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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Romans 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 4

THE UNITY OF THE BIBLE

‘Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.’

Romans 15:4

We are convinced that the value and reality of the Christianity of any country depend very largely upon the thoroughness with which that country reads its Bible. If we do not ground our religious life upon a conscientious study of the Bible, we either fall asleep morally and spiritually or we develop upon false lines which do not produce those fruits of righteousness and social well-being which follow upon true religion.

I. English people still hold this faith widely and firmly, but we can hardly claim that we practise it as our forefathers did.—We are all aware of tendencies around us that make against that steady and serious reading of the Bible which can claim that it ‘reads, marks, learns, and inwardly digests.’ These tendencies affect all our intellectual energies. We are always in a hurry, and this makes us neglect the more solid and wholesome forms of literature. We wish our reading to be provided for us in the shortest, easiest, most exciting and concentrated form. We have no time for reading, and as a consequence we can give no effort to reading. The Bible is not easy enough, not exciting enough, not short enough. And connected with this temptation to read as we run, is the temptation to read about a book instead of reading the book, as a short cut to reading the book. All the greater classics of our language—Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton—are talked about rather than read. The Bible also is talked about rather than read. We read books about the Bible rather than the Bible.

II. Further difficulties.—But I shall be told that there is another reason, or class of reasons, why the reading of the Bible is ceasing to hold the place in our spiritual education that it used to hold!

(a) What has been known as the theory of verbal inspiration has broken down. As a consequence people do not know what to think about the Bible. They have a vague idea that it has been discredited, and therefore they cease to read it or to listen to it. No one can pretend that this doctrine has been without its drawbacks. It has got between the reader and the Book. It has prevented that full and free comparison of the spiritual power of the different parts of the Book which is so distinctive a feature of Luther’s criticism; and thus it has been one cause of the tendency to fall back from the New Testament to the teaching and Spirit of the Old Testament, which has again and again hindered the progress of Christ’s Kingdom. It has made the different parts of the Book all alike in authority and inspiration.

(b) And again, the anxious endeavour to harmonise discrepancies and differences of fact has brought discredit upon the sincerity and honesty of Christian divines and apologists.

(c) We may go even deeper than this. The letter killeth; the spirit giveth life. If we make our Bible an infallible guide in the ordinary sense, if we make it a code of rules which saves us from spiritual energy and effort, we kill our own spiritual freedom; we make the Bible a letter instead of a spirit; we make the Word of God of none effect by our tradition. For these reasons we need not take it too much to heart if doubts of the doctrine of verbal inspiration drive from our ranks some who look upon religion as a mere refuge or shelter from the growing pains of an active spiritual life.

(d) But there is still the question of miracle left. There are those who say that their Bible is taken from them by the difficulty about miracles. This I believe to be a very real difficulty, but it will not be without its use if it persuades us to consider more deeply and more carefully what the Bible essentially is. Are we right in making the Bible depend upon miracle? Does not rather miracle depend upon the Bible? Every thoughtful reader of the New Testament must feel that the Lord Jesus Christ in all kinds of subtle ways makes Himself more than His miracles, which are not allowed to prove Him or to force faith in Him, but are subordinated to His Divine personality and spiritual perfection. Most of us find it easy and natural to accept miracle in the life of Christ and in the lives of the first disciples; but, if such an expression may be permitted, it is a natural miracle, a miracle which is there because of the intense reality of the spiritual life. The intense reality of the spiritual life is the essence of the New Testament; and also the intense reality of the spiritual life is the wonderful thing in the Old Testament, which makes it unique and gives it an everlasting value for mankind.

III. If recent research has been in some directions trying for our faith, in others it has been full of help.—It has only made more apparent the intense reality of the spiritual religion of the Old Testament. The prophetical books especially—Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—have had a flood of light thrown upon them by recent scholarship which brings their teaching nearer to us and nearer to the problems of our own day and life. The consciousness of God, the spiritual intuition, the passion for righteousness in Church and State, of the Hebrew prophets make them for our own time and country full of inspiration. The spiritual splendour of the Old Testament, if we consider it rightly, has not abated; rather it has blazed out afresh. I dwell especially upon the prophets because they deal with just those social questions—those problems of justice between class and class—which we to-day find so urgent and so difficult. But I might also have quoted the Psalms. ‘Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God!’ Are we to cease to use for our soul’s health the religious passion of the psalter and the vision of righteousness which the prophets create for our strengthening until we can settle the exact relation to history of the earlier half of the Old Testament? We can understand to-day more clearly than ever before the unity of the Bible as a revelation of God; as a book which puts before us the history of a nation that is led by God and finds in the invisible Father of the souls the source of all social justice, purity, and truth. This revelation culminates in the incredible fact of the life of Christ—incredible till our souls believe it, and use it for their healing and purification.

—Rev. Ronald Bayne.

