Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God,
I. AN APOSTLE'S TITLE. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ" (ver. 1). St. Paul's titles are not numerous or high-sounding. He gloried in the title of "servant" - a servant of Jesus Christ. Consider what it meant for Paul that he became and lived a servant of Jesus Christ. It meant to him loss of worldly prospects. "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things." It meant to him bodily suffering. "I bear about with me in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." It meant to him - a man of high mental endowments, a man of unblemished character - a life spent largely in the prison-cell, with the chains hound upon his wrists. It meant to him - and he knew it well - a life ended on the scaffold, or, like his Master's, on the cross. "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." But he had counted the cost. Three things sustained him as he trod that lonely path of service and suffering. He looked back to the cross of Jesus. He had the love of Jesus and the spirit of Jesus in his heart. And he looked forward to the crown of glory that awaited him. Therefore he was able to say, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus." It means much the same to be a servant of Jesus Christ in our own day. You may not meet with bodily suffering as a consequence of your faithfulness to Jesus. But there arc other sufferings, perhaps just as bitter and as hard to bear, which must be endured by the faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Make up your mind to this - that you are not the servant of the world, and then what the world may say of you will affect you very little. A servant of Jesus Christ. St. Paul was what he professed to be. The world has confirmed the description. Could the same be said of us? Could we look up to God, or look into the faces of our fellow-men, and say, "Yes, I am a servant of Jesus Christ"?
II. AN APOSTLE'S WORK, AND HOW HE DID IT. "Called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God" (ver. 1). The word "apostle" means a messenger, or one who is sent. This was Paul's work, to be an apostle or messenger of Jesus Christ. This was the form of service he rendered to his Master. His work, the great ambition of his life, was to win men to Christ. General Lew Wallace, in that beautiful story of his, 'Ben Hur; a Tale of the Christ,' speaks of Jesus Christ as "the one Man whom the world could not do without." That, too, was St. Paul's firm conviction. This was one of the things that carried him on in his work. He realized the power of the gospel. He felt that it was something more than human. Heart and conscience and intellect told him it was Divine. He, who was so well instructed in the Jewish Scriptures, knew that the prophets spoke of Christ. "Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy Scriptures" (ver. 2). He knew that Jesus had come. He knew that he had died upon the cross. Yes, and he knew that he had risen again. Look at the fourth verse: "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Had he not seen him? Had he not heard his voice - that voice that spoke to him on the way to Damascus, and changed for ever the whole current of his life? Yes; Paul knew whom he had believed. He had no doubt about it. He knew what Christ had done for him. And he knew what Christ could (to for the world. He knew how much the world needed Christ. And so he went forth on those great missionary journeys of his, burning with the one overwhelming, overmastering desire, to preach Christ crucified, and to persuade men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. This is one of the great secrets of successful work for Christ still. We must have a personal knowledge of Jesus as our own Saviour. "An educated ministry is desirable," said the late Dr. Cooke, of Belfast, "but a converted ministry is indispensable." And we must then go forth in the conviction that men need Christ, and that he will save them if they come to him.
"I love to tell the story, I love to tell the story,
I love to tell the story,
I. THE AUTHOR.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.I. THE APOSTLE.
1. Paul was not the name by which he was always known, but was assumed shortly after the commencement of his mission to the Gentiles. The practice of assuming a Gentile, in addition to the original Hebrew name, was then common, and indicated a loosening of the bonds of religious exclusiveness.
2. Servant of Jesus Christ. Not a hired servant (μίσθιος ἣ μισθωρὸς), nor a voluntary attendant (θεράπων), nor a subordinate officer (ὑπηρέτη´), nor a ministering disciple (διάκονος); but a slave (δοῦλος). Yet the title is very far from denoting anything humiliating. That, indeed, it must do if the master were only human. Even though the slave should be promoted as minister of state, the stigma of servitude was not removed; for the despot might, at any moment, degrade or destroy him. We may therefore rest assured that to no mere man, however exalted, would St. Paul have willingly subscribed himself a slave. But to be the bondmen of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose property he was both by right of creation and redemption; all of whose requirements were known to be in absolute accordance with truth and righteousness, and to all of which his own renewed heart responded with most lively sympathy, was the truest liberty and the highest dignity.
