not only if his father hath been a pelican, but though he hath been an ostrich unto him, and neglected him in his youth. He confines him not a long way off to a short pension, forfeited if he comes in his presence, but shows piety at home, and learns as St. Paul saith (1 Timothy 5:4) to requite his parent. And yet the debt (I mean only the principal, not counting the interest) cannot fully be paid. And therefore he compounds with his father, to accept in good worth his utmost endeavor. Such a child God commonly rewards with long life in this world. If he chance to die young, yet he lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost. Besides, God is better than his promise, if he takes him a long lease, and gives him a freehold of better value. As for disobedient children: if preserved from the gallows, they are reserved for the rack, to be tortured by their own posterity. One complained that never father had so undutiful a son as he had. 'Yes,' said his son, with less grace than truth, 'my grandfather had.' I conclude this subject with the example of a pagan's, which will shame most Christians. Pomponius Atticus, making the funeral oration at the death of his mother, did protest that, living with her three score and seven years, he was never reconciled to her, se nuncquam matre in gratiam rediisse, because there never happened betwixt them the least jar which needed reconciliation." - D.T.
I. THE DUTIES OF CHILDREN TO THEIR PARENTS.
1. The duties.
(1) Obedience. A condition of subjection is necessary and right for childhood. Children must be taught to reverence an authority above them and to yield their will to a higher will. Thus the first principle of what, in after life, must be the fundamental relation to God, is instilled. Children should obey, for the very sake of obedience, orders for which at present they see no reason, and from which they can foresee no good results. But there is a limit to obedience. "Obey your parents in the Lord." When parents command what is plainly contrary to the will of Christ, disobedience becomes a duty.
(2) Honor. It is not enough to obey in act. Love and reverence should be found in the heart of children. It is most injurious for children to lose reverence for their parents. They are themselves degraded when this is the case.
2. The grounds on which these duties to parents are enforced.
(1) It is right. This comes first. It is an appeal to conscience. No obedience or honor can be of worth when only low, selfish motives prompt the performance of filial duty.
(2) It is profitable. In the long run the principle that underlies the ancient promise of the fifth commandment is abundantly exemplified. Family life is the root of social order. When this is corrupt that will be upset. Good domestic habits are the safeguards of the best kind of conservatism. The most frightful revolutions are those that begin at the family hearth.
II. THE DUTIES OF PARENTS TO CHILDREN. The family relation is reciprocal, and so are the duties of parents and children. It is most unreasonable to expect the children to discharge their share of domestic duty if parents, who have so much larger knowledge and experience and whose example is the most powerful instructor of their children, fail in theirs. To stern Roman fathers the Christian view of parental duty was novel Even now it is too little regarded.
1. The negative duty. "Provoke not your children to wrath." While strictly enforcing necessary commands, parents should be most careful not to lay on the shoulders of their children unnecessary burdens. Obedience is hard enough under the best of circumstances. Especially is it desirable not to provoke childish irritation by hasty, harsh manners when a wiser, kinder method might be more efficacious in securing obedience and respect.
2. The positive duty. "Nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." The parent is the spiritual guardian of his children. He cannot delegate to another the responsibility that God will some day call him to account for. In caring for their children's health, happiness, and worldly prospects, etc., parents are often least anxious about the most essential point, the spiritual welfare of their family. Let it be remembered that the first requisite in training children for Christ is that the parents should be themselves his disciples. - W.F.A.
I. THERE MUST BE INSTRUCTION. "Train up a child in the way he should go." Parents must not suffer them to grow up without instruction, as Rousseau suggested, because not to teach religion is to teach impiety and infidelity; not to teach truth is to teach error.
1. In what principles?
(1) In the principles of the Divine Word, which are able to make the youngest "wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15). "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). This is counsel for babes.
(2) Teach them they are sinners.
(3) Lead them to Christ as the Savior, and pray that the Lord may place his hands of power and blessing upon the little ones, as he did when on earth.
(4) Train them in habits of piety, church-going, and religious action.
2. In what manner?
(1) Early, like Timothy;
(2) gradually (Deuteronomy 6:6-9);
(3) patiently (Deuteronomy 6:20-23);
(5) by example - your own example, and Scripture examples;
II. THERE MUST BE DISCIPLINE.
1. Children soon manifest a corrupt and selfish nature, for folly is bound up in their hearts; therefore they need correction (Hebrews 12:9).
2. Parents must isolate them by their personal authority from evil or evil companions or temptations to evil.
3. Parents must use discipline with due discretion; they must not "provoke their children to wrath, lest they be discouraged"
(1) by unreasonable commands;
(2) by undue severity;
(3) by exhibitions of anger.
III. ENCOURAGEMENTS OR MOTIVES TO THE FAITHFUL DISCHARGE OF PARENTAL DUTY.
1. The promise: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:3).
2. We shall have the interests of eternity secured early in life.
3. We shall thus restrain them from many follies and sinful habits which would otherwise be the burden and curse of their after life.
4. We shall be promoting our own happiness and comfort in old age.
5. We shall be shaping the destinies of future generations. - T.C.
I. THEIR DUTY IS SUMMED UP IN THE SINGLE WORD "OBEDIENCE." Christianity does not rudely strike at existing relations in life, but seeks to improve and sanctify them. In its appeals to slaves as well as to masters, it sowed the seed-corn, small as a grain of mustard seed, which grew into a harvest of emancipation in the ages which were to see the full power of the gospel. Obedience was therefore the duty of slaves, or servants, "in all things" (Colossians 3:22), that is, in all things included within the sphere of a master's rightful authority, not contrary to the Law of God, or the gospel of Christ, or the dictates of conscience. It is set forth first in a negative, then in a positive form.
1. Negatively. "Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers." This word is coined by the apostle for the occasion. Eye-service is either work done only to please the eye, but which cannot bear to be tested, or it may be good work done only when the master's eye is upon the worker. This was a vice peculiar to slavery. But it enters into all forms of service. Dishonest work is to be avoided quite as much as dishonest words. An acted lie is as dishonorable as a spoken one. There must be no mere perfunctory discharge of human duties.
(1) "With fear and trembling." Not from regard to the lash of the master, but with an anxious and tremulous desire to do our duty thoroughly. Obedience is to be yielded "with all fear" (1 Peter 2:18), that is, with the fear of incurring the just rebukes of their masters, and "as fearing God" (Colossians 3:22).
(2) "In singleness of heart, as unto Christ." In simplicity and sincerity of spirit, without dissimulation or hypocrisy. There is a great temptation to duplicity in those subjected to another's will, especially if the service is irksome or unreasonable. Let there be a single desire to do your duty.
(3) "With good-will doing service," not grudgingly, or murmuringly, or by constraint, but with cheerfulness and alacrity, "seeking to please them well in all things," that they may obtain their good will (Titus 2:9).
II. THE MOTIVES TO SUCH OBEDIENCE.
1. The command of God here addressed to all servants.
2. The Lord's mastership, for they are "the servants of Christ," and are "doing service as to the Lord, and not to men." Here is the constraining force of the Lord's love. How this motive sweetens, sanctifies, ennobles work! The work is done, not for wages, not by constraint, but "unto the Lord," and therefore becomes part of our worship. It is thus that the Lord has married the work of earth to the worship of heaven.
3. The rewards of this service: "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive,.., whether he be bond or free." Whatever disappointment may mix itself with the service of men, the Lord will have a rich reward in store for the faithful worker. He is not unrighteous to forget your labor of love, for "of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance" (Colossians 3:24).
4. The honor of the gospel. His Name and his doctrine will be blasphemed by a contrary spirit (1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:10).
5. The example of Christ himself. He "took upon him the form of a servant;" for "he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." He always did the things which pleased God, and has set us an example that we should follow in his steps. - T.C.
I. BOND AND FREE WERE TOLD ABOUT A COMMON MASTER IN HEAVEN. (Vers. 7-9.) The slave was thus asked to look past his earthly master to his heavenly. He might be possessed by a master on earth, but a Master in heaven told him he was not his own, but bought with a price, and so bound to serve him with his body which was God's. This lifted life at once to a new plane and infused into service a religious spirit. The Christian slave became the conscious property of Jesus. But at the same time, he felt that this slavery to God was "perfect freedom," that to be God's "slave" was to be at the same time his "freeman." He was thus spiritually emancipated. Again, the master was given to understand that he had a Master in heaven, and was the slave of God. Hence his spiritual life gave to him the ideal of what authority is when its spirit is love. Lovingly dealt with by God above, he had a model of masterhood evermore set before him, and his own relation to his slaves was of necessity modified thereby.
II. THEY WERE ASSURED THAT HE WAS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS. (Ver. 9.) Here a blow was struck at the caste prejudices of the time. Here persons were lifted into the light of eternal justice and seen in their native equality. Now, if God took no account of personal distinctions so as to draw any line between bond and free, if the distinctions dwelt on by men were of no account with him, the truth tended to annihilate the distinctions. Here was a great Leveler before whom high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, were absolutely undistinguishable. It is this primary truth of all men having equal rights before the Supreme which has led in time to all men having equal rights before enlightened law, as for example in Britain, and which has secured the emancipation of men from meaning, less distinctions. The method taken by Christianity has thus been to bring unmeant distinctions into the light of God's countenance, and when men realize that he disregards them, they are sure to see eye to eye with him in the end. It is by reason, not by force, that the emancipation is accomplished.
III. THEY WERE ASKED TO SERVE EACH OTHER FOR THE HIGHER MASTER'S SAKE. Mutual service for God's sake was the ideal set before masters and slaves by the gospel. For God himself became incarnate," not to be ministered unto, but to minister." He came to show that "it is better to give than to receive." He came to consecrate service, to glorify devotion to another's welfare. When masters and slaves learn this, their relations will contract a cordiality, and be mutually helpful in a degree impossible otherwise. The gospel has thus quenched Tyranmes by the dazzling light of Gods unsuspected justice. There was wisdom in the arrangement. Another policy would have disorganized society and brought evils greater than existed. Onesimus goes back to Philemon to be a son in his house rather than a slave, and to help his master in his progress home to the common Master in heaven. Patiently waiting in his spiritual freedom and doing his part, he can assure himself that the political emancipation will be realized in due season. - R.M.E.
I. DUTY OF SERVANTS. "Servants, be obedient unto them that according to the flesh are your masters." The Revisers have shown good judgment in retaining "servants" here, and putting "bond-servants" in the margin. For though" bond" (the same word) is in the eighth verse distinguished from "free," yet the thought requires a modification of the meaning. It would be pedantic to translate in the sixth verse "bond-servants of Christ" (or elsewhere, "Paul a slave of Christ"), for slavery is the idea we exclude from the service of Christ. And this wider use of the word is favored by the word not being used for" masters" which conveys the idea of despotic authority. Further, the principles laid down have no exclusive reference to slaves. They are such as would have had force if this perverted form of service had never existed. It is right, then, to use a word which covers all forms of service. It is true that (owing to the carrying out of the apostolic principles, and generally the influence of Christianity) times have very much changed. There is almost nowhere now bondage on the one side and absolutism on the other. The relations between masters and servants are of a freer nature, and depend on reasonableness on both sides. This being the case, it is to be desired, not that self-interest or class-interest should rule these relations, but the principles here laid down by the apostle.
