Monday, August 16, 2010
The first three verses of 1st Corinthians 13 make it clear that if we do not have “agape”, or if we do not have the love of God that is shed abroad in the hearts and souls of those who are truly children of God, then we have a clear sign that we are not saved. Let us begin there today, and let us review the necessity of Agape.
The necessity of Agape (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Ephesians 1:4-6)
1 Corinthians 13:1
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
1 Corinthians 13:5
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
1 Corinthians 13:6
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
1 Corinthians 13:7
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
1 Corinthians 13:8
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
1 Corinthians 13:9
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
1 Corinthians 13:10
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Now the question remains, “Do we have charity?” and thus let us dig into the following four verses and find out if we do have that charity that the Bible speaks about.
Therefore the title of today’s article is, “Do We Have Charity?”
Let me state up front that the word that is translated “charity” in 1st Corinthians 13 is the Greek word agape The English word “to love” comes out of two Greek words: agapao and phileo. Whenever a love comes out of the will of man it is the word agape. Whenever a love comes out of the feelings of man it is the word phileo. For example, to love our neighbor as ourselves by giving him a gospel tract is “agapao”, whereas to have pity on a beggar and give him alms is “phileo”.
And even though throughout the entire chapter 13 the translators chose to use the word charity, we want to take note that throughout the entire chapter 13 the Greek word agape is used, which never has the meaning of almsgiving.
What is it that we must absolutely have, or else we evidence that we have not been regenerated?
It is agape, whereas phileo is optional.
For example, when God commands us to love our fellow man in the church, it is conceivable that we do not love him with our feelings, for we are repulsed by something of his personality. But we have made a decision to love him and to do him good, for that is what we are commanded to do. Nevertheless, this does not remain a coldhearted action on our part, for God also commands us to pray for our brethren in the church. And when we pray for someone, and pray sincerely, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost for this person, and we are growing in love for our fellow brethren. This is the love shown in 1st Corinthians 13.
We can take as our example the love, agape, that Christ has for us, which is a love that was an impulse of His will. Every single individual of the entire human race looks repulsive in the eyes of God, for God is repulsed by the multitude of our sins. But in eternity past the Father chose a bride for His Son out of this repulsive human race, and therefore He chose a certain number of people (Ephesians 1:4) whom He chose to love with an unconditional agape, for He chose to love us according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5). It had to be an unconditional love, for if God would have made it conditional, any condition would have become a law, then no one of those He chose would have made it, NO NOT ONE, for man is not able to obey any law of God perfectly.
And so He washed us from our sins by having Christ pay for our sins on the cross, and He made us accepted in His Beloved, which refers to Christ, to the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).
It means that He would have to give us the status of adopted sons and daughters freely, for as the bride of Christ we enter into His family. We were drafted to come into His family, and therefore He made us joint heirs with Christ, joint heirs of the New Heaven & New Earth.
This, in a nutshell, is the entire Gospel of grace. This is the good news for all those whom God has chosen from eternity past. And this is the love, agape, that God has for us, and that Christ has for us, and this is the love that initially was an impulse of His will, but eventually it included His pity for us, who are bankrupt and poor beggars, for we were unable to help ourselves. This is the love, agape, that we must have for the brethren in church as much as we must have it for our wife, as I have already explained last week.
Now we have to find the answer to the question:
Do we have this agape?
Do we have this charity?
God helps us along to the answer by defining for us what He means by charity, or agape.
"Charity Suffereth Long" (1 Corinthians 13:4, Proverbs 10:12, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 17:9, 1 Peter 4:8)
1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Charity suffereth long and is kind. Of all the characteristics of agape that are mentioned here in 1st Corinthians 13 here are the two characteristics that stand out with head and shoulders that describe the nature of charity. Let us think of the context. There were contentions and strifes at the church of Corinth; there were suspicions, and jealousies, and heart burnings; there would be unkind judging, and imputation of improper motives, and selfishness; there was also envy, and pride, and boasting, and all of these were inconsistent with love.