3. This dignity St. Paul participated in common with every other disciple; but, unlike many others, he had been called to the office of an apostle. Those thus called were constituted "ambassadors for Christ," being chosen, qualified, and deputed by Him to transact business with their fellow men in respect to His kingdom. The twelve had been chosen by the Master during the days of His flesh, and had companied with Him during His earthly ministry (Acts 1:21). St. Paul had not enjoyed this advantage. Nevertheless, he, too, was an apostle by Divine call (Galatians 1:1). True, he was confessedly, because of the lateness of his call, "as one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:8); but his call was not the less real or effectual. And in all that was requisite, he was "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles" (2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
4. He had not only been called, but specially "separated unto the gospel of God." Like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), so, too, St. Paul was "separated from his mother's womb" (Galatians 1:15). His parentage, birth, endowments, education, etc., had been so arranged by God as to constitute him "a choice vessel" for this very work (Acts 26:16-19; Acts 13:1-3).
II. THE GOSPEL TO PUBLISH WHICH HE HAD BEEN SEPARATED.
1. It had been "promised afore by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures; so designated because they were written for holy purposes, by holy men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and developed holy fruits."
2. This gospel was "concerning His Son" [Divine dignity] "Jesus Christ" [the personal name and official designation] "our Lord" (absolute right of property and dominion).(1) He was, as to His human descent, of "the seed of David" (Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4, 5; Hebrews 2:14). His "flesh" is His complete human nature, in respect of which it is said that "He increased in wisdom," etc. (Luke 2:52).(2) He had also a higher nature, here distinguished as "the Spirit of holiness," in respect to which He was not made, not born, but instated with power in His proper glory as the Son of God, by His "resurrection from the dead." In order to estimate the full force of the apostle's statement, it ought to he remembered that men — the Jewish rulers — had denounced Him as a blasphemer (John 19:7; John 5:18; John 10:33). They could not endure that He, being manifestly a man, should make Himself God, But the "resurrection" was God's answer to their derision. That act proclaimed, in reply to all that man had done, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him."
III. THE OBJECT, EXTENT, AND RESULT OF HIS COMMISSION. He had received "grace and apostleship."
1. To promote "obedience to the faith": i.e., first of all, men must be taught the faith — i.e., the things to be believed (Matthew 28:19). It is a mistake to suppose that Christian men are called upon to believe they know not what, nor why (2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 8:82). Now these things, proposed to faith not only bring to us the tidings of peace and of new life in Christ, but they propose to us a course of life to be pursued. They require belief, in order to obedience; and make it plain that a faith which does not result in obedience is a dead thing (Matthew 28:20; Romans 16:26).
2. The apostle had received authority to promote this obedience of faith amongst "all nations." The Gentiles had never grasped the truth of the universal brotherhood of man; while the Hebrews, though very strictly separated from all others, not only possessed the thought, but were preparing the way for a reign of grace in which all the nations should be blessed. That was the purport of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and confirmed to David and his son. Therefore the prophets sang triumphantly of one whom the Gentiles should seek (Isaiah 11:10). The nation did not indeed admit Gentiles on equal terms. They required that these should assume the yoke of the Mosaic law. But now the obedient to the faith from amongst all nations were to constitute the true Israel of God.
3. The whole result was to be for the glory of "His name," by whom our redemption has been accomplished. It was not for the glory of Israel, nor of the apostles, nor of any number of men (1 Corinthians 1:27-29; 2 Corinthians 4:6, 71.
IV. THE FORMAL ADDRESS AND SALUTATION. The things to be noted are —
1. That the blessing sought for the saints was the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, so manifested as to insure peace.
2. The specially Christian conception of God as our Father.
3. The significant association of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as the common object of prayer and the common source of grace and peace.
1. Paul, once called Saul, of Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city, a Benjamite, of pure Hebrew extraction, well trained in a knowledge of the Scriptures, a free citizen of the Roman empire, acquainted with the literature of Greece, by nature endowed with great force of intellect, passion, and resoluteness, of bold and ambitious spirit, a Pharisee of the austerest type, zealous for the law, and hating its enemies, real or supposed.
2. Yet a servant of Jesus Christ, by a free, rational subjection. He stood before his Lord, like the angels which stand before the throne of God, or like nobles in the court of a mighty prince. How was this?
