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THE TRUE CHURCH INVISIBLE TILL OUR LORD’S RETURN
1. “ If therefore you have been resurrected with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting on the right hand of God.
2. “ Think about the things above, not things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ”
4. “ When Christ, your life, may appear, then you shall also appear with him in glory. ”
While the Head walked the earth visible to mortal eyes, then the Church of Christ was visible also. When the glorified Head flew up to heaven from Mt. Olivet, thus becoming invisible, the body became invisible also, and will so remain till our descending King shall ride down on the throne of his glory, and call his saints to meet him in the air. Materialistic religion in all ages has been quarreling over the identity of the Church of Christ. I was reared in a country where ignorance abounded in pulpit and pew, and sectarian war was the order of the day. If an insinuation was cast against his creed, the spunky pastor announced a time for a doctrinal sermon. We all went and enjoyed two solid hours on his creed. No time for the Bible that day. Meanwhile his necessary entrenchment on his neighbor’s creed arouses him to the defense. And so the creedistic war is renewed on all sides, every pastor laboring assiduously amid perspiration and hoarseness to prove that his Church is the genuine apostolical succession, to the exclusion of all others, simultaneously exhorting the people to teach’ the heresies, and come and join the bona fide Church of Christ. I, with all the balance, preachers included, was at that time utterly ignorant that each champion, by his stalwart effort, was actually proving the very opposite of his enterprise; i. e., confirming to all intelligent Bible readers that his visible organization is not the Church of Christ, and that his clamorous, excited people, so enthusiastically vociferating their claims to the true apostolic succession, are not the Church of Christ, which is composed of the people, who are “dead,” and their life “hid with Christ in God,” and will never be recognized by mortal eyes till Christ shall appear. Then his true saints will enter into the transfigured glory of their descending Lord, and fly up to meet him in the air. If you want to know whether you are a member of the true Church of Christ, you must settle it on the route you are traveling. Are you really dead? Is your pride dead? Is your lust dead? Is your temper dead? Is your love of money dead? Are you really dead to the world? If so, you are a full-fledged member of the gospel Church, regardless of modes, rights, and cognomens.
GOD’S METHOD WITH SIN, EXTERMINATION
5. “ Therefore kill your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, passion, covetousness, which is idolatry. ” Mortify, E.V. which theologians have endeavored to construe, gradualistic is nekrosate, from nekros, a corpse. Hence, the word here used by the Holy Ghost is the strongest possible expression for “kill.” It literally means “kill instantaneously,” because the Greek verb is in the aorist tense, which means a sudden momentary action. God, in his providence, put that instantaneous tense in the Greek language (which is not used in English), to reveal to the world his wonderful work in the destruction of sin and the salvation of the soul. Here we are commanded to kill the evil surviving in our hearts suddenly as you could fire a revolver. Can I thus instantly slay the man of sin in my own heart The Bible is pre-eminent for common sense. Charles Wesley says, “How can I cleanse my hands or my heart but by believing Thee. O Lord!” These variations in phraseology and attitude wonderfully relieve the Bible of monotony. Here we have especial prominence given to human agency. While it is impossible for me to kill old Adam in my heart, either suddenly or gradually, I can, in the twinkling of an eye, turn him over to omnipotent Adam the Second, who, pursuant to my faith, will kill him before I can open my eye to see him fall. So the way you kill all the evil in your heart is simply to trust for it.
7. “ In which you also at one time walked about when you lived in them. ” This verse shows that Paul is not commanding sinners to “kill” all the evil tempers surviving in them, but Christians, as he here alludes to their former lives when they once lived under the dominion of these evil tempers. They are not there now. Their service to these evil tempers is a matter of the bygones. Yet they have them on hand, though in a subjugated state, an everlasting annoyance till exterminated. Some holiness people teach only the suppression, and not the extermination of sin. That is simply the Bible standard of regeneration, while sanctification here, and in hundreds of other plain passages, is sin’s extermination.
8. “ Now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, evil speaking, disgraceful talk out of your mouth. ” The Greek here is the same aorist tense, imperative mood, setting forth the instantaneous and utter removal of these hereditary evils. Hence, it is simply another expression parallel with verse five for the extermination and complete elimination of these evil tempers.
