Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I may go.
by the way) will not satisfy his love. But, for the present, he must "tarry at Ephesus." Why he would stay in this city, he states - "a great and effectual door is opened unto me;" the field of usefulness is large and promises vast results. Stay he would, moreover, because "there are many adversaries." Adversaries were the men to convert; if not that, to silence; but, any way, he will not desert a post of duty to gratify his desire to see the Corinthian brethren. If the Lord will permit, he will refresh himself among them, but, for a time, he will face the worshippers of Diana and bear the brunt of persecution. Then he thinks of the young Timotheus. If he visit you according to his expectation, be thoughtful of his youth, be specially considerate of his modesty, and see that his stay among you is "without fear," disturbed by none of your rivalries and factions. Honour him for his work's sake, for "he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do." "Let no man therefore despise him;" on the contrary, "send him on without annoyance, with good understanding, and kindly affection," that he and his travelling companions may come unto me. Again, some of the partisans at Corinth might suspect him of jealousy as to Apollos. The name of the eloquent and holy man had become a watchword of strife. Lest they should do St. Paul this dishonour, he tells them of the affectionate relations between them; nor will he say my brother, but "our brother Apollos," whom he wishes "greatly" to visit the Church at Corinth. But see! One of those sudden changes which originate in the soul, which pass from the soul into the nerves, and from the nerves into the muscles - one of those quick escapes from memory and stored up emotion - occurs, and what an intenser expression settles in the muscles about the eyes, and in the eyes themselves! There is a break in the thought. Two verses intervene before the main idea is resumed. And it could hardly have been otherwise. It is nature to the life; it is St. Paul in the very soul of his temperament. It was scarcely possible for the apostle to mention Apollos without being reminded of the unhappy divisions at Corinth, for we can neither think nor feel except by means of association and suggestion. Each faculty, each sensibility, is an individual centre of these activities. No wonder, then, that there is an abrupt transition, all the more true to the laws of mind because abrupt. "Watch ye." Ah! if there had been Christian watchfulness in the Corinthian Church, what criminations, what reproaches, what humiliations, had been averted! To be a man, one must be apprehensive of the dangers ever lurking in ambush; must have the sentinel spirit and habit, and must exert it every moment. "Stand fast in the faith." Occasional watching will not do; steadfastness must go along with watchfulness, and fortify you against the wiliest assault. "Quit you like men." No manhood can live without courage; be manful. Fighting is your safety, business, profession; fight like men, fight on, fight to the end. "Be strong," or as it is in Ephesians 3:16, "Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." But fight how? There are many sorts of fighting - business fighting, professional fighting, legislative fighting, alas! even Church fighting. And there they are, each class of fighters with his particular weapons and his code of warfare. Only in this are they all alike, viz. the fighter gets the help of the animal soul. Beastly fighting he abhors; the fighting which brings hot blood and excited nerves and quick breathing into service, he admires, encourages, and depends upon for victory. Not so is St. Paul's view. "Let all your things be done with charity" - love, and, after his grand discourse on "love," an allusion is enough. To have a gentlemanly intellect in our fighting is a rare thing and a great thing, but to have a loving intellect in fighting for what we believe to be truth is much rarer and infinitely greater. Christian fighting is a very unusual excellence. From this emotional digression, he returns to "the house of Stephanas." This family were "the firstfruits of Achaia." How he likes the figure! St. Paul had baptized this household. They have "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." What the precise ministry was, we know not, but we know that it was a kind, beautiful, noble service, fur it was rendered to the "saints." Think of the manifold ministries that Christianity set a going. It is Anno Domini, say, 57. Christianity has in its Churches men of the generation that saw Christ die, that beheld him risen, that witnessed Pentecost. Jerusalem, though approaching her overthrow, still shows the temple where he taught, the spot where he was crucified, and the grave where he was buried. In this short space of time, what numerous workers have entered on careers of beneficence! From the apostles downward through all grades of kind and loving