And in this environment God, through the hand of the apostle Paul, designed to correct these evils, and to produce a different state within the church by exercising love. Thus, when God says here “charity suffereth long”, He uses a word here which means: slowness to anger, or slowness to passion, or long suffering, or patient endurance, or forbearance. It is opposed to “haste”, and to passionate expressions, and to irritability.
And thus, when God says, “charity suffereth long”, He refers to the state of mind which can bear long when we are oppressed, or when we are provoked, or when we are gossiped about, or when someone seeks to do us harm.
In these matters of interpersonal relationships we find that the Prophecy of Proverbs is a goldmine. For example, we must hold back and not lash out in anger trying to defend ourselves, for God is our defender. God says in Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”
What did God mean thereby?
If in the course of a discussion we are being attacked, or we are being provoked, or the subject of a gossip about us is being brought up as a matter of accusation, then if we try to defend ourselves we are risking that the discussion turns into an atmosphere of hatred, and God says that hatred does not solve anything but stirs up strifes.
God will defend us, and in time we shall be vindicated.
On the other hand, when we are attacked and we respond with love, God says that “love covereth all sins”.
Whose sins are covered?
The sins of the attacker are his sins, and God will deal with him; we are no mediator in his sins. But our sins, which are many, will be covered, and will not be laid out for all to see. Remember that true atonement of our sins can only be done by Christ on the cross. The covering of our sins in the eyes of God can only occur on the cross, but our sins in the eyes of the world will be covered when we respond in love.
God teaches us exactly the same thing in Proverbs 15:1, where He says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
And so, the subject of longsuffering must be foremost in our minds when we are dealing with our fellow man. We must constantly remind ourselves what we preach, and what the Word of God says. It does not mean that from now on our dealings with others will be smooth and without any wrath. We are human, and we are subject to many temptations, and we are not always responding to other people’s accusations as true saints, but sometimes we to can respond in ways that are not good.
Let me bring up two other examples of longsuffering. God says in Proverbs 17:9, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”
If we cover a transgression, or an accusation, or a matter in which we are being provoked, by passing it over, we will find that the discussion turns into loving one another. But if we repeat the matter of the accusation, or we repeat the matter in which we are being provoked, we run the risk that we are losing friends, or worse, that our friends will side with our enemies.
In the first Epistle of Peter we find many nuggets of interpersonal relationships, such as: Christ is our example, and guidance for husbands and wives, and be of one mind toward one another, and how a Christian should act in this world, and rejoicing in trials, and cast your care upon Him. But today we will look only at 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
Whose sins are being covered?
Our sins are covered for the world.
Only the atonement of Christ on the cross can cover our sins in the sight of God. No action on our part can contribute one iota to the actual covering of our sins before God. But we can make our lives on this earth more pleasant by having fervent charity among the brethren. And by fervent charity is meant that we not only extend our love to the brethren because we were commanded to do so, not only extend our love to the brethren because we have to, but because we want to.
We fervently want to have a loving relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even though they live far away. We realize that this might be a problem in our congregation, because some of us live 100 miles away from others whom we want to befriend. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable problem. What we need is some initiatives in this direction.
But the question that we are facing today is this:
Do we have charity?
Are we longsuffering toward our fellow man?
When we talk with our brethren of the church, are we slow to anger, or slow to passion, and passing over points of friction, and can we bear long with them knowing that God ultimately will set the record straight?
Or are we immediately on fire, and want to win the debate, and want to have the last word. Think about this now, and see what our behavior was in the past, and if we have to change our attitude, and if we perhaps have to change our style of discussion.
For Christ has not called us to be His debaters, but His witnesses. When we witness that we are the children of God, we must show with our actions that the love of God was indeed shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and this would show up in our speech as well.
"Charity is Kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:14-15)
1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Be kind toward one another.
Here is another characteristic of charity, or agape, that shows up in our speech.
Are we kind towards one another when we speak?
Are we making friends?
Are we accepting one another as equals, not trying to dominate a discussion?