9. “ Lie not one to another, having put off the old man along with his habit;
10. “ And having put on the new man, who is renewed in perfect knowledge, according to the image of him who created him. ” These verses speak of the old man eliminated suddenly and completely, and the new man instantaneously put on, involving the reception of the Divine image lost in the fall. In this paragraph we have a beautiful variety of expression, all fulminating instantaneous death to the man of sin, surviving in the heart of the regenerate. While we have this variety of expression, in two instances ordering us to kill and utterly remove the members of old Adam i. e., our evil tempers in two other instances the man himself is specified. Of course, these statements are substantially synonymous. When you kill all the members, you kill the man, “ et vice versa.” When old Adam dies, all is over.
BROTHERHOOD OF THE SAINTS
11. What a contrast the religion of Jesus, reaching its Briarean arms around the world, gathering the Caucasian, the Mongolian, the Ethiopian, the Jew, the Mohammedan, the Buddhist, the Brahmin, the Romanist, and all the infinitely diversified Protestant sects into one universal brotherhood, filling the globe with Christian philanthropy, flooding the nations with holy benefactions, and making the plains resound and the mountains reverberate the praises of God! How decisive the contrast with the poor selfish sectarian religions filling the world with jargon, logomachy, and confusion! God’s ways are always right and successful. You see this wonderful eleventh verse concludes the paragraph on sin’s extermination. All of the sects let old Adam live. If they did not, then sectarian ecclesiasticisms would collapse forever, and perfect love inundate them in a sea of glory. The metropolitan pulpits must defend the man of sin, and make room for him, or carnal power is at an end.
12. We are nominated in conversion, and elected in sanctification. Sin goes out to make room for grace. Hence, following this wonderful paragraph on sin’s extermination (Colossians 3:5-11) we have election and perfect love, and the beautiful graces of goodness, humility, meekness, and long suffering, constituting the substratum of perfect love’s gorgeous temple.
13. Delighting to forgive all wrongs. So you wish somebody would treat you like a dog, so you will have a chance at the amiable blessing of forgiveness. Two neighbors living on adjoining lots fell out, quarreled, and fought, utterly stopping all comers and goers till the grass grew green over the path. One of them happens at a glorious revival, gets a knockdown conviction, rolls and cries at the mourner’s bench till two o’clock, and passes gloriously into life. “I can not go to bed for thinking of my neighbor; but must go to see him.” Arriving at four in the morning, he knocks at the door. “Who is that?” “It is Bill Johnson.” “Go away, you scoundrel, or I will kill you!” “But I want to tell you how I love you, and how mean I have treated you. O, do please forgive me for treating you so mean.” “Why, Bill, what is the matter with you?” “Glory to God! I got religion tonight, and won’t you please forgive me?” The door is thrown wide open. “O Bill, I have been a heap meaner to you than you have to me. If they get religion after that sort, I must go to that meeting, too; for I am the meanest man in the world.” So he goes, gets gloriously converted, and they live like David and Jonathan.
14. “ In all of these things, Divine love, which is the bond of perfection. ” The crucifixion of old Adam is negative sanctification. Then perfect love fills the vacuum, and inundates the soul, making your life a constant sunshine, and keeping old Adam out forever; for he can only live in the jungles of depravity, all of which have been transformed into fruitfulness and added to Immanuel’s lands.
15. In justification you have peace with God, but in sanctification the peace of God. Here it says “the peace of Christ.” Christ never had the peace of pardon, as he never had any sins to be pardoned. But he always had the peace of purity. as he always had a pure heart. Hence, you must get sanctified wholly, if you would have the peace of Christ; i. e., the peace of God. You see this follows that paragraph on sin’s extermination. If you will quit believing human creeds, written and oral, and believe the Bible, giving all your sins and all your doubts to the devil, where they belong, you learn the truth of sin’s destruction. So long as you believe unsanctified preachers, who seek to bring the standard down to their level, you will never enjoy the unutterably sweet experience of entire sanctification, as your attainment will never rise above your faith; but, glory to God it will come up to it.
16. “ Let the Word of Christ dwell abundantly in your hearts, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another. ” O what a blessing to us and to others to have the Word of Christ dwelling richly in us! It is our duty to be well posted in the Word of God, and freely give others the full benefit of our knowledge, not only teaching one another, but admonishing either the other, freely correcting the faults we see in one another in perfect love, enlightened by the Holy Ghost in the fear of God. O what a blessing God will thus make us to one another! Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs; what a contrast this with the old pipe-organ, the senseless preludes, interludes, and postludes, with the jargon of Satan’s choir squealing out an operatic song! God, help us to get back to the New Testament!