3. He received grace for his own salvation's sake; and apostleship to bring about the salvation of others.
4. He was an apostle to the Gentiles: while Peter and the other eleven were apostles to the Jews.
II. THE PERSONS ADDRESSED. The letter was written in 58. Think what Rome was at that period — much like London at the close of the last century, only without its Christianity. Its population exceeded two millions, half of whom were slaves. Many families were amazingly rich and luxurious: but far more, among the freemen, were as lazy as they were proud, and as poor as they were lazy. The population was low sunk in misery and sensual degradation. In religion, the vulgar were besotted polytheists and the philosophers avowed atheists. The Jews occupied a quarter apart from the rest of the city. It is not known by whom that Church was founded, but probably by some of the strangers from Rome who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and was composed principally of Gentile converts. To these would be added such Jewish converts as had effectually separated themselves from the synagogue. The Church seems to have been one of singular purity, spirituality, and strength. Its disciples were "beloved of God"; His "chosen saints." And the Church needs to be built up in its holy faith. It is not enough to hear of Christ and believe in Him; to be converted and witness a good confession; but to be fully instructed in the apostle's doctrine, and to continue in it, that we may grow up to the full stature of a perfect man in Christ.
III. THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE EPISTLE.
1. It is an exposition of what is contained in the prophets. Here is no new thing, but the historic verification and doctrinal development of what the prophets declared.
2. It concerns the glad tidings of God, which relate all to the salvation wrought out for men by Jesus Christ, who —(1) Was a true man, and a lineal descendant of David, the ancient king of Israel.(2) Had also a Divine nature, called here the Spirit of holiness, because it made Him absolutely immaculate; and because by it He dwells in the hearts of His people to make them holy. By this nature He was God's coeternal Son. Such had He announced Himself when living, and His claim was demonstrated, by irresistible evidence, by His resurrection from the dead.(3) Wills His gospel to be proclaimed among all nations.
IV. THE SPIRIT OF THE WHOLE. This comes out in the benediction and salutation of ver. 7.
1. "Grace" is Divine favour. Its fruit and effect is "peace," which comprehends all gospel blessedness.
2. Grace and peace come from God the Father, and God the Son.
(T. G. Horton.)I. THE TRUE PREACHER.
1. His spirit: a willing bondsman — not by force or legal orders, but by inward necessity. "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel." Bound by obligations that are as tender as silken cords, but firm as adamant; too weak to fetter, but too strong to break.
2. His preparation: "called" "separated" the Godward side of the call to the ministry, and the ground of ministerial authority.
3. His aim —(1) From God — how high; to announce glad tidings from God.(2) For all men — how wide.
II. HIS GREAT THEME. The gospel is great because of —
1. Its Author, God: not about Him merely, but from Him. The gospel has its source in God as the river in the fountain, the beam in the sun. It is —(1) The plan of the Creator for renewing His spiritual creation.(2) The proclamation of the Sovereign for producing loyalty and peace.(3) The pardon of the Great Father offered to His prodigal sons. "Herein is love."
2. The method of its fore announcement (ver. 2). A gospel which had been foretold by such men as Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, and in such a way, is indeed a great gospel. And just as by the dawn God promises day, by spring, summer, so by old prophecy He "promised the gospel."
3. Its subject. "His Son Jesus Christ." Christ is great because of —(1) His position in regard to us. "Our Lord," signifying His dignity, claims and crown rights over us.(2) His exalted human mastery (ver. 3).(3) His relationship to God, as proved by His resurrection (ver. 4).
(U. R. Thomas.)I. ITS NATURE — a gospel (ver. 1).
II. ITS ANTIQUITY. It was promised before in the Holy Scriptures by the prophets (ver. 2).
III. ITS CENTRAL IDEA. The Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 3).
IV. ITS INSTRUMENTALITY. Men, apostles, with the truth, not priests with things to do, but men with a truth to teach (ver. 5).
V. THE IMMEDIATE AND ALTERNATE AIMS. The obedience of faith in the reception of the truth, a holy sainthood to the man who receives it (vers. 5-7).
VI. ITS SUPERNATURAL AND SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS. Grace and peace, etc. (ver. 7). VII. ITS SPHERE. It is to go abroad into the whole World, and be exhibited there (ver. 8).