Illustration

‘Take the Word of God, as that which God has meant it to be to you—take it as a revelation of Himself in Christ Jesus. Who is Himself the key to these Scriptures. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If only we studied them more carefully, if only we longingly desired that Christ might be revealed to us through the Holy Spirit, what a comfort and a strength it would be both in life and in death! A lady in London presented a Japanese man, who also lived in London, with a New Testament. Some time afterwards that Testament came back to her, but it was stained with blood. The man belonged to the reservists of the Japanese army, and had been called back to his country and met his death on the field of battle. In his eagerness for the conflict he stripped himself of every encumbrance—his water-bottle, his haversack; but when his body, stark and cold, was found on the hillside, there was the New Testament right on his heart, and the Russians who found it—all honour be to them—sent it back to his mother; and the mother returned it again to the lady who gave it—stained with his blood. Let us pray that the Word of God will be a guide and a stay in life and in death, and lead to a blessed eternity.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE WORK OF THE BIBLE

I. The purpose of the Bible.—Written for our learning.

II. The use we are to make of the Bible.—We are to (a) read, (b) mark, (c) learn, and (d) inwardly digest the Bible.

III. What will follow its proper use?—It will (a) make us wise unto salvation, and (b) enable us to hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.

IV. Note the Bible points to the source of all life, even Jesus Christ Himself.

—Rev. Forbes Winslow.

Illustration

‘On the shore of one of the fairest of England’s lakes, Windermere, there lies the picturesque town of Bowness, and, amongst the other curiosities of the parish church, you are shown a Bible which was used many years ago for the purpose of public worship; it is in a very fair state of preservation, but is especially remarkable for a very strong iron chain, which is firmly attached to it by a thick ring. In the old time so rare and so valuable was the Word of God that it was found necessary to take stringent measures to prevent those Bibles which were used in church from being stolen, and so they were attached by strong iron chains to a ring of the same metal, which was firmly imbedded in the wall. How different times are now! The Bible has found its way all over the wide world.’


Verse 13

‘IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST’

‘In the power of the Holy Ghost.’

Romans 15:13 (R.V.)

There are various aspects or departments of the work which the Holy Ghost has come to do for the people of Christ. We deal with one, and it is this—the work of the Holy Ghost as the Divine Producer of Christ in the Christian, or, to put it differently, the work of the Holy Ghost as the Divine Conveyer of a Communicable Christ to the men and women who, in obedience to Christ’s call, have surrendered themselves to Him.

I. This must indeed be the Holy Spirit’s most congenial and satisfying ministry.—For was it not to bring Christ to the thought and desire of the world that He worked through long ages in the background of the Scriptures? Was it not to prepare the minds of men for the great event of the Incarnation that He moved the lips and framed the speech of the prophets? And now that Christ has come—now that the mystery of God manifest in the flesh has been revealed—what greater joy can the Holy Ghost experience than the joy of leading human souls to the Incarnate One, and of joining human souls in a spiritual and corporate union with Him? If there is joy in God at all—and if that joy is capable of being enlarged and quickened—we cannot conceive of larger and keener joy for the Holy Ghost than the joy of securing for Jesus Christ the men and women whom the Father has given to Him.

II. The means or agency by which Christ is to obtain more hold of the Christian and to become more part of the Christian is to be ‘in the power of the Holy Ghost.’ Observe it is not ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost,’ as though the Holy Ghost were to accomplish His blessed work by some instrumental means other than Himself. It is to be done ‘in the power of the Holy Ghost.’ The Holy Ghost is in the Christian as a new element of life, and it is by realising this element of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us, by consciously turning to it, and daily surrendering ourselves to it, that we obtain our likeness to Christ and the formation of Christ in us as a supreme Personality. Is not this what is meant when we read, ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh’? Yes; to walk in the element of the flesh is to grow in that which is human—nothing better, nothing higher. But to walk in the element of the Holy Spirit is to grow in that which is Divine. ‘For that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’

III. How shall we live in the world so as not to be of it?—How shall we be business men, and society men, and political men, and yet at the same time remain true Christian men? The answer is, By walking in the Holy Ghost, by recognising Him as the element within you in which you may grow in Christ and Christ may grow in you, so that all the time you are in your business efforts, or society duties, or political enterprises, there shall be in you that which will keep off the world tone and the world stain, viz. the Christ mind, the Christ will, the Christ heart, the Christ life—not perfectly, of course, but nevertheless in some real measure and as an increasing quantity. Let me press upon you for your acceptance and prayerful use the possibilities waiting for you ‘in the power of the Holy Ghost.’ During such a season as Lent, some of you will, no doubt, try various means of purifying your manhood and womanhood. You will be much in prayer; you will subject yourself to unsparing scrutiny; you will cut off indulgence in some of your customary pleasures; you will be often in the house of God. But beware lest these things become a mere round of irksome duties; beware lest you forget that your human spirit is to come into contact with the Divine Spirit, and that out of the contact, out of the fellowship of the two there is to be born Christly love, Christly humility, and Christly zeal for the Truth.

—Rev. Canon Henry Lewis.

Illustration

‘The father of the great Bishop Wilberforce once wrote to his son, when the latter was a boy at school: “My dear boy, the most effectual way in which a Christian can get the better of any particular fault is by cultivating the Root of all Holiness—that is, by endeavouring to obtain a closer union with Jesus Christ, and to acquire more of that blessed Spirit Who will enable him to conquer all his corruptions and to inspire and strengthen all his Christian forces” (Life of Bishop Wilberforce, p. 4). Nearly forty years later we find Bishop Wilberforce writing in turn to one of his sons, then a midshipman at sea: “My son, remember God’s eye, Christ’s cross, and the free pardon for sin which it has brought you. Remember, too, that God’s Holy Spirit will help you against all temptations if you pray” (ibid., p. 90).’

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 15:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/romans-15.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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