Sunday, March 26th, 2023
the Fifth Sunday of Lent
the Fifth Sunday of Lent
There are 14 days til Easter!
Sermon Bible Commentary Sermon Bible Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ sbc/ matthew-28.html.
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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I. A day of mighty memories; (1) of the creation of the world; (2) of the resurrection of Christ; (3) of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
II. A day of noble and happy associations; (1) historical; (2) congregational; (3) personal.
III. A day of holy hopes; (1) of a holier Sabbath; (2) of a holier sanctuary; (3) of a holier character.
IV: A day of solemn duties; (1) private; (2) domestic; (3) public.
G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 256.
References: Matthew 28:1 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 197. Matthew 28:1-10 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 298; H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 242.Matthew 28:2 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 863; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 148. Matthew 28:5 . W. Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 368.
(with 1 Corinthians 15:44 )
The Resurrection from the Dead.
We still assert, in words, a literal resurrection of the body, but none of us believe it. Our hymns, our prayers, our epitaphs, and too often our sermons, imply that the dust of our bodies shall be reanimated in some far-off future, and joined to the waiting soul. At the same time, we know that science declares it to be impossible; our reason revolts from it; it is sustained by no analogy; it is an outworn and nearly discarded opinion. There is, however, a general feeling of perplexity in regard to it. The view now offered is substantially this: that the resurrection is from the dead, and not from the grave; that it takes place at death; that it is general in the sense of universal; that the spiritual body, or the basis of the spiritual body, already exists, and that this is the body that is raised up, God giving it such an outward form as pleaseth Him, and thus preserving that dualistic state essential to consciousness, if not to existence itself. Let us notice some considerations that render these views probable.
I. The butterfly gains its perfect form, not by assimilating the. worm, but by getting rid of it. It is the most beautiful analogy in nature, its very gospel upon the resurrection at first a creeping thing, dull and earth-bound, a slight period of dormancy, and then a winged creature floating upon the air and feeding upon flowers, one life, yet possessing from the first the potency of two forms.
II. The entire significance and value of the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead centre in the fact that it sets forth human identity. The question now arises, in what does identity consist? Identity does not lie in matter, nor is it dependent upon matter. Man is not the matter that makes up the perpetual flux known as the human frame; he is nothing that the chemist can put test to. He must be something, not material, that endures, on which the shifting phenomena of animal life play themselves off. The body is not the man, and it is the man who is raised up. He goes into the other world simply unclothed of flesh, there to take on an environing body suited to his new conditions. As here we have a body adapted to gravitation, and time, and space, so doubtless it will be hereafter; the spirit will build about itself a body such as its new conditions demand.
T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, p. 295.
References: Matthew 28:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 18; vol. xviii., No. 1081; J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 523; D. Rose, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 321; G. W. McCree, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 314; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 214; vol. x., p. 117; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i., p. 313; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 562; Armitage, American Pulpit of the Day, vol. i., p. 251.Matthew 28:7 . S. A. Tipple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 24; H.W. Beecher, Ibid ., vol. xix., p. 52.
I. The false message which brought sin into the world, and all our woe, was given first to woman, and by her was communicated to the man. The Resurrection of the Lord, the healing of that early death-wound, was communicated in the same way. From an angel to woman, and from woman to man, and from man to the world came death. From an evil angel, through the link of woman to mankind, the evil tidings spread and covered the earth. From a good angel to woman, and from women to men, and from men to the world came life, the life of the world.
II. It is not much preaching we get from angels' lips; but there is a little here, and that little very precious. The commission he brought and laid on the two Marys was, "Go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead;" and in order to prepare them for obeying, he said first, "Fear not ye." The angel gave their spirits the cordial before he imposed the race upon their limbs. Besides exhorting them not to fear, he gave them ground to bear their joy: "The Lord is not here; He is risen." The angel knew his part well, for the whole theory of missions is here. To invite the messenger first near, that himself may know that the Lord is risen, and his own soul rejoice in the living Saviour this it is that will qualify him for going quickly to bring word to the disciples, or to the world, of the Resurrection of Christ.
III. "They did run to bring the disciples word." It was the word within them that impelled them to hasten; it was the word in their heart that made them run with the word on their lips. I detect a grand key-note here. It is not only the message, carefully learned and correctly told; it is not only the faithful witness-bearing, whatever danger may be incurred. Over and above all this there are an eagerness, an enthusiasm, and a haste, in bearing the message of redemption, which are in keeping with the case, and mark the conduct of true disciples in all places and at all times. "The King's business requireth haste." This is strictly natural; it is a universal law. All great tidings travel quickly, whether they be glad or grievous. Here the tidings were very great; they were charged with life from the dead for the world; it was an instinct irrepressible in those who knew them to break into a run, in order to tell them soon to those whom they concerned.
W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 157.
References: Matthew 28:8-20 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 340. Matthew 28:9 , Matthew 28:10 . Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 56; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 4th series, p. 105.
It is very probable that there: was some far deeper reason than we can now discover why Galilee should have been marked out to have, as it had, a special connection with the events of Eastertide.
