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2 Corinthians 5

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 5:1

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved.

The certain knowledge of the future

1. The description which the apostle makes of the present state in which we now are.

2. His description of the future state, in which the faithful shall be hereafter.

3. The certainty of that happy state. The one habitation is certain as the other. But what certainty is there of such things, may some say? May we not abuse ourselves, if we look for that which no man ever saw? Is not this to build castles in the air? The apostle answers to such surmises, here, in my text: “We know that we have a building of God,” etc. We have solid grounds for this persuasion that it amounts to a knowledge.

He saith it was a thing known; a matter that was demonstrable by proper arguments. It was not a probable opinion, but an undoubted conclusion. There were sound arguments which led them to this unmovable belief. What were they?

1. For they knew that Jesus their Master, who made discovery of these things to them, had certain knowledge of them himself, and could not deceive them. He was not like to many idle persons, who draw maps of such territories as they never saw.

2. They knew likewise that this person, who could not but speak the truth, had promised to purified souls, that they should see God (Matthew 5:8). How can we behold, then, the glory of God, unless all our powers be mightily widened beyond the highest of our present conceptions.

3. Of this change they saw an instance in our Lord Himself.

4. Accordingly they knew that He did ascend up to heaven forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:10-11).

5. For they knew withal that their very bodies should be made like unto His (John 17:24).

6. And this truly they knew, as well as anything else, that He lives for evermore, and can make good His kind intentions and gracious promises (Revelation 1:18).

7. Especially they knew by the change that He had wrought in their souls that He could easily do as much for their bodies. It was no harder for Him to give a luminous body than it was to illuminate their minds; to turn this earthly house into an heavenly than to fill the spirits of common men with the spirit and wisdom of God.

8. To conclude, they knew likewise there had been some alteration already made, upon occasion in the body of some of them, and that others also felt an higher elevation of their soul. As for the body, St. Stephen’s face was seen as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6:1-15. ult.). Let us believe the testimony of men so well assured. For to think that there is no habitation for us in the heavens, because we were never there, is as foolish as if a man that had never stirred beyond the door of his cottage should imagine that all the goodly buildings he hears of at London are but so many clouds in the air, and have no real being. Let us but a little awaken our souls to look beyond this house of clay.

It is considerable then that this was a matter generally known; a thing wherein they were all agreed. They had a knowledge and not a mere opinion. And yet an opinion that is not private, but common, carries no small authority with it. We are all very much overawed by that which is universally received. They were all satisfied that this was the very truth of God, there was no dispute or division among them about this doctrine. It was the common faith of God’s elect; the common hope of their heavenly calling, and, in one word, the common salvation (Titus 1:1-2; Titus 1:4; Ephesians 4:4; Jude 1:3). It was not the belief of St. Paul alone. This shows that they had no superficial thoughts of the life to come, but that they were exceeding serious in the belief of it.

They knew these things so clearly that they made them the aim to which they directed all their desires and endeavours. This particle “for” sends our thoughts back to the words before, and gives us an account of that character which we there find of the Apostles of our Lord, who “looked not at the things which were seen, but at the things which were not seen.” They were so persuaded of this happy state hereafter that it was always in their eye. They slighted and trod upon all other things in compare with this, A great token of the sincerity of their belief; for otherwise they would not have been so foolish and unthrifty as not to have made some present temporal benefit of that great knowledge and power wherewith they were endowed.

But more than this; they were so sure of this building of God in the heavens that they endured all sorts of miseries and pains in this life merely in expectation of it.

They were so sure of this that it seemed to them as if they had this house not made with hands in present possession. They speak as men that belong to two countries, and have estates in this and in another kingdom. Such men say, “We have a building.” Though they cannot dwell in both their houses at once, yet they call them both theirs. They had a right and title to it. They had good deeds and evidences to show for it, which proved that it was settled on them by the will and testament of Jesus Christ their Lord and Master, to which they had the witness of the Spirit in their hearts. They might challenge it as their own, and lay hold on eternal life, which words instruct us that we must work in this earthly house wherein we dwell. We are in a place of labour and not of idleness and sport. (Bp. Patrick.)

The nature of assurance and the way to attain it

I am to open to you the beauty and propriety of the several metaphors here used.

I am now to show you the force of the apostle’s argument that the assurance of eternal glory is the best support under all temporal calamities. For this reason we faint not, for we know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

1. This assures the soul that all the afflictions of this mortal life are but light and transient, and when longest and heaviest, if once compared with that eternal weight of glory which succeeds them are as nothing.

2. During the present short space of suffering this assured hope of a blessed immortality revives and entertains the soul with the most delightful views of it.

3. This assurance contributes further to the support of the afflicted mind as it disposes it to a meek and quiet resignation to the will of God.

To make some general observations on the doctrine of assurance, which is founded on the words of the text.

1. I observe that an assurance of heaven is attainable in this life.

2. I would observe that it is not easily nor suddenly to be attained. It requires much labour, self-denial, and vigilance.

3. I would further observe that there is no small danger of mistaking in this matter. Mention some of those sources from which false assurance arises.

(1) It is often the effect of wrong notions in religion, such as the Jews had, who must needs think themselves the favourites of heaven, because they were the children of Abraham.

(2) A too sanguine and confident temper of mind often betrays men into these false hopes.

(3) This false assurance often flows from gross ignorance, even when there is little or no bigotry or superstition in the case. Because, perhaps, they have done nobody any harm, and never committed those open immoralities which they see others to be guilty of.

(4) Some suddenly attain good hopes of themselves through mere indolence and aversion to thought. They hope, but they do not know why, and are fully persuaded of they know not what.

(5) That even infidelity is sometimes the means of inspiring men with false and confident hopes as to their future state. So that hence it appears that it is an easy thing to be mistaken in this matter.

4. I would observe that though this false assurance be very common it is very dangerous, and if continued in, of irreparable detriment. It is a dreadful thing to go down into the grave with a lie in the right hand.

5. We cannot be too careful in determining a matter which is in its consequences of so vast importance.

To show in what manner we are to proceed in this affair, or how a right assurance of future happiness may be attained.

1. In order to a well-grounded assurance of future happiness there must be a well informed conscience and a good understanding in the right way to salvation. In order therefore to a well-established hope of heaven there must be a right knowledge of the nature of that happiness which is to be there enjoyed, the proper qualifications for it, and how those qualifications are to be attained.

2. In order to establish our hopes of future bliss there must be a sincere renunciation and departing from all known sins, those that are more secret as well as those which are more open to the eye of the world.

3. To this must be joined the love and practice of universal righteousness, or a sincere and humble obedience to all the precepts of the gospel.

4. To attain unwavering hopes of immortal glory there must be a large and particular experience of the power of religion in the government of our passions and propensions. This goes a great way to establish our hopes.

5. To all this must be joined a lively and active faith.

I shall now conclude all with two or three brief reflections.

1. Let it be well remembered that there may be a good and comfortable hope of heaven without a full assurance of it.

2. Let those who are of a more sanguine and confident temper learn hence to guard against a spirit of delusion.

3. Let us all then be persuaded to labour after it in the way now prescribed. (J. Mason, A. M.)

The good man’s present and future house

The good man’s present house. The mind occupies the body. We “dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust.”

1. This house is earthly.

(1) From the body returning to the earth, we see that it is composed of the same material.

(2) It draws our spirit down to sublunary objects.

2. Movable. A tent can be easily taken down.

3. Decaying. The term “dissolve” means properly to dis-unite the parts of anything.

4. Exposed. It is situated in a locality where it is liable to the ravages of time and rough usage.

5. Inconvenient (2 Corinthians 5:2). How much of our attention it requires in order to ensure its preservation! It needs daily cleansing, repairs, and protection. Often is it giving us extreme anxiety, putting us to considerable expense, or causing us severe pain.

6. Inferior. Paul desired a better, i.e., a suitable habitation. He longed for the period when his vile body should be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body.

The good man’s future house. The redeemed soul’s final domicile wilt be the clay tenement in its changed and beautified condition (1 Corinthians 15:1-58.). This will be--

1. Superhuman. “A building of God, a house not made with hands.” Jehovah will be the architect of this future abode. Though built by the Almighty, the Christian’s present house decays as if it had been the work of some poor mortal. The latter, framed thoroughly by the Highest, will be more in harmony with the unchangeableness and excellence of our adorable Maker.

2. Eternal. The body the believer shall ultimately have will never be taken down by death.

3. Unexposed. Its site is to be “in the heavens.” There will be nothing to weaken it or mar its beauty.

4. Attractive. Hence the godly in every age have, like the apostle, longed to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

5. One for which the saint is prepared (2 Corinthians 5:5). Every one that wishes to possess the building of God, must be meetened for it.

6. Assured (2 Corinthians 5:5). God sends forth the Holy Ghost to witness with the believer’s spirit that he shall finally have the better body. Conclusion, have you such a house in prospect? (Homilist.)

The earthly and the heavenly house

The body is only the house of the soul. Note--

1. What kind of a house?

(1) It is only a lodging-house: The soul is not sent to dwell in it, but to sojourn in it, while on the way to another world. “We are strangers and sojourners, as all our fathers were.”

(2) It is a weak house. The soul in the body is not lodged as in a tower or castle.

(3) It is a house that is daily in danger.

(a) It is in danger from without. There are storms to blow it down, and a very small blast will sometimes do it.

(b) It is in danger from within. There are disorders to undermine the house. The seeds of diseases, when we know not, are digging like moles under the mud walls, and soon destroy the house.

(4) It is a dark house. How many dangers come to the house from without which are never perceived by the eyes till they arrive.

2. The peculiarities of this house.

(1) It is a curious house of brittle materials.

(a) The body is a stupendous piece of workmanship, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The very outworks of the house are admirable. Observe the wisdom of God in that beauty and majesty that are in the face, in the faculty of speech, etc. How God has put the eyes and the ears in the head as in their watch tower, that they may the better serve for seeing and hearing. Two arms to defend ourselves. These are the guardians of the house. Nay, there is not a hair, nor nail in the body, but has its use. But what is all this to the curiosity within?

(b) But the more curious, the more easily marred. The greatest beauty is soonest tarnished. So we are exposed to the greatest danger by a small touch.

(2) It is a house that needs reparation daily. Your meanest houses, once right, need nothing for a year. But this earthly house needs reparation daily. Hence eating and drinking are necessary, the house must be patched up with more mud daily. And some are so taken up with repairing the body that all the day they do nothing else.

3. Uses from this doctrine.

(1) Prize your souls above your bodies, as you do the inhabitant above the house.

(2) Make not your body a war house against heaven.

(3) Take care of the house for the sake of its inhabitant.

(4) Never ruin the inhabitant for the house.

(5) Beware of defiling the house, seeing it has such a noble lodger.

(6) Take heed to the door of the house. Let it be duly shut and be discreetly opened. Open your mouth with wisdom.

(7) Take heed to the windows of the house. The soul got its death-wound at first by the eyes.

(8) Provide in time for a better house. You must depart from this.

Man’s body is a Tabernacle or tent for his soul, Paul was a tent-maker, and he takes a lesson of his frailty from what was among his hands, teaching us to do the same. It is so-called--

1. Because it is easily taken down. Whatever force may be necessary to pull down a house, it is easy to pull down a tent.

2. A tent is a movable house, one that is carried from place to place. So while we are in the body, we are not come to the place of our rest or settled habitation.

3. Tents, though mean without, may be precious within. However mean outwardly the body be, it has a precious soul within, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, capable of enjoying God for ever.

4. Uses of this doctrine.

(1) We need not wonder at sudden death. It has often been seen that a tent has fallen down when not a hand touched it.

(2) Let us lay our accounts with hardships while we are in the body. They that dwell in tents do not expect the ease and conveniences which a house affords. The ease is coming in the building of God.

(3) Let us live like pilgrims and strangers who are quickly to remove.

(4) Let us be preparing for an abiding mansion, and be careful to secure our title to it.

The earthly house of the tabernacle of our body well be dissolved by death.

1. In what respects is death a dissolution?

(1) Death dissolves the union betwixt soul and body.

(2) Death dissolves the body itself.

(3) Death dissolves--

(a) The vital flame that kept the body in life.

(b) The communion betwixt the parts of the body. No more blood flows from the heart. No more spirits from the brain. Then all falls down together. The eyes see no more, and the ears hear no more.

(c) The joints and bands with which the body was united. In the grave the strongest arms fall from the shoulder blade, and every bone lies by itself.

(d) The most minute particles of the body, and though the bones last longer, yet they also moulder into dust at length.

2. This body shall be dissolved.

(1) There is an unalterable statute of death under which men are concluded. “It is appointed unto men once to die.”

(2) Daily observation tells us we must die.

(3) All men consist of perishing materials. “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”

(4) We have sinful souls, therefore dying bodies. The leprosy is in the wall of the house, therefore it must be pulled down.

(5) We are hasting to a dissolution. “Our days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle. They are passed as the swift ships, as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.”

When the tabernacle of the saints’ body is dissolved by death they have a house of glory in heaven ready for them.

1. It is a dwelling house, not a house in which to lodge, but to abide.

2. It is a royal house, a palace. “They shall enter into the king’s palace.” Christ calls His saints to a kingdom, and their house is suitable to their dignity.

3. It is a holy house, a temple.

4. It is a heavenly house.

(1) It is situated in the better country, blessed with a perpetual spring, which yieldeth all things for necessity, conveniency, and delight. That land enjoys an everlasting day, “for there shall be no night there.” An eternal sunshine beautifies it.

(2) As for the city, this house stands “in that great city, the holy Jerusalem,” a city which shall flourish when all the cities below are in ashes. A city that never changeth its inhabitants. Blessed with perfect peace, nothing from any quarter can ever annoy it.

5. It is a father’s house.

6. It is a spacious house. This clay body is a narrow house, where the soul is caged up for a time. But that house hath many mansions.

7. It is a most convenient house. Every saint shall find his own mansion prepared and furnished with every conveniency for him. O believer, art thou in poverty and straits? There is an incorruptible treasure in that house. Are you groaning under the tyranny of sin? There you shall walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

8. It is a safe house. The gates “are not shut at all by day,” for there is no danger there. No unclean thing can enter it.

9. It is a glorious house.

(1) The visible heavens are but the porch of the seat of the blessed.

(2) It is the house in which the King’s son is to dwell with the bride for ever.

(3) It was purchased at a vast expense, even the blood of the Son of God.

(4) The indispensable necessity for washing and purifying, to fit persons for dwelling in the house, shows it to be glorious.

10. It is all everlasting house. It is eternal in the heavens.


1. Behold and admire the happiness of the saints.

2. Seek a house now into which you may be received when your earthly house is dissolved. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The tent dissolved and the mansion entered

My text begins with the word “For.” Paul’s mind was argumentative. If able to defy the present and rejoice in the future, he had a solid reason for so doing. I like an enthusiast who yet in his fervour does not lose his balance. Let the heart be like a fiery, high-mettled steed, curbed and managed by discretion. Consider--

The catastrophe which Paul saw to be very possible. “If our earthly house,” etc. He did not fear that he himself would be dissolved. He does not say, “If I were to be destroyed.” The “we” is all unharmed and unmoved. Many people are in a great fright about the future; but Paul regards the worst thing that could happen to him as nothing worse than the pulling down of a tent.

1. The apostle perceived that the body he lived in was frail in itself. Most likely he had a tent or two to repair lying near which suggested the language of the text. A tent is but a frail structure, and Paul felt that no great force would be required to overthrow it; it was like the tent which the Midianite saw in his dream, which only needed to be struck by a barley cake, and, lo! it lay along. A house of solid masonry needs a crowbar and a pick to start its stones.

2. Paul had many signs about him that his body would be dissolved. His many labours were telling upon him, and so were the cold, hunger, nakedness, and sickness he endured, and, besides, his tent might come down any day through the violence of his persecutors. Once he most touchingly spoke of himself as “such an one as Paul the Aged,” and aged men cannot get away from the consciousness that their body is failing. Certain crumbling portions warn the old man that the house is dilapidated; the thatch which has grown thin or blanched tells its tale.

3. Paul knew that so many others whom he had known and loved had already died, and he gathered from this that he would himself die. Our crowded cemeteries supply ten thousand arguments why each of us must expect to die in due time. Now this was all that Paul expected on the sad side, and truly it is not much. Certain Swiss peasants were feeding their flocks when they heard a rumbling up in the lofty Alps, and knew what it meant. In a brief space their fears were realised, for a tremendous mass of snow came rushing from above. What did it destroy? Only their old, crazy chalets. Every man was safe; the event was rather to them a matter which caused a Te Deum to be sung in the village church below than a subject for mourning. So the avalanche of death will fall, but it will only dissolve your earthly house. To-day we are like birds in the egg; death breaks the shell. Does the fledgling lament the dissolution of the shell?

The provision of which the apostle most surely knew. He knew that if his tent-dwelling was overthrown he would not be without a home. He did not expect to be in purgatory for the next thousand years, and then to leap from purgatory to Paradise. He had not even the thought of lying unconscious till the resurrection. He says not “we shall have” but “we have.”

1. What did the apostle mean?

(1) That the moment his soul left its body it would at once enter into that house of which Jesus spoke in John 14:2. Do you want to know about that house? Bead the Book of the Revelation and learn of its gates of pearl, etc. If after that you desire to know more take the advice given by John Bunyan, who bade his friend live a godly life, and go to heaven, and see for himself.

(2) That in the fulness of time he would again be clothed upon with a body. At this present in this body we groan being burdened. We are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

2. How Paul could say he knew this. This enlightened century has produced an order of wise men who glory in their ignorance. How odd that a man should be proud of being an ignoramus, and yet that is the Latin for the Greek “Agnostic.” How different is our apostle! He says, “we know.” Whence came this confidence?

(1) Paul knew that he had a Father, for he felt the spirit of sonship; he knew also that his Father had a house, and he was certain that if he lost the tent in which he lived he would be welcomed into his Father’s house above. How do our children know that they can come home to us? Did they learn that at school? No, but by their children’s instinct, just as chickens run under the mother-hen without needing to be trained.

(2) He knew that he had an elder brother, and that this brother had gone before to see to the lodging of the younger brethren (John 14:2).

(3) He thought of the Holy Ghost, who condescends to dwell in these mortal bodies, and, therefore, when we leave our earthly house He will leave it too, and as He has been our guest, in His turn He will be our host.

(4) He knew that when he died there was a Paradise prepared, for he had been there already (chap. 12.). Remember that this is the place to which the. Lord Jesus admitted the dying thief, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

(5) He knew that when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved there would be a new body for him, because Christ had risen from the dead. If Jesus be alive and in a place of rest He will never leave His own without house or home. There is such an attachment between Christ and the believer; yea, more, such a vital, indissoluble marriage union that separation is impossible.

The value of this knowledge to us. Secularists twit us with taking men’s minds away from the practical present that they may dream over a fancied future. We answer that the best help to live for the present is to live in prospect of the eternal future. Paul’s confident belief--

1. Kept him from fainting.

2. Made his present trials seem very light, for he felt like a man who sojourns for a night at a poor inn, but puts up with it gladly because he hopes to be home on the morrow.

3. Transformed death from a demon into an angel; it was but the removal of a tottering tent that he might enter into a permanent palace.

4. Made him always calm and brave. Why should he be afraid of a man that could not do him harm? Even if his persecutor killed him he would do him a service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Views of life, death, and the future

We have the views which Christianity teaches us to take of life.

1. The first view which it gives us, suggested by the text, is that life is a pilgrimage. The text speaks of “tabernacles,” tents; we are dwelling in tents.

2. A second view of life, in the text, is, that it is uncertain.

3. The third view which the apostle takes of life is that, even as to believers, it is a life of trouble and affliction. “We in this tabernacle do groan.”

4. But there is a fourth view of life of which the apostle takes, at least in the verses which immediately succeed the text. He teaches us that life is to be subordinated to one great end, so to please God as to have the testimony that we are accepted of Him. The highest heaven of a good man is to be accepted of God. Such are the views which Christianity teaches us to take of life.

We have the views which Christianity teaches us to form of death. Meditate on that word, “unclothed!” Death, then, is not the termination of our being. “Unclothed!” Then there is no cessation of consciousness. “Unclothed!” Then, of course, everything in the body which obstructs the operation of the mind must necessarily be removed. “Unclothed!” Then there is a change of place as well as condition. The connection of our spirits with the body renders us inhabitants of the earth. “Unclothed!” Then must we become conscious, by virtue of this unclothing, of the presence of those spirits who have undergone the same process before us, and have been unclothed like ourselves. We are not now at all conscious of the presence of disembodied spirits; they are, for the while, lost to us. “Unclothed!” but the import of this word is not yet exhausted; then must we become conscious at once, in a manner we cannot be on earth, of the presence of God. The body hides God from us, and prevents the immediate recognition of God by the spirit.

We have here the views which Christianity teaches us to form of the future permanent state of believers. (J. Walker, D. D.)

The present and future of believers

The believer’s present state.

1. Temporary. To impress this the apostle compares the body to a house, composed of earthly materials, which must soon return again to its original element. The damps Of infirmity and waters of affliction soon undermine the frail tenement. The figure of a house, however, is too stable a metaphor. Hence the body is called a mere tabernacle (Nehemiah 8:1-18.).

2. Afflictive (verse 2). Shall we illustrate it by an humble cottage buried in snow, whose inmates groan for deliverance? Or shall we take the fact that the atmosphere presses with a force of fourteen pounds on every square inch of surface? The tabernacle is oppressed, the weight is great, no man can remove it, or make his escape but with the loss of life itself. Though death cannot crush at once, he makes us feel his pressure. Ultimately it must succeed, but as the silver rises in the barometer by the pressure of the air, so the weight of affliction causes the believing soul to rise towards God.

3. A state of earnest longing and ardent hope--“In this we groan, earnestly desiring.” Grief is vocal, and from the heart soon finds its way to the lips. To groan, when oppressed, is natural, to desire heaven is supernatural. Here the believer stands distinguished from the vast masses of the creation which groaneth and travaileth in pain. It is a maxim among moralists that no man can desire evil for its own sake, which is just the sentiment of the apostle. We cannot desire death for its own sake; we cannot wish to be left naked, houseless, by the dissolution of the present tabernacle; but such are the happiness and glory found in the house not made with hands that we desire to exchange habitations.

4. One of certain knowledge, and Divine assurance of future glory (verse 1). But whence does this knowledge arise? Not by intuition. The mind possesses a capability of knowing it, but nothing more. Not from the senses, for its subject is altogether supersensual. The Divine testimony of revealed truth is the foundation, the Holy Ghost is the great agent, and faith the appointed instrument of this knowledge.

His intermediate state.

1. It is a state of simple abstract being. The apostle speaks of no new house, tabernacle, or clothing; but of a complete divestment of all, in being “naked” and “unclothed.” He speaks of the understanding, conscience, memory, imagination, will, and affections being laid naked and open before God, and the whole invisible world, while all the inhabitants thereof are equally laid open to the view of the soul when divested of mortality.

2. It is a state of conscious existence. Is it possible that insensibility can reign in the direct presence of Christ, who is the life and fountain of all knowledge and happiness? Was not Abraham conscious in Paradise when he replied to the rich man?

3. It is a state in which trial and probation are ended. An impassable gulf was fixed between good and bad spirits, according to the testimony of Abraham, as recorded by Luke.

4. It is a state of imperfection in relation to knowledge, the corporeal powers, and the manifestation of future glory.

His final and eternal state. What is the house not made with hands? Is it material covering or vehicle into which the soul enters on its departure from the body? This notion was entertained by Plato and his followers, but stands opposed to our text, which speaks of the soul “being naked and unclothed.” Besides, if a material covering be meant, the apostle says it must be eternal. It would therefore exclude the resurrection of the body. Neither can the house not made with hands mean the ethereal heavens, including sun, moon, and stars, they as well as the earthly house, pass away. The “heavens,” therefore, must mean the abode of God--the glorious city of the New Jerusalem. But mark that the “house” is not said to be the heavens, but a fabric in the heavens--viz., the resurrection body. We are now prepared to observe that the final and eternal state of the believer will be a state of--

1. Restitution. If we have lost by the sin and apostasy of the first Adam, we gain more by the death, resurrection, reign, and faithfulness of Jesus, the second Adam.

2. A state of reward.

3. A state of pure unmixed life. “Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (D. McAfee.)

The changeable and the permanent

All things sublunary are changeable.

1. God has condemned this world to dissolution (Hebrews 1:10-11). The individual house or tabernacle must be dissolved. Our fathers, where are they? “It is appointed for man once to die.” Neither wealth, temperance, nor medicine can protect the frail tabernacle from dissolution.

2. All our enjoyments are liable to the same change. They stand on two insecure legs, insufficiency and uncertainty.

3. It never was God’s design that this clay tabernacle should stand for ever. What a mercy it is for Christians that they are mortal (John 17:24).

Heavenly things are permanent and eternal.

1. The building itself is eternal; the leprosy of sin has never affected its walls; no curse hangs over the New Jerusalem. Adam was expelled from Paradise, and the Jews were expelled from an earthly Canaan; but the redeemed shall never be expelled from heaven. “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.”

2. The perfections of heaven are eternal also, entire exemption from all sin. What does the proud man think of this? Is it a blessing to be humble? What does the covetous man think of this? Is it a blessing to be delivered from the bondage of a greedy disposition? Good men, in proportion to their being good men, love that heaven because there is no pride, envy, malignity, temptation.

The Christian duty of earnestly desiring the heavenly state.

1. A calm and settled conviction of its existence. “We know!”

2. A deep sense of our need of it (verse 2).

3. The exercise of walking in the road that leads to it.


1. We must all die, our tents must be struck soon. The man who loves this world will not be pleased at this conclusion, but the Christian man will be delighted at it.

2. The believers’ best days are yet to come. There is an eternal house which the Saviour has gone to prepare. (A. Waugh, D. D.)

Tent and building

So my text mainly sets before us very strikingly the Christian certitude as to the final future. The dear, broad distinction between me and my physical frame. There is no more connection, says Paul, between us and the organisation in which we at present dwell than there is between a man and the house that he inhabits. The foolish senses crown Death and call him Lord; but the Christian’s certitude firmly draws the line, and declares that the man, the whole personality, is undisturbed by anything that befalls his residence; and that he may pass unimpaired from one to another, being in both the self-same person. Then, again, note, as part of the elements of this Christian certitude, the blessed thought that a body is part of the perfection of manhood. No mere dim, ghostly future, where consciousness somehow persists, without environment or tools to act upon an outer world. To dwell naked, as the apostle says in the context, is a thing from which man shudderingly recoils, and it is not to be his final fate. And now, if we turn to the characteristics of the two conditions with which my text deals, we get some familiar yet great and strengthening thoughts. The “earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved,” or, more correctly, retaining the metaphor of the house, is to be pulled down, and in its place there comes a building of God, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The first outstanding difference which arises before the apostle is the contrast between the fragile dwelling-place, with its thin canvas, its bending poles, its certain removal some day, and the permanence of that which is not a “tent,” but a “building,” which is “eternal.” Involved in that is the thought that all the limitations and weaknesses which are necessarily associated with the perishableness of the present abode are at an end for ever. No more fatigue, no more working beyond the measure of power, no more need for recuperation. And the other contrast is no less glorious and wonderful. “The earthly house of this tent” does not merely define the composition, but also the whole relations and capacities of that to which it refers. The ‘“tent” is “earthly,” not merely because, to use a kindred metaphor, it is a “building of clay,” but because, by all its capacities, it belongs to, corresponds with, and is fitted only for, this lower order of things, the seen and the perishable. And, on the other hand, the “mansion” is in “the heavens,” even whilst the future tenant is a nomad in his tent. That is so, because the power which can create that future abode is “in the heavens.” It is so in order to express the absolute security in which it is kept for those who shall one day enter upon it. And it is so, further, to express the order of things with which it brings its dwellers into contact. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” Let no man say that such ideas of a possible future bodily frame are altogether inconsistent with all that we know of the)imitations and characteristics of what we call matter. “There is one flesh of beasts and another of birds,” says Paul. Do you know so fully all the possibilities of creation as that you are warranted in asserting that such a thing as a body which is the fit organ of the spirit, and is incorruptible, like the heavens in which it dwells, is an impossibility? The teaching of my text and its context casts great light on what the resurrection of the dead means. We have heard grand platitudes about “the scattered dust being gathered from the four winds of heaven,” and so on; but the teaching of my text is that resurrection does not mean the assuming again of the body that is left behind and done with, but the reinvestiture of the man with another body. It is a house “in the heavens.” We leave “the tent”; we enter the “building.” There is nothing here of some germ of immortality being somehow extricated from the ruins, and fostered into glorious growth. Or, to take another metaphor of the context, we strip off the garment and are naked, and then we are clothed with another garment and are not found naked. The resurrection of the dead is the clothing of the spirit with the house which is from heaven. And there is as much difference between the two habitations as there is between the grim, solid architecture of northern peoples, amidst snow and ice--needed to resist the blasts, and to keep the life within in an ungenial climate--and the light, graceful dwellings of those who walk in an atmosphere of perpetual sunshine in the tropics. Therefore let us, whilst we grope in the dark here, and live in a narrow hovel in a back street, look forward to the time when we shall dwell on the sunny heights in the great pavilion which God prepares for them that love Him.

And now note again how we come to this certitude. My text is very significantly followed by a “for,” which gives the reason of the knowledge in a very remarkable manner. “We know … for in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven.” Now that singular collocation of ideas may be set forth thus--whatever longing there is in a Christian, God-inspired soul, that longing is a prophecy of its own fulfilment. We know that there is a house, because of the yearning, which is deepest and strongest when we are nearest God. “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Of course such longing, such aspiration and revulsion are no proofs of a fact except there be some fact which changes them from mere vague desires, and makes these solid certainties. And such a fact we have in that which is the only proof that the world has received, of the persistence of life through death, and the continuance of personal identity unchanged by the grave, and that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And let no man take exception to the apostle’s word here, “we know,” or tell us that “Knowledge is of the things we see.” That is true and not true. It is true in regard of what arrogates to itself the name of science. If it is meant to assert that we are less sure of the love of God, of immortality than we are of the existence of this piece of wood, or that flame of gas; then I humbly venture to say that there is another region of facts than those which are appreciable by sense; that the evidence upon which we rest our certitude of immortal blessedness is quite as valid as anything that can be produced, in the nature of evidence, for the things around us.

Lastly, note what this certitude does. The apostle tells us, by the “for” which lies at the beginning of my text, and makes it a reason for something that has preceded. And what has preceded is this, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” That is to say, such a joyous, calm certitude draws men’s thoughts away from this shabby and transitory present, and fixes them on the solemn majesties of that eternal future. Yes! and nothing else will. And we shall not let our thoughts willingly go out thither unless our own personal well-being there is very sure to us. And such a certitude will also make a man willing to accept the else unwelcome necessity of leaving the tent, and for awhile doing without the mansion. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Heaven anticipated


The appropriate description given us of the human body--“the earthly house of this tabernacle.” Notice

1. Its material origin. It is “earthly.” How mysterious and complicated soever may be the machinery of the human frame, it is, after all, a composition of earthly materials.

2. Its use. It is a “house.” Every house is built by some man, but He that built this house is God.

3. Its temporary existence.

4. Its ultimate dissolution.

The assurance the apostle indulged.

1. It is a building of God.

(1) God the Father is the efficient cause or architect of this building. Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

(2) The procuring and meritorious cause of this building is Jesus the Mediator. “I go to prepare a place for you.”

(3) It is a building worthy of God.

2. It is permanent, “eternal in the heavens.” All other buildings are weak and precarious. “In Thy presence is fulness of joy, at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

3. Where this building is situated. “In the heavens.” The inspired writers invariably speak of it as a place of ineffable blessedness and unspeakable glory. If permitted to arrive there, we shall be ready to exclaim, as the Queen of Sheba did when she beheld Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity, “Behold the half was not told me.”

The grounds on which this assurance rested.

1. The testimony of God’s word (2 Corinthians 4:13).

2. The consciousness which he himself had of being the subject of Divine grace (verse 5).

Conclusion--Let us learn from this subject--

1. To be habitually entertaining thoughts about death and another world.

2. The unspeakable value of the gospel. “Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel.” (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Dissolution no injury

Cicero tells of a prisoner who had always lived in prison; he had never once seen the outer world. And so when he had become an old man, and they began for some reason or other to pull down the walls of his prison, he broke into bitter lamentings because they would destroy the little window through whose bars he had got the only bit of light that had ever gladdened his eyes. He did not understand that the falling of the walls would let him into a broad, bright world, would open to him the wide glories of sun and sky and summer. And so when we see the body sinking in ruinous decay it seems as if we were about to lose everything, forgetting that the senses are but the dim windows of the soul, and that when the body of our humiliation is gone the walls of our prison-house are gone, and a new world of infinite light and beauty and liberty bursts upon us. (W. L. Watkinson.)

A larger house

Passing by a house a short time since I noticed the intimation, “This House to Let.” “How is this? Is the former tenant dead?” I asked. “Oh, no, sir,” said the caretaker; “he has removed to a larger house in a better situation.” Even thus, as we look upon the clay tenement in which some loved Christian friend has dwelt, we answer, “No, he is not dead, but removed into the enduring house in ‘the better country,’ where the ‘better resurrection’ is, and where eternal life is.” (Henry Varley.)

Christian knowledge concerning the future body of the good

The Christian knows that:--

It will be better than the present.

1. It will be directly Divine. “A building of God.” The present body is from God, but it comes from Him through secondary instrumentalities. The future body will come direct, it will not be transmitted from sire to son.