17. We are to do “everything in the name of the of Jesus.” Can you follow the senseless, extravagant fashions, wear jewelry, put on needless ornamentation in His name? Can you attend the theater and horserace in His name, taking him with you? Can you prevail on him to go with you to sociables, card parties, and festivals?
18. “ Wives, submit to your husbands, as it becometh you in the Lord. ” Out of God’s will, you are not to obey; but take a thrashing, if he gives it, for Jesus’ sake.
The whole problem of family government is to be in the Lord. When the commandment is out of harmony with the Word, Spirit, and providence of God, you are not to obey, but meekly suffer abuse and even flagellation for Christ’s sake, esteeming it a great blessing to endure contumely, insult, and persecution in Jesus’ name.
19. “ Ye husbands, love your wives with Divine love, and be not bitter toward them. ” No sinner can obey this commandment. Hence, God requires every man to get religion before he takes a wife. It is the privilege of every sinner to receive a wife; but God’s order is to get converted first, as no man can love his wife with Divine love until the Holy Ghost pours it out in his heart. Hence, all domestic trouble arises from the deficiency of grace in the heart.
20. “ Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing in the Lord. ” Here we see that filial obedience, like that of the wife, is to be in the Lord. If your parents order you to commit sin, disobedience, for Christ’s sake, becomes your duty, never resisting, but patiently suffering for Christ’s sake.
21. “ Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they may be discouraged. ” Your little children have inherited evil tempers from you, which are little rattlesnakes in them, feeding and thriving on fret, humor, teasing, and all sorts of provocation. So be cheerful and kind, yet positive and firm with your little ones, doing nothing to fret, worry, or arouse their evil tempers. Parents vainly think they can castigate the evil tempers out of their children. It is a great mistake; they will only feed them, and develop a rapid growth. The true plan is by cheerfulness, love, kindness, and firmness to avoid everything that would “provoke them to wrath,” and thus bear with them patiently till Jesus comes along with the sword of the Spirit, and cuts off every snake-head. When they get sanctified wholly, they will have no evil tempers to provoke.
22. “ Slaves, obey your masters according to the flesh in all things, not with eye service as men pleasers, but in purity of heart fearing the Lord. ” This beautiful law of perfect love is to establish mutual brotherhood, even between the master and slave; the former with his eye on the great white throne where his Master sits; and the latter with his eye on Jesus, oblivious of his servitude to an earthly master, but delighted with his most servile and menial duties, which he cheerfully and patiently performs for Christ’s sake, transported with rapture night and day, dreaming that he serves the Lord alone. In this way many a servant wins souls for his Master, to shine like stars in his crown through all eternity. Years ago, in time of slavery, an old Southern bishop related an incident in a Kentucky Conference, which I here subjoin illustratively:
A very wealthy Southern planter, Owning several hundred slaves, and, of course, by his money power ruling the Church of which he was a member, was so fond of his pastor’s company, that he carried him about with him to fashionable watering-places and other pleasure resorts, cheerfully pouring out his money, living like kings, delighted with the funny jokes and entertaining conversation of the cultured clergyman, who thought he was doing a land-office business in his pastorate, so perfectly satisfying the man who held his circuit by the foretop. Eventually, that awful scourge of the Southland takes hold of the millionaire. He burns as in a furnace, despite all medical aid, which, far and wide. from the beginning has been laid under contribution for the arrest of the destroyer and the recover of the valuable man. A council is held early in the morning of the ninth day. All hope having evanesced, the physicians mutually agree to notify him that his end is nigh. The wife, awfully excited. orders a servant to run for the preacher. The suffering husband countermands: “No, wife; don’t send for him, for I don’t want to see him. While I lived in pleasure I enjoyed his company; but now that I have to die, I don’t want to see him.” “Well,” says the wife, “whom shall I send for?” “Call in Tom [he was the slave who drove his carriage]; I have often heard him praying and shouting about the barnyard. I do believe he has got the true religion.” In a moment Tom tips his hat at the door. “Massa, what do you want?” “Tom, I have to die, and I want the kind of religion you have got.” “Massa, you can have it; the Lord has plenty of it.” “Pray for me, Tom.” Down on his knees goes the sable Ethiopian, and O how he prays for his dear old master! It seems that the roof will certainly fly off to let heaven drop down. Tom prays, and his master prays. Tom exhorts and shouts, and, while the hours go by, the throne of grace is terribly besieged. Before the sun goes down, the dying man says, “Come here, Tom, and let me hug you; you are the prettiest man I ever saw. Glory to God! I am not afraid to die!”
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Colossians 3". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany