But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus--the ministry of testifying to the good news of God's grace.
I. A DIVINE CREATION. "Received of the Lord Jesus."
1. After the pattern of Christ's own mission.
2. By the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. Not by education or any lower means. Not influenced by worldly motives.
3. In the spirit of a witness, simply declaring the gospel; recognizing that "the gospel of the grace of God" is "the power of God" to men's salvation.
II. AN EXAMPLE OF SPIRITUAL HEROISM.
1. Victory over fear and selfish calculation.
2. Endurance in toil. The work of the ministry never finished while there are souls to be saved.
3. Superiority to the influence of lower types of character in the Church of Christ. A true man will not be swayed by opinion. The spiritual hero must reckon with the world's spirit of compromise and the Church's lack of sympathy; he must be sometimes misunderstood and maligned.
4. Lively expectation of the future. Paul constantly animated by the prospect of the whole world the kingdom of Christ. The true missionary must lay hold of the future by faith. The missionary spirit in the Church is very different from mere visionary optimism, or speculative scheming for mankind. It is not like the socialistic spirit which easily becomes revolutionary, or the spirit of religious fanaticism which easily becomes cruel and self-destructive; it is based on distinct promises, and it lifts up the whole nature into the light of God. It is the true enthusiasm of humanity (see Isaac Taylor's 'Lectures on Spiritual Christianity'). - R.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself.
I. CALM DETERMINATION.
1. As to himself. He is greatly concerned as to the conduct of his own life. He has a great work to perform, and he is most anxious that nothing should mar it, or reflect discreditably upon the great purpose of the gospel. He looks well to the end, but is vigilant all along the road. To finish as he would desire he must keep his loins well girded. He anticipates the crown, but meanwhile he is ready to bear the Cross unmoved.
2. His ministry. About this he was most jealous. Since he had first asked, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" he had been "instant in season and out of season" in the pursuit of that one grand work of "testifying the gospel of the grace of God." Such determination could not be changed, such preaching none could silence.
II. READY SACRIFICE. "Neither count I my life clear," etc.
1. This was no empty boast. Paul had already suffered. His Lord to him was ever more than his own life.
2. It was a spiritual appraisement. What was his life in comparison with that ministry with which he bad been put in trust? What his convenience or comfort? He could willingly "suffer the loss of all things," and even "count them but dung," that the great cause might be served (Romans 8:18).
III. SIMPLE STEADFASTNESS. He who exhorted others to be steadfast was a consistent exponent of his own teaching. This would have great influence now with the elders of Ephesus.
1. Outward circumstances had no tendency to draw him aside. "None of these things move me." He could say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep," etc. There was firm conviction, solid faith, calm rest, simple steadfastness.
2. His words stretched away into the future. As to themselves, see vers. 29, 30. As for himself, he would finish his course with joy. He had put his hand to the plough and would not look back. The prize was infinitely worthy of the work, the race, the fight.
(E. M. Houchin.)
Homilist.Paul betrays in these words several valuable characteristics.
I. FIRMNESS. "None of these things move me." What things?
1. Excitement of travelling. How weary and tired.
2. Love of the Churches. Ephesus (chap. Acts 20.); Tyre (Acts 21:4, 5).
3. Personal friendship (vers. 8-13). Philip, Timothy, Luke, Silas, etc.
II. SELF-SACRIFICE. "Neither count I my life dear," etc. (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16). His life was daily self-sacrifice, and death would be but short pain. But Paul's life was not his own; hence his Master would take care of His own property; and Paul could say, Philippians 1:23, 24.
III. PERSEVERANCE. "So that I might finish my course," etc. Paul was now on his way to Jerusalem with the offerings of the Gentile Churches to the poor in that city. It was a part of his "ministry"; he could not turn aside, whatever the result.
IV. GRATITUDE. "To testify the gospel of the grace of God" (ver. 13). "For the name of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 2:20), "who loved me." Yet he loved earthly friends too; how hard to grieve them! "If you weep thus you will break my heart, though you cannot divert me from my work."