(T. Binney.)I. THE HIGHEST TITLE KNOWN IN EARTH OR HEAVEN is "a servant of God."
1. At the commencement of their Epistles, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude, use, indiscriminately, the expressions — "servant of God," and "servant of Christ," as if they were synonymous. It is one of the undesigned, and therefore strongest arguments for the Deity of Christ. James combines the two. And in every case each apostle places it first as his highest title — above his apostleship.
2. And were you to ask the man on earth nearest heaven, "What are you?" or the saints in Paradise, or the angels — in all their order and degrees — the response would be, "I am a servant of Jesus Christ."
3. And no marvel! The Lord Jesus Himself gloried in the name. It designated Him in prophecy. It was His own delineation of His work — "a Servant."
II. HOW DO WE ENTER THE SERVICE?
1. It begins with a vocation from God. It is not such as anyone may say that he has it. It is a distinct call. Everyone here might be inclined to say, "I am a servant of Christ — of course I am." When did you go to that "service"? There cannot be "service" without an act of engagement. The outward vocation — the pledge on either side — was at baptism. But it was not there that it became real. It is real when you begin to close, with certain inward impulses, which have been at work in your heart by the Holy Ghost; and to love God. This love is the child of liberty, and the service is the child of love.
2. Now you are prepared for "service." And you go, and in some way or other — it may be at confirmation, or holy communion — you go and consecrate yourself to His work. "Lord, here I am. I am Thine. Accept me, fit me, teach me, use me, as Thou wilt."
III. THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SERVICE.
1. You are placed in close communication with your Master, He tells you His secrets. "The slave knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you."
2. You serve "the King of kings and Lord of lords"; but you serve One who was once a servant. Many an earthly servant may sometimes have wished, "O that my master or mistress knew what service is!" That is what you have. He understands it all, and has the heart to feel, and the power to help.
3. And to that same Master His servants bring all their work; and as they lay it at His feet, He makes it clean, and perfumes it with the odour of His own perfect service. What has been wrong in it, He cancels: what is good, He accepts, when He has made it — by what He adds to it — acceptable to Himself.
4. And all along the sweet feeling of the servant is, "My Master is pleased with me and my poor service. And all I am doing, it is practice for a far higher and better service."
IV. THE CHARACTER OF THE "SERVICE." It does not much matter what Christ's servants do. They are His servants everywhere. It is the motive which makes the service, not the action. If a person desires to carry on his business upon Christian principles — and directly or indirectly to honour Christ in the world — that man is "a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ." If anyone does an act of kindness to another — if he give to the poor, or minister to the afflicted, and if he see Christ in them — then he does it to Christ, and he is "His servant." If a man humble himself for Christ's sake, then that man is Christ-like in His service, and he is a "servant" indeed. Or, no less, if a man suffer patiently, for Jesus' sake, he is "a servant of Jesus." Perhaps that is the highest service which combines the right fulfilment, for Christ's sake, of the greatest number of the duties of life. The daughter whom every day her father, mother, brothers, sisters, and servants, rise up to bless, and who, as she has opportunity, goes out to the poor, and the sick, and the schools about her, she is a truer "servant of Christ" than the daughter who shuts herself up into the one narrower sphere of her own selection. Practically, what you have to do, is to accept whatever work the providence of God may give you. And if you want to know what it is, in the providence of God, that you should do, consult, after special prayer about it, your minister, your Christian friends, your own judgment. A field of service will be sure to open to you, in due time, if you look for it. There go in, nothing doubting, and put all the Christ you can into it.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. NO ONE HAD A MORE VIVID SENSE OF LIBERTY and the right of private judgment than this disciple of Gamaliel. He had all the zeal of a Republican for the worth of manhood. He was a free-born Roman citizen, and he never forgot it. He could make a stand for his civil rights like a Hampden or a William Tell. He allowed no privileged authority to rob him of his franchise. He was the champion of personal liberty before the weak-minded Felix, or the straightforward Festus, or the frivolous Agrippa. And that famous declaration: "I appeal unto Caesar!" — it rings down eighteen centuries like the sound of a war trumpet. "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ." Yes, a slave — in body, mind, and spirit; boasting of his slavery in the face of the world.
II. THE AUTHORITY OF THIS DIVINE SLAVE IS PROPORTIONATE TO THE EXTENT OF HIS SLAVERY. The more slave he is of the Supreme Mind of humanity, the more right and power has he to be the founder of Christian theology. For what does this splendid slavery mean? It is a soul finding a personality higher and better than its own, and yielding allegiance to it. Slavery? It is liberty. It is moving within God. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
(H. Elvet Lewis.)1. Christianity has revolutionised the world, above all by teaching the value and dignity of man as man. There is one instance which exhibits this in the highest degree — "Paul, the slave of Jesus;"
2. It is thus that he begins the most elaborate of his letters. Now such a beginning is noteworthy for two reasons, because —(1) It is deliberately chosen, for only one other of his Epistles opens in precisely the same way.(2) In both cases the apostle is addressing those who, fully in Rome, and in some measure in Philippi, understood the proud position of Roman citizenship.
3. The gospel, however, had spread through every rank of society; and so in these two cities there would be those who understood the term of "master," as well as those who, to their sorrow, could not fail to realise the position of a "slave."
4. Dwell for a moment on the title. This man gives of himself an almost contemptuous description to the proudest people in the world. And then think of the man who thus voluntarily places himself in the ranks of the conquered. Brought up a Pharisee, by his very training inclined to be proud, uncompromising; to this must be added the possession of learning, and a consequent sense of superiority, was ever man less likely to submit willingly to the place of a slave? Note —
I. THE MEANING OF THE APOSTLE.
1. Complete submission of will to the commands of Christ. What those commands are, or mean, may be a matter, in part at least, of question; but the point of importance is that once discovered, they are to be unhesitatingly and entirely obeyed. It has been said that "a Colt craves for a king." It is true of all mankind, and a true King for us there is. One who understands man, whose sway is imperial, but whose laws meet the deepest yearnings of the soul, and whose result is blessing. To disobey such is to make life a scene of slaughter; and obey Him and "the wilderness and the solitary place blossom as the rose."
2. Entire submission of judgment to the revelation of Christ. To accept Christ at all is to accept Him as the absolute truth. Hard sayings, mysterious doctrines, came from His lips. To accept these in so far as they accord with our preconceived notions, or suit our tastes and wishes, is scarcely to accept them at all. To hold ourselves in submission to His revelation is the attitude of mind suited to His followers: to that tone of thought more light is given, and "spiritual things are spiritually discerned."
3. An entire and earnest effort to imitate the life of Christ. St. Paul felt this robe a necessity, because that life was itself a revelation. St. Paul, like others, might have set about to seek self in a manner not altogether ignoble, but in the prudent indulgence of legitimate ambition, and, indeed, he did so till Christ crossed his path. He had taken one view of life, and it was the wrong one. Here, in spite of all the world's assertion to the contrary, was the best, the noblest, the happiest life. What is your line in life? A servant you are to whom you obey; and your obedience will be regulated by that object of imitation and attainment to which your desire is turned. Is it pleasure? To seek it is, proverbially, to scare it from your path; and if found in any degree, how soon it palls upon the satiated soul! Is it reputation? Ah, me! it is a mere bubble shining for a moment in a gleam of sunlight, then bursting and gone. Is it riches? Our graveyards remind us that "we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Nay, more. What is dearer, what more beautiful than family life? If ever the weary worker may find an end and an object in his work, it is to create around him those objects of love which elevate and soothe. And yet they die.
4. That one attitude towards the Redeemer that is suitable in a soul which has sinned. When we are fully alive to sin, how little do the arguments with which before we cozened ourselves when sinning then avail! We want — and we feel that we want — a Redeemer. It is then that Jesus Christ is precious. To waken to that great truth to which Paul wakened — "loved me, gave Himself for me" — is to become the willing, loving slave of the Redeemer.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS CHRISTIAN VIEW OF SUBMISSION TO CHRIST.
1. It points to a large and loving recognition of all who name the Holy Name. "Our common Christianity" is a dangerous phrase, when it is meant to hint or encourage a doctrine of indifferentism. But it is true and consoling when it expresses that amongst all who are "baptized unto Jesus Christ" there is a share in one main ground of common faith and hope, which may unite them more at last than their differences can divide.