agencies, mark the variety, the diffusion, the heterogeneous civilizations, the unity, the accordant response, the consecration, pervading these Christian ministries. Mark it, we say; for it is a solitary phenomenon, up to this time, in human annals. Mark it, we repeat; for all the antagonistic forces of the world are in league to crush it, and they are reinforced and augmented by Satanic power. Take a single specimen, the household of Stephanas. No information is given as to his social position, no mention made of the sphere or spheres of usefulness filled. Enough to know, it was a "ministry" and a blessed one, since it was "a ministry to the saints." Yet we may picture that Corinthian home in the midst of a mongrel and licentious population, keeping alive the fervour of its love and the purity of its private heart, watching, standing fast in the faith, courageous and strong, and abounding in the work of the Lord. We may be sure that the poor, the sick, the infirm, were duly cared for and helped, and that the home itself was devoted to hospitality. Now, says the apostle, "submit yourselves unto such." There are two kinds of submission - one to authority, the other to influence. We need both. We need law, we need grace. Law and grace are coexisting constituents in modern civilization so far as Christianity has permeated, and, in our times, influence has assumed a very significant relation to government and society. We are governed much more by influence than authority. St. Paul urges that Stephanas and his household be respected and honoured, their wishes consulted, their judgments followed. And not only they, but "every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had come from Corinth and visited St. Paul at Ephesus, and "they have refreshed my spirit and yours." They had been sent as representatives of the Corinthian Church. The comfort and cheer were mutual; let them be acknowledged (valued, recognized) for these good offices. Wise instruction this; to be influenced by excellence in others, and submit our minds to such a gracious power, is the strongest of all evidences that we are on the path of culture and piety. For it has pleased God, our Father, not only to reveal himself in Jesus our Lord, but he manifests himself also in those who are Christ's. Discipleship is a revelation and an inspiration. All the ministries are of God. They are his presence, his helpfulness, his glory, among the habitations of men. And whether it be the "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," or the lowly ministrations that fall in the silent dew and breathe in the hidden violet, they are alike from him who "worketh all in all." - L.
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia.I. GOD'S WILL SHOULD BE THE RULE OF LIFE. Paul had made a plan to visit the Corinthians, to "tarry a while" with them, but he rests this plan (no doubt dear to his heart) on "if the Lord permit."
1. A belief is implied here, viz., that God is in the history of individual man. He is not merely in the material universe, in angelic hierarchies, in human communities, churches, families. He is not too absorbed or too great for this. Paul believed that God was interested in him personally, and that He arranged for him personally. There is something bracing and ennobling in this thought.
2. An acquiescence is implied here. I have no will of my own. Personally, I should like to winter with you, but I subordinate my will to the will of my God. I am in His hands, and am ready to act in everything according to His arrangements.
II. SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS SHOULD BE THE AIM OF LIFE. (vers. 8, 9).
1. Wherever the gospel signally triumphs, great opposition may be anticipated. Paul was now at Ephesus, where he had laboured for a considerable time, and with such success that passionate opposition was excited (Acts 19:9-20). It has ever been so: wherever there has been a great revival of religion there has been unusual opposition. The latent enmity of the serpent is ever roused by the dissemination of spiritual light. Christ kindled a fire upon the earth.
2. Opposition to the gospel often affords specially favourable opportunities for the labour of the evangelist. Religious excitement is ever more favourable to the spread of religion than religious monotony. You stand a better chance of converting an earnest sceptic than a stagnant religionist. Excitement opens a "door."
3. The true evangelist will be stimulated rather than discouraged by opposition. It is only little souls who are dismayed by difficulties.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost1. These sentences, casually thrown in, as it were, at the end of a letter, reveal incidentally, and therefore really, the spiritual quality and tone of the writer. It is one thing to make a formal statement of what Christianity has done, and another to show its results without any attempt at composition or eye to effect. An incidental touch will reveal the whole man.