2. It will be fitted for a higher sphere--“In the heavens.” The present body is fitted for the earthly sphere.

3. It will be more enduring, “eternal.”

4. It will be more enjoyable.

He is now being divinely fitted for the better body of the future (verse 5). (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Not made with hands

Is there anything “not made with hands”? Then there is something apart from manufactures. Some of you live in what you call the manufacturing districts. Now what do your manufactures amount to? But we have been proud of our hand-making. Within given limits that is perfectly proper. The prosperity of the world is due in no small measure to the work of the hands. And yet we are now face to face with something--is it home, church, mankind, temple, heaven?--something that hands have never touched. I must therefore get you to live elsewhere as well as in the manufacturing districts. Why, you do that in part already. I would press your logic to further issues. You do not live in the factory. Oh, you say, we live a mile or two out. Why? That we may have some little whiff of nature, some fresh air, some tolerable breathing space. Now that is not all. I want you to get a little further out under larger skies, to breathe fresher air, to see fairer downs. After all, what have the hands made? They have made nothing worth speaking about. Did the hands build the temple? No, except in a very narrow and literal sense of the term. Who built the temple? The man who thought it, the man who drew it, the man who saw it in aerial lines before he put pen or pencil to paper. He made the temple. The hands, they were mere hired servants. They would have pulled the temple down quite as easily and quite as readily. There is another very remarkable expression in Mark 9:3 : “As no fuller on earth can white them.” Then there is something above art as certainly as there is something above manufactures? Now ask the fuller to look at his work, and at this work on Tabor. Fuller, didst thou wash this robe on Tabor? No, no. Why not? Why, it was washed with lightning, it was cleansed in heaven, it was dipped in the fountains of eternity. No fuller on earth can white like that. So be it. “Not made with hands.” Manufactures? No. “No fuller on earth can white them.” The arts? No. What is left then? Nature. Is that so? Be careful. Admissions will be turned against us presently. So this brings us to a third remarkable expression (Acts 26:13), “Above the brightness of the sun.” Then nature goes. What radiance is this? We thought the sun was bright. We used to say of that old glory, “He puts the fire out.” He blinds our little lamps.

1. Now this is exactly so with regard, for example, to character, saintly, holy, beauteous, inspired character. It is of a whiteness such as no fuller on earth can make it. Why, there be many fullers who are trying to whiten the world; rare fullers, costly fullers, energetic, fussy, busy fullers, but they get no further on. They are moralists, they lecture upon moral philosophy. There be many whitening fullers, persons who say that on such and such conditions they will renovate you. They will make new men of you if you will sign a vow, undergo a discipline, subject yourselves to certain scheduled operations, each coming in its own proper time, then at the end all will be well. Oh, poor fuller! What doth this great Christ do? He washes us in blood, and when we stand up from that catharism, the Fuller says, “No fuller on earth can white it like that.” If you despise a saint, you have never seen one. A saint is holy. Why, He would not have any fuller on earth touch our souls. He only who made the soul can touch it, redeem it and work that wondrous miracle of washing white by cleansing with blood. Your character is not what it is on the outside. Your character is the quality of your soul, your motive, your purpose, your innermost self, and no fuller on earth can put that through any process of cleansing. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”

2. It is the same with inspiration. It is not made with hands. What have I seen you do again and again? Have I not seen you searching for inspiration as if it were in black ink and in printer’s letters? Yes, I have. We must get away if we can from these people to whom everything is valuable in proportion as it is handmade. Why, the literalist never read the Bible. It was only when he left his literalism and began to touch the higherisms that want names, found in heaven, rightly to express their intent, that he came upon revelation. He said, “This book told me all that ever I did, then it must be inspired.” It is not made with hands.

3. And so with Divine hope. It is a light above the brightness of the sun. It is Christ’s hope. He did not stop at the Cross. He endured the Cross, despising the shame. Why? Because onward, far away on the horizon line there lay a light that meant immortality and glory inevitable. And what is the practical application of this? It needs but few words to express it. We must go from the things made with hands to the things hands cannot touch. Here are the lilies, Christ says. “We have seen the lilies, we have touched the lilies.” “Have you?” “Yes.” Then consider them. “Why?” Because your Father in heaven clothed them and made Solomon ashamed of himself in all his pomp, and if He clothed the lilies He will not leave you naked. And we must live the supernatural life. That is the hard part of it. “Not made with hands.” “No fuller on earth can white like this.” Sun, there is a light above thee. Until we get to these conceptions and exactions we shall be living a very poor life. I am tired of houses made with hands. I have seen it all. Yes, I am tired of this fuller’s work. It becomes dingy and poor in my eyes, And I get tired of nature. There is no monotony like the monotony of sunshine. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verses 2-3

2 Corinthians 5:2-3

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon.

A Christian’s uneasiness in the mortal body and desire of the heavenly happiness

We are to consider a Christian’s groans while he is in the body under present uneasiness. “In this we groan.” And “while we are in this tabernacle we groan, being burdened.”

1. As to what the body is the more immediate seat and subject of. Of this kind we may consider the following instances.

(1) The weakness and disorder of the bodily nature.

(2) Weariness of labour. The Christian life is a state of warfare as well as service.

(3) The afflictions and sufferings of life.

(4) The dissolution of the bodily frame. There is a natural love in the soul to the body arising from the close union and long intimacy together.

2. What the body may further occasion to the soul; and in several ways occasions uneasiness.

(1) It is a great hindrance to our spiritual attainments, and to all our improvements in knowledge and grace. How often do the necessities and pleasures of the bodily life hinder a wise improvement of opportunities? We are apt to indulge in sloth, and regret the necessary pains of higher improvement.

(2) It is a great occasion of sin, as well as of imperfection. The depravation of nature seems interwoven with the bodily constitution, and by the laws of union between the body and soul, the one is much affected by the other (Romans 6:13). The sensible world round about us powerfully strikes our sensible natures, and proves a dangerous snare. It gives a great advantage to the devil’s temptations.

(3) It exposes them to many troubles. How many calamities befall us by accident or violence, by the hand of Providence or our own mistake!

(4) The necessary distance and absence from the Lord.

I am to consider a Christian’s desires of the heavenly happiness. He earnestly desires to be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven. There is the weight of their present burdens. They not only groan, but desire, and the groanings breed desires. Oppressed nature longs for rest. Besides, there is the excellency of the heavenly state, or the object of their desires. In 2 Corinthians 5:4 he speaks of being clothed upon, or covered all over with it, and mortality being swallowed up of life. Even the mortal part, or what was before mortal of us, will become immortal. He represents the future state by a presence with Christ. “Present with the Lord.” The peculiar temper of a Christian’s mind with reference to it.

1. He describes it by their faith of the heavenly blessedness. This he expresses in 2 Corinthians 5:1 by knowledge.

2. There is their preparation for it. This we have in 2 Corinthians 5:5 --“Now He who hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who hath also given to us the earnest of His Spirit.”

3. Their courage, or fortitude of mind. This is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:6 --“Therefore we are confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” In 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say.” We have bravery sufficient to support our minds in the prospects and conflicts with death; we dare to die rather than not be with the Lord.

4. Complacency, or willingness (2 Corinthians 5:8).

5. Their constant endeavours. This we find in 2 Corinthians 5:9 --“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.” His favour is our happiness living and dying, in this world and in the other. I shall only further observe that the word also imports ambition; and it is as if he had said, “This is the highest honour of which we are ambitious, and what we propose as the proper prize.”

I shall close this subject with two or three practical remarks.

1. We may learn from hence the nature of the present state. It is made up, according to this account of it, of groans and desires. The one is the fruit of fallen nature, the other of the renewed nature. The one is the effect of the curse, the other of Divine grace.

2. The difference between sincere Christians and other men. They groan under their present burdens indeed, and have sometimes a larger share than other men, but then they have their desires too. But now wicked men have groans without desires; they have no desires of the heavenly state.

3. We should look well to our interest in the heavenly glory.

4. The happiness of” departed saints. They have the full satisfaction of their highest desires, and the perfection of their felicity and joy. (W. Harris, D. D.)

The desire for immortality

The reasons for this groaning are--

1. The pressures and miseries of the present life (2 Corinthians 5:4). We are burdened--

(1) With sin. To a waking conscience this is one of the greatest burdens that can be felt (Romans 7:24). It is not the bare trouble of the world which sets the saints a-groaning, but indwelling corruption, which may be cast out, but is not cast out. A gracious heart seeth this is the greatest evil, and therefore would fain get rid of it.

(2) With miseries (Romans 8:20-21). It is a groaning world, and God’s children bear a part in the concert (Genesis 47:7). There are many things to wean a Christian from the present life.

(a) Manifold temptations from Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9).

(b) Persecutions from the world.

(3) Sharp afflictions from God Himself. God is jealous of our hearts. He is fain to embitter our worldly portion, that we may think of a remove to some better place and state. We would sleep here if we did not sometimes meet with thorns in our bed.

2. Our having had a taste of better things (Romans 8:23). The firstfruits show us what the harvest will be, and the taste what the feast will prove.

(1) We have but a glimpse of Christ as He showeth Himself through the lattice, but there we shall see Him with open face.

(2) Our holiness is not perfect, and therefore we long for more. The new nature is seed (1 John 1:9; 1 Peter 1:2). As a seed will work through the dry clods, that it may grow up into its perfect estate, so doth this seed of God work towards its final perfection.

(3) Our comforts are not perfect. The joys of the Spirit are unspeakable things; but at His right hand there is fulness, pleasures for evermore (Psalms 16:11). These the soul longeth for.

3. The excellency of this estate. It is great ingratitude and folly that, when Christ hath procured a state of blessedness for us at a very dear rate, we should value it no more.

4. The three theological graces.

(1) Faith. They that believe that there is another sort of life infinitely more desirable than this will find their affections stirred towards it, for sound persuasion showeth itself in answerable affections (Hebrews 11:13; 2 Peter 3:12).

(2) Love. They that love Christ will long to be with Him (Philippians 1:23; cf. Colossians 3:1).

(3) Hope. What you hope for will be all your desire (Philippians 1:20). 5 The Holy Ghost stirreth up in us these groans partly by revealing the object in such a lively manner as it cannot otherwise be seen (Ephesians 1:17-18; 1Co 2:22), partly by His secret influences, as He stirreth up holy ardours in prayer (Romans 8:25-26).

6. All the ordinances of the gospel serve to awaken them. The Word is God’s testament, wherein such rich legacies are bequeathed to us that every time we read it, or hear it, or meditate upon it, we may get a step higher, and advance nearer heaven (1 Peter 5:4; Psalms 119:96). So for prayer--it is but to raise those heavenly desires. We long in the Lord’s Supper for new wine in our Father’s kingdom, to put an heavenly relish upon our hearts.

7. These desires are necessary because of their effect. What maketh the Christian so industrious, so patient, so self-denying, so watchful? Only because he breatheth after heaven with so much earnestness.

8. The state of the present world doth set the saints longing for heaven. For this world is vexatious, the pleasures of it are mere dreams, and the miseries of it are real, many, and grievous.

Objections met.

1. But how can Christians groan for their heavenly state, since there is no passage to it but by death, and it is unnatural to desire our own death?

(1) They do not simply desire death for itself, which in itself is an evil, but as a means to enjoy these better things (Philippians 1:23).

(2) Death is sweetened to them. By Christ’s death it is made their friend, a passage to an endless life (1 Corinthians 3:22; Romans 8:38).

2. But must all sincere Christians thus groan and long? Many groan at the least thought of death.

(1) Somewhat of this there must be in all that believe; they all groan in this tabernacle, and desire to be dissolved. How can you labour for that which you do not earnestly desire and groan after?

(2) Much of what is here expressed may belong to an heroical degree of grace not vouchsafed to all Christians. But yet still we must be growing up to this frame of heart. Here are marks to aim at. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 5:4

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.

The two tabernacles

Life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel. A feeble, fluttering guess was all that unaided men could ever reach regarding the life beyond. A jar may be charged with electric fire, and capable, in certain circumstances, of giving forth light and heat; yet, if it remain isolated, all is dark and silent. Thus there is in a human spirit a susceptibility and a capacity which lies dormant as long as man is left to himself, but which leaps into life as soon as the Word of God is pointed to the heart. Let us examine the text word by word.

Tabernacle is a frail, temporary dwelling. But, seeing that the body is made so perfect, why is it made so feeble?

1. An infant in a dark and dangerous path dare not stir from his father’s side, whereas a robust youth may select his own route. Our Father in heaven knows that it is difficult to keep His children close to Himself as matters stand, and it would have been still more difficult if the child had been entrusted with greater power.

2. When the spirit of a dear child has through Christ been attained, the frailty of the truster makes the trust more sweet. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

3. If we know that the abiding home is ready, the shaking of the temporary tabernacle will contribute to remind us of another rest, and quicken our desire for an abundant entrance on its blessedness.

This tabernacle. Our body is not our only dwelling-place, and the design of the Spirit here is to preserve us from bestowing all our regard on this tabernacle while another is more worthy.


1. There may be some who for a time could scarcely recognise this as a description of their condition. The young, healthy, and prosperous--their hearts for a time are as light as their limbs; they trip along lifo as if they were chasing butterflies in a flowery meadow. To a certain extent this is the Creator’s kind appointment. The cares of age laid on the heart of a child would crush his spirit, and render him incapable of fulfilling his task when he should come of age. But even in childhood some weights begin to press, and, when youth has passed, the cares of house and children, of business and company, of friendships and enmities, increase and multiply until the beams of the tabernacle are creaking prematurely under the accumulated weight.

2. These burdens may be inventoried among the “all things” that work together for good. The sorrows of earth will enhance the joys of heaven; the rugged rocks and scorching sand of the desert will make the golden streets of the New Jerusalem feel more smooth beneath the pilgrim’s feet.

We groan. A groan is nature’s outlet for grief, and indicates also a desire for relief. This desire does not by itself constitute a mark of grace. It belongs to nature. The discontented make many changes in order to escape from suffering, but the suffering follows them into every sphere. Some are weary of this world who are by no means ready for the next.

Not that we would be unclothed. This means to put off this tabernacle. Even Paul, after he had attained triumphant faith and blessed hope, shrinks from the dissolution of the body. I learn here that positive love of closing with the King of Terrors is not a necessary mark of Christ’s redeemed people. I love this warm life. I shrink from death. And therein I think I do not sin. God is not displeased with me for loving that which He has bestowed. If, by faith in His Son, and through the ministry of His Spirit, He make me willing to give it up when He recalls it, enough: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” Christians love life for many reasons.

1. As sentient beings, in common with those who know not Christ, but who see the sunlight, and feel the balmy air, and tread the flowery ground. They love it in common not only with their fellow-men, but in common with the brutes that perish, with the cattle that browse on the meadows, and the birds that warble in the trees, and the insects that flutter in the sunbeam.

2. With a deeper, more intelligent love than other creatures--

(1) Because the gifts which are in their own nature sweet are sweeter when they are received from a Father’s hand. It is a mistake to suppose that the worldly enjoy their portion here, and that Christians postpone the prospect of enjoyment until they pass through the gates of the grave. Those who hope in Christ for the world to come enjoy the world that now is better because of that hope.

(2) As a field of useful labour. Work may be done here which cannot be done beyond the boundary of the present life. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The groans of believers under their burdens

The first thing is to give you some account of the believer’s present lodging while in the body. And there are these two or three things that I remark about it which I find in the text and context.

1. Then, I find it is called a house in the first verse of this chapter. And it is fitly so called, because of its rare and curious structure and workmanship (Psalms 139:14-15).

2. I remark, concerning the believer’s present lodging, that, however curious its structure be, yet it is but a house of earth. And it is so, especially in a threefold respect.

(1) In respect of its original; it is made of earth.

(2) It is a house of clay in respect of the means that support it; for the corn, wine, and oil wherewith the body of man is maintained do all spring out of the earth.

(3) It is a house of earth in respect of its end; it returns thither at its dissolution (Genesis 3:19).

3. I remark, concerning the believer’s present lodging, that it is but at best a tabernacle. Tents are for soldiers and pilgrims.

4. Another thing that I remark concerning the believer’s lodging is that it is but a tottering house. “The earthly house of this tabernacle is to be dissolved.”

The second thing proposed was to speak of the believer’s burdens while in this tabernacle. This earthly house, it lies under many servitudes, and the believer pays a dear rent for his quarters. For--

1. The clay tabernacle itself is many times a very heavy burden to him. The crazy cottage of the body is liable to innumerable pains and distempers, which makes it lie like a dead weight upon the soul, whereby its vivacity and activity is exceedingly marred.

2. Not only is he burdened with a burden of clay, but also with a burden of sin--I mean indwelling corruption, enmity, unbelief, ignorance, pride, hypocrisy, and other abominations of his heart.

3. He is burdened many times with a sense of much actual guilt which he has contracted through the untenderness of his way and walk.

4. He is sometimes sadly burdened with the temptations of Satan.

5. Sometimes the believer is burdened with the burden of ill company.

6. Sometimes the believer is sadly burdened, not only with his own sins, but with the abounding sins and abominations of the day and place wherein he lives.

7. The believer is many times while in this tabernacle burdened with the public concerns of Christ. He is a person of a very grateful and public spirit.

8. The poor believer has many times the burden of great crosses and afflictions lying upon him, and these both of a bodily and spiritual nature.

The third thing in the method was to speak of the believer’s groaning under his burden. “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.” Upon this head I shall only suggest two or three considerations.

1. Consider that the working of the believer’s heart under the pressures of these burdens vents itself variously. Sometimes he is said to be in heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). Sometimes he is said to sigh under his burdens, and to sigh to the breaking of his loins: “My fighting cometh before I eat,” says Job. Sometimes his burdens make him to cry. Sometimes he cries to his God (Psalms 130:1).

2. For clearing this ye would know that there are three sorts of groans that we read of in Scripture.

(1) I say we read of groans of nature (Romans 8:22).

(2) We read of groans of reason, or of the reasonable creatures under their affliction (Exodus 6:5).

(3) We read of groans of grace, or of spiritual groans (Romans 8:26).

3. A third remark I offer is this, that these groans of the gracious soul here spoken of seem to imply--

(1) A great deal of grief and sorrow of spirit on the account of sin, and melancholy effects of it on the believer, while in this embodied state.

(2) It implies a displeasure, or dissatisfaction, in the believer with his present burdened estate; he finds that this is not his resting-place. And--

(3) It implies a panting of soul after a better state, even the immediate enjoyment of God in glory. Verse 1: He groans with an “earnest desire to be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven.”

But I proceed to the fourth thing in the method, which was the application of the doctrine. And the first use shall be of information.

1. Hence we may see the vast difference between heaven and earth. In a word, there is nothing but matter of groaning for the most part here, but all ground of groaning ceaseth for ever there.

2. See, hence, a consideration that may contribute to allay our griefs and groans for the death of godly relations; for while in this tabernacle they groan, being burdened, but now their groans are turned into songs, and their mourning into hallelujahs.

3. See, hence, that they are not the happiest folk that have the merriest life of it in the world.

4. See, hence, that death need not be a terror to the believer. Why? Because, by taking down this tabernacle, it takes off all his burdens, and puts a final period to all his groans. The second use of the doctrine may be of reproof unto two sorts of persons. It reproves these who are at home while in this tabernacle. A third use shall be of lamentation and humiliation.

Let us lament that the Lord’s people should have so much matter of groaning at this day and time wherein we live.

1. The abounding profanity and immorality of all sorts that are to be found among us.

2. The universal barrenness that is to be found among us at this day is matter of groaning unto the Lord’s people.

3. The lamentable divisions that are in our Reuben occasion great thoughts of heart and heaviness to the Lord’s people at this day.

4. The innumerable defections and backslidings of our day are a great burden to the Lord’s people, and make their hearts to groan within them. (R. Erskine, D. D.)

Man’s dilemma

Man shrinks from death.

1. Man shows this in many ways.

(1) By the pensive regret with which he views its precursors, and the eagerness with which he sometimes seeks to shut out the prospect of it.

(2) By the plaintive awe with which he contemplates its prey.

(3) By the unaffected sorrow with which he mourns the consequences of it. Every object that he sees which formerly was endeared by pleasant associations brings only sorrow after death has inscribed his name around it. If experience shows us exceptions to this general rule, they have some special feature which renders them intelligible. They may occur where life has become burdensome, or, oftener, where some great end is to be attained by the sacrifice of it.

2. Why, then, is this universal recoil from death?

(1) Because it is unnatural. There could never be a natural revulsion from anything that was not in itself unnatural to us.

(2) Because of the deep and mysterious sympathies it disturbs.

(3) Because all, to unaided reason, is dark beyond it.

Man is dissatisfied with life. And we must here consider life as dividing itself into three departments--animal, intellectual, and moral. True wisdom lies in the right adjustment and harmony of these three different elements. The nearer they approach to harmony, the more this dissatisfaction increases, for it only shows how much yet remains to be attained. Man exhibits this dissatisfaction with life in various ways.

1. He seeks to change his position in it.

2. He shows it when he witnesses the failure of his purposes and plans.

3. Even should success attend him, that success fails to fulfil his desires. The attainment of success in this world almost invariably induces increasing ambition; it only sharpens the appetite for yet greater prosperity. Just as our view expands the higher we ascend the steep of a vast mountain, so do our wishes widen the further we advance in wealth.

4. If he cultivates his powers, his capabilities outgrow the resources of life. The keener our perceptions become, the more clearly do we perceive the inefficacy of these resources to feed our extending capacities.

5. On a retrospect of it, however extended, it appears to him as an unsubstantial dream.

Man pants for the perfection of his being. Some have professed to believe that at death we sink into annihilation. But no man ever yet really wished to be nothing, and those only have pretended to desire it who have felt that they were good for nothing. No! It is an instinct of our nature to look forward to immortality. The righteous shall be satisfied, for they shall awake in the likeness of their God. (A. Mursell.)

Not unclothed, but clothed upon

The doctrine of this text is that we do not wish to be disembodied spirits hereafter, but to have another higher body superinduced on this. I think the phrase indicates a desire for a process of gradual development. The body, in this passage, is first compared to a tabernacle--that is, a tent--and then to a building. Perhaps there flitted through his mind the idea of the Jewish tabernacle, or church tent, which they carried with them through the wilderness--a sort of travelling church where they had their sacrificial worship every day--which was so made that it could be taken to pieces and put up again. The present body is like that; the body to come is like the temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah, built of solid marble, immovable, incorruptible--a beauty and a wonder of the world. No doubt the corruptible body weighs down the soul. In one point of view there is no correspondence between them; they are deadly foes. Here is a poor soul struggling to get at some truth, some beauty, some love, some goodness, and it is imprisoned in a body which will not let it do so. The bodily organisation is dull and heavy, is unvivacious, is coarse and unrefined; it tends to irritability and wilfulness, instead of sweetness and beauty. The soul aspires, the body drags it down. In all men there is some hereditary depravity. Nevertheless the body is, with all its defects, the clothing for the soul. All clothing does, in some sort, begin to correspond with the wearer, and to express a little his tastes and ideas. We sees man’s mind somewhat in his dress. The body has some kind of correspondence with the mind. The dress of a Turk corresponds with his dignified character, his quiet ways, his slowness and solemnity. Thus the human body has some sort of analogy to the soul that it wears. You look at a face, you hear a voice, you see the gestures, and an impression is made on you of character. That impression is often the best and most reliable means of knowing a man’s character. It is spontaneous. Some people argue as though this body were all bad, and say that in heaven we shall have none, but be floating about the universe, pure disembodied spirits. Paul does not say that; body is to remain, but the mortal part of it is to be swallowed up of life. Body, in its lowest form, is a mystery of wonder; the human body is the most wonderful and beautiful thing on earth. It is a muddy vesture of decay, but it is also a transparent veil through which the soul shines. See it in its ideal forms in the statues of Greece; what grandeur and dignity in the Apollo of the Vatican; what overflowing grace in the Amazon of the Capitol, or the Flora of Naples! Now these forms give us hints of a more idealised and higher beauty. The thought the apostle expresses--“that we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon”--is a very important one. It is an essentially Christian idea; it distinguishes the Christian view of morality from the natural view. “Not unclothed, but clothed upon”--let us see what it means. The Christian view of all growth and progress is by addition, not subtraction; by building up, not pulling down; by positive means, not negative; by attraction, not repulsion; by love of good, not fear of evil; by power of love, not power of law. Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil. Most reforms and inventions come by improving what we have. The first farmer probably stirred the ground with a sharp stick. After a while came a man who fastened another to it, and so made the original plough. By and by a piece of iron was substituted for one of the sticks, and that is essentially the plough of to-day. The wool from a sheep’s back was twisted with the fingers, next with a distaff, then with a spinning-wheel; at last the same thing is done by the spinning-jenny, and mule-spinning by steam. The Puritans and Quakers tried to unclothe religion of all its rites and ceremonies. They took off its royal robes of architecture, painting, statuary, music, and left it bare. That was a mistake. They should have exchanged the earthly dress for a higher and more heavenly one. This is the Christian principle, and it applies in a thousand ways. Here is a boy who has done wrong. He is a culprit; he has stolen, or he has committed some other offence. The law arrests him and puts him in prison. This the law must do, for the business of law is to prevent offences, to keep them from going on and from getting worse. But the law cannot cure the criminal; it can only stop him in his evil course. You must show the boy some good thing; you must attract him toward a better life; you must give him an opportunity for something better. Law takes off for a little while his clothing of sin; Christianity must clothe him with a house from heaven. Any home is better than none. If you cannot get a house, take a cabin. Mentally, we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon. Mental progress does not consist in losing the old knowledge, but in adding to it new. The principle of conservatism is a sound one. Keep your present faith till you can get a better one. The man who believes something can go on and believe more. God furnishes us with a mental outfit of common and universal beliefs to begin with. We are not to be unclothed of them, either in this world or in the next, but clothed upon with more. Look at nature in this affluent season of spring, when the voice of God is saying, “Let there be life.” See how nature swallows up the old in the new; see how she absorbs the old vegetation in the coming grasses; how earth, bare and dead, is clothed upon with new and wonderful forms of growth. The affections are a clothing and a home for the heart. God’s method is to give us always better and higher affections, and to make the lower a step upward to the higher. “He who loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen?” All human love leads up to Divine love. Everything which draws man out of himself does him good. Much of earthly affection is, no doubt, poor, weak, unworthy. It is idol-worship; it is a blind and foolish affection; it is also weak and changeable. But, such as it is, it is always better than nothing. Do not destroy it; fulfil it. All love, so far as it is love, is good; and it is good in this way, that it takes us out of ourselves, making us for the time unselfish, and also that it makes us for the time truly pure. Those who love are emancipated from doubts, hesitations, terrors. Every one needs to be able to be with those, sometimes, to whom he can speak of anything he chooses, without any doubt or anxiety or hesitation. Then he is at home. That is home, the home of the heart. These may, indeed, be only tents to live in till we reach the Promised Land; but we know that, when these are struck and folded, we have a building of God waiting us beyond the veil of time. God, who provides the tent for us here, will provide the house there. He who gives us in this life the wonders and beauties of nature, the lessons of truth, the opportunities of action and endeavour, the helps of friendship, the charm of love, the nobleness of life, and the pathos of death, will provide for us better things beyond, “which eye has not seen, nor ear heard.” Therefore, O human heart! trust and look forward, and do not doubt nor fear, but go from truth to truth, from love to higher love. We do not wish to be unclothed of this world’s affections and interests, but clothed upon with higher. This life is not the end, but the beginning. (Jas. Freeman Clarke.)

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 5:5

Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.

The patient Divine Workman and His purpose

These words penetrate deep into the secrets of God. To Paul everything is the Divine working. Life is to him no mere blind whirl of accidental forces, but the slow operation of the great Workman. And he believes that the clear perception of the Divine purpose will be a charm against all sorrow, doubt, despondency, or fear.

God’s purpose in all his working.

1. What is that “self-same thing”? The apostle has been speaking about the instinctive reluctance that even good men feel at the prospect of “putting off the earthly house of this tabernacle.” He distinguishes between three different conditions in which the human spirit may be--dwelling in the earthly body, stripped of that, and “clothed with the house which is from heaven”; and this last and highest state is the very thing for which God has wrought us--i.e., the highest aim of the Divine love in all its dealings with us is not merely a blessed spiritual life, but the completion of our humanity in a perfect spirit dwelling in a glorified body.

2. That glorified body is described in our context.

The slow process of the divine workman.

1. The apostle employs a term which conveys the idea of continuous and effortful work, as if against resistance. Like some sculptor with a hard bit of marble, or some metallurgist with rough ore, so the loving, patient, Divine Artificer labours long and earnestly with somewhat obstinate material, by manifold touches, here a little and there a little, and not discouraged when He comes upon a black vein in the white marble, nor when the hard stone turns the edge of His chisels. Learn, then--

(1) That God cannot make you fit for heaven all at a jump, or by a simple act of will. He can make a world so, not a saint. He cannot say, and He does not say, “Let there be holiness,” and it comes. Not so can God make man meet for the “inheritance of the saints in light.” And it takes Him all His energies, for all a lifetime, to prepare His child for what He wants to make of him.

(2) That God cannot give a man that glorified body of which I have been speaking unless the man’s spirit is Christlike. By the necessities of the case it is confined to the purified, because it corresponds to their inward spiritual being. It is only a perfect spirit that can dwell in a perfect body. Some shall rise to glory and immortality, some to shame and everlasting contempt. If we are to stand at the last with the body of our humiliation changed into a body of glory, we must begin by being changed in the spirit of our mind.

2. Consider the three-fold processes which, in the Divine working, terminate in this great issue.

(1) God has wrought us for it in the very act of making us what we are. Human nature is an insoluble enigma if this world is its only field. Amidst all the mysterious waste of creation, there is no more profligate expenditure of powers than that which is involved in giving a man such faculties and capacities if this be the only field on which they are to be exercised. All other creatures fit their circumstances; nothing in them is bigger than their environment. They find in life a field for every power. But we have an infinitude of faculty lying half dormant in each of us which finds no work at all in this present world. What is the use of us if there is nothing except this poor present? God, or whoever made us, has made a mistake; and, strangely enough, if we were not made, but evolved, evolution has worked out faculties which have no correspondence with the things around them. Life, and man, is an insoluble enigma except on the hypothesis that this is a nursery-ground, and that the little plants will be pricked out some day, and planted where they are meant to grow.

(2) Another field of the Divine operation to this end is in what we roughly call “providences.” What is the meaning of all this discipline through which we are passed if there is nothing to be disciplined for? What is the good of an apprenticeship if there is no journeyman’s life to come after it, where the powers that have been slowly acquired shall be nobly exercised upon broader fields? Life is an insoluble riddle unless the purpose of it lie yonder, and unless all this patient training of our sorrows and our gladnesses is equally meant for training us for the perfect life of a perfect soul, moving a perfect body in a perfect universe. And who can think of life as anything but a wretched fragment unless he knows that all which begins here runs upwards into the room above, and there finds its explanation and its completion?

(3) So in all the work and mystery of our redemption this is the goal that God has in view. It was not worth Christ’s while to come and die if nothing more was to come of it than the imperfect reception of His blessings and gifts which the noblest Christian life in this world presents. The meaning and purpose of the Cross, the meaning and purpose of all the patient dealings of His whispering Spirit, is that we shall be like our Divine Lord in spirit first, and in body afterwards.

3. And everything about the experiences of a true Christian spirit is charged with a prophecy of immortality. The very desires which God’s good Spirit works in a believing soul are themselves confirmations of their own fulfilment.

The certainty and the confidence.

1. “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.” Then we may be sure that, as far as He is concerned, the work will not be suspended nor vain. This Workman has infinite resources, an unchanging purpose, and infinite long-suffering. In the quarries of Egypt you will find gigantic stones, half-dressed, and intended to have been transported to some great temple. But there they lie, the work incomplete, and they never carried to their place. There are no half-polished stones in God’s quarries. They are all finished where they lie, and then borne across the sea, like Hiram’s from Lebanon, to the temple on the hill.

2. But it is a certainty that you can thwart. It is an operation that you can counter-work. Oh! do not let all God’s work on you come to naught, but yield yourselves to it. Rejoice in the confidence that He is moulding your character, cheerfully welcome the providences, painful as they may be, by which He prepares you for heaven. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Preparation for heaven the work of God

There are five steps in orderly succession whereby we are wrought, made fit, for the kingdom of God.

The first of these is the divine call, by which we are excited and urged to seek salvation.

The second step in the preparation of the soul for heaven is divine illumination.

The spiritual illumination of the inner man is followed by repentance.

And this conducts us to the fourth step in the process of religion--namely, faith in Christ.

The final step in the method of salvation is the sanctification of the soul. (J. A. Sartorius.)

Preparation for heaven

The work of preparation.

1. It is almost universally admitted that some preparation is essential. Whenever death is announced, you will hear the worst-instructed say, “I hope, poor man! he was prepared.”

(1) Men need something to be done for them.

(a) God declares that we are enemies to Him. We need, therefore, that some ambassador should come to us with terms of peace, and reconcile us to God.

(b) We are debtors also to our Creator--debtors to His law. Some mediator, then, must come in to pay the debt for us, for we cannot pay it, neither can we be exempted from it.

(c) In addition to this, we are all criminals--condemned already; in fear of execution unless some one come in between us and punishment. Say, then, has this been done for you? Many of you can answer, “Blessed be God, I have been reconciled to Him through the death of His Son; my debts to God are paid; I have looked to Christ, my Substitute, and I am no longer condemned” (Romans 8:1). Come, let us rejoice in this, that He hath wrought us for this self-same thing.

(2) Something must be wrought in us.

(a) We are all dead in trespasses and sins. Shall dead men sit at the feasts of the eternal God? Only the Jiving children can inherit the promises of the living God, for He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

(b) By nature we are all worldly. We “mind earthly things”; the world’s maxims govern us, its fears alarm us, its hopes and ambitions excite us. But we cannot go to heaven as worldly men, for there would be nothing there to gratify us. The joys and glories of heaven are all spiritual.

(c) We are unholy by nature; but in heaven they are “without fault before the throne of God.” No sin is tolerated there. What a change, then, must come over the carnal man to make him holy? What can wash him white but the blood of Christ? That a great change must be wrought in us even ungodly men will confess, since the Scriptural idea of heaven has never been agreeable to unconverted men. When Mahomet would charm the world into the belief that he was the prophet of God, the heaven he pictured was a heaven of unbridled sensualism. Could a wicked man enter into heaven, he would be wretched there. There is no heaven for him who has not been prepared for it by a work of grace in his soul.