1. The grounding of the duty. "With fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."
(1) The master is representative of Christ. Four times are servants reminded of this. The apostolic exhortation is saturated with it. A very unworthy representative the despot of the household or slave-holder (in the very conception of the thing, apart from personal qualities) was. But the apostle does not stigmatize him as a usurper, a pretender, and call upon the slaves to rise and cast off his despotism. Strange to say (having him principally in his mind), he regards him as legitimately filling the place of Christ. That is to say, underneath all that slave-holding (whatever it was) there was still a representation, a true representation, of the authority of Christ, before which the slave was to bow. And that was going to the root of the matter. It was more decisive and penetrative than if he had asked them to be reconciled to the evil of their position on the ground that Christ had suffered greater evil when in the world. He refused to regard the relation as disannulled by the accident of despotism; in the master according to the flesh (whoever he might be) he saw a real representation of the authority of Christ, and he called upon them to render obedience unto him as unto Christ. All cannot be masters. For disciplinary purposes, some are servants and some are masters, and some both servants and masters. In the early and Middle Ages there were men who were carried away with a frenzy of obedience. Those words, "I am among you as one that serveth," seemed to put a bad mark on the master state, and to mark out the servant state as not only the safer, but the grander, more Christlike state of the two. And so they put themselves under superiors, begged in Christ's name to be ruled, and thought they approached Christ when they performed the most menial duties. It must be understood that the state which with Christ carries the blessing is that (whether of master or servant) which is not self-sought, but in which Christ sees fit to place us.
(2) The appropriate disposition toward the master as the representative of Christ. "With fear and trembling." The slave was to fear and tremble before his master, not because that despotic master of his was able to put him in chains or to take away his life, but because he represented an authority above backed by boundless power, which was able to deal with him, and would righteously deal with him, for neglected duty. That being the ground, the duty remains unmodified. The workman is to fear and tremble before his master, the domestic is to fear and tremble before her mistress, not because the master or mistress is better born, or has more wealth, or has a title (for in that there is little to cause fear and trembling), but because he or she represents an authority in heaven that in no case is to be trifled with. "In singleness of your heart." That is to say, the servant must give the reality, and not the semblance of service. And the only ground on which this can be thoroughly secured is by regarding his service as done unto Christ.
2. Fault to be avoided. "Not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers." The word translated "eye-service" seems to have been of the apostle's own coining, and is strikingly descriptive. The eye-servant is one who takes the rule of his action from the eye of his master. His object or motive (as expressed in the word "men-pleasers") is to get credit for whatever he does. Such a person may work with a will when he thinks of the master's eye being upon him, and expects that it will be put to his credit. Even in such a case the principle is wrong. It would lead him to "scamp" his work when he thought that his master's eye was not on him, and that he would not be made to suffer for it. Could it be secured (which it cannot be) that the master's eye was always on the servant, and that the servant always got credit for what he did, yet work done on such a principle (whatever it may be in political economy), from a Christian point of view is radically wrong.
3. Positive excellence to be sought.
(1) In relation to work. "But as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." The servants of Christ must apply the principles of Christ to their work. According to the teaching of the apostle, a servant's thought is not to be this - how little work he can get off with; nor this, in the first place (though it is an important consideration) - what is the will of his master; but this - what is the will of God, i.e. what does God expect of him in amount, in excellency, to be rendered to his master. Having found out this, he is to do his work, not in the spirit of drudgery, but with a true, it may be an ardent, love for it, as it is here put - "from the heart." To do the will of God in this way may sometimes require not a little Christian courage. In these days there are trade-unions, combinations among the workmen, with the view of protecting their rights. Though unobjectionable in principle, yet (like other combinations) they may sometimes be dominated by selfishness, and act tyrannically. And a Christian workman may be in the position of choosing between the will of God and incurring the opprobrium of his fellow-workmen. If he is worthy of his master's Master, he will not, to please his fellow-workmen, give stinted, heartless work, but he will brave the consequences of doing his duty, saying, "I must obey God rather than man."
(2) In relation to his master. "With good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men." A servant may not be able altogether to approve of the treatment he receives. What is exacted of him (and what he cheerfully renders, as being the will of God) may be unjust. Nevertheless, as a Christian, he is to keep up good feeling toward his master. He is always to respect him because of his position. More than that, he is to have "good will" toward him, that good will which (as the angelic doxology shows,) is so much of the essence of the gospel. And he is not merely to have good will toward him as a man, but good will also toward him in the particular relationship in which he is placed to him as his master. And he is to have this good will toward him, not on worldly grounds, nor on purely rational grounds, nor on purely theistic grounds, but specially on Christian grounds. "As unto the Lord," and not unto a master by himself or out of relation to the Lord. That is to say, he is to bear good will toward his master as being (by no figure of speech, but in very fact) the Lord's representative, and thus, it may be said, for the Lord's sake, and further, that the Lord's ends in the relationship (so far as he is concerned) may be served.
4. Encouragement to duty. "Knowing that whatsoever good thing each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free." The slave, or bondman, here referred to (and very common then) was considered to be entitled to nothing. His earthly receivings were very meager, unless in lashes when he came under the displeasure of his master. The apostle, then, is to be understood as holding out to him this encouragement (for he names him particularly, that there may be no mistake), that, if he did his work in a Christian manner, then he would be a receiver, equally with the free man - he would be a receiver, if not on earth, yet in heaven; he would receive from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He who saved his soul as well as that of the free man, and put both on the same platform of privilege, would see to it that no smallest piece of work done to an earthly master for his sake (overlooked here) would go unrewarded in heaven. And the same thing is to be said of the free servant; for he also is particularized. It is true that if he is guilty of eye-service, if he "scamps" his work, that will be put against him in heaven, and there will be a day of reckoning for his evil thing, for his bad work; his life-work has lost in quality, in measure by it, and his reward will most unmistakably be curtailed - it will be so much the less for that idling of his master's time, that soulless work, that grudge in his heart to his master (for upon such things as these shall judgment be passed, by such things shall destiny be affected). But if, on the other hand, a servant, even in the humblest position, grasps his opportunity, and seeks to be regulated in his work by the will of God, and cherishes good will to his master, then, in encouragement (as before in principle), he is made independent of such a variable element as a good or a bad master, his getting his rights or his not getting his rights; he can feel that he has to do with a Master with whom there is no inequality, and who will see to it that whatsoever good thing he doeth, what he does unobserved or what he does under the menaces of his fellow-workmen, shall be rewarded.
II. DUTY OF MASTERS.
1. Positive statement of duty. "And, ye masters, do the same things unto them." Though they stand differently in the relationship (servant to master and master to servant), they are to do the same things, the regulative principles being the same.
(1) In relation to work. As the Christian servant is to be regulated by "the will of God in the work rendered, so the Christian master is to be regulated by the will of God in the work required. There is that which (in the Divine balances) is fair between them. It cannot be got at by selfishness on the one side and selfishness on the other, which is often made a trial of strength. If harmony is to be attained, it can only be by both, with Christian disinterestedness, agreeing to bring themselves (in what is required and what is rendered)to the Divine standard.
(2) In relation to servant. As there is to be good will toward the master, so there is to be good will toward the servant. The master may not find the servant what he would like him to be. He may have to reprove him for eye-service or for careless service under his eye. But he is always to have good will toward him, as placed under him by Christ. He is to show his good will by seeking to make him comfortable in his position. Especially is he to use his influence with him on behalf of his higher well-being. In the name of Christ, then, let good will be met by good will. Education alone is ineffectual. It has sometimes been found that, with the spread of education, there has been an embittering of the relations between masters and servants. It is wrong, however (as not a few do), to blame education for this. It may be said that, if these relations cannot stand educative influences, then they are not what they should be. And the conclusion to be drawn is, not that we are to dispense with education, but that those relations can only be thoroughly maintained by reasonableness and genuine good feeling on both sides. And Christians are not to give up the problem in despair, but ought to be prepared to demonstrate to the world that it is possible, on Christian principles, for masters and servants to work together in harmony.
2. Fault to be avoided. And forbear threatening." "The too familiar threatening" is the idea conveyed in the Greek. It was the ready resource of persons possessed of irresponsible power. Slaves were made to work under fear of the lash. And, though masters have not so much in their power now, yet the power that they have (there is generally an advantage in their circumstances compared with their servants) they are not to abuse. It is those who are deficient in the right management of their servants, in reasonable dealing, especially in that good will which is so necessary to management, that take to the clumsy, coarse method of threatening. Power must sometimes be put into execution against servants'; but to hold threats over their heads, to treat them with clamor, with insult, or with something worse, is not worthy of the Christian master.
3. Word of warning. "Knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven." Christ is represented as the Master of the slave. There was a wrong involved (apart from any harsh treatment he might receive) in the very fact of his being a slave. He is represented as the Master of the slave-holder, too, i.e. of the man who was so unenlightened as to hold slaves. As the Master of them both, he would see to things in the end being righted between them. The Christian master still is to be influenced to do what is just and proper by his servants by the consideration that Christ is the Master of his servants as well as his Master. And in the righting that, is to take place, for every advantage that the master has taken of his servant, for every harsh speech and threatening word he has used toward him, he will suffer everlasting loss. "And there is no respect of persons with him" (i.e. with Christ). There is a real distinction between master and servant, proprietor and tenant. What is adventitious may gather round it, but the essential thing is that Christ has not ordained equality here, but has placed his authority in some, and has subjected others, and has thus given rise to mutual obligations and trial and the formation of character in connection with these obligations. But though a real distinction, it is not to be carried beyond what there is really in it. After all, it is only to last through the present earthly economy. It is destined to be obliterated with other time-distinctions. And meantime Christ does not respect a person less because he is a servant, or more because he is a master. He has an equal interest in them as both included within the sweep of his work, as having taken him as their Savior and Master. He has an equal interest in them in the relationship in which they stand to each other. And if they do their part equally well, one in the position of servant and the other in the position of master, then he will see to it that they will be equally rewarded. - R.F.
1. The existence of social distinction, s amongst men. There are masters and servants, rulers and subjects. These distinctions are no accidental phases of society, they grow out of the constitution of things. Diversity in the temperaments, tastes, capacities, and circumstances of men give rise to masters and servants.
2. The one spirit which is to govern men of all distinctions. The rich and the poor, the sovereign and his subject, the master and the servant, are under an obligation to be animated by the same moral spirit, and controlled by the same moral consideration. "All in all things should do the will of God from the heart."
I. THE DUTY OF SERVANTS. The duty of servants, of course, is obedience. "Be obedient to them that are your masters." But the obedience is here characterized.
1. It is obedience in bodily matters. "According to the flesh." Their service is limited to secular concerns, things that have reference to the material and temporal interests of their masters. They were to give their muscles, and their limbs, and their contriving faculties, but not their souls. "Consciences and souls were made to be the Lord's alone."
2. It is obedience honestly rendered. "With fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart" - "not with eye-service." These expressions mean that there should be no duplicity, no double-dealing, but downright honesty in everything. A servant is bound to be honest towards his employer. He has no right to be lazy or wasteful. He has contracted to give, on certain stipulated conditions, his energies and time to promote the secular interests of his master.