I. The first thought which suggests itself is that Jerusalem, "the hill of Zion," which was once the "joy of the whole earth," and which the Lord Himself had loved, had rejected and crucified the Son of God, and in consequence of her apostasy was no longer the chosen home of God on earth. She was cast off, and her house was left unto her desolate. And in consequence thereof the risen Saviour was about to lead away His Apostles from the once holy city to the borders of the Gentiles, to whom the offer of salvation through Him was now to be made.
II. Why were the Apostles to meet their risen Lord in Galilee? Was it for the same cause that in Jerusalem He appeared only to the faithful few, and that, for the most part, when the doors were closed at night? Or was it for the totally opposite reason, that by fixing a set time, and the place where He was most known, He took the best course to set the fact of His resurrection beyond dispute? Or was it because He could best unfold the mysteries of His kingdom, and give His last instructions to His followers before He ascended to His Father, in a place of safety, in the quiet of the fields, or upon the sea, of Galilee? We cannot speak positively; but the lesson is that, not at once, not until some trial of faith and patient waiting had been gone through, was that privilege bestowed, of closest communion with the Master and His servants, of which Galilee was to be the scene. In proportion to our faith in Christ and love for Him shall we have need of patience too. The Apostles were constrained to wait, and so must we. They must go to Galilee, "and there," said the promise, "ye shall see Him." We must work our way to a better country, that is a heavenly; and thither, says the promise, "I go to prepare a place for you." Surely, what the thought of Galilee was to the Apostles is that of heaven to them that love the Lord Jesus now the looked-for place of meeting, where the tears of past sorrows shall be dried, hope turned into fruition, love and knowledge perfected, and communion made "complete in Him." Scattered, like sheep which had fled from their shepherd, were the Apostles, till the mountain in Galilee was pointed out as the place where they with each other, and all with their Lord, were to meet once more. And so heaven is that better Galilee where they who are now dispersed and parted may meet again.
F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i., p. 187.
The Chief Priests' Story.
This tale of the high priests', if it be good for anything, will bear the same cross-examination and analysis as others in the annals of important jurisprudence, and candour is compelled instantly to admit it labours under serious embarrassments.
I. In the very outset, the antecedent improbability of particulars crushes it. How came a trained watch all to go to sleep? Would the whole band of sixteen men be likely to fall away at once, and remain in slumber a time long enough for this amount of labour? This was noisy work, and took some numbers to do it, yet it would have to be done leisurely. Who folded up the napkin and arranged the grave-clothes in the dark? And if the Roman soldiers were asleep, how did they know anything about it?
II. The immediate followers of Jesus had no motive to steal the body of their Lord.
III. It is evident from the entire story, told here in its artless naturalness, that the disciples had no sort of concerted plan to do any such thing. Why, they had His body in their power after Joseph begged it on Friday evening; now was it possible that the idea should strike them to go and pilfer it away on Saturday?
IV. The Jews never told this tale to any judicial audience or court, so that it could be subjected to cross-examination. Stealing the body was a capital crime, yet not one of these accused disciples was ever arrested for its commission. To have proved this story of theft in the night would have overturned the entire Christian religion in one sweep. But after this first lie in Jerusalem the Sanhedrim preserved a discreet silence.
V. There was awful risk to the soldiers if this story was true, but if the story was not true there was no peril in it.
VI. The inherent impossibility of the act itself cannot be left out of sight. If there was one spot more than another likely to be under malevolent and curious scrutiny, it was that where the Nazarene Prophet was laid. Any suspicious movement would have been observed by a score of eyes.
VII. Then what could be done with the body after the disciples had got it in possession? In that land, where such strict regulations existed, where every one shunned contact because of a ceremonial uncleanness, how could those frightened Galileans have relieved themselves of a burden so awkward after they had passed the precincts of the garden? If discovered, what was there so fatal to their faith, as well as to themselves, as this half-buried body of the crucified Nazarene?
C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 100.
References: Matthew 28:11-15 . E. D. Solomon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 293.Matthew 28:11-20 . Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 276. Matthew 28:16 . A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 230. Matthew 28:16 , Matthew 28:17 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 493.
(with 1 Corinthians 15:6 )
The question meets us today, as we think of the narrative of the text, How do we stand related to that assembly on the Galilean mountain, and to that last command of our adored Lord? The answer which I trust we shall all feel disposed to give is this, that we are related to that assembly just as though we had formed part of it, to that last command as though we had heard it in audible words from the lips of our Lord. That we may be confirmed in this conviction let us ask and answer some further questions.
I. Is the world's need any less now than it was then? Substantially, it is the same. It was great and urgent then; it is great and urgent now. "Go ye, therefore," into the busy world immediately around you, and into the wider world beyond, with the good news of God. Tell men that God loves them, that Christ "is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him." Such is the great commission, the most important ever entrusted to men. Note (1) its universality, (2) its intellectual character, (3) its gentleness.
II. Are the encouragements given to those who put themselves instantly in a way of obedience to this last command in any manner or degree less than they were at first or through the primitive ages? Christ's assertions regarding His power and presence were immediately put to the proof by His followers, and in no long time they were able to point rejoicingly to certain definite results, not only in the inward experiences, but in the lives and characters of men. The most marvellous changes took place, such as had never been obtained under any other teaching or influence whatever. In a state of society like ours, which has long been under more or less of the general Christian culture, we cannot expect to see many changes so visibly striking as those of early times. But those who will look below the surface of things will see that changes the same in essence are being produced, that the same sanctifying grace is still at work. When men go forth and teach the true Gospel in the spirit of love and loyalty, the Lord works with them, and confirms the word by signs following. It is a great work, so great that no other can be likened to it; all other good works are only parts of it. It will be a long and hard work, but it will be done. As surely as God is the Father, and Jesus Christ the Son, there will be "glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill toward men."
