Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.
I. BE SURE THAT YOU HAVE THE TRUTH. You cannot hold forth what you do not possess. Business to be honest must have actual stock or capital. Our commercial and agricultural circles have been and are now disturbed by gambling in "deals" and "futures." Thousands of barrels of oil that never existed, and millions of bushels of grain that never were harvested, have been made the basis of mere speculation. Mortgage and ruin have overtaken multitudes in this illegitimate traffic. There is a godless spiritualism, a Christless Unitarianism, and a Scriptureless "new theology," which, however curious they may be, have no breath or life in them for a hungry soul. You might as well send a starving man to a bucket shop for bread as to satisfy your soul with such speculations. The wife of Abraham made cakes for the angels. There have been improvements in bread making since Sarah's day, but nobody yet has been able to make bread without flour. You must have the grain to begin with, and so you must have the truth, the bread of life, before you attempt to feed the famine of the soul.
II. BE SURE THAT YOU HAVE IT UNADULTERATED. Commissions have discovered food adulterations. Innutritious if not poisonous matter has been mixed with wholesome flour, cheapening and degrading it. So the truth has been vitiated by a mixture of philosophy, tradition, etc. It fails to nourish starving souls. The best test of purity is its effect on your own life. Daniel tested the wholsomeness of his coarse pulse, and showed a fairer hue than those who fed on royal dainties.
III. BE SURE THAT YOU YOURSELVES ARE LIVING EPISTLES OF WHAT YOU INTELLECTUALLY HOLD. It is not the printed book that does the work, but the truth which has become the vital texture of your soul. We have a revised version of the Bible for which we are thankful, but every Christian should be a new transcript, a walking word of God. A military man sees at a glance whether a soldier has been trained under old or new schools. Men are not slow to detect whether or not you have been trained by Christ.
IV. HOW TO HOLD THE TRUTH.
1. Not as the miser holds his gold, but hold to give. The merchant gets to give. He is ruined if he cannot sell, and his goods are left to spoil. We ought to be as anxious to disperse as to acquire.
2. Lovingly. Tact is needed in business. Anybody can buy, but to sell is another thing. I once asked a salesman why he was so talkative to one customer and so taciturn to another, and he said that he had always studied character, and knew very quickly how to handle men.
3. Constantly. Notice the present participle in the text, and the continuous action implied. You cannot cover up the Christian character and live. It must have breath. In descending into deep wells, men first lower a candle. If it goes out, they know that death damps are there. No sane person would risk asphyxia. There are places in which no Christian ought to risk himself, because death is there. He will not go to drinking saloons, and other places I need not mention. It is not the darkness there that harms, any more than in the deep well, but it is the death damps!
4. Have confidence in the Word as God's own message. It is His Word. He will give it success. He ordered the serpent of brass. It mattered not about the pole, whether it were rough or smooth, crooked or straight, large or small, low or high, so that the people could see it. All men had to do was just to look and live. A man once kept on his parlour mantel an ugly oyster shell. When asked why that incongruous thing was there, he told the story of his earlier years. He was a diver. Once he saw a shell in which was held a bit of paper. He took it to the surface, carried it home, deciphered it, and found it a part of a gospel tract. It was blessed to his salvation. The shell was reverently preserved, because it had silently "held forth the word of life" to him who had long neglected the appeals from human lips.
(A. Blackburn, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.