2. If we have such a preparation, we must have it on this side of our death. As the tree falleth, so it must lie. While the nature is soft it is susceptible of impression, stamp what seal you may upon it; once let it grow cold and hard, you can do so no more; it is proof against any change. We have no intimation in the Word of God that any soul dying in unbelief will afterwards be converted. “He that is holy, let him be holy still; he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Moreover, we ought to know, for it is possible for a man to know whether he is thoroughly prepared. Jesus Christ has not left us in such a dubious ease that we always need to be inquiring, “Am I His, or am I not?” He tells us that “he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.” If we have obeyed these commands we shall be saved, for our God keepeth His word. We need not harbour endless questionings.

3. Mast how many put off all thoughts of being prepared to diet They are prepared for almost anything except the one thing needful. “Prepare to meet your God.”

The author of this preparation for death. Who made Adam fit for Paradise but God? And who must make us fit for the better Paradise above but God? That we cannot do it ourselves is evident. We are dead in trespasses and sins. Can the dead start from the grave of their own accord? The dead shall surely rise, but because God raises them. Conversion, which prepares us for heaven, is a new creation. The original creation was the work of God, and the new creation must likewise be of God. Think of what fitness for heaven is! To be fit for heaven a man must be perfect. Go, you who think you can prepare yourselves, be perfect for a day. Man’s work is never perfect. God alone is perfect, and He alone is the Perfecter.

The seal of this preparation. “The earnest of the Spirit.” Masters frequently pay during the week a part of the wages which will be due on Saturday night. God gives His Holy Spirit, as it were, to be a part of the reward which He intends to give to His people when, like hirelings, they have fulfilled their duty. So God gives us His Holy Spirit to be in our hearts as an earnest of heaven. Have you received the Holy Spirit? Do you reply, “How may I know?” Wherever the Holy Spirit is, He works certain graces in the soul, such as repentance, patience, forgiveness, holy courage, joy, etc. This gift, moreover, will be conspicuously evidenced by a living faith in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The great hope and its earnest

What “this self-same thing” is for which we are “wrought.” Studying the context, we find it to be a certain state of mind in regard to many things. We must go back to chap. 4. to understand this fully. And I think it must be allowed that it is a very great and heroic attitude. He who can take up the language of a passage like this, and honestly adopt it as the description of the state and feeling of his mind, is a -very king, and must be among the happiest of men. We have around us here and now the world--God-denying and anti-Christian--which was around the Apostle Paul. It is not changed! The apostle seems to have lived in a tough house, and yet a house that, after years of toil and hardship, became worn out and frail. If it was a great thing for him to triumph over bodily suffering, and to face death, must it not be a great thing for afflicted and suffering people to do the same now? And is it not a great thing, in these times, to be able to look to that “beyond” in faith and confidence, to cast anchor of thought and faith, as well as of desire and hope, in another life? While atheism spreads blackness over the universe, while materialism drags men down to the dust, while heartless philosophies and flippant literatures tell us “it does not matter”--in times like these it is a great thing to stand on the old watch-tower, and to look by faith clearly beyond the visible into the invisible, declaring, “Yes, I see it. I know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle,” etc.

It is wholly the result of a divine process. It is not a natural development. If it were so, the apostle might have said, “He who created us, when we were born, for this self-same thing is God”; or, “He who gave us life, and gave us power to mould and renew our own nature till we rise into all goodness, is God.” But his words take another line. “He who hath wrought us”--created us anew in Christ Jesus--“wrought us,” as the block of marble is wrought into the shape of the fair figure. So are we “wrought” by God. His work is marvellous. He must have wrought a great work in Stephen before he could stand up fearlessly, with an angel face, amid the shower of deathdealing stones. He works always along main lines, amid infinite variety of circumstance, but always with a view to the “self-same thing,” and therefore in some degree along the same road to reach it; and this is the road (Romans 8:29-30).

All this is made sure to us, not only in Divine promise, but by “the earnest of the spirit.” That is to say, this “self-same thing” means not merely a hope that something good and great is coming by and by, but that it is in part matter of experience now. There are estates in this world which you can enter by crossing a river, or going over a chain of hills. You are then in the estate, and if you know the proprietor, and he accounts you his friend, you have some feeling of safety as you travel on over moor and moss, through gloomy forest and dark defile; but if you are going to the mansion--that is twenty or thirty miles distant, perhaps, and many adventures may come to you by the way. Still, if you walk well, and walk right on--not stopping for every dog that barks, or sheltering from every shower that falls, but pressing always on--why, then, just about sunset, perhaps, the western sky all gold, sweet evening breathing peace over the earth, you will see the towers of the castle whither you are going. And the landscape will begin to soften and glow; the grass is greener now; the trees are more select; the road--how smooth it is, compared with some of the first miles you trod! And then you pass the great iron gate, and lo! yonder in the doorway is your friend who has sent for you, and who is lord of all the way by which you have come. Such is our heavenly way. Every step of it is on King’s ground. We are in heaven when we begin to live to heaven’s King. But it is a wide estate, and looking, and longing, and praying as they travel; and this is “the earnest of the Spirit” this is the witness in the man himself that he has “passed from death unto life,” and that he shall win the life immortal at length. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The glorious hereafter and ourselves

It is a very comforting thing to be able to see the work of God in our own hearts. We have not to search long for the foul handiwork of Satan within us. The apostle found indications of the Divine work in a groan. Believers may trace the finger of God in their holy joys, yet just as surely is the Holy Spirit present in their sorrows and groanings which cannot be uttered. So long as it is the work of God, it is comparatively a small matter whether our hearts’ utterance be song or sigh.

God’s work is seen in creating in us desires after being “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.”

1. The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveller, perfectly satisfied with the inn as an inn, but his desires are ever towards home. He is like a sailor, well content with the good ship for what it is, but he longs for harbour.

2. What is it that makes the Christian long for heaven?

(1) A desire for the unseen. The carnal mind is satisfied with what the eyes can see, etc., but the Christian has a spirit within him which the senses cannot gratify.

(2) A yearning after, holiness. He who is born again of incorruptible seed finds his worst trouble to be sin. What bliss to be without the tendency or possibility to sin!

(3) A sighing after rest, which we cannot, find here.

(4) A thirst for communion with God. Here we do enjoy fellowship with God, but it is remote and dark.

3. This desire is above ordinary nature. All flesh is grass, and the grass loves to strike its root deep into the earth; it has no tendrils with which to clasp the stars. Man by nature would be content to abide on earth for ever.

4. While they are contrary to the old nature, such aspirations prove the existence of the new nature. You may be quite sure thai you have the nature of God in you if you are pining after God.

5. Note the means by which the Holy Spirit quickens these desires within our spirits.

(1) They are infused in us by regeneration, which begets in us a spiritual nature, and the spiritual nature brings with it its own longings--viz., after perfection and God.

(2) They are further assisted by instruction. The more the Holy Ghost teaches us of the world to come, the more we long for it.

(3) They are further increased by sanctified afflictions. Thorns in our nest make us take to our wings; the embittering of this cup makes us earnestly desire to drink of the new wine of the kingdom.

(4) They are increased by the sweets as well as the bitters. Communion with Christ sharpens the edge of our desire for heaven. And so does elevation of soul. The more we are sanctified and conformed unto Jesus, the more we long for the world to come.

The fitness for heaven which is wrought in us.

1. Who fits us.

(1) God the Father, by adopting us into His family, by justifying us through Christ, by preserving us by His power.

(2) God the Son, by blotting out our iniquities, by transferring to us His righteousness, by taking us into union with Himself.

(3) The Holy Spirit, by giving us food for the new nature, instruction, etc.

2. In what this fitness consists.

(1) In the possession of a spiritual nature. The unregenerate would not by any possibility be able to enjoy the bliss of heaven. They would be quite out of their element. A bee in a garden is at home, and gathers honey from all the flowers; but admit a swine, and it sees no beauty in lilies and roses, and therefore it proceeds to root, and tear, and spoil in all directions.

(2) In a holy nature. If a man has no delight in God he has no fitness for heaven.

(3) In love to the saints. Those who do not love the people of God on earth would find their company very irksome for ever.

(4) In joy in service.

(5) In conformity to Christ. Much of heaven consists in this.

3. The unfitness of unrenewed souls for heaven may be illustrated by the incapacity of certain persons for elevated thoughts and intellectual pursuits. Alphonse Karr tells a story of a servant-man who asked his master to be allowed to leave his cottage and sleep over the stable. What was the matter with his cottage? “Why, sir, the nightingales all around make such a “jug, jug, jug” at night that I cannot bear them.” A man with a musical ear would be charmed with the nightingales’ song, but here was a man without a musical soul, who found the sweetest notes a nuisance.

The Lord has graciously given to us an earnest of glory. An earnest is unlike a pledge, which has to be returned when the matter which it ensures is obtained; it is a part of the thing itself. So the Holy Spirit is a part of heaven. His work in the soul is the bud of heaven.

1. His very dwelling in our soul is the earnest of heaven. If God Himself condescends to make these bodies His temples, is not this akin to heaven’s honours?

2. When He brings to us the joys of hope, this is an earnest. While singing some glowing hymn our spirit shakes off all her doubts and fears, and anticipates her everlasting heritage.

3. When we enjoy the full assurance of faith, and read our title clear to mansions in the skies; when faith knows whom she has believed, and is persuaded that He is able to keep that which she has committed to Him--this is an earnest of heaven.

4. Heaven is the place of victory, and when the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome sin we enjoy an earnest of the triumph of heaven.

5. When through the Spirit we enjoy fellowship with Christ, and with one another, we have a foretaste of the fellowship of heaven.

Conclusion: If these things be so, believers--

1. Be thankful. Remember these things are not your own productions; they have been planted in your soul by another hand, and watered by a superior power.

2. Be reverent. When a scholar knows that all he has learned has been taught him by his master, he looks up from his master’s feet into his master’s face with respectful esteem.

3. Be confident. If the good thing had been wrought by ourselves we might be sure that it would fail before long. Nothing of mortal man was ever perfect. But, if He that hath begun the good work be God, there is no fear that He will forsake or leave His work undone. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


In God’s economy this life is a process of disentangling from its own conditions. Mortal life is a getting loose.

1. Note the imagery of the context. We mortals are as dwellers in a tent. This tent is being gradually “loosened down.” The same word was used by our Lord of the stones of the temple at Jerusalem, and indicates a gradual destruction, stone after stone. So in striking a tent. Paul has a like figure in Philippians, where he desires to “depart,” or, literally, “to break camp.” This gradual loosening, this detachment, is a familiar fact of our life. We are breaking up, and God hath wrought us for this very thing. One of the most puzzling things about the world is that such superhuman ingenuity, such perfect finish of workmanship, will crumble to dust. How exquisite is the structure of a bee or of a butterfly, and yet how short-lived they are.

2. These are familiar facts. What is our attitude toward them?

(1) The average man ignores them. He strikes out the tabernacle from the text, and substitutes a building. He lives and plans as if both he and the world were eternal. The earlier stages of life are occupied with amassing instead of throwing off. The love and intimacy of the family circle are taking the boy deeper into themselves. Then his social nature is throwing out tendrils and attaching itself to school and college friends. Then comes social and business or professional life. The bonds multiply; more and more the man is getting wrapped round and tied up. Domestic life encircles him. Business becomes engrossing. So the world winds round him, coil after coil. If the house of his earthly habitation is a tent, it is a substantial tent, or so it seems. It has stood a good many hard blasts. The man himself, too, has been all along growing. All is increase, enlargement of range.

(2) But as time goes on you notice a change. The man has reached his altitude. The cords on the rear of the tent begin to slacken. A father or a mother dies. Brothers and sisters form homes for themselves, and their interests and his diverge. The old circle of kindred begins to break up. It goes on quietly, like the undermining of a bank. And as time goes on the connections with his own generation gradually break. The push of younger, fresher life crowds him back or on one side. Some day he realises that almost all his old comrades are gone. The break is heading towards the centres of life. He has lost some ambition. He is not so ready for the undertakings which make a drain on nerve and strength. He gives up more easily than of yore. And so the final stage sets in; physical wreck, mental feebleness, complete withdrawal from the busy world. Let it go on its way. He cares no longer. The tent, with its loosened cords, flaps and strains, then collapses. The earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved; and yet He that wrought us for this very thing is God. God meant this.

3. This is a very sad picture if this is all. Nay, it is an insult to common sense to ask us to believe that this wondrous frame of nature and of man are made merely to be destroyed. God did not make us for death, but for life. If He has appointed a tent for our sojourn, He has reared a building for our dwelling. Moses, in Psalms 90:1-17., voices the truth. There is nothing eternal but God. There is no warrant of man’s eternity but God. There is no eternal home for man but in God.

And so we turn to the other side of our text. God has made us for the tent, but He has also made us for the building.

1. The important point is that we should see these two things as part of one economy--the tent and the building as related to each other. Even if sin had never entered the world, I doubt whether this human life and body would have been any more than a temporary stage of existence through which men would have passed into a purely spiritual life. Because I find that this is according to the analogy of God’s working elsewhere. God’s plans unfold. They do not flash into consummation. They involve progressive stages. The line of His purpose runs out to eternity, but it runs through time.

2. Thought has tended too much to the violent separation of the mortal life from the eternal life--has tended to set them in contrast and opposition instead of in harmony. For instance, we draw the line sharply between life and death; and yet many a scientist will tell you that death is the beginning of life, and Christ and Paul tell you that in unmistakable terms. And what we want clearly to apprehend is that this mortal, transitory tent-life has a definite relation to the permanent spiritual life of the future; that it serves a purpose of preparation and development toward that life; that it furnishes a soil in which the seeds of the spiritual life are sown; and that, therefore, instead of being despised and neglected because it is temporary and destined to dissolution, it is to be cultivated as the effective ministrant of the eternal life. “He that wrought us for this very thing is God.”

3. We have in nature a great many illustrations and analogies of this. Take, e.g., the soil. Existence underground, in the dark, is a low form of life, and yet the seed must be cast into the ground, and remain there for a time, before the beauty and fruitfulness and nourishment of the fruit or grain can become facts. And that stage ministers directly to the higher form of life. So in animal life. What a delicate and beautiful structure is the egg of the fowl! It is made, as we all see, to be broken, and an egg-shell is a synonym for something worthless. And yet there have been lodged in that frail and temporary thing forces which minister to life. So the worm rolls himself up in the cocoon, but within the cocoon the purple and golden glories of the butterfly are silently elaborating themselves. Even so it is God’s intent that the immortal, the spiritual life should be taking shape under the forms of the mortal life--that in the tent man should be shaping for the eternal building.

4. This feature of our mortal life is intended to show itself early. The average human life, as we have seen, tends to become more and more enveloped in the wrappings of this world, and to consider nothing else; and many practically reason that attention to the interests of the next world may be deferred until the process of detachment from the things of time has fairly and consciously set in. On the contrary, the life should be shaped for eternity from the beginning. The ministry of the soil begins with the very first stage of the seed-life. The world to come does not appeal merely to manhood and old age. It is the child that is most inquisitive about the sky, to whom the stars are a wonder. Why not the same fact in spiritual life? Why should not heavenly aspirations characterise childhood? Why should not the child-life be touched and quickened by contact with heaven? Within and under the life of society, the life of business, the domestic life, an eternal, spiritual manhood may be outlining itself.

5. When men have undertaken to shut themselves out as much as possible from the contact of this life, they have not seen that He that hath wrought us for this very thing is God.

6. For years, as the traveller on the Rhine came in sight of Cologne, the first object which greeted his eye was the unsightly mass of scaffolding around the cathedral spires. It is all gone now, and the twin spires soar heavenward from their base, and cut the horizon with their clean, sharp lines of stone. Yet the scaffolds were necessary to the building. Whether this life is to be more than scaffolding depends on the man who lives--depends on whether or not he mistakes scaffolding for building. If the cocoon is all that the worm comes to, poor worm! Worthless cocoon! If business, politics, social life, fame, are all the man comes to, poor man! The tent will fall. Shall you be left uncovered? Beware, beware of these same wrappings. They are folding you in closely. Detachment may mean for you victory and immortality. God hath wrought you for the eternal building in the heavens no less than for the frail, perishing tent on earth. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.--

The earnest of the Spirit

What is given by way of earnest.

The nature of an earnest.

1. An earnest supposeth a bargain and contract. The right to eternal life cometh to believers in a way of covenant; they resign themselves to God by faith, and God bindeth Himself to give them forgiveness of sins.

2. Earnest is given when there is some delay of the thing bargained for. As soon as we enter into covenant with God we have a right; but our blessedness is deferred, not for want of love in God, but partly that in the meantime we may exercise our faith and love (Philippians 3:21; Romans 8:23), and partly that the heirs of salvation may glorify Him here upon earth (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12).

3. An earnest is part of the whole bargain, though but a little part. So the saving gifts, graces, and comforts of the Spirit are a small beginning, ors part of that glory which shall then be revealed. Grace is begun glory, and they differ as an infant and a man. Regeneration is an immortal seed, a beginning of eternal life.

4. Earnest is given for the security of the party that receiveth it, not for him that giveth it. There is no danger of breaking on God’s part; but God “was willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel”; because of our frequent doubts and fears in the midst of our troubles and trials, we need this confirmation.

5. It is not taken away till all be consummated, and therein an earnest differeth from a pawn or pledge. A pledge is something left with us, to be restored or taken away from us; but an earnest is filled up with the whole sum. So God giveth part to assure us of obtaining the whole in due season (Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:9).

The use and end of an earnest is--

1. To raise our confidence of the certainty of these things. There is some place for doubts and fears, till we be in full possession, from weakness of grace and greatness of trials.

2. To quicken our earnest desires and illustrious diligence. The firstfruits are to show how good, as well as earnest how sure.

3. To bind us not to depart from these hopes. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Verses 6-9

2 Corinthians 5:6-9

Therefore we are always confident … at home in the body … absent from the Lord.

Paul’s thoughts about dying

1. The peculiar interest of this passage is, that it gives us an insight into the apostle’s personal feelings in the contemplation of death. In other places he refers to what is before and after death; but this is the only passage that gives us an insight into his forebodings about the act itself.

2. He evidently writes under the pressure of some sadness; and in chap. 4. this feeling deepens, and phrases that express it occur in almost every verse. We see throughout the conflict of natural feeling with Christian faith. And in this chapter he carries this conflict of feeling into his contemplation of dying. But if he thinks of the painful taking down of the earthly tabernacle, he thinks also of the glorious “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” And he never for a moment hesitates in his preference. His human conflict works itself out to this result--“Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent,” whether found by the Master at His coming I)resent in the body or absent from it, “we may be accepted of Him.”

3. The lesson to ourselves is, that we need not trample down our human instincts and yearnings in order to be spiritual. Our shrinking from death by no means implies unsubmissiveness of heart. Note--

That our life is not two, but one. It is the same life, “whether present or absent,” in the body or out of it, on earth or in heaven. Now we admit this theoretically, but we do not feel it practically. We rather think of two different lives. Men ordinarily think of their chief life as the vital principle of the body. So long as we can walk, and eat, and speak, we call ourselves living men; so soon as these cease, we speak of ourselves as dead. But is that really the living man? We know that it is not, we know that the thought, affection, virtues of our friends are not identified with the body that we put into the grave. This, according to the apostle’s figure, is only the tabernacle of the man. The life of man is the spiritual flame which God has enkindled, and which no physical changes can affect--it is the immortal spirit which is God’s own breath, and which partakes of the inextinguishableness of His own being. And yet so sense-bound are we, that we are far more affected by the unimportant death of the physical body than by the essential life of the indestructible spirit. Observe concerning this one soul life of man--

1. That its spiritual, or holy character, both here and hereafter, is realised in virtue of our union with Christ (John 11:25).

2. The spiritual life which we realise through Christ in nowise hinders the physical death of the body. However perfect our faith, however holy our life, the body must die. The curse of sin is reversed, not by the exemption from death of the body, but by the spiritual life of the soul. There are obvious reasons why the body must die--

(1) Natural reasons. The body, as fitted for this earthly and probationary condition of being, is too sensuous for heavenly and immortal life. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” It is essential, therefore, for a higher condition of life, that the physical body should be “changed,” transfigured. We must in some way or other leave the world, be introduced to our new and final state of being.

(2) Moral reasons. To exempt believers would disorganise the conditions of human life, and anticipate the rewards and punishments of the future by distinctions between the good and the evil during their probation. Beyond the natural effects of piety, therefore, God bestows upon it no rewards--exempts it from no evils here. Nor, all things considered, would we have it otherwise. Who, for example, would willingly lack the manifest truth and power of the gospel, as seen in the dying peace and triumph of holy men?

3. While the outward thing is not abrogated, the essential character of it is changed. Its “sting” is taken away. Indeed, every evil which sin has entailed, is, in virtue of our union with Christ, essentially and radically changed. Suffering becomes a fatherly chastisement, and death a fatherly summons. Nay, even the body itself no longer dies, it only “sleeps.”

That our one life has two homes.

1. There is the home of the physical body. Notwithstanding its disabilities and drawbacks, how many things still make it a home! The comparison is not so much between an evil and a good, as between a good and a better. We are pilgrims only in relation to a “better country”; our houses are tents only in relation to the house not made with hands. To be in heaven is to be with Christ visibly, and therefore “far better”; but to be on earth is also to be with Christ spiritually, and is a good thing. God has made the earth a home for us, filled it with goodness, and beauty, and joy, and it does not need to enhance heaven that we disparage it. Only as spiritual men we can never rest in it with perfect contentment. And so wisely has God adjusted our experiences, so alluringly has He revealed the future, even while He has given us such satisfactions in the present, that, while we do not impatiently wish the future, we lovingly desire and seek it. Enough is revealed to incite us; but it is sufficiently veiled to enable contentment, and quiet work, and peaceful joy.

2. We wait and hope, therefore, for the home of the spiritual body. There every condition of happiness, which here is so marred, will be perfect. The body will know no weariness nor incompetence, the soul no sorrow nor sin, ignorance will not incapacitate, uncertainty will not disquiet; they “rest from their labours.” The chief difference, however, is constituted by the different conditions of our spiritual life--the different conditions of our communion with Christ. Here our holiness is struggling and imperfect; our recognitions of Christ are only recognitions of faith; “we know only in part”; we are “absent from the Lord.” There we “see Him as He is,” “know as we are known,” commune with Him “face to face,” and under conditions of confidence and delight, with no consciousness of sin. It is this that makes heaven blessed--that makes it home; the being so immediately with Christ, the perfection of all purity and joy. This is the “far better” which we now desire. To the Christian heart Christ is heaven, and heaven is Christ.

3. The form of the apostle’s expression and desire implies that the transition from the one home to the other will be immediate--that, whatever the condition of separate spirits, they are where Christ is, consciously and rejoicingly in His presence.

The practical influence of this recognition upon our present daily life. It constituted Paul’s life a life of faith, endowed it with “the powers of the world to come,” and by these his entire being was regulated. What can intimidate a soul so full of spiritual recognitions--what can seduce it--what can make it wretched? Amongst the influences of this recognition upon his present spiritual life the apostle instances--

1. Its boldness--“Therefore we are always confident,” and he reiterates the assertion--“we are confident, I say.” It filled him with fortitude to endure, with boldness and strength to do.

2. Its ruling principle. “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Every action and feeling was regulated by the things of the spiritual world. “He looked not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”

3. What marvel, then, that such faith should be so ardent in its desire, that with such recognition the heart of piety and of love should be inflamed; that it should mightily yearn, and tend, and pray towards that better life. “Wherefore we labour, that whether found in the body or absent from it we may be accepted of Him.” Wherefore we practically strive to realise our desire; the things that our hearts leap forward to with eager and satisfied joy. For heaven is not to be won by barren desire, by sentimental recognition, by spiritual visions, but by earnest, practical labour. (H. Allon, D. D.)

The believer in the body and out of the body

The believer has ground for constant confidence (2 Corinthians 4:6-8).

1. Note the confidence which the believer has in reference to his present condition. “Knowing that while we are at home in the body we are from home as to the Lord.”

(1) In the present state we are at home in the body; but it is a home which is not a home, a frail lodging to accommodate us till we reach our true home. It is such a home as a soldier has in the camp, or as a passenger on a journey. In a sense, however, this body is a home, for here dwells the living, thinking, active mind. It is a house for which we have no little affection, and we are loath to quit it.

“This pleasing, anxious being e’er resigned,

Left the warm precincts of this house of clay,

Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind.”

We complain of the infirmities of our bodies, but we are in no hurry to leave them.

(2) But yet this body is not a fitting home for us.

(a) We often discover by experience how inconvenient it is. In the course of years it has become soiled and creased, and worn like the tents of Kedar. We have suffered many inconveniences; often the spirit has been willing, but the flesh has been weak.

(b) According to the Greek, ours is a home in a foreign country. A numerous band of our brothers and sisters are with us, even as the Jews found company of their own race in Babylon; but this is exile to us, we have no inheritance here.

(c) It is a home, too, which keeps us from our true home. To-day we are at school, like children whose great holiday joy is to go home. We are labourers, and this is the work field: when we have done our day’s work we shall go home.

(d) Home is the place where one feels secure; we find no such home spiritually in this world, for this is the place of conflict and watchfulness. In heaven there will be no foes to watch against, nor men of our own household to be our worst enemies.

(e) Home, too, is the place of the closest and sweetest familiarities. Here, alas, our spirits cannot take their fill of heavenly familiarities, for distance comes between; but up there what indulgence shall be accorded to us!

(3) These are the inconveniences, but Paul, despite all, was confident.

(a) He had a hope of the immortality to be revealed. He knew that when he shook off this body his soul would be with Christ.

(b) His confidence came from God’s work in his soul. “He that has wrought us to the self-same thing is God.” When the statuary takes the block of stone, and begins to carve it into a statue, we get the promise of that which is to be. But he may turn aside, or die, and therefore there may be no statue. But God never undertakes what He does not finish; and so if to-day I be the quarried block of marble, if He has begun to make the first chippings in me of genuine repentance and simple faith towards God, I have the sure prophecy that He will work me up into the perfect image of Christ.

(c) Another ground of confidence was “the earnest of the Spirit.”

2. Paul was equally confident about the next state, viz., the condition of a disembodied spirit (2 Corinthians 4:8).

(1) It was not because Paul thought it would be better to be without a body that he thus spoke. He has told us already “not for that we would be unclothed.” Our great Creator does not mean us to be maimed creatures for ever.

(2) But if Paul preferred the disembodied state to this, then the spirits of dead saints are not annihilated. Paul could not have counted destruction better than a life of holy confidence. Neither are they unconscious, for who would prefer torpor to active confidence? Neither are they in purgatory. Paul would not have been willing rather to be tormented than to live here and serve his Lord.

(3) He was willing to depart into the disembodied state because he knew he would be at home with the Lord in it.

(4) In that condition to which we are speeding

(a) We shall be beyond all doubt as to the truth of our holy faith. There will be no more mistrust of our Lord or of His promises, and no more shall we doubt the power of His blood or our share in His atoning sacrifice.

(b) We shall communicate with Christ more sensibly than we do now. Here we do speak with Him, but it is by faith through the Spirit of God; in the glory land we hear His voice while He personally speaks to us.

(c) We shall have greater capacity for taking in the glory of our Lord.

The believer has reasons for an absorbing ambition (2 Corinthians 4:9), From henceforth the one great thing we have to care about is to please our Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s home

A Christian is not in his own proper home while he sojourneth in the body. Instances: Abraham (Hebrews 11:9). David (Psalms 39:12). Christ (John 17:16). He that was Lord of all had neither house nor home. Reasons--

1. Our birth and parentage is from heaven. Everything tendeth to the place of its original; men love their native soil; a stone will fall to the ground, though broken in pieces by the fall. There is a double reason why the new creature cannot be satisfied here.

(1) Here is not enough dispensed to answer God’s love in the covenant. “I will be your God,” noteth the gift of some better thing than this world can afford unto us (Hebrews 11:16; Matthew 22:32).

(2) Here is not enough to satisfy the desire and expectation of the renewed heart--perfect enjoyment of God, and perfect conformity to God.

2. There lieth our treasure and inheritance (Ephesians 1:3). Christ hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in earthly places; here He hath adopted, justified, and sanctified us in part, but the full accomplishment is reserved for the world to come.

3. There are all our kindred. There is our home and country, where our Father is, and our Lord Jesus, and all the holy ones of God.

4. There we abide longest. An inn cannot be called our home; here we abide but for a night, but there for ever with the Lord.

5. The necessary graces that belong to a Christian show that a Christian is not yet in his proper place.

(1) Faith hath another world in prospect and view; and our great aim is to come at it.

(2) Hope was made for things to come, especially for our full and final happiness.

(3) Love (1 Peter 1:8).

6. Let us therefore give in our names among them that profess themselves to be strangers and sojourners here in the world.

(1) Let us be drawing home as fast as we can. A traveller would be passing over his journey as soon as may be.

(2) Make serious provision for the other world (Matthew 6:33).

(3) Mortify carnal desires (1 Peter 2:11).

(4) Patiently endure the inconveniences of our pilgrimage. Strangers will meet with hard usage (John 15:19).

(5) Beg direction from God, that we may go the shortest way home (Psalms 119:19).

(6) Get as much of home as we can in our pilgrimage, in the earnest and first fruits of the Spirit (Romans 8:23).

The main reason why a Christian is not at home, is, because he is absent from the Lord, while he is in the body. I shall here inquire--

1. How are believers absent from the Lord, when He dwelleth in them, as in His temple, and there is a close union between Him and them? I answer, Christ is with us indeed, but our communion with Christ is--

(1) Not immediate.

(2) Nor full.

(3) Often interrupted.

2. Why, God’s children count themselves not at home till they are admitted into this perpetual society with Christ.

(1) Because this is the blessedness which is promised to them. And therefore they expect it, and thirst after it (John 12:26).

(2) This is that which is highly prized by them, to be where Christ is. Why?

(a) Out of thankfulness to Christ’s delighting in our presence (Proverbs 8:31).

(b) Out of love to Christ (Psalms 73:25).

(c) Taste. Communion begun maketh us long for communion perfected (Psalms 63:1-2).

(d) Their complete happiness dependeth upon it (1 John 3:2; John 17:24). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Longing after home

That longing after home essentially belongs to the Christian life is by no means so generally acknowledged as a pious mind ought perhaps to expect. More loudly than ever voices are raised, which contest the right of that longing, and the hope out of which it springs to a place in the Christian’s inner life. The one who believes on Christ hath eternal life, and needs not to long for it in the other world.

1. But those who have already partaken of eternal life in communion with God, have always longed most heartily after its completion. Paul has been especially named the apostle of faith, and yet--

(1) Paul had rather a desire to depart from the body, and be at home with the Lord. For the very reason that Christ is his life, even here during his earthly pilgrimage death is his gain (Philippians 1:21). The life of the believer is still hid with Christ in God; but when Christ our life shall appear, then will His people appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4). Yea, the apostle speaks of the Holy Ghost as a pledge of the incorruptible inheritance (2Co 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:23). But the statement that the resurrection had already taken place, i.e., in a spiritual way, is rejected by the apostle (2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:18).

(2) So with the apostle of love (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2).

(3) So with the apostle of hope (1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 4:13-14; 1 Peter 5:10).

(4) With all this the testimony of our Lord agrees (John 6:40; John 17:24; Luke 23:43).

2. What the words of our Lord and of His apostles teach us is also confirmed by the condition and inward connection of the life which His Spirit works in us. “Whilst we dwell in the body,” says the apostle, “we are absent from the Lord” as in a foreign land; “for,” adds the apostle as his ground, “we walk by faith, and not by sight.” Is not faith the fountain of the new life, and is it not a certain confidence of what is hoped for, a firm conviction of what is not seen? (Hebrews 11:1.) Do we not know by it that the Lord, with His grace, is always near to us on our pilgrimage? And yet, however close the connection of the believer with Christ may be, it is nevertheless to be esteemed a separation in comparison with the perfect communion with Him of which he will then become partaker, when his faith is once changed into sight. And if faith is nothing else than the concealed bud of sight, how should we not long after the development of this bud into glorious bloom? If we see now in faith the glory of the Lord only through a glass, and as in a riddle (1 Corinthians 13:12), who should not long, with the holy apostle, to see face to face, and to know even as we are known? (1 Corinthians 13:12.) A time is coming when everything imperfect reaches its perfection, and everything piecemeal appears a beautiful whole; where all difference disappears, and all concealed glory becomes manifest; where all holy longings find perfect satisfaction, and all blessed anticipations and hopes become a living reality. Then shall our faith, which at one time is an offence to the children of this world, at another time a folly, be solemnly justified through seeing.

The effects of this longing will not be otherwise than salutary.

1. It will strengthen and enliven our zeal after holiness (2Co 4:9, cf. Romans 2:7). As the sun cannot do otherwise than give light and warmth, so the longing after home in the case of the Christian cannot do otherwise than manifest itself in redoubled striving after a conduct well-pleasing to God. Each one who has such a hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (1 John 3:3). For only to those who have a pure heart is the promise given, that they shall see God (Matthew 6:8).

2. It will promote our comfort and peace as regards the earthly life. If our life is like a journey, say which traveller will, with more cheerful courage, proceed on his way--he who knows that at the close of it he will meet his end; or he who knows at the end of his journey there awaits him an entrance into the most delightful home? The thought, which no one can drive away, that we are at every step come nearer to the end, is dreadful to those who have no hope; but for the one who longs after his home it is a source of holy joy. Certainly one proceeds calmly and peacefully through the earthly life when one has nothing to dread but everything to hope (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 6:9). (Julius Muller, D. D.)

(For we walk by faith not by sight.)--

The influence of faith upon the Christian’s walk

You see, you feel, and know, by the testimony of your own senses, what your present situation is. And there are advantages as well as disadvantages attending the present state. But of the life to come you have no experience. To obviate this cavil, the words of our text are brought in by way of parenthesis. “It is true, we never saw our house that is from heaven, and all that we know about it is by report. But that report is the report of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and it may be relied on with more assurance than even the testimony of our senses.”

The denomination here given to the Christian life. It is called a walk.

1. That Christians in this world are in an unsettled and movable state. For the same reason the body is called a tent or tabernacle in the first verse. Need any of you be told that here you have no continuing city? The fashion of this world is continually passing away. How widely different is your present condition from what it was a few years ago! It will probably be as much changed in a few days more.

2. That it is a progressive state.

3. That Christians in this world are in a state of voluntary activity. The men of the world, if they had their choice, would not walk, but sit still; they move towards another world with great reluctance.

4. This expression imports that the Christian’s life in this world is a toilsome and uneasy life. The luxury of modern times has contrived various methods of accomplishing journeys without walking. It is not in this manner, Christian, that you are to perform your journey. You must travel through the wilderness on foot.

The manner in which the Christian’s life is spent--his journey performed. “We walk by faith.” There are chiefly three ways in which our knowledge in this world is acquired.

1. By the testimony of our external senses.

2. By rational demonstration.

3. By moral evidence, or the testimony of rational agents.

Thus are all matters of fact ascertained, of which we have not ourselves been witnesses. It is manifest that the strength of our faith should always correspond to the degree of veracity that belongs to his character, upon whose testimony it rests. The greatest part of those truths that constitute the matter of the Christian faith are of such a nature that they could never have been known to us otherwise than by the testimony of God. It is equally manifest that if we did believe these things, upon any other evidence, our belief of them could not be a Divine faith. Once more, true faith includes in it, or, at least, it necessarily produces, a firm reliance upon the faithfulness and power of God, for a full and final performance of all His words of grace, to the person in particular, till he be filled with all the fulness of God. They walk by this faith in the following respects--

1. By faith they learn the way in which they ought to go. At man’s first creation, God inscribed upon his heart a law, sufficient to direct him in every part of his way. Some remains of this law continue upon the hearts of all Adam’s posterity. But this knowledge is so imperfect that, though it may inform us that we go astray, it can never keep any person in the right way. Notwithstanding the clear objective discoveries that we have of the way of truth and duty, such are often the perplexing circumstances of our lot, and such is our natural incapacity to understand and apply the rule, that our way is often covered with darkness, and we are at our wits’ end.

2. By faith they receive strength to prosecute their journey. All Christians in this world are in a state of childhood. Their way is long and difficult, and they have no strength to prosecute it.

3. By faith they are furnished with motives to animate them in their walk, and so are encouraged to prosecute their journey with unwearied perseverance. Though the authority of God is a sufficient reason for our obedience, yet He does not require us to obey Him in a blind and irrational manner.

We come now to speak concerning the negative part of what the text says about the manner of the Christian’s walk. “We walk--not by sight.”

1. They walk not by the sight or appearance of those material things which alone are capable, strictly speaking, of being seen. In this view the words import the three things following. Christians walk not by sight.

(1) Material or seen things are not the principal objects of their attention. The mean of the world are so immersed in sensuality that they can think of almost nothing but what has a tendency to gratify their senses. They walk after the sight of their eyes, and that is also the desire of their hearts.

(2) Things capable of being seen are not the principal objects of their pursuit. Unrenewed men pursue happiness with all their might, but they seek it anywhere; or everywhere, except where it is really to be found.

(3) The motives by which they are influenced in their walk are not drawn from visible things. If the motives of their actions were drawn from things that are seen they would surely follow such a course as might be calculated to obtain seen advantages, or, at least, to secure them against visible disadvantages.

2. Even in respect of those things which they do pursue, they are not influenced, in the pursuit of them, by their own sight, sense, or feeling; but by the testimony of God concerning them, received and relied on by faith. Though spiritual things fall not under the cognisance of the outward senses, they are capable of being perceived by the soul in a manner some way corresponding to that. That heavenly house, in which you hope to dwell for ever, you have not yet seen, and therefore, in longing for it, you cannot be influenced by a personal experience of what it is, but only by the testimony that God has given you concerning it. So it is with regard to all those invisible things towards which you press in your daily walk. Thus faith continues to have its usual influence upon our walk, even when our sight, sense, or feeling runs in direct opposition to it, as appears in the following instances.

(1) When a Christian walks in darkness about his spiritual estate, and can attain no sensible assurance of his interest in Christ, or his being within the covenant of grace, he dares not, on that account, neglect any duty that is incumbent upon him as a friend or disciple of Christ.

(2) When difficulties, apparently insurmountable, are seen in the way, when the Christian is most sensible of his own weakness, and when the help of God, in which he trusts, seems to be, in a great measure, withdrawn, the influence of faith prevails over that of sense, and even in that case he sets forward. When Israel came to the Red Sea they had no way to escape the fury of their enemies but by going forward, and that, in all human appearance, was impossible.

(3) When the greatest danger is seen to lie in the way of duty, and when sense and reason assure us that the danger cannot be avoided unless the duty is postponed, the Christian, depending upon the promise of God, despises the danger; and, that he may not be wanting in the performance of his duty, rushes into the jaws of a seen destruction.

3. When, instead of a present accomplishment of the promise, the Christian sees Divine providence moving in a contrary direction, and the Lord seems to be taking methods to render its accomplishment impossible, even then he so far overlooks appearances as to form his whole conduct upon the assured persuasion that God will still do as He hath said. A clear instance of this we have in Abraham.

We are now to conclude with the following inferences.

1. From what has been said, we may see the excellence of the grace of faith, and its usefulness to them that possess it.

(1) It attains the knowledge of things that surpass all created knowledge.

(2) It believes things that, upon the principles of unenlightened reason, are incredible.

(3) Faith can bear things that, in all human appearance, are intolerable.

(4) It sees things invisible. In a word--

(5) Faith performs things impossible.

2. See the sin and unreasonableness of infidelity. We would only beg leave to suggest the two following considerations.

(1) Were you to act upon the same principles in the common affairs of life as you do in matters of religion, it would be simply impossible for you to subsist in the world. Are there not many things relative to the most important concerns of life that you necessarily must believe upon evidence not better than what you have for the truth of Christianity?

(2) Whatever objections you may have to the truth of the Christian religion, you cannot pretend to prove that it is not true; otherwise you go further than any of your brethren ever did, so far as we know. And therefore you must grant that it is possible it may be true.

3. See the sin and folly of unbelief. Though every infidel is an unbeliever, there are many unbelievers who are not infidels. Yea, there is much unbelief in the exercise of every Christian while in this imperfect state.

4. See the sin and folly of too much attachment to sensible enjoyments.

(1) When you give yourself up to discouragement and downcasting on account of the want of it. The ground of your joy, as well as of your faith, is all without you.

(2) When, on account of your want of this, you indulge yourself in the neglect of any duty that you would think incumbent upon you if you had it, excepting the single duty of being thankful for it.

(3) When you cast away your confidence, or refuse to believe the promise, because you dare not say with certainty that you have a present interest in it.

(4) When you improve your assurance of an interest in Christ, as a ground of your faith, or of your boldness in coming to the throne of grace.

(5) When, because you cannot be sure that you are in Christ, you certainly conclude that you are a stranger to Him, and so give yourself up to unbelieving discouragement or despair, and rob God of the glory due for all that He hath done for you.

5. See various marks by which the real followers of Christ may be distinguished from the rest of mankind.

6. To conclude--We may see from this subject the duty of all who profess the Christian religion, or have the Word of God among their hands. It is to follow the example of these primitive teachers of Christianity, and walk by faith, not by sight. Beware of considering yourselves as in a state of rest. (J. Young.)

Seeing and believing

There are two worlds, the visible and the invisible: but for the Fall they would constitute one. Had we remained pure, the visible world would be to us the mirror of eternal realities. For Jesus the invisible world is everywhere. He finds it in the well, in the branches of the vine, in the cornfields, and in the minutest details of the life around Him. Thus it ought to be. Alas! most know no realities but in this world; the rest they consider as vain-dreamings. Even religion, which ought to be, before all things, a revelation of the invisible world, they degrade by making only the handmaid of this present life.

The text is in the most striking contrast with some modern ideas and tendencies.

1. Positivism says, “What is the use of letting your thoughts stray into the invisible world; to pursue those vain clouds which are called religions? Lay hold of the visible world.” This doctrine is re-echoed on every hand. What is the invisible world to most of our monied men?

2. Yet what an array of weapons have we for the defence of the invisible world?

(1) The greatest things, and those which have been the most salutary for humanity, are the work of those who walked by faith and not by sight. When St. Paul spoke these words, the ancient world was precisely in the state to which men would lead back the modern World. It only believed in visible and palpable things; it considered as chimeras and trifles all that went beyond them. And what had it arrived at? Who is not aware that there was never a more shameful degradation of the dignity of man? Who has given it life again but those men who opposed to the present world the world to come? Now this fact has often repeated itself. For how often has the world been ready to sink back into that condition in which Christianity found it?

(2) We should form a strange idea of Christianity if we believed that it teaches us to despise the earth and the present life. I know that many causes have favoured this error. The monastic life and the deplorable exaggerations of certain Christians who have neglected life’s duties, pretending that eternity was taking up all their thoughts, have too often furnished infidelity with weapons. But Christianity has never taught us to forget the duties and privileges of earth. But earth is not--it cannot be--the aim of the Christian, but it is the scene of his activity, even the place where his eternal future is prepared. It is often maintained that eternity diminishes the happiness of the present life; but I assert, on the contrary, that it gives it incomparable grandeur. If, instead of passing through the world, I must remain here, life is an enigma as cruel as it is inexplicable, and one must write on its threshold, “Without God, without hope.” Open to me, on the contrary, eternity. Tell me that life is a journey, a marching forward; tell me that my fatherland is awaiting me, then I am able to begin and undertake everything, and the bitter feeling of vanity disappears.

Accepting this motto theoretically, we may openly deny it in reality.

1. What shall we say of those who do not accept religion unless it be presented to them under a fascinating form with the approbation of man, with all that speaks to the senses and the imagination? But Jesus said to His disciples, who admired the beauty of the temple, “See ye not all these things?” What would He, then, say to those who cannot understand truth when not accompanied by a gorgeous ceremonial, and upheld by a powerful hierarchy? And can we positively affirm that such a temptation has never crept over us? Have not we been troubled in our faith, because we saw the Church feeble, obscure, and despised? Did we never wish her the homage of the world, the support of distinguished men, the authority of numbers, or of public opinion? Well, asking for these external signs is wishing to walk by sight, and not by faith. Ye who want these signs, what would you have done in the days of Jesus Christ?

2. There are Christians who are troubled because to the Church in our days God no longer grants miraculous signs of His intervention. But--

(1) Miracles alone have never converted the heart. The Galilaeans remained unbelievers in the presence of the most marvellous wonders, and the hearers of St. Paul, without a miracle, were converted by thousands.

(2) If miracles were necessary to faith, every one must witness them, and if that were the case they would lose their power, being no longer regarded as supernatural.

(3) The more revelation advances, the less God shows Himself to sight, and the more He reveals Himself to faith. In the beginning, there were continual signs and wonders, a pillar of cloud or of fire marks His presence; the thunder roars on Sinai. Everything speaks to the sight; but, with the advent of Christ, everything changes! He teaches us that there is a sign which attests better the presence of God than all the external miracles--it is love. When John, the man of the old covenant, asks Christ, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” Christ answers him by enumerating the wonders which He has accomplished; but He finishes with those sublime words, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” God will not now open the heavens; there will be no sign given to this unbelieving generation but that of the Cross; for he whom the Cross leaves insensible would not be moved though a man should rise from the grave and declare Jesus is the Christ.

3. We walk by sight, and not by faith, when we wish Christianity to justify itself entirely in the eyes of reason. Miracles speak to the senses, arguments speak to the intellect; but God will lay hold of our moral being. He wishes that we shall freely give up ourselves to Him by faith.

4. We are still desiring sight instead of faith when we ask God to mark His providence by continual deliverances--

(1) By immediate answers to our prayers. But imagine a life where prayer would always be followed by an immediate deliverance. Many would be disciples, but how many from the right motive? Now it is just that mercenary instinct which God wants to destroy in us. Therefore, while He assures us that all our prayers are heard, He seldom shows us beforehand how He will answer them. The most glorious victories of faith have been won against every appearance. Christ Himself by faith saw before His death the fruit of the bitter travail of His soul, and it was not sight which could reveal to Him a conquered world, a redeemed Church. How often, when we see the prayer of some saint manifestly answered long after his death, we say, “Oh, that he had lived to see this day, the day he so desired!” We must remember, though he saw not, he believed. Pray, then, Christian mother, pray still for the conversion of your son, pray without doubting, and should your eyes only meet subjects of discouragement, remember that we walk by faith and not by sight.

(2) These remarks on prayer find also their application on every Christian activity. It is a singular fact that the greatest progress in the kingdom of God has been attained by men who believed though they did not see. What did Christ see in His ministry? What would He have done if He had walked by sight? And what shall we do if we want to see instead of believing, if we resemble those children who, after having cast a seed corn into the ground, return every instant to see whether it has sprung up? God only blesses those who have confidence enough in His faithfulness to commit to Him the care of results, and to say with Luther, “It is Thy work, not mine.” It is stated that Kepler, when lying on his death-bed, and being asked by a friend whether he suffered not cruelly to be obliged to die without seeing his discoveries appreciated, answered, “My friend, God has waited five thousand years till one of His creatures discovered the admirable laws which He has given to the stars; why should I, then, not wait till justice is done to me? “

5. They are wrong who want to describe beforehand, as it has been so often tried, the way which the Christian is to follow. The Christian life is like an immense region which thousands of pilgrims have already travelled through; each had followed the road which God had traced out for him; some have found it soft and light, others dark and difficult. Yet all these ways led to the fatherland, and none has a right to say that the road he followed is that which all others must enter upon; for if this road were known, if it could be described, we should walk by sight, and no longer by faith. Let us then accept any unforeseen events; let us expect that God will destroy our plans and disappoint our expectations; whether He send us joy or sorrow, let us walk by faith, allowing Him to lead us. (E. Bersier, D. D.)


Faith versus sight

The posture mentioned. It implies--

1. The possession of life. You can make a dead man sit or even stand in a certain position, but to walk necessitates life. In the sense in which the term is here used, the ungodly man does not walk at all.

2. Activity. It is a blessed thing to sit “with Mary at the Master’s feet”; but we walk as well as sit. Many can affirm--“We talk; we think; we experience; we feel”; but true Christians can say, “We walk.”

3. Progress. A man does not walk unless he make some headway. God does not say to us, “This is the way,” and then stop; but He says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” We are always to be making advances, from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections.

4. Perseverance. When a man goes along a step or two and then stops, or returns, we do not call that walking.

5. That in the ordinary actions of life we are actuated by faith. Walking is that kind of progress in which a man continues hour after hour. We often read of men who, by faith, did great exploits, and some Christians are always fixing their eyes upon exploits of faith. But Paul does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking, and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man; that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does.

Two principles contrasted. All men naturally walk by sight. They have a proverb that “Seeing is believing,” and no further. Their maxim is--“Know things for yourself; look after the main chance; take care of Number One.” Now the Christian is the very opposite of this. He says: “I do not care about looking after the things that are seen and are temporal; the things that are not seen influence me, because they are eternal.” Now, since the world thinks itself wise and the Christian a fool for acting contrary to the world’s proverb that “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” let us just see wherein the wisdom of this matter is, and wherein it is not.

1. Walking by sight is a very childish thing. Any child can walk by sight, and so can any fool too. You give him a number of coins; they are all spurious, but he is so pleased with them that he does not care about having real sovereigns. The child says that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, but men know that it does not move, only the earth. But it is a very manly thing to believe something which you cannot see. What a man was Columbus compared with his contemporaries because he walked by faith! So the Christian is a man, while the worldling saith, “This is all the world; ‘let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,’” he says, “there must be another half; I will leave this world to you children, and will seek another and more heavenly one.”

2. The one is grovelling while the other is noble. A man earning his bread all day long--what is he better than the donkey at Carisbrook Castle, pumping up water and always going round? The children go to the seaside with their little wooden spades and build up a pier of sand, but the tide comes and washes it away, and this is just what men do. They build with heavier stuff, which gives them more care and not half so much merriment, but the end is just the same, only the children live to build again, while these big children, these grovellers, are washed out to sea with all their works and perish everlastingly. If there be not another world to live for, I must say that this life is not worthy of a man. But to believe what God tells me, that I am God’s son, that I shall one day see His face and sing His praise for ever, why, there is something here. The man who believes this expands into something worthy of a man who is made in the image of the Most High.

3. There is something exceedingly ignorant about believing only what I can see. Nine out of ten things in the world that are the most wonderful and potent cannot be seen, at least not by the eyes. A man who will not believe in electricity--well, what can you make of him in these days? And this is the case with regard to spiritual things. If you only walk by sight, and only believe what you see, what do you believe? You believe that while you are living here it is a good thing to make the best you can of it, and that then you will die and be buried, and there will be an end of you! What a poor, miserable, ignorant belief this is! But when you believe in what God reveals, and come to walk by faith, how your information expands!

4. Walking by sight is deceptive. The eye does not see anything; it is the mind that sees through the eye. The eye needs to be educated before it tells the truth, and even then there are a thousand things about which it does not always speak truly. Now the man who has a God to believe in, is never deceived. The promise to him always stands fast; the person of Christ is always his sure refuge, and God Himself is his perpetual inheritance.

5. The principle of sight is a very changeable one. It is well enough to talk of walking by sight in the light, but what will you do when the darkness comes on? It is very well to talk about living on the present while you are here, but when you go and lie on your dying bed, what about the principle of living for the present then? But the principle of faith does best in the dark. He who walks by faith can walk in the sunlight as well as you can, but he can walk in the dark as you cannot, for his light is still shining upon him.

6. That those who walk by sight walk alone. Walking by sight is just this--“I believe in myself,” whereas walking by faith is “I believe in God.” If I walk by sight I walk by myself; if I walk by faith then there are two of us, and the second one--ah! how great, how glorious, how mighty is He! Sight goes a warfare at its own charges, and is defeated. Faith goes a warfare at the charges of the King’s Exchequer, and there is no fear that Faith’s bank shall ever be broken.

The caution implied. The apostle says positively, “We walk by faith,” and then he adds negatively, “not by sight.” The caution, then, is--never mix the two principles. You may go a journey by land, or you may go by water, but to try to swim and walk at the same time would be rather singular. A drunken man tries to walk on both sides of the street at once, and there is a sort of intoxication that sometimes seizes upon Christians, which makes them also try to walk by two principles.

1. You say, “I believe God loves me; I have prospered in business ever since I have been a Christian.” The first part of that is faith; but the second part of it is sight.. Suppose you had not prospered in business, what then? Will you deny that God loves you because you have not prospered in business?

2. Another says, “I have believed in Christ, but I am afraid I am not saved, for I feel to-night so depressed.” “Oh,” says another, “I am sure I am saved, because I feel so happy.” Now you are both wrong, for you are both walking by sight. Faith is not meant for sweet frames and feelings only, it is meant for dark frames and horrible feelings. Conclusion--Take heed to one thing. You must mind if you do walk by faith, that you walk by the right faith--viz., faith in Christ. If you put faith in your dreams, or in anything you thought you saw, or in a voice you thought you heard, or in texts of Scripture coming to your mind--if you put faith in anything else but Christ--I do not care how good it may be or how bad it may be--you must mind, for such a faith as that will give way. You may have a very strong faith in everything else but Christ, and yet perish. Rest thou in the Lord Jehovah. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Walking by faith

These were the words that arose to our recollection in visiting that old castle of St. Andrews, out of which Hamilton and Wishart, our first Scotch martyrs, came to die for God’s truth at the stake. Groping our way along a tortuous passage, we descended by some steps into an inner prison, and there, by a beam of light that streamed through a loophole of the massive wall, we saw an opening in the rocky floor. Candles lighted and let down showed a shaft descending into the bowels of the rock, where, widening out like the neck of a bottle, it formed a dreadful dungeon. It was called--and justly--an oubliette, or place of forgetfulness, because those that black mouth swallowed up were ever after lost to life, to light, to liberty. It made one shudder to look down into that horrible pit; nothing seen but the blackness of darkness--nothing heard but the muffled sound of the waves, as bursting on its rocky walls they seemed to moan for the deeds that had been perpetrated there. “There,” says John Knox, “many of God’s children suffered death, pining away slowly till their life lapped up like the tide on the shore, or was suddenly destroyed by the blow of the assassin.” Such were the bloody days and deeds of Popery--never more, we trust, to return. But as our fancy called up the men who entered that low door to be let down like a coffin into that living sepulchre, never to come out but to die on the scaffold or the stake, the words that sprang to our memory were, “They walked by faith, not by sight.” The apostle makes a similar application of these words, which are the key to what must have been regarded as a perfect enigma. Note not the resignation only, but the cheerfulness with which he and his fellow-Christians suffered wrong (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). No doubt our days are in many respects very different from his, but the changes that have taken place in the world since the days of Paul have not changed human nature. This world is like yon volcanic mountain, where vineyards and fig-trees cover its sides with verdure; an occasional growl, a tremor, a puff of smoke, proves that the volcano that buried Herculaneum and Pompeii in its fiery discharges is not dead; it is but dormant. But whatever be the age we live in, whether we shall wear a martyr’s crown or not, all the saints that go to glory must go there by the way of faith. The believer walks by faith--

In the work and cross of Christ.

1. By faith Noah, Abraham, David, etc., won themselves a place in the cloud of witnesses. And yet he who waited for the consolation of Israel was second to none of them. What is that he holds in his aged arms? An infant--the offspring of a poor woman; born in a stable, a flame, a breath would blow out. Simeon is at that stage in human life when enthusiasm dies, and yet this sight throws him into an holy ecstasy. And why? The long looked-for has come at last; and now, as if there were nothing more on earth worth looking at or waiting for, he lifts his aged arms and eyes to heaven to exclaim, “Now, Lord,” etc. Faith never uttered a bolder speech than that. In that infant, as I have seen the giant oak wrapped up in the tiny acorn, Simeon saw the Saviour of mankind, and in the arm that hung round a mother’s neck, the strength that sustained the universe. He walked by faith in that, and yet we have more need than he to walk by faith. He said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation”--a privilege ours never shall enjoy till these eyes are closed on this world and open on another. Still more had the disciples in their senses aids to their faith which we do not enjoy. Simeon saw the boy; they saw the man; they touched the hand that wrenched its fetters from the tomb; they heard the voice that rebuked the tempest and cured disease, and said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”

2. Are we ready to envy the apostles and Simeon? “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” The faith of the humblest believer nowadays is in some senses a higher attainment than theirs. The emigrant who sees the hills of his native land sink beneath the wave, and goes away to the land of gold, has seen and handled the gold dug from the mines of that distant land. He has seen those who have been there--go out poor and come back rich; but I believe in a land to which I have seen hundreds go, but none come back to unveil its secrets. I believe in a Saviour I never saw, and never saw the man that saw, and commit to His keeping what is more precious than all the gold of the Bank of England--viz., my precious soul. I stake my everlasting welfare on works done eighteen long centuries ago, of which there is not one solitary vestige now on this earth for my faith to cling to, like ivy to a crumbling ruin. And does the world say to me, “Such trust were madness in earthly matters”? I admit it, but “I am not mad, most noble Festus.” Is He unseen? Why the most real things in this world are unseen. My spirit is unseen. The things you see are but the shadows of the unseen, and because my Saviour is unseen, that no more shakes my faith in Him than it shakes my faith in God, in angels, in the heavens, in the spirits of the blest who await my coming.

3. Yon lighthouse tower that stands among the tumbling waves, seems to have nothing but them to rest on, but beneath the waves its foundation is the solid rock. And what that tower is to the but on yon sandbank, which the last storm threw up, and the next shall sweep back into the sea, Christ’s righteousness is to mine-Christ’s works to my best ones. And so, when the Christian man was dying after a life full of good works, and they told him of them, he replied, “I take my good works and my bad works, and I east them in one heap, and I flee from them both to Jesus. He is all my salvation, He is all my desire.”

In the providence of God.

1. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night teacheth knowledge of Him. All nature is vocal with His praise. For a man to sit down and write a book to prove it, seems to me a perfect waste of time and labour, graved as these are on every rock, written on every leaf, painted on every flower. But though that be true, generally, what may be called His special providence, at least so far as regards His own people, is very often with them more a thing of faith than a thing of sight. The sun shines on the evil and on the good, the rain falls alike on the just and unjust, and there are many things besides death of which it is true that there is one event to all. Nay, our faith finds stumbling-blocks far more staggering than this. There is Lazarus begging at a rich man’s gate. In poverty, in disease, in domestic trials, I have seen God’s people have the bitterest cup to drink, and the heaviest burden to bear. “Peace, Mary, peace,” said a godly woman, who had lost all her family, to a godless neighbour, who was rebelling against the providence that had taken one child of many; “while I have six empty pairs of shoes to look on you have but one.” There are trying circumstances in which the only safety or confidence of a believer rest in walking by faith, and not by sight; in believing how “behind a frowning providence” God hides a smiling face.

2. In ascending a lofty mountain, standing high above all its fellows, which the sun is the first to reach and the last to leave, I have seen the rock that crowned it cleft with storm, and its summit all naked and bare, and so, sometimes, with those whose heads are most in heaven. What are they to do under such circumstances? On the higher Alps, along a path no broader than a mule’s foothold, that skirted a dreadful precipice, I have known a timid traveller who fancied it safest to shut her eyes and not attempt to guide the course nor touch the bridle. And there are times in the believer’s life when, if he would keep himself from failing into despair, he must, as it were, shut his eyes, lay the bridle on the neck of Providence, and “walk by faith, not by sight.”

3. Had Jacob, for instance, done so, he had played a nobler part in Pharaoh’s palace; he had stood a venerable witness for the God of truth in that heathen palace instead of indulging in this pitiful cry, “Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage on earth.” He lived to regret he had ever said it, and to bear other testimony to the providence of God. Our great dramatist says of one of his characters that nothing of his life became him so much as the leaving it. Nor did anything in Jacob’s life become him so much as the leaving it. “The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” Jacob dies in the light of faith. Never say, “All these things are against me.” Let all His waves and billows go over ye, let your bark go rolling and staggering amid the sea of troubles; never yield to the belief that you are the sport of chance, at the mercy of winds and waves. Your Father is at the helm, as the sailor boy said.

In and to another world. The discovery of the New World was not, like many discoveries, an accident; it was the reward of Christopher Columbus’s faith. He found fruits on the shores of Europe, cast up by the Atlantic waves, which he knew must have grown in lands beyond. They thought him mad to leave his home, to launch on a sea which keel had never ploughed, in search of a land man had never seen. I tell that infidel that I know whom I have believed; I can give a reason for the faith that is in me; and so could he. And so he launched his bark on the deep, and with strange seas around him, storms without, and mutinies within, that remarkable man stood by the helm, and kept the prow of his bark onward till the joyful cry, “Land!” rang from the mast-head, and faith was crowned with success, and patience had her perfect work. Now I look on that man as one of the finest types of a believer, but I cannot read his story without feeling that it puts our faith to the blush. “I have not found such great faith; no, not in Israel.” What had he? He walked by faith, and not by faith such as we have. He had but conjecture, we have certainty; he had not even the word of man that lies; we have the word of Him, that cannot lie. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Practical spiritualism

Did Paul ignore the material universe, or so underrate it as to pay it no attention? No. He studied, admired, used it. He speaks comparatively, and means that in the daily course of himself and his Corinthian brethren, they were influenced more by the invisible than the visible, by the spiritual and eternal than by the material and the temporal. They were practical spiritualists. In relation to this course of life we may observe--

It is a more philosophic course. A life of practical spiritualism is far more rational than that of practical materialism, because the spiritual is--

1. More real than the material. We have stronger evidence for the existence of spirit than of matter. True, the essence of both is beyond us; but the phenomena of spirit come more closely and impressively to us. Thought, volition, hope, fear, are immediate subjects of consciousness, and these belong to the spirit.

(1) The whole structure of the visible universe indicates the existence of spirit. Matter is essentially inert, but every part of nature is in motion. Matter is blind, but every part of nature indicates contrivance. Matter is heartless, but every part of nature is instinct with goodness. And then, too, it seems designed for spirit. Does not its contrivance appeal to thought, its streams of goodness to gratitude, its beauty to admiration, its sublimity to reverence and awe? What is this fair universe without spirit but a magnificent mansion without a tenant; a temple filled with the glories of the Shekinah, but containing no worshipper?

(2) The impressions of mankind sustain the belief. From remotest times, in all places and in every stage of culture, men have believed in the spiritual. A belief so universal must be intuitive, and any intuitive belief must be true, otherwise there is no truth for man.

(3) The Bible authoritatively declares this fact. It tells us of legions of spirits in various orders and states, and that there is One Infinite Spirit, the Parent, Sustainer, and Judge of all. I am bound to believe, then, that the universe is something more than can be brought within the cognisance of my five senses. We are confessedly more intimately and solemnly related to the spiritual, and is it not natural to expect that we should have a sense to see spiritual things? Were such a sense to be opened within us, as the eye of Elijah’s servant was opened of old, what visions would burst upon us! The microscope gives us a new world of wonders, but were God to open the spiritual eye, what a universe of spirits would be revealed!

2. More influential. The invisible is to the visible what the soul is to the body, that which animates and directs every part. Its spirit is in all the wheels of the material machine. It is the spring in all its forces, the beauty in all its forms, the glow in all its life.

3. More lasting.

It is a more unpopular course. It is opposed to--

1. Popular science, which teaches that matter is everything, that all thoughts about the invisible are idle and superstitious. “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

2. Popular religion, not only of heathendom, but of Christendom, which is the religion of the senses. Popular life. The great bulk of mankind live a material life; their ideas of wealth, grandeur, beauty, dignity, pleasure, are all material. Their grand question is, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, wherewithal shall we be clothed?” The Christly man, in walking by faith, sets popular science, religion, life, at defiance. Though he is in the world, he is not of the world.

It is a more blessed course.

1. It is more safe to walk “by faith” than “by sight.” The senses are deceptive, the eye especially.makes great mistakes. “Things are not what they seem.”

2. It is more useful. Who is the more useful man in society--the man who is controlled by appearances, who is materialistic in all his beliefs and pursuits, or the man whose mental eye enters into the invisible region of eternal principles, ascertains the real work they do in the universe, arranges them, and applies them to the uses of man’s daily life? Undoubtedly the latter. To him we owe all the blessings and arts that adorn civilised life. Albeit a stupid age calls the former a practical man, and the latter a theorist and a dreamer. In the spiritual department of life, the man who lives under the practical recognition of One whom no eye has seen or can see, is the man who both enjoys for himself and diffuses amongst others the largest amount of happiness.

3. It is more ennobling. He who walks by sight is bounded by the material. Matter is his cradle, his nourishment, the circle of his activities, and his grave. On the contrary, he who walks by faith, towers into other regions, brighter, broader, and more blest.

Conclusion--Which of these courses of life are we pursuing? It is not difficult to determine this question. Jesus Himself has supplied the test, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”

1. He that walks by sight is in all his experiences, purposes, and pursuits, “flesh.” His mind is a “fleshly mind,” his wisdom is “fleshly wisdom.”

2. On the contrary, he who “walks by faith” is spirit. Spirit in the sense of--

(1) Vivacity. All his faculties are instinct with a new life--the life of conscience, the true life of man. He is spirit.

(2) Social recognition. He is not known as other men are known, as men of the world. But, as a spiritual man, distinguished by spiritual convictions, sympathies, and aims.

(3) Divinity. He is born of the Divine Spirit, and has a kindredship with, and a resemblance to, his Eternal Father. He is now a conscious citizen of the great spiritual kingdom. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.--

Philosophy of true courage

The word “confident” here means courageous, and implies--

1. Unavoidable perils and trials (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). The man that rushes into danger is not courageous, but reckless.

2. Intelligent views and convictions of being. Much of battle-field valour springs from ignorance of what existence is, or false views of it. Paul regarded--

(1) The body as the organ of being--an “earthly house.”

(2) The soul as the personality of being. “We that are in this house.” The soul, not the body, is the I, or self, of being.

(3) Death as only a change in the mode of being.

(4) Heaven as the perfection of being. It is “the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” But these views are repeated here in a more condensed form. The apostle’s courage was based on--

A consciousness that his death would not endanger the interests of being.

1. That which gives a fear-awakening power to events is the dread of death. The most malignant disease, the fiercest hurricane, or the loudest roar of musketry would have no fear-awakening power without this. Let the fear be taken away, as it was from Paul, and men would then, like him, be always courageous.

2. Now observe the apostle’s view of--

(1) The interests of being. “Present with the Lord.”

(2) The bearing of death upon the interests of being. He regarded death as the flight of the spirit to the presence of its Lord. “Absent from the body,” etc.

3. Notice Paul’s state of mind under the influence of these thoughts. “Willing rather,” etc.

A consciousness that death would not destroy the great purpose of being.

1. Men without purpose are almost indifferent to life.

2. The master-purposes of men differ. They are pleasure, wealth, to please God. This last was Paul’s grand purpose. “Wherefore we labour,” etc. This purpose is--

(1) Reasonable. If there be a God, reason dictates that to please Him ought to be the supreme purpose of intelligent natures.

(2) Delightful. The highest happiness of a moral intelligence is to please the chief object of its love.

3. Now death destroys the main purposes of the voluptuous, avaricious, and ambitious, and hence it is terrible to them, but it does not destroy the chief purpose of the Christian. “Whether present or absent” his chief purpose will be to be “accepted of Him.”

A consciousness that death would not prevent the rewards of being (verse 10). Success must ever have an influence upon the mind of man in every department of labour. Non-success discourages. The Christian labourer looks for success, but it does not appear here at all proportioned either to his desires or efforts. Paul, no doubt, would like to have seen the full results of his labours in Corinth, etc., and if death could have prevented a full realisation, he would have esteemed it an evil, and shrunk from it with fear. But here he distinctly affirms an opposite conviction.