3. It is obedience inspired with the religious spirit. They are to regard themselves in everything as the servants of Christ, and are bound to do the "will of God from the heart." In everything the authority of Christ must be held as supreme. Whatsoever is done in word or deed should be done all to the glory of God.
4. It is obedience which, if truly rendered, will be rewarded of God. "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. whether he be bond or free." The faithful servant may feel that the wages he receives from his earthly master are unjustly inadequate. Yet the great Master will award to him at last an ample compensation. Whatsoever good thing he has done, however trivial, shall meet its reward at last. The good thing must be rewarded. Goodness carries evermore its own reward.
II. THE DUTY OF MASTERS. The way in which masters should exercise their authority is here indicated.
1. They are to exercise it religiously. "Ye masters, do the same things unto them." "The same things," as we have said, do not mean the same work, but the same spiritual attributes. Servants are to be honest and respect the will of God in all; the masters are here bound to do "the same things." Both are to be under the domination of the same moral spirit.
2. They are to exercise it magnanimously. "Forbearing threatening." Though the servant may by accident, or, what is worse, by intent, by omission, or by commission, try severely the temper of his master, his master should forbear threatening. He should show his right to be a master by governing his own soul. The man who takes fire at every offence, whose eyes flash with rage, and lips mutter threats, is too little a creature to be a master. He has no license from Heaven to rule either children, servants, or citizens, who is not magnanimous in soul.
3. They are to exercise it responsibly. "Knowing that your Master also is in heaven." They are amenable to God for the way in which they use their authority. The master has the same Lord as the servant, and they must stand at last together at the great tribunal. To that Master all social distinctions vanish in the presence of moral character. "Neither is there respect of persons with him." - D.T.
I. THE DUTIES OF SERVANTS.
1. The duties.
(1) Obedience. The position of service, whether forced as in slavery or freely accepted as among us, implies obedience. Indeed, where the condition of service is voluntarily entered upon for the sake of adequate payment the duty is so much the stronger. The disobedient servant commits a double sin; he is unfaithful to his engagement, and he is robbing his master of unearned wages.
(2) Singleness of heart. Half-hearted service is semi-disobedience.
(3) No eye-service. How common is this degrading and dishonest habit in all walks of life, from that of the maid who is idle when her mistress is away, to that of the statesman who works for what will win the applause of the multitude to the neglect of the real welfare of the nation, or the preacher who preaches popular sermons to catch the ear of the congregation and hides unpopular truths that men much need to hear!
(4) Serving the Lord. We are all to serve Christ in our daily work. This consecrates the most menial task.
2. The reward. Gross injustice characterized the old-world treatment of slaves, and tempted to disloyal service. This injustice will not be seen at the great reckoning. The slave will be as fairly judged as his master. The lowliest work will win as high a reward as the most pretentious if the motive is equally good. Here is an inducement to faithfulness in little things.
II. THE DUTIES OF MASTERS. It was hard to teach a slave-holder his duty. Yet it is fair to observe that in many households the rigor of servitude was much softened, and kinder and more humane relations maintained than those that sometimes characterize our modern commercial connection of workman and employer, relations out of which all humanity seems to have vanished. It is interesting to see that in the New Testament a hired servant is considered to be worse off than a household slave (e.g. Luke 15:17).
1. The duties.
(1) Fairness. "Do the same things unto them." The duties are reciprocal. Masters have no right to expect more devotion to their interests from their servants than they show to their servants' interests.
(2) Kindness. "Forbear threatening." It is cowardly to use the power of the purse, as old masters used the whip, to gain an unfair advantage over a servant. In the end sympathy and genial friendliness will secure the best service.
2. The motives.
(1) Servants and masters have one common Master. Both are alike servants of Christ; both must give account to him of their stewardship.
(2) Christ will judge without respect of persons. The advantages of social superiority are but temporary. They will be of no use at Christ's judgment. - W.F.A.
I. THEIR DUTIES WERE RECIPROCAL. They were "to do the same things unto them" - not the same duties as servants were bound to do, but after the same manner, in obedience to God's command, with the same singleness of heart, and with the same heartiness and good will. They were to give their servants what "was just and equal." They were to treat them with justice and equity, with a full recognition of their rights. The apostle, however, demands something more than just treatment; masters are to forbear the threatening which was a too familiar feature of slavery. They are not to rule them with rigor or harshness, or even with displays of temper, but with gentleness, moderation, and kindness.
II. THE ARGUMENT TO ENFORCE THE DUTIES OF MASTERS, "Your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him?" He is the, Judge of master and servant alike, and will not respect either of them on account of their station in life, but will reward them justly according to their works. Both masters and servants, therefore, ought to have an eye to the presence of their great Master in heaven, ought to seek his glory, and pray for his assistance and acceptance. - T.C.
I. "BE STRONG." This is a strange command, just as strange as it would be for a physician to say to a weak man, "Be strong." It is like the command, "Rejoice in the Lord;" but it seems more difficult by any volition of our own to add to our strength than to add to our joy. Yet, as we can do much to regulate our emotions by determining what set of thoughts shall engage us, we can equally provide for an increase in our strength by a direct recourse to the secret and source of it. Our obedience to this command stands on the same footing as our obedience to God's other commandments; and if we continue to be weak, it is more than our misfortune, it is our fault. But there is nothing strange when we consider the secret of the origin of this strength. We are conscious of a sense of feebleness, of heartlessness, of hopelessness, which of itself goes far to disqualify us for duty, and gives us up an easy prey to the adversary of souls. It is to meet this want that God reveals himself to us as the great Giver of strength.
II. "BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT." The strength poured into us is strength in Christ, sprinting out of a realizing apprehension of the continued presence, love, and help of the Redeemer. "My strength shall be made perfect in weakness." A fly is able to walk upon the ceiling of a room. The cause is to be found in the vacuum in its webbed foot caused by its very weight, and it is thus enabled to hold on by the smooth surface of the ceiling. So our safety lies likewise in our emptiness. The soldier fights with greater confidence when he is led by a general who has been always successful. Wellington calculated the presence of Bonaparte at the head of an army as equal to a hundred thousand additional bayonets. Thus we understand the invincibility of the French army under his leadership. Thus the Christian fights with greater resolution because Christ is the Captain of his salvation.
III. THE COMMAND IMPLIES A CONTINUOUS DEPENDENCE UPON THE LORD. The strength is not given at once and in full measure, but according to the desire, the capacity, the faith, the need, the duty, the trial. Our lowest powers, those of the body, we get by growth, and they grow by exercise. Such is the law of our physical childhood, and no other is the law of our spiritual being. The sense of weakness obliges us to repair every day afresh to him for fresh supplies. "He giveth power to the faint; to them that have no might he increaseth strength." - T.C.
whole armor, that we may withstand all the devil's wiles. Let us translate the figures into their simplicities.
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS TO BE COMPACTED BY TRUTH. (Ver. 14.) In Oriental as well Occidental warfare, the girdle or belt is all-important. It binds the soldier into a unity and makes him feel compact and firm. Now, truth, by which is meant God's truth in the man, not the man's veracity, is what gives compactness to our whole being. When Jesus is realized as the embodied "truth" (ἄληθεία, the same word as here, John 14:6), when he is felt to be dwelling within us, then we become a unity and strength which we could not otherwise be. Our straggled powers are united in the fear of God (Psalm 86:11).
II. THE CHRISTIAN IS PROTECTED BY ENTERTAINING A SPIRIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Ver. 14.) Here again it is the Divine "justice" coming into us and permeating our being. Now, there is no such protection for us in our contact with others as this spirit of fairness, the desire to do what is right as between man and man. If we are able to let righteousness reign in all our relations, the hostility of men and devils will but little avail. It is to be "God-like" in all our attitudes, and nothing then can harm us.
III. THE CHRISTIAN WILL MAKE PROGRESS ONLY THROUGH ENTERTAINING AN EVANGELISTIC SPIRIT. (Ver. 15.) Here we have the public spirit coming to secure progress. The Christian has ceased to be self-centered. He cannot live the selfish life. He must be a missionary. The gospel of peace is to be sent round the world. In doing so he must have some share. He makes progress by giving the evangelistic centrifugal force free play. We are never so safe as when the safety of others has become our great concern.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN QUENCHES ALL ASSAULTS OF SATAN BY THE POWER OF FAITH. (Ver. 16.) Now, Satan's fiery darts belong to the region of sense. He appeals to passion. He assaults us through the appetites. But faith vanquishes him, and nothing else can do so. What are we to understand by "faith"? Not assent to propositions; not a mere realizing, faculty, assuring us of things unseen; but a trust extended to the personal and Divine Savior who rules over all things. This loyalty to an unseen Sovereign enables us to see through the wiles of the arch enemy, enables us to see how narrow are Satan's limits, and how wide the order and interests of our Savior's kingdom. We are thus transported to the wider relations of the spiritual world, and the temptations through sense and passion fall extinguished at our feet. As we live by faith in him who rules the universe and dwells within us, Satan finds himself defeated.
V. THE CHRISTIAN'S HEAD IS COVERED BY THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. (Ver. 17.) It has been supposed that a victorious spirit will make men careless in the battle-field. But is it so? If soldiers believe themselves destined to be victorious, they will strain every nerve to make themselves so. The flush of victory in their heart gives power in the contest. Now, it is when we have got assurance of victory through our indwelling, Lord that we can do valiant things for him. Suppose that a soldier goes to battle with head exposed, and no helmet protecting it, his anxiety about self will destroy his fighting power. But give him his piekelhaube, and he passes into the fight free from self-care and with the one idea of doing his very best to win the battle. So is it with the assurance to which faith is meant to lead us.
VI. THE CHRISTIAN WIELDS, AS HIS ONLY OFFENSIVE WEAPON, THE WORD OF GOD. (Ver. 17.) This is the sword with which he is to lay around him. The Bible is a wonderful weapon. It cuts men and devils to the heart. It enters into the very joints and marrow. There is no such discerner of the thoughts and intents of men's hearts. Now, when we consider that force is only the preliminary to reason - individuals or nations fight first and then make up peace upon some pretence of principle - we see that what Christianity does is to keep strictly to the sphere of reason, and to refuse all seduction into the field of brute force. The doctrine of non-resistance is the highest of all tributes to the reasonableness of Christianity. The Christian, then, who masters most thoroughly the Word of God will be the most powerful among his fellows. For after all, this inspired Word is ahead of all human wisdom. It is the crown and anticipation of human genius. If we have mastered it in the spirit, we are ahead of our time and shall understand what we can best do for our generation.
VII. THE CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS PRAYERFUL, AND ESPECIALLY FOR HIS FELLOWS. (Vers. 18-24.) The fight in which a Christian is engaged is not for his own hand. It is a fight for a common cause, and in the struggle we are never alone. It is a fight for the most part upon our knees. But as we wrestle, it is not for personal blessings only or chiefly, but for blessings to be conferred on others too. Our own garden is best kept when we can think of other gardens too. Hence Paul claims an interest in the Ephesians' prayers, believing that they will fight their battle best if they remember him. And thus as the Epistle closes we see how Christianity emancipates us from self, and makes us pray with a large public spirit and with our eye on the common weal. - R.M.E.
far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion." Here his admiration is (with little variation) of the strength of his (the Lord's) might He views that as being at the command of all who are in Christ, and his injunction is that, as it is at their command, it should actually be communicated to them to make them strong, and indeed invulnerable, as the Lord's servants should be. He now puts his exhortation under the special aspect of the panoply for the Christian conflict which is presented at length. "Put on the whole armor of God."
