These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer…
I. THAT THE CHRISTIAN IN THE PRESENT STATE IS BOTH IN THE WORLD AND IN CHRIST.
1. He is in the world.
(1) He is in the material world. In virtue of his connection with the material world he is a man, and in it he finds the present essential sources and elements of his physical life.
(2) He is in the social world. He is a member of society, and subject to its various laws, arrangements, relationships, and obligations. He eats his bread by the sweat of his brow.
(3) He is in the wicked world. We mean that he lives among wicked men; for the world in itself is good and beautiful, but there are in it many wicked inhabitants. As a subject, he may have a tyrannical sovereign. As a citizen, he may have oppressive and persecuting laws, which interfere with his rights as a man and as a Christian. As a member of a Church, he may have more than one Judas to deal with. The world is full of ignorance, carnality, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, bigotry, and intolerance. He may have to do with men who deem it a sacred duty and a Divine service to take away his life.
2. He is also in Christ. He is united by faith to him. As his physical life is in the world, his spiritual life is in Christ.
(1) As to its source and authorship.
(2) As to its support.
(3) As to its Example and Model.
(4) As to its continuance and safety.
(5) As to its present and final end.
He is in Christ, and Christ is in him. But although he is the world, the world is not in him. He is a mere pilgrim in the world; his home is in Christ.
3. He is in the world and in Christ at the same time. He is a member of society and a member of Christ; a citizen of earth and a citizen of heaven; the subject of an earthly sovereign and a loyal subject of the King of kings; carries on business in this world and in another; deals with different men and perhaps different nations, and deals with angels and God; his feet walk this earth, and his conversation is in heaven at the same time. He is two, and yet one. He has physical and spiritual life, human and Divine nature, and has to do with two different spheres at the same moment.
4. He was in the world before he was in Christ, not, perhaps, in all its relationships, but he was certainly in the wicked world, and the wicked world to a more or less extent in him. From the world are all those who are in Christ. Some of them were about to pass out of the world when they passed by faith into Christ. A second birth presupposes a first, and the first is a birth into the world, and the second into Christ.
5. He will be in Christ after he has left the world. If the world had him first, Christ will have him last. The world will soon expel him, but Christ never. The world shall ultimately pass away, but Christ shall remain. The world shall vanish, that Christ and all in him may appear and enjoy each other all the more. The Christian was born into the world soon to die, but born into Christ to live forever. When lost from the world he will be found still in Christ. His connection with the world is temporal, but his connection with Christ is eternal. The requirements of physical life will soon be at an end, but those of spiritual life are coeval with the life of Christ himself. Circumstances will inevitably break our connection with this world; but "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? etc.
II. THAT WHICH THE CHRISTIAN HAS IN THE WORLD IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HE HAS IN CHRIST.
1. He has tribulation in the world. Not in the material world. This is as kind to him, and perhaps more so, than to any. The material world has ere this been rather partial to the Christian. This is very natural. He is on the side of and friendly with its Author, Proprietor, and Ruler, and has special capacities to really appropriate and enjoy it. The world in which he has tribulation is the wicked, ignorant, religious, ecclesiastical, bigoted, and intolerant world. This is the world which worried the patriarchs, killed the prophets, martyred the apostles, and persecuted and butchered believers through many ages. And the wicked world is still full of the genius of tribulation.
2. He has peace in Christ. There is no peace in the world; there is no tribulation in Christ, but unmixed peace. One of his names is the Prince of Peace, and the motto of his kingdom is "Peace on earth, and good will." He is the Author, Medium, and Supporter of Divine peace to all connected with him by faith.
3. He has tribulation in the world because he has peace in Christ.
(1) The passage between the world and Christ is rough. In a sense it is but a narrow sea, but the hostile world and its prince from within and without manage to make it generally stormy. Many have commenced the voyage and almost reached the shore, but were swept back by the storm. That young man who came to Christ asking, "What must I do," etc., almost had reached "the Rock of ages," but was dashed back by an awful wave of worldliness, and was disheartened.
(2) The passage through the world in Christ is rough. He is safe in Christ, but cannot reach the desired haven without storms and hurricanes. If a man is in Christ, he must steer through the same course, and, if so, must go through tribulation, shame, persecution, and perhaps martyrdom. Whoever has invariably fine weather on the Christian voyage may well question whether he is in the right vessel and in the right course. For "through much tribulation ye must," etc. Some may fare better than others, but it is ever true that "whoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." The nearer to Jesus the greater the tribulation of the world.
