Sermon Bible Commentary
Children and Parents.
I. St. Paul assumes that the life of children may be a life in Christ. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord, and parents are to nurture their children in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. Every child, apart from its own choice and before it is capable of choice, is environed by the laws of Christ. It is equally true that every child, apart from its choice and before it is capable of choice, is environed by Christ's protection and grace in this life, and is the heir of eternal blessings in the life to come. Christ died and rose again for the race. Children may obey their parents in the Lord before they are able to understand any Christian doctrine; they may discharge every childish duty, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, before they have so much as heard whether the Spirit of God has been given; they may live in the light of God before they know that the true light always comes from heaven.
II. Paul had a sensitive sympathy with the wrongs which children sometimes suffer and a strong sense of their claims to consideration. Children are to obey and honour even unreasonable, capricious, and unjust parents; but it is the duty of parents not to be unreasonable, capricious, or unjust. The precept, "Nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord," implies a real and serious faith on the part of the parents that their children belong to Christ and are under Christ's care. Christian education is not a mission to those who are in revolt against Christ. The children are Christ's subjects, and have to be trained to loyal obedience to His authority. The education of which the Apostle is thinking is practical rather than speculative; it has reference to life and character rather than to knowledge. By "the chastening of the Lord" the Apostle means that Christian discipline and order of the family which will form the children to the habits of a Christian life. "Chastening" is not chastisement, though chastisement may sometimes be a necessary part of it. The order of a child's life is determined by its parents, and is to be determined under Christ's authority, so that the child may be trained to all Christian virtues. The primary condition of a successful Christian education is that the parents should care more for the loyalty of their children to Christ than for anything besides, and the second is that parents should expect their children to be loyal to Christ.
R. W. Dale, Lectures on the Ephesians, p. 378.
References: Ephesians 6:1-4.—H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 5th series, p. 167. Ephesians 6:2.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 213; J. H. Wilson, The Gospel and its Fruits, p. 205.
I. The Lord brings up His disciples from the beginning of life.
II. The Lord nourishes and cherishes His disciples; He is not a mere Teacher: He is a Trainer. He helps us to learn, and when our courage sinks He revives it.
III. The Lord exhorts, warns, and restrains. There is nurture and there is admonition in the bringing up of Christ's disciples by their Lord.
IV. The Lord unites with Himself by trust and love those whom He brings up.
V. The Lord's work of bringing up is without intermission; He is always about it.
VI. Let your instruction and your training have the Lord's teaching, the Lord's warnings, the Lord's doctrines, for their means, and the Lord Himself for their end.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Sermons, 1st series, p. 175.
The Christian Training of Children.
I. What is included in, and what is meant by, all our dealings with the young who are growing up among us tending to their discipline: all that we teach them or enjoin on them, or give or deny them. Discipline is by no means synonymous with punishment, though in common conversation we are accustomed often to use it so, but something entirely different. The heart can be disposed to God only by love, which drives out fear, and with fear all the power of punishment. But discipline which aims by steady exercise to control and regulate every emotion and to subdue all the lower instincts of nature under the rule of the higher imparts a salutary knowledge of the power of will, and gives an earnest of liberty and internal order. The larger the place which is given to discipline in our method, the more must punishment lose its effect; because the young mind is already practised, it refuses to have its decisions influenced by considerations either of pleasure or the reverse. It is difficult to keep a clear conscience in this important business. How shall we keep it void of offence? Certainly in no other way than this: we must neither set before ourselves any worldly aim in the training and education of our children, nor teach them to think of anything merely worldly and external as the object to be gained by it; but rather, putting out of view all other results, we must try to have them made distinctly conscious of what powers and capacities they possess which may by-and-by be used in carrying on the work of God on earth, and to have those powers brought under the control of their will by their learning both to overcome indolence and dissipation and to guard against being passionately engrossed in any single object. And this is just what the Apostle means. For instruction and training of all kinds so directed will only serve as discipline to the young, and only by such discipline will they acquire a real possession in the shape of a thorough fitness for every work of God that in the course of their life they may find occasion to do.
II. But however excellent a thing it is to train our children by discipline, what is the highest thing that can be effected by this means? The preparing of the way for the Lord, that He may be able to enter, the adorning of the temple, that He may be able to dwell in it; but towards the actual entering and indwelling of the Lord discipline can contribute nothing. Does not the Lord Himself say that the Spirit moves where He will, and that we cannot so much as know, much less command, where He is to go? Yes, we recognise the truth of that word of Christ in this connection also, and therefore willingly confess our inability. But while acknowledging our helplessness, let us not forget that the same Saviour charged His disciples to go and teach all nations. This then is what we are capable of doing and what we are commanded to do: in our daily intercourse with the young to commend the mighty works of God, that we may stir up in their minds aspirations after a happier condition, and this is what the Apostle calls the admonition of the Lord.
F. Schleiermacher, Selected Sermons, p. 163.
References: Ephesians 6:4.—J. H. Thorn, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, 2nd series, p. 253; J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 65; C. M. Birrell, Ibid., vol. ii., p. 360; W. Braden, Ibid., vol. vi., p. 269; R. F. Horton, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 314. Ephesians 6:5, Ephesians 6:6.—J. B. Brown, Ibid., vol. xii., p. 97; Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 406; F. W. Farrar, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 296. Ephesians 6:5-8.—H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. x., p. 4; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 185. Ephesians 6:5-9.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 427. Ephesians 6:6.—S. Gladstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 280; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 92. Ephesians 6:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1484; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., pp. 85, 88.
Labour no Hindrance to Spiritual Progress.
I. Servants may be described as servants of Christ. If the Church is regarded, according to the Scriptural imagery, as a kingdom or household, of which Christ is the Head, we may argue that all the members of which it is composed are the servants of Christ; so that, however different their occupation, they all serve the same Master. You could no more spare the Christian usefulness of the humblest individual, than the manual labour of the tiller of the soil, and would as much unhinge the Church by diffusing infidelity among the lower classes, as a kingdom by diffusing rebellion. The eye of the Master is as much on one servant as on another, and His acquaintance with one as actual as with another; so that when we declare of a man that he serves the Lord Christ we mean a great deal more than when we make the like assertion of the various retainers in an earthly household. We do not merely mean that the duties which the man discharges arc duties by whose performance the cause of Christ is advanced or upheld; we mean that the man is as actually employed by Christ and as actually working for Christ as though he had received directions from His lips and gave unto Him an account of his proceedings.
II. Those whose duties in life are of the meanest description may gain as high a recompense as those who move in the first walks of society. Every lawful employment, inasmuch as it is one department of the service of Christ, has a sacred character; and consequently we may be religiously occupied when occupied with our worldly callings, and it is to close our eyes to an ordinance of God to imagine that in working for the body we cannot also be working for the soul. The distinctions of men in their temporal capacity have no corresponding distinctions in their eternal; but however various the situations which Christians occupy, the reward of the inheritance is promised equally to all.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2263.
References: Ephesians 6:7, Ephesians 6:8.—W. Mercer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 347. Ephesians 6:9.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 197.
I. To the Christian human nature is not a poor, but an infinitely grand, thing; something from which not a little, but everything, may be expected; something which was made in the image of God, was assumed and glorified by God's own Son, has been the tabernacle of untold heroisms and saintly sufferings, and shall in the end be "renewed in knowledge and majesty after the image of Him who created it." So grand a thing as this can never find safety in weakness. It is a poor toleration which first disparages the dignity, and then tolerates the shortcoming. No, if weakness leads to wrong-doing, it is wrong to be weak; and, in the language of the Gospel, all wrong-doing is sin against God.
II. Weakness can very often be traced to want of foresight. It is weakness to follow a bad example. Yes; but might not the crisis to which the weakness has proved unequal have been prevented by a little foresight? It is weakness, no doubt; but it is weakness which gives abundant warning of its presence. It might have been foreseen, and it might have been guarded against. And, again, there is that weakness which arises from unwillingness to face anything disagreeable.
III. Prayer, if earnest and persisted in, will most surely disclose to us sources of strength of which we should not otherwise have thought; it will show us those practical means of gaining strength which experience proves to be owned and blessed of God. Two of these I will refer to. (1) The first is the precise opposite of that fatal habit of which I spoke. It is the habit of not shrinking from what is disagreeable, the habit of facing a duty with alacrity and without delay. (2) And the second means is that of acquainting yourselves with the lives of God's greatest and holiest servants.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 106.
References: Ephesians 6:10.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 181; S. James, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 121; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 246. Ephesians 6:10, Ephesians 6:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 209; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 277. Ephesians 6:10-12.—J. Ellison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 305. Ephesians 6:10-13.—H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 212; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 277. Ephesians 6:11.—"Literary Churchman" Sermons, p. 1. Ephesians 6:11-18.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv.,p. 275. Ephesians 6:12.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 79; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 90; vol. v., p. 31.