I. NEED FOR THE PANOPLY OF GOD. "That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "The wiles of the devil" points to the fact that our adversary does not work by open methods. He does not rest his cause on its absolute reasonableness. Rather is he conscious of its indefensibleness in reason, conscious too of his being conquered by Christ; and hence he has recourse to ways of making men believe that they have reason on their side, when they are really under the delusion of error. We do not have things put before us in their true character. There are illusory views of life which are presented to us. There are fallacies with which we are plied, in our reading, in our intercourse with men, or from our own hearts, the danger of which is that they chime in with our natural inclinations. What are these but the wiles of the devil? And there lies the need for our being armed as warriors, at every point, with the armor of God.
II. PARENTHETICAL CONFIRMATION OF THE NEED.
1. Negatively. "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood." Wrestling serves to call up the idea of close personal encounter, but otherwise, in accordance with the context, we are to think, not of the mere wrestler, but of armed warrior against armed warrior. "When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war." In the contests, from which the apostolic language is taken, there was a certain equality between the combatants. It was man confronted with his own flesh and blood, and he might hope, in the life-and-death struggle in which he engaged, to come off victorious. But such equal conditions do not exist in the spiritual warfare in which we engage. We are not confronted with beings like ourselves; it is not our own flesh and blood that we are pitted against.
2. Positively. "But against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." To show the need for being properly armed, the apostle gives a bold description of the foes with which we have to contend. As to their rank, they are powerful chieftains (principalities and powers). As to their domain, it is "this darkness," which is world-wide. As to their essence, they are not encumbered with clay, but are spirits. As to their number, they are hosts, vast multitudes. As to their character, they are wicked, their inveterate disposition is to seek to work our ruin. As to their haunt, as it was before hinted at (rather than dogmatically taught) as the air, so here it is the heavenly or super-terrestrial places. The general effect of the description is that, men ourselves, we are unequally matched in having to fight against superhuman powers.
III. FURTHER RECOMMENDATION OF THE PANOPLY. "Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." The evil day is not to be viewed as a special season of temptation. It may be more or less so, but it is always the day of temptation with us. We are assaulted even when we are engaged with holy things. We are assaulted by those formidable enemies of ours who are ever busy. We must, therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand the assaults made on us, and, having done all things pertaining to the conflict, to stand (and not to be left prostrate on the field).
IV. THE PARTS OF THE PANOPLY.
1. The girdle. "Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth." In preparing for the conflict the first thing the warrior had to do was to gird up his loose flowing robe, that his energies might not be scattered, but collected into a unity. The girdle which binds the energies of the Christian combatant is truth. About the end of the eleventh century, great multitudes, known as Crusaders, girded themselves to go and deliver the holy sepulcher from the possession of the Saracens. It was not the girdle of truth which bound them; for God never meant them to spend their energies in that form. And it was not an object which kept them from flagrant irregularities in the pursuit of it. The object which the Christian combatant is to have before him is not to have mere romance, but truth, binding truth, in it. That truth may be said to be connected with Christ's tomb, but not in a mere realistic way. It is imperatively demanded, now that Christ has conquered on the cross, and that conquest has been attested by an empty tomb, that in his Name souls everywhere should be delivered. And the Christian combatant does not gird himself to get possession of some sacred place or of some sacred relic, but to help men who are in the present guilt and thraldom of sin toward their deliverance.
2. The breastplate. "And having put on the breastplate of righteousness." The idea in righteousness is that of a right relation to the Law of God. Righteousness worn as a plate over the heart is to be understood rather as the mind conscious of right. The Christian combatant is to be jealous over himself with a godly jealousy. He is to have nothing to do with insincerity, but is to study reality. He is not to have selfish motives, but is to be thoroughly disinterested. He is not to have feelings of grudging malice, but is to be just and compassionate. He is to be especially fired with a desire to glorify God. The man who is conscious of this may be said to have righteousness as a breastplate.
3. The sandals. "And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace' The Christian combatant, having girded himself in the cause of truth, and being conscious of no unworthy feeling, is next to put on the gospel sandals. It is that by which he is enabled to carry the good message. For that also belongs to the work of the battle-field. He puts on his shoes for the holy war. But in that war he is not always closing with his adversary. There are times when he has to follow up an advantage. Nay, his great business may be said to be to get his message delivered, to cry aloud so that Satan's captives may hear. The message which he has to deliver is a message of peace. He fights, not for fighting's sake, but that the times of peace may be ushered in. And as he thinks of his message, and enters into the spirit of it, his sandals become promptitude, alacrity (according to the idea here); he becomes swift-footed and speeds on with his message.
4. The shield. "Withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one." As the Christian warrior runs swift-footed with his message of peace, there are fiery darts thrown at him. When any one is eminent in the Christian conflict, Satan is likely to raise up against him traducers. Those who do not believe in disinterestedness are sure to make out that he is serving himself. Those who do not believe in earnestness in religion are sure to circulate evil reports of him. It is worse when, in the very intensity of his spiritual feeling, he is laid open to temptations from his lusts. Or it may be that his very success lays him open to the temptation of spiritual pride. So it was when he who had been victorious in many a spiritual conflict was tempted (it is said that Satan provoked him) to number the people. And the dart thrown at him took effect, and was fiery enough in its consequences. What the Christian combatant is to do, when he is thus assailed, is not certainly to under-estimate the force that is brought against him, but it is also by faith rightly to estimate the force that is placed at his service. What can he do against the principalities and powers and the fiery darts they send out for his destruction? If he look to himself, he can do nothing. But he looks away to the power which placed Christ above all the principalities and powers, and he places it as a shield between him and the fiery darts, and in it their fire is quenched, their force is lost.
5. The helmet. "And take the helmet of salvation." The helmet is not, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the hope of salvation, but salvation itself, i.e. salvation enjoyed. The Christian has an important piece of defensive armor in the assurance of salvation. The Lord rebuked Satan, and encouraged Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:2), by pointing to him as one of his saved ones. When one can think of grace going out toward him in the changing of his position to all eternity, he can feel triumphant; he has salvation as a helmet on his head.
6. The sword. "And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The Bible is the sword of the Spirit. Furnished it is by the Spirit; for it was under the inspiration of the Spirit that the Word was written. And, as the Spirit inspired men to write it, so it is only he who can enable men to make a right use of it. To this we may apply the words of the hymn -
"God is his own interpreter, V. THAT WHICH ACCOMPANIES THE USE OF THE CHRISTIAN ARMOR. 1. Prayer. "With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the Spirit." We are not to think of "all prayer" as a separate weapon. We are rather to think of it as that which conditions the right use of the whole armor. Without prayer we cannot gird ourselves for the conflict, but are cumbered as with loose robes. Without prayer we cannot have that purification of motives, that rectification of life, which the conflict demands. Without prayer we cannot have swift-footedness in carrying the gospel. Without prayer we shall not have faith to ward off the enemy's darts. Without prayer we shall not be able to lift our head in the assurance of our salvation. Without prayer we shall be unskillful in the use of the Word. Constant use and prayer, then - that will keep the helmet from being dulled, the sword from being rusty. But: (1) Prayer must not be mere repetition. "And in praying," says our Lord, "use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do." If we are bent on having our request from God, it will come up again and again, and under new aspects. Prayer is using arguments with God, and, as our mind works on our need, we shall ever be discovering new grounds on which to press our request. So, while we are to have prayer for ourselves and prayer for others (supplication), it is to be all prayer and supplication, i.e. to say, it is to have that variety which comes from an abundance of life, from active thought and feeling, and not that sameness which comes from lifelessness. (2) Prayer must not be irregular. The apostle teaches that it is to be connected with all seasons (to vitalize them, to redeem them from unprofitableness). It is true that we are not always in a mood for praying; but let us keep the appointed season. Prayer is one of the means by which we are to get into the fight mood. And if we keep to our plan from a sense of duty (though our feelings are cold), and when the time comes round fall on our knees before God, then may we expect liberation from our unspiritual moods. (3) Prayer must not be from self. "Praying in the Spirit," it is said here, and there is the same association in Jude 1:20. Prayer is dependence, and we have the influences of the Spirit on which to depend in prayer. We can only pray aright, under the impulse of the Spirit, when the Spirit indeed makes intercession for us. And, therefore, we should look to the Spirit to put the right desires within us and to give us right words. 2. With petitions .for ourselves we are to blend petitions for others. "And watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication." The apostle is here carrying forward his thought into a special channel. While we are to take heed to be persevering in praying for ourselves, we are to be especially persevering in praying for others. And the ground of that may be that our prayers are apt to be characterized by selfishness. We may go on praying for ourselves; but we too soon give over praying for others. We unwarrantably (and to our own detriment) contract the circle of prayer. (1) Circle of supplication. "For all the saints." That is not the outmost circle; for it is said in 1 Timothy 2:1, "for all men." But the apostle is here presenting the matter under a special aspect. It is this that the combatant is to remember his fellow-combatants. Every combatant has his peculiar difficulties, his weak points. But, if he feels the struggle to be hard for himself, that should put him in sympathy with all others, to whom (in their own way) it is hard too. And he should manifest that sympathy by beseeching God to make their armor bright, to hold them up, to give them to win the day, wherever they are appointed to fight. (2) Special member of that circle. "And on my behalf." (a) Special prayer he wishes them to offer for him. "That utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel." That is to say, boldness of utterance, whenever he was called upon to open his mouth in preaching the gospel. This was the great accomplishment of the apostle, that he could preach the gospel. And he here discovers the secret of it. He put it clearly before his own mind, and got others interested in his object, so that they helped him by their prayers. (b) Special reason for the prayer. "For which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." Reason of his office. He girded himself to save souls, He kept strict watch over his heart. He was swift-footed in proclaiming the message of peace. And as he sped from place to place, the fiery darts were thrown at him. Satan stirred up the Jews against him; men said that he was mad. But he interposed the shield of faith; he held up his head in the assurance of pardon. And he used the sword of the Spirit against many a heresy which threatened the peace and prosperity of the Church. It was of great consequence that there should be preserved to such an ambassador the courage of his office. Reason of his position, He was at the time in chains, He was in a condition, therefore, when his courage would be specially assailed. John the Baptist, in the gloom of his dungeon, gave way to doubts of Christ's mission. The apostle's liberty was not so much restricted. That the liberty he had might be well used by him, that he might speak boldly as he ought to speak, he would have them make that the subject of their prayers for him. - R.F.
