“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof .”
THIS verse is ever memorable from its association with the life of Augustine, who says: “Thus was I sick and tormented in mind, bitterly accusing myself, and rolling and turning about in my chain, till it might be wholly broken.”
At length, rushing into the garden, groaning in spirit, “all my bones were crying out, soul-sick was I and grievously tormented. I said to myself, ‘Be it done now; be it done now.’ And a voice said,
‘Why standest thou in thyself, and so standest not? Cast thyself upon Him. Fear not; He will not withdraw Himself, to let thee fall.
He will receive, and will heal thee. Stop thine ears against those unclean members of thine, which are upon the earth, that they may be mortified.’”
Then arose a mighty tempest, bringing a heavy downpour of tears. “I cast myself under a certain fig-tree, and gave rein to my tears, and the floods of mine eyes brake forth. Why not now? Why not this hour make an end of my uncleanness? And, lo! from the neighbouring house I heard a voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, singing and oft repeating, ‘Take and read; take and read!’
Checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be a Divine command to open the Book and read the first chapter I could find. I seized; I opened, and in silence read the passage on which mine eyes fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.’ No further would I read; nor was there need, for instantly all my heart was flooded with a light of peace, all the sadness of doubt melted away!”
“For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”
DEAN Howson renders this verse thus: “He who lives in these things as Christ’s bondsman is well-pleasing to God, and cannot be condemned by men.” There are two rules, therefore, to be observed by us when we consider our behaviour in that great border-land which lies between the dark and light, the clearly wrong and clearly right. We are all conscious of habits and tastes, of inclinations toward certain forms of amusement and recreation, of methods of life, which do not contravene any distinct law of God, but are certainly open to question. It is such things that fall within the scope of these two principles.
First, we must always remember that we are Christ’s bondservants: Let us look then, every day and hour, and as to the mental habit, every moment, upon Jesus Christ as our Master.
Saintly George Herbert chose that to be, as it were, his best-beloved aspect of his Saviour; “My Master, Jesus.” “An oriental fragrance, my Master.” Let us do the same. Let us wear the word next to the heart, next to the will; nay, let it sink into the very springs of both, deeper every day. And as each fresh question arises in our life, let us stand close beside Him, noticing the expression of His face, asking Him what He would desire, and always reckoning that the least suggestion of His preference is law. “None of us liveth to himself: for, whether we live, we live unto the Lord.”
Second, we must always bear in mind the spiritual life of others: We are to put no stumbling-block, or occasion for falling, in another’s way. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor to do any other thing, whereby our brother is made to stumble. Let us each of us please his neighbour for good ends, to build him up; for Christ pleased not Himself.
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,”
ALL things that have not sprung from the indwelling and inworking power of Christ, are probably valueless in the sight of God. As the apostle dared not record them in this book, so probably they are not recorded in God’s book. They lack the one principle or germ of life. Our Lord said, Separate from Me ye can do nothing; and probably, therefore, whatever we do out of living union with Him amounts to nothing.
These words are a window into the apostle’s inner life. He was ever looking to the Lord to work through him, in the power of the Holy Ghost. He had nothing, therefore, to boast of, as he reviewed his labours; the impulse in which they originated, and the success with which they were crowned, were alike attributable to the Son of God, who had been revealed and formed within.
Let us so yield ourselves to Him, that the great Master may fulfil through us also all the good pleasure of His will.
Let us wait before Him in earnest expectancy, till the foundation of His purpose begins to arise within us; and let us receive from Him the gracious power of which to realize His plans. “I cannot,”
one may say, “give that tract; speak to that fellow-traveller; witness for Christ on that ship or in that shop; stand up in that pulpit and preach.” No, perhaps not. But you can let Christ do these things through you.
“So others shall,
Take patience, labour, to their heart and land, from thy land. and thy heart and thy brave cheer, And God’s grace fructify through thee to all.
The least flower with a brimming cup may stand And share its dewdrop with another near.”
“Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.”
THAT is all we know about him. The others whose names are written here are more or less famous. Tertius wrote the Epistle; Gaius was evidently a man of influence; Erastus was the treasurer of the city, and so on. But Quartus was just a humble, simple Christian, who had no handle to his name, save his brotherliness and his desire to assure his Roman brethren, whom probably he had never seen, of his love to them. “So he begs a little corner in Paul’s letter, and gets it; and there, in his little niche, like some statue of a forgotten saint scarce seen amidst the glories of a great cathedral, ‘Quartus the brother’ stands to all time.”