I. THE FACT THAT A MAN WAS ABLE TO SAY OF ALL THE AFFLICTIONS OF LIFE, "NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME." We have here —
1. Calmness. It is a great gift of God, to think deliberately, to speak discreetly, to act wisely. Self-possession is a great secret of life; and I know no road to real self-possession but true religion. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you."
2. Elevation. He looks down upon "these things," and says, "None of them move me." For so it is with a spiritual mind, as it is with the natural senses — when we get up high, things, which looked before so large, grow so diminutive. Elevation — getting nearer to the grandnesses of eternity — makes the things of this little world seem what they really are.
3. Independence. The man who wishes to be independent of external circumstances must be dependent upon God.
II. THAT PAUL CONNECTS "NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME" WITH "NEITHER COUNT I MY LIFE DEAR UNTO MYSELF." The less is in the greater. If what man calls "life" is "not dear to him," then, undoubtedly, all the circumstances of life could not be very great to him. But then the question comes, How is a man to be able to say this? By having a deep inner life which supersedes that outer life, which to every natural man is everything. But it is not only so — for he who has the life of grace is always looking on, through it, to the life of glory; and this life becomes, in the balance, very little, because he is always living on, by faith, in that life of glory, to which he is hastening.
III. HE GOES ON, "SO THAT I MIGHT FINISH MY COURSE WITH JOY." To him life was a race, and, like a good runner, he thought of the goal as the recompense for all the difficulties of the way. And what is it to "finish the course with joy"? To hold on a consistent life, through God's grace, to the end; and when that end comes, to put no shame on our profession; but to be able to "testify the grace of God," and glorify a dying hour; and then, as we pass away, to see the crown waiting in our Saviour's hand, and to have the full and confident expectation that we are going to receive the recompense. If you can see that end all that stands in the way will "not move you."
IV. HE LOOKED AT HIS WORK: "And the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." The great remedy for affliction is work; and, being Christian work, it is sure to be the antidote of trial. Now, St. Paul turned away from "the bonds and the afflictions," and he thought of his "ministry"; and, if so be he could only work at this, it was enough for his consolation. And what is this work? Is not it always to be "living witnesses" by our life — by our words — by our works — to the gospel — the great, gladdening process — the perfect goodness and free favour of God. And, if only you can realise that work, you will be able to say of "this life," "it is not dear to you"!
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)Francis Xavier) "those islands had scented woods and mines of gold, Christians would have courage enough to go thither, nor would all the perils in the world prevent them. They are dastardly and alarmed, because there are only the souls of men to be gained. And shall love be less hardy than avarice? 'They will destroy me,' you say, 'by poison.' It is an honour to which such a sinner as I am may not aspire. But this I dare to say, that whatever form of torture or of death awaits me, I am ready to suffer it ten thousand times for the salvation of a single soul." The spirit that breathed in those words was the spirit of an utterly selfless love; and every man amongst us, who can even faintly echo them, has placed his hands upon the secret springs of power.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
So that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus.I. The first infinitely important truth taught by our text is that TO EACH OF US A COURSE HAS BEEN PRESCRIBED, WHICH EACH MAY CALL HIS COURSE, AND WHICH EACH IS TO FINISH. "My course," says the apostle; but how forgetful are we all here. How constantly do we find Christians pleading something in their present condition as an excuse for their unfaithfulness, and persuading themselves that in other circumstances they would be more holy and devoted. "Had I but other talents," says the slothful servant, "I would be useful." "For my part," argues a second, "were I only free from these embarrassments, nothing would interrupt my zeal and charity." Let us settle in our minds this proposition, that to each individual God assigns his own course, and that his piety, and happiness, and acceptance, depend not on the course itself, but on his fulfilling it — not on the sphere in which the Christian moves, but on his glorifying God in it. An angel, sent to live on this earth, would not be at all concerned whether he were seated on a throne of diamond, or toiled as a scavenger sweeping the streets. His only solicitude would be about occupying the place designated for him, and glorifying God there. And we, if we would be useful or happy, must cultivate the temper of that angel. It is recorded of John the Baptist, that he "fulfilled his course." Paul says, "I have finished my course." How different the courses of these remarkable men I need not tell you; each, however, completed his course, and this constituted his piety. And just so now; how diversified are our circumstances, our trials, and duties, and difficulties.
