Therefore, since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is clear to God, and I hope it is clear to your conscience as well.
Romans 3:25, 26, Revised Version). There is a "ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [reckoning] their trespasses unto them." Forgiveness through Christ, the Propitiation, is free to all who believe in him. Nor are we left in doubt as to the substance of our belief. It is faith in Christ, God in Christ, the Reconciler, who pardons our sins and makes us new creatures in him. To make this reconciliation known, to demonstrate its infinite excellence as the method of grace, to show its Divine results in the very men who proclaimed the gospel, Christ had instituted the ministry, and its title was, "ministry of reconciliation." Recall, O Corinthians, what I have said in defence of my apostleship. Recall my sufferings in your behalf. See the reason of it all. Whom are these factious Judaizers fighting? Whom did those beasts at Ephesus try to destroy? Who is this man, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, dying everywhere, dying always? This is the character he sustains, the office he fills - an "ambassador for Christ." Has he manifested himself to your consciences? Does he look forward to the day of judgment as a day of revelation as well as a day of reward and punishment? Know we not a man, not even Christ, after the flesh! Behold your minister, your servant, as an "ambassador," commissioned to offer you the terms of reconciliation. "We pray you in Christ's stead [on behalf of Christ], be ye reconciled to God." Nothing remains to be done but tot you to accept the offered reconciliation. And he enforces this idea by stating that he who "died for all," since "all were dead," had been made "sin for us, who knew no sin." "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" yet he was "made to be sin for us," made a substitute or ransom, an offering, whereby the wrath of God was turned away. Reconciliation is accomplished not by our repentance and confession of sin, nor by any suffering on our part, nor by any merit of our work, but altogether by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. God's righteousness is thus set forth. The plan of salvation changed nothing in the character of Almighty God. Neither his righteousness nor his love was modified integrally by Christ's atonement. "God is righteous," "God is love," are no truer facts now than they eternally were. What the gospel teaches is that the righteousness and the love of God have assumed special forms of manifestation and operative activity through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness, not in the normal relation of Law to the original transgressor, but in an instituted relation of Law to one who took the place of the transgressor. It is love as grace, the form of love that provided for the righteousness on which St. Paul lays such an emphasis. It is not a change in the Law, but in the administration of Law, and the glory of it lies in the fact that the Divine government presents in this higher form the resplendent spectacle of that progression from the "natural" to the "spiritual," which St. Paul discusses in his argument on the resurrection. Whatever obstacles existed in the way of this sublime advance have been removed by Christ. "Mercy and truth have their existence as attributes of the Divine nature; they have met together." "Righteousness and peace are not to be confounded, but they have kissed each other." - L.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.I. THE ARGUMENT WHICH THE APOSTLE MAKES CHOICE OF TO PERSUADE MEN, which is, "The terror of the Lord." In the gospel we find a mixture of the highest clemency and the greatest severity. The intermixing of these in the doctrine of the gospel was necessary in order to the benefit of mankind. And we shall easily see what great reason there is that this judgment shall be called "the terror of the Lord," if we consider —
1. The terror of the preparation for it.
2. The terror of the appearance in it.
3. The terror of the proceedings upon it.
4. The terror of the sentence which shall then be passed.
II. THE ASSURANCE HE EXPRESSETH OF THE TRUTH OF IT; "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." We have two ways of proving articles of faith, such as this concerning Christ's coming to judgment is —
1. By showing that there is nothing unreasonable in the belief of them.
2. That there is sufficient evidence of the truth and certainty of them.
3. The efficacy of this argument for the persuading men to a reformation of heart and life. There is great variety of arguments in the Christian religion to persuade men to holiness, but none more moving to the generality of mankind than this.Especially considering these two things —
1. That if this argument doth not persuade men, there is no reason to expect any other should.
2. That the condition of such persons is desperate, who cannot by any arguments be persuaded to leave off their sins.
(Bp. Stillingfleet.)I. THE DESIGN AND PRACTICAL TENDENCY OF THE THREATENINGS OF GOD IS TO PERSUADE MEN TO HOLY OBEDIENCE.