The Unseen Powers.
I. That which lies on the very surface of St. Paul's language is this commanding truth: that spiritual forces are much greater than material forces. It takes time and trouble for many of us to be really certain of this truth, because from time to time in the world events appear to contradict, or at least to overcloud, it; and yet in the long run the truth asserts itself, ay infallibly. A strong will is a more formidable thing than the most highly developed muscle. They, it has been said, who aspire to rule in permanence, must base their throne, not upon bayonets, but upon convictions and sympathies, upon understandings, and upon hearts. This is true within the sphere of human nature, and St. Paul knew that the Church had to contend with the thought and the reason of paganism much more truly than with its pro-consuls and its legions.
II. Behind all that met the eye in daily life St. Paul discovered another world that did not meet the eye, but which was, for him at least, equally real. Behind all the social tranquillity, all the order, all the enjoyment, of life, all the widening intercourse between races and classes, all the maintenance of law with a fair amount of municipal and personal liberty, which distinguished undoubtedly the imperial regime considered as a whole, behind all that spoke and acted in this vast and most imposing system, behind all its seeming stability and all its progress, St. Paul discerned other forms hovering, guiding, marshalling, arranging, inspiring, that which met the eye. "Do not let us deceive ourselves," he cried, "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
III. The contest of which St. Paul is speaking is not only to be waged on the great scene of history. St. Paul is speaking of contests humbler, less public, but certainly not less tragical, the contests which are waged sooner or later, with more or less intensity, with the most divergent results, around, within, each human soul. It is within ourselves that we meet now, as the first Christians met, the onset of the principalities and powers; it is in resisting them that we really contribute our little share to the issue of the great battle that rages still as it raged then, which will rage on, between good and evil until the end comes, and the combatants meet with their rewards.
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 17.
The reason expressed in this word "wherefore" is contained in the passage before the text. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," says St. Paul, "but against spiritual wickedness in high places"—high, subtle, evil spiritual beings, ever ready and, but for God's great mercy and power shielding us, ever able to deceive us and to lead us astray.
I. It is not enough for a man to be satisfied that he has been brought into that relation to God which the Gospel brings, not enough for him to believe that once for all his sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb. There comes this question: Let a man have received this doctrine ever so perfectly and sincerely, let him have no doubt whatever as to the reality of the new relation as a redeemed one in which he stands to his God through Christ, is there a man living that sinneth not? Can he still feel himself undoubtedly in that relation to God which the Gospel means with this sense of yet renewed sin upon him?
II. Our life is not to be a continuous vain seeking after repentance, but it is to be perpetually and always a humble, and penitent, and trustful following of God. We are "to grow in grace." Some men deny the doctrine of growth in grace, and maintain that the change must absolutely be perfect and entire, or it cannot have taken place; but as we improve in holiness we grow in grace and peace: as we struggle honestly, and by degrees more successfully, with our temptations, the faith which enabled us to start on this course, the faith with which we began, increases in our hearts.
III. The Gospel promise does not fail us because our infirmity to a certain extent grows up with our growth even as Christian men. Against all the snares of the devil God has provided a sufficient and sure defence in the promises of His Gospel. We are renewed day by day in the spirit and temper of our mind.
Bishop Claughton, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 561.
References: Ephesians 6:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 394; Ibid., vol. x., p. 24; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 381.
I. Note the prohibition involved in the precept. It forbids (1) indolent or even weary sleep; (2) cowardly or even politic flight; (3) a treacherous or even a desponding surrender; (4) the declaration of a truce or even an application for it; (5) the giving up of a militant position until the war is fairly over.
II. What do these words demand? (1) They require a distinct and solemn recognition of the fact that the time of our life on earth is a time of war, "an evil day." (2) They require us to be always possessed by the conviction that we are personally called to this good fight. (3) They demand the honest and manly facing of our foes. (4) They require that, having taken the field, we keep it.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Sermons, 3rd series, p. 249.
Reference: Ephesians 6:13-18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 215.
I. It is obvious that the word "truth" as here used does not mean truth in the object, i.e., the truth of the Gospel, the verities of redemption, but truth in the subject, i.e., that which we so commonly call truthfulness, a quality within the man himself. And this truthfulness, or being true, is predicated of him, not in ordinary things only, but, as he is a Christian, in those things which constitute him a Christian warrior. The girdle of the warrior's panoply would naturally be a girdle fitted for warfare, of the strength, and material, and pattern of the rest of his armour. And when we come to apply this similitude to practice, it is plain that we must think of this truthfulness, not only as regards words, the outward expression of thoughts, but also as regards acts, which are no less important results of a man's inward state; and indeed as regards those thoughts themselves from which both speech and action spring.
