Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things.
I. THE MODE OF SUPPORTING THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY, "But let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." It is implied that there is to be, in the Christian Church, an order of men whose function it is to teach in the Word. Where these give their whole time and attention to their work, which, as a general arrangement, is most advisable, it is necessary that provision should be made for their temporal support. The mode of support here sanctioned by the apostle is that the taught in the Word should contribute for the support of their teachers. Receiving spiritual things, they are to show their value of them by communicating of their temporal things. The apostle himself did not always see his way to take advantage of this mode of support. But even when he worked with his own hands to support himself, as he did at Corinth, he let it be known that he was waiving his right of support from the Church he was serving. This voluntary mode of support has a rival in the mode of endowment. Where Christian teachers are the beneficiaries of the state, there are questions raised which need not be entered into here. But there may be endowment not connected with the state. Christian people have sometimes gifted moneys and lands for the support of Christian teachers. And where these benefactions are used to support teachers for those who have not been brought under the influence of Christianity, or in aid of what can be raised by congregations, there is no violation of the spirit of the apostolic ordinance. But the question is whether Christian people should contribute, according to their ability, for the support of their minister. Should a Christian teacher be thrown on the willinghood of his people? or should he have his income secured to him apart from his people? It is said to be lowering to a minister that he should be dependent on his people. So far as worldly status or emolument is concerned that may be set aside. The essential thing is that he should have the opportunity of doing good to men by teaching them in the Word. And, where he has that secured to him, he may be content to be supported in the way in which the Master and apostles were supported before him. But it is said that he is under the temptation to lower his ideal of the Christian ministry in accommodation to the tastes of those upon whom he depends for his support. That may be a reason for his being on his guard; but it is surely not a reason for dispensing with an apostolic ordinance. Is there no danger, on the other hand, of bringing down the ideal mode of supporting the Christian ministry to worldly expediency? The apostolic mode only works well where there are really spiritual men, where real spiritual benefit is done by the teacher, and where the taught are really interested and reasonable. But is it wise that it should be abandoned for a mode which dispenses with spiritual conditions? Is that not coming down to lower principles upon the failure of higher principles? And is it likely that these lower principles will be accompanied with the same spiritual results? The apostolic mode of support has advantages for the minister. He is put more on doing his best. He is under less temptation to consult his case, and under greater necessity to work for his people. He is under less temptation to preach according to his fancy, and under greater necessity to bind himself to the word that is most fitted to interest and to benefit. He is under less temptation to be indifferent to his people, and under greater necessity to live well in their affection. The apostolic mode of support has also advantages for the people. It delivers them from the feeling of dependence on others. It delivers them from spiritual inertia. And, when they have a field for their own exertions and sacrifices in connection with the gospel message, they are more likely to be interested, both in the message and in the messenger.
II. PRINCIPLE INVOLVED. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life." It is remarkable here how the apostle, in support of the particular duty which he has been inculcating, introduces a great and wide principle. There is a similar instance in 2 Corinthians 8. He is inculcating there the duty of liberality, and he brings in the transcendent consideration of Christ's self-sacrificing love: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich." Here he is inculcating the duty of the taught in the Word doing well by their teachers; and he brings in the great principle of sowing and reaping. The immediate application is this. There are certain conditions upon which God blesses congregations. One of these is that they do well by their ministers. Let them not, then, be deceived. God is not mocked. Let them not think that he will act independently of his own regulation, or reverse it for their particular benefit. Only as they do well by their spiritual teacher shall they prosper. What a powerful enforcement of the duty! But let us look at the principle in its generality, and let us learn, in connection with the consideration of it, lessons suitable to seed-time and harvest.
1. The sower is also the reaper. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap." The seed he puts into the ground he gets back in the form of fruit. Everywhere is this arrangement carried out. The seed, small and hard, or walled up in stone, or blown about, is, of all objects in nature, the most suggestive. Nature sows innumerable seeds, far up in rocky places, and far away in lonely islands of the sea. Man principally confines himself to the sowing of a few seeds which are necessary for his life and would perish but for his care. A seed is a force, has power stored up in it which does not yet appear. It may be buried in the dry earth for centuries; but, under favouring conditions, it will burst forth, spring up, and come to maturity. And there is what is analogous within the spiritual sphere. All human life is a sowing. Whether we think of it or not, every time that we think and feel and exercise our wills we are sowing. All our acts are forces, which unite and form character. That is the great harvest which even here we are reaping. Let us not, then, be deceived. God is not mocked. Let us not think that he will not do what he is constantly teaching us in nature. Let us not think that we can do an action and have done with it when it is done. It is impossible. Even our slight words are forces that are productive. Our listless moods will be found by us again. As certainly as we sow shall there appear a harvest.
