But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
I. CONSIDER THAT CENTRAL INJUNCTION — THE VERY KEYSTONE OF THE ARCH OF A DEVOUT CHRISTIAN LIFE — "Keep yourselves in the love of God." God's love to us is regarded as a kind of sphere or region in which the Christian soul lives and moves and has its being. It is the sweet home of our hearts, and a fortress whereinto we may "continually resort," and our wisdom and security is to keep at home within the strong walls that defend us, compassed by the warmth and protection of the love which God has towards us. Then my text implies that Christian men may get outside of the love of God. No doubt "His tender mercies are over all His works." There are gifts of the Divine love which, like the sunshine in the heaven, come equally on the unfaithful and on the good. But all the best and noblest manifestations of that love cannot come to men irrespective of their moral character and their relation to Him. Then another question is suggested by my text. I asked, Can a man get out of the love of God? And I have to ask now, Can a man, then, keep always in it? We need not discuss, for the guidance of our own lives and efforts, whether the entire realisation of the ideal is possible for us here. Enough for us to know that it is possible for Christian people to make their lives one long abiding in the love of God, both in regard of the actual reception of it and of the consciousness of that reception. The secret of all blessedness is to live in the love of God. Our sorrows and difficulties and trials will change their aspect if we walk in the peaceful enjoyment and conscious possession of His Divine heart. That is the true anaesthetic. No pain is intolerable when we are sure that God's loving hand is round about us.
II. Further, notice THE SUBSIDIARY EXHORTATIONS WHICH POINT OUT THE MEANS OF OBEYING THIS CENTRAL COMMAND. The two clauses in my text which precede that main precept are more minute directions as to the way in which it is to be observed. We might almost read, "By building yourselves on your most holy faith, and by praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God." The first means of securing our continual abiding in the conscious enjoyment of God's love to us is our continual effort at building up a noble character on the foundation of faith. What would you say of a man that had dug his foundations, and got in the first courses, and then left the bricks lying on the ground, and did no more? And that is what many people that call themselves Christians do, use their faith only as a shield against condemnation, and forget that if it is anything at all it works, and works by love. Then remember, too, that this building of a noble, God-pleasing character can only be erected on the foundation of faith by constant effort. You do not rear the fabric of a noble character all at a moment. No man reaches the extremity, either, of goodness or baseness by a leap; you must be content with bit-by-bit work. The Christian character is like a mosaic formed of tiny squares in all but infinite numbers, each one of them separately set and bedded in its place. Now, look at the second of the conditions laid down here by which that continual living within the charmed circle of the love of God is made possible. "Praying in the Holy Ghost." Who that has ever honestly tried to cure himself of a fault, or to make his own some unfamiliar virtue opposed to his natural temperament, but has found that the cry "O God! help me" has come instinctively to his lips? The prayer which helps us to keep in the love of God is not the petulant and passionate utterance of our own wishes, but is the yielding of our desires to the impulses Divinely breathed upon us. Our own desires may be hot and vehement, but the desires that run parallel with the Divine will, and are breathed into us by God's own Spirit, are the desires which, in their meek submissiveness, are omnipotent with Him whose omnipotence is perfected in our weakness.
III. Lastly, notice here THE EXPECTATION ATTENDANT ON THE OBEDIENCE TO THE CENTRAL COMMANDMENT. "Looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." After all our efforts, after all our prayers, we all of us build much wood, hay, stubble, in the building which we rear on the true foundation. And the best of us, looking back over our past, will most deeply feel that it is all so poor and stained that all we have to trust to is the forgiving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. That mercy will be confidently anticipated for all the future, nearer, and more remote, in proportion as we keep ourselves for the present in the love of God. The more we feel in our hearts the experience that God loves us, the more sure we shall be that He will love us ever. The sunshine in which we walk will be reflected upon all the path before us, and will illuminate that else dusky and foreboding sky that lies beyond the dark grave.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,