1. Every one shall receive the recompense of labour.

2. Every one shall receive a reward for every deed. For every good deed. There shall be no lost labour. And every “bad” deed, too, shall be recompensed. Conclusion--If we possess Paul’s convictions of life and his spirit, we may have this sublime courage. Let us look at death as he looked at death, as the flight of the spirit into the presence of its Lord. Is not fear of death a disgrace to the Christian? “If,” said Cicero, “I were now disengaged from my cumbrous body, and on my way to Elysium, and some superior being should meet me in my flight and make the offer of returning and remaining in my body, I should, without hesitation, reject the offer, so much should I prefer going to Elysium, to be with Socrates and Plato, and all the ancient worthies, and to spend my time in converse with them.” How much more should the Christian desire to be “absent from the body and present with the Lord!” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The old house and the new

The Christian view of what death is.

1. The apostle is not here referring to the state of the dead, but to the act of dying. His language is more accurately, “willing to go from home, from the body, and to go home to the Lord.” The moment of transition of course leads to a permanent state, but it is the moment of transition which is in view here. The Christian view of the act of death is that it is simply a change of abode.

2. The text suggests that to the Christian soul the departure from the one house is the departure into the other. The home has been the body; the home is now to be Jesus Christ. We know not how much separation may depend upon the immersing of the spirit in the fleshly tabernacle, but we know that, though here by faith souls can live in Christ, yet there shall come a form of union so much more close, all-pervading, as that the present union, precious as it is, shall be “absence from the Lord,”

3. Perhaps, in the bold metaphor of my text, there is an answer to the painful questions, “Do the dead know aught of what affects us here? and can they do aught but gaze on Him and love and rest?” If there is any analogy between the relation of the body on earth to the spirit that inhabits it, and that of Christ to him who dwells in Him, then it may be that, as the flesh, so the Christ transmits to the spirit impressions from the outside world, and affords a means of action upon that world. Christ may be the sensorium of the disembodied spirit, and the hand of the man who hath no other instrument by which to express himself. But be that as it may, the reality of a close communion and encircling by the felt presence of Christ, which will make the closest communion here seem to be obscure, is certainly declared in the words before us.

4. This transition is the work of a moment. It is not a long journey, of which the beginning is “to go from home,” and the end is “to go home.” But it is one and the same motion which, looked at from the one side, is departure, and looked at from the other is arrival. “There is but a step between me and death.” Yes, but there is but a step between me and life. The consciousness of two worlds blends; the spirit is clothed upon with the house which is from heaven, in the very act of stripping off the earthly house of this tabernacle.

5. This transition obviously leads into a state of conscious communion with Jesus Christ. The dreary figment of an unconscious interval for the disembodied spirit has no foundation, either in what we know of spirit, or in what is revealed to us in Scripture. It is absurd to say of an unconscious spirit, clear of a bodily environment, that it is anywhere; and there is no intelligible sense in which the condition of such a spirit can be called being “with the Lord.”

6. And that is all we know. Nothing else is certain but this, “with the Lord,” and the resulting certainty that therefore it is well. It is enough for our faith, comfort, and patient waiting. Not only that great hope of the “body of His glory,” but furthermore, “the earnest of the Spirit,” ought to make the unwelcome necessity less unwelcome. If the firstfruits be righteousness and peace and joy of the Holy Ghost, what shall the harvest be?

Therefore the Christian temper is that of quiet willingness and constant courage. There is nothing hysterical, morbid, overstrained, artificial. The apostle says: “I would rather not; but when I see what I do see beyond, I am ready. Since so it must be, I will go, not dragged away from life, nor clinging desperately to it as it slips from my hands, nor dreading anything that may happen beyond; but always courageous, and prepared to go whithersoever the path may take me, since I am sure that it ends in His bosom.” There are other references of our apostle’s substantially of the same tone as that of my text, but with very beautiful and encouraging differences. “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth,” etc. That is our model. “Always courageous,” afraid of nothing in life, in death, or beyond, and therefore willing to go from home from the body, and to go home to the Lord. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

To die or not to die

I once heard two good men holding a dialogue. One of them said he wished that his time was come to go to heaven; he did not see anything here worth living for. The other said he had many reasons why he would rather just then live than die. He had lived to see the Church in prosperity; he should like, therefore, to be a sharer in the Church’s joy. Besides, he had those he loved on earth, etc. Now consider--

When it is right and when wrong to desire to stay.

1. It is wrong--

(1) When the Christian has grown worldly. Dr. Johnson, being taken by one of his friends over his fine house and beautiful garden, observed, “Ah! sir, these are the things that make it hard to die.” The world was never meant to fill a believer’s soul.

(2) When he has a secret fear of dying. Christ came into the world to deliver those who are subject to this bondage. Thou art afraid of a stingless enemy, of a shadow, of heaven’s own portals, of thy Father’s black servant whom He sends to bring thee to Himself!

(3) When it is the result of his doubting his interest in Christ. We have no right to doubt. The apostle says, “We are always confident.” Now, some hate the very word “confidence,” but the apostle knew what was the proper spirit for a believer.

(4) When it is because he has a large family dependent upon him.

2. It is right--

(1) When he wants to do more for his Master, and a sphere is just opening before his eyes. As a valiant soldier, with the field of battle in view, he wants to win a victory. Carey, Ward, and Pierre, when laid down with sickness at Serampore, prayed that they might live a little longer, because every godly man in India was then worth a thousand. Paul himself said, “To abide in the flesh is more needful for you, and therefore I prefer to stay.”

When is it right, and when wrong for a believer to wish to go to heaven?

1. It is wrong--

(1) When he wants to get there to get away from his work. Suppose your servant came to you about ten o’clock in the morning, and said, “Master, it is a very hot day, I wish it was six o’clock at night.” You would say, “I want none of those laggard fellows that are always looking for six o’clock.” Or suppose you met him on Thursday, and he said, “I wish it was Saturday night.” “Ah,” you would say, “a man that always looks for Saturday night is never worth his master’s keeping.” And yet you and I have been guilty of that with regard to the things of Christ.

(2) When it is because there is some little discouragement in labouring for Christ. Jonah thought he would rather go to Tarshish than to Nineveh. We get cowardly and distrustful of God. ‘Tis then we fretfully say, “Let us go to heaven.” I fancy I hear Luther talking like that! Melancthon said, “Let me die,” but Luther said, “No, we want you, and you are not to be let off yet, you must stand in the thick of the battle till the fight changes and victory is ours.”

(3) When it is to get away from the Lord’s will on earth. Some have had so much pain, that they would like to be released from it. We cannot blame them. But yet does it not sometimes amount to this, “Father, if the cup cannot pass from me, let me pass away from it”? Such people never do die for years afterwards; because the Lord knows they are not fit to die. But when we are able to say, “Well, let it be as He wills; I would be glad to be rid of pain, but I would be content to bear it if it be God’s will”; then patience hath had her perfect work, and it often happens that the Lord says, “It is well, My child: thy will is My will.”

2. It is right--

(1) When it is because you are conscious of your daily sins and want to be rid of them. To be perfectly holy is an aspiration worthy of the best of men.

(2) When you wish to serve God better than you do. Then, inasmuch as it is a proper thing for the servant of God to desire, to be a better servant, it must be right and proper for him to long to serve his Master without imperfection.

(3) When we have been at the Lord’s table, or in some service where we have had great enjoyment, we have had the earnest and want to have the whole of the redemption money.

(4) When you have had near fellowship with Christ. It would indeed be a strange thing if you did not wish to be with Him where He is. If a woman loves her husband she longs for his society. You are a child; he is not a loving child that does not wish to see his father’s face. How some of us used to long for the holidays! We are also labourers. It were a strange thing if the labourer did not wish to achieve the end of his toils. And then, what soldier does not long for victory? He would not shun the fight, but he wishes it were triumphantly over. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

An apostle’s prospect of death


The prospect of this great transition, and the willingness expressed. In this willingness there are four main elements.

1. The acknowledgment of a higher claim. The apostle has a figure of two habitations for the soul, and both presenting their rival claims. The body has a claim, and reasonably. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Through the bodily senses and perceptions the soul has its education. It gazes upon the fair universe through the windows of the eye; through the ear flows in the music of creation; and it is by the organs of speech that spirit communicates with spirit. Now, is there not here a claim? To be “unclothed,” in the apostle’s speech, would seem to be cut off from fellowship with the universe. Who then could be well pleased to be absent from the body? Those only who are conscious of a higher claim. Christ claims us. A thousand objects seem to stretch imploring hands to us and cry, “Thou art ours”; but Christ says, “Thou art Mine.” With the claim that redemption gives us what else can compete? The body, with all the wonders of its construction, is, after all, but the servant of the soul; Christ is its Master. We, therefore, are ready to renounce the lower for the loftier claim, and willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

2. The acceptance of a necessary condition. Why should the two claims come into competition? The ideal man of God’s purpose and first creation may be well conceived as equally at home in both worlds. As it is, the two things are incompatible. Whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from Him, and to be at home with Jesus we must die. Now it cannot be said that this is m itself desirable. The best, the bravest of us must falter when we think of going to an untried eternity. But we know that it must be so. We therefore accept the decree with submission, nay, with love, for we “reckon the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”

3. The longing for a promised deliverance. The body is not merely a veil which we are willing should be drawn aside that we may behold the Saviour’s glory; it is often a source of the deepest trial and sadness. “The flesh lusteth against the spirit,” etc. What wonder, then, that he thought it good rather to be “absent from the body,” which he found so painful and insecure a home, and to be “at home with the Lord” at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore!

4. The embodiment of the highest aspiration. The Saviour left the world with “Lo, I am with you alway.” To apprehend His presence is the one great aim of the souls that love Him, and He is ever near. This also is the life of heaven. All else in that life is mystery.

The influence which this anticipation exercises.

1. We are “of good courage”; this begins the text, strikes its keynote. The true tone of the Christian character is a brave, undismayed way of looking at life with all its possibilities, and at the distant prospect or the near approach of death. There is no insensibility in this. The spirit is exquisitely alive to the solemnity both of life and of death, yet courageous, cheerful, knowing that already “death is swallowed up in victory.”

2. But with this “courage” the apostle combines faithfulness. “Wherefore we make it our aim” our ambition is, “whether present or absent, to be well pleasing unto Him.” The triumphant confidence becomes, whether here or there, the inspiration of faithful work. Acceptance of that work remains the crowning hope and joy of life. (S. G. Green, D. D.)

Desire to be present with Christ

It is the duty of every Christian to have an ardent yet submissive desire to be absent from the body, that he may be with Christ. This may be argued--

1. From the principles of our nature. Is it not contrary to every principle of our nature to be pleased with misery, to fail to desire happiness? And yet this must be the strange disposition of every believer who does not wish “to be absent from the body, that he may be present with the Lord.” Is this a condition in which a reasonable man should be satisfied to remain, when the joys of the New Jerusalem are proffered to him?

2. Consider the spirit and the principles of our religion.

(1) True religion gives to the soul a holy and a heavenly temper; but can such a temper be inwrought in that soul which contentedly settles down on earth?

(2) A holy love of God and the Redeemer lies at the very foundation of true religion. But what kind of love, I pray you, is that which is satisfied to be absent from the Lord rather than be absent from the body?

(3) A love to the children of God, and a delight in their society, are essential to the Christian character. But can the soul of that man be warmed with this love, who sees the pious, one by one, departing from earth, and yet desires not to go with them to join the holy host of the redeemed?

(4) Hope is one of the Christian graces; but hope includes desire. What a contradiction, then, to say that we hope for the presence of the Lord when we had rather that He would delay His coming!

(5) There is no religion in that heart which does not long after greater degrees of holiness, and continual increase in grace. But this is the character of him who prefers a sinful world to a holy heaven.

3. The representations of the Scriptures confirm this same truth. They uniformly represent those who “mind earthly things,” “who look at the things which are seen and temporal,” without any right to hope for eternal blessedness.

4. The examples of saints teach us to cultivate this disposition which we are recommending. Look at David: “My heart is glad, my glory rejoiceth, my flesh also shall rest in hope; for Thou wilt show me the path of life.” Listen to Paul: “I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” View the delight of Peter: “I must shortly put off this tabernacle,” etc. Hear the joyful response of John, when the Saviour tells him: “I come quickly.” “Even so, Amen; come, Lord Jesus.”

Objections to this doctrine, and excuses to palliate the neglect of this duty.

1. Do you say, “I am unwilling to die, because I am not assured of the love of God towards me”? This is not an objection against our doctrine, for the Christian desires death as connected with the presence of the Lord; we have not been endeavouring to persuade you to be willing to die, but to induce you to shake off that worldly spirit which makes you prefer earth before the enjoyment of Christ. But let me ask you that present this plea, why do you not tremble when you make it? What! you yourselves acknowledge that it is a matter of uncertainty whether, when you die you enter into the presence of an angry Judge or tender Redeemer, and yet can be tranquil! Where is your reason, your prudence?

2. Do you object again, “I am not willing to depart, because I wish yet to remain some time longer in the earth, to serve and glorify God”? But do you suppose that you cease to serve and glorify God, when you depart from earth? Think you that Abraham, David, Paul, etc., when they left this little speck of earth to enter the more extensive regions beyond the skies, lost either inclination or opportunity of serving God; think you that their service is fainter, or less important, or less constant than that which you pay?

3. Do you say, “I am not willing because I have friends, relatives, children, to whom I may be of advantage”? But is not God the supreme object of our pursuit? And is it right for us to put the dearest earthly connections in competition with Him? (Matthew 10:37.)

4. Do you object that “such a desire is unnatural”? But we are compounded beings; and an inclination is not, therefore, unnatural, because, while it accords with the tendencies of our superior part, it is opposed to those of our inferior part. Sensitive nature shrinks from death; but rational nature, especially when the soul is renewed, longs for that period when it shall be delivered from corruption. And by what law of nature is it that the superior part is bound thus to submit to the inferior part? Conclusion: If such be the Christian temper, how few real followers of the Saviour are to be found in our assemblies! Where are the men who are disentangled from earth, longing for the presence and enjoyment of the Lord? (H. Kollock, D. D.)

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 5:9

Wherefore we labour, that … we may be accepted of Him.

Labouring for acceptance

What we are to understand by the text.

1. The apostle did not mean that he “laboured”--

(1) To make any atonement for his sins. That had been high treason against the sovereign authority of Him who “by one offering hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified.”

(2) To add to the righteousness of Christ; for if he and all the saints of God had attempted to add to it, it had been to defile it.

(3) To be more a child of God than he was; for he had taught that “we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Labour is lost here.

2. Then in what sense did he “labour”? All things that are spiritual are acceptable to God. He loves a spiritual mind; it is the reflection of Himself. Observe, there is a regular climax, an ascending gradation of expression, in these three passages (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18.; Colossians 1:9-10). God loves high and holy service, the obedient spirit and the quiet heart, those who “follow on to know Him.” The apostle did desire these things, and “laboured” for their attainment. Oh! with what deep self-renunciation did he labour! (1 Corinthians 15:10.)

Who it is that gives this remarkable declaration. Was he a whir behind the very chiefest of the apostles? The Lord signally owned him. But did his apostleship, his ministry, satisfy him? This is what he says, “Wherefore we labour,” etc. The apostle had been “caught up into the third heaven”; he had heard things which “it was not lawful for him to utter.” Was he satisfied with revelations? He counted them all as nothing, compared with this object of his soul’s desire. Paul was a man of no small attainment either, yet he said, “We labour.”

The remarkable expression he connects with it. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” No one could ever say these words that had not both his feet standing firmly upon the atonement. Conclusion: There is not one but is “labouring” for something. It may be but the floating bubble in the water. Is it pleasure? friends? intellectual attainment? the grosser or the purer walks of life?--but still without God? Oh! solemn thought I If we saw a man with his house on fire, labouring to save his goods, and then we saw him burning with his goods, no one could look without shuddering at the sight. And yet we see thousands of sinners doing it all around us. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

The great ambition of a true Christian

We must not only do things which are acceptable to God for the matter, but this must be our fixed end and scope.

1. We cannot be sincere unless this is the case. One main difference between the sincere and the hypocrite is in the end and scope. The one seeketh the approbation of men, and the other the approbation of God (2 Corinthians 1:12).

2. This makes us serious and watchful, and to keep close to our duty--the fitness of means is judged of by the end. Let a man fix upon a right end, and he will soon understand his way, and will address himself to such means as are fitted to that end, and make straight towards it without any wanderings.

(1) Consider how many impertinencies are cut off if I be true to my end and great scope; e.g., when I remember that my business is to be accepted of God at the last, can I spend my time in ease and idleness, or carnal vanities and recreations? (Ecclesiastes 2:2.)

(2) It will cut off all inconsistencies with our great end (Genesis 39:9).

3. This gives us comfort under the difficulties of obedience, and the hardships of our pilgrimage. The end sweetens the means. Now, what greater encouragement can there be than to think how God will welcome us with a “Well done”? (Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23.)

This must be our work as well as our scope; and this design must be carried on with the greatest seriousness, as our great care and business. “We labour.” There is a double notion of great use in the spiritual life: making religion our business, and making religion our recreation. It must be our business in opposition to slightness; it must be our recreation in opposition to wearisomeness. The word in the text hath a special signification. We should with no less earnestness endeavour to please God than they that contend for honour in the world; we should make it our constant employment that God may like us for the present and take us home to Him at length into His blessed presence. What is all the world to this?

We must not only take care that we be accepted of God at last, when we go out of the body, but we must strive to be accepted of Him now.

1. How else can we long for the coming of Christ, if before we pass to our judgment we know not whether we shall be accepted, yea or no?

2. Else we cannot comfortably enjoy communion with God for the present. How can we come before Him if we know not whether He will accept an offering at our hands?

3. We cannot have a cheerful fruition of the creature and worldly enjoyments till God accepteth us (Ecclesiastes 9:7). Till we are in a reconciled estate, all our comforts are but as stolen waters, and bread eaten in secret, like Damocles’ banquet, while a sharp sword hung over his head by a slender thread.

4. That which maketh us more lively and active in our course of pleasing God is--

(1) The future judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). Whom should we please, and with whom should we seek to be accepted? A vain world, or frail man, or the God to whom we must strictly give an account?

(2) The hope of our presence with Him, and the beatifical vision and fruition of Him; for in the context he speaketh of presence and sight, and then he saith, “Wherefore we labour.” Conclusion:

1. Some reasons of the point.

(1) We were made and sent into the world for this end, that by a constant course of obedience we might approve ourselves to God, and finally be accepted of Him, and received into His glory (John 6:38).

(2) We were redeemed to this end (Revelation 5:9).

(3) Our entering into covenant with God implieth it.

(4) The relations which result from our covenant interest. There is the relation between us and Christ of husband and spouse (Hosea 2:19). Now the duty of the wife is to please the husband (1 Corinthians 7:34). The relation of children and father (2 Corinthians 6:18). Now the duty of children is to please the parents. Masters and servants (Ezekiel 16:8). They that please themselves carry themselves as if they were their own, not God’s.

2. Some study to please men.

(1) How can these comply with the great duty of Christians, which is to please the Lord? (Galatians 1:10.)

(2) There is no such necessity of the approbation of men as of God. Please God, and no matter who is your enemy (Proverbs 16:9).

3. Is this your great scope and end?

(1) Your end will be known by your work.

(2) If this be your end, it will be known by your solace (2 Corinthians 1:12).

(3) If God’s glory be your scope, any condition will be tolerable to you, so as you may enjoy His favour. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Labour and motive

The sphere of labour to which these words refer. There can be nothing more prejudicial to a truly religious life than the supposition that there is any sphere into which we are not to carry our religion, and where the eye of the Master takes no cognizance of the deeds that are done. “Holiness unto the Lord must be written upon the bells of the horses.” We must give an account of all the things done in the body. Every province of our life belongs to the kingdom of Christ.

1. The servant or workman has another Master besides the human master that he serves, and all his secular work is done to Christ (Colossians 3:22). The workman then, as such, is a servant of Christ.

2. The master, too, has a Master as well as the workman, to whom he shall have to render an account of the deeds done in the body (Colossians 4:1).

3. This sphere of labour also embraces trade and commerce.

4. Kings and subjects, as such, are also to serve Christ.

5. Our sphere of labour also embraces all the relationships of life which we sustain, and the works of benevolence to which we are called. The love of parents for their children and of children for their parents is service rendered to God.

6. I need scarcely add that this sphere embraces what we are accustomed specially to call religious life and work. We are to labour in prayer and self-culture; to keep our hearts with all diligence and our bodies under subjection: this requires self-denial and toil. We are to strive daily to grow in grace.

The motive by which we are to re influenced and animated in our work, “that we may be accepted of Him.” It was this that stimulated the apostle’s heart and strengthened his hands and fired his zeal.

1. This will make our work pleasant. How much pleasanter the ordinary duties of life would become if we could feel that in doing them we serve Christ!

2. We shall also enjoy the presence and favour of Christ. The man who serves Christ in everything will find Christ in everything.

3. Service done from this motive will at length receive its full reward.

1. Let us learn, then, from this subject that religion enters into every department of human life. There is nothing secular in the sense that it is not also sacred.

2. How diligent and conscientious this should make us in the discharge of every duty! He sees us, He examines us, He rewards us. (A. Clark.)

Pleasing Christ

The supreme aim of the Christian life. To be “accepted,” “well-pleasing”; not merely that we may be accepted, but that we may bring a smile into Christ’s face, and some delight in us into His heart. Set that two-fold aim before you, else you will fail to experience the full stimulus of this thought.

1. Now such an aim implies a very wonderful conception of Christ’s present relations to us. We may minister to His joy. Just as really as you mothers are glad when you hear from a far-off land that your boy is doing well, so Christ’s heart fills with gladness when He sees you and me walking in the paths in which He would have us go. That we may please Him “who pleased not Himself,” is surely the grandest motive on which the pursuit of holiness and the imitation of Christ can ever be made to rest. Oh! how much more blessed such a motive is than all the lower reasons for which men are sometimes exhorted to be good! What a difference it is when we say, “Do that thing because it is right,” or “Do that thing because you will be happier if you do,” or when we say, “Do it because He would like you to do it.” Transmute obligation into gratitude, and in front of duty and appeals to self put Christ, and all the difficulty and burden of obedience become easy, and a joy.

2. This one supreme aim can be carried on through all life in every varying form, great or small. A blessed unity is given to our whole being when the little and the big, the easy and the hard things, are all brought under the influence of the one motive and made co-operant to the one end. Drive that one steadfast aim through your lives like a bar of iron, and it will give the lives strength and consistency, not rigidity, because they may still be flexible. Nothing will be too small to be consecrated by that motive; nothing too great to own its power. You can please Him everywhere and always. The only thing that is inconsistent is to sin against Him. If we bear with us this as a conscious motive in every part of our day’s work, it will give us a quick discernment as to what is evil which nothing else will so surely give.

The concentrated effort which this aim requires. The word rendered “labour” is very seldom employed in Scripture. It means literally, to be fond of honour, or to be actuated by a love of honour; and hence it comes, by a very natural transition, to mean, to strive to gain something for the sake of the honour connected with it. We ought, as Christians--

1. To cultivate this ambition. Men have all got the love of approbation deep in them. God put it there, not that we might shape our lives so as to get others to pat us on the back, and say, “Well done!” but that, in addition to the other solemn motives for righteousness, we might have this highest ambition to impel us on the road. That will take some cultivation. It is a great deal easier to shape our courses so as to get one another’s praise. A prime condition of all Christ-pleasing life is a wholesome disregard of what anybody says but Himself. The old Lacedaemonians used to stir themselves to heroism by the thought: “What will they say of us in Sparta?” The governor of some English colony minds very little what the people think about him. He reports to Downing Street, and it is the opinion of the Home Government that influences him. You report to headquarters. Never mind what anybody else thinks of you. Be deaf to the tittle-tattle of your fellow-soldiers in the ranks. It is your Commander’s smile that will be your highest reward.

2. To strive with the utmost energy in the accomplishment of it. Paul’s notion of acceptable service was service which a man suppressed much to render, and overcame much to bring. Look at his metaphors--a warfare, a race, a struggle, a building up of some great temple structure, and the like--all suggesting the idea of patient, persistent, continuous toil, and most of them suggesting also the idea of struggle with antagonistic forces and difficulties, either within or without. So we must set our shoulders to the wheel, put our backs into our work. But then do not forget that deeper than all effort, and the very spring and life of it, there must be the opening of our hearts for the entrance of His life and spirit by the presence of which only are we well-pleasing to Christ. According to the old illustration, the refiner sat by the furnace until he could see in the molten metal his own face mirrored, and then he knew it was pure. So what pleases Christ in us is the reflection of Himself. And how can we get that except by receiving into our hearts the Spirit that was in Christ Jesus, that will dwell in us, and will produce in us in our measure the same image that it formed in Him? “Work out your own salvation,” because “it is God that worketh in you.”

The utter insignificance to which this aim reduces all externals.

1. What differences of condition are covered by that parenthetical phrase--“present or absent!” He talks about it as if it was a very small matter. If the difference between life and death is dwarfed, what else do you suppose will remain? Whether we be rich or poor, solitary or beset by friends, young or old, it matters not. The one aim lifts itself before us, and they in whose eyes shine the light of that great issue are careless of the road along which they pass.

2. Then remember that this same aim and this same result may be equally pursued and attained whether here or yonder. On earth, in death, through eternity, such a life will be homogeneous, and of a piece; and when all other aims are forgotten and out of sight, then still this will be the purpose, and yonder it will be the accomplished purpose of each, to please the Lord Jesus Christ. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all stand before the Judgment seat of Christ.

The judgment seat of Christ

The image here is the same as that in Romans 14:10, and the expression is peculiar to these two passages, being taken from the tribunal of the Roman magistrate as the most august representation of justice which the world then exhibited. The “Berea” was a lofty seat raised on an elevated platform, usually at the end of the Basilica, so that the figure of the judge must have been seen towering above the crowd which thronged the long nave of the building. So sacred and solemn did this seat and its platform appear in the eyes not only of the heathen, but of the Christian society of the Roman Empire, that when, two centuries later, the Basilica became the model of the Christian place of worship, the name of Berea (or tribunal) was transferred to the chair of the bishop, and this chair occupied in the apse the place of the judgment seat of the printer. The more usual figure for the Judgment is a throne (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 20:11; Daniel 7:9). (Dean Stanley.)

The judgment seat of Christ

The necessity.

1. It must be so, for God hath decreed it, and reason enforceth it. But why? Not to discover anything to God, but--

(1) That grace may be glorified in and by the righteous (1 Peter 1:13).

(2) That the wicked may be convinced of their sin and defect.

(3) That God’s justice may be cleared (Psalms 51:4; Acts 17:31).

2. It shall be so (John 5:28).

(1) Reason showeth that it may be, and argueth--

(a) From the nature of God. There is a God; that God is just, and it is agreeable to His justice that it should be well with them that do well, and ill with them that do evil. This does not appear so here; therefore there is a day when it shall be made conspicuous.

(b) From the providence of God. There are many judgments which are pledges of the general judgment, as the drowning of the old World, the burning of Sodom, the destruction of Jerusalem.

(c) From the feelings of conscience. After sin men are troubled, though there be none to call them to an account. Heathens are sensible of such a thing (Romans 1:32). Felix trembled at the mention of it (Acts 24:25).

(2) Faith showeth that it shall be--

(a) From that revelation which God hath made in His Word (Matthew 13:49-50; John 5:28-29; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36-37; Revelation 20:12; Jude 1:14).

(b) Christ’s interest is concerned in it--

(i) That the glory of His person may be seen. His first coming was obscure and without observation.

(ii.) That He may possess what He hath purchased (Hebrews 2:13).

(iii.) With respect to the wicked. It is part of His office to triumph over them in their final overthrow (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:10-11; Philippians 2:10).

(iv.) To require an account of things during His absence (Matthew 25:1-46.; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

II. The universality. All mankind which ever were, are, and shall be. No age, no sex, no nation, nor dignity, nor power, nor wealth, nor greatness, can excuse us.

The judge.

1. How Christ comes to he the world’s judge, and with what agreeableness to reason this honour is put upon Him. To a judge there belong these four things--wisdom, justice, power, and authority.

(1) Wisdom is in Christ twofold--Divine and human. As Christ is God, His wisdom and His understanding are infinite (Hebrews 4:13). His human wisdom is such as doth far exceed the knowledge of all men and angels. When Christ was upon earth He could know whatever He would (Luke 8:45; Matthew 9:3-4; John 2:23-25). Now, if Jesus was endowed with such an admirable wisdom even in the days of His flesh, what shall we think of Christ glorified?

(2) As there is a double knowledge in Christ, so there is also a double righteousness, the one that belongs to Him as God, the other as man, and both are exact and immutably perfect. His Divine nature is holiness itself (1 John 1:5). And His human nature was so sanctified that it was impossible that He could sin in the days of His flesh, much more now glorified in heaven, and there will be use of both in the last judgment.

(3) His power (Matthew 24:13).

(4) His authority.

The manner of judging. We must so appear as to be made manifest.

1. To appear; that we must all appear, every individual person. Four things evince that.

(1) The wisdom and justice of the Judge. Such is His wisdom and perspicuity that not one sinner or sin can escape Him (Hebrews 4:13). It concerneth the Judge of the world to do right, which He cannot do unless all sins and persons be manifest to Him, that He may render to every one according to his deeds.

(2) The power, impartiality, and faithfulness of His ministers (Matthew 24:31; Luke 16:22; Matthew 13:39-41; Matthew 13:49-50). There is a mixture unavoidable of good and bad in the Church, but then a perfect separation by the ministry of angels.

(3) The nature of the business requireth our appearance. Partly, because in a regular judgment no man can be judged in his absence, partly because we cannot appear by a proctor (Romans 14:12). Now we have an Advocate who appeareth for us (Hebrews 9:24); then the Judge will come to deal with every one in person.

(4) The ends of the judgment require our appearance.

(a) The conviction of the parties judged. God will go upon clear evidence, and they shall have a fair hearing (Matthew 22:12; Jude 1:15).

(b) Satisfaction of the world in the righteousness and justice of God’s proceeding. When every person is arraigned and every work is manifest, it cleareth God’s justice in rewarding His own and in punishing the ungodly.

2. To be made manifest. Our persons must not only appear, but our hearts and ways be tried (Luke 12:2). The final doom shall repeal all the judgments of this life, and repair them abundantly; many things that are varnished with a fair gloss and pretence here shall then be found abominable, and many things disguised with an ill appearance to the world shall be found to be of God, approved (1 Corinthians 4:5). We shall be manifested--

(1) By the knowledge of the Judge. We may hide our sins from men, but not from God.

(2) The good angels may be produced as witnesses; they have an inspection over this lower world, are conversant about us in all our ways, and are conscious to our conversations (Psalms 91:11; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Numbers 22:34; 1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:10).

(3) Devils may accuse men in that day.

(4) The Word of God will be our accuser (John 5:45; John 12:48).

(5) The ministers of the gospel (Matthew 24:14; cf. Mark 13:9; Mark 6:11; Matthew 10:14-15).

(6) Conscience itself shall witness, and God will discover ourselves to ourselves, that we shall see the judgment is just. “The books were opened” (Revelation 20:12), and one of these books is conscience, and though it be in the sinner’s keeping, yet it cannot be so defaced but our story will be legible enough, and forgotten sins will stare us in the face (Numbers 32:23).

(7) It will be made evident by the confession of offenders themselves. As their consciences will convince them, so their own tongues will accuse them, as Judas (Matthew 27:4; see also Luke 19:12; Romans 2:15; Psalms 64:8).

(8) Wicked men shall accuse one another. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The manifestation before the judgment seat of Christ

The language of the text conveys the idea of a manifestation rather than that of a mere presentment.

The tribunal of the last day will be the great final revealer of human character. There all deceptions will be at an end, and the inner life will make itself visible to the eyes of the assembled world. Now much of the popular notion of the day of judgment is drawn from the modes of procedure in our courts of law. We read in the Bible of a tribunal and a judge. Accordingly we find it believed that the destiny of the man, as in a human court of justice, remains uncertain and undecided until the sentence upon him is actually pronounced. But this theory will not bear a moment’s thoughtful consideration. The moment of our death is virtually the moment of the proclamation of our sentence. When the day of grace has closed and the soul and the body are divorced for a time, the spirit passes at once into a place of happiness or a place of woe. The happiness is not complete. The woe is not at the worst. Both are conditions of anticipation. But in both cases the condition is fixed and known. Then comes the day of resurrection. The body suddenly rises, but it rises “that body that shall be.” If the life which is to be manifested is a life with Christ and in Christ, the material frame will partake of the beauty and splendour of the appearance of the Judge who sits upon the throne. If, on the other hand, the man has not lived for Christ, the inward aversion from God will find expression in his outward appearance. It will be seen at once, beyond possibility of mistake, what the past has been. You drop a seed into the ground, and when you have done so it is an absolutely certain and settled thing what the future of the plant or the tree shall be. The seed-corn never produces a lily. The bulb of the lily never produces an oak. It is just so with ourselves. The great day of judgment determines nothing. It only makes visible and palpable what we really are.

In this world a process of self-manifestation is continually going on. The general opinion about a man as to the real tendency of his life is pretty sure to be the correct one. Let him go in and out amongst you, and the popular estimate of him may, generally speaking, be depended upon. You make no doubt, e.g., of the “worldliness” of certain person who is numbered amongst your acquaintance. But why? The man is respectable enough, a church-goer too, perhaps a communicant. You cannot put your finger upon anything and say it is absolutely faulty. No! But you have been acquainted with him for some time, and all this time he has been unconsciously manifesting himself. Little things have let you into the secret. Tones, glances, remarks, or the absence of remarks, have told you that there is a lack of spiritual life in the man. Now this process of self-manifestation, continually and inevitably going on now in all of us, comes to a culmination in the great day of judgment. What is in us comes out. If we have lived to self, it is known. If we have lived to Christ, it is known.