V. THAT WHICH ACCOMPANIES THE USE OF THE CHRISTIAN ARMOR.
1. Prayer. "With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the Spirit." We are not to think of "all prayer" as a separate weapon. We are rather to think of it as that which conditions the right use of the whole armor. Without prayer we cannot gird ourselves for the conflict, but are cumbered as with loose robes. Without prayer we cannot have that purification of motives, that rectification of life, which the conflict demands. Without prayer we cannot have swift-footedness in carrying the gospel. Without prayer we shall not have faith to ward off the enemy's darts. Without prayer we shall not be able to lift our head in the assurance of our salvation. Without prayer we shall be unskillful in the use of the Word. Constant use and prayer, then - that will keep the helmet from being dulled, the sword from being rusty. But:
(1) Prayer must not be mere repetition. "And in praying," says our Lord, "use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do." If we are bent on having our request from God, it will come up again and again, and under new aspects. Prayer is using arguments with God, and, as our mind works on our need, we shall ever be discovering new grounds on which to press our request. So, while we are to have prayer for ourselves and prayer for others (supplication), it is to be all prayer and supplication, i.e. to say, it is to have that variety which comes from an abundance of life, from active thought and feeling, and not that sameness which comes from lifelessness.
(2) Prayer must not be irregular. The apostle teaches that it is to be connected with all seasons (to vitalize them, to redeem them from unprofitableness). It is true that we are not always in a mood for praying; but let us keep the appointed season. Prayer is one of the means by which we are to get into the fight mood. And if we keep to our plan from a sense of duty (though our feelings are cold), and when the time comes round fall on our knees before God, then may we expect liberation from our unspiritual moods.
(3) Prayer must not be from self. "Praying in the Spirit," it is said here, and there is the same association in Jude 1:20. Prayer is dependence, and we have the influences of the Spirit on which to depend in prayer. We can only pray aright, under the impulse of the Spirit, when the Spirit indeed makes intercession for us. And, therefore, we should look to the Spirit to put the right desires within us and to give us right words.
2. With petitions .for ourselves we are to blend petitions for others. "And watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication." The apostle is here carrying forward his thought into a special channel. While we are to take heed to be persevering in praying for ourselves, we are to be especially persevering in praying for others. And the ground of that may be that our prayers are apt to be characterized by selfishness. We may go on praying for ourselves; but we too soon give over praying for others. We unwarrantably (and to our own detriment) contract the circle of prayer.
(1) Circle of supplication. "For all the saints." That is not the outmost circle; for it is said in 1 Timothy 2:1, "for all men." But the apostle is here presenting the matter under a special aspect. It is this that the combatant is to remember his fellow-combatants. Every combatant has his peculiar difficulties, his weak points. But, if he feels the struggle to be hard for himself, that should put him in sympathy with all others, to whom (in their own way) it is hard too. And he should manifest that sympathy by beseeching God to make their armor bright, to hold them up, to give them to win the day, wherever they are appointed to fight.
(2) Special member of that circle. "And on my behalf."
(a) Special prayer he wishes them to offer for him. "That utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel." That is to say, boldness of utterance, whenever he was called upon to open his mouth in preaching the gospel. This was the great accomplishment of the apostle, that he could preach the gospel. And he here discovers the secret of it. He put it clearly before his own mind, and got others interested in his object, so that they helped him by their prayers.
(b) Special reason for the prayer. "For which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." Reason of his office. He girded himself to save souls, He kept strict watch over his heart. He was swift-footed in proclaiming the message of peace. And as he sped from place to place, the fiery darts were thrown at him. Satan stirred up the Jews against him; men said that he was mad. But he interposed the shield of faith; he held up his head in the assurance of pardon. And he used the sword of the Spirit against many a heresy which threatened the peace and prosperity of the Church. It was of great consequence that there should be preserved to such an ambassador the courage of his office. Reason of his position, He was at the time in chains, He was in a condition, therefore, when his courage would be specially assailed. John the Baptist, in the gloom of his dungeon, gave way to doubts of Christ's mission. The apostle's liberty was not so much restricted. That the liberty he had might be well used by him, that he might speak boldly as he ought to speak, he would have them make that the subject of their prayers for him. - R.F.
soul-militancy, and they bring under our notice the soul's foes, the soul's strength, the soul's weapons, and the soul's religiousness.
I. THE SOUL'S FOES. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood." The passage teaches the following things in relation to the antagonists of souls: -
1. They are spiritual personalities. They are spiritual, not "flesh and blood." They exist apart from matter - apart from all animal incarnations. They are personalities. We cannot accept the interpretation of those who regard Paul as speaking here only of evil principles. If language means anything, personal agents are here indicated. A priori reasoning renders the existence of such beings probable; human experience and the Bible place their existence beyond all reasonable doubt.
2. They are wicked personalities. "Spiritual wickedness," or, as the margin has it, "wicked spirits." They are out of sympathy with God; they are in bitter and practical hostility to all that is Divine, benevolent, and happy.
3. They are diverse personalities. They differ in their make and their rank; they are not all of the same nature and measure of faculty, nor of the same rank in the universe. There are "principalities," "rulers" and "powers" amongst them. Some, as compared to others, may be as wasps to vultures, as mosquitoes to dragons.
4. They are organized principalities. They are under one head, here called the "devil." "That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." There is one gigantic intellect that manages and marshals the whole: he who seduced our first parents, he with whom Christ battled in the wilderness - the Satan of God, the Apollyon of man. These heats of evil spirits are not left to themselves; they are welded together by one master intellect, "Devil with devil damned firm concord hold." They are managed by force and fraud, all of them. The passage suggests that under his control they act:
(1) Craftily. Hence the expression, the "wiles of the devil." All his movements are cunningly methodized, for such is the meaning of the word "wiles." These evil spirits attack us in ambush; they steal upon us slyly and stealthily.
(2) In darkness. "The rulers of the darkness of this world." Where do they reign? Where ignorance spreads her gloom: in the cold region of atheism where the mental energies are benumbed, and in the tropic realm of superstition where the soul is stirred into an agony of fear and scared with the horrid forms of its own creations. Amidst the gloomy recesses of ignorance they rear their throne; through the districts of intellectual darkness they prowl about in search of their prey. They reign where depravity beclouds the heart, where passion is stronger than principle, the senses than the soul, the love of the world than the love of God; whether that be amidst the districts of heathenism or civilized life, in the marts of business, the temples of devotion, or the flowery scenes of gaiety and pleasure. They enshrine themselves amidst the benighted chambers of an impure imagination, they haunt the atmosphere of pollution, impregnate it with their spirit, causing it to stimulate the unrighteous zeal of the selfish, to fire the passions of the carnal, and to swell the vanity of the ambitious and the proud. They reign where sorrow and suffering darken all. They delight in misery. The wretchedness of the indigent, the sighs of the distressed, the groans of the oppressed, and the agonies of the dying gratify their malignant natures.
II. THE SOUL'S STRENGTH. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." The soul requires tremendous strength to grapple successfully with these mighty spirits of evil. What is the strength required? It is nothing less than Divine. It is to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. But what kind of Divine strength is required, for strength of all kind is from the Lord? Is it muscular? No. Samson, with his Herculean physical force, fell beneath these spirits; an evil genius touched him, and the giant fell as a child. Is it mental? No. Men of the greatest intellect and of the loftiest genius have not been able to stand for a moment before these spirits. It is not by this "might or this power" that souls can stand before these infernal hosts. It is moral strength.
1. The strength of faith in the Absolute. Faith in that which changes not, which is true to man as man, which is independent of times and circumstances - faith in the Everlasting. With this faith men participate in the omnipotence of God, work wonders, and dare the universe. Men, through this faith, have "subdued kingdoms," etc.
2. The strength of love for the supremely good. Love, when it is fastened even upon the frail and the imperfect, gives strength to the soul - strength to nerve a mother for the most trying services, strength to brace a patriot for the thunders of the battle. But when centered upon the eternally Good, its strength is increased a thousandfold; it gives the soul a power that "never faileth," a power that "endureth all things."
3. An invincible attachment to the right. To "be strong in the Lord" is to be strong in sympathy with the right. It is to prefer the right with hell to the wrong with heaven. It is this moral strength alone that will enable us to "stand against the wiles of the devil," and to battle successfully with the host of wickedness. This strength makes a man more than a conqueror, enables him to glory in tribulation and shout triumphantly in the agonies of death.
III. THE SOUL'S WEAPONS. The panoply is here described. It consists of two parts - the defensive and the offensive implements.
1. The defensive implements. What is the defensive? "Truth." This is the girdle which belts the loins with strength, and binds all the other parts of the panoply together so as to protect all the vital parts. "Righteousness." This is the" breastplate." The man who lacks integrity can offer no successful defense to the foe; the dishonest man is vulnerable at every point. "The gospel of peace." This, like the boot of the old Roman conqueror, makes the soldier firm in his step and terrible in the echo of his tread. "Faith." This is the "shield," protecting the whole body. Faith, not in creeds, but in Christ, is the true shield of moral soldiership. "Salvation" - that is, the hope of salvation. This is the "helmet." As the helmet guarded the head of the Roman soldier, the hope of salvation protects the soul. Let despair come, and the head of the soul is wounded and the whole system endangered.
2. The offensive. What is the offensive? "The sword of the Spirit." The true soul has not only to stand its ground, to maintain its position, to keep its territory, but to advance, to extend its boundaries, to prosecute an invasion; it is to conquer all other souls to Christ, and the weapon is the "Word of God." This is the sword by which the Christian soldier has to cut his way from soul to soul through the whole world: "For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. (Hebrews 4:12). God's Word is the truth that slays error, the love that slays selfishness, the right that slays the wrong, the happiness that slays the misery of the world.
IV. THE SOUL'S RELIGIOUSNESS. Religiousness, viz. a conscious dependence on God, lies at the foundation of all true soul-militancy. A man can do nothing rightly or successfully in spiritual soldiership who is not religious in the very spirit of his being. Religiousness is the only soil in which man's spiritual faculties can grow into heroic vigor. In materialism they wither; in mere intellectualism they are only skeletonic at best; in religiousness they are like the tree planted by the rivers of water - their roots are in the Everlasting, they drink into them the very life of God. Religiousness, in one word, is the source that supplies the muscle and the instinct that gives the skill in true moral warfare. It teaches our "hands to war and our fingers to fight." This religiousness is here described by the apostle in these words, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints," etc. These words are so true to the original and so obvious in their significance that they call for no minute examination. They show us how this religiousness in the soul of the true spiritual soldier is to express itself; and it is to do so:
1. In prayer. "Praying always with all prayer," or, as Ellicott has rendered it, "with all prayer and supplication praying always in the Spirit." The words teach us:
(1) That the prayer is to be comprehensive. "With all prayer and supplication." All kinds of prayer, expressed and ejaculatory, private and social. Prayer is not so much a service as a spirit, not so much an act as a sentiment. Hence we are commanded to "pray without ceasing." Consciousness of dependence on God, which is the very essence of prayer, should run as a living current through the whole of our life. Our whole life should be an unbroken litany.
(2) That the prayer is to be Divine. "In the Spirit." That is, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, who is to make intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. There is no true prayer that is not dictated by this Spirit. Man's great care should be to lay his soul open to the Divine. If a man would have his body crave healthily for food, he must drink in as much as possible the fresh air of God; and if he would have his soul crave for spiritual food, he must breathe into his spiritual nature the breath of the Divine.
(3) That the prayer is to be watchful. "And watching thereunto." The soul has its moral moods. It has seasons favorable for culture, weathers for launching out on the deep. Its duty is to watch for these moods - watch the motions of the Divine Spirit upon the heart. Watch, as Elijah did on Carmel, for promising signs in the heavens.