2. We reap in the same kind that we sow. "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." We are familiar with this too in nature. If we sow in our flower-plots mignonette seed, there will grow up mignonette plants. If we sow in our fields oats, there will not grow up barley; if we sow barley, there will not grow up wheat. The type of what is sown is impressed on what is produced from it. And the analogy is carried out within the spiritual sphere. We reap in the same kind that we sow. The character of our actions is stamped upon the results that they produce in our nature. We are only liberal as we have acted liberally. We are only devout as we have cultivated devout habits. Wisdom does not spring from the same kind of seed as zeal; nor gentleness from the same kind of seed as courage. Whatever fruit we would have, we must sow in that kind. Let us not, then, be deceived. God is not mocked. Let us not think that he will disregard his own appointment - like seed, like harvest. Let us not think that we can sow niggardliness and reap fatness; that we can sow dissipation and reap steadfastness. The kind that we sow in our actions, and none other, determines what we reap.
3. As we sow to the flesh or to the Spirit, what we reap is corruptible or incorruptible. There are many kinds of seeds in nature; but there is one essential distinction between them. There are seeds of plants which are vile and noxious, and which we seek only to extirpate. And there are seeds of plants which are useful or beautiful, and which we seek to cultivate. Sowing to the flesh is doing what is right in our own eyes, acting without regard to the will of God. It is like sowing the seeds of weeds in the soil of our hearts. Sowing to the Spirit is what is called, in the Old Testament, sowing in righteousness, doing what is right before God. It is like sowing the seeds of useful grains, or of beautiful flowers, in the soil of our hearts. It is said, sowing "to our own flesh," but simply "sowing to the Spirit," showing that the point of the distinction is taking the rule of our actions from self or from God. The Divine ordering is that, sowing to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. And we are sufficiently taught what corruption is. There is an offensiveness connected with wet, decayed vegetable matter. There is a greater offensiveness connected with putrid animal matter. And, as the best things corrupted are the worst, there is nothing so offensive, within the material sphere, as the human body in a state of corruption. And that, again, is but a suggestion of what the soul is in a state of corruption. Let us not, then, be deceived. God is not mocked. Let us not think that we can break God's laws with impunity. Let us not think that we can sin, and have the freshness and beauty of holiness. It is impossible. Sin is working its work of deterioration even here. It is bringing in the elements of death into our nature. It is as though mortification in all its loathsomeness were proceeding in our various powers. And it is the most solemn fact of existence that, if we die in sin, then, as certainly as there is righteousness in the character of God, will retribution follow us into the next world. On the other hand, the Divine ordering is that, sowing to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. There is nothing within the material sphere which can fitly set forth what this life is. As spirit is finer than matter, so is spiritual life finer than the most lovely flower, the most beautiful human bodily form. It has especially the element of imperishableness, eternity. Flowers quickly fade; the most beautiful face loses its freshness. But the line that is begun in God and carried on in God shall be eternal as God himself. Let us not, then, be deceived. God is not mocked. It is only by sowing to the Spirit that we can get beautiful and imperishable elements into our line. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." That is the order of the Divine government which we must observe if we would be beautified with the Divine beauty and immortalized with the Divine immortality. Seeing, then, that God cannot deny himself, must honour his own arrangement, let us learn the supreme importance of sowing to the Spirit. There is nothing in this principle, rightly considered, which militates against the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins. For the great Substitute of mankind came under the broken Law, which had its full course in him. He reaped, in terrible experience of forsakenness what we had sowed in our sins. "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." And, therefore, it is that we can reap a rich harvest of forgiveness. But it needs to be borne in mind, as a complementary truth, that, after we are forgiven, we have still to contend against depraved tendency, and especially against the results of our previous sinful life. And it is also to be borne in mind that we can only have the harvest of life eternal in so far as we have thought out the Divine thoughts and carried out the Divine will. Let us not be deceived. God is not mocked. In no other way can it be secured by us.
III. ENCOURAGEMENT AGAINST WEARINESS IN WELL-DOING. "And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." The apostle has been exhorting to do well by Christian teachers; he now proceeds to exhort to well-doing in general, i.e. to all kinds of doing well to the bodies and souls of men. And let it be understood, that nothing is worthy of the name of well-doing which is not done from a right motive. It must be, not for self-glorification, but for the glory of God.
1. Causes of weariness.
(1) There are discouragements connected with the nature of well-doing. It is under a high impulse that we begin the life of well-doing. It is the kind of life that is furthest removed from selfishness. It requires a large infusion of the spirit in which Christ regarded men. But we have still to do with the matter-of-fact world. We are not placed above the ordinary cares and difficulties of life These may increase with us and may act upon us so as to tend to weariness in well-doing. We have to give out largely too of our best strength in well-doing. To be burdened with the souls of men is exhausting beyond anything else. And the more intensely we care for souls the more are we laid open to a feeling of weariness.