1. This will appear if we consider them as a measure of God's moral government. They are not empty threats, but are designed to secure the salutary effects of that government upon its subjects. This is apparent on the very face of them. They are annexed to the laws of that government, and their execution is connected only with the violation of its laws. It is essential to the very nature of a moral government that its authority be supported by threatened punishment. Without it, there is nothing to show that its claims are to be enforced; nothing to show that it may not be violated with impunity.
2. This design has been expressly declared.(1) On Sinai. Here even Moses exceedingly feared and quaked. And why? "That His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not." Similar impression was designed at the reading of the law at Ebal and Gerizim.(2) In the gospel commission, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned."(3) In the facts of Christian history. Look at the trembling jailor falling down before Paul and Silas; at the trembling and astonished Saul of Tarsus; at the three thousand pricked in the heart. And now say, whether these men despised the terror of the Lord, or felt it? The same gospel has produced the same effects in every age.
II. THE DIRECT TENDENCY OF THE DIVINE THREATENINGS IS TO PERSUADE MEN TO OBEY THE GOSPEL. Not that the Divine threatenings have such a tendency viewed as denunciations of mere suffering. To tell a man that he is exposed to the fires of hell may disquiet him; but so far from tending to excite holy affection in the cold heart of man, it tends only to harden in despair, or awaken more violent enmity against God. But if mere terror has no tendency to soften the heart into love, how is it that the threatenings of God have a tendency to subdue the heart into cheerful submission to His will? I answer —
1. By the solemn alternative which they reveal to man. Now, although the mere disclosure of this alternative, of obedience or death eternal, will never of itself convert the sinner, yet no sinner will ever be converted without it. If to array the terrors of the Almighty against the sinner will not weaken the ardour of earthly attachments, and check the ardour of earthly pursuits, nothing can. These, at any rate, are enough to do it.
2. By the manner in which they enforce the necessity of compliance with the terms of salvation. It is only when the sinner sees that the threatenings of God cannot be defied with safety, and that there is no other way of escape than that to which his own heart is desperately opposed, that he begins to stand in awe of his almighty Sovereign. And it is in the threatenings of the infinite God that he sees his helpless necessity of submitting to His terms.
3. By the evil of sin, which they show to the sinner. The evil of sin must be learned from God's estimate of it. Man, the sinner himself, is not a safe judge on this question. Now, what should we think of God's estimate of sin, had He annexed no penalty to transgression?
4. By this revelation of the character of God in its glory and excellence. This they do as they reveal the full measure of His abhorrence of sin. This is God's holiness, and His holiness is pre-eminently His glory. As God loves the happiness of His creatures, He loves their holiness as the only means of their perfect happiness. As He loves their holiness He abhors sin. God's abhorrence of sin, then, is the exact measure of His benevolence. If we would see God in His abhorrence of sin, we must see Him through the medium of His threatenings.
5. By the manner in which they unfold the claims of God for the sinner's obedience in all their pressure of obligation. By these it is that the sinner is made to see, if he sees at all, who and what that God is with whom he has to do.
6. By the fact that they are not absolute, but conditional. Absolute threatenings would have no salutary influence whatever. But "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."Conclusion:
1. What has been the influence of the Divine threatenings upon us? Saints, as well as sinners, ought to derive practical benefit from them.