II. TO EVERY MAN A CERTAIN AND DEFINITE TIME IN GIVEN IN WHICH TO FINISH HIS COURSE: "His days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass."
III. WHAT EFFECT THE TRUTHS I HAVE BEEN URGING MAY HAVE ON YOUR MINDS, I, OF COURSE, CANNOT TELL. Upon Paul their influence was constant and powerful, as you see in the text. They filled him with ardour; they armed him for every event of life. They caused him to forget the past, to rise above the present, to fix his eye with an eagle gaze on the future, and to feel that the only object worthy of his cares, and toils, and sacrifices, was the glorious consummation, the joyful termination of his course. What, then, is the import of the language before us? I answer, it denotes plainly, that in the Christian's estate the finishing his course with joy is the great concern of life. Other and indispensable duties engage his hands; but they are only by-work, they are not the grand object. This is another import of the language of the text. It expresses the earnestness and intentness of the Christian's application to the course before him; and, once more, the words denote the constancy of that application.
IV. I place such a man, for example, amidst the temptations and allurements of the world; BUT FOR HIM HOW IMPOTENT THEIR ASSAULTS AND SOLICITATIONS! Maxims of this world, how false are ye all in his eyes! Examples of this world, how pernicious do your unsearchable seductions appear! No, the world is unmasked. The pleasures he seeks are pure and celestial. Eternal riches inflame his avarice. True glory is the object of his competition. I place this man, again, amidst the fears and discouragements of the believer. Fears, discouragements, how many, and from how many sources! Ah! see, he is now exposed to shame. He is persecuted and seized and forsaken. If the world despise him, he knows how to despise the world in return. And he sternly pursues his career with a courage only strengthened by opposition. And what more shall I add? In his afflictions, in all his trials and conflicts and sufferings, what ineffable consolations does not such a man taste; with what holy firmness is he not armed? "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." I was right, then, when I affirmed that in view of the joyful termination of his course, the Christian can be prepared for every event of life. And I was equally right in saying that such a prospect can do more; that it can make the Christian intrepid, nay triumphant, in the last hour, the trying conflict with death itself. Death is not to him what it is to all others.
1. In the first place, such a man has formed a correct estimate of life.
2. In the next place, the very life which the Christian I am describing leads, must prepare him for death by weaning him from all earthly things. He dies daily to the world.
(R. Fuller.)I. HIS STEADFAST RESOLUTION AND FIRMNESS OF MIND UNDER PRESENT TRIALS. And this lies in two things.
1. That he was not moved by them: he was immovable at the threatening prospect. The expression imports not only a fixed resolution, but a wise and rational determination of mind, upon a due weighing and comparing things together, and considering the reasons on either hand. Nor was this a vain boast; for we find him steady and unmoved, preserving a firmness and composure of mind, and expressing a noble triumph and joy, in the greatest trials he met with (Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Romans 8:18).
2. He did not value his life. "Neither count I my life dear to myself." I know the worst which can befall me, and the utmost my enemies can do; they can only kill the body, and take away my life; and I am so far from being afraid of suffering that I am not afraid of dying. My life is devoted to Christ, and 'tis the same thing to me to lay it out or lay it down for Him, to spend it in painful service or lose it by violent suffering. And we find this was actually the case, and the temper he expressed upon the trial (Acts 21:13; Philippians 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:6).
II. HIS GREAT DESIRE AND AIM IN IT, or what he proposed to himself, and had in his eye, in this resolution of mind: "That I may finish my course," etc.