(2) There are discouragements connected with the associations of well-doing. We may not like the scenes of discomfort, squalor, and vice into which well-doing brings us. We may feel the want of suitable appliances for engaging in well-doing. We may feel the want of hearty co-operation. Some to whom we had reason to look may fail us, having become cold in the work. Of our fellow-workers in the same society some may be more intent on getting their own way than on the advancement of the common cause, if they do not even resort to slander and obstruction. And all these things are causes of weariness.
(3) There are especially discouragements connected with the results of well-doing. In other work we can, to a large extent, walk by sight. We feel the encouraging influence of results. There is something to show for what our hands have done every day. But in well-doing there is little to show in the shape of results. There is something to be seen, indeed, if we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. And there are also results that can be tested, if we engage in communicating knowledge to the young and the ignorant. But if we seek to influence men's hearts through gospel truth we may have to say, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" We may labour on, and some may appear further removed from good than they were. Some who appeared to be established may show deterioration or may fall greviously, to our great amazement and sorrow. Or, if we meet with outward tokens of success, in the very moment of success it may be felt to be unsatisfying. It may be not all real, when tested even by time. And we may afterwards be disappointed in some upon whom we reckoned as savingly influenced. And there arc wearying influences that come in from a wider range. It may seem as if there were but poor results from the money and labour spent on missions. It may seem as if little inroads were made upon the domain of evil. It may seem as if the Church were losing its wonted fire, were feeling the chilling influence of the world. It may seem as if iniquity were abounding, and, because iniquity abounds, our love, and that of many others, is apt to wax cold.
2. Encouragement against weariness. We cannot remove the causes of weariness in well-doing. We cannot escape the temptation to be weary. What we have to do is to refuse to yield to the temptation. "Let us not be weary" - that is the word which the apostle sends forth to all who are inclined to be weary in well-doing. Let us learn a lesson from what we see going on in nature. The sower does not see his harvest the day he sows his seed. He has to begin by putting his seed out of sight, and it is a time before the plant appears above ground. And then he has to wait until nature slowly brings it forward to maturity. But if, in the face of what he does not yet see, he faint not as under the burning heat of the sun, then he shall assuredly one day be privileged to bring in the ripe grain into the stackyard. For God has appointed a season for this. So let us learn, in the face of all discouragements connected with well-doing, especially in the face of what we do not yet see of results, that, if we faint not, if we lose not faith in God, in the mighty influences of the Divine Spirit, in the converting efficacy of the Divine message, in the binding nature of the Divine command, and if we lose not hope for man, - then in due season we shall assuredly reap. We shall reap in our own souls, in the blessing God shall not delay to send on us for engaging, unweariedly, in well-doing. And, what is more to the purpose of well-doing, we shall reap in others, in the blessing which God may not immediately or within our observation, but shall in due season, send upon them as the result of tearful prayers and labours which he never forgets. Let us, then, cast our bread, though it may be as upon the waters, and we shall find it, though it may be after many days. God has his own time and way of bringing the seed forward, and it may be long after we are dead and gone that the fruit shall be gathered in.
IV. OPPORTUNITY OF WELL-DOING. "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 faith." These three things constitute opportunity, viz. time, ability, and objects of well-doing.
1. There is the limit of time. Spring is the season for sowing the seed. If it is not improved, there will be nothing to gather at harvest-time. So the present life is the season for well-doing. It does not appear that in the next world we shall be employed in reclaiming sinners. Let us, then, improve the time that God has given us for doing good, all the more because of the uncertainty of its being continued to us. In the morning let us sow our seed, in the evening let us not withhold our hand. Let us serve well our day and generation.
2. There is the limit of ability. God has given us all the means of doing good with our powers, and money. Up to that point we have obligation. Let us, then, faithfully discharge our obligation as before God. Let us know how to use our powers, not selfishly, but usefully, beneficently. Let us learn the secret of making ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.
3. The objects of well-doing. These are in a manner unlimited. The apostle says, "all men." That is to say, that, if we had time and ability, it would literally be our duty to work that which is good to all men. As it is, wherever there is a human being, he has a claim upon us on the ground of his humanity and on the ground of his being the object of God's love and of Christ's redemption. But there is a defining, limiting of the order in which we are to proceed with those whom we seek to bless. As within the natural sphere our own household have the first claim on us, so within the Christian sphere it is those who are of the household of faith. It is an additional and cogent reason for the bestowment of a charity that the objects of it have the same faith and sympathies and look forward to the same home with ourselves. Within the Christian household, too, our own family and friends, our own neighbours, our own countrymen, have a prior claim on our interest. But let us remember that, if charity begins at home, it does not end there. We must go out in the spirit of this exhortation in our sympathies and charities and labours to all the ignorant, and to them that are out of the way. "I exhort therefore that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour: who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.