Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
I. THE BLENDING OF LOWLINESS AND AUTHORITY IN PAUL'S DESIGNATION OF HIMSELF.
1. He does not always bring his apostolical authority to mind at the beginning of his letters. In the loving letter to the Philippians he has no need to urge his authority. In Philemon friendship is uppermost.
2. "By the will of God" is at once an assertion of Divine authority, a declaration of independence, and a lowly disclaimer of individual merit. The weight he expected to be attached to his words was to be due entirely to their Divine origin. Never mind the cracked pipe through which the Divine breath makes music, but listen to the music.
II. THE IDEAL OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER HERE SET FORTH. "Saints" — a word that has been woefully misapplied. The Church has given it as a special honour to a few, and decorated with it mainly the possessors of a false ideal of sanctity. The world uses it with a sarcastic intonation, as if it implied loud professions and small performances.
1. Saints are not people living in cloisters, but men and women immersed in the vulgar work of everyday life. The root idea of the word is not moral purity, but separation to God. Consecration to Him is the root from which the white flower of purity springs. We cannot purify ourselves, but we can yield ourselves to God, and the purity will come.
2. To thus devote ourselves is our solemn obligation, and unless we do we are not Christians. The true consecration is the surrender of the will, and its one motive is drawn from the love and devotion of Christ to us. All consecration rests on the faith of Christ's sacrifice.
3. And if, drawn by the great love of Christ, we give ourselves away to God in Him, then He gives Himself to us.
III. THE APOSTOLIC WISH WHICH SETS FORTH THE HIGH IDEAL TO BE DESIRED BY CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS.
1. "Grace and peace" blend the Western and Eastern forms of salutation, and surpass both. All that the Greek meant by his "Grace," and all that the Hebrew meant by his "Peace" — the ideally happy condition which differing nations have placed in different blessings, and which all loving words have vainly wished for dear ones — is secured and conveyed to every poor soul who trusts in Christ.
2. Grace means —(1) Love in exercise to those who are below the lover or who deserve something else.(2) The gifts which such love bestows.(3) The effects of those gifts in the beauties of character and conduct developed in the receivers. So here are invoked the love and gentleness of the Father; and next the outcome of that love, which never visits the soul empty handed, in all varied spiritual gifts; and, as a last result, every beauty of heart, mind, and temper which can adorn the character and refine a man into the likeness of God.
3. Peace comes after grace. For tranquillity of soul we must go to God, and He gives it by giving us His love and its gifts. There must be first peace with God that there may be peace from God. Then, when we have been won from our alienation and enmity by the power of the Cross, and have learned to know that God is our Lover, Friend, and Father, we shall possess the peace of those whose hearts have found their home; the peace of spirits no longer at war within — conscience and choice tearing them asunder in their strife; the peace of obedience, which banishes the disturbance of self-will; the peace of security shaken by no fears; the peace of a sure future across the brightness of which no shadows of sorrow nor mists of uncertainty can fall; the peace of a heart in amity with all mankind. So, living in peace, we shall lay ourselves down and die in peace, and enter "that country afar beyond the stars" where "grows the flower of peace."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE SUPREME LAW. "By the will of God."
1. God has a will. He is, therefore, an intelligent, free personality. His will explains the origin, sustenance, and order of the universe; His will is the force of all forces, and law of all laws.
2. God has a will in relation to individual men. He has a purpose in relation to every man's existence, mission, and conduct. His will in relation to moral beings is the standard of all conduct and the rule of all destiny. Love is its mainspring.
II. THE APOSTOLIC SPIRIT.
1. The apostolic spirit involves subjection to Christ. "An apostle of Jesus Christ." Christ is the moral Master, he the loyal servant.
2. The apostolic spirit is that of special love for the good. He calls Timothy his "brother," and towards "the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia," he glows with loving sympathy. Love for souls, deep, tender, overflowing, is the essential qualification for the ministry.
III. THE CHIEF GOOD.
1. Here is the highest good. "Grace and peace."
2. Here is the highest good from the highest source. "From our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth
I. THAT EVEN AMONGST THE MOST PROFANE AND UNLIKELIEST PEOPLE GOD MAY SOMETIMES GATHER A CHURCH TO HIMSELF. The reason why God may build His house of such crooked timber, and make His temple of such rough stones, may be to show the freeness of His grace and the efficacy of it.
II. THAT A CHURCH MAY BE A TRUE CHURCH ALTHOUGH IT BE DEFILED WITH MANY CORRUPTIONS. As a godly man may be truly godly and yet subject to many failings, so a Church yet not perfect. This truth is worthy of note, because many, out of a tenderness and misguided zeal, may separate from a Church because of this; but a particular Christian is not to excommunicate a Church till God hath given a bill of divorce to it.
1. The soundness and purity of Churches admits of degrees. As one star doth excel another in glory, yet both are stars, so one Church may greatly transcend another in orthodoxy and purity, and yet both be Churches.
2. When we speak of a Church being God's true Church, though greatly corrupted, we must take heed of two extremes —(1) That of those who would have no reformation, though there be never so many disorders, but say, "It is prudence to let all things be." The apostle doth far otherwise to this Church; though he calls it the Church of God, yet his Epistle is full of sharp reproof. He is very zealous that they become a new lump — that they be made, as it were, a new Church. God takes notice, and is very angry with all these disorders and great neglect.(2) That of those who, because of the corruptions that are in a Church, are so far transported with misguided zeal as to take no notice of the truth of a Church. Some are apt so to attend to a true Church that they never matter the corruptions of it. Others, again, so eye the corruptions that they never regard the truth of it; but it is good to avoid both these extremes.
3. Though that Church be a true Church where we live, yet, if many corruptions do abound therein, we must take heed that we do not pollute ourselves thereby, or become partakers of any sin indulged amongst them.
With all the saints
I. II. III. IV. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
II. III. IV. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
III. IV. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
(R. Sibbes, D. D.)
(R. Sibbes, D. D.)