A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 230.
References: Matthew 28:16 . A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 383.Matthew 28:16-20 . B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 155.Matthew 28:17 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 167.
I. Doubting in matters of religion. Doubt arises (1) from ignorance; (2) some kinds of doubt mark the course of inquiry; (3) other kinds indicate moral perversity, and are allied to unbelief.
II. The practical influence of doubting in matters of religion. (1) It is no apology for indifference; (2) it ought to stimulate inquiry; (3) it contains an element of belief; (4) it may be an ultimate benefit.
G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 253
The Omnipotence of Jesus on Earth.
The power of Jesus in heaven is revealed to us that we may know that to Him is also given all power on earth. He whom God hath highly exalted, who is the Lord of glory and the Prince of the kings of the earth, who is head over all things to the Church, and under Whose feet the Father hath put all things, rules and governs in silence and calm omnipotence, unknown and unrecognized by the world. All earthly events and historical movements, all triumphs of skill and knowledge, all discoveries of science and developments of human life are under His government and the power of his sceptre; all things are subservient to the great purpose of His death, and preparatory to His second Advent.
I. Jesus has power on earth to forgive sin. He who has entered into the Holy of Holies by His own blood is now before the Father, the advocate in righteousness of sinners who trust in Him. And He has power to forgive sin on earth, and the conscience is at peace, the heart that was heavy-laden is at rest. And Jesus exerts this power with tenderness, as gently as the light comes down from heaven, and as the dew falls on the flowers of earth. We look upon Him, and we are healed.
II. Jesus has power to renew the heart, Jesus only. It is His dying love that melts the heart. While the wintry and keen blasts of the law make us wrap the cloak of self-righteousness and opposition to God more firmly round us, the Sun of righteousness, the mercy of God, moves us to lay aside our pride, our sin, our hatred and forgetfulness of God.
III. Jesus has power on earth to quicken the dead. It is His Divine prerogative to give life. Who but God can kill and make alive again? Jesus is not merely a teacher or prophet; He is not a restorer of law. It is not instruction merely or principally that we need. The Lord came that we might have life, not by His doctrine, nor by His example, but by His death the erring, lost sheep were saved and brought into the fold of peace.
IV. All power is given unto Jesus on earth to keep His people in faith and love amidst all their temptations and afflictions, conflicts and struggles, giving them the victory over their enemies, and presenting them finally unblamable in body, soul, and spirit before the Father. The Good Shepherd, whose own the sheep are, by the election of the Father, by the self-sacrifice of His infinite love, by the indwelling and sealing of the Holy Ghost, keeps His people to the end. He guards them, and protects the new and tender life against the hostile and adverse influences by which it is surrounded. In heaven He is continually inteceding on our behalf, that our faith fail not; on earth He is continually shielding us with the power of His love, and keeping us by the influence of His Spirit.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 17.
References: Matthew 28:18 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 100; G. T. Coster, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 108; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 143; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 276. Matthew 28:18 , Matthew 28:19 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 383; B. Bird, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 241.Matthew 28:18-20 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1200; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 140; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 266; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 536.
This passage has always been regarded by the Church of Christ as teaching most clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. "Name" is never used in Scripture in connection with abstract things or qualities, but always with persons. As the personality, so the Divinity, and consequently the equality of the Three are distinctly set forth; for the name of the Son and of the Spirit are coordinated with that of the Father; the same faith is demanded of us in regard to each of the Three Persons. The solemnity of the moment when these words were spoken by our Lord, the character of the ordinance with which He connects them, clearly prove that they contain the cardinal and fundamental doctrine on which all Christian teaching and life rest.
I. In this doctrine there is light for the mind. God dwelleth no longer in darkness, and in heights unattainable to the vision of human hearts. We see Jesus, the God-Man, and He reveals the Father and the Spirit. Jesus, by the name of God, reveals to us creation, for by Him, the Word of God, were all things made; and by the Spirit the Father's purpose and the mediation of the Son were actually accomplished in perfection and beauty. Jesus, by the name of God, reveals to us in eternity, not a lonely, quiescent God, such as neither mind can conceive nor affection grasp, but a God in whom from all eternity there was fulness of life, and love, and blessedness, the Father loving the Son, and the Spirit knowing the depths of the Godhead.
II. Here the conscience finds rest. Only in a Triune God are perfect atonement and reconciliation. He who brings us to the Father is the Son. The Church was purchased with the blood of Him who is God; and when Christ, by His own blood, entered into the Holy of Holies, we were represented by Him and complete in Him. The work of the Holy Ghost, also, is essential to our peace. Christ is ours only by the power of the Holy Ghost. Without the love of the Father, the atonement of the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost the conscience may be soothed, but cannot be set at rest and purified.
III. And here, in the mystery of the Triune name, is love for the heart. It is only when we know the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that we know that God is Love; that love is not one of His attributes merely, but that He is Love from everlasting to everlasting; that from all eternity God, who lives, loves; that in Him the one Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are united in ever-blessed communion of love.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 67.
The name of God, the glory of the Old and of the New Covenant. In the Divine revelation to Israel, from Abraham to the Exodus, and from Moses to the last prophets, we can trace the following lines of education, which all converge in the Advent of the Lord Jesus, and in his full revelation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
I. Scripture teaches us that no man can see God, and Scripture speaks at the same time of God appearing. Israel knew God as Jehovah revealing Himself, the Messenger or Angel, sent by God and one with God, His Representative, face and image, in whom Divine glory was manifest, and to whom Divine adoration is due.
II. But while God came thus nigh unto them, He revealed the infinite distance which separated between Him and the sinful nation. Israel is sinful and guilty, yet God dwells among them. Israel hopes in the Lord, for with Him is plenteous redemption. For they knew that God, the holy and just Lawgiver, was also God the Redeemer. A just God and a Saviour, a holy God and a sanctifying Spirit, were manifested unto Israel, or, in other words, the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
III. These two lines of prophecy are combined, in the hope of Jehovah's rending the heavens, and coming down to redeem and glorify Israel. The coming of the Lord God is the theme of Psalms and Prophets. The invisible God manifests the Holy One among a forgiven and renewed people; such is the hope of Israel.
IV. We must combine with these passages an apparently opposite line of prediction. Its starting-point is not the throne of holiness, but the earth under a curse, and the woman, who was first in the transgression. This series of promises is familiar to all. The Seed, the Son, the David, the Servant, the Israel is the Redeemer, the Light of the nations, the Restorer and glory of His people. And as He is man, and born of the Virgin-daughter of Zion, He is also God. Israel was taught that the Son of David, the Messiah, was God manifest in the flesh, Revealer of the Father, the Lord who can baptize with the Holy Ghost. Does not the Messianic prophecy declare the name of the Triune God?
V. This mysterious God-Man is seen in heaven and coming down from heaven (Psalms 110:1 ; Zechariah 12:10 ).
VI. The mystery of the Trinity is foreshadowed in the teaching of the Book of Proverbs. Who can fail to recognize the identity of the Wisdom spoken of in the Book of Proverbs, and the Word, who was in the beginning with God? Wisdom is set up from everlasting, brought forth; or as the Church expresses it, God of God, begotten, not made; beyond and above all creation; to be distinguished from God, and yet worshipped in the Godhead.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 89.
The Uniting Name.
I. A set of Galilean fishermen were bidden to teach or make disciples of all nations. In some way or other these Galileans did make disciples among Jews, the worshippers of the I AM, the Jehovah; among Greeks, the worshippers of human heroes and the forms of nature. Consider what was necessary to bring these two portions of the world into a common fellowship. Those words which He spoke as He stood on the mount, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth," were indeed most necessary before they could believe that power would descend on them to execute His command. Only if He had reconciled earth and heaven, only if He had conquered the visible as well as the invisible world, only if both were gathered up in Him, could they have the credentials or the inner might which were needed for heralds to the nations. "Go ye therefore, " was the natural sequence to this assurance. But it was not enough. They were messengers from God to men, as he was who had seen the vision in the burning mount. They had as much necessity to ask as Moses had, "Behold, when we come unto them, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent us unto you, and they shall say to us, What is His name? what shall we say unto them?" The answer was given before the question had arisen, "Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
II. The name, the new and awful name, was proclaimed. But it was not merely proclaimed. The nations were not merely to be told, "It is this Being whom henceforth you are to worship; to this name the names of the Delphic Apollo and the Jove of the Capitol must bow." Go ye, it was said, and baptize all nations into this name. Speak not of it as if it stood aloof from them, as if it were afar off them. This mystery is about them, embracing them, sustaining them. The more we study this history, the more we shall be convinced that the preaching of this name and the baptism into this name were the mighty powers by which the divided worship, the demon worship of the old world was overthrown. And this because it was felt that there was one inclusive Truth revealed to mankind; a Truth which we cannot comprehend, but which comprehends us; a living Truth, which speaks itself out in a Person, not in a proposition; a Truth into which we must be received, and which will then go with us through life and death, meeting us in every new stage of our education, interpreting itself to us by our own individual trials, and by all the trials through which the world, or any section of it, is appointed to pass, bringing within its circle the sage and the little child.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 33.
The Church and the World.
As Christ was sent by the Father, so is the Church sent by Christ. Jesus was sent to be the Revelation and Representative of the Father, to testify of Him, to declare Him, to do His will, and to finish His work. He was a true and faithful Witness; He was the perfect Servant, whose meat it was to do the Father's will; He declared the name of God, and finished the work. Now Christ sends us into the world that we may show forth His life, that we may be His witnesses, that His light and love may shine, attract, and bless men through us, that men may behold in us Christ, as they beheld the Father in Him. As Christ was, so are we in the world. The Church is in the world. The reason is threefold: (1) the glory of God; (2) that she may follow Jesus, who through suffering entered into glory; (3) to promote the conversion of sinners. "From the life of Jesus," said the old Germans, "we can learn all things;" we can learn Christ, and to know Him is to know all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Let us, then, continually study Him as the Model; we must represent Christ in our lives.