1. To settle the sense and meaning of the expressions. "To finish my course," to perfect my course, and bring it to an end; to run out my race: for the allusion is to racers who run within the lines marked out to the appointed goal. "And the ministry I have received of the Lord." διακονίαν: If this word is agonistical, and signified the servants who attended in the race, the allusion is still preserved, and the expression the more beautiful. It plainly refers to the apostleship, or his extraordinary ministry immediately received from Christ. "To testify the gospel of the grace of God." To testify was proper to the apostles, who were peculiarly the witnesses of Christ. It was the "gospel of the grace of God," as it contained the greatest instance and display of the favour of God to the guilty world, and was bestowed upon any place by a special favour. "With joy," with cheerfulness and satisfaction of mind. The sense is, that I may fully execute the extraordinary commission immediately received from Christ, and have the satisfaction of a faithful discharge of it. Now, the finishing our course, whether Christian or ministerial, may be considered to signify, either —(1) The entireness and completeness of it, or the performing every part of our proper work. In this sense we finish our course when we perform all the work which is cut out for us, and fill up the several capacities and relations of life with answerable duty, according to the circumstances of our condition and abilities of usefulness and opportunities of good (Psalm 119:6; Luke 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Colossians 4:12). We leave our course unfinished in this view of it when it is defective, and we live in the neglect of any part of the Christian duty, or suffer any Divine command or appointment to be disregarded. Or —(2) Perseverance unto the end. It is not enough to enter upon the Christian state, or go a considerable way in it; but we must go through it and reach the end of it (Luke 1:15; Luke 8:15, Hebrews 12:1). Or else —(3) The cheerfulness and pleasure which ought to attend it (2 Corinthians 1:2; 1 John 3:21; Romans 15:13).
2. I shall consider more largely the grounds of it, or the reasons of such a desire and aim in all the sufferings and troubles of life. I shall consider them as extending to the common case of Christians, and represent and urge them ill all the various views referred to in the Scripture, the more to impress and affect our minds.(1) Our course is by the appointment and will of God. He is the Master of the race, who has marked out the ground, and prescribed the length and limits of the way we are to run. He has cut out our work and service in the stated duties of the Christian life, and the special services in which we are engaged. He has made it our duty by the appointment of His will, who is the sovereign Lord of the creature, and has a right to prescribe and to be obeyed. Besides, we are under the strongest obligations to God. We have taken the oath of allegiance and sworn fidelity to this great Lord. And our engagement in His service and acknowledgment of His authority is a standing obligation; as he who undertakes to run a race is obliged to exert himself and do his best to win the prize, or he who lists himself in the service is obliged to fight and obey orders.(2) There is a great savour and grace attending it. The Christian course itself is a dispensation of grace, attended with singular privileges and great advantages, and vouchsafed to any place by special favour (Romans 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:1). We have many merciful assistances of light and grace; clearer discoveries of the will of God, and more powerful influence and aids, than the religion of mere nature, or any former dispensation of God to the world. We have the outward helps of gospel ordinances, which are wisely fitted to reach their gracious ends, to enlighten and refresh our minds, and recruit our spiritual strength; and the inward succours of the Divine presence and spirit (Ephesians 3:16; Romans 8:26; Romans 5:5; Romans 15:13). And how reasonable is steadfastness and perseverance under such encouragements and advantages! We are concerned in gratitude to God, and from a sense of kindness, to perform the Christian duty and finish our course, which is not only a wise and reasonable service, but made easy under all its difficulties by Divine aids.(3) The great danger we are in of failing and miscarrying. Our present graces and virtues are very imperfect, the appetites and passions of our natures are strong and unruly. There are many snares of sin round about us, many sensible objects, the baits of concupiscence, suitable to our various inclinations and temper of mind, and every circumstance and condition of life. And there is the old serpent the devil, the watchful adversary, who is always ready to deceive and ensnare us, to throw a false light upon things, to strike upon the weak side of our nature, to take the advantage of an unguarded moment, and make the best of every opportunity. And when these two things meet together, the weakness of our virtue and the strength of a well-timed and well-managed temptation, how great must our danger be! how easily are we drawn into sin and discouraged in the Christian course! The apostle uses this consideration in his own case (1 Corinthians 9:26). And upon this ground he often exhorts the Christians to caution and watchfulness (1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 12:15; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11).