Believe me, nobody likes a man who knows it all, for the simple reason that such a man does not exist. If we have studied long and hard in the past, then let us share our knowledge in a non-threatening way, in love accepting one another as Christ has commanded us. This is the way to make friends. And be at peace when others do not believe us, for most of the time it is not life threatening to us if we do not win the debate. Let us now look at a couple verses, and see if we can make this subject matter a little clearer.
The church in Thessalonica were a congregation who from the beginning were full of love towards one another. We can read that in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, where we read, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.”
And although this verse speaks of brotherly love, we should be aware that the word agape is used, not the word phileo. We read here in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all (men).”
Here is a very good example of being kind. It does not mean that we must become a push-over, but that we are firm toward them that are unruly. This means that we must be firm toward them who try to lord it over the rest of the congregation. They are the ones that are unruly, because they hate the present rules and want to establish their own rules. In other words, by being stern with those that are unruly we are kind to the rest of the congregation. And we are also kind to the congregation when we are kind to the feeble minded, which means to those who have not had the opportunity of gaining a knowledge of the Word of God. Be kind to them, for the Father loves them as much as He loves us. Comfort the feeble minded, and support those that are weak in the faith, such as little children and those that are new in the faith. Perhaps in time they will be as strong in the faith as we are.
And “be patient to all”. The word men is in italics, and was added by the translators. Be patient with the children, for they must still learn the gravity of worshipping God. Be patient with the teenagers, for they must still learn the gravity of the Judgment of God. Be patient with the young adults, for they must learn that to be a successful parent we must raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Be patient with the old men and the old women, for they have missed the opportunity to be taught, and now is their opportunity to get to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father who sent Him. Be patient with elders and deacons who are supposed to know, for now is their opportunity to learn to be teachers of the Word of God and to learn how to teach the sovereignty of God in the church and in the world, and to learn how to be kind and compassionate towards our fellow man. And be patient with all those who seem to have no love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They too can be redeemed if the Lord wills.
When we look at 1 Corinthians 13:4, and we read, “Charity is kind” we realize that the word for “kind” means to be good-natured, gentle, tender, and affectionate. Love wishes well to our neighbor. It is not harsh, or sour, or morose, or ill-natured. Tindal writes “love is courteous”. The idea is that under all provocations and confrontations love is gentle and mild. But hatred results in harshness, severity, unkindness of expression, anger, and a desire of revenge. Watch out for those symptoms. But love is the reverse of all these. A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, and desires to do him good; he will be gentle, not severe and harsh; he will be courteous because he desires his happiness and does not want to hurt his feelings.
Let us hear what God says how we should behave in the church when we claim that we are Christians, which means of the family of Christ, when we claim that we are the Bride of Christ, and when we claim that we love one another.
God says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Now, this was the reason why the Lord Jesus after the last Passover meal washed the disciple’s feet. Ceremonially it meant that the disciples should wash one another’s feet, meaning that they should forgive one another their sins. Their conscience had become dirty in walking through this world, which is symbolized by their dirty feet.
And thus while they washed one another’s feet they forgave each other their little annoyances, for Christ had already washed their souls clean.
Therefore, God says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Tenderhearted means that mutual forgiveness must be guaranteed within the body of Christ. It cannot be that one member of the family of Christ cannot forgive another member. If this kind of unforgiveness shows up, it means that one of the parties, or perhaps both parties, are not saved, because they do not have the love of God in their hearts. Therefore it is absolutely mandatory that within the body of Christ we will forgive one another, for the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15,
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
By forgiving one another we do not let the other party off the hook. They still have to answer to God for their own sins. But we let ourselves off the hook, for by forgiving them their trespasses we in turn receive peace in our hearts, and we can put the offending party and their offense out of our mind.
"Charity Envieth Not" (1 Corinthians 13:4, Mark 15:10, Galatians 5:26)
1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
“Charity envieth not” because if we love one another then we rejoice with one another. We would not envy someone else because of God’s favor resting upon him. If God considers that person and decides that out of God’s providence that person should get a little more than most other people do, then we should appreciate the wisdom of God to do such a thing.