2. It affects in a very serious sense the attitude of the individual life.(1) There is one striking difference between the Roman servitude from which the apostle took his image, and that condition to which it pointed. To be a "slave of Jesus Christ" we must deliberately choose our Master.(2) if we choose Christ, there follows necessarily a wholly new view of our relation to mankind. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in you all."(3) To have constantly before the mind an unblemished ideal, and that with the knowledge that all life, happiness, and power are proportioned to our approach to that ideal; and, further, to have learned that abundant help is offered to essay the task, this must indeed have a powerful effect on character.
III. THE SECRET SPRING OF SUCH AN ATTITUDE OF MIND. In the mind of Paul there was no sort of question as to who Christ was. He had had amplest opportunity of examining His claims, but no amount of study, observation or evidence was enough. Divine faith ruled his life. He recognised Christ as the Eternal God, who was also the Representative Man, and recognising this, by the grace given him, he acted on the recognition.
1. To do this was to live by faith. Henceforth he directed his course by the visual efficacy of a fresher and fuller spiritual sense directed upon the reality of the unseen world. That reality was Christ's, To submit to the absolute supremacy of the same Master involves in each soul the supremacy of the same principle, to "walk by faith." Now the antagonist of such a principle is to walk by sight. The man who lives by the principle of "sight" may be respectable; but one thing he is not doing, viz., seeking to guide his course and govern his actions by habitual reference to an unseen, a loving Friend; he has in no way staked his all upon the promise, and committed his destiny to the keeping of "the Son of God."
2. But as faith was allowed to exercise its sovereign sway, there grew and deepened in the mind of the apostle an intense personal love and loyalty towards Christ. This lay at the root of his patient study of the mind of his Master, and his unwearying effort to do His work. Henceforth life was changed. Not only was he now baptized into Jesus Christ, but he rose to the fulness of his regenerate life. One, the Highest, had thought of him, even him. Could he ever forget it? "The life that I now live in the flesh," so he writes, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Jesus the Conqueror! Paul the slave! A great love had overmastered Paul, and a faithful response was given.(1) Loyal affectionateness is always beautiful. To see the grey-haired man, melting into tenderness at the dear memory of one, once loved, now gone — having once seen, what heart can resist it? To see the little child, sweet, gentle, retiring — flash into sudden enthusiasm, or grow into sudden gravity of reproof in behalf of an absent parent or friend — the heart is touched.(2) Ah, me! the world grows cold and critical: young hearts lose their freshness because they lose their faithfulness; miss their nobility when hero worship is dead. God save you from the cynical spirit. It is the generous spirit that is the brave spirit; because where it is there is loyalty. To what? Well, to anything or anyone who is in any measure really deserving; to your Church, Queen, country, to a great tradition, to a hallowed memory — loyalty to these leads to the higher.(3) Think what it is for us Christians to have the vision of the highest truth before us, and to fail in loyalty! What follows? Success, money, greed satisfied, and the dark heart, the narrow brain. Think also, to see the highest truth and to be loyal! Certainly it means some pain, some shame. Conclusion: What Paul did that we Christians must do. The child Blandina smiled as she went to her agony; the aged wept in an ecstasy of tenderness when he thought of the love of his Master, and the horror of denying One who so long had loved him. The Greek girl — in a beautiful romance — lay in the depth of the African dungeon; she had longed for the azure skies of Attica, she had pined for the free breezes of the fresh AEgean, but they found her radiant with joy in her darkness and solitude, and the only account she gave of that strange completeness of revolutionised nature was this, "My Love was crucified."
1. The comfort. Life is full of failure, of sorrow, of sin. Listen. He changes not, "He loved you, and gave Himself for you." Well, then, if listening —
2. The result.(1) Surely penitence — deepening penitence. And more. You will grow, advance, increase in grace as your surrender becomes more complete.(2) Devotion. Not perhaps the burning enthusiasm of His first followers, or the blind, vigorous courage of the martyrs. But life will be truer, nobler, better, if we keep Him before us; the business mart may restrain his speculations when they pass the line of honesty, may spend his money for God; the young city clerk may subdue his passions, and teach in the Sunday school; the fashionable lady may bend the proud rules of social convention With a sweet dexterity, and do self-denying acts in real Christian love; the labouring man may work; the bedridden may endure; each with one thing in common some surrender; that is, some deepening love of heart, and stronger energy of will for love of Him who gave Himself for them, may learn in their several measures to be "slaves of Christ."