2. Paul comes within sight in these instructions. In the previous chapter he was quite beyond the range of our vision. Here he becomes more like one of ourselves. These are only little sentences after the great thunder-bursts of the resurrection chapter, and come too soon to get their full force and value; but they show what Christianity did for Paul. It made him —
I. MOST DAUNTLESS UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF AN INTENSELY DISCOURAGING KIND. Paul looked at the door rather than at the adversaries, and therein the quality of the man is disclosed. The great soldier must be in the thick of the fight. When the wolf is most dangerous, the shepherd must be most watchful. Paul seemed to have a kind of inborn liking for danger. Herein he was most Christ-like, and quietly but severely rebukes the most of his successors. What an eye we have for the adversaries! and therein is our quality revealed. What moaning there is in the ministry and the Church! The neighbourhood is going down; the population is moving; trade is bad; people are opposed to us. There are many adversaries: Paul is perfectly aware of that; and he counted them one by one, and said, "Humanly speaking, they are an overwhelming majority, but Divinely speaking, they are for ever in a minority, for He that is for us is more than they that be against us." We must take the completer view, and then we shall see that the great host that is encamped against the Lord is but a handful of moths. And so every adversary should be a stimulus to nobler endeavour — a prick in the side causing us to spring forward with more vital alertness and determination to win the battle of the Lord. We should have said that there being many adversaries was an excellent reason for leaving Ephesus; Paul made it a substantial reason for remaining there.
II. PATERNALLY AND MOST TENDERLY CONSIDERATE (vers. 10, 11). Timotheus was young in experience; the kind of man that would soon be lost in a crowd; shrinking, modest, one who would never count for much if tumult were to rule the day. See, then, says Paul, "see that he may be with you without fear." When you shake hands with him, let him feel the pressure of love in the grip which welcomes him by holy symbol: under encouragement he can do a great deal. If he find you critical, pedantic, fault-finding, his young heart will sink. To be with the Church without fear — that is to elicit all that is best in the young minister. "The fear of man bringeth a snare."
III. MAGNANIMOUS (ver. 12). Apollos was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures," Paul's "bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible." He knew that, yet he says, "As touching our brother Apollos," — there is tenderness in the very utterance of the man's name; he is not "Apollos," but "our brother Apollos," etc. We are now and then very human: there is perhaps a temptation to persuade Apollos to go in some other direction and so keep out of our particular way. Conclusion: We cannot put these things on from the outside; these are the fruits of the Spirit. All assumed courage is cowardice, a pretended considerateness is the most objectionable patronage, an affected magnanimity is hypocrisy. We must grow in these graces, but the growth must be from within; these are not to be taught or learned in the schools: these are the victories of grace, the miracles of God.
(J. Parker, D. D.)Seneca and Bacon have lost in moral influence through the discrepancy between what they wrote and what they were! St. Paul's consistency comes out in a comparison between his advice in vers. 13, 14 and his revelation of himself in vers; 8, 9. The Corinthians were exhorted to —
I. VIGILANCE. Well, was Paul careless? He resolves to tarry at Ephesus. Here he had to watch —
1. Against the surprises of temptation. He was not ignorant of Satan's devices, and was incessantly watchful "lest Satan should get an advantage over him." "He kept under his body," etc.
2. Against the vicissitudes which might otherwise have thwarted his plans and marred his work. Acts 19. tells us of some of these vicissitudes and how Paul turned them to his own account. It was this Church he addressed when he urged this duty by the force of his well-known example (Acts 20:31).
3. For opportunities. It required no ordinary vigilance to detect in John's disciples the raw material of Christian missionaries, and to secure sufficient influence with the contradictory elements in the Jewish synagogue and the school of Tyrannus (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
II. STEADFASTNESS. This quality is tested in two ways.
1. By disheartening difficulties. These tried Paul to no ordinary degree in a city whose population "deserved to be throttled man by man," a city notorious for licentiousness, superstition, and idolatry. He was in jeopardy every hour; he died daily, yet his faith never wavered (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). No small portion of the trials enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 must have fallen to his lot at Ephesus.
2. By the existence of an apparently legitimate excuse for the want of it. A man is sometimes compelled to stand fast because he cannot move. The real test is when a way of escape opens. Such a way opened to Paul in the shape of an invitation to Corinth, and the seeming desirableness of accepting it. How much his presence was needed at Corinth; and the work at Ephesus surely would not suffer under the superintendence of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos. The change would do him good. But no; his business was to do the work in hand so that it would not require to be done a second time. So he sent a letter with an influential deputation to Corinth, and chose to abide "at Ephesus till Pentecost." How many Christians beguile their conscience with the persuasion that an invitation to another sphere is a legitimate excuse for the abandonment of their present one of difficulty, whereas it may be only a subtle attack of the adversary on their steadfastness! Our text went further to strengthen a previous exhortation to abide in the calling wherein they were called in God. So it comes to us.
III. COURAGE. He who said "Quit you like men," etc., illustrated his own counsel by resolving to "tarry at Ephesus," because —
1. There was "a great door and effectual" there. A great opportunity tests courage because it requires coolness, self-control, fortitude, and all the elements of the nobler heroism, Many a soldier who has nerve to follow when called to command or carry a forlorn hope, loses heart, not because of the danger, but because of the responsibility.
2. There were many adversaries — Jews, magicians, etc.
IV. CHARITY. Charity —
1. "Is kind," and he who is so anxious that "all things should be done in charity," sets the example (ver. 10). Timothy had a delicate task to perform, and Paul therefore asked that he might perform it under conditions which would ensure credit and success. How many a promising youth for the want of a kind word or a helping hand has gone to wreck!
2. "Envieth not." It is as alien from the selfishness of jealousy as from the selfishness of greed. Now if any one could have excited Paul's jealousy it was Apollos, and yet hear what he says of him (ver. 12). With what force does the exhortation come to all factions and rivalries, backed as it is by Paul's conduct "as touching his brother Apollos."
(J. W. Burn.)
A great door and effectual is opened unto me1. St. John beheld a door opened in heaven. A door opened before him into the mysteries of the unseen, invited him to expatriate there. It was a door opened for ministerial labour and achievement on earth of which St. Paul tells us. Whose portion, would you choose? The chance of getting behind the veil would be very tempting; yet however passionately we might yearn, and with no unworthy yearning, to pierce the inscrutable, would it not be a diviner impulse that should lead us to accept the opportunity of bettering ill conditions or supplying needs that cry?
2. Which was the happier of the two, St. John or St. Paul? In the case of the former there would be a blissful excitement that bore in it a throb of pain, a sense of oppression, a half-fearful expectancy. Would his strength be sufficient for the scenes that would burst upon him? St. Paul's happiness, you may depend, was the simpler, purer of the two, as in the populous heathen city he found himself at liberty to tell his grand story, and felt around him a great field waiting for the good seed which the husbandman is eager to sow. With what buoyancy he would rise every morning, to resume his hopeful work; how peacefully he would fall asleep each night, thinking of the scenes which had cheered him, meditating on the proceedings for the morrow! And are we ever happier than in moments when scope is given us for doing what we have been craving to be able to do? The text suggests many thoughts.
I. AN OPEN DOOR — WHAT WOULD WE NOT GIVE FOR IT?
1. The feeling is something like the anxiety which a painter was under to put an open window or gateway in his picture which without that would be heavy; or a sick man's longing for the northern coolness and whispering breeze amidst the breathless, motionless evergreen forest of the South. We have a suffocating sense of fainting, of closeness, and ache to get out into fresher air and ampler space; but things hem us in from being and doing as we would. We can see perhaps a simpler, healthier, more rational life to live, and we inwardly desire to live it. There are interests that chain us down, and around us is a world of convention and custom through which we are unable to break. We are shut up to a daily round, so we are impatient. Have we not sighed thus at times for an open door to let us out?
2. Or, again, in earnest thought and contemplation we have felt that light was near; a faint glimmer has been descried by us. It seemed to us that only another step was required to carry us right into the light, and then just there we were stopped; on the verge of it, we were like a man groping about in a dark room for some article which he knows is very close by waiting to be grasped by his hand, but which he feels after in vain. Oh, for one further suggestion that would surely bring us to the land on the borders of which we are!
3. So once more, when wandering solitary in the summer fields, or in the silence of the lonely wood, watching the wondrous sunset at sea, has there never been a feeling with us that, however nature might be speaking to our minds and our hearts, there was something further, deeper, which it had to say — something for the communication of which only a little more faith, or delicacy, or peace in ourselves was needed?
II. BUT WE HAVE HAD THE HAPPY EXPERIENCE OF THE OPENING OF THE DOOR. And how charming it was when the means of doing what we have been craving to do presented itself, and we were free to follow the hitherto thwarted impulses! Suddenly or gradually a new view of a subject has come as with the opening of a window, and the whole aspect of things has undergone change. Or we have stumbled upon facts with which we were previously acquainted which promised to elucidate for us that which was previously inextricable; or, getting hold of a principle, we bare found we could apply it for guidance in relation to matters in dealing with which before we have been dubious or confused. Or the reading of some book, maybe the intercourse with some person has given us a new vision of life.
III. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS LIVING ALWAYS WITH A DOOR OPEN BEFORE US. As every man is his own strait gate, and the main difficulty in his way of improvement, so every man may be if he will his own open door. The secret of the difference between men in their growth is that some are receptive, and some are not. Some are standing every day to appropriate and assimilate all that meets them; and some are with souls more or less enclosed — angels walk by their thresholds and they do not ask them in; Jesus of Nazareth passes by and they are not about.
1. Cultivate at the height of every achievement an ingenuous discontent. Evermore say, "This is good, yet is there better than this."
2. Try to discipline yourself to equanimity in the presence of petty troubles and grievances. Be very particular to have your mental chamber kept free from the disturbance of a host of shabby visitors. Many men live and die excluded from higher impressions, just because their avenues are all blocked.
3. Cultivate cheerfulness, resist gloom and despondency, than which nothing operates more to prevent appreciation and discernment of the good that offers itself.
(S. A. Tipple.)I. IMPORTS —
II. MAY OCCUR IN A MOST UNLIKELY PLACE.
III. INVITES US TO ENTER IT.
IV. USUALLY AWAKENS OPPOSITION.
V. SHOULD INSPIRE PERSISTENT COURAGE AND EFFORT.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. THE GREAT AND EFFECTUAL DOOR OPENED.
1. A few years back and Ephesus was "a door" not open to Christ. The temple of Diana was open, and thronged with worshippers from "all Asia and the world." The theatre was open, nourishing the worst passions of our fallen nature. Craftsmen had their open shops for the sale of models of the temple and images of the goddess. And yet Ephesus was a most important place, teeming with population, the capital of Proconsular Asia. How sad to see it a closed "door"! And is there no closed "door" in the present day? I speak not now of many a heathen city, but of those closed "doors" in the densely populated parishes of Christian England, where mammon has her open shops, licentiousness her open hells, infidelity her open halls. How distressing to see the "door" of "the broad way" wide open, and the many crowding through it, while "the strait gate" is, to numbers, virtually the closed "door"!
2. But see the "great and effectual door opened!" The apostle came and laboured there for the space of three years. It was in the course of this period that he saw "a great door and effectual opened." In his opportunity of making known the gospel, and in its ready admission to the hearts of many. Some so ignorant that they had not so much as heard "whether there were any Holy Ghost," became well-instructed Christians. "Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them. So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed." And the gospel and the grace of God is still the same. Wherever faithful men labour in the spirit of the apostle, using the same instrument, and depending on the same grace, they commonly soon see, with delight and thankfulness, a "great and effectual door" opening before them.