II. What is it to have the loins girt about with truth? (1) It is to have a man's own convictions in accordance with the revealed truths of the Gospel which he professes. Without this no Christian soldier can be girt for the battle. (2) All double purposes, all by-ends, all courses of action adopted for effect, are emphatically untrue; our object must not be only truth in detail, but truth in the due and real proportion of the whole. It is characteristic of a diseased conscience in this matter ever to be brooding over minute details, striving to be punctiliously, formally true, without inquiring whether the whole impression given is that which the whole facts really do give. And let us remember the great motive for truth which should be ever before us as Christians. We serve Him who is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning. When our Saviour left us, He bequeathed to us His best gift, the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth, to dwell in us and possess us, and sanctify us wholly by that word which He Himself spoke of when He said, "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 151.
References: Ephesians 6:14.—A. C. Price, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 113; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 212; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., pp. 257, 305. Ephesians 6:14-17.—E. Garbett, The Soul's Life, p. 223. Ephesians 6:15.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 368; Ibid., vol. v., p. 27; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 4; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 230; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 7th series, p. 136; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 350. Ephesians 6:16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 416; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 149; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 4th series, p. 379. Ephesians 6:17.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 205; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., pp. 365, 377; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 248.
I. The ministers of Christ are more or less ambassadors in bonds; that is to say, they have not merely to contend with difficulties, but the difficulties they contend with are not fair ones. They do not get an equal hearing. But whatever difficulties from without beset the ambassador of Christ, he knows full well that the greatest of his difficulties are within: that his own tongue falters when it should speak plainly; that his own standard of holiness varies even in his thoughts, much more in practice; that long habits of self-indulgence paralyse him when he would exhort others to self-denial; that faults of temper mar his work and lose him the confidence of others; that in these and many other ways he loads himself with difficulty, rivets his own chains. These difficulties, he feels, are unfair ones in the way of his Master's cause. He is an ambassador in bonds.
II. The work, we know, changes as we advance in life. Like ambassadors, we are sent to different courts, recalled from one, despatched to another. But are we not all without exception, from the first years of sense and intelligence, distinctly and without a metaphor, sent out as ambassadors of Christ in the midst of an adverse world? The difficulties are great; the difficulties are such as may even rouse indignation in us. But there is risk in all noble attempts. The difficulty may be just overcome, the bar be only just surmounted; but that is as good for our purpose as though walls fell down before us, or as if we floated proudly into harbour with a hundred fathoms of blue water underneath the keel. Though in bonds, His ambassadors you are. Speak, then, in your Master's name; remember that the word of God is not bound.
Archbishop Benson, Boy Life, p. 236.
Reference: W. J. Woods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 402.
I. The Apostle compares the struggles of a Christian against the enemies of his soul to the warfare of a soldier against the enemies of his country. What are the spiritual truths, the Christian graces, typified by these outward weapons? (1) The Christian's girdle is truth. To be sincere and earnest in our purpose, to have the heart engaged in the work, and the will turned honestly to the love of Christ, is the great security for consistent perseverance in the warfare against His enemies.
(2) The breastplate is righteousness; it is the inwrought righteousness of our Saviour. (3) The feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. By preparation seems here meant a foundation or firm footing. Resting on the strong support of the Gospel, the Christian soldier will be ready to meet and to resist all efforts for his destruction. (4) The Christian's life is pervaded and defended by faith. The reason why faith is a complete covering and protection to us is that it carries us out of ourselves, and bids us rest our hopes and affections on the Lord Jesus Christ. It teaches us to find in His life an unerring pattern for our conduct, a direct manifestation of God. (5) As the soldier's head is guarded by his helmet, so is the Christian's faith to be completed, his wavering mind stablished, and his faint heart encouraged by salvation. (6) The sword of offensive warfare is compared to the word of God, with which our Lord Himself drove away the assaults of the great adversary.
II. "Praying always." As all human life was a campaign against sin, in which Christ, the Captain of our salvation, led His followers to victory, so the prayers of Christians were the watches of sentries by which the camp of the Lord was guarded and all assaults of the enemy repelled.
G E. L. Cotton, Expository Sermons on the Epistles, vol. ii., p. 332.
Saturday, March 25th, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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