Remember that envy is a grievous sin.
If covetousness is a deadly sin, for it is synonymous with idolatry, then envy, which is worse than covetousness, is even more of a grevious sin.
We can see the effects of this terrible sin in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees at the time the Lord Jesus walked on this earth, for we read that Pilate saw their envy. We read in Mark 15:10, “For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.”
They were envious that the Lord Jesus would draw all people to Himself, and thus He had to go. But their hatred of Him was so great that they resorted to murder, and thus the Lord Jesus was captured before they had an accusation to blame Him off.
This is what envy does.
It leads to hatred and even to murder. We also see it in the lives of Cain and Abel how envy leads to murder. Make sure we understand that we can actually have murder in our heart before we resort to the actual act of killing someone.
Envy usually lies in the same line of business, or occupation, or rank. We do not usually envy a head of state, or a conqueror, unless we are aspiring to the same rank. The farmer envies another farmer. The teacher envies another teacher. The physician envies another physician who is more successful than he is.
The correction of all these is love, or agape. If we loved others, we would not envy them, but we would be thankful to God that He has blessed them with some extra gifts.
After listing 18 works of the flesh, and 9 fruits of the Spirit, God gave us a last push on the matter of envy. Even though He had already stated this work of the flesh in verse 21, the Lord counted it worthy to repeat this warning concerning envy. He says in Galatians 5:26 “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” We see here that to envy one another is part of the desire for vain glory, which is a desire to be rich in the world and to have many things with which we can parade before others; but it is all vain glory. And this matter of vain glory is related to the following two items on the list.
"Charity Vaunteth Not Itself" (1 Corinthians 13:4)
1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
The Greek word translated “vaunteth” occurs only in this place, and nowhere else in the New Testament. The idea is that of boasting, or bragging, or vaunting. It has the notion of boasting or of vaunting of our own excellencies or gifts. The definition of the verb “to vaunt” is “to make a vain display of our own worth or accomplishments.” And thus it is related to pride, or boasting, or being puffed up.
Charity does not boast of itself; and that is obvious. Charity does not brag about how good and lovely we are. And instead of claiming how good and lovely we are, we need to ask ourselves if we do have charity for one another.
Do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Is that so, or is it not?
Where is the evidence?
Remember that our love for one another will show itself in our actions. Let us then look at our actions and see how little we do for one another, and ask ourselves if perhaps we can do more for one another. You may reply that you are already doing a great deal for the community at large. That is fine, but that is not where your priorities lie.
Your priorities are your brothers and sisters in Christ in the church.
And is our concern for one another flowing over to our children?
This, I believe, is the weakest link in our interpersonal relationships. Pray to God that we as a church may grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord, and that we may look at Jesus as our example.
And pray to God that He will strengthen our love for one another, for we need it.
But God, for us, His people, in His infinite wisdom and love for us has kept us in the faith, and has counted us worthy to remain standing faithfully in this world full of apostacy and idolatry. Show God our gratitude for His unspeakable love and grace.
By Alfred J. Chompff
Friday, August 13, 2010
Christian husbands are bidden (Ephesians 5:25-33) to love their wives. The whole of the exhortation is somewhat too long to quote fully, but we will give one verse: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25).
Now look at the foundation of this exhortation.
Why should a Christian husband, according to this precept, love his wife?
Because it is his duty, or because conducive to his happiness, or because it is what she has a right to as his partner in life?
None of these grounds is named, or even alluded to. But this is the foundation of the precept. Christ loved the Church as His mystical body, and gave Himself for it. Therefore as the believing husband holds to the believing wife as her natural head, the same relative position which Christ holds to the church as her spiritual head, he is bound to love her for Christ's sake and after Christ's example. Christ and His Church are one; she is His own flesh which He nourisheth and cherisheth. So a man and his wife are one flesh. When, then, he loves her he loves himself; and to nourish and cherish her is to nourish and cherish his own body, as Christ does the church.
Is not this noble gospel ground full of the sublimest and deepest truth?
Is it not a spiritual, heavenly and holy view of Christian marriage, and does it not baptize that social tie as with the very spirit and love of Christ?
What a sanctity it throws round the marriage of Christians!
How it elevates it above all worldliness and carnality, and brings down upon conjugal love the pure breath of heaven, more than reinstating it to what it was in Paradise in the days of man's primeval innocence!
Now take, as a counterpart, the precept to Christian wives:
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
This precept, perhaps, may be less palatable to those to whom it is addressed, for no wife minds how much her husband gives her of his love, but she has not always the same pleasure in giving him her obedience. But let her like it or not, the submission and subjection of a wife to her husband are here inculcated as one of the precepts of the gospel.
But on what high, holy and spiritual ground it is placed. How the precept is based upon and connected with the glorious gospel doctrine of the headship of Christ and the church's subjection and submission to Him as such.
When, then, a Christian wife seeks not her own will but her husband's, when she submits to his desires and wishes (and of course the apostle assumes that as a Christian man these would be in harmony with the gospel), her very submission is her glory as well as her happiness.
Is it not so in our submission to Christ?
Is it not our glory and happiness to know no will but His, and to yield to Him the obedience of love?
Thus ye Christian wives, when you submit yourselves to your husbands in love and affection, you do so after the example of the church. There is no loss of dignity or position in this, no giving up of your rights. When you can respect and love your husband as a Christian man as well as a Christian partner, and you can walk together not only in conjugal but spiritual love, as he will require nothing from you which you may not safely and scripturally yield to him, so will it be your pleasure as well as your privilege to walk with him as his equal in Christ, but now subordinate in present position.
By J.C. Philpot
Thursday, August 12, 2010
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers..."
(1 Peter 1:1)
What makes the children of God so strange?
The grace of God which calls them out of this wretched world. Every man who carries the grace of God in his bosom is necessarily, as regards the world, a stranger in heart, as well as in profession, and life.
As Abraham was a stranger in the land of Canaan; as Joseph was a stranger in the palace of Pharaoh; as Moses was a stranger in the land of Egypt; as Daniel was a stranger in the court of Babylon; so every child of God is separated by grace, to be a stranger in this ungodly world.
And if indeed we are to come out from it and to be separate, the world must be as much a strange place to us; for we are strangers to...
in our daily walk,
in our speech,
in our mind,
in our spirit,
in our judgment,
in our affections.
We will be strangers from...
the world's company,
the world's maxims,
the world's fashions,
the world's spirit.
"They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
J.C. Philpot - "The Precious Trial of Faith" - 1865
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Unless the trumpet give a certain sound, who is to prepare himself for the battle?
I want no new doctrines, nor any new religion, as I want no fresh Bible and no new Lord; all I want is to live more daily in the sweet enjoyment of them, and to manifest more of their power in heart, lip and life.
We are no longer young. Life is, as it were, slipping from under our feet, and therefore I desire to spend the rest of my days, be they few or many, in serving the Lord, walking in His fear, enjoying His presence, preaching His gospel, contending for His truth and living to His glory.
It is a poor life to live to sin, self and the world, but it is a blessed life to live unto the Lord. I only wish that I could do so more and more, but I have to find that the good I would I do not, and the evil I would not that I do.
How soon we sink down into carnality and death, and like a rower plying against the stream, at once fall down with the current when we cease to ply our oars. These oars are prayer, reading, meditation and heart examination, and without them too soon we slip away from the harbour to which we hope we are bending our course.
And yet we daily find that we cannot use these oars to purpose except the Lord be pleased to put strength into us. We may indeed attempt to use them, and should not cease to do so. But alas, of how little avail are they unless He who teaches the hands to war and the fingers to fight, teach us also their use, and give us power to use them in His strength, not our own.
I am not one bit stronger in myself with all my long profession and, I hope, possession of the life of God; but on the contrary, have a more sensible feeling of my weakness, sinfulness and helplessness than ever I had before. At the same time I hope I have learned more deeply and thoroughly whence all my strength, wisdom, righteousness and sanctification are to come, and thus to look more to the Lord and less to self.
May our lot, living and dying, be with the saints of God whom He has redeemed with the precious blood of His dear Son, whom He has called and quickened by His grace, and to whom He has made known the blessed mysteries of His kingdom as set up in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Time and life are fast passing away with us, but we hope that through distinguishing grace we have not lived altogether to sin and self, but have endeavoured, very weakly, indeed, and imperfectly, yet in the main sincerely, to serve God in our day and generation, to seek the good of His people, to be blessed and be made a blessing.
To live a life of faith upon the Son of God is indeed a blessing beyond all price, and such a life here will prepare for a life of eternal and unalloyed enjoyment hereafter.
But though we thus seem to get sick of earth, sin and self, yet we feel the need of divine communications of life, light, liberty and love to raise up the heart and draw the affections heavenward.
Hunger is not food, weariness not rest, and sickness not cure. How we need the blessed Lord to appear for us and in us, that we may find in Him that rest and peace, that happiness and consolation, which none but He can bestow.
It is an inestimable mercy when in the absence of suspension of mental energy, the soul can quietly and softly repose on the bosom of mercy. And indeed, this is one of the choicest blessings of the covenant of grace, that it gives rest and peace, quietness and stillness in the assurance that the work of Christ is a finished work, that nothing remains to be done, and that all is secured in the Person of the Son of God, in whom the Father is ever well pleased.
May our desire and delight be to exalt Thy worthy name; for Thou art our All in all!
All divine truth is in Jesus, comes from Him and leads to Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Holiness of practice, what is it?
It is not a set of feelings.
It is a course of conduct, and it comprises several particulars, as first, abstention from the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Mix not with what appears to be wrong; ask not how far you can go in that which even the world blames.
What moral, worldly men blame, should it not be eschewed by professing Christians?
Where the worldling would not go, should the Christian think of going?
Just think of it – “the appearance” that which looks wrong.
You may say, “O but my conscience does not accuse me; my motives are not bad.”
That rule is not permitted you. No man has a right, professing the name of Jesus Christ, to go on that ground. It is ungracious ground; it is false ground, unholy, untender ground.
It is the excuse of the flesh; it is the deception of the heart, the hypocrisy of the mind, the pollution of Satan. It is not good ground.
Whether your conscience accuses you or not is not the question (though, by the way, I might say that perhaps the reason why your conscience does not accuse you is that it is very much hardened; and if so, then your case is much worse). O “follow holiness” by keeping from the appearance of sin.
Let me repeat it: what the world condemns, do not touch.
Secondly, abstention from actual wrong.
“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”
Can you touch pitch and not be defiled?
Can you walk in what God forbids and be innocent?
Can you join yourself to any wrong thing, anything that appears wrong to the world, that the world would condemn, and be innocent in that union?
No. And think of the effect upon others. Think of the effect upon your brethren if you walk in wrong. Why, it stumbles them, it stumbles tender people; it reproaches the church of Christ and brings evil.
Therefore, abstain from every evil. Be jealous of God’s honour, of His Christ. Be jealous of His holy gospel, of His holy promise, and walk so as that the finger of reproach shall never be justly pointed at you, and unjustly at the gospel through your conduct.
If you are spoken against, let it be falsely; then a blessing shall attend you according to Christ’s Word. But if it be justly, woe to you, for if you be the Lord’s child, then you will smart for what you do. His rod shall make you know what an evil thing and bitter it is to go where He has told you not to go, to walk in what He has forbidden.
What? will you touch that which is sin?
Will you knowingly do that which you know the LORD has forbidden?
Would you do that?
Then you are not following holiness, and if a child of God, O what is before you God only knows.
You are not walking as the Lord commands you to do.
Follow holiness, leave off everything that is evil – all lying:
“Putting away lying...”
“Lie not one to another.”
“..Speak every man truth with his neighbour.”
“...Love the truth and peace.”
These things are not for nothing spoken; dear friends, they are not given to us for nothing. The Lord knew well our base, false nature, the hypocrisy and lying that we have in it; and therefore He said to His saints, Do not practise that; speak the truth; let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.
Walk so; follow this holiness – separation from the world that lieth in wickedness.
Follow holiness in those particulars. Follow holiness in all your dealings with men, so that if they know your religion, if they know your strict and particular belief and hate it, and express their hatred of it, there yet may be extorted from their unwilling lips a testimony of the goodness and uprightness of your life.
Happy the man whose dealings with men are equal to his profession before God!
It ought to be so. I touched upon this important subject just now, in speaking of masters and servants.
Then come also to closer relationships in life.
What of the husband?
The Scripture tells him what to do, that he is to cherish his wife and give her the honour that is due to the weaker vessel; that he and she are one flesh; that he is in all faithfulness to attend to her, leaving all others, leaving his father and his mother and being “joined unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
And says Paul, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (verse 29).
That is the Scripture, and he who breaks it, if he be a child of God, will get = broken for his breaking of it, in some way.
And what of the wife?
Yes, it is said to her that she is to obey her husband in all things in the Lord. She in her wifely duties has the Word of God to teach her. She must behave herself, comport herself consistently with that relationship that is the nearest, and dearest, and sweetest of all the relationships the earth knows. Husband and wife are to follow holiness, as when the wife prays to be enabled to fulfil her duties, and the husband begs for grace to enable him to do that which is enjoined upon him in the Scriptures.
What sorrow of heart has the breach of this precept occasioned some good men for many years after the sin has been forgiven!
It is godly sorrow that “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The shame, the carefulness, the indignation, the vehement desire, the zeal, the revenge, which follow a breach of this branch of holiness they, through grace, have had.
Follow holiness, too, in that external conduct which attaches or should attach to every professor of the name of the holy child Jesus.
“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
(2 Timothy 2. 19)
Parents are addressed. The father, he is not to provoke his children lest they be discouraged, but he is to tell his children about the Lord’s goodness; he is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, admonishing them in that great, that good commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12).
That belongs to us who are parents, and in very substance belongs to all children. You children who are still with your parents, do tenderly regard God’s Word. It is a solemn thing for children to disregard parents.
Disobedience to parents is one of the crying sins of today, and it is one that the Apostle Paul mentions. Disobedience to parents is mentioned together with unthankfulness and unholiness. O children, regard your parents tenderly; obey them constantly. Obey them because the Lord has told you to do so, and do not forget that disobedience to parents is a sin which God will punish; and where He forgives it by the blood of Christ, there are often times and things which make the child in later days (perhaps when he himself is a parent) remember the sins of his youth.
Often he may have to say to his heavenly Father, “Remember not the sins of my youth” (Psalm 25:7); remember not against me former transgressions. Here I speak out of a painful experience. It is a bitter thing to sin against God and transgress His holy Word.
And then in the next place, follow holiness in all your conduct in the church as professors. Follow holiness – separation from every evil thing; as for instance, obeying them that have the rule over you, for they admonish you, and “they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
That is God’s word, and although I speak as a pastor of this church, I would say to you, “Mind that word.”
I do not say it because I have had any reason to smart under any disregard of it amongst you. I would bless God with humility that He has been so kind to me, a weak, unworthy pastor.
But who knows what I may come into?
May I be kept from giving any occasion of stumbling.
Do not forget that scripture: “Obey them that have the rule over you.”
No pastor’s rule lies in an external rule over the mind, will, judgment, conscience or estates of his people. It lies in this: the unction of the ministry, which will bring them to the obedience of Christ. It lies thus in God’s power. I would not give a straw for the external authority of a minister, if he should not possess also, and chiefly, the authority that the affection of the people willingly gives him, from the power and unction of the Word in their hearts. Other than that I never sought, as far as I know myself.