II. THE MANY ADVERSARIES. When we engage in any work for God we are taught to expect difficulties. In seeking our own salvation we are exhorted to count the cost; in co-operating to save souls we must calculate on opposition. The adversaries are — General. Satan, the adversary of God and man, always in every place opposing the work of God, and man's natural corruption renders him an easy prey to the enemy seeking his destruction. See how the apostle reminded the Ephesians of both these in his Epistle.
2. Special.(1) The Jews the embodiment of that self-righteousness which is one of our most potent adversaries to-day. Have not we often had to contend, not only with open ungodliness, but also with this subtle adversary, working in the hearts of the more decent yet formal professors of religion?(2) The exorcists. So we must not be surprised if, when the true gospel is preached, there be counterfeits of the gospel circulated from corrupt motives by ungodly men.(3) Demetrius and the craftsmen. These, seeing the open "door," endeavoured to close it by violence And is there no such storm fast gathering around us in the present day?
III. WHAT IS THE CONSEQUENT DUTY?
1. To acknowledge the hand of God. Who but He, with His Divine hand, opened that "great door and effectual" in Ephesus? And the Fountain-head continues the same — inexhaustible and Divine. Hence all our hopes and consolations.
2. To press forward.
3. Where we see the "great door and effectual opened, "although" there are many adversaries." "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." It is not by an indolent wish, an occasional impulse of feeling, but by faithful perseverance, even "unto death," that we shall have "an entrance ministered to us abundantly," etc.
(J. Hambleton, M. A.)I. THIS WORD "OPPORTUNITY" SPRINGS FROM AN OLD ROOT SIGNIFYING "AT PORT," or "in the harbour," suggestive of the lines: "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." Thus we think of the trader watching the market, ready to pounce upon every opportunity that he may turn it to gold. Thousands fail in life through neglect of such chances. When the Blucher of opportunity presents itself, they have not "pluck" enough to charge, and so win their Waterloo. There are great national opportunities which present themselves once or twice in the lifetime of a country or community and never come again. Such an opportunity the Church of Rome had when some of her most faithful sons pointed out the sins and excesses which led to the Reformation. Such an opportunity the Church of England had in 1662, when she drove out the crown and flower of her ministerial ranks. Such an opportunity France had at the time of the Reformation of ridding herself of a blind superstition on the one hand, and a hopeless atheism on the other. Such an opportunity Jerusalem had nineteen centuries ago; but she spurned it, rejected it, and finally quenched it in the blood of the innocent (Luke 19:41-44).
II. THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES WHICH BELONG TO CERTAIN PERIODS OF LIFE. There is the season of youth. How full it is of opportunities — for mental improvement, forming good habits, moulding the character, determining on a future line of action. Use it, therefore, as the springtime which soon departeth, and wherein thou oughtest to plant and sow provisions for a long and happy life. Now if this be true with regard to the physical and mental, how much more with regard to the moral and the spiritual! Says the poet: "Heaven lies near us in our infancy." The heart has not become stained and soiled; the conscience has not become seared and hardened. There are no hosannas so sweet to Christ as the hosannas of the young. Others, again, are becoming more advanced in years. Gradually they find themselves farther and farther away from the time "when they were boys" — they have reached the autumn of life. Oh, what opportunities they have had! But while men were busy here and there, the golden opportunity was gone. Consider our opportunities of usefulness. Take the home, e.g., what a splendid chance it presents to Christian parents of influencing their children goodwards at the very gateway of life! And to a certain extent the same thing holds good with regard to visitors. When Lord Peterborough lodged with Fenelon for a season, he said, on leaving, "After this I shall be a Christian in spite of myself." Or possibly you occupy a position in some place of business, and one morning a child with a distressed look comes to say that "father is very ill, and cannot come to-day." Next morning an intimation reaches you that he is dead. Instantly a "still, small voice" within whispers reproachfully, "I have never in all these years spoken one word to this man about Divine things. I have lost an opportunity that will never return." Oh, there is a day coming when these lost opportunities will appear in a clearer light and with more terrible and startling distinctness. "Because I have called and ye refused," etc. (Proverbs 1:24-28). "Consequences are unpitying." So, then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.
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