(4) The honour of religion and of the Divine grace is very much concerned in it. It is the end crowns the work, and gives the glory and perfection to the whole. But now, on the other hand, when a Christian forsakes his profession and lets go his confidence; when the prevalence of sin and the power of temptation carry him off, and he is again entangled and overcome; how dishonourable is it to religion, what a reflection does it cast upon the Divine grace! It opens the mouth of insulting enemies, and ministers to their reproach and triumph, as if they had prevailed against all the succours of religion and aids of grace: so the name of God is blasphemed through them.(5) Unless we finish our course, all we have done in the meantime will be lost and in vain. We had as good do nothing as not to do to the purpose. We lose all we have been doing, as well as all we expect.(6) It will fare worse with us than if we had never begun. They who fall away after good beginnings, and forsake the profession and practice of religion after some trial and continuance, are in a more hazardous state, and of all others most difficulty recovered (Hebrews 6:4). And the reason is, they have laid waste their conscience, and are enslaved by sin, and have forfeited all friendly and gracious regards from God. Yea, and they fall under a greater displeasure from God, as they have abused a greater grace.(7) It is necessary to the final reward. He who fights in a warfare must first overcome before he is crowned and triumphs. We must be good and faithful servants before we can receive the approbation of our judge.(8) I would further suggest, especially to elder Christians, You are near finishing, and have not much of your course to run. You have held out a great while, perhaps through many trials of life; how sad would it be to miscarry at last! That would be like a ship richly laden, after a long and dangerous voyage from a far distant country, suffering shipwreck, or bulging upon a rock, in the harbour's mouth.(9) It will make our passage out of the world at last more easy, and our entrance into heaven joyful. To this purpose the apostle directs (Hebrews 6:11).
1. I infer from hence that every Christian has his course of service appointed by God. How cheerful and ready will all our obedience be when we are thoroughly satisfied of the right of the authority and the reason of the command?
2. We must be prepared and resolved against difficulties and trials in our way. We must cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart, and not be soon shaken in mind, if we hope to be steadfast and unmovable, and not to fall from our own steadfastness.
3. We must not grudge our lives in the service of Christ, or think much to lay them down for His sake.
4. We learn from hence what to think of those who have not yet begun the Christian course; who have never heartily set about the Christian life, or been in good earnest in it, but lived in ignorance and careless neglect, in a deep security and unconcern of mind, or under governing habits and customs of sin; who are taken up with the business or vanities of life, and pursue their pleasures and interests in it, but never made a personal surrender of themselves to God, or made it their daily endeavour to do His will or be approved of Him; who never made religion the care of their souls or the business of their lives. The longer you continue in this state the farther you are from your end. These two are direct extremes, and stand at the greatest distance from one another, the finishing our course, and not beginning it. And what if you should die in the meantime, and be called off the stage of the world, while you are only considering and designing, and before you begin to act a proper part in it, or have done anything in order to it?
5. It is not enough to begin well, but we must finish our course too. There will be always something to do as long as we live, though life were extended to never so great a length, towards finishing our course and coming off well at last. And it should be our daily endeavour that the longer we live the better we may be, more refined from all sinful and earthly allay, more improved and confirmed in the Divine life, and fitted for the heavenly state, that our last days may be our best days, and our last works more than the first.
6. How happy are they who have finished their course! The satisfaction and joy which arises in a Christian's mind upon the finishing his course is unspeakable and glorious, and will recompense all the labour and sorrow he has met with in the way. And there is a great deal of reason for it, for when he has finished his course he is past all danger of miscarrying and being lost, and is placed out of the reach of temptation and snare and every envious and malicious power. And what reason have we of comfort, and not to sorrow as those who have no hope, for them who have finished their course and sleep in Jesus!