I. And first, let us remember the object of Christ's life. He was sent. He never forgot that He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father that sent Him. Thus He was constantly the Servant of God, the Representative of the Father. Now we are sent by Jesus, and all that we are and have, all our words and works, are to be viewed in the light of mission and service.
II. Jesus came in lowliness. His birth, infancy, childhood, and youth are characterized by the emblems of poverty and obscure humility. What are we to learn from this? Are we not to follow the Master? We may not be poor, but we are to love poverty. We ought not to trust in earthly riches and honour, in the things which the world esteems and pursues; we ought to remember that our influence and our power are spiritual, and that the garment of the true Church is that of a servant, of a stranger and pilgrim.
III. Jesus was the Son of God; He came from above. Thus the Church is born of God, of incorruptible seed. Her life is none other than the life of Christ, the risen Head, the life of the Spirit, who dwelleth in us. We exert influence and power in the world simply by our being blameless and harmless, the sons of God, living Christ's life, manifesting the Divine nature, of which we are partakers who have escaped the corruption of the world through lust. In this lowliness and in this power the Church is able to go to the whole world with love and sympathy, announcing substance in the midst of emptiness and vain shadows, eternal life in the midst of death and sorrow, peace to the heavy-laden conscience, love to the aching and thirsting heart, forgiveness and renewal, health and joy, to the wounded and contrite.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 160.
The history of the Apostolic Church is the guide-book of the Church of every age. The Holy Ghost has not given us a record of the subsequent history of Christ's people, and we are convinced that the description of the Apostolic Church given to us by the Spirit is all that we need for our instruction and encouragement. What, then, were the characteristic features of the Apostolic Church?
I. We read that the Pentecostal congregation of Jerusalem continued steadfast in the Apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Deeply rooted and grounded in the knowledge and love of Christ, they cast forth their roots as Lebanon, their branches spread extensively; there were continually added to their number true believers. The Church spreads when she is intense in her spiritual life; she spreads when she deepens; she expands by concentration.
II. We are told that the Church of Jerusalem was regarded by the people with awe and with favour. This shows that the Church manifested both the holiness and love of God.
III. The Apostolic Church was full of joy and peace in believing, by the power of the Holy Ghost. The reality of Apostolic faith explains their joyousness and their heavenly-mindedness. The Apostolic Christians believed, they trusted in Jesus; and they rejoiced in Him who was their loving Redeemer, and who was coming again to give them the kingdom.
IV. The Apostolic Church was the home of love. Jesus was their Centre. In Him they were one. Where Christ's Spirit is, there love dwells and reigns. Love rooted in the heart, strong, sweet, and tender; love in deed and in truth, manifesting itself in the words of consolation, counsel, and encouragement, all the deeds of help and self-sacrifice.
V. The Church of Christ in the Apostolic times was organized. While there is no intervening priesthood or mediation between earth and heaven, the Lord Jesus blesses, feeds, and rules the flock through the ministry of believers, chosen and set apart for this solemn work. The object of the ministry is the ingathering of souls, and the edifying of the Body of Christ. The permanence of the ministry comprises the whole dispensation. The existence of the ministry promotes and strengthens the unity and equality of believers.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 190.
References: Matthew 28:19 , Matthew 28:20 . D. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 198; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xix., pp. 79, 81; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 114.
Truth, and its Questions To-Day.
I. We live in a time which is called a time of transition, when the old thoughts of men are contending in a sharp battle with the new so sharp that the very outsiders and camp-followers of the armies of the world, the idle men and women, take an interest and engage themselves therein in a desultory manner. Men and ideas astonish and confuse us. There is no certainty, it seems, in men. We become distrustful and indignant. But it is because we look to men too much, and have not faith in the Man Christ Jesus. It matters, after all, but little how men deceive us. We have one Leader who never disappoints, to whom truth is as dear now as it was to Him on earth, who encompasses our failure with His success, our weakness with His strength, our restlessness with His rest, and lo! He is with us always, even to the end of the world.
II. It may be, however, that other elements have come into our life which give us real reasons for dismay. There are times when a strange thing happens to us when old evils, old temptations, which we thought we had conquered, which had died out of our lives, arise again, and we tremble with the thought that past effort has been in vain, that sins cannot have been forgiven, because they appear again. But there may be an explanation even of this. I cannot but think that it is not always a note of retrogression, but a note of growth. (1) First, it is not an experience which comes to unaspiring spirits; it belongs especially to those who are possessed with the desire to advance, to pass beyond the bounds of mortal thought, and find the fount of truth. (2) Again, this resurrection of evil things and thoughts may in itself be caused, not by any cessation of growth, but by the progress of growth itself. (3) Because we may redeem the past in Christ, let us go forward with the patience and effort of men. We will not despair while we are wise, nor let the soul, in utter faithlessness, commit the sin of Judas. God is mightier than our evil, too loving for our sins. We shall be punished, but healed through our punishment. The phantom cloud of sins, errors, failures melts away in the growing light, and from the purity of the upper sky a voice seems to descend and enter our sobered heart: "My child, go forward, abiding in faith, hope, and love; for lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 290.
The Perpetual Presence.
