To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.
I. THE DUTY OF MINISTERS. It is to preach Christ.
1. It is not to preach morality. Though it is right and necessary to exhibit moral duties in the light of the cross.
2. It is not to preach a philosophy or a thaumaturgy.) 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.)
3. It is to preach Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:3.) Some preach Christ's incarnation as the grand hope of man, but this is to present a broken hope, if it is not supplemented by the death of Christ.
4. It is to preach Christ as the only Saviour. "Neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12). There is no salvation in ordinances, in saints, in angels, in images, in pictures, in works of righteousness.
5. It is to preach Christ as a sufficient Saviour. He is mighty to save, and "able to save to the uttermost."
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH CHRIST IS TO BE PREACHED.
1. "Admonition." "Admonishing every man." This implies:
(2) Preaching is to set forth examples of admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11).
(3) Great is the profit of admonition to those who receive it aright (Proverbs 28:13).
(4) It implies that all men need admonition, for all are apt to err or sin.
2. Teaching. Christianity is not a thaumaturgy, not a spectacular religion; it is the exhibition of Christ through the gospel of truth. The understanding must be informed.
(1) There is the promise of the Spirit to lead us into all truth (John 14:26).
(2) There is the Word of truth, which preachers are rightly to divide (2 Timothy 2:15).
(3) We need to be instructed, for we are ignorant and prejudiced.
(4) There is immense variety in truth. "In all wisdom." Preachers must preach wisely - not in the "wisdom of words" (1 Corinthians 1:17), but in the truly Divine wisdom which enables us "to understand our own way" (Proverbs 14:8), which teaches us humility - "becoming fools that we may be wise (1 Corinthians 3:18); to walk not as fools, but as wise (Ephesians 5:15); and "to consider our latter end, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
III. THE DESIGN OF THIS PREACHING OF CHRIST. "That we may present every man perfect in Christ."
1. Perfection is the aim. It will be attained in glory. It implies perfection in knowledge as well as holiness. We are to seek perfection
(1) in doctrine (Hebrews 6:1);
(2) in faith (James 2:22);
(3) in hope (1 Peter 1:13);
(4) in love (1 John 4:18);
(5) in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20).
2. Perfection is only to be realized in Christ.
(1) Its ultimate realization comes through him (Philippians 1:6).
(2) This thought ought to make saints seek a closer intercourse with Christ.
3. It is a perfection designed for all saints. "Every man." It is not for an inner circle of disciples, an initiated few, but for "every man." This universality of blessing marks the distinction between the gospel of Christ and the schools of Judaeo-Gnostic speculation.
IV. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH MINISTERS OUGHT TO LABOUR IN THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
1. They must labour and strive. The ministry is a severe labour to body, mind, and spirit. The apostle "laboured more abundantly than they all." The Lord's work cannot be done negligently (2 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12).
2. Ministers must labour, not in their own strength, but in the Lord's strength. "Striving according to his working, who worketh in me mightily." It is the Lord who works in his ministers for the salvation of souls. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but "it is God that giveth the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6). - T. C.
Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working.
I. THE BELIEVER'S SALVATION. If any man be saved, the work within is entirely wrought by the Holy Ghost, but that does not exempt from, but necessitates, energetic labour. To enforce this we remark —
1. That the Christian life is always described as a thing of energy: as a journey, a race, a boxing match.
2. That there is no illustration in Scripture which allows the supposition that heaven is won by sloth. That is everywhere condemned.
3. That it is natural it should be so. When the Holy Spirit comes the sinner sees his danger, and exclaims, "What must I do to be saved?" He sees the excellence of salvation, and is desirous of finding the pearl of great price at all costs. Having found Christ, the believer is moved at once to glorify Him with all his powers.
4. That it is most certain that all saving acts must be performed by the man himself. Faith is the gift of God, but the Holy Ghost never believed for anybody. Repentance is His work, but the sinner must repent. He helps our infirmities in prayer, but we have to pray.
5. That if He were not made active, but one simply called upon, there is a reduction of manhood to materialism. There is no moral good or evil to me in a work which is not my own. In the Square of St. Mark, at Venice, at certain hours the bell of the clock is struck by two bronze figures as large as life, wielding hammers. Now, nobody ever thought of presenting thanks to those bronze men for the diligence with which they have struck the hours; of course, they cannot help it, they are wrought upon by machinery, and they strike the hours from necessity. Some years ago a stranger was upon the top of the tower, and incautiously went too near one of these bronze men; his time was come to strike the hour; he knocked the stranger from the battlement of the tower and killed him; nobody said the bronze man ought to be hanged; nobody ever laid it to his charge at all. There was no moral good or moral evil, because there was no will in the concern. It was not a moral act, because no mind and heart gave consent to it. Am I to believe that grace reduces men to this?
6. I warn any who imagine a man is a merely passive being in salvation against putting their theory into practice.
II. THE MINISTRY OF THE SAINTS IN THE CONVERSION OF OTHERS. The Holy Spirit alone can convert a soul, but wherever He works, as a general rule, it is in connection with the earnest efforts of Christian men.This is clear —
1. From the example of the text. Paul certifies that the salvation of souls is the sole work of Christ, but he declares that He laboured "agonizing." Labouring means —(1) Abundant work. No man can be said to labour who only does half a day's work; and a soul labourer will not make his work a by-play, but put in long hours, and be ever at it.(2) Hard work. He is no labourer who takes a spade to play with it as a little child upon the sand.(3) Personal work. No man is a labourer who works through his servants; and the power of the Church lies in the personal influence of her members.(4) All this must have combined with it inward soul conflict. If your heart never breaks for another, you will never be the means of breaking his heart.
2. This is plain from the work itself.(1) Souls are not converted, as a rule, without previous prayer. So we must be stirred up to prayer, and the petitions God hears are not those of people half asleep.(2) Souls are saved instrumentally through teaching, but not cold, dead teaching. Some warn souls in such a careless tone as to create unbelief.(3) Teaching is not all; we must use earnest, persevering persuasion.
3. Earnest zeal is a natural result of the Spirit's working on the soul.(1) He sanctifies in each the natural instinct which leads them to wish others to be like themselves. Having experienced salvation, we desire others to have the same happiness.(2) He bestirs in us the impulse of gratitude to Christ, and so consecration to Him.(3) He sanctifies the desire for the prosperity of the community to which we belong, and so we ardently labour for the success of the Church.
4. The whole history of the Church confirms what has been stated, our Lord's ministry, Pentecost, and , Luther, etc.
(C. H. Spurgeon.).
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