I. The highest MASTERHOOD.
1. His mission — Jesus, i.e., Saviour; Christ, i.e., anointed. Christ is God in His redemptive capacity. There is no salvation where there is not a deliverance from sin, from its possession, dominion, consequences.
2. His divinity — "the Son of God." The universe teems with sons of God; but the Infinite has no son like Christ, Hence He is called "His only begotten Son."
3. His human history.(1) By birth He sprang from the seed of David (John 7:42). He was born of humanity.(2) He was raised from the dead. His birth proved Him a man, His resurrection a God according to a spirit essentially, eternally holy. Such is the Highest Master. His authority is indisputable, His love amazing, His character holy, His experience wonderful.
II. The highest EMPLOYMENT. Paul was an apostle of this Master. There are many branches of employment in the service of Christ; but there is nothing higher than that of apostleship (1 Corinthians 12:28). It is an office of the highest trust, it is to represent his Master. Of the most salutary and ennobling influence, it is to redeem the world. Paul was "called" to this high office, on the way to Damascus, and from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15).
2. He was an apostle of the highest message. "The gospel of God." God is the Author, the Substance, and the End of this good news to men.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. PAUL, A SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. On his first appearance in history who would ever have thought of finding his name associated with such a designation? The Jewish priests and rulers, the sworn enemies of Christ, were then his masters; and Satan was theirs. But the slave of the devil became the servant of Christ. And he transferred from the one service to the other all his native ardour, and all his indefatigable activity. That service was more than destitute of dignity in the eyes of both Jews and Gentiles. But now to be "a servant of Jesus Christ" was esteemed by Paul his most distinguished honour, and was enjoyed by him as the chief zest and happiness of his life.
2. Let the disciples of Christ remember that they are all His servants; and what department soever of that service they are called to fill, whether public or private, let them cherish the same spirit with Paul. The more highly we think of the Master the more honourable will we deem His service; and the deeper our sense of obligation, the more ardent will be our delight in the doing of His will, and in the advancement of His glory.
II. BUT PAUL SERVED CHRIST IN A SPECIAL CAPACITY.
1. The office of an apostle was the highest among the offices of the Christian Church. In every enumeration of them this stands first (Ephesians 4:8-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). In the apostles we find all gifts combined. They were, in the very highest sense, "ambassadors for Christ," and "stewards of the mysteries of God." Their testimony was the standard of truth; and their authority, as the plenipotentiaries of their exalted Lord, was without appeal (John 17:18).
2. And that authority continues still. The writings of the apostles have all the authority of the apostles themselves. What a powerful inducement to their careful study, and how solemn the admonition, that if we "wrest" them, it must be to "our own destruction"! This is coin that bears "the image and superscription" of the King of Heaven; to destroy, to debase, or to lighten it is an act of treason.
III. THIS OFFICIAL HONOUR REQUIRED A COMMISSION FROM THE LORD HIMSELF. Such commission Saul of Tarsus received when the Lord appeared to him on his way to Damascus (Acts 26:15-18). There was he "called to be an apostle." The word "called" has by different commentators been explained as of the same meaning with "chosen." It may be questioned, however, whether the calling is not, more properly, the result, or practical following out, of the choice. "A called apostle" means one who had not assumed the office of his own will, but in virtue of an express call, at once authoritative and effectual, from the Lord; for while the call included the sanction of authority, it included also that Divine operation upon the mind by which he was at once inclined and fitted for the office.
IV. THE OBJECT TO WHICH HE HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY SET APART, AND WAS SUBSEQUENTLY CALLED, WAS "THE GOSPEL OF GOD." "The gospel of God," is a message from Him to His sinful and guilty creatures; and its very name implies that it is a message of good. As such, it recommends itself to all to whom it comes by the appeal which it makes to their desire of happiness, and as "the gospel of God" it comes with all the united recommendations of authority, kindness, and truth. Thus it should be contemplated with solemnity and awe on the one hand, and welcomed with delight on the other.