(4) That the prayer should be persevering. "With all perseverance." We are to be instant in prayer. Our Savior taught the duty of importunate prayer in the parable of the "unjust judge." Importunity is needed, not to influence the Eternal to mercy, but to prepare our hearts rightly to receive his gifts.
2. In prayer for the good in general. "For all saints." The apostle would not have them merely to pray for themselves. He who prays exclusively for himself never prays at all. His prayers are but the breath of selfishness. Paul required them to pray for "all saints" - saints of every intellectual grade, of every social position, of every ecclesiastical sect, of every theological school, of every kingdom and every tribe. Why for all saints? Because all saints are members of the grand army battling against the common foe - against the "principalities of evil," etc. The more force, courage, skill, each member of an army possesses, the better for the cause, the more likely the victory in whose advantages all participate. The battle of Christianity is a common battle - a battle against error, wrong, and depravity everywhere. All saints are engaged in it and they should be prayed for.
3. In prayer for gospel ministers in particular. "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me." Why does Paul wish them to pray for him? Is it that he might be liberated from prison? No. He was now, he tells us, an "ambassador in bonds." The clanking chains of the prison hung heavily on him, and one would not have wondered if his first request had been to the Ephesians to pray for his bodily deliverance. But this he does not. He is too absorbed in the cause of Christ and universal happiness for this. What he prayed for was that he might be enabled properly and successfully to preach the gospel. "That I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel," that is, the gospel that was once a mystery. The preaching of the gospel was God's grand instrument for restoring the world to intelligence, dignity, and happiness, and because of that, he desired to do it in the most effective way. There are several remarkable things in these words.
(1) Paul was an ambassador from heaven - God's messenger sent to proclaim restoration to lost humanity. The grandest commission this.
(2) God's ambassador from heaven in bonds. Wonderful that the great King, whose word could have shivered Rome into atoms, should have allowed his ambassador to have been in chains. But so it is; and we shall have an explanation ere long.
(3) God's ambassador from heaven in bonds, losing all idea of his own personal sufferings, in the desire to help his race. Though a prisoner at Rome, he was permitted to preach (Acts 28:30, 31). And as a prisoner he wanted to discharge that high mission in the most effective way. For that he prays. A true gospel minister has a right to ask the prayers of Christians for him particularly. Like a general in the army, he has the most responsible position, the most arduous task. Failure in him may turn the tide of battle in favor of the foe. Prayer, then, is a necessary qualification of spiritual soldiership. The victory cannot be won without it.
"Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
I. CHRISTIANS ARE EXHORTED TO BE STRONG. Spiritual strength is decision of character and force of will. Religion centers in our will and character. Unless there is strength, fixity, determination, and energy, then all our elaborate thinking and all our beautiful sentiments are worthless.
1. Clear belief in the gospel is not sufficient. We may believe intellectually, but if we are too weak to act according to our belief that counts for nothing.
2. Feelings of love to Christ are vain if they do not inspire us to faithful service and sacrifice.
3. Passive reliance on Christ will not avail us unless we have also the active faith that puts forth spiritual strength in obedience to his will. We are not only to flee to the refuge in Christ. We are to go forth to battle in the open field. And then we are not only to be endued with Divine armor, but first to be made strong ourselves. First comes the exhortation to be strong, and only second that to arm in the Divine panoply. It is only the strong man who can wear this armor.
4. It is our duty to be strong. Weakness is not merely a calamity to be bewailed. It is a sin to be repented of. It leads to our falling into temptation and our failing in duty.
II. SPIRITUAL STRENGTH IS A DIVINE INSPIRATION. We cannot be strong by merely willing to be so. A wish will not convert the feeble body of the invalid into the robust frame of a healthy man, nor will a wish give to the weak soul fixity of character and energy of will. The body must gain strength through nourishing diet, bracing air, exercise, etc. So spiritual strength arises from feeding upon Christ in faith and prayer.
1. There is might in Christ. He is the Lion of the house of Judah.
2. Christ puts forth that might. The strength is the might in exercise. The oak is strong, but passive, and therefore it can do nothing for us. The horse, though less strong, puts forth his power in action, and so works for us. Christ's great might is not a mere latent force. It flows out in energy.
3. This strength is ours by our union with Christ. "Be strong in the Lord." We must, therefore, be in Christ in order that we may have this strength, and the more close our union to Christ becomes the more vigorously shall we be supplied with his strength. - W.F.A.
2 Timothy 4:7). They have to fight for God (1 Samuel 25:28), for truth (Jude 1:3), and for themselves (Revelation 3:11).
I. THE DIVINE ARMOR. It is so called because God provides each individual part of it. It is amour for offence as well as defense - "forged on no earthly anvil and tempered by no human skill." The amour of Rome - celibacy, poverty, obedience, asceticism - is for flight, not for conflict. This Divine armor we are not required to provide, but merely to put on, and its efficacy depends entirely upon the power of him who made it.
II. ITS PURPOSE. "That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." The grand enemy of the Church is the devil, a superhuman tempter older than man. This language implies
(1) the personal existence of Satan;
(2) his possession of immense resources of cunning and craft;
(3) his power to inject evil into the minds of the saints;
(4) his great end to destroy the souls of men and the whole moral order of the world;
(5) the possibility of resisting his wiles in the strength of the Divine armor,
III. ITS NECESSITY. This Divine equipment is indispensable in view of the serried ranks of evil which are leagued against us under the leadership of Satan. Our conflict is not with feeble man. It is with fallen spirits. The language of the apostle implies
(1) that these spirits have a hierarchy of their own of different orders;
(2) that their malignant activity is exercised in the world of men under a reign of darkness;
(3) that their moral character is wickedness;
(4) and that, as Satan is the prince of the power of the air, they seem to have their abode or the scene of their activity in the atmosphere that surrounds our earth. We need, therefore, to be strong and valiant in this warfare,
(1) because we are fighting for our life;
(2) because, though our enemies be strong, our Captain is stronger still;
(3) because nothing but cowardice can lose the victory (James 4:7);
(4) because, if we conquer, we shall ride triumphantly into heaven (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). - T.C.
I. THE NATURE OF THE FOE.
1. Negatively considered.
(1) Not material. Imagination has given the tempter a material form, e.g. in the legends of St. Anthony, because it is so much easier to grapple with the most fearful enemy that can be seen and touched than with an invisible, intangible foe. But our foe is not of flesh and blood. The subjugation of the physical world is easy compared with the task of conquering this invisible enemy.
(2) Not human. It is hard enough to think of the obstructive and tempting influence of bad men. But we have something worse to resist. We are attacked by an unearthly army. The black tide of hellish sin surges against the shores of our human world and bespatters us with its withering spray.
2. Positively considered.
(1) Spiritual. The fact that the word "immaterial" has come to mean "unimportant," is a striking proof of our earthly-mindedness. The spiritual world is the most real world. These spiritual foes are the most truly existing enemies we can ever meet. Our experience of them is in spiritual attacks, i.e. in temptations.
(2) Dominant. They are "world-rulers," they are in "heavenly" (or high) places. When St. Paul wrote this Epistle evil was uppermost in the world. Is it not also supreme in many regions now? We have to oust the forces that hold the field and to storm the citadel.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE WARFARE, Mediaeval armor is useless before rifle-bullets. Old castle walls are no protection against modern artillery. Nor will modern cannon drive back noxious gases. Sennacherib's hosts were powerless before that invisible angel of God, the pestilence. So the foe in the Christian warfare determines the character of the armor and weapons and the tactics to be pursued.
(1) Physical force will not serve us. Samson's strength is of no avail against temptation. Money, material resources, scientific skill, are useless. This is the age of steam, steel, and electricity. But such things give us no help in subduing greed, lust, and self-will.
(2) Human influence is vain. Arguments, threats, and promises; influences of authority and of sympathy; appeals to the reason, the feelings, and the conscience; these methods that affect our fellow-men do not touch the awful foes we have to contend against.
(1) Spiritual armor and weapons are needed, i.e. truth, righteousness, the preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer (vers. 14-18).
(2) These must be obtained from God. They constitute "the whole armor of God. ' There m nothing m the armory of human resources, physical or intellectual, that is adequate for meeting the dread spiritual foes of our warfare. The Christian warrior must be a man of Divine strength girded about by Divine graces. - W.F.A.
I. CHRISTIANS NEED TO BE ARMED. Aldershot cannot dispense with Woolwich. The army must be equipped before it can take the field. The knight must don his coat of mail and draw his sword if he is to make any use of his martial skill and prowess. So the Church must be prepared for the great conflict with unbelief, worldliness, and immorality. The individual Christian must be armed to meet temptation and to win a triumph. Many a sanguine young Christian soldier has fallen shamefully through rushing rashly into the fray without due preparation.
II. THE REQUISITE ARMOR MUST BE DIVINE. "Armor of God."
1. Provided by God. We cannot forge our own armor. Our own resolutions, like home-made weapons, will be sure to betray some weakness and clumsiness. The Christian armor consists of God-given graces. The pilgrim had his armor given him at the house "Beautiful."
2. God-like. A steel breastplate is no protection against a poison-cup. The character of our defenses must be spiritual and holy, like the character of God, in order that we may be able to withstand great spiritual foes.
III. IT IS NECESSARY TO SECURE A COMPLETE SUIT OF ARMOR. "The whole armor." We are assailable in every part of our nature. It is useless to be only half-armed, for the subtle tempter is sure to aim his dart at the most vulnerable spot. We are all inclined to make much of favorite graces and to fortify ourselves against certain selected sins. Where we think ourselves most secure we are likely to be most open to attack. It will not be sufficient to be sound on all points but one. Achilles was said to be vulnerable only on the heel. But that was enough. His one weak place was fatal to him. God knows both the variety of foes we have to face and the different susceptibilities of our own constitution, and has provided complete armor accordingly.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN ARMOR IS VARIOUS IS KIND.
(1) We have first to be braced and girded by a firm grasp of the eternal verities of the faith. Looseness of conviction is a fatal source of weakness. Truth being the girdle we are not to embrace it, but it is to encircle us, i.e. we not to be satisfied with holding the truth, we must let the truth hold us.
(2) Our heart must be protected by righteousness. An evil conscience, with sin unrepented, unforgiven, and unamended, is fatal to future firmness.
(3) We must be active in spreading the gospel of peace.
(4) Where we have not sufficient resisting power in our own persons let us trust the defending grace of God. Then if the breastplate of righteousness is thin, the shield of faith held before it may still protect us.
(5) Salvation in part secured, in whole promised, will help us to hold our head erect in calm confidence.
2. Offensive. We have not only to stand the shock of the enemy's blows; we have to return them. The necessary weapons are supplied from the Divine armory.
(1) The Word of God. This is the sword of the Spirit, because God's Spirit inspired it and now gives it edge and penetrating power. Christ used this sword in his temptation. We resist evil by dwelling on Divine truths.
(2) Prayer. In the garden Christ prayed and Peter slept; in the house of Caiaphas Christ was faithful and Peter fell. - W.F.A.