7. How much should it be our concern that present trials may not discourage us, and that we may finish our course with joy! Have you any work for God upon your hands or in your design? Leave it not neglected or unfinished, but make all proper dispatch. Is there any part of the Christian course, any ordinance of worship or duty of life, which lies neglected? See that it be immediately performed and attended to. Are there any of the graces of the Christian life remarkably defective, or any sins more than ordinary prevalent? Labour earnestly to have the one strengthened and improved and the other mortified and subdued, that what is lacking may be perfected, and that you may strengthen the things which remain.
(W. Harris, D. D.)
Homilist."Finish my course." There is a solemnity about the completion of anything. It may he a triumphant success or a disastrous failure. "Finish my course." All things must come to an end. No earthly being or object can go on forever. The river runs till it reaches the ocean, but it ceases then. "Finish my course." How much does this presuppose! The end implies the beginning. The course implies all the incidental events and changing scenes of the journey. "Finish my course with joy." All men finish their course and arrive at the goal. But how few there are who finish their course with joy! Too often the end brings grief, too often the arrival is at a miserable store of sorrow.
I. We have GREAT DESIRE — "That I might," etc. Joy is the great thing for which the human heart is always craving. And the joy here alluded to is not the transitory gratification of the moment, but the eternal joy of heaven. It is for this the Christian works, for this the Christian waits. This is his support through all the trials and difficulties of life. And this our Lord has taught us to desire. He Himself set us the example. "For the joy that was set before Him," etc.
1. He will see that he is on the right road. It is impossible to finish the course with joy if we are on the wrong track.
2. He will see that he is exercising right methods. Among the many who would desire joy there is a large proportion who are mistaken in their ideas as to the method of obtaining it.
3. He will see that he is walking under right direction. He who trusts himself will fall, for he has no power to help himself. We must place ourselves under the entire direction of the revealed teaching of the Holy Spirit.
II. ANXIETY. There is a fear lest the desire might not be gratified. It is well that this should[ be so. Pride goeth before all.
1. For, alas, it is possible to fail to realise this desire.
2. But the end, if attained, is all-important and momentous. It will make no difference whether a man has been born a king or a pauper, a merchant or a plough boy, if the end is peace and joy.Two urgent thoughts are to be impressed on us here.
1. We cannot possibly anticipate a joyous end unless we live the life of the righteous, and the wish will be as vain as was the desire of Balaam.
2. We cannot possibly anticipate a joyous end unless that end is "in the Lord." "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."
1. When he has the peace of a good conscience, relying on the consciousness of faithful labour, and on the assurance of Divine grace (vers. 18-20, 26, 27).
2. When he leaves behind him in the world the seed of the kingdom of God, which will spring up over his grave by the labour of his honest successors, and by the faithfulness of the Eternal God (vers. 28-32).
3. When he ventures to hope in heaven for the gracious reward of his Lord (ver. 24).
(K. Gerok.)I. BY EARLY CONSECRATION. Salvation may be found in advanced life, but one of the richest joys of salvation is that of being able to say in manhood and in old age, "I have feared the Lord from my youth."
II. BY CONSISTENT PROFESSION. It is a grand thing when a backslider is truly restored, but grander far when there is no backsliding from which to be restored. What joy in being able to say at life's close, "My heart has not gone back, neither have my feet declined from Thy ways."
III. BY FAITHFUL, SELF-SACRIFICING SERVICE. This is rendered not only by missionaries and ministers, but by Christians in all spheres of life. In and for the Church, the school, and the world is a special work for each servant of the Lord. If it be done faithfully, cheerfully, lovingly, we shall finish our course with joy and have the abundant entrance, etc.