This view throws light on those passages which speak of men as being judged out of a book according to the things written therein. What is the record? I believe it to be the impression made upon the human memory by the various acts and thoughts and feelings of our lives upon earth. We are told with respect to some persons who had been recovered from drowning that, just before the state of unconsciousness came on, every event in their history, everything which they had thought, or said, or done, seemed to rise up again, and to be present to their minds in a moment of time. Wake up the memory as Eternity will wake it! And then the spectres of the past, of past neglect, of past indifference, past practical contempt of God, past rejection of the offers of Christ, come trooping in, and close round his soul, and refuse to depart. Oh, if he could only bathe his perturbed spirit in some Lethe, in some stream of forgetfulness, he might know comfort again! But they will not go. They cannot go. “The books have been opened”; the man has been “manifested.” He has seen himself. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)

Christ in judgment

The certainty of it. The Scriptures never say that it is something which may take place. Whatever else may fail or prosper, this will not touch the decree that has fixed one day beyond them all--the judgment. There is scarcely one human interest, institution, undertaking, of which we can predict the course for twenty-four hours; but far above all their chances, independent of them all, subject to no chance, no postponement, is the judgment. The whole framework of order in outward nature may be broken to pieces; the catastrophe will only make sure the fulfilment of the whole prophecy, and the inevitable end will be the judgment.

The universality of it. We must all appear. Here the individual sometimes escapes notice either by retiring from society, or by being lost in its crowd. There the one kind of concealment will be just as hopeless as the other. There will be room enough for all, and yet the personal soul of each, with its individual character, will stand out as sharply distinguished as if no other soul had ever been related to it, or shared its experience. There will be no excuse taken, and there will be no absence to be excused. Every name will be called--those that have been written in the Book of Life, and the names of those that have heard the gospel year after year, and yet would not turn to take the cross and follow Christ. Obscurity, insignificance, weakness, youth, poverty, ignorance--those natural extenuations that we so often plead for not taking up responsibilities here, will not keep any out there. Station and dignities and wealth will avail nothing to obtain an exemption or a substitution.

What is here kept hidden must come to light. We pray every Sunday to Him “to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hid.” In that day this Searcher of our hearts will deal with us. Deception and concealment will have had their crafty way long enough. Masks will fall off. The cunning sagacity that has covered up the lurking passion, or the cool calculation, will lose its self-possession. Whatever wicked thing we hard been at most pains to conceal will be written out as with a pen of fire on our foreheads.

The Judge is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Repeatedly Christ says that His work, while on earth, in His first coming, is not judgment. Here “I judge no man.” Here He ministers life; will we receive it? There, on His throne, all judgment is committed unto Him, “because He is the Son of Man.” He knows all man’s infirmity, to have compassion; all man’s sympathy with evil, to punish. It is not then the time of salvation. The time of salvation is now. (Bp. Huntington.)

On the general judgment

The certainty of judgment. Other events may be more or less doubtful. How often are the calamities which we dread, as well as the blessings which we hope for, and regard as almost within our grasp, alike arrested in their course towards us! Every thing, every event in human life is constantly subject to variation, and is deeply Stamped with the characters of uncertainty and change. The colour and features and substance of our lot may be modified, or be totally changed by a thousand precarious contingencies which we cannot provide against. How near were the Jews at one time to destruction! Their doom, both as to its time and its manner, was determined. The orders to kill were already despatched to all the provinces in which they dwelt. Their enemies were gathering themselves together to cut off the whole nation in one day. Haman has his gallows erected for Mordecai. Deliverance seems far off, and ruin unavoidable. The order to destroy the Jews is reversed. How many instances of a similar nature might easily be produced. None of us, in truth, can know the evil or the good that lies before him in life. It is altogether impossible for us to pretend to predict with certainty the issue of affairs, however penetrating our sagacity. But the day of judgment cannot be called a probable occurrence; it is fixed with a certainty over which human events can exercise no control whatever. The word of the Lord cannot be broken; the purposes of His heart never can be changed.

The universality of its extent, comprehending the whole human race.

We come now to consider the character of our judge. “The Father,” we are told, “judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” God thus has not only made known to us, in His Word, that Christ shall judge the world, but has also given us an unquestionable proof that He shall do so by His resurrection from the dead. The resurrection of Christ proves this, not only because it establishes the truth of the doctrine which He taught, and the declarations which He uttered, but also because His resurrection itself was the first step of His actual and visible advancement to that mediatorial government of which the solemnities of the general judgment shall form the triumphal close. It is, indeed, true that God is called the Judge of all the earth; and it is said that God shall judge the world in righteousness. But this is in perfect consistency with the usual language of Scripture, in which God is often said to do that Himself which He executes by another. There appears to be a peculiar fitness in Christ’s discharging the office of Judge of the human race. It was by Christ Jesus that the world was originally made; it was by Him that it was saved; it is by Him that its affairs are at present administered. Is there not a fitness that the same person who had conducted the scheme of mediation should also bring it to a close by openly acquitting His faithful followers? Is there not a fitness in the Judge being of the same nature with those whose conduct He shall try, and whose destiny He shall fix? Is not the triumph over Satan thus rendered more complete, or ai least more conspicuous? (A. Bullock, M. A.)

The certainty of a future judgment

There shall be such an appearance after this life as is here spoken of.

1. It is very agreeable to the nature of God. What can be more agreeable to the nature of the most pure and powerful agent than to draw unto itself whatsoever is like itself, as likewise to remove from itself whatsoever is unlike itself?

2. It is very agreeable to the nature of the soul of man, because otherwise the chief agent, both in good and evil, should have little or no reward for the one, and little or no punishment for the other.

3. It is necessary for the manifestation of the Divine justice: for though whatsoever God doth is just, and that because God does it, yet does it not always appear to be so. And hence it is that this general doom is called in Scripture “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

4. The strange disproportion betwixt actions and events, merits and rewards, men’s parts and their fortune here in this life, cloth seem to require that there should be a day of an after-reckoning to rectify this (Ecclesiastes 9:2; Ecclesiastes 8:14; Ecclesiastes 7:15). This argument, from the seeming unequal distribution of things here below, was urged by the elder Pliny and some others to prove the non-existence of a God. And truly if my conclusions concerning the certainty of a judgment to come after this life were not true, this argument of theirs would shrewdly shake the foundation of all our creed, viz., the being of a God. But supposing such a judgment, we do at once vindicate the power, wisdom, justice, and consequently the very being of God from all contradiction.

5. There is an inborn and inbred notion and expectation which all men have by nature, that there will be a judgment. Whatsoever all men agree in is the voice of nature itself, and consequently must be true: for the dictates of nature are stronger than the probers of reason.

What manner of thing this judgment or last doom will be.

1. The Judge--Christ.

(1) He must be our judge as He is God--

(a) Because none but God has jurisdiction over all the parties that are to be tried at that judgment.

(b) Because none but omniscience can discern the main and principal things that shall be there called in question.

(c) Because none but God can give life and execution to the sentence pronounced.

(2) But though God only can be our judge, yet nevertheless He must be man likewise; and that--

(a) In regard of the judgment itself, to manifest the impartiality of it.

(b) In regard to the parties triable at that day. For among the just there is none so good but he might fairly be afraid to appear at that judgment if the Judge were not our Saviour. And as for the unjust, their condemnation pronounced by that Judge, who laid down His life to save sinners, and consequently cannot possibly be imagined to condemn any but such as would not be saved by Him.

(c) In regard of humanity itself--for the dignifying of human nature: that as the nature of man was debased to the lowest degree of meanness in the person of our Saviour, so the same nature, in the same person, might be exalted to so high a degree of power, majesty, and honour, that not only men that had despised Him, and devils that had tempted Him, but even the blessed angels themselves, whose comfort He once stood in need of, should fall down and tremble at His presence.

2. The parties to be judged; and those are all persons of all sorts.

3. The matters that shall be questioned; not our actions only, but our words, thoughts, inclinations, and dispositions.

4. The manner of proceeding. There will be no occasion for examination of witnesses, or reading depositions; for every man shall be indicted and cast or acquitted, by the testimony of his own conscience.

5. The sentence (Matthew 25:34-41).

Conclusion: Let it be part of our daily business seriously to meditate upon--

1. The vanity and shortness of our lives.

2. The certainty and uncertainty of our deaths.

3. The great exactness and severity of the judgment to come after death.

4. The eternity of every man’s condition in the other world, whether it be good or evil. (R. South, D. D.)

Human judgment the earnest of Divine

What is it which throws such an atmosphere of awe around human judgment? It is not the outward pageantry nor any accident in the administration of justice, but that justice is an attribute of God; that law is the representative of His majestic justice; that all justice here is an earnest of His Divine justice hereafter. The outward course of justice strikes a chord in an inward conscience. Conscience, of which even the Jews spoke under the title, “the Accuser,” tells us that we too are amenable to justice--if not to human, to Divine.

This thought it awakens alike, whether human justice comes quickly or slowly upon the offender. The rapidity with which human justice comes down, seems like the lightning discharge of God’s displeasure. Yet since this is rare, the slowness of its execution calls forth a yet more awful thought, its dread certainty. “Seldom,” said even heathen observation, “has punishment, with limping tread, parted with the fore-hastening criminal.” A class of heathenised writers, who but seldom mention God, are even fond of replacing Him with the old heathen goddess, Nemesis. So deeply inwrought in us is the thought of God’s persevering justice, which, though it seem to tarry, will surely come. Crime punished here impresses on us God’s just judgment on sin; crime which escapes here is an earnest of punishment hereafter.

God’s justice, by those universal laws which express the divinely-gifted reason of mankind, speaks further to the conscience by its minuteness. Men often encourage themselves in sin by the thought, “It is only this; it is only that!” Human law does not leave petty offences unpunished. It imitates herein God, who knows that the truest mercy to the sinner is to arrest him by light punishment (if he will be arrested) in the beginning of his sin. The law of Moses visited very heavily, sins both against the seventh and ninth commandments, which human law is now compelled to leave for the most part to the judgment seat of Christ. Yet mankind has endorsed the thought, that to rob of a good name is a worse sin than to rob of worldly goods; but human law leaves it unchecked, unrebuked. But it will not remain always unpunished, because unpunished now.

Conscience, which “doth make cowards of us all,” is an involuntary, untaught inspired prophet of judgment to come. By “conscience,” I mean that eternal law written in our hearts by the finger of God, which unlettered islanders of the Pacific know as “the magistrate within”; that almost unextinguishable voice, which burned in David like a firebrand, drove Cain, self-condemned, a wanderer on the earth, made itself heard amid the murderer’s fitfulness of Saul, worked Ahab’s passing humility, and Judas’ unloving but self-accusing remorse. Why does a word bleach a man’s cheek, stop his utterance, or, if he have schooled himself to drive back all outward emotion, strike such a pang into his soul? It has awakened the voice of the silenced judge within. Whence, then, this terror? Whence but that conscience is already, in this world, a judgment seat of God? “Conscience may be o’erclouded, because it is not God; extinguished it cannot be, because it is from God.” Judgment to come needs to be nothing new in kind; it needs to be but the intensified concentration of all those acts of judgment which God has passed upon us through ourselves, which He has made us pass upon ourselves. The final judgment is but the summary of all those particular judgments.

Here Paul speaks of the day of judgement as a “manifestation.” Of what? Plainly of what existed before, but was hidden. Here, some glimpse of us only shines through; there, what all and each of us have been is to be brought to open light. Light from Him who is Light shall lighten up all the secret corners of the soul of man, all the hidden springs and motives of his outward acts.

Judgment to come, besides being a divine truth, declared from Job to revelation, is an absolute necessity. Every man is imperfect; every one is tending to a completion, of good or of evil, which here he does not reach. But more, we have each our individual responsibilities. Creation implies an end and object of that creation. We came forth from God; we return to God. God has left us to be masters over ourselves, to work out--with His grace, if we would have it, or, if not, against it--our own destiny, or alas! our own doom. We return, to give account of ourselves, to have our lives summed up, to be judged. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The final assize

The statement respecting the future judgment with which the passage before us commences. “We must all appear before the judgment seat.”

To the account which the passage before us gives of the Person who is to sustain the office of Judge. “We must all appear before the judgment seat Of Christ.”

1. The sustaining of the office of future Judge will not on the part of Christ be an assumption, but a right--a right resting on Divine appointment.

2. But not merely on the ground of right--on the score of qualification Christ will sustain the office of future Judge.

To the manner in which the passage before us describes His mode of procedure.

1. That He will elicit every one’s real character.

2. That, by His classification of them, He will impartially discriminate between the characters of all. In the world’s society, the good and the bad are so blended together, and in many instances bear so close a resemblance to each other, that the most sagacious human observer is often at a loss to say positively who they are who may be thus designated. But further, and in fine: whilst from the account given of His mode of procedure in the passage before us, it is plain that the future Judge will not only elicit every one’s real character, but impartially discriminate between the characters of all, it is also undeniably plain that--

3. He will equitably apportion to all their respective allotment. He will apportion the allotment of those who have never enjoyed the light of revelation. (A. Jack.)

The great assize

1. There is no need to prove from Scripture that there will be a general judgment, for it abounds with proof-passages.

2. We infer that it must needs be, from the very fact that God is just as the Ruler over men. In all human governments there must be an assize held. Judge for yourselves: is this present state the conclusion of all things? If so, what evidence would you adduce of the Divine justice, in the teeth of the fact that the best of men are often the most afflicted, while the worst of men prosper? If there be no hereafter, then Dives has the best of it.

3. There is in the conscience of most men, if not of all, an assent to this fact. As an old Puritan says, “God holds a petty session in every man’s conscience, which is the earnest of the assize which He will hold by and by; for almost all men judge themselves, and their conscience knows this to be wrong and that to be right.”

Who are they that will have to appear before the throne of judgment?

1. “All.” The godly will not be exempted, for the apostle here is speaking to Christians. They covet the judgment, and will be able to stand there to receive a public acquittal from the mouth of the great Judge. Who, among us, wishes to be smuggled into heaven? Who is he that shall lay anything to our charge since Christ hath died and hath risen again? Their trial will show that there has been no partiality in their case. What a day it will be for them! For some of them were lying under wrongful accusations, All will be cleared up then. There will be a resurrection of reputations as well as of bodies.

2. What a prodigious gathering! What will be the thoughts of Father Adam as he looks upon his offspring? But the most important thought to me is that I shall be there; to you, young men, that you will be there; to you, ye aged, that you shall be there. Are you rich? Your dainty dress shall be put off. Are you poor? Your rags shall not exempt you from attendance at that court.

2. Note the word “appear.” No disguise will be possible. Ye cannot come there dressed in masquerade of profession; off will come your garments. Oh, what a day that will be when every man shall see himself and his fellow, and the eyes of angels, of devils, and of God upon the throne, shall see us through and through!

Who will be the judge? That Christ should be is most fitting. British law ordains that a man shall be tried by his peers, which is just. So at the Judgment. Men shall be judged by a man. He can hold the scales of justice evenly, for He has stood in man’s place. I expect no favouritism. Christ is our Friend and will be for ever; but, as a Judge, He will be impartial to all. You will have a fair trial. The Judge will not take sides against you. Men have sometimes been shielded from the punishment they deserved here because they were of a certain profession or occupied a certain position. It shall not be so there. There shall be no concealment of anything in thy favour, and no keeping back of anything against thee.

What will be the rule of judgment? Not our profession, our boastings, but our actions. This includes every omission as well as every commission (Matthew 25:1-46.). All our words, too, will be brought up, and all our thoughts, for these lie at the bottom of our actions and give the true colour to them good or bad. Our motives, our heart sins, shall be published unreservedly. “Well,” saith one, “who then can be saved?” Ah! indeed, who? Those who have believed in Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The object of this judgment. “That every man may receive the things done in his body.”

1. The Lord will grant unto His people an abundant reward for all that they have done. Not that they deserve any reward, but that God first gave them grace to do good works, then took their good works as evidence of a renewed heart, and then gave them a reward for what they had done.

2. But to the ungodly how terrible! They are to receive the things that they have done; that is to say, the punishment due--not every man alike, but the greater sinner the greater doom--Sodom and Gomorrah their place, Tyre and Sidon their places, and then to Capernaum and Bethsaida their place of more intolerable torment, because they had the gospel and rejected it. And the punishment will not only be meted out in proportion to the transgression, but it will be a development of the evil actions done in the evil consequences to be endured, as every man shall eat the fruit of his own ways. Oh, how dreadful it will be for the malicious man to find his malice come home to him, as birds come home to roost; for the lustful man to feel lust burning in every vein, which he can never gratify, etc., etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Judged by our acts

All things are engaged in writing their history. The planet, the pebble goes attended by its shadow. The rolling rock leaves its scratches on the mountain. The river its channel in the soil, the animal its bones in the stratum, the fern and leaf their modest epitaph in the coal. The falling drop makes its sculpture in the sand or stone. Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints, in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march. Every act of man leaves its mark, and hereafter our life will be judged by these marks. (S. S. Chronicle.)

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 5:11

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.

Persuasives to the being religious

The argument which the apostle makes choice of to persuade men, which is, “The terror of the Lord.” In the gospel we find a mixture of the highest clemency and the greatest severity. The intermixing of these in the doctrine of the gospel was necessary in order to the benefit of mankind. And we shall easily see what great reason there is that this judgment shall be called “the terror of the Lord,” if we consider--

1. The terror of the preparation for it.

2. The terror of the appearance in it.

3. The terror of the proceedings upon it.

4. The terror of the sentence which shall then be passed.

The assurance he expresseth of the truth of it; “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We have two ways of proving articles of faith, such as this concerning Christ’s coming to judgment is--

1. By showing that there is nothing unreasonable in the belief of them.

2. That there is sufficient evidence of the truth and certainty of them.

3. The efficacy of this argument for the persuading men to a reformation of heart and life. There is great variety of arguments in the Christian religion to persuade men to holiness, but none more moving to the generality of mankind than this.

Especially considering these two things--

1. That if this argument doth not persuade men, there is no reason to expect any other should.

2. That the condition of such persons is desperate, who cannot by any arguments be persuaded to leave off their sins. (Bp. Stillingfleet.)

The terror of the Lord persuasive

The design and practical tendency of the threatenings of God is to persuade men to holy obedience.

1. This will appear if we consider them as a measure of God’s moral government. They are not empty threats, but are designed to secure the salutary effects of that government upon its subjects. This is apparent on the very face of them. They are annexed to the laws of that government, and their execution is connected only with the violation of its laws. It is essential to the very nature of a moral government that its authority be supported by threatened punishment. Without it, there is nothing to show that its claims are to be enforced; nothing to show that it may not be violated with impunity.

2. This design has been expressly declared.

(1) On Sinai. Here even Moses exceedingly feared and quaked. And why? “That His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” Similar impression was designed at the reading of the law at Ebal and Gerizim.

(2) In the gospel commission, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

(3) In the facts of Christian history. Look at the trembling jailor falling down before Paul and Silas; at the trembling and astonished Saul of Tarsus; at the three thousand pricked in the heart. And now say, whether these men despised the terror of the Lord, or felt it? The same gospel has produced the same effects in every age.

The direct tendency of the Divine threatenings is to persuade men to obey the gospel. Not that the Divine threatenings have such a tendency viewed as denunciations of mere suffering. To tell a man that he is exposed to the fires of hell may disquiet him; but so far from tending to excite holy affection in the cold heart of man, it tends only to harden in despair, or awaken more violent enmity against God. But if mere terror has no tendency to soften the heart into love, how is it that the threatenings of God have a tendency to subdue the heart into cheerful submission to His will? I answer--

1. By the solemn alternative which they reveal to man. Now, although the mere disclosure of this alternative, of obedience or death eternal, will never of itself convert the sinner, yet no sinner will ever be converted without it. If to array the terrors of the Almighty against the sinner will not weaken the ardour of earthly attachments, and check the ardour of earthly pursuits, nothing can. These, at any rate, are enough to do it.

2. By the manner in which they enforce the necessity of compliance with the terms of salvation. It is only when the sinner sees that the threatenings of God cannot be defied with safety, and that there is no other way of escape than that to which his own heart is desperately opposed, that he begins to stand in awe of his almighty Sovereign. And it is in the threatenings of the infinite God that he sees his helpless necessity of submitting to His terms.

3. By the evil of sin, which they show to the sinner. The evil of sin must be learned from God’s estimate of it. Man, the sinner himself, is not a safe judge on this question. Now, what should we think of God’s estimate of sin, had He annexed no penalty to transgression?

4. By this revelation of the character of God in its glory and excellence. This they do as they reveal the full measure of His abhorrence of sin. This is God’s holiness, and His holiness is pre-eminently His glory. As God loves the happiness of His creatures, He loves their holiness as the only means of their perfect happiness. As He loves their holiness He abhors sin. God’s abhorrence of sin, then, is the exact measure of His benevolence. If we would see God in His abhorrence of sin, we must see Him through the medium of His threatenings.

5. By the manner in which they unfold the claims of God for the sinner’s obedience in all their pressure of obligation. By these it is that the sinner is made to see, if he sees at all, who and what that God is with whom he has to do.

6. By the fact that they are not absolute, but conditional. Absolute threatenings would have no salutary influence whatever. But “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”


1. What has been the influence of the Divine threatenings upon us? Saints, as well as sinners, ought to derive practical benefit from them.

2. We see why God threatens sin with eternal punishment.

3. The object of preaching terror is not to agitate with alarm, but to persuade.

4. We see the self-deception, and the hardihood in sin of those who scoff at the Divine threatenings. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

Persuasion and manifestation of the truth

Persuasion based upon terror. But is there not a contradiction between terror and persuasion? When we speak of persuasion, we ordinarily indicate those milder methods of overcoming opposition or producing consent, which often succeed when anything severe would only excite additional resistance. And terror, in itself, is scarcely an instrument of persuasion. One man may be terrified into a thing, and another may be persuaded into that thing; but though we might try terror when we had failed in persuasion, or persuasion when we had failed in terror, we should hardly in any instance say that we used terror in order to persuade, any more than that we used persuasion in order to terrify. But it might easily come to pass that a person who had been terrified would on that account be better disposed to listen to persuasion. And this is what Paul means. He had no delight in terrifying men; but he felt that if he could once bring men to the feeling a dread of the punishment of sin, they would be better disposed to hearken to the gentle voice of the gospel. Thus we seek to “persuade men.” We feel that in order to make men shun destruction we must make them aware of its fearfulness. With no view of keeping back from them the Saviour, but simply with the view of persuading them to receive Him, do we seek to show the terror of the Lord. And if I could now awaken in one of you an apprehension of God’s wrath, with what eagerness, with what hope, should I then set before him the Cross I Then, if ever, should I find him disposed to cry from the heart, “Lord, save me, or I perish.” And in this his trembling willingness to “lay hold on the hope set before him in the gospel,” would there not be the most touching demonstration that the faith which saves may be closely allied with the fear which disturbs.

The manifestation of truth. Paul expresses a thorough confidence as to the being “made manifest unto God,” but he speaks with a measure of doubt as to the being made manifest in the consciences of the Corinthians. Now remember what the truths were to which the apostle thus thought that an echo would be found in the consciences of his hearers. They were evidently the truths of a judgment to come and of a propitiation for sin.

1. We are now before you simply to announce a judgment to come. And when I announce to you “the terror of the Lord,” there is a voice heard in the solitude of your own souls announcing that I speak only truth. And it is a great source of encouragement to the preacher to be able thus to feel that he has conscience on his side. But if this be encouraging to the minister, it helps to make the hearer inexcusable if he do not listen to the communications with which he is plied.

2. The apostle, however, implies that the manifestation continued when he went on to set forth the gospel of redemption. And it is a great thing, that stupendous and multiplied as are the external evidences of the gospel, they are not indispensable to the proving its Divine origin to the man who examines it in humility and sincerity. Others may admire the impenetrable shield which the ingenuity of learned men has thrown over Christianity; we, for our part, glory more in the fact, that Scripture so commends itself to the conscience, and experience, that the gospel can go the round of the world and carry with it its own mighty credentials. There is nothing wanted but that you view yourselves as sinners, and you will feel that Christ is the Saviour whom you need. You will have the witness in yourselves. On this account may we justly speak of the attestation in the conscience, as the preacher, after wielding “the terror of the Lord,” sets himself to persuade with the announcements of the gospel. Is there one amongst you who trembles at the thought of going before God as a sinner with the burden of all his iniquities resting upon him? Let that man listen. We seek now to persuade him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Does not this vast scheme of mercy commend itself to you? I think it must; I think that its very suitableness must be an evidence to you of its truth. I appeal to no miracles; but I feel that in proposing a mode of deliverance through the righteousness of Christ to those who are weighed down by a sense of sin and a terror of judgment, I am proposing that which commends itself to them as exactly meeting their case. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The terror of the Lord

We begin in order with the first, viz., the ministerial performance, wherein again two branches more. First, the work itself, and that is to persuade men. Secondly, the ground and principle of this working, or the motive that puts them upon it: “Knowing the terror of the Lord.” Before we come to speak of these parts by themselves, it is requisite that we should first of all look upon them in their reference to one another. First, here is an account of their knowledge, what they did with that; we persuade men, we know the terror of the Lord. And this knowledge we do not keep to ourselves, but we communicate it to others, that they may know it as well as ourselves. Secondly, as here is an account of their knowledge what they did with that; so here is likewise an account of their practice, what put them upon that. What needs all this instruction, and exhortation, and admonition? Cannot ye as well let men be quiet? No, says he, we cannot do so. There is very good reason for it; and that is, “Knowing the terror of the Lord.” We cannot know that, and not practise this. First, “knowing it” in a way of simple discovery, in opposition to ignorance, it is a great advantage to any man that undertakes to persuade any other to it, for himself to have an understanding of that which he speaks about. We are sensible of the thing itself, the day of judgment, and of the great danger which lies upon those which are neglectful of it. And therefore we cannot but speak of such things as these are. Secondly, knowing in a way of certainty, and in opposition to conjecture; “knowing,” that is, knowing perfectly or exactly. There are many things which we have sometimes some kind of hint of, but we are not altogether sure of them, but only by guess. For men to vent their mere fancies, and conceits, and speculations for truths, may carry a great deal of weakness and imprudence in it, to say no worse of it; yea, but St. Paul here went upon a better ground and argument. Third, knowing, in a way of consideration, in opposition to forgetfulness or non-attendancy. There are many things which we know habitually, which yet we do not know actually. And thus have we seen the full emphasis of this word knowing, as it lies here before us in the text; as a word of intelligence, as a word of assurance, as a word of remembrance. For a further account yet still of the practice of the Apostle is here expressed in these words, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

1. The principle and foundation, whereupon this practice of the apostles in their persuading of men was laid; and that was knowledge. We then persuade most effectually when we persuade knowingly. Thus in the beginning of this chapter, “we know,” etc., that we have a building of God, a house, etc.

2. Here was the matter which this his persuasion was conversant about, and that was of judgment to come, a fundamental point of Christian religion.

3. Here was the order and method of this practice; beginning first with the terror of the Lord, and laying a ground-work there; that is the right method of the ministry, to begin with the preaching of the law, and showing them their lost condition.

And this again we may conceive them to have done upon a three-fold consideration.

1. Faithfulness to God, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” that we may discharge the duty to Him who has entrusted us with this message.

2. Affection to God’s people. Knowing this terror we persuade men, that so thereby we may thus better secure them.

3. Respect to ourselves; that is another thing in it: and to ourselves, not in a corrupt sense, but in a good and warrantable sense: to ourselves, i.e., to our own souls, as we desire to tender them. This account of the apostle’s practice may be further amplified from some other considerations which do likewise lie in the text.

As first, from the principle and foundation whereupon it was laid, and that was knowledge. And indeed that is the best persuasion of all which does arise and proceed from hence. This is that which becomes a servant of Christ, as the best principle of all to work upon, namely, his own knowledge and experience of those things which he speaks of.

2. As here is an account of his practice from the principle of it, so likewise from the matter and the thing itself; which is by beginning with terror, and laying judgment before them.

3. We may likewise here take notice of the order and method which is observed by him in all this; which is first of all informing himself, and then instructing of others. First, knowing, and after that persuading. There are some which invert this order. Begin first with persuading, and then come to knowing afterwards. Which will be teachers before they are learners. First, the work itself, and that is, we persuade men. Secondly, the principle of this working, or the motive that put them upon it, “Knowing the terror of the Lord.”

We begin with the last.

1. I say here is the object propounded, “the terror of the Lord.” This was that which the apostle knew, and desired also to make known unto them for their edification. It is called the terror of the Lord, emphatically and exclusively, as hereby shutting out any other terror which does not so well consist with this, for we must know that there are sometimes false terrors as well as true. The devil, as he has his false comforts and raptures, so he has likewise his false fears.

What kind of terrors are those?

1. The terror of the Word, in the threatenings and comminations of it, wherein is revealed from heaven the wrath of God against all unrighteousness, as the apostle speaks in Romans 1:18.

2. The terror of Divine impression upon the heart and conscience. This is sometimes called in Scripture the terror of the Almighty, which Job, and David, Haman, and such as these did sometimes partake of, when God Himself appears as an enemy.

3. The terror of judgment, and more especially of the day of judgment. The second is the apprehension of this object, in reference to the mind and understanding; and that is knowing. We see here upon what terms we proceed in religion; not upon mere fancies only, but upon a certainty and good assurance. But how did Paul know this terror of the Lord? He knew it divers ways--First, by immediate revelation and inspiration from God Himself: “I have received from the Lord that which I have delivered unto you.” Secondly, he knew it also by discourse and collection of one thing from another. There is very good reason for it. Thirdly, he knew it also by experience, and by some sense of it upon himself in his own heart. There is no man that knows what sin is but he consequently knows what judgment is. The second is the work itself. We persuade men, where again four things more. First, for the act, or what it is which is done, it is persuading. First, it is a word of endeavour; we persuade, that is, we labour to do so. Secondly, it is a word of mollification. We persuade men; we do not compel them. The work of the ministry it is not a physical work, but a moral, and so is to be looked upon by us. Thirdly, this expression, we persuade, it is moreover a word of efficacy. Last of all, it is a word of condescension. We persuade men; that is, we satisfy them; do what we can to content them, and to remove all occasion of cavil or exception against us. The second is the object, or the persons to whom this persuading does reach--“men.” Men persuade men. This word “men” in the text is at once both a word of latitude and likewise a word of restriction. So that we persuade men--that is, we persuade none but men such as these, as having interest in it. But further, so it is a word of latitude and enlargement, extending itself to all men whosoever they be, and that also in any rank or condition which we may possibly conceive them in. First of all, by taking men in opposition to God Himself, who needs not to be persuaded. And, secondly, in opposition to angels.

The third thing here pertinently considerable, is what we persuade unto.

1. If they be as yet unconverted, we persuade them to believe.

2. As for those which are believers, we persuade men. One persuasion reaches to such as these amongst other men, that they would walk answerable to their profession. The fourth is, upon what ground, and that is hinted unto us from the coherence, in the words that went before, “Knowing the terror of the Lord.” This is not the only argument; but it is that only which is here expressed. The second is in reference to their acceptance in these words, “But we are made manifest to God; and I trust: also are made manifest in your consciences.” This is added to prevent an objection. It is true, indeed, Paul, you have told us a fair tale of yourself and of the rest of your brethren; with what great matters you attempt to do: but who thinks the better of you for all this? Who gives you any thanks for your labour? or who gives any great credit to that which you deliver?

To this the apostle answers very discreetly--“But we are made manifest to God; and I trust also are made,” etc. I begin with the first, viz., his acceptance with God--“We are made manifest unto God.”

1. For our calling and gifts; we are manifest to God, so we are manifest to Him, as we are appointed by Him. The ministry, it is not a human invention. But secondly, there is another manifestation--a manifestation of performances, as to the exercise and improvement of those gifts which God has bestowed. The Lord knows our faithfulness and integrity in this business. And the apostle seems to make mention of this for a threefold purpose. First, as his duty in regard of his endeavour; we are manifest to God, and it is that which lies upon us so to be; we could not satisfy ourselves if we did not do so. Secondly, he makes mention of it as his happiness or privilege. Thirdly, here is also his comfort and satisfaction of mind in the reflection. First, I say, in case of concealment and retiredness, which carries an opposition with it to the manifestation of knowledge and discovery; it is a comfort to be made manifest to God, and to be known to Him where we are manifest nowhere else. Again, secondly, it is comfortable likewise, as in men’s ignorance, so likewise in their neglect, by taking the word manifestation by way of allowance. We are manifest to God, says the apostle--that is, we are approved of Him. This was that which comforted him, even when it was not so with him in regard of men. And so you have the first part of this acceptance, as it refers to God--“But we are made manifest to God.” The second is as it refers to the Corinthians: “And I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” This likewise, as well as the other, is added to prevent an objection; for here some might have been ready to have replied, You talk how you are manifested to God. Well, but what are you to the eyes of men? and what satisfaction do you give to them? To this now he answers, “And I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” First, for the thing itself, “We are made manifest in your consciences.” First, in a way of efficacy, from that success which our ministry hath found upon them. This is one way of manifestation. The faith and graces of the Corinthians were a sufficient testimony to the apostle’s ministry. The second is in a way of conviction or approbation. We are made manifest in your consciences, that is, your consciences do bear witness with us. This is the privilege of goodness, that it shall have men’s consciences where it has not their affections. Though they love it not, yet they shall inwardly like it, and in their hearts secretly approve it, and set their seals unto it. Herod, though he loved not John Baptist, yet he reverenced him, and in his heart did admire him. Secondly, if ye take this your consciences a little more strictly restraining it to true believers, and those amongst these Corinthians which were faithful, that St. Paul and the rest were made manifest in their consciences indeed. Howsoever others may think of us, yet those which are faithful will approve us. “We are made manifest in you,” etc. The second is the word of transition or introduction, I trust or hope. We may take notice also of this; and it carries a double notion in it. First, there was his desire in it, as he wished it might be; he desired to approve his ministry, and himself in the execution of his ministry, to the hearts and consciences of those which were faithful, that they might be sure to close with him. Secondly, as there was his desire in it, so there was also his confidence and expectation. I hope or trust; that is, I believe, and make account of it. It is a word of triumphant expression, as you have another of the like nature with it (1 Corinthians 7:6). (T. Horton, D. D.)