This is the Church's charter. By this instrument we hold our all. If this be true the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. If Christ, the crucified and the risen, is indeed and in truth present still, present for ever, with us who believe, then to be a Christian, a Christian all through and altogether, must be strength, and safety, and happiness, must be life, and glory, and immortality, assured by the word of One who cannot lie, of One who, raised from death, dieth no more. What, then, we ask briefly, are some of the characteristics of this perpetual presence, in the Church and in the soul?
I. It is a special presence. There is a presence in the universe. In Christ all things consist: withdraw Him, and there is chaos. It is not of this presence that He speaks. There is a mind and will, there is a power and a work, inside the community which a man enters by believing, distinct from that which orders sky and sea, replenishes earth with life, and keeps the stars in their courses. This special presence is that which accounts for the very start, and progress, and success of Christianity.
II. It is a spiritual presence. "The Comforter," which is the Holy Ghost, once dwelt with, now He dwells in the Church. The corporeal presence is gone, that the spiritual may come. This presence has influences direct and constant, which are the life of the body. What would the Word be, the book or the voice, without the presence? What would the sacraments be, the water or the supper, without the presence? It is the presence which changes idle sounds, bare materials, fleeting wishes into realities, into instrumentalities, into very powers of a world to come.
III. It is a manifold presence. Every gift and every grace are due to it. Every office and every function of the universal Church are due to it. Not action only, but counteraction; not institution only, but adaptation; not formation only, but reparation these, too, are parts of it.
IV. Above all else, it is a sanctifying presence. Men may cavil at revelation, fight over doctrine, ask all their days, "What is truth?" there is one thing they dare not malign, and that is holiness. If the presence were protective only, keeping alive in the earth, as a "sign spoken against," a spiritual religion, offering happiness, offering heaven, on the condition of faith in a Saviour, it might attract the weary and sorrowful; it would not appeal, as now, to the conscience and heart of mankind. The presence is proved by its effect. It is a light, it is a power, it is a life, it is a love; men do know for themselves what is the secret of their life, and other men take knowledge of it whether it is powerful and whether it is pure. If Christ can transform a life, if Christ can comfort a death, then I may doubt about many things, but one thing I see, that this is indeed the Saviour I need.
C. J. Vaughan, University Sermons, p. 233.
The Real Presence.
I. Jesus is with us as individuals. Here is our strength. Leaning on Christ our difficulties vanish. "Have not I commanded thee?" said God unto Joshua; "be strong, and be of good courage: be not afraid, neither be thou discouraged; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Jesus is with us (1) in the days of prosperity and joy, (2) in our affliction, (3) when the soul feels deserted and is cast down within us, (4) when we are slow of heart, and cannot believe that He is risen, and walk in sadness. If Jesus is with us, then ( a ) we have all things. His presence is our all. He Himself is our Life. All the activities of the Church are the manifestations of Christ; of Him is our fruit found. ( b ) We can do all things. Is He not our Lord and our Strength? Does He not fight all our battles? This is the secret of sanctification. Not merely a remembered Jesus, not merely the motive of gratitude or fear, but the present Jesus. In every temptation, in every duty, in every sorrow lean upon the Lord, who is with thee, and His grace will be sufficient. ( c ) This is the secret of our influence. If Jesus be with us, sinners will draw near to hear Him, into whose lips grace is poured. The presence of Jehovah in the midst of His people will awe and attract many. The presence of Jesus in our hearts and homes will manifest itself in our character and conduct, and Christ in us will draw many to Himself. ( d ) Heaven itself is begun, for to be with the Lord is eternal life and blessedness. Jesus shall throughout all eternity be our All. We depend and lean on Him throughout the endless ages.
II. The words of the Lord refer also and primarily to the whole Church. We who believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost believe also that there is the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints. Jesus ascended into heaven, but He has thereby not left earth and His disciples here below. He who dwells in the high and lofty place dwells also with him who is of a contrite and broken heart. Taken away from judgment and humiliation, He delights now in glory to remember His sorrows and temptations on earth, and to sympathize with the saints, whom He is not ashamed to call brethren. Wherever two or three are gathered together in His name He is in the midst of them; He is with every one who loves Him; He is with our spirit.
A. Saphir, Christ and the Church, p. 233.
The ever-present Saviour.
These words of our Lord are like every other which He spoke after His Resurrection. All He said, and all He did, after He rose from the grave, was for believers only.
I. The word "alway," in the text, has perhaps rather lost the exactness of meaning which it carried at the time when our translation was made, and there is always a loss of power wherever there is a diminution of exactness. There is a great force and beauty in "all the days." It conveys at once the idea that before the mind of the speaker all the days lay ranged in order, to the last time that the sun shall ever set upon the earth. He saw each in its individuality, each with its own proper history. We are always stepping into an unknown future, but the foot cannot fall outside the presence of Jesus.
II. Most minds, whatever they be, do best in fellowship; very few are independent of the law of sympathy, and those few are the weakest. Now, conceive that you carry about with you, every day, the actual sense of the nearness, and the compassion, and the co-operation of Christ; conceive that you know that there is One at your right hand whose name is "Counsellor," to whom you can turn at any moment, and be sure of perfect direction; conceive that you are conscious of such an arm of strength that you can in your most burdened hour lean on it with all your weight: what a perfected existence would you be leading from that moment; what a path of light would stretch on before you, up to the realms of glory!