Biblical Museum.Speaking of the wreck of the steamer in which Dr. Armstrong, secretary of the American Board, perished, Dr. J. W. Alexander says: "They already expected to go to pieces at sunset, but they did not till 4 a.m. "All night in the howling storm, the fires all out, the cold insufferable, a few biscuits, but no drink, and the bell toiling all the while. The last time Dr. Armstrong is reported to have been seen, he was standing above, surveying the scene, perfectly calm; he then uttered these words, I think to a hearer of mine. 'I entertain hope that we may reach the shore; but if not, my confidence is firm in that God who doeth all things in wisdom and love.'" Surely no man in the serenity of a dying chamber could be better employed.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
I. APPOINTED. "My times are in Thy hand" — the time of birth, death, prosperity, adversity, usefulness. The appointment is —
1. High in its authority.
2. Wise in its regulations.
3. Good in its designs.
1. Hence we have to admire the care of God in his preservation.
2. Then what opportunities for usefulness in so long a career.
III. CONSISTENT. He was governed by —
1. Christian principle.
3. "Patient continuance in well-doing."
4. Endurance to the end.
V. FINISHED WITH JOY.
(S. Eldridge.)I. EVERY LIFE HAS A MISSION.
1. Every life involves the highest powers in the universe. Their scope includes immortality as well as time. To build the soul within; to shape a graceful statue, or write a noble song, or construct a railroad, or send argosies across the seas are grand works, but not so grand as this.
2. Consecration to God's service. To make our home life more sweet and tender and joyful, and through the forces of character in ourselves to bless society; by instruction, gift, and example.
3. No one lacks opportunity. Resources which seem feeble have a vital part in the accomplishment of our mission.
II. WHOSOEVER ACCOMPLISHES HIS ERRAND WITH A STEADFAST PURPOSE WILL FINISH IT WITH JOY.
1. He enjoys peace of conscience.
2. He rests in the consciousness of God's approval.
3. He will be rewarded in the life to come.
4. The fruits of his fidelity will continue.
III. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THIS DIVINE MISSION AND ITS FULFILMENT IS THE SECRET OF A JOYOUS LIFE. The Christian hastes onward to his goal with gladness as the ship speeding to the harbour unmindful of the spray which, because of its very speed, dashes across its deck.
IV. HERE IS THE SECRET OF VICTORY.
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
Theological Sketchbook.I. THE NAME AND SIGNIFICATION OF IT. The Greek word used for it signifies a good message, good news, glad tidings.
II. THE AUTHOR AND ORIGIN OF THE GOSPEL.
1. It is not of man; a device and invention of men (Galatians 1:11, 12).
2. The gospel is from heaven. It is good news from a far country.
III. THE EFFECT OF THE GOSPEL WHEN ATTENDED WITH THE POWER AND SPIRIT OF GOD.
IV. THE PROPERTIES OF THE GOSPEL.
1. It is but one; there is another, as the apostle says (Galatians 1:6, 7).
2. It is called, from the objects of it, the gospel of the circumcision, and the gospel of the uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7).
4. It is an everlasting gospel; which is the epithet given it (Revelation 14:6).
To testify the gospel of the grace of God.
I. WHAT WAS THIS GOSPEL FOR WHICH PAUL WOULD DIE?
1. It is not everything called "gospel" which would produce such enthusiasm, or deserve it. It is not worth while to die for a doctrine which will itself died out. I have lived long enough to see half a dozen new gospels rise, flourish, and decay. I have heard of one improvement upon the old faith and then of another; and philosophical divines are still improving their theology. I should like to ask them whether there is any positive doctrine in the Bible at all; and whether the martyrs were not fools to die for what the advance of thought has cast into disuse.
2. What is this gospel which Paul valued before his own life? That which most forcibly struck the apostle was that it was a message of grace, and of grace alone. In these days that word "grace" is not often heard; we hear of moral duties, and scientific adjustments, and human progress. But grace is the essence of the gospel, the one hope for this fallen world, the sole comfort of saints looking forward for glory.