2. We see why God threatens sin with eternal punishment.
3. The object of preaching terror is not to agitate with alarm, but to persuade.
4. We see the self-deception, and the hardihood in sin of those who scoff at the Divine threatenings.
(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)I. PERSUASION BASED UPON TERROR. But is there not a contradiction between terror and persuasion? When we speak of persuasion, we ordinarily indicate those milder methods of overcoming opposition or producing consent, which often succeed when anything severe would only excite additional resistance. And terror, in itself, is scarcely an instrument of persuasion. One man may be terrified into a thing, and another may be persuaded into that thing; but though we might try terror when we had failed in persuasion, or persuasion when we had failed in terror, we should hardly in any instance say that we used terror in order to persuade, any more than that we used persuasion in order to terrify. But it might easily come to pass that a person who had been terrified would on that account be better disposed to listen to persuasion. And this is what Paul means. He had no delight in terrifying men; but he felt that if he could once bring men to the feeling a dread of the punishment of sin, they would be better disposed to hearken to the gentle voice of the gospel. Thus we seek to "persuade men." We feel that in order to make men shun destruction we must make them aware of its fearfulness. With no view of keeping back from them the Saviour, but simply with the view of persuading them to receive Him, do we seek to show the terror of the Lord. And if I could now awaken in one of you an apprehension of God's wrath, with what eagerness, with what hope, should I then set before him the Cross I Then, if ever, should I find him disposed to cry from the heart, "Lord, save me, or I perish." And in this his trembling willingness to "lay hold on the hope set before him in the gospel," would there not be the most touching demonstration that the faith which saves may be closely allied with the fear which disturbs.
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF TRUTH. Paul expresses a thorough confidence as to the being "made manifest unto God," but he speaks with a measure of doubt as to the being made manifest in the consciences of the Corinthians. Now remember what the truths were to which the apostle thus thought that an echo would be found in the consciences of his hearers. They were evidently the truths of a judgment to come and of a propitiation for sin.
1. We are now before you simply to announce a judgment to come. And when I announce to you "the terror of the Lord," there is a voice heard in the solitude of your own souls announcing that I speak only truth. And it is a great source of encouragement to the preacher to be able thus to feel that he has conscience on his side. But if this be encouraging to the minister, it helps to make the hearer inexcusable if he do not listen to the communications with which he is plied.
2. The apostle, however, implies that the manifestation continued when he went on to set forth the gospel of redemption. And it is a great thing, that stupendous and multiplied as are the external evidences of the gospel, they are not indispensable to the proving its Divine origin to the man who examines it in humility and sincerity. Others may admire the impenetrable shield which the ingenuity of learned men has thrown over Christianity; we, for our part, glory more in the fact, that Scripture so commends itself to the conscience, and experience, that the gospel can go the round of the world and carry with it its own mighty credentials. There is nothing wanted but that you view yourselves as sinners, and you will feel that Christ is the Saviour whom you need. You will have the witness in yourselves. On this account may we justly speak of the attestation in the conscience, as the preacher, after wielding "the terror of the Lord," sets himself to persuade with the announcements of the gospel. Is there one amongst you who trembles at the thought of going before God as a sinner with the burden of all his iniquities resting upon him? Let that man listen. We seek now to persuade him (ver. 21). Does not this vast scheme of mercy commend itself to you? I think it must; I think that its very suitableness must be an evidence to you of its truth. I appeal to no miracles; but I feel that in proposing a mode of deliverance through the righteousness of Christ .to those who are weighed down by a sense of sin and a terror of judgment, I am proposing that which commends itself to them as exactly meeting their case.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
1. The principle and foundation, whereupon this practice of the apostles in their persuading of men was laid; and that was knowledge. We then persuade most effectually when we persuade knowingly. Thus in the beginning of this chapter, "we know," etc., that we have a building of God, a house, etc.
2. Here was the matter which this his persuasion was conversant about, and that was of judgment to come, a fundamental point of Christian religion.
3. Here was the order and method of this practice; beginning first with the terror of the Lord, and laying a ground-work there; that is the right method of the ministry, to begin with the preaching of the law, and showing them their lost condition.And this again we may conceive them to have done upon a three-fold consideration.
1. Faithfulness to God, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," that we may discharge the duty to Him who has entrusted us with this message.