I. TRUTH IS THE BELT, AS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE BREASTPLATE. "Having your loins girt about with truth." As the belt or girdle kept the armor in its proper place, giving strength and buoyancy of action, so truth acts in relation to righteousness, faith, and peace. If truth were wanting, there could be none of these things, and nothing Christ-like or noble. The truth here does not mean truth of doctrine, as the Word of God is again referred to, nor even sincerity in the sense of truthfulness, but the truth subjectively apprehended, that is, the knowledge and belief of the truth. It is the conscious grasp of the truth which gives a Christian boundless confidence in his conflict with evil. Error, as a principle of life, dissolves strength and unnerves for the great fight with sin. Truth is our proper girdle, because we fight for a God of truth (Titus 1:2), and against Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). Without it we are spiritless, heartless, and weak.
II. THE BREASTPLATE. "Having on the breastplate of righteousness." The Roman soldier wore it to protect his heart, the center of physical life. The breastplate of the Christian is here called "the righteousness," evidently in allusion to Isaiah 59:17, where Jehovah puts on "righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head." It can hardly mean moral rectitude, which, after all, would be but a poor guard against the reproaches of conscience or the assaults of Satan. This righteousness is that which the Apostle Paul desired for himself - "the righteousness of God by faith" (Philippians 3:8, 9). It is emphatically "the righteousness," so perfect that it satisfied every demand of Law, and is perfectly proof against all assaults from within or from without. Let us not show the bare breast of our righteousness to the tempter, but rather the righteousness of God himself, imputed to us and received by faith. This breastplate was purchased by Christ at a dear rate; none are his soldiers who have not put it on; without it, God himself will fight against you; if you have it, you are sure of ultimate triumph (Romans 8:31, 32)
III. SANDALS. "Having your feet shod with the preparedness of the gospel of peace." The legs of the Roman soldier were covered with greaves, and below these were the sandals, or caligae. Swiftness of foot was of great consequence in military movements. Christians are to show a readiness, a celerity, an alacrity of movement, in doing God's will. This preparedness is the effect of the gospel of peace, which inspires us with severity and courage, and liberates us from those doubts which generate weakness. The unready warrior is liable to sudden and secret attacks. The Christian ought ever to be prepared to advance against the enemy, to obey his great Captain, to fight, to suffer, and to die in the cause of God and truth.
IV. THE SHIELD. "Above all, taking the shield of faith." The shield covered the whole body, as well as the armor itself. Faith is a shield in the spiritual warfare. It is that faith of which Christ is the Object, at once "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" that confidence which defends the understanding from error, the heart from weakness or despair, the will from revolt against Divine command. It is, in a word, "the victory that overcometh the world" (1 John 5:4, 5). Its special service is "to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Satan showers his burning arrows upon the soul of the Christian, either in the shape of blasphemous suggestions, or unholy thoughts, or dark despair; but faith makes the soul impenetrable to such destructive missiles, because it falls back upon the Divine Word, and apprehends the mercy of God, the merits of Christ, and the help of the Spirit.
V. THE HELMET. "And take the helmet of salvation." The helmet protects the head, the most exposed part of the body, enables the soldier to hold it up without the fear of injury, and to look calmly round upon the enemy's movements. Salvation, and not the mere hope of it (1 Thessalonians 5:8), is the helmet that covers the head, is our true defense against the devil. It will make you active in all duties, courageous in all conflicts, cheerful in all conditions, and constant to the end of life.
VI. THE SWORD. "And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The other parts of the armor were defensive; this is both offensive and defensive.
1. The Word of God is a sword, because it pierces like a sword into the heart (Hebrews 4:12), because it pierces through all disguises of error, because it lays bare the "wiles" of the devil. It was wielded by Christ himself in his great temptation. It is still the saint's only weapon of offence. Whether the temptation is to atheism, to impiety, to despair, to unbelief, to covetousness, to pride, to hatred, or to worldliness, the legend, "It is written," stands clearly revealed on the handle of this sword.
2. It is the sword of the Spirit, because he is its Author, its Interpreter, and he who makes it effectual to the defeat of all enemies. - T.C.
1. It is to be prayer of all kinds - public and private, oral and mental, formal and ejaculatory.
2. It is to be spiritual prayer: "In the Spirit;" for" He makes intercession for the saints with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). We must "pray in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 1:20).
3. It is to be persevering prayer: "At all times; at every suitable season. We must cultivate an habitual frame of prayer.
4. It is to be watchful prayer: "Watching thereunto." We must watch against watchlessness, watch for occasions of prayer, watch for answers to prayer.
5. It is to be intercessory prayer: "For all saints." It is most comprehensive in its character. It is based on the communion of saints. We have every heavenly motive for continuing in prayer. We have no ground to expect blessing without it (Ezekiel 36:37). It is a means of getting all blessings, temporal, and spiritual (Matthew 7:7; Matthew 21:22; James 1:5). It is in itself the most heavenly duty we can perform (Philippians 3:20). - T.C.
1. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE PRAYER.
1. Earnestness. What a ring of vehement intensity sounds through the apostle's words! Here is a man who believes in prayer and is greatly anxious to secure it. It would be wonderful if some prayers were answered. When the prayer does not affect the heart of the suppliant how can it touch the heart of God? A half-hearted prayer can bring no blessing from heaven because it is too feeble even to reach heaven.
2. Spirituality. We must pray in the Spirit. Our own thoughts must be spiritual and we must seek the inspiration of God's Spirit to give light and life to our praying (Romans 8:26).
3. Independence of hindering circumstances. "At all seasons." Prayer is always in season. But we are not always inclined to pray. Yet when we least desire to pray prayer is most necessary.
4. Watching, in order that our prayers may be apposite' to the occasion, that we may discern the Divine response, and that we may be roused to renewed earnestness in face of the dangers and needs of the times.
5. Earnest prayer will be persevering prayer. It need be so, for God sometimes delays his reply to test our faith.
II. THE OBJECTS OF TRUE PRAYER.
1. On behalf of all saints. We should pray for all mankind, but especially for those who are of the household of the faith. Christian brotherhood should be seen in prayer. Mutual prayer is the greatest bond of union in the Church.
2. For any in trouble. St. Paul, the "ambassador in chains," seeks the prayers of his friends. He in Rome can find comfort from the prayers of Christians in Asia. It would be well if, instead of condemning our brother when he falls before temptation, we would pray for him while he is in it.
3. For the spread of the gospel. St. Paul is not so anxious that prayer should be offered for the alleviation of his harsh imprisonment and for safe deliverance from the hands of his foes, as for grace to be faithful and bold in his declaration of the mystery of the gospel a noble, self-forgetful request. If the Church at home believed more in the efficacy of prayer and practiced it more earnestly, the missionary abroad would be more successful in his work. - W.F.A.
I. THE BLESSING HE ASKS FOR. It is no temporal blessing, not even release from imprisonment that he might more widely preach the gospel. It is simply that "utterance might be given to him" to preach the mystery of the gospel with boldness. This implies:
(1) that courage was needed for the declaration of a gospel which was an offence to the world;
(2) that even an apostle was dependent upon God for simple utterance.
II. A DOUBLE ARGUMENT TO BESPEAK AN AFFECTIONATE INTEREST IN THEIR PRAYERS. For which I am an ambassador in bonds.
1. He was an ambassador. The apostle never forgets the dignity of his office. He knows he is the representative of a great King, though he is immured in Roman prisons. Ministers are Christ's ambassadors. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
2. He was an ambassador in bonds. The ambassadors of earthly sovereigns come with pomp and splendor. Their persons are sacred and inviolable; to touch them is to declare war. But this ambassador of Christ is in prison and afflicted. Brave ambassador in bonds! He is worthy of the prayers of the saints. - T.C.
I. THE MESSENGER WAS TYCHICUS. We know little of him except what is told in several passages of Scripture. "Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus" (2 Timothy 4:12), probably in reference to this very mission. He was an Asiatic, who remained faithful to the apostle amidst many desertions (Acts 20:4); "a faithful minister in the Lord;" as well as "a beloved brother" of the apostle - one thoroughly acquainted with all his affairs, and quite in harmony with all his aims. How powerfully the apostle influenced all the Churches by his chosen messengers! They reflected his feelings, they intensified the impression made by his direct labors, they perpetuated the cordial relationship which bound him to all the Churches.
II. THE DESIGN OF HIS JOURNEY. It was twofold.
1. To acquaint the Ephesians with his circumstances as a prisoner at Rome. There were many things in that imprisonment that the Ephesians would be anxious to know, besides the state of his health and spirits. They would like to know what facilities he still enjoyed for pro-securing his labors, even as a prisoner; how the gospel was spreading in the great capital of the world; how the Judaic party was affecting his legitimate influence as an apostle; and what were the prospects of his release from imprisonment.
2. To comfort the Ephesians, not merely by minute oral information respecting these matters, but by the higher lessons of the gospel. As a faithful minister in the Lord, Tychicus was capable of doing great service in explaining and enforcing the lessons of affliction. It is the business of ministers to comfort the hearts of believers, who, whether at Ephesus or elsewhere, may suffer from persecution, from Satan's temptations, from spiritual deadness. It is a poor state of the Church when she is without such comforters. - T.C.
1. Why he does not enter on them. "But that ye also may know my affairs, how I do, Tychicus... shall make known to you all things." He knew that they would be anxious to have some account of his affairs. He would have given them a written account but for the fact that Tychicus, the bearer of his letter to them, would be able to give them (and others too, it is implied) a more detailed account by word of mouth. We have already remarked on the absence of the personal in this catholic Epistle. The one exception is the introduction of the name of Tychicus, and it is introduced to account for the absence of details about himself. In the Epistle to the Colossians, along with the same reference to Tychicus, there are numerous salutations. It favors the hypothesis of this being a circular letter (intended for a circle of which Ephesus was the center), that none are conjoined with the apostle in sending salutations (the apostle alone may have been known to all the Churches), and none are singled out as special objects for salutation (as in the one Church of Colossae).
2. Qualifications of Tychicus. "The beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord." In Acts 20:4 he is classed as an Asiatic. If he did not, then, belong to the same city (Trophimus associated with him was an Ephesian), he belonged to the same province, as those to whom he conveyed the letter. Of more importance than his country was his Christian character, for which the apostle vouches. He limits his consideration to the Christian sphere (where Christ appoints and animates), and, within that sphere, Tychicus was both a beloved brother and faithful minister. He had those qualities of heart which attached men to him, an important element in a mission, he had also those qualities of conscience which, as they made him fit to be entrusted with the gospel, also made him fit for the special service required of him.
3. Definite statement of the object of his mission. "Whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts." A servant of the Church, he was, in the first instance; but he was sent by Paul on this special errand. He was not only to communicate information to them regarding Paul, but also regarding Paul's companions in Rome. Through what he communicated, he would comfort their hearts. For the precise bearing of this we are left to conjecture. He might be able to tell them that the health of Paul and of such a fellow-prisoner as Aristarchus was not suffering from their confinement. He might be able to report that not only Paul, but all of them, were remaining steadfast in the faith of Christ. He might be able to announce some increased liberty in the preaching of the gospel. He might especially be able (with communicated apostolic fervor) to report the preaching of Paul, and himself to present the gospel as the means of comfort.