Sinai sends sinners to Calvary

This text has been denounced as cruel Let us consider its use in secular affairs. A company is about to cross the ocean. The word terror has been suppressed, so they make no provision to escape in case of shipwreck. No life-preserver and no life-boat have been taken on board. The same policy has prevented the erection of lighthouses and the perfection of charts. Now, when out at sea and the storm has come, then they have reason to deplore the mistaken kindness which kept from them a knowledge of the terrors of the deep. The exercise of foresight is the part of wisdom. Knowing the terror, the danger before us, we should be persuaded to make every provision.

Consider the meaning of the phrase “the terror of the lord.”--

1. There is a majesty about God which is calculated to inspire holy fear. This we realise if we compare God with heathen divinities.

(1) Our God is infinite in wisdom, mercy, justice, and power. Many people have one-sided views of God, and hence fall into great error. Some deem Him all mercy, others all justice; as some have judged the ocean by a day of calm, others by a day of storm. Each view is a one-sided view. We could not revere a God who is all justice, or one who is all mercy.

(2) There are no changes in His attributes. It is the same God we see in the Old Testament as in the New. The New Testament does not utter a sound that dashes with those from Sinai.

2. The context will help us understand the language of the text (verse 10). God has made us know the dangers in the future that we might avoid them. There was an element of terror in the preaching of the apostles. Felix trembled.

“Knowing, therefore, the terror of God, we persuade men.” Knowing the majesty, the holiness of God, and the necessity of the punishment of evil, we persuade men--

1. To abhor sin. There can be no honest repentance save it be founded on hatred of sin.

2. To forsake sin.

3. To flee to Christ for pardon. No man ever came to Saviour until he felt the need of a Saviour. Sinai points you to Calvary.

4. To labour for the salvation of others. It is a great cruelty not to make known the terrible consequences of sin to our fellow-men. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

The motive powers of the ministry

The motive power of the minister (verses 12, 14).Here we have two different feelings arising from two different circumstances. Terror, a conviction of a judgment to come. Love, a sense of gratitude, kindled by a conviction of the great grace of Him who died. The minister is inspired by his accountability to a righteous Judge and gratitude to a gracious Saviour. The minister stands between the Cross and the judgment. The ocean’s tides are caused by the combined influence of sun and moon. Here, then, are the sun and moon of the minister’s life. It is the combined attraction of these that fills his life with power and devotion. Consider--

1. The love of Christ as forming one of the motive powers of the ministry.

(1) He who undertakes it must do so without any regard to worldly gain. But let it be borne in mind that this does not release the churches from their duty to see that those who preach the gospel live by the gospel.

(2) It must be carried on without any abatement of zeal in the face of apparent want of success. Men, when engaged in any business which they find does not pay, are at liberty to exchange it for some other. But the minister has not this liberty. What motive is sufficiently powerful to secure this persistent clinging to a work which seems in spite of every effort to bear no fruit? The absorbing love of Christ is alone equal to the task. In success men find a great stimulus to labour; but very often the minister is denied this stimulus. Carey, for seven long years of his missionary life, laboured without seeing one convert to reward his labour or sustain his faith.

2. “The terror of the Lord,” as forming another motive. The “terror” here is the deep conviction which Paul had, that he was accountable to God. Having these overwhelming thoughts and convictions, he persuaded men. But it was not alone as a stimulus that this conviction of a judgment served. In the verses following he shows that it was of immense comforting use to him. Men judged him falsely, but he was sustained under such treatment by the conviction that there was another Judge before whom he would have to stand. “We are made manifest unto God.”

The lever power of the ministry. The ministry is a provision for persuading men to a certain course, by “beseeching” and “praying” them as if God did it. Never were men called upon to work upon materials so intrinsically valuable. The greatest geniuses have deemed it not unworthy of them to spend themselves in labour upon wood, stones, metals, and canvas. But these are all material substances; and even the toughest of them are perishable. What are they compared with that upon which the minister is called to work--mind, heart, intellect, conscience, and will! Here is work worthy of God; for it is as His substitute you are required to do it.

2. What, then, of the weapons whereby such glorious work is accomplished? Seeing that the work is moral, the weapons must needs be of the same nature and quality. The work, then, must be effected through the instrumentality of motives, and these are, according to the text, the terror of the Lord and the love of Christ--the Cross and the judgment. You may find the thinker, the scholar, and the orator in the same person, but in the absence of the two great truths in question, “the love of Christ” and “the terror of the Lord,” there will be no minister, whatever else there may be. Conclusion: One of the wonders of physical science is an instrument called a concave mirror. If this instrument is held opposite the sun it has a marvellous burning power. Archimedes employed some such instrument as this to destroy the Roman fleet whilst it besieged the city of Syracuse. The gospel ministry is a kind of concave mirror for concentrating the light of the two mighty truths which form its themes upon the hearts and consciences of men. A marvellous example of its power in this respect has been furnished to us in the proceedings of the day of Pentecost. (A. J. Parry.)

Verses 12-17

2 Corinthians 5:12-17

For we commend not ourselves again unto you.

Paul’s self-commendation

1. St. Paul has been magnifying his ministry. It had been, he says, a ministry of the Spirit, not of the letter (2 Corinthians 3:6). Its authority had been that of the truth (2 Corinthians 4:2). It had been a suffering and a martyr ministry (2 Corinthians 4:8-10); representative, too, of Christ in word and deed (2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1-18); unworldly (2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 5:8-9); and persuasive (2 Corinthians 5:11).

2. But when a man speaks thus, we are apt to call it boasting, and Paul anticipates such a charge (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12). “You say you commend yourself to our consciences. Now if all this is so plain, why commend yourself?” The reply is: “I do not commend myself for my own sake.” It is not a personal boast. It is the only possible reply to those who require a ministry with splendid external credentials, instead of the inward witness of the heart (2 Corinthians 5:12).

The apostle’s defence of his self-approval. It was founded on two reasons.

1. We “give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.” The false teachers gloried “in appearance,” in outward demonstration, such as eloquence or spiritual gifts. On the contrary, St. Paul says that the true apostolic credentials are those of the heart--his truth, sufferings, simplicity, boldness, and his life as being an image of Christ’s. This corresponds with the fact that Christian ministers are prophets, not priests. The priest said: “I am ordained God’s messenger: therefore, what I say is to be received.” The prophet said: “What I say is truth; therefore, I am to be received as from God.” Consequently, the priest was always heard; the prophet’s words were rarely believed till he was slain: and this because men glory in appearances, not in heart. Now St. Paul’s credentials were those of the heart (2 Corinthians 4:2). “First, we declare our message, and from it we deduce our apostleship.” This is the Christian ministry.

2. “Whether we be beside ourselves it is to God,” etc.

(1) The apostle’s defence might seem like that of one deranged, as once before it appeared to Festus. “Well,” said St. Paul, “we adopt the words ‘beside ourselves.’ Be it so! it is for God’s cause. We boast of our qualifications for the sake of God, to whom they all belong.” Or again, “Whether we be sober”--that is, restrain ourselves--our moderation is an example of humility to you.

(2) There are, then, cases in which it is wise for a Christian to vindicate himself; there are others in which it is wiser to remain silent. It is sometimes false humility, and moderation, to lie under an undenied slur on our character or our words. Samuel vindicated himself, “Whose ox have I taken?” etc. On the other hand, some charges are delicate, complicated, and shadowy, that public defence leaves the matter worse than before. It is better, then, to let time and character defend you. For there are cases in which dignified silence is the Christian’s only defence. So it was in our Saviour’s life.

The general principles of life with which the apostle’s self-approval was connected.

1. Love, the main principle of Christian life. Christian liberty is a loving servitude to God. Just as if a slave were made free, and then felt himself bound in gratitude to toil with tenfold vigour for a master whom he loved instead of fearing; or just as the mother is the slave to her sick child, and would do almost impossibilities, not because it is her duty, but because she loves her child; so the whole moral law is abrogated to us as a law, because obedience to it is ensured in the spirit.

2. The law of redeemed humanity, “If one died for all, then all died.” There are two kinds of death--one in sin, before redemption; the other to sin, which is redemption. Here it is of the death to sin. If one died as the representative of all, then in that death all died. This is the great thought throughout this Epistle. Every Christian is dead in Christ’s death, and risen in Christ’s resurrection.

3. The new aspect of humanity in Christ, “a new creation.” A Christian is human nature revolutionised (2 Corinthians 5:17). (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God.--

Missionary enthusiasm

The grand object of the efforts of the apostles, and of ours. The cause in which, as a missionary society, we are engaged, is the salvation of the human race. How much does this sentence comprehend! To emancipate the human race--to raise numerous hordes from barbarism to civilisation, etc. But this object will increase in magnitude if we consider--

1. The worth of the human soul.

2. The meaning of the word salvation. Deliverance from an infinite evil, and the enjoyment of an infinite good.

3. The immense multitudes who are hourly passing to their eternal destiny without a knowledge of the Saviour.

4. The lustre which their salvation will throw on the Redeemer’s glories to all eternity.

The most plausible grounds on which many pronounce the members of these societies to be enthusiasts. “We admit the object to be good; but is it feasible--is it possible? We give you credit for your intentions; but you are beside yourselves.”

1. From what region will you gather a sufficient number of missionaries? Missions to the Ottoman Empire alone would require more men than all your various societies can muster, and yet you talk of filling the world with converts!

2. Where will you find resources sufficient for the magnitude of your enterprise? What all the societies put together raise is but as a drop to the ocean. The finances of an empire would not satisfy your demand.

3. How formidable are your difficulties! from the peculiarities of governments, usages, customs, etc. How will you persuade the Jews to embrace the gospel of Christ; how break the adamantine barriers thrown across China; how overturn the venerable establishments of India; how civilise savages?

4. Look at your own land--here you have Bibles, ministers, means; and what effects are produced? Physicians, heal yourselves, before you apply your remedy to the maladies of the world.

The solid reasons which others, more candid, have for esteeming the zealous members of this society sober-minded. The question at issue is--Is this cause the cause of God? If so, all difficulties vanish. They take their stand--

1. On the decrees of God (Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 1:10). Who shall contend against almighty power?

2. On this earth, which was formed in subserviency to the design of God. It is still preserved as the theatre on which the designs of redemption are carried on. Can that plan fail for which this universe was formed, and for which alone it is preserved?

3. On the hill of Calvary. There they see expiation made for the sins of the world. Now the channel is opened for salvation to the world. Redemption is purchased, and its application to the hearts of men is easy.

4. On the mount of Olives. And there from the lips of Christ they hear His last command, and motive to exertion (Matthew 28:18-19).

5. With angels before the throne of glory. On the head of Christ is the crown of universal empire, and from all parts the shout is heard, “Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” Cannot He break down every barrier and open the whole world to our labours? Shall He not have the heathen for His inheritance?

6. At Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. And there they see the mighty power, on the success of which all their labours depend. “Not by power,” etc.

7. On the hill of Zion, fast by the throne of God; and looking into the vista of prophecy, they see these wonders actually accomplishing--the whole earth filled with the glory of God; the idols utterly abolished; Christ having dominion from sea to sea; all nations blessed in Him, etc. What, then, becomes of all cavils of sceptics and mere nominal Christians? On whom does the charge of madness rest?

The motives by which the friends of missions are actuated.

1. Love to God. “If we be beside ourselves, it is to God.”

2. Benevolence to man. “If we be sober, it is for your cause.”

3. The constraining love of Christ. (W. Thorpe.)

Zeal in the cause of Christ

Paul’s great purpose here is to impress upon us the fact that the cause of Christ should be furthered by every legitimate means; the soberest wisdom or the most impassioned zeal. He vindicates zeal in the cause of Christ.

From the condition of the world. He speaks of the world as in a state of spiritual death. This is by no means the world’s estimate. It is short-sighted, and therefore self-complacent. The discovery of its true position comes only when the mind is enlightened.

1. The Bible concludes all “under sin.” And out in the broad world you have abundant confirmation of this testimony. You have it in your own history. There are thousands around you who revel in undisguised corruption. You have it further away in the countries which own Mahometan rule, and then in the far-off regions of heathenism proper, where the nature, bad in itself, is made a thousand-fold worse by its religion. Death is everywhere.

2. Although a realising estimate of the world’s condition comes only when the judgment is enlightened from on high, the wise men of the world have felt an unsatisfactoriness for which they could hardly account. Each in his own way has guessed at the solution of the problem. The people are embruited; educate them. The nations are barbarous; civilise them. Men grovel in sensual pleasure; cultivate their aesthetic faculty. Amid all this tumult of the human, oh for something divine! And the divine is given--Christ has died for all men. There is hope for the world’s life. Oh, tell these tidings to the world, and it will live. “On such a theme, ‘tis impious to be calm!” “If we be beside ourselves, it is to God: and if we be sober, it is for your cause.”

From the obligation of the church, in that He died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, etc. In an age of organisation against idolatry there is one proud, rampant idolatry which retains its ascendancy amongst us--selfishness. Now it is against this principle in human nature throned within us all, that Christianity goes forth to combat. Have you obtained life from the dead through His name? Then you are bound to spend it for His honour, and watching with godly jealousy for every possible opportunity of doing good, to spend and be spent for them who have not yet your Master known. And then, as gratitude rises and the fire burns, and the heart is full, and the frame quivers with the intensity of its emotions, just remember that there is a world lying in the wicked one. Lift up your voice in the midst of them, lift it up, be not afraid. Say unto the cities of Judah, “Behold your God.” Men will call you mad, but you can give them the apostle’s answer, “If we be beside ourselves, it is to God: if we be sober, it is for your cause.”

From the master motive of the Saviour’s constraining love. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”

1. Ye, then, who need rousing to energy in the service of Christ, think of His love to you.

2. Take it as referring to your love to Christ, which the sense of His love has enkindled in the soul. The deepest affection in the believing heart will always be the love of Jesus. Oh, let this affection impel us, and who shall measure our diligence or repress our zeal? If meaner motive can prompt to heroic action--if from pure love of science astronomers dare encounter dangers just that they may watch in distant climes a transit, and if botanists can travel into inhospitable climes to gather specimens, and if, with no motive but love of country, and no recompense save bootless tears and an undying name, a Willoughby could sacrifice himself to blow up a magazine, and a Sarkeld could fire the Cashmere Gate at Delhi, surely we, with obligations incomparably higher, ought to present our lifeblood, if need be, for the cause of Christ, and for the good of souls. Let the scoffers spurn at us as they will; we are far superior to such poor contumely. Heaven applauds our enthusiasm, and we can vindicate it in the apostle’s words, “If we be beside ourselves, it is to God: and if we be sober, it is for your cause.” (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 5:14

For the love of Christ constraineth us.

The love of Christ

The Christian’s ruling motive--The love of Christ. “We love Him because He first loved us.” This love leads to service. This principle is--

1. Reasonable.

2. Soul-satisfying.

3. Soul-ennobling.

All true love is such in degree, but this supremely.

The restraining power of the love of Christ--“That we should no more live unto ourselves.” Paul delighted to call himself the “servant of Jesus Christ.”

The constraining power of the love of Christ. (J. Rhodes.)

The matchless beauty of Jesus

The constraining motive--“The love of Christ.” Consider it--

1. In its objects.

(1) Our love is awakened by some excellency or worthiness which the object beloved has in our eyes. But wherein is this to be accounted of, that the Son of God should set His heart upon man? He is likened to a worm, to grass. His foundation is in the dust. How inconsiderable a being is man in comparison with these hosts of heaven.

(2) Our love is called out by congeniality--where there is a oneness of mind, a similarity of feeling, a harmony of taste. But how opposite is the mind of Christ and of the sinner!

(3) Love is attracted by beauty. But man’s original beauty, as created in the image and reflecting the glory of God in righteousness, is wholly departed. And in place thereof, deformity only appears in him.

(4) Love is drawn forth by love. Regard in one will produce it in another. But Christ’s love found no originating cause in our love (John 15:16; 1 John 4:10).

2. In its properties.

(1) It is a self-denying love.

(2) It is a beneficial love. It enriches with righteousness, and peace, and grace, and liberty, and: service.

(3) His is a cheering, gladdening love. Therefore the church says (Song of Solomon 1:4).

(4) His is an intense, inextinguishable love (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

(5) It is a boundless, incomprehensible love (Ephesians 3:18-19).

3. In its effects.

The special manifestation of this love. “We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” This is the great instance wherein the Lord Jesus demonstrates His love.

Whereto this love constrains. “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for, them, and rose again.” To live to ourselves, to seek our own, is the natural character of all. Self in some form is the predominant and guiding principle.

1. Let the subject humble us. The love of Christ is a powerful thing, being discerned, applied, and realised.

2. Let the subject also instruct us. Our obedience is not to be the result of feeling, but of judgment.

3. Let the subject stimulate us.

4. Let the subject comfort us.

5. Finally, let the subject admonish and persuade those who are yet enemies to God, strangers to Christ and holiness. (J. T. Parker, M. A.)

Christ’s love constraining

To say something about the dying love of Christ. Here I mean to consider the love of Christ in the four following forms.

1. Pure benevolence.

2. Strong affection.

3. Unsolicited mercy.

4. Marvellous liberality.

Some of the duties which this dying love excites to perform.

1. To receive Christ’s ordinances.

2. To obey Christ’s commands.

3. To submit to Christ’s cross.

4. To promote His interest.

Illustrate the manner in which the dying love of Christ constraineth us.

1. That the dying love of Christ applied and believed, powerfully impresses the human heart.

2. The dying love of Christ singularly guards against practical errors.

3. The dying love of Jesus constraineth us, as it constantly urgeth to holiness.

4. The dying love of Jesus speedily carrieth us on to perfection. Here I mean to convey three distinct ideas, all implied in the word constraineth.

(1) The love of Christ moves forward our whole person.

(2) The love of Jesus bears us up under our burdens.

(3) The love of Christ constraineth us to make swift progress towards perfect holiness. Let us believe the love of God towards us. (E. Brown.)

The constraining love of Christ

We instantly feel that these words express the secret power by which the great deeds of Paul’s life were done. But if We connect them with 2 Corinthians 5:13 we see that his common acts and judgments were moulded by the same power. Note--

The power of the love of Christ.

1. Paul meant Christ’s love to him, not his love to Christ. Many Christian men endeavour to work from their own feelings of consecration to the Lord; hence their energy is fitful, and depends upon excitements. The word “constrain” expresses the contrary of this. It suggests not an emotion in a man, but a power, not his, acting on him--an atmosphere surrounding his spirit, and pressing on it on every side. A feeling we possess is ever feeble and liable to change; a feeling possessing us is strong and enduring. This love, surrounding and resting on a man, takes him out of himself, and becomes a permanent influence.

2. It was the love of the living Christ in the present. “Who died and rose again”--“not knowing Christ after the flesh.” The love shown on the Cross was not a transient manifestation, but an eternal revelation of the Christ as He is.

3. How this Jove constrains. Compare with our text Galatians 2:20. Here are two elements--

(1) Personal sympathy--“who loved me.” This is one of the mightiest forces in the world. Through all laws a man may break, but let a criminal once realise that there is some one who feels for him, and you gain a power over him which he cannot resist. Rise now one step--to the consciousness of having the sympathy of a greater soul than ours. Rise yet one step higher--a mighty step--to the love of Christ. The first beam of that love reveals the deadness and coldness of the past; and when the thought enters the man’s heart, that amid all his coldness Christ cared for him, then the constraining power begins.

(2) The infinite sacrifice: “He died for all.” Under the power of this belief, all that tempts us to live for ourselves is instantly swept away. We may hear voices telling us of glory, of gain, and power; but we know that for us He left His throne, and then we are content, for Him, to live unnoticed and unknown. We are allured by the fascinations of pleasure--but we remember that for us He bore pain, and those fascinations fall shattered to the ground. We shrink back instinctively from hardships--but we measure our sacrifice with His, and then we accept it with calm and holy joy.

How this constraining power manifests itself in earnestness of life. There are three sources of the power that chains us in coldness and cramps our energy:--the monotony of our earthly labour; the depth of our spiritual infirmity; the feebleness of our vision into the everlasting. Now, this constraining love would remove them all.

1. It would consecrate our earthly work. No man can always be acting consciously under the power of Christ’s love; but a memory of the Cross may unconsciously hallow our life. Is it not possible to accept life’s daily tasks as God’s discipline, and accept them patiently, because Christ loves us? Is it not possible to fulfil life’s common duties right earnestly because Christ died for us?

2. It would strengthen our spiritual infirmity. Trifles exhaust our energy; great forces seem to deaden it; great fears perplex our trust. But if we heard the voice “I loved thee,” would not that be like a clarion-call to summon us to heroic effort? Would it not clothe us in celestial power?

3. It would link us with the everlasting world. That love breaks down the barrier between the visible and the invisible worlds. Heaven is no idle dream of happiness, but a present fact; for the Christian’s heaven is to be with and to be like the Saviour.

The way in which the constraining power of this love may be realised.

1. Prayerful meditation. In lonely hours, when the voice of the world is still, that love comes near. Pray on until it flashes across the horizon of your soul, and baptizes you in its glory.

2. Carry into action its first impulses. Avoid all that opposes them … It is dangerous to enter any path of action on which the Cross-light does not gleam. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The constraining influence of the love of Christ

This text is a summary of Christian faith and practice.

The condition to which sin has reduced man.

1. Its peculiar wretchedness--“then were all dead.” Our souls have lost their spiritual life, and are become incapable of spiritual employments and delights.

2. Its hopelessness. We are not like a tree which, though withered, may be brought into a situation where the sun may shine and the rain descend on it and revive it.

The interposition of Christ on the behalf of man. Observe--

1. Who it is that is here said to have had compassion on man: the eternal Son of God.

2. How this Being interposed for man: “He died.”

3. For whom this death was endured: all men. But the interposition of Christ on behalf of man was not confined to dying for him. He rose again to complete the work which He had begun.

The principle or motive from which the interposition of Christ on our behalf proceeded. It was not an act of justice: we had no claim on the compassion of Christ. Nor did it proceed from a regard to His own honour only. He was “glorious in holiness “ and “fearful in praises” long before we were created. It was free and unmerited love alone. To this Divine attribute all the blessings of redemption must be traced. This is the attribute which shines with the brightest lustre in the gospel of Christ. Matchless wisdom devised the stupendous plan, and infinite power executed it; but it was love which called this wisdom and this power into exercise.

The end which Christ had in view in dying and rising again for man (verse 15). This implies that by nature we are all living to ourselves. The selfish and independent principle within us, is one of the sad fruits of our depravity. It is directly opposed to our happiness, and is in the highest degree hateful to God. It is an act of rebellion. Now the design of Christ was to root out this selfish principle. He has bought us with a price; He therefore deems us His own, and calls upon us to glorify Him “in our body and in our spirits which are His.” Shall we, then, rob the blessed Jesus of the purchase of His blood?

The influence which this interposition of Christ has on His people. It “constraineth” them. This signifies to bear away, to carry on with the force and rapidity with which a torrent hurries along whatever it meets with in its course. Christ’s love--

1. Lays hold of the affections.

2. Influences the conduct. It changes the life as well as affects the heart.

Conclusion: These truths suggest various inferences.

1. The conduct of a Christian is closely connected with his principles.

2. They are not Christians whom the love of Christ does not influence. They may call themselves after the name of the Saviour, but they are not living “unto Him which died for them.” This devotedness to Christ is essential to the Christian character. Nothing can supply the place of it; no correct system of opinions, no zeal for doctrines, no lively feelings, no tears or prayers.

3. The superior excellence of the religion of Christ, not only as it saves the soul, but as it affords to man a new, a nobler, and a more powerful motive of obedience. This motive is love to a dying Lord; a motive unheard of in the world before the publication of the gospel, but one which appeals to the finest feelings of the soul, and whose efficacy is stronger than that of all other motives combined. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

A perception of Christ’s love the effectual source of obedience

The love of Christ to be the effectual source of Christian obedience. Let us contrast this motive to moral virtue, with many others by which the majority of mankind are influenced.

1. Perhaps the most general inducement to religious and moral duty is habit. Religion is found to have a kindly influence upon human society. There is therefore in the world habit of religion. The son follows the steps of the father. The first, for instance, goes to church, because the latter has set him the example. He sometimes offers up a prayer, because the practice commenced in infancy. There is little of serious reflection in his conduct. He falls easily into the track or mould of custom. It induces a religion of form rather than of influence, a religion of the body rather than of the soul.

2. Scarcely superior to this principle is the desire of reputation. A certain kind of religion is favourable to reputation. To pass through life with honour is certainly the supreme object with many. Now this principle is not merely defective but hostile to religion. Its very aim is the gratification of self-esteem. It tends to exalt man, not God. It forgets the very first feeling of all religion, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

3. Let us examine the next motive to religion, the fear of punishment. There is a natural alarm respecting eternity in the human mind. But this fear of the future is a very inadequate motive to religion. Suppose it to exist to a high degree, and it degenerates into views entirely subversive of all the gracious invitations of the gospel. Suppose it to be weak and momentary, and it can effect little that is medicinal to the heart. In melancholy moments, in hours of sickness, it will produce remorse and misery, but with the departure of these moments, it will lose all its influence.

4. Similar to this principle as to its efficiency is the mere and indistinct desire for future happiness. It will cease to influence whenever self-interest or appetite shall solicit in any violent degree. The pleasure of the life that is, will ever be far more attractive than the dim visions of a joy yet to be.

5. It remains to refer to one other motive to religion, a partial reverence for the Creator. Let experience testify its feebleness and inconsistency as a principle of moral action. How frequently do the same lips which appeared to adore the name of God in the public sanctuary, wantonly desecrate it in private life!

6. Let us now contrast with these low and inadequate motives to religion, the motive contained in the text. “For the love of Christ constraineth us,” etc. Is filial affection; is gratitude to a generous benefactor; is the tenderness of fondest friendship; are all these motives powerful to constrain to duty, and to urge to service? See all these motives more than united here!

The actual extent to which the perception of the love of Christ to the soul will operate. The devotion which arises from every other principle is occasional and limited. It is insufficient to bring us through temptation, to animate the affections and sympathies of our nature. It is insufficient to produce any cordial and active disposition to piety. Such a devotion is not, in fact, of Divine origin; it is not the effect of Divine grace in the heart. It is rather the formal and stinted calculation of a worldly policy. On the contrary, love to Christ is the result of a holy and Divine influence upon the soul. Like the beams of day, it pervades, and warms, and fructifies every inner region, every nobler faculty of the mind. It excites to a religious practice, unlimited and progressive. It renovates the whole character. (G. T. Noel, M. A.)

The constraining power of the loving principle

It was once a problem in mechanics to find a pendulum which should be equally long in all weathers; which should make the same number of vibrations in the summer’s ticket and in the winter’s cold. They have now found it out. By a process of compensation they make the rod lengthened one way as much as it contracts the other, so that the centre of motion is always the same; the pendulum swings the same number of beats in a day of January as in a day of June, and the index travels over the dial-plate with the same uniformity, whether the heat try to lengthen or the cold to shorten the regulating power. Now the moving power in some men’s minds is easily susceptible of surrounding influences. It is not principle but feeling which forms their pendulum rod; and according as this very variable material is affected their index creeps or gallops, they are swift or slow in the work given them to do. But principle is like the compensation rod, which neither lengthens in the languid heat nor shortens in the brisker cold, but does the same work day by day, whether the ice-winds whistle or the simoom glow; and of all principles a high-principled affection to the Saviour is the strongest and most secure. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Sacred enthusiasm, the rationality of Christian zeal

We shall first attend to the apostle’s description of the moral world, He says of man that he is dead. This strong figure of language expresses the inertness as to spiritual duties--the inutility--the offensiveness of a soul alienated from the life of God. He intimates, by this allusion, that the nature of man is in that state which no more answers the designs of his creation than the tenant of a grave can promote the purposes and discharge the offices of social existence.

The assurance that the aspect of the atonement is universal as the dominion of human guilt and wretchedness. This forms the second motive of the apostle’s zeal. This sentiment is not more animating as a doctrine of faith than it has been found efficient as a principle of Christian activity. Its influence on the generous spirit of the apostle elicited an active benevolence so warm that it could not be agreeably employed in an enterprise less sublime than that of applying, in the widest possible sense, the remedy of the gospel to the universal infection.

Some reflections on the nature of this love seem necessary before we can fix upon the line of argument which it will be most proper and interesting to follow.

1. The love of Christ may constrain as an example.

2. The love of Christ constrains likewise by the force of gratitude. What bonds of obligations are implied in these expressions, “We live!” “He died for us, and rose again!”

Guided by this definition of the subject, we proceed now to illustrate it by the following observations:--

1. This love is a principle of self-consecration to the interests of Jesus Christ.

2. The love of Christ is accompanied by a principle of strong anticipation of His mediatorial glory in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ, breathing His Spirit, is naturally concerned in all that relates to His glory. The Sun of Righteousness is not for ever to be clouded: and it does gratify the love we cherish toward our glorious Saviour to be assured that a day is coming in which the whole world shall be the scene of His triumphant influence.

3. The love of Christ implies an habitual reliance on the agency of the Holy Spirit. (S. Curwen.)

Constraining love


Where lies the power of Christ upon men. There is nothing parallel with the permanent influence which Christ exercises all through the centuries. Contrast it with the influence of all other great names. But here is a man, dead for nearly nineteen centuries, to whom millions of hearts still turn, owning His mystic influence and smile as more than sufficient guerdon for the miseries of life and the agonies of death. The phenomenon is so strange that one is led to ask where lies the secret of the power. Paul tells us “The love … constrains,” and it does so because He died.

1. If we are to feel His constraining love, we must first of all believe that Christ loved us and loves us still. If He knew no more of the future generations, and had no more reference to the units that make up their crowds, than some benefactor or teacher of old may have had, who flung out his words or deeds as archers draw their bows, not knowing where the arrow would light, then the love He deserves from me is even more tepid than the love which, on the supposition, He gave to me. But if I can believe, as Paul believed, that he was in the mind and the heart of the Man of Nazareth when He died upon the Cross; and if we believe, as Paul believed, that, though that Lord had gone up on high, there were in His human-divine heart a love to His poor servant, struggling down here for His sake; then, and only then, can we say reasonably the love that Christ bore, and bears to me, “constraineth me.”

2. If there is to be this warmth of love, there must be the recognition of His death as the great sacrifice and sign of His love to us. “Rule thou over us,” said the ancient people to their king, “for thou hast delivered us out of the hand of our enemies.” The centre of Christ’s power over men’s hearts is to be found in the fact that He died on the Cross for each of us. That teaching which denies the sacrifical death of Christ and has brought Him down to the level of a man, has failed to kindle any warmth of affection for Him. A Christ that did not die for me on the Cross is not a Christ who has either the right or the power to rule my life. The Cross, interpreted as Paul interpreted it, is the secret of all His power, and if once Christian teachers and churches fail to grasp it as Paul did, their strength is departed.

What sort of life will this constraining love of Christ produce?

1. A life in which self is deposed and Christ is King. The natural life of man has self for its centre. That is the definition of sin, and it is the condition of us all; and nothing but Christ can radically eject it from the heart, and throne the unselfishly Beloved in the vacant place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the only way to keep the devil out is to get Christ in. There is but one power which is strong enough to lift our lives from the pivot on which they turn, and to set them vibrating in a new direction, and that is the recognition of the infinite and so tender love of Jesus Christ for each of us. That love may constrain us, shutting out much that one used to like to expatiate in; but within these limits there is perfect freedom. There is no life so blessed and heroic, none in which suffering is so light, pain so easy, duty so delightful as the life that we live when, by Christ’s grace, we have thrown off the dominion of self and held out willing wrists to be enfranchised by being fettered by the “bands of love.” A comet--these vagrants of the skies--has liberty to roam, and what does it make of it? It plunges away out into depths of darkness and infernos of ice and told. But if it came within the attraction of some great blazing sun, and subsided into a planet, it would have lost nothing of its true liberty, and would move in music and light around the source of blessedness and life. And so we, as long as we make ourselves the “sinful centres of our rebel powers,” so long do we subject ourselves to alterations of temperature almost too great to bear. Let us come back to the light, and mow round the Christ; satellites of that Sun, and therefore illumined by His light and warmed by His life-producing heat.

2. One that will often look like madness, Paul was evidently quoting some of the stinging-nettles of speech which had been cast at him by his antagonists. “He is mad,” they said of him, as they said of his Master. But such enthusiasts are the salt of the earth; and the mad-men of to-day are the Solomons of to-morrow. Oh! would that there would come similar “fanatics” once more! They would lift all the level of this hollow Christianity in which so many of us are living. If we once had amongst us men after Paul’s pattern--some of us who think ourselves very consistent Christians would begin to feel the red coming into our cheeks. The man who professes to live for Christ and never gets anybody to laugh at him as “enthusiastic,” and “impracticable,” and “Quixotic,” has much need to ask himself whether he is as near the Master as he conceits himself to be.

3. One which, in all its enthusiasm, is ruled by the highest sobriety and clearest sanity, “Whether we be sober it is for your cause.” There is more sober sense in being what the world calls fanatical, if the truths upon the pages of Scripture are truths, than in being cold and composed in their presence. The enthusiasts, who see visions and dream dreams about God and Christ and heaven and hell, and the duties that are consequent--these are the sober-minded men. There were many learned rabbis in Jerusalem, and many intimate friends in Tarsus, who, when the news came that Gamaliel’s promising pupil had gone over to the enemy, and flung up the splendid prospects opening before him, said to themselves, “What a fool the young man is!” They kept their belief and he kept his. All the lives are over now. Which of them was the wise life?

What is your attitude to that constraining love? The outward manner of the apostle’s life is not for us, but the principle which underlies is as absolutely and as imperatively and as all-comprehensively applicable in our case as it was in his. There was absolutely no reason for Paul’s devotion which does not continue in full force for yours and mine.

1. Christian men and women, do you believe in that dying and living love for you? Do you repay it with devotion in any measure adequate to what you have received?