2. Affection to God's people. Knowing this terror we persuade men, that so thereby we may thus better secure them.
3. Respect to ourselves; that is another thing in it: and to ourselves, not in a corrupt sense, but in a good and warrantable sense: to ourselves, i.e., to our own souls, as we desire to tender them. This account of the apostle's practice may be further amplified from some other considerations which do likewise lie in the text.As first, from the principle and foundation whereupon it was laid, and that was knowledge. And indeed that is the best persuasion of all which does arise and proceed from hence. This is that which becomes a servant of Christ, as the best principle of all to work upon, namely, his own knowledge and experience of those things which he speaks of.
2. As here is an account of his practice from the principle of it, so likewise from the matter and the thing itself; which is by beginning with terror, and laying judgment before them.
3. We may likewise here take notice of the order and method which is observed by him in all this; which is first of all informing himself, and then instructing of others. First, knowing, and after that persuading. There are some which invert this order. Begin first with persuading, and then come to knowing afterwards. Which will be teachers before they are learners. First, the work itself, and that is, we persuade men. Secondly, the principle of this working, or the motive that put them upon it, "Knowing the terror of the Lord."We begin with the last.
1. I say here is the object propounded, "the terror of the Lord." This was that which the apostle knew, and desired also to make known unto them for their edification. It is called the terror of the Lord, emphatically and exclusively, as hereby shutting out any other terror which does not so well consist with this, for we must know that there are sometimes false terrors as well as true. The devil, as he has his false comforts and raptures, so he has likewise his false fears.What kind of terrors are those?
1. The terror of the Word, in the threatenings and comminations of it, wherein is revealed from heaven the wrath of God against all unrighteousness, as the apostle speaks in Romans 1:18.
2. The terror of Divine impression upon the heart and conscience. This is sometimes called in Scripture the terror of the Almighty, which Job, and David, Haman, and such as these did sometimes partake of, when God Himself appears as an enemy.
3. The terror of judgment, and more especially of the day of judgment. The second is the apprehension of this object, in reference to the mind and understanding; and that is knowing. We see here upon what terms we proceed in religion; not upon mere fancies only, but upon a certainty and good assurance. But how did Paul know this terror of the Lord? He knew it divers ways — First, by immediate revelation and inspiration from God Himself: "I have received from the Lord that which I have delivered unto you." Secondly, he knew it also by discourse and collection of one thing from another. There is very good reason for it. Thirdly, he knew it also by experience, and by some sense of it upon himself in his own heart. There is no man that knows what sin is but he consequently knows what judgment is. The second is the work itself. We persuade men, where again four things more. First, for the act, or what it is which is done, it is persuading. First, it is a word of endeavour; we persuade, that is, we labour to do so. Secondly, it is a word of mollification. We persuade men; we do not compel them. The work of the ministry it is not a physical work, but a moral, and so is to be looked upon by us. Thirdly, this expression, we persuade, it is moreover a word of efficacy. Last of all, it is a word of condescension. We persuade men; that is, we satisfy them; do what we can to content them, and to remove all occasion of cavil or exception against us. The second is the object, or the persons to whom this persuading does reach — "men." Men persuade men. This word "men" in the text is at once both a word of latitude and likewise a word of restriction. So that we persuade men — that is, we persuade none but men such as these, as having interest in it. But further, so it is a word of latitude and enlargement, extending itself to all men whosoever they be, and that also in any rank or condition which we may possibly conceive them in. First of all, by taking men in opposition to God Himself, who needs not to be persuaded. And, secondly, in opposition to angels.The third thing here pertinently considerable, is what we persuade unto.
1. If they be as yet unconverted, we persuade them to believe.
2. As for those which are believers, we persuade men. One persuasion reaches to such as these amongst other men, that they would walk answerable to their profession. The fourth is, upon what ground, and that is hinted unto us from the coherence, in the words that went before, "Knowing the terror of the Lord." This is not the only argument; but it is that only which is here expressed. The second is in reference to their acceptance in these words, "But we are made manifest to God; and I trust: also are made manifest in your consciences." This is added to prevent an objection. It is true, indeed, Paul, you have told us a fair tale of yourself and of the rest of your brethren; with what great matters you attempt to do: but who thinks the better of you for all this? Who gives you any thanks for your labour? or who gives any great credit to that which you deliver?To this the apostle answers very discreetly — "But we are made manifest to God; and I trust also are made," etc. I begin with the first, viz., his acceptance with God — "We are made manifest unto God."
1. For our calling and gifts; we are manifest to God, so we are manifest to Him, as we are appointed by Him. The ministry, it is not a human invention. But secondly, there is another manifestation — a manifestation of performances, as to the exercise and improvement of those gifts which God has bestowed. The Lord knows our faithfulness and integrity in this business. And the apostle seems to make mention of this for a threefold purpose. First, as his duty in regard of his endeavour; we are manifest to God, and it is that which lies upon us so to be; we could not satisfy ourselves if we did not do so. Secondly, he makes mention of it as his happiness or privilege. Thirdly, here is also his comfort and satisfaction of mind in the reflection. First, I say, in case of concealment and retiredness, which carries an opposition with it to the manifestation of knowledge and discovery; it is a comfort to be made manifest to God, and to be known to Him where we are manifest nowhere else. Again, secondly, it is comfortable likewise, as in men's ignorance, so likewise in their neglect, by taking the word manifestation by way of allowance. We are manifest to God, says the apostle — that is, we are approved of Him. This was that which comforted him, even when it was not so with him in regard of men. And so you have the first part of this acceptance, as it refers to God — "But we are made manifest to God." The second is as it refers to the Corinthians: "And I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." This likewise, as well as the other, is added to prevent an objection; for here some might have been ready to have replied, You talk how you are manifested to God. Well, but what are you to the eyes of men? and what satisfaction do you give to them? To this now he answers, "And I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." First, for the thing itself, "We are made manifest in your consciences." First, in a way of efficacy, from that success which our ministry hath found upon them. This is one way of manifestation. The faith and graces of the Corinthians were a sufficient testimony to the apostle's ministry. The second is in a way of conviction or approbation. We are made manifest in your consciences, that is, your consciences do bear witness with us. This is the privilege of goodness, that it shall have men's consciences where it has not their affections. Though they love it not, yet they shall inwardly like it, and in their hearts secretly approve it, and set their seals unto it. Herod, though he loved not John Baptist, yet he reverenced him, and in his heart did admire him. Secondly, if ye take this your consciences a little more strictly restraining it to true believers, and those amongst these Corinthians which were faithful, that St. Paul and the rest were made manifest in their consciences indeed. Howsoever others may think of us, yet those which are faithful will approve us. "We are made manifest in you," etc. The second is the word of transition or introduction, I trust or hope. We may take notice also of this; and it carries a double notion in it. First, there was his desire in it, as he wished it might be; he desired to approve his ministry, and himself in the execution of his ministry, to the hearts and consciences of those which were faithful, that they might be sure to close with him. Secondly, as there was his desire in it, so there was also his confidence and expectation. I hope or trust; that is, I believe, and make account of it. It is a word of triumphant expression, as you have another of the like nature with it (1 Corinthians 7:6).
(T. Horton, D. D.)
I. CONSIDER THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE "THE TERROR OF THE LORD." —
1. There is a majesty about God which is calculated to inspire holy fear. This we realise if we compare God with heathen divinities.(1) Our God is infinite in wisdom, mercy, justice, and power. Many people have one-sided views of God, and hence fall into great error. Some deem Him all mercy, others all justice; as some have judged the ocean by a day of calm, others by a day of storm. Each view is a one-sided view. We could not revere a God who is all justice, or one who is all mercy.(2) There are no changes in His attributes. It is the same God we see in the Old Testament as in the New. The New Testament does not utter a sound that dashes with those from Sinai.
2. The context will help us understand the language of the text (ver. 10). God has made us know the dangers in the future that we might avoid them. There was an element of terror in the preaching of the apostles. Felix trembled.
II. "KNOWING, THEREFORE, THE TERROR OF GOD, WE PERSUADE MEN." Knowing the majesty, the holiness of God, and the necessity of the punishment of evil, we persuade men —
1. To abhor sin. There can be no honest repentance save it be founded on hatred of sin.
2. To forsake sin.
3. To flee to Christ for pardon. No man ever came to Saviour until he felt the need of a Saviour. Sinai points you to Calvary.
4. To labour for the salvation of others. It is a great cruelty not to make known the terrible consequences of sin to our fellow-men.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)I. THE MOTIVE POWER OF THE MINISTER (vers. 12, 14).Here we have two different feelings arising from two different circumstances. Terror, a conviction of a judgment to come. Love, a sense of gratitude, kindled by a conviction of the great grace of Him who died. The minister is inspired by his accountability to a righteous Judge and gratitude to a gracious Saviour. The minister stands between the Cross and the judgment. The ocean's tides are caused by the combined influence of sun and moon. Here, then, are the sun and moon of the minister's life. It is the combined attraction of these that fills his life with power and devotion. Consider —
1. The love of Christ as forming one of the motive powers of the ministry.(1) He who undertakes it must do so without any regard to worldly gain. But let it be borne in mind that this does not release the churches from their duty to see that those who preach the gospel live by the gospel.(2) It must be carried on without any abatement of zeal in the face of apparent want of success. Men, when engaged in any business which they find does not pay, are at liberty to exchange it for some other. But the minister has not this liberty. What motive is sufficiently powerful to secure this persistent clinging to a work which seems in spite of every effort to bear no fruit? The absorbing love of Christ is alone equal to the task. In success men find a great stimulus to labour; but very often the minister is denied this stimulus. Carey, for seven long years of his missionary life, laboured without seeing one convert to reward his labour or sustain his faith.
2. "The terror of the Lord," as forming another motive. The "terror" here is the deep conviction which Paul had, that he was accountable to God. Having these overwhelming thoughts and convictions, he persuaded men. But it was not alone as a stimulus that this conviction of a judgment served. In the verses following he shows that it was of immense comforting use to him. Men judged him falsely, but he was sustained under such treatment by the conviction that there was another Judge before whom he would have to stand. "We are made manifest unto God."
II. THE LEVER POWER OF THE MINISTRY. The ministry is a provision for persuading men to a certain course, by "beseeching" and "praying" them as if God did it. Never were men called upon to work upon materials so intrinsically valuable. The greatest geniuses have deemed it not unworthy of them to spend themselves in labour upon wood, stones, metals, and canvas. But these are all material sub. stances; and even the toughest of them are perishable. What are they compared with that upon which the minister is called to work — mind, heart, intellect, conscience, and will! Here is work worthy of God; for it is as His substitute you are required to do it.
2. What, then, of the weapons whereby such glorious work is accomplished? Seeing that the work is moral, the weapons must needs be of the same nature and quality. The work, then, must be effected through the instrumentality of motives, and these are, according to the text, the terror of the Lord and the love of Christ — the Cross and the judgment. You may find the thinker, the scholar, and the orator in the same person, but in the absence of the two great truths in question, "the love of Christ" and "the terror of the Lord," there will be no minister, whatever else there may be. Conclusion: One of the wonders of. physical science is an instrument called a concave mirror. If this instrument is held opposite the sun it has a marvellous burning power. Archimedes employed some such instrument as this to destroy the Roman fleet whilst it besieged the city of Syracuse. The gospel ministry is a kind of concave mirror for concentrating the light of the two mighty truths which form its themes upon the hearts and consciences of men. A marvellous example of its power in this respect has been furnished to us in the proceedings of the day of Pentecost.
(A. J. Parry.)
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