2. The gospel is the good news of grace.(1) It is an announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty man on the ground of free favour and pure mercy. There would be no good news in saying that God is just; for that is not news — we know that God is just; and if it were news, yet it would not be good news, for we have all sinned, and upon the ground of justice we must perish. But it is news of the best kind, that the Judge of all is prepared to pardon transgression, and to justify the ungodly. This is a message worth dying for, that through the covenant of grace God can be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. That God is merciful and gracious, and is ready to bless the most unworthy, is a wonderful piece of news, worth a man's spending a hundred lives to tell.(2) In the gospel there is also revealed a motive for mercy which is in agreement with the grace of God. God, the highest of all intelligences, acts upon the highest reasons. He finds a motive in His own nature and mercy since He could not find it anywhere else. He will deal with guilty men according to the sovereignty of His will, "to the praise of the glory of His grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."(3) In order to the accomplishment of the designs of grace it was necessary further that a gospel message should be issued full of promise, encouragement, and blessing. It speaks on this wise: Sinner, just as you are, return unto the Lord, and He will receive you graciously and love you freely. God hath said, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."(4) That this gospel blessing might come within the reach of men, God's grace has adopted a method suitable to their condition. "How can I be forgiven?" saith one. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." God asks of you no good works, nor good feelings, but that you be willing to accept what He most freely gives. Dost thou say, "But faith itself seems beyond my reach"? Then, in the gospel of the grace of God we are told that even faith is God's gift, and that He works it in men by His Holy Spirit. "But I fear I should go back to sin; for I have no strength by which to keep myself for the future." Hearken! the gospel of the grace of God is this, that He will keep thee to the end. I read in an old book a dream of one who was under concern of soul. He fell asleep and dreamed that he was out in the wilds in a terrible storm. He ran to the first house before him, but was denied admittance. He that dwelt there was named Justice, and he said in angry tones, "Get thee gone — I cannot shelter a traitor to his King and God!" He fled to the next house, the mansion of Truth. Truth said, "Thou art full of falsehood, thou canst not sojourn here." He fled to the home of Peace; but Peace said, "Begone! there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." He could not then tell what to do, for the storm waxed yet more furious: when lo! he saw a portal over which was written "Mercy." "Ay," said he, "this is the place for me, for I am guilty." The door was open and he was welcomed there. To that house come in and be at rest.
II. HOW CAN WE LIVE FOR THIS GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD? If anybody is to live for this gospel —
1. He must have received it from God, and he must have received a call to minister or serve for it, and feel himself under bonds to hold and keep it; not so much because he has chosen it, but because it has chosen him.
2. He must make it known. Wherever Paul went he published the gospel. "Oh," says one, "I cannot make it known; people would pay me no respect." Just what they said about Paul — "his personal presence is weak." "Oh, but I am no speaker." That also is what they said of Paul — "His speech is contemptible." "Oh, but if I were to say anything, I could not adorn it." But Paul says, "We use great plainness of speech."
3. He must testify to the gospel — i.e., bear personal witness to it. Paul was specially qualified to testify, and how sweetly he told out the gospel of the grace of God when he said, "I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering for a pattern," etc. Cannot you tell of your conversion, and let men know how free grace came to you when you looked not for it?
4. Nor would Paul end there; for he would often tell how, when he had been stoned and tried by false brethren, he had been upheld by the grace of God, and also what he had experienced of heavenly joys. My friend, if the gospel has done nothing for you, hold your tongue or speak against it; but if the gospel has done for you what it has done for some of us, tell it wherever you go; and make men know that even if they reject it, it is to you the power of God unto salvation, and will be the same to every man that believeth.
III. WHY WE SHOULD LIVE TO MAKE KNOWN THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Because —
1. It is the only gospel in the world. These mushroom gospels of the hour, which come and go like a penny newspaper, which has its day and then is thrown aside, have no claim on any man's zeal. These changing moons of doctrine are alienating the mass of the people from going to any place of worship at all. Why should they come to hear uncertainties?
2. It is for God's glory. It makes man nobody, but God is all-in-all.
3. Thus you will glorify Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
(J. A. James.)
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