III. There is a presence, and if that presence be it must be the determining feature of every man's life, whether he have it or not. If you have it not there is a desideratum, and such a desideratum that I hesitate not to say that whatever you have beside, if you have not the feeling of the presence of Christ life is still to you a failure and a blank. But if you have it, and delight yourself in it, the more you make of it the more it will be to you. Let it be a fixed axiom of life, "Christ is with me everywhere." Do not measure it; do not treat it like the uncertainties of this little world. Time lays no hand upon it; no shade of altered feeling ever comes to darken it; no parting hour will ever sadden it with a last farewell; but from eternity to eternity, again as yesterday, so today, as today, so tomorrow, and as tomorrow, so for ever and ever. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." And let all the new creation cry, "Amen."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 345.
Truth, and its Hope of Progress.
I. "Lo, I am with you alway," was said by Representative Mankind to the mankind He represented. If Christ be with mankind as He is with Himself, present through and in the ages as their heart and brain, then He is the Source whence evolution flows. And because He is perfect, therefore the race evolves towards perfection, and evolution towards perfection is progress. It is impossible to bring forward one half of the proofs of such a progress; but one is enough. It is plain to those who read history more for the sake of human ideas than for its statistics that many of the ideas which restricted the equal freedom of men, which implicitly denied the two great universal ideas of Christianity, that all men are alike God's children, that all men are brothers in Christ, have been slowly dying away, and are now rapidly dying. In the decay of these progress is seen; in looking forward to their ruin is our best hope; in proving that their ruin is contained in Christianity is the reconciliation between the world and Christianity. We look forward, upon this "bank and shoal of time," to the destruction of all false conceptions of the relations of God to man and of man to man, to the hail which will sweep away the lingering remnants of every idea which limits, isolates, and tyrannizes over men. For the Redeemer is with us always, even to the end of the world.
II. But we must not expect that this will be done quickly or easily. Let no man or woman think, who is still young, on whom the necessary calm of age has not fallen, that they will have a quiet life, if they are in earnest, for many years to come, either in the world without or in the world within them. Development must have its rude shocks, evolution its transient earthquakes, progress its backslidings. Accept the necessity; count the cost; make ready to take your part in the things which are coming on the earth. See that you are an active part of the great evolution of the race. What matters, after all, the catastrophes, the convulsions of heart and intellect which you must suffer, the shattered sail, the midnight watch in the hurricane, the loneliness of the mid-ocean? It is life at least; it is more, it is moving with the movement of the world, and the world is moving in Christ.
S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 305.
The Presentiments of Youth.
I. Three things, catastrophe, joy, and change, to either or to all of these we look forward in the hour of presentiment. We take them one by one; we ask if the forecasting of them has anything to tell us. And first, the presentiments of catastrophe, is there any good in them? (1) I think, when they are presentiments regarding others, that they make our life more delicate. They give a finer edge to noble passions. Love becomes clearer through the dream of loss, the joy of friendship more exquisite from our sense of its transiency. (2) But if the presentiment of catastrophe be for ourselves it ought to make our inner life more delicate more delicate, inasmuch as there are so many pleasant and gracious possibilities in our own nature which we neglect to educate. We go through the meadows of our own hearts, crushing with a careless step the flowers. There is no need to walk so fast. Tread more delicately, more thoughtfully, lest when the catastrophe comes you find, too late, that you have not got the good out of your own nature which you might have done.
II. Are we ready for the progress which ought to grow out of joy? We look forward to joy, but there can be no progress got out of it if we seek to drain it dry in a moment. We need temperance in our delight. Some plunge their whole face into the rose of joy, and become drunk with the scent, but in doing so they crush their rose, and break it from its stem. The leaves wither, the colour dies, the freshness of the perfume fades; their pleasure is gone. The wise man prefers to keep his rose of joy upon its stem, to visit its beauty not all at once, but day by day, that he may have it cool and in the dew; and thus his pleasure possesses permanence.
III. Lastly, we look forward to change, sometimes with exultation, sometimes with dread; with the former in youth, with the latter in manhood. Middle age comes upon us, and we need a higher help than our own to meet the change and chance of mortal life. They must come, and the solemn question is, shall we be able to conquer their evil? have we Divine life enough in the spirit to make them into means of advance? For it is wise to remember that any change may be our overthrow. But stay; are we alone, unhelped, forgotten, feeble victims of blind Fate? Not so, if a triumphant Humanity has lived for us; not so, if these words have any value, "Lo, I am with you alway;" for then we are in Christ, and to be in Him is to be fated to progress passing into perfection; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 320.
I. In order to understand this somewhat remarkable statement we have to observe that the Saviour is speaking of something more than that presence which is inseparable from the nature of His own essential and eternal Godhead. Considered in His Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ was present, of course, with His people before His incarnation, as well as after it; present after His Ascension, as well as before it; present, too, not only with the godly, but also with the ungodly, surrounding, enfolding, encompassing all. But in these consolatory words, addressed to the Apostles on parting from them, our Lord unquestionably refers to something which is not only more intimate and personal than the unavoidable proximity of the Creator to the creature, but which is also more closely associated with the human relation in which He had stood to them during the period of His earthly ministry. The "I" who is with us always is not only the exalted Christ, who sits on the throne, and sways the sceptre of the universe, but also the Friend and Counsellor, the gentle, tender, compassionate Companion, who trod with us step by step in the journey of life, and who condescended to admit us into the freest and fullest, into the most loving and satisfying intercourse with Himself.