V. THE SUBJECT OF THAT GOSPEL is —
1. Jesus, "Jehovah that saveth" — i.e., a Divine Saviour. He was to "save His people from their sins."
2. Christ — i.e., anointed — the Hebrew Messiah (Isaiah 61:1, 2). Jesus was thus anointed when, after His baptism, "the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted upon Him," being given to Him "without measure," and consecrating Him to His official work.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
(Dr. Duff.)depositum, a public treasure, committed to the keeping of every Christian; each man having, as it were, a several key of the Church, a several trust for the honour of this kingdom delivered unto him. As in the solemn coronation of the prince every peer of the realm hath his station about the throne, and with the touch of his hand upon the royal crown, declareth the personal duty of that honour which he is called unto, namely, to hold on the crown on the head of his sovereign; to make it the main end of his greatness, to study, and by all means endeavour the establishment of his prince's throne; so every Christian, as soon as he hath the honour to be called unto the kingdom and presence of Christ hath immediately no meaner a depositum committed to his care, than the very throne and crown of his Saviour than the public honour, peace, victory and stability of his Master's kingdom.
(Prof. J. A. Beet.)
Called to be an apostle.I. DIVINE APPROVAL. A servant, accepted, devoted, faithful.
II. A DIVINE COMMISSIONS. Inward conviction, holy impulse.
III. DIVINE DESIGNATION. By suitable qualifications, providential arrangements, to a special work.
(J. Lyth.)1 Corinthians 9:1). He had received his commission directly from Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1). He possessed the signs of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12). He had received the knowledge of the gospel, not through any man, or by any external means, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11, 12), and although he was as one born out of due time, yet, by the grace vouchsafed to him, he laboured more abundantly than all the rest.
Separated unto the gospel of God
(W. Griffiths.)I. WHAT. Set apart to a special purpose, sanctified (Jeremiah 1:5).
1. In God's purpose from the womb (Galatians 1:15).
2. Actually and generally at his conversion (Acts 9:15).
3. Specially as apostle of the Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 13:2). The first separation preceded the call; the others followed it. Before his conversion Paul separated himself and became a Pharisee; after it he was separated by God and became a Christian and an apostle. The first separation by human pride; the second by Divine grace.
III. WHAT TO.
1. The gospel.
(1) (2) (3) (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) 2. Of God. God is its Author and subject matter (John 3:16). It is the product of His wisdom and love (Ephesians 3:10; Titus 3:4). Hence —(1) Its excellence, preciousness, and authority; for the gospel of God must be — (a) (b) (c) (a) (b) (c) (d) (T. Robinson, D. D.) I. ITS AUTHOR, as He has purposed it in His eternal decrees. II. ITS INTERPRETER, as He Himself hath declared it to men. III. ITS SUBJECT, because in the gospel His sovereign perfections and purposes towards men are manifested. (R. Haldane.)
(2) (3) (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) 2. Of God. God is its Author and subject matter (John 3:16). It is the product of His wisdom and love (Ephesians 3:10; Titus 3:4). Hence —(1) Its excellence, preciousness, and authority; for the gospel of God must be — (a) (b) (c) (a) (b) (c) (d) (T. Robinson, D. D.) I. ITS AUTHOR, as He has purposed it in His eternal decrees. II. ITS INTERPRETER, as He Himself hath declared it to men. III. ITS SUBJECT, because in the gospel His sovereign perfections and purposes towards men are manifested. (R. Haldane.)
(3) (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) 2. Of God. God is its Author and subject matter (John 3:16). It is the product of His wisdom and love (Ephesians 3:10; Titus 3:4). Hence —(1) Its excellence, preciousness, and authority; for the gospel of God must be — (a) (b) (c) (a) (b) (c) (d) (T. Robinson, D. D.) I. ITS AUTHOR, as He has purposed it in His eternal decrees. II. ITS INTERPRETER, as He Himself hath declared it to men. III. ITS SUBJECT, because in the gospel His sovereign perfections and purposes towards men are manifested. (R. Haldane.)
(T. Robinson, D. D.) I. ITS AUTHOR, as He has purposed it in His eternal decrees. II. ITS INTERPRETER, as He Himself hath declared it to men. (R. Haldane.)
(T. Robinson, D. D.)
I. ITS AUTHOR, as He has purposed it in His eternal decrees.
II. ITS INTERPRETER, as He Himself hath declared it to men.