What a lesson in humility! Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Be content to live and die unknown, except for the love that breathes through thy life, not to those of thine own circle merely, but for those across the sea, with whom thou wouldst fain strike hands. Thy one joy, that thou hast been born into the family of God. Thy creed, that all regenerate souls, of every name and sect, are members of the same family, children of the same Father, and therefore one in ties of peculiar tenderness and strength.
What a revelation this slight reference is to the new binding forces of the Gospel! At the Advent the world was split by great gulfs of national hatred; fierce enmities of race, language, and religion; wide separations far profounder than anything that we know. And then the Gospel came, which began to gather men of every race into one family, in Jesus Christ, the Divine Elder-brother; and from this, uniting influences of brotherhood began to permeate the world.
1 Corinthians 1:9
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
THE word for fellowship is the same that is employed in Luke 5:10, of James and John being partners with Simon. We have been called into partnership with the Son of God, in His redemptive purposes, His love and tears for men, and ultimately in His triumph and glory. He has entered into partnership with man, and we are now summoned into partnership with Him through the communion of the Holy Ghost. in the words of the apostle, “our fellowship [or partnership] is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
How fruitful of comfort is the thought that Christ’s interests are ours, and that we are at liberty to draw upon His resources to the uttermost. Suppose a poor clerk were to be summoned from his desk into the counting-house of a Rothschild, and informed that from that moment he was taken into partnership with the firm: would it not be less of an honour than this which has fallen to our lot? Association with millionaires in money-making were infinitely less desirable than association with the Son of God in world-saving. And would that poor clerk feel any anxiety as to his share in meeting the immense liabilities of the concern? However great they might be, he would know that the resources of the firm were adequate, and he would be able to sleep easily at night, though millions were due on the morrow. Child of God, cannot thy Father meet all His Son’s engagements?
The call to this partnership is from the Father. It is He who has chosen us for this high honour of cooperating with His Son. Will He have led us into such an association, and leave us to be overwhelmed by the difficulties of the situation He has created? It cannot be! He will supply all our need.
1 Corinthians 2:10
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
EYES of my soul, ye have no need to wait until the veil of the flesh that screens off the beatific vision has been rent in twain by the mighty hands of the Angel of Death, ere ye behold the land that floweth with milk and honey!
Ears of my heart, ye need not remain dull and listless till the peal of the archangel’s trumpet thrill you, and summon you to the music of the harpers harping on their harps or the chime of the glassy sea.
Heart of mine, be expectant! Awake! Lo, there shall come into thee, penetrating, pervading, filling thy every recess, all those blessed things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
They shall enter thee, as a retinue of knights might enter a beleaguered castle to make it strong against any possible combination of the foe.
Only I must love God. Through Isaiah I am taught that I must wait for Him (Isaiah 54:4); here I learn that I must love. For love is quick to know. He that loveth knoweth God. It was the apostle whom Jesus loved that beheld Him on the margin of the lake. It is to the warm, tender atmosphere of loving hearts that the unchecked, ungrieved Spirit unfolds His secrets. Let me, therefore, bathe myself in the gracious atmosphere of my Saviour’s presence, never going outside its genial glow, never falling behind His going forth, until I am entrusted, through the Spirit, with the deep things of God.
“God only knows the love of God;
Oh that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart!
For love I sigh, for love I pine,
This only portion, Lord, be mine—
Be mine this better part!”
1 Corinthians 3:10
“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”
A FITTING illustration of the Christian life for the people of Corinth, famed for its architecture. We are all builders, whether we choose or not! We may be temple-builders! Each heart, each life, each character, may become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Every act we do, every word we utter, the way in which we spend any moments of our time, is either a fragment of gold, silver and precious stones, or of wood, hay and stubble, built into the rising structure of the erection entrusted to our skill and pains. It does not so much matter what we do, but how we do it. Every time we perform any action with the best motives and spirit, we deposit a tiny grain of gold-dust; whenever, on the other hand, we do aught after a slovenly, superficial, and careless manner, we weave into the structure of character a material which will yield as inevitably in the hour of temptation as wood, hay and stubble before flame.
We sometimes, at the end of the day, reviewing the past hours, bitterly lament that we have done nothing in the way of character-building. “There is nothing to show for this day,” we say mentally to ourselves. Ah! but there is. Every moment has left its record on your heart. Every act has left you confirmed in a good habit or in a bad one. The soul-life has not halted for a second; one has been growing to moral health, or toward decrepitude, consumption, and decay. If not gold, then wood; if not silver, then hay; if not costly stones, then stubble.
We shall not be saved on account of our works. The only thing that can secure salvation is the being built into God’s foundation, the Rock Christ Jesus. But we shall be rewarded according to the manner in which we have built up the structure.