Follow holiness in this also: be careful one of another, be tender one
for another, mind each other’s wealth.
“Look not ... on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Follow holiness in obedience to the precepts. One of them is:
“Exhort one another daily, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
And again, “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Leviticus 19:17).
Remember those things. They come fromheaven and are not to be disregarded. You are to look on the wealth of your friend, your brother, your neighbour, to look after his growth in grace. If you see him wrong, walking in any wrong thing, go to him and tell him; if he shall offend you, tell him his fault privately. Do these things; follow these things. Because the world goes otherwise, you must be separate. God has called you to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7), to act from other principles than the world’s and with other ends.
Follow this holiness. We are to treat each other with all uprightness and all purity. The aged men and deacons are to be grave; the elder women are to be treated as mothers, and the younger as sisters in the Lord, with all purity. These things God has enjoined on us, and he who disregards them at all walks improperly, walks against the Lord, and the Lord will walk against him in some way sooner or later for doing so.
And how shall you enter heaven without a proper walk?
Though not by the merit of a proper walk, yet by the testimony of a good work your faith will be justified. Abraham was justified by works (James 2:20-23).
Think of it, dear friends.
Do you complain of bondage?
Do you complain that you are walking in darkness, that God hides His face notwithstanding your confessions and your prayers to Him?
Now examine your conduct; go into your soul, and say to it, “What are you doing? How are you living?”
Then go to your walk.
What is it?
Is it such as even the world would disapprove?
Then ask no longer why the former days were better than these, for therein you do not enquire wisely.
Rather charge yourself no longer to walk in that which dishonours God’s truth, and name, and church, and brings bondage and wounding to your soul, and guilt and defilement on your conscience.
Without a gracious walk, what is a profession?
Without straight feet, what is a glib tongue?
What are prayers, if the conduct is not right?
No man shall see the Lord without his heart, his spirit, his mind and his conduct being all of a piece. Grace saves from sin.
“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?”
And “how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Dear friends, if you live in sin, you are not dead to it – you are its servants.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
Three things must accord: heart, lip, life; these make up a man.
Now take this exhortation by God’s help to yourselves, as I would take it to myself. Let us examine not only what we believe, but how we are living. Let us continually seek to abstain from the appearance of evil, and to turn away from all wrong things; things which not only God condemns, but which appearance may condemn, and which men if they saw would condemn.
Only thus living have we any right to talk of experience in divine things or to mention Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the Lord help us, help us individually, help us as a church to hate evil, to hate the garment spotted by the flesh, and to fear doing anything that would bring a reproach to Christ, to His church, anything that would bring the frown of God, that would bring it danger.
The good Lord make us fear where we should fear, help us where we need help, strengthen us where we need strengthening, purge us, cleanse and save us, and grant us His smile and His presence.
By J.K. Popham - 1911
Sunday, August 08, 2010
"He will keep the feet of His saints."
(1 Samuel 2:9)
The Lord sees His poor scattered pilgrims traveling through a valley of tears journeying through a waste - howling wilderness — a path beset with baits, traps, and snares in every direction.
How can they escape?
Why, the Lord 'keeps their feet'. He carries them through every rough place — as a tender parent carries a little child. When about to fall — He graciously lays His everlasting arms underneath them. And when tottering and stumbling, and their feet ready to slip — He mercifully upholds them from falling altogether.
But do you think that He has not different ways for different feet?
The God of creation has not made two flowers, nor two leaves upon a tree alike — and will He cause all His people to walk in precisely the same path?
No. We have . . .
each our path,
each our troubles,
each our trials,
each peculiar traps and snares laid for our feet.
And the wisdom of the all-wise God is shown by His eyes being in every place — marking the footsteps of every pilgrim — suiting His remedies to meet their individual case and necessity — appearing for them when nobody else could do them any good — watching so tenderly over them, as though the eyes of His affection were bent on one individual and carefully noting the goings of each, as though all the powers of the Godhead were concentrated on that one person to keep him from harm!
By J.C. Philpot