And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…
The apostle was leaving, as he supposed, for the last time, the representatives of the Church in Ephesus, to whom he had been painting in very sombre colours the dangers of the future and his own forebodings and warnings. They were set in the midst of a focus of heathen superstition, from which themselves had only recently been rescued. Their knowledge was little, they had no apostolic teacher to be present with them; they were left alone there to battle with the evils of that corrupt society in which they dwelt. And yet Paul leaves them — "sheep in the midst of wolves," with a very imperfect Christianity, with no Bible, with no teachers — in the sure confidence that no harm will come to them, because God is with them, and the "word of His grace" is enough.
I. THE ONE SOURCE OF SECURITY AND ENLIGHTENMENT FOR THE CHURCH AND FOR THE INDIVIDUAL. What is in the apostle's mind here is the objective revelation, the actual spoken word (not yet written) which had its origin in God's condescending love, and had for its contents, mainly, the setting forth of that love. Or, to put it in other words, the revelation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, with all the great truths that cluster round and are evolved from it, is the all-sufficient source of enlightenment and security for individuals and for churches. And whosoever will rightly use and faithfully keep that great Word, no evil shall befall him, nor shall he ever make shipwreck of the faith. It is "able to build you up," says Paul. In God's gospel, in the truth concerning Jesus Christ the Divine Redeemer, in the principles that flow from that Cross and passion, and that risen life and that ascended Saviour, there is all that men need, all that they want for life, all that they want for godliness. "I commend you to God and the word of His grace," which is a storehouse full of all that we need for life and for godliness. Whoever has that is like a man that has got a quarry on his estate, out of which at will he can dig stones to build his house. If you truly possess and faithfully adhere to this gospel, you have enough. Remember, these people to whom Paul thus spoke had no New Testament, and half of them, I dare say, could not read the Old. There were no written Gospels in existence. It was to the spoken word that he commended them. How much more securely may we trust one another to that permanent record of the Divine revelation which we have here on the pages of Scripture! As for the individual, so for the Church, that written Word is the guarantee for its purity and immortality. Christianity is the only religion that has ever passed through periods of decadence and purified itself again. They used to say that Thames water was the best to put on shipboard, because, after it went putrid, it cleared itself and became sweet again. I do not know anything about whether that is true or not, but I know that it is true about Christianity. Over and over again it has rotted, and over and over again it has cleared itself; and it has always been by the one process. Men have gone back to the Word and laid hold again of it in its simple omnipotence. And so a decadent Christianity has sprung up again into purity and power.
II. THE POSSIBLE BENEFIT OR THE SILENCING OF THE HUMAN VOICE. Paul puts together his absence and the power of the Word. "Now I know that you will see my face no more" — "I commend you to God." That is to say, it is often a good thing that the voice of man may be hushed in order that the sweeter and deeper music of the Word of God, sounding from no human lips, may reach our hearts. The human ministration of the Divine Word, like every other help to know God, may become a hindrance instead of a help; and in all such helps there is a tendency, unless there be continual jealous watchfulness on the part of those who use them, to assert themselves instead of leading to God, and to become not mirrors in which we may behold God, but obscuring media which come between us and Him. This danger belongs to the great ordinance and office of the Christian ministry, large as its blessings are, just as it belongs to all other offices, which are appointed for the purpose of bringing men to God. We may make them ladders or we may make them barriers, we may climb by them or we may remain in them. We may look at the colours on the painted glass until we do not see or think of the light which strikes through the colours. So it is often a good thing that the human voice, that speaks the Divine Word, should be silenced; just as it is often a good thing that other helps and props should be taken away. No man ever leans all his weight upon God's arm until every other crutch on which he used to lean has been knocked from him.
III. THE BEST EXPRESSION OF CHRISTIAN SOLICITUDE AND AFFECTION. "I commend you," says Paul, "to God, and to the word of His grace." If we may venture upon a very literal translation of the word it is, "I lay you down beside God." That is beautiful, is it not? Here had Paul been carrying the Ephesian Church on his back for a long time now. He had many cares about them, many forebodings as to their future, knowing very well that after his departure, grievous wolves were going to enter in. He says, "I cannot carry the load any longer; here I lay it down at the Throne, beneath those pure eyes, and that gentle and strong hand." For to commend them to God is in fact a prayer casting the care which Paul could no longer exercise upon Him. And that is the highest expression of, as it is the only soothing for, manly Christian solicitude and affection.
IV. THE PARTING COUNSELS INVOLVED IN THE COMMENDATION.
1. "Cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart," as the limpet does to the rock. Cling to Jesus Christ, the revelation of God's grace. And how do we cling to Him? What is the cement of souls? Love and trust; and whoever exercises these in reference to Jesus Christ is built into Him, and belongs to Him, and has a vital unity knitting him with that Lord.
2. Cleave to "the word of His grace." Try to understand its principles better; study your Bibles with more earnestness; believe more fully than you have ever done that in that great gospel there lies every truth that we need, and guidance in all circumstances. Bring the principles of Christianity into your daily life; walk by the light of them; and live in the radiance of a present God.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.