II. The next point which we have to notice is the fact that communion with the Saviour is made possible by the advent of the Comforter; in other words, that the coming of the Spirit is, to all intents and purposes, a coming of the Saviour to the people who love Him. We know very little about the mysteries of the spiritual world, but what we do know will not make us unwilling to believe that there are modes of communication, of intercourse, of fellowship, between spirit and spirit, with which we are totally unacquainted, but which may be real and efficacious nevertheless; and if we believe this we shall not be disposed to deny that the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Ghost, can establish, if it so pleases Him, a communication of the most intimate kind between Himself and the spirits of Christian disciples. Christ is felt to have come, because the Spirit has brought Him.
III. Lastly, let us remember that this coming of Christ to His people, precious as it is, is suited to a state of imperfection and discipline. We look forward to something beyond that which we enjoy now. We look to another coming when Christ shall be manifested in bodily presence. This is the final, the exhaustive coming; there can be nothing beyond this. Then we shall see Him as He is, "being changed into the likeness of His glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things even unto Himself."
G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to my Friends, p. 305.
The Friendship of the Living Christ.
It is evident that Christ meant this promise to express a truth of profound meaning and pre-eminent power for the men to whom He gave it; for it is a strange fact that He should, for the first time, promise to be with them always, at the very last moment before vanishing from the world, and we may be certain that words apparently so contradictory have a very deep significance. This promise, too, is the last that He gave them before sending them out as heralds of His kingdom. It is, therefore, in one sense, the sum and substance of all the consolations He had given them before; and we may be sure that this crowning message contains the elements of mighty power. Observe first and broadly, that the friendship of the living Christ is the grand aid to spiritual life. As the disciples needed the conviction that He was nearer to them when He had passed into the heavens than He had ever been while on earth, so until we reach that conviction we shall be unable to lead lives as earnest as theirs.
I. This friendship alone can mature the inner life of the soul. It is a deep and Divine law of our nature that fellowship develops the hidden powers in the spirit of man. We never know what we can do till we find a friend. There are within us sleeping capacities, great and beautiful, which never waken till then. A most mighty fact is this power of friendship, so that a man who has no friend is an enigma even to himself. In the deepest sense is this true of the inner life of the Christian.
II. This friendship alone can Christianize every action of man's life. The emphatic demand which God's Word makes of the Christian disciple is that he should be a Christian in everything. And this is a dream, an impossibility utter and final, unless we can realize the personal friendship of the present Christ.
III. This friendship alone can hallow the discipline of trouble. In this no mere creed-believing will do; no dead Christ is sufficient; nothing can help us but the perfect sympathy of a living Lord, who knows our sorrows, and who suffered for our sins.
IV. This friendship unites the present with the future world. It unites us with Him "who was dead, but is alive for evermore," and by it we learn to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," for we walk with Christ as with a friend. Therefore, if you would make this life a dawning of the heavenly life and a schooling for its glorious offices, you must realize the present practical power of the words; "Lo, I am with you alway."
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 168.
I. In the Old Dispensation God deigned to abide visibly amongst His people when He did not abide in their hearts; and when the light and glory were departed from the mercy-seat men did not fondly insist upon it that they were still there, and that the glory of the second temple could not be less than that of the first temple; they saw and knew that it was less, and good men mourned for it, and comforted themselves with the word of prophecy, which told them that the glory of the second house should one day be greater than that of the former, because the Lord Himself with a more perfect manifestation of Himself should visit it. But when Christ was less present with His people under the New Dispensation, when the outward signs of His power were withdrawn, and falsehood and sin began to pollute His living temple, men did not open their eyes to see and acknowledge the change, but they closed them harder and harder, and went on repeating that Christ must be present, and that His Church must ever be possessed by His Spirit, when their own lie was driving His Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth, farther and farther from them, till not Christ, nor Christ's Spirit, but the very enemy of man himself, took his seat in the holy precinct, and called himself God, and was called so by those who worshipped him.
II. So it was, and again voices are busy in repeating the same falsehood, in talking loudly about holy times, and holy things, and holy places, saying that Christ is there. Oh, blessedness above all blessedness if indeed He were there! for then were the Church perfected. For so it is that when the most inland creek begins to feel the coming in of the tide, and the living water covers the blank waste of mud and gravel which was lying bare and dreary, then we know that the tide runs full and strong in the main river, and that the creek is but refreshed out of its abundance. But who will ever see the little inland creeks filled when the main river itself is so shallow that men can go over dry-shod? and who will ask the tide to fill these remote and small corners in the first instance, as if they were to make up for the shallowness of the great river? Not through outward ordinances, even the holiest, does the Church become holy; but if it might once become holy by the presence of Christ's Holy Spirit in every heart, then its ordinances would indeed be holy also; we might say that Christ was in them then, and we should say so truly.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 287.
References: Matthew 28:20 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. 15; J. C. Hare, The Victory of Faith, p. 315; Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., pp. 95, 173; J. T. Stannard, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 216; C. M. Short, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 389; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 363; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 132; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 119; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 88; New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 29; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 183.