4. The Christian has peace in Christ because he has tribulation in the world. Those who have the world's frowns have Jesus' smiles. At every point the world troubles Jesus has provided special peace. At every stage of the voyage there is a harbor of refuge, and at every port there is a "Sailors' Home." When persecuted in Christ we can bless our persecutors; when misjudged by a selfish world we can well wait in him for the day of revelation and redress. When the Christian has most tribulation in the world then he has most peace in Christ - then he needs and is driven for it. It was never so dark with Stephen as when under that terrible shower of stones; but it was never so bright between him and above, - then he saw heaven opened, and the "Son of man," etc. When Paul and Silas were in chains in the world, then they sang in Christ. When the world banished the beloved disciple, then he was received into Christ's inner court of revelation and peace.
III. THAT ALL WHICH CHRIST SAID AND DID ON EARTH WAS IN ORDER THAT HIS PEACE SHOULD OUTWEIGH THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD. "These things," etc. Notice:
1. What he said as a source of peace.
(1) He foretold the tribulation of the world. He faithfully drew the map of their pilgrimage, and indicated their sufferings in red lines and marks. No tribulation, however severe, could take them by surprise. And to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
(2) He explained to them its nature, degree, causes, and effects, and how to behave in it. He describes the tribulation as only limited and temporary, and, under his gracious direction and influence, sanctifying and spiritually advantageous. It is a tonic to the soul, a furnace to purify, a storm to blow them from the material to the spiritual, and ultimately from a foreign and hostile land to their peaceful home.
(3) He pointed them to an infinite Source of comfort. "That in me ye may," etc. Himself as a Source of peace, he describes as never failing, ever near, and most communicative and satisfying. The cruelest storms of tribulation can only drive the Christian nearer to the Source of peace, and its last wave can only cast him on the shores of the pacific ocean of endless life and love. Every word of Christ, especially his last words, is a pipe through which the oil of peace flows to the believing heart, and a golden pitcher with which to draw water from the wells of salvation.
2. What he did as a Source of comfort. "I have overcome the world." This is a source of something more than peace. It is a source of joy. "Be of good cheer," etc. What good cheer is this?
(1) The good cheer of a complete victory over the greatest foe. The wicked world is the greatest foe of God and man. Christ overcame it completely in all its corrupt elements and forces, temptations and destructiveness, including its prince. He gained a complete victory over the great empire of evil. The world was the champion before Christ appeared, but he is the Champion now. His followers have only a conquered foe to fight.
(2) The good cheer of a complete victory ever the world for us. It certainly would be some source of comfort in fighting the wicked world to know that it had been conquered at all, but this comfort rises into a cheer when we know that it has been conquered for us. This Christ did:
(a) As our Substitute. He fought and conquered for us. This is self-evident. He was infinitely above the world, and would be eternally happy apart from our destiny; but in his love he took up our cause.
(b) As our Example. In our nature and in our circumstances, tempted in all things as we are, but without sin, he has shown us in his own life that there is something in us that is superior to the world, superior to suffering and death; that we can live a spiritual life independent of this, and can conquer every element opposing our progress. He conquered the world to show us the way to conquer it ourselves.
(c) As our Inspiration. All he said, and especially what he did, cheers us in the battle.
(3) The good cheer of a certain victory in and through him. "I have overcome the world," and it is unquestionably understood, "you will also overcome in me." Those who fight the world in him, his presence is theirs, his substitution is theirs, his example is theirs, his good cheer is theirs, and his conquest will be theirs. He throws all he said, and did, and does, and will do into the balance on their side, and the result will be certain victory over the world.
1. The great difficulty of a Christian life is to live in the world and in Christ at the same time. It would be easy to live in the world in complete agreement with it, and it would be easy to live in heaven as a perfect saint; but to live in the world and in Christ means a conflict with the former, and it is the difficulty to triumph.
2. This is alone possible by vital union with him. In him alone there is peace, and through him alone there is victory.
3. Then the certainty of victory depends entirely upon our union with him. There is a great danger of misappropriating the greatest truths. "I have overcome the world." This may be developed into a delusive confidence; still it is highly intended to cheer the weakest but honest faith. Let the practical side of his substitution inspire us to make an honest effort in our spiritual conflict with the world; and let its meritorious, vicarious, and gracious side keep us from despair even in our failures, but even down under the foe's feet let us cling and look to Christ, ever remembering the infinite possibilities of his complete victory for us, and, if we fail, we will fail in faith in him, and not in victory over the world in him. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.