1. First benediction. "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The source from which blessing is invoked is (as at the beginning of the Epistle) God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is given both the First Cause and the Second Cause. It belongs to God the Father (to whom can it more belong than to him?) to bless his children. Christ is the Second Cause, by whom God made the worlds, by whom also he redeemed and blesses his people. He is, therefore, also invoked as the Source of blessing.
(1) First blessing. "Peace be to the brethren." We are to understand "peace" here, as at the beginning of the Epistle, in the sense of freedom from unrest, as being under the loving care of God. It may mean freedom from persecution, if that is lovingly arranged by God. It may also mean freedom from internal dissensions, if God sees fit to grant that. There is a limitation in the scope of the blessing compared with the language of the following benediction. We are not to understand it as peace to the whole Church of Christ, but rather peace to the brethren to whom, in turn, the Epistle was to be sent round.
(2) Second blessing. "And love with faith." The apostle (as he has done throughout) presupposes faith, but not as a fixed quantity. Rather does he invoke it in its higher degrees, and, at the same time, invoke love as its concomitant. Let love not lag behind, but let it keep pace with faith. If we turn believingly to God as our Father and Christ as our Savior, we should also turn affectionately to the brethren. Let there be love (in all its beauty) to manifest the reality and activity of our faith.
2. Second benediction. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness." The blessing. "Grace." This is to be understood as in other places. Let there be the outflowing of the Divine compassion. Let there be every fitting manifestation of the Divine favor. The scope of the blessing. As to its form, it is catholic. It excludes selfishness and denominational jealousies, and takes in the whole circle which Christ acknowledges. As to matter, there are two things pointed to.
(1) The grand characteristic of the Christian is love to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian is one who (appealed to by the Savior) can say with Peter, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Such an affection as God has put into the nature of the child, of the parent, such (in its personal character, in its tenderness, in its strength) is to be our affection to Christ. Such a virtuous affection (as distinguished from natural affection) as we have toward the brethren, such, purified and heightened, is to be our affection toward the Master. The ground of virtuous affection is moral goodness, and especially one form of it, viz. holy benevolence. We love a man who, besides being conscientious, is filled with universal good will. So we love Christ because (with all dutifulness) he is the perfection of all unselfishness and benevolence toward men. In estimating his character (as an object for our love) we must take into account his rank in the universe, viz. that he was the Son of God. If a king and one of his subjects were both voluntarily to go into slavery for the purpose of redeeming their country, the sacrifice would be regarded as greater on the part of the king than on the part of his subject. There may be the same patriotism; but there is something to be put down to the rank. So all that Christ was and did is enhanced in proportion to the height from which he descended. It was not simply love to man in a human position, but love that made infinite descent to burn in the human soul of Christ. We must also take into account the public capacity in which he acted. He was not rendering such help as we personally may render to one another. But he was the Christ, the appointed Representative of all mankind. He had all our interests on his hands. His character comes out in the whole of his life. He evinced a universal benevolence: "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." He was called the Friend of sinners. He loved men apart from their outward surroundings and natural capacities; he loved them as sinners in need of salvation. Especially does his character come out at the last. He went (in suffering the desert of sin) under that which is called the hiding of the Father's countenance. And it was not only dauntless trust in God, but unquenchable love to men, that maintained him there. He went down to the lowest depths for us (in experience the most terrible), that he might carry us with him to the heights.
(2) An indispensable element is pointed to in our love to Christ. "In uncorruptness." There is a spurious love to Christ, which is founded on his sufferings without reference to their spiritual meaning. "I wept when the waters went over his soul." Such love, as it is not well founded, so also is it transient. The closing climactic thought in this great catholic Epistle is that our love to Christ is to have an immortality, an incorruptibility. As there was a deathless principle in his love to us, so there is to be a deathless principle in our love to him. It will have of this, according as it is founded on the real excellence of Christ. The purer and clearer our conception of his transcendent benevolence and beneficence, the more will our love have of undying and ever-unfolding beauty. - R.F.
elevated friendship, a type of spiritual benevolence, and a type of Christian catholicity.
I. A TYPE OF ELEVATED FRIENDSHIP. Paul here does two things which show the purity and the worth of his friendship.
1. Introduces a noble man to his friends. Some are very anxious to keep their friends to themselves, and, if possible, to monopolize their thoughts and their hearts; and some, if they introduce a friend at all, only those of an inferior type. Paul introduces Tychicus, "a beloved brother and faithful minister." You cannot confer a greater benefit on your friends than to commend to their confidence a noble man; the gift of such a man to them is more valuable than lordly estates or mighty kingdoms.
2. He introduces a noble man to their friendship entirely for their own advantage. There are those who introduce men to their friends for the sake of getting something for them; but not so in this case. Paul does not ask them to do anything for Tychicus; nor does he ask them to send back through Tychicus any favor to him. He sends Tychicus in order to serve them in two ways.
(1) To satisfy their anxieties as friends. They would naturally be anxious to know something concerning the "affairs of the man who lived and labored in their city for three years, and around whose neck their fathers fell in tears when he bade them adieu. They would like to know how this their father in Christ fared now a prisoner in Rome. To satisfy the natural craving of their hearts, he now sends Tychicus; he would tell them all. I should like to have seen Tychicus deliver this letter, and to have heard the thousand eager questions.
(2) To promote their happiness as Christians. And that he might comfort your hearts" Paul knew well the trials to which the Church at Ephesus was exposed, both from Jews and pagans. He knew they wanted comfort. The letter he sent abounded with comforting thoughts, and he knew that a loving brother like Tychicus would skillfully and efficaciously apply the healing balm. Here is -
II. A TYPE OF SPIRITUAL BENEVOLENCE. Paul's heart goes out in well-wishing. And what did he wish for his brethren at Ephesus? No secondary favors, but the highest blessings from God the Father and his blessed Son.
1. Divine peace. "Peace be to the brethren." Mark where the peace comes from - "From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." There is a peace that does not come from that source - a peace that comes from the devil, a moral stagnation of soul, something like the stillness of that murky atmosphere that nurses and forebodes the thunder, the lightning, and the hurricane which spread devastation over sea and land. The peace of God is:
(1) Peace of an approving conscience.
(2) Peace of conscious security.
(3) Peace of accordant affections.
(4) Peace of harmonious activities.
2. A conjunction of love and faith. "Love with faith." There is a love and also a faith that are not of Heaven. Divine love and faith are always united in a good man. Divine faith "works by love," works by love as the laborer works by the sun. These are the blessings spiritual benevolence desires for men, and they are in truth the germs of all good. Give me these, and I want no more. Out of them my Paradise will bloom; they are the nebulae which will one day encircle me with the brightest of heavens. Give the race these, and soon all crimes, sufferings, discords, miseries, will cease.
III. A TYPE OF CHRISTIAN CATHOLICITY. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus" - love him purely, love him in reality, love him as he ought to be loved. Wherever they are, in whatever land, of whatever tribe or kingdom, happiness to them. The language of modern sects is - Grace be to all them that are Baptists, Methodists, Independents, Episcopalians, etc. The language of the true Christian catholicity is - "Grace be to all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ," of all creeds or no creed, Churches or no Church.
CONCLUSION. Here end our reflections on this wonderful Epistle. Our walk through this section of the great garden of truth, whose aromas have refreshed, whose beauty has charmed, and whose objects have challenged our thoughts and excited our devout admiration, is now ended. Should others follow our footsteps with keener eyes and finer senses, more apt to discover the beautiful and the good, they will be able to discover for themselves, and reveal to others, much more than we have done. When we began our walk we were afraid that we should meet some of those grim Calvinian dogmas which certain theologians assured us were there, but we never met their shadow. There are no theological weeds and thistles here. All is free and fresh as nature, as fitted to the human soul as light to the eye and breath to the lungs. - D.T.
I. BLESSING TO THE BROTHERHOOD.
1. Peace. This is not mere concord - "the peace to which they were called in one body," - but everything that is implied in the favor of God, repose of spirit under the sprinklings of the blood of Christ, a continuous flow of spiritual blessings.
2. Love with faith. That is, a love joined to faith, not love and faith as two distinct blessings. Their faith was an actually existing fact; the apostle desired that love should be there, as at once the characteristic and the discoverer of faith.
3. The full blessing is ascribed to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. All the graces spring from Father and Son in the power of the Holy Spirit; for God the Father is at once the God of peace and the God of love, and Jesus is our very Peace, in whom is fullness of grace and love.
II. BLESSING TO ALL TRUE LOVERS OF CHRIST. The Epistle ends, as it begins, with grace and peace. The apostle implores God's favor upon all who love Christ in sincerity.
1. Christ is worthy of our love. He ought to be the supreme Object of our love, because of the loveliness of his character, because of his boundless love to his people, because of his work as our Mediator.
2. The love of Christ is a test of our religion. He who loves him has found grace in God's sight, and will stand high in the Divine favor. If we love him not, we are anathema; for we love not God, we love not man, we love not ourselves. If we love him, we have a grace of the Spirit, and we shall value his gospel, his Word, his cause, his people, and we shall delight in his presence.
3. The love must be sincere, free from those elements of decay or change that would work its destruction. It must be without hypocrisy, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
4. The apostle wishes grace to all such lovers of Christ, so that they might have fresh discoveries of his love, a fuller enjoyment of his person, and a larger supply of all spiritual gifts. Amen. - T.C.
I. WHAT THINGS ARE NOT REQUISITE IN MEN IN ORDER THAT THEY MAY BE REGARDED AS TRUE CHRISTIANS.
1. External badges of unity. We need not speak the same shibboleth, practice the same external habits, etc. The test is internal.
2. Agreement in theological opinion. Men may love the Lord Jesus Christ while they differ profoundly on many points of doctrine.
3. Uniformity of ritual. Love may express itself in various voices, from the shouting hallelujahs of a crowd of street revivalists to the elaborate anthem of a cathedral choir. If the love is there we have all that is essential.
4. Unity of Church order. Equal love for Christ may be found in Churches that observe the greatest variety of discipline. The proud bigotry of orthodoxy will have to be greatly humbled when many a despised sectary proves his right to a higher place in the marriage feast because he has possessed a warmer love for his Lord.
II. WHAT IS REQUISITE IN ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE TO BE REGARDED AS TRUE CHRISTIANS. To "leave our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness."
1. The first essential is personal attachment to Christ. Our assent to a creed, diligent performance of devotional exercises, and connection with a Church fellowship count just for nothing if we are not in living relation to Christ. What think ye of Jesus? How does your soul's affection regard him? These are the primary questions.
2. This attachment is to be one of love. A cold devotion of conscientious but heartless duty will not suffice. Happily, Christ does inspire love in his disciples by his wonderful loveableness, his love to them, his great sacrifice of himself.
3. This love must be uncorrupted. A corrupted love is one that is lowered by selfish thoughts. If we only love for what we are to receive our love is, of course, worthless. If, therefore, we only turn to Christ in selfish anxiety to be delivered from trouble to secure certain benefits, if this be the secret of our apparent warmth of devotion, the thing is a mockery. They love in uncorruptness who love purely, unreservedly, simply. The idea also implies a permanence of devotion. It is not a mere passing emotion, stirred, perhaps by a sentimental hymn, but a deep, strong affection that outlasts time and persists through all our varying moods, and shows itself in action, and, when occasion requires, in sacrifice. - W.F.A.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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