2. And for some of us who make no profession, and have no reality of Christian feeling, the question is, “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?” Jesus has loved, and does love, thee; died for thee. He stretches out that grasping hand, with a nail-hole in it, to lay hold upon you, and you slip from His clasp, and oppose to His love a negligent and unaffected heart. Is there any madness in this mad world like that? Is there any sin like the sin of ingratitude to Jesus? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The properties and influence of the love of Christ

How a sinner may come to know that Christ loved him, for a very obvious reason--that no truth nor fact can have any influence upon our conduct, unless we know it and have some interest in it. We come to a knowledge of the love of God and of Christ by faith. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son.”

Consider some of the qualities of the love of Christ.

1. It is eternal love. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”

2. The love of Christ is free love. For it is offered without conditions or qualifications. We are to buy Him without money and without price.

3. The love of Christ to sinners is sovereign love.

4. His love is constant and everlasting love. Like the sun, it may sometimes be obscured to the believer’s view by unbelief, ingratitude, and remaining lusts and idols; but the obscurity is in the believer’s darkened eye, not in God.

The constraining effects of the love of Christ.

1. The love of Christ, when truly believed by the renewed soul, carries away the soul by its moral power both to will and to perform our duty earnestly and constantly. The soul when under the influence of this love, may be compared to a bark set down on the cataracts of the Nile: whether the seamen will or not, they are carried down the stream.

2. The love of Christ constrains us to give all diligence to make our calling and our election sure.

3. If we believe that God and Christ love us, it will constrain us sweetly and powerfully to love Him again, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

4. But the love of Christ received into the heart by faith in the record constrains, not only to holiness in general, but to every particular duty required in the holy law. (F. Frew.)

Constraining love

1. ”The love of Christ”--His to man, not man’s to Him--yet His in its quickening activity, creating its own image in the breast. To constrain is so to shut in as to compel to a given end. Unconstrained, the river would spread out into a marsh, a dismal waste, fruitful only of pestilence and death. Shut in by its constraining banks, it flows a thing of life and beauty, watering garden and field, purifying and gladdening cities, and broadening into the bay on whose fair bosom ships float as they come and go on their beneficent mission of exchange and distribution. So man, constrained by the love of Christ, is so shut in as to be forbidden to wander and spread into a dismal and pestilent waste; is forced rather to move to a divine end, like a river of life flowing from God, hastening to God, in a channel made and moulded by His hand.

2. Now I wish to take Christian missions--the most manifest example of the constraining love of Christ--as a type of this great truth, that the service of God and of man are made one in the service of Christ. Note--

The relation between the character of a man and his service of his kind. A bad man can never be a minister of good. Eminent intellect without character is mischievous. A statesman with genius but without character is a calamity to the State. The creative genius may leave behind imperishable works in literature and art, but if he be mean and unclean he will leave a heritage of evil. It is inevitable that the service of man be the peculiar prerogative of the good. The man, therefore, that would serve men in the way of Christ must have the spirit of Christ. Mere decent, responsible, respectable, conventional formalism will not do. It is not enough to stand aloof from the man that does evil. It is necessary that we take the man’s soul into our own and save him, if need be, by our very death.

By what means, conditions, motives may a man be made--as to character, the best possible that he may be--as to service, the most fit and efficient. Take--

1. The love of wealth, not of money--the greedy passion of the miser, but love of wealth which treats money as a means of distribution. Look at the immense factory with its thousands of operatives, filling so many homes with comfort, so many mouths with bread. Look at the great ships as they bear from distant lands to this, or from this to distant lands, commodities enriching, gladdening life. There is wonderful power in wealth used as a means; but mark, to be good, it is necessary--

(1) That it be in the hands of a good man. A bad man behind wealth uses it only to the deterioration of the world.

(2) That it be distributed. Accumulated wealth is not accumulated weal. A few rich men do not make a rich or a contented people.

2. Love of power--the desire both to make and to be a law that men shall obey. A statesman, patriotic, makes laws that he may secure the greatest blessing to the individual and to the collective people. The statesman, ambitious, makes laws to serve his own ends, sacrifices what was meant for mankind to his own personal good. The merely ambitious soldier looks at the army he commands as an immense machine, only to be used that it may be hurled against a similar machine, so as to break it without itself being broken. The soldier patriotic thinks that every man in that vast army is a conscious spirit, a centre of influence, needing, if possible, to be saved. The one says with Napoleon, “Russian Campaign! what of it? It cost me only three thousand men,” careless of the men, careful of himself. The other, like the hero of Sempach, will gather a sheaf of Austrian spears into his breast that the rank of the enemy may be broken and the land saved. Love of power blesses man only when in the presence of a great love it is glorified into patriotism, philanthropy.

3. The love of culture. Its great apostle tells us that its function is criticism of life. What that means we know. A man trained to enjoy the art and literature of past and present, made toward his meaner fellows finical, hypercritical, helping them only by sardonic sarcasm. In culture there may be the training of a character to a nobler, while self-conscious, enjoyment, but not to the large, devoted service that seeks the saving of men.

4. But may you not drill a man into service of his kind by terror? What makes a coward unmakes a man of him; what compels a man to a service which he does not love, makes him impotent for good. In fear there is no power to create the man that can regenerate the world.

Let us go on now to some typical cases that illustrate the action of those principles and motives implied in the love of Christ.

1. Here are three men. Look at them before the love finds them. Peter is a bronzed, hard-handed, brawny fisherman. He knows Jerusalem, has heard of Rome and, perhaps, of Athens; but cannot tell what they mean. He is a man who owns, perhaps, his boat and his nets, and thinks himself happy indeed if he lands a draught of fishes. There he is--familiar figure. Here now is John--more favoured by nature, radiant of face, clear of brow. Still, he is but the fisherman’s son, destined fisherman to be--to be a husband, a father; known to his sons and grandsons, then forgotten. And here is Paul, tent-maker, skilled in the law and history of his people. He, left as he is, would become a name with Gamaliel or Hillel.

2. Mark how the love of Christ comes to and acts on these men. It lays hold on that Peter. Suddenly he becomes a leader of men, who stands undismayed before the priests and rulers. And this John becomes a great interpreter, historian, thinker, and ages sit at his feet and dwell on his words. And Paul, converted, made missionary, in prisons oft, stripes many, stoned, afflicted, etc., still snatches moments amid his career to speak over the ages words that live as veritable spirit and power.

3. This love acts in each of the men in its own particular fashion. Peter it makes a legislator and leader of men, and people say, “How great is Peter!” But how different John! The Saviour says, “Son, behold Thy mother.” While Peter had charge of the sheep and of the lambs, John had charge of the mother, and that seemed all. But this educated John till, through the mother’s love for him and his love to the mother, he came to understand as no other man did the Saviour’s love to the world, the Father’s love to the Son. Then look at Paul. He, a trained Pharisee, comes and sees all history, all men, all time, in the light of Christ. Law and gospel, first and second man, grace and sin, faith and works, all, as it were, came through him into articulate expression; and he shows the love making the preacher, the missionary, the thinker, all in one.

4. Now these three men are typical men. The love that worked that change in them is a love working still. Other loves lose their presence and potency over men. This love, never. This age has seen no more wonderful discovery than that of the conservation and correlation of the physical forces, no atom ever destroyed, every atom ever in process of change. But think of this grand moral dynamic, one in essence, indestructible in being, infinite in the variety of its forms, which we call the love of Christ. It took shape in the apostles. Since then it has created saints and heroes, who have stood like Athanasius against the world, or like Knox, who never feared the face of men, and thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. It has entered into the spirit of reformers, and it has made men like Luther and Zwingle stand up to change the destiny of people and introduce a newer and grander day. It has created great preachers, like Howe and Bunyan and Wesley.

How is it that this love has accomplished so much?

1. Mark. Love is an old thing. Christ did not make it, but found it the most universal and most potent force in the world. But ere He had come one thing love had never done. Lover to lover had been dear. But man as man had not been served through love. And yet without love men cannot be served. It needs not that we hate--it needs only that we be void of affection, to be unable to serve.

2. But look how hard it is to love. See nations, kin, speaking the same speech, under the same institutions, divided by a strip of silver sea, face to face, but disaffected towards each other. Why come wars and fightings? Nations do not love each other. Classes are divided. Here stands culture contemptuous to ignorance, and vice versa. Here is capital looking askance at labour. There is labour making wealth, jealous of the accumulated wealth it has seen made. And see how men, for moral reasons, are unable to love each other.

3. Now mark how Christ accomplished this grand impossibility of love. He came, and He made love to Him become love to all men. Love to persons means the desire to possess the person loved. Love to Christ means a passion to make men possess Him. There is no nation or class in Him. There is humanity. In loving Him you love the very worst as well as the best.

4. But so far we have been only stating fact. We have not yet got the why. Mark, the love that is in Christ is

(1) God’s love, made real, living love on earth for men. Some men think that they could learn God’s love apart from Christ Could they? Did they ere He came? Can they now He has come? “This world is very lovely. O my God, I thank Thee that I live.” And ‘tis so lovely to stand on mountain peak at break of day, and see from out the east the glorious sunrise bringing light and health and beauty in his beams. But carry to the mountain summit a man who has just left the bed of death, where the dearest of earth to him doth lie. What would the man say? But place him in sight of the love of Christ and you place him in the very heart of God. The Man of Sorrows makes to the man in sorrow God come divinely near.

(2) The very love that made and the very end that was purposed for the world. The love that made the world gave the Son. Is not the giver ever greater than the thing given? The love of God gave its dignity to the gift of God. Without the love how ever was the gift possible?

(3) Love to God as a person. To God’s Son as a person. There cannot be love to aught but persons. Devotion to a cause is not love to Christ, not even if the cause be named a church. The cause must be impersonated.

(4) God’s love sacrificial, painful, pitiful, redemptive. It lifts us into the nature of God and makes us see God, how He feels pity, suffers sacrifice. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

Under constraint

Under constraint. Here is a man who beyond all others enjoyed the greatest spiritual liberty, glorying that he is under constraint.

1. A great force held him under its power. “Constraineth.”

(1) Consider the various meanings of the word “constrain.” “Restrain.”

(a) The love of God “restrains” from self-seeking, and forbids the pursuit of any object but the highest.

(b) The believer is “coerced or pressed,” and so impelled forward as one carried along by pressure.

(c) Christ’s love “keeps us employed”; for we are carried forward to diligence by it.

(d) The Lord’s servants are “kept together and held as a band” under a standard. “His banner over me was love.”

(e) All their energies are “pressed into one channel, and made to move” by the love of Christ.

(2) All great lives have been under the constraint of some mastering principle. A man who is everything by turns and nothing long is a nobody: but a man, even for mischief, becomes great when he becomes concentrated. What made Alexander but the absorption of his whole mind in the desire for conquest? Hence come your Caesars and your Napoleons--they are whole men in their ambition. When you carry this thought into a holier sphere the same fact is clear. Howard could never have been the great philanthropist if he had not been strangely under the witchery of love to prisoners. Whitfield and Wesley had but one thought, and that was to win souls for Christ.

(3) Now, this kind of constraint implies no compulsion, and involves no bondage. It is the highest order of freedom; for when a man does exactly what he likes he expresses his delight generally in language similar to that of my text. Though he is perfectly free to leave it, he will commonly declare that he cannot leave it. When the love of Christ constrains us we have not ceased to be voluntary agents; we are never so free as when we are under bonds to Christ.

2. The constraining force was the love of Christ. That love, according to our text, is strongest when seen in His dying for men. Think of this love till you feel its constraining influence. It was love

(1) Eternal;

(2) Unselfish;

(3) Most free and spontaneous;

(4) Most persevering;

(5) Infinite, inconceivable!

It passeth the love of women and the love of martyrs. All other lights of love pale their ineffectual brightness before this blazing sun of love, whose warmth a man may feel, but upon whose utmost light no eye can gaze.

3. The love of Christ operates upon us by begetting in us love to Him. “We love Him because He first loved us.”

(1) His person is very dear to us: from His head to His feet He is altogether lovely. We are glad to be in the place of assembly when Jesus is within; for whether on Tabor with two or three, or in the congregation of the faithful, when Jesus is present it is good to be there.

(2) Your endeavours to spread the gospel show that you love His cause.

(3) As to His truth, a very great part of our love to Christ will show itself by attachment to the pure gospel, especially to that doctrine which is the corner-stone of all, namely, that Christ died in the stead of men.

4. This force acts proportionately in believers. We are all of us alive, but the vigour of life differs greatly in the consumptive and the athletic. You will feel the power of the love of Christ in your soul in proportion--

(1) As you know it. Study, then, the love of Christ.

(2) To your sense of it. Knowing is well, but enjoyment as the result of believing is better.

(3) To the grace which dwells within you. You may measure your grace by the power which the love of Christ has over you.

(4) To your Christ-likeness.

5. It will operate after its kind. Forces work according to their nature. He who feels Christ’s love acts as Christ acted.

(1) If thou dost really feel the love of Christ in making a sacrifice of Himself thou Wilt make a sacrifice of thyself.

(2) If the love of Christ constrain you it will make you love others, specially those who have no apparent claim upon you, but who, on the contrary, deserve your censure. I do not know how else we could care for some, if it were not that Jesus teaches us to despise and despair of none.

(3) The love of Jesus Christ was a practical love.

This constraint was justified by the apostle’s understanding. “The love of Christ constraineth, because we thus judge.” When understanding is the basis of affection, then a man’s heart is fixed and his conduct exemplary. Paul’s judgment was as the brazen altar, cold and hard, but on it he)aid the coals of burning affection, vehement enough in their flame to consume everything. So it ought to be with us. Paul recognised--

1. Substitution. “One died for all.” This is the very sinew of Christian effort. Did He die for me? Then His love hath mastered me, and henceforth it holds me as its willing captive.

2. Union to Christ. “If one died for all, then they all died.”


1. How different is the inference of the apostle from that of many professors! They say, “If Christ died once for all, then I am saved, and may sit down in comfort and enjoy myself, for there is no need for effort or thought.”

2. How much more ennobling is the apostle’s than that of those who do give to the cause of God and serve Him after a fashion, but still the main thought of their life is not Christ nor His service, but the gaining of wealth or success in their profession! The chief aim of all of us should be nothing of self, but serving Christ.

3. Such a pursuit as this is much more peace-giving to the spirit. If you live for Christ, and for Christ alone, all the carpings of men or devils will never cast you down.

4. A life spent for Jesus only is far more worth looking back upon at the last than any other. If you call yourselves Christians how will you judge a life spent in money-making? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Love and obedience to Christ


Take some account of Christ’s love to us, which is the foundation and cause of our love to Him. Notice the instances of His love hinted at.

1. That Christ died for us (John 15:13; Romans 5:6).

2. That He rose again. This was designed for our advantage (Romans 4:25). As His suffering and death were for the payment of our debt, so His resurrection was in order to our discharge. He arose and went to heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us, and to prepare a place there for His followers.

3. That He died and rose again that we might live; that is, that we might be acquitted from our guilt, delivered from, condemnation, be renewed to a spiritual life of holiness, and be raised at last to heaven.

Our love to Christ which is the fruit of His love to us. Christ will own none for His friends who love Him not (1 Corinthians 16:22; Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:37).

The genuine and powerful effect of this love. It will constrain us to live unto Him, which implies--

1. Obedience to His will (John 14:15; John 14:21; John 14:23). This obedience must be--

(1) Willing and hearty obedience. Not like that of slaves to a tyrant, where the only motive to obey is fear of punishment. Of this sort is all the obedience which wicked men pay to Christ.

(2) Sincere and universal to all Christ’s commandments, without any exception. I do not mean that it will be perfect; but yet true love will not knowingly allow of any defect in obedience.

(3) Like its principle, constant and persevering. We shall not obey Him by fits and starts. Obedience may possibly admit of some interruptions, but it will never be laid aside.

2. Zealous for His interest and honour. Here it will be proper to consider--

(1) The nature of zeal for Christ. Zeal is the natural fervour of the mind when it is very earnest in any pursuit. Sometimes it is a very bad thing; but when it is under the influence of Divine grace, and directed to a right object, it is then exceeding good (Galatians 4:18). Christ Himself was a pattern to us of holy zeal (John 2:17). Let the same mind be in Us which was also in Jesus Christ--particularly

(a) Grief and resentment at any injuries which are done to His honour. A warm love to Christ will make His honour and interest as dear to us as our own.

(b) Courage in Christ’s cause, as Christ’s zeal for His Father’s honour inspired Him with courage to drive out the profaners of the Temple. Such was the zeal of the apostles (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 21:13).

(c) Diligence in using all proper means to gain over subjects to Christ’s kingdom and converts to His gospel.

(d) Joy in the advancement of His kingdom and interest.

(2) Motives and reasons for this zeal. Consider--

(a) How zealous Christ has been and is for you and your interest. He died for you.

(b) How little all you can do for Christ will amount unto, and what a mean and poor requital it will be for His love.

(c) How zealous the devil and his agents are against Christ, and to hinder the advancement of His kingdom, and should not we be at least as zealous to promote it?

(d) How Christ will nobly requite your zeal for Him another day (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). (D. Jennings.)

The Christian’s secret

When we see a successful life we are always curious to know what is the secret of it. You see a man who is successful in business, and you wonder what are the qualities in him which make him the successful man he is. The motive power of life is love.

1. Some Christians make the secret of their life fear. What a horrible thing to live with nothing but that fear of death to keep a man away from the slough of animalism!

2. And the motive power of a Christian life is not conscience. A few years ago a young man who was going to enter the ministry as an apostle of ethical culture came to see me, and we talked his ministry over. He told me he was going down into one of the wards of New York City to work for the regeneration of men. He said: “I do not want merely to make them happier; I want to make them really better.” I asked him: “What is the power on which you rely to make them better?” “I shall appeal to their sense of right; I shall not appeal to anything else, but I shall try to show them that they ought to be righteous because it is righteous, they ought to do right because it is right,” He was going to build his religion on what? Love? No! On conscience. Judaism, Puritanism, and Ethical Culture are incarnate conscience. Christianity is incarnate love. A man may conform to law because it is righteous law; but he cannot love the law. You cannot love an abstraction.

3. Thus over against the life that is keyed to fear and the life that is keyed to conscience Paul puts the life that is keyed to love. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” I want to trace the way in which that love grows up in a human soul. The child begins by loving her father or her mother. The child sees righteousness, truth, purity, patience, fidelity, love, in that father, that mother. And this child who sees in the father the Christly quality, but does not know it is Christly, and begins to love, is already loving Christ, though it is the Christ in fragment, the Christ in a hint. This child goes out into life, little by little, and learns that love is larger than she thought. She learns that father and mother do not incarnate all the phases of love. Love is not confined to the few. There are other husbands that love, other fathers that love, other mothers that love, other phases of love. No one soul can teach all the lessons of love. The length and breadth and height of love--how large it is, how multiplex it is t Learning this, she learns to love also, bears burdens and learns the patience of love, finds the opportunity to do good and learns the service of love. For we learn love only by loving. Many stop there. They have learned the love which we call philanthropy. But they do not know that which lies beyond and is greater than all, because it is in all the love of God, the love of Christ. And so they walk always, it seems to me, in a certain sadness or possibility of sadness, I took my Greek Concordance the other day to see what this word “constrains” means; and, instead of looking up the classical Greek, I looked to see how it was used elsewhere in the New Testament. And at first I said, I am not getting much light from this investigation. I turned to one incident where it is said “the crowd thronged Jesus Christ,” and I found the word “thronged” was the same as the word “constrained.” And I turned to another passage where it was said that “the soldiers came and took Jesus Christ,” and I found the word “took” was the same as the word in our text “constrained.” And I came to another passage where it is said that “a woman was sick with a great fever,” and I found the word “sick “ was the same as the word here “constrained.” This seemed at first strange. But pondering made it clear. Our text is an illustration of St. Paul’s genius of talking in metaphor, for Paul was a poet and broke through the rules of rhetoric because his spirit was too strong to be caged by language. Paul is the poet, and it is the poet that speaks here of love. Love is a crowd. Love from father, from mother, from brother, from sister, from brethren, throngs all about Paul, and carries him, as it were, off his feet, as a man is taken by a great crowd and forced along the highway. Love is a soldier; it has come and laid violent hands upon Paul; and he is no longer his own master. Love is his master. Love has captured him, taken him prisoner; Love does with him what he will. Do not be troubled if you do not have the full experience of Paul at the beginning of your life. Have you money, and do you wonder what you shall do with it? Let love tell you. Have you a little time this week, and do you wish to know what you shall do with it? Let love tell you. Have you a friend who has done wrong to you, and you wonder what you ought to do? Let love tell you. Are you questioning what course in life you shall take? Let love tell you. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)

Christian enthusiasm

1. If enthusiasm be right in any case, it is more than justifiable in the Christian. In such a career as his, it is impious to be calm, if calmness be coldness.

2. Now Paul was an enthusiast. Young Saul, the pupil of Gamaliel, the Pharisee, the persecutor, was an enthusiast. And Paul, the convert, preacher, missionary, is an enthusiast still. With this difference, that the fire now burning on the altar of his heart is heaven-kindled, sustained, and attracted.

3. There were two classes who did not appreciate Paul’s enthusiasm; men of no religion at all, like Festus, and false brethren. While Festus said, “Paul, thou art beside thyself,” persons connected with the Church at Corinth said the same. Paul’s defence was that whether sober or mad the love of Christ constrained him. Consider--

The love of Christ, i.e., the love in Christ which begets love for Christ.

1. The love which is in Christ is the love of God united with the love of man. Like a stream which starts from inaccessible mountains, and on some distant plain joins itself to some small rivulet, in the love of Christ there is everlasting, self-existent, Almighty love; yet mingling with it is a love begotten and limited by the constitution of human nature. The love of Christ, as Divine, is like the sun, distant, vast, and commanding; yet like the fires that blaze on our hearths in winter, cheerful, accessible, and inviting, It is like a great mountain almost defying us to climb; and yet like green pastures at our feet, tempting us to lie down.

2. Oh, that we could comprehend this “love of Christ which passeth knowledge!” In one sense we do know it. We know what Christ did: “went about doing good.” We know why Christ suffered: “to bring us to God.” But how much is there, even connected with these things, which surpasseth knowledge; and what less can he who hears of Christ’s love say, than, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee”? As fire spreads fire, if it come in contact with any inflammable material, so love begets love in the hearts which are susceptible of love.

3. Now love to Christ is awakened by the love of Christ. In the first instance our love is simple gratitude; but very soon it becomes delight, loyalty, friendship, complacency. And then it increases with our faith, and with its own manifestations.

The effect it produces. What does Paul mean by constraineth? That it held him to one object of life, that one object being Christ, and it shut him up to one course of conduct. The love of Christ laid hold of the man’s mind and kept his thinking faculty moving. It supplied him with motives. It quickened his conscience, commanded his will, lifted up and cast down emotions, formed his character, directed his conduct, and moulded his entire life.

1. Now no man need aspire to the apostleship in order to be a constant and devoted servant of Jesus. Martha and Mary were as much constrained by the love of our Saviour as was Paul. What we need is not a change of sphere, but a change of influence upon us. And the great influence to move you in your sphere, is the love of Christ.

2. How does the love of Christ constrain you? And are you sometimes misunderstood because of this? Do you please the men who are trying to make a compromise between ungodly and Christian principle? Are you at rest in their society, and are they at ease in yours? If this be the case you are not what Paul was when he penned these words. Your career is not like that of a planet commanded and controlled by the sun; but that of the iceberg--always ice--only sometimes ice thawing and melting upon the surface. And shall this sort of being put himself forward as a Christian? Shall this man ever be misinterpreted? What is there to perplex one? A man with no religious excitement cannot be a Christian. What is this gospel but feeling, passion, from beginning to end? It comes gushing out of the very heart of God. “God is love,” and God so loved the world, etc. Can I believe this without feeling? I may make it part of my creed without feeling. But can I live upon it without feeling? The coldest piece of humanity must be warmed by the gospel if it be believed. Conclusion:--Use this subject for personal examination. Do ask, what have I in this heart of mine? Have I fire, or have I ice? Apply the remedy. Believe the good news now. (S. Martin.)

One died for all--

The ethical value of the atonement

But first of all I would have you consider the ethical value of the fact of the atonement. What I mean by that is, the ethical significance of the atonement itself considered apart from our apprehension of it and belief in it. What was there of ethical life and force essentially involved in the atonement? Is it a merely legal and technical fact, external to all life--something that men can brush aside and say, We can do without it? Or is it a manifestation of the ethical life of God, creation’s fundamental ethical fact, replete with ethical forces?

1. Observe, first, that the act of atonement is deep-set in the ethical life of God. It is the expression, and of course the natural expression, of infinite love. It is simply the ethical life of the Infinite acting out its own inner fulness under the special conditions of a fallen world. The self-sacrificing love of Christ is actually the self-sacrificing love of God. God proves that He can really love by revealing the power of self-sacrifice. The underlying source of all ethical life is the rich self-sacrificing life of God as revealed in Christ. To deny that God is capable of sacrifice is to deny that He is an ethical Being. If God is love, then it must be possible for Him to resort to sacrifice, if necessary, to save the world.

2. The atonement was accomplished through the medium of ethical forces. I want you to notice these fourteenth and fifteenth verses very carefully, in order that you may bear in mind what I mean. So you perceive that the atonement was not merely a legal act; it was God’s life coming into our life. Not God sending His Son to stand outside of our life, and then pouring wrath down upon Him straight from heaven. There is no life, no power in that conception. That is not true atonement. There is yet another step along the path of ethical force. According to the Scriptures there have come into the human race new and infinite ethical forces through the Atonement. After sin had come into the world, man was rendered incapable in himself of ethical life. Sin brought in death and complete moral impotency. Then Christ name and linked Himself to the universal life of humanity. When He came He stood against the surging tide of human sin, He bore the terrible onset of it in His own life, standing as “the Son of Man” in the centre of the terrible tumult. Then with infinite power He sent the tide back, and brought humanity into the possibility of life again. Herein lies the ethical reality of the atonement--of the great sacrifice in which the Son of God suffered for the sins of the world. Through that expiation, and only through that, has spiritual life and power become possible for man.

So much for the fact of the atonement, the ethical significance that appertains to it, and the ethical force that pervades the whole of it. If this is true, if the fact of the Atonement is in very deed the basis of all ethical possibility, then it is natural to expect that belief in the atonement will be a powerful inspiration and incentive to ethical life. And we shall find that it is so.

1. First of all, the consciousness of sin produced by the idea of the atonement is a mighty impulse and incentive to ethical life. Which do you think of two men is likely to struggle with intensity of purpose against temptations to sin--the man that thinks sin means death, the man that believes it was arrested on its path, that it is pardoned, only through the sacrifice of the Son of God, or the man that thinks it is only a little imperfection or immaturity that will gradually whittle itself away? Which do you think of the two is likely to be the stronger morally and spiritually?

2. Then, again, the idea of forgiveness through expiation is a mighty inspiration to ethical and spiritual life. God forgives me at great cost to Himself--that is love indeed! There are people who talk of the love of God that do not know what they mean by it. A love that costs nothing! A love that is utterly incapable of proving its own existence! For these people tell us that the Infinite is incapable of the sacrifices of love. He can be complacent, kind, benevolent; He can let your sin pass away, just because He can do it without trouble or cost to Himself. Is that the inspiration that will send the warm life-throb of gratitude and love to God leaping in our life, that will fire us with enthusiasm to follow after holiness?

3. Then, again, the idea of the proprietary right of Jesus Christ over us is one of the grandest incentives to ethical life and service. Paul has presented it to us very fully here--“If one died, then all died,” and “He died for all, that they which live shall not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again.” If Christ’s death was an atonement, an expiation, then you and I died in that death. We have no life to call our own any more; we died on His Cross. What, then, is our present condition? Why, we are Christ’s own. The only life we have is the life He has given us. What right have you to serve yourself? Some one may say that we have the conception of God’s proprietorship over us apart from the atonement. But we know from experience that in a fallen world like this the conception of God as Creator is of little ethical value until it is set in that of God, the atoning Saviour. There are those that even make their creation into such a world as this a ground of complaint against God. But, taken apart, there is no comparison between their several ethical values. Our obligation to the God that created us is vague and unimportant compared with our obligation to the God that redeemed us through sacrifice. The life we received from the hands of the Creator cost Him but little compared with that we have received from the sacrifice of the atoning God, so the constraining love is vastly greater in the latter case than in the former.

4. Further, the conception of the ever-present living Christ is full of inspiration. But, says some one, even apart from the atonement and apart from the God manifest in Christ, we may feel that we have the presence of God with us. What do you know about the ethical relations of the Almighty except what you know in Jesus Christ? Suppose God had not revealed Himself in His Son, then the vague conception of a Divine presence which would have been left to us would have afforded little inspiration and stimulus to live a holy life.

Now, in order to make our examination quite complete, it is only fair to see what inspiration we can count upon--what ethical forces remain to us were we to leave out of account the incarnation of God and the expiatory atonement of Christ. There are left to us the following conceptions--

1. We have remaining, first of all, the belief in sin as an imperfection or immaturity--the belief that this sin is not even in itself an unmitigated evil if an evil at all--is only the reverse side of good that it is as necessary in the economy of God’s world as goodness--and we have only to wait a little while and it will pass away. How much inspiration for effort is there in that conception--how much inspiration to struggle against sin?

2. Further, if we leave the atonement of Jesus Christ out of account, we have Jesus Christ left as a pattern for us. I do not undervalue the fact that the life of Christ is an ideal copy, But compare that with the belief that that ideal life is also a living, infinite force within you.

3. Further, we have remaining the belief in God as the Father of spirits. I really cannot say how much that would mean if we knew nothing about Jesus Christ as God incarnate. It meant very little to the highest thought of man in the Greek world before Christ came. People who reject the atonement of Christ have no right to call God Father. It is only in Christ that we know Him to be Father. Now, you can compare the two sets of ideas as an incentive to ethical life--the atonement of Christ and the ideas that circle around it, and the ideas that are left after we have excluded the atonement. I am sure that you will all agree that there is no comparison whatever between the two. It is the atonement of Christ and faith in that atonement that is alone capable of building up the noblest ethical life of man. It is not for me to determine how far ethical life may co-exist with mutilated notions of sin and atonement, with a superficial and inadequate faith in God. It is not for me to make delicate estimates of all the springs and currents of human life. But it is for me to proclaim this, that no life can ever be ethically perfected and glorified except through the power of the atonement. (J. Thomas, M. A.)

Then were all dead.--

The fruit of Christ’s death

When Christ died all believers were dead in Him to sin and to the world.

This truth is asserted in scripture (Romans 6:6; 1 Peter 4:1; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3-5).

How can all be said to be dead when Christ died, since most were not born?

1. Christ sustained the relation of our Head. It was not in His own name that He appeared before God’s tribunal, but in ours, not as a private, but as a public person, so that when He was crucified all believers were crucified in Him, for the act of a common person is the act of every particular person represented by him, as a member of parliament serveth for his whole borough or county. Now that Christ was such a common person appeareth plainly by this, that Christ was to us in grace what Adam was to us in nature or sin (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:45).

2. Christ was on the Cross not only as a common person, but as a surety. In His death there was not only a satisfaction for sin, but an obligation to destroy it (Romans 6:6).

(1) On God’s part Christ undertook to destroy the body of sin by the power of His Spirit (Titus 3:5; Romans 8:13).

(2) On our part He undertook that we should no longer serve sin, but use all godly endeavours for the subduing it. Christ’s act being the act of a surety, He did oblige all the parties interested.

3. Our consent to this engagement is--

(1) Actually given when we are converted (Romans 6:13). Till the merit of Christ’s death be applied by faith to the hearts of sinners, they are alive to sin, but dead to righteousness; but then they are dead to sin, and alive to righteousness, and as alive yield up themselves to serve God in all things.

(2) Solemnly implied in baptism (Romans 6:3-5).

How can Christians be dead to sin and the world, since after conversion they feel so many carnal motions?

1. By consenting to Christ’s engagement they have bound themselves to die unto sin (Romans 6:2; Colossians 3:3-5).

2. When the work is begun, corruption is wounded to the very heart (Romans 6:14).

3. The work is carried on by degrees, and the strength of sin is weakened by the power of grace, though not totally subdued (Galatians 5:17).

4. Christ hath undertaken to subdue it wholly, and at length the soul shall be without spot, blemish, or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

What use the death of Christ hath to make us die unto sin and the world.

1. This was Christ’s end. He died not only to expiate the guilt of sin, but also to take away its strength and power (1 John 3:8; Galatians 2:17). Now shall we make void the end of Christ’s death, which was to oppose and resist sin? Shall we cherish that which He came to destroy? God forbid. Paul gloried in the Cross, as by it crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14).

2. By way of representation, the death and agonies of Christ do set forth the hatefulness of sin.

3. It worketh on love. It should make sin hateful to consider what it did to Christ, our dearest Lord and Redeemer.

4. By way of merit. Christ shed His blood not only to redeem us from the displeasure of God and the rigour of the law, but from all iniquity (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18; Galatians 1:4). Our dying to sin is a part of Christ’s purchase as well as pardon.

5. By way of pattern. Christ hath taught us how to die to sin by the example of His own death, that is, He denied Himself for us that we might deny ourselves for Him. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 5:15

He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves.

New life in Christ

By virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection Christians obtain the grace of a new life.

There is a spiritual life. Note--

1. The correspondence between common life and this life of grace.

(1) The natural life supposes generation, so does the spiritual (John 3:3; 1 John 2:27),

(2) Where there is life there is sense and feeling, especially if wrong and violence be offered to it, and so is the spiritual life bewrayed by the tenderness of the heart and the sense that we have of the interest of God. Can a man be alive and not feel it? And can you have the life of grace and not feel the decays and interruptions of it, and neither be sensible of comforts or injuries?

(3) Where there is life there is appetite, an earnest desire after that which may feed and support this life. So spiritually (1 Peter 2:2; John 6:27). The new nature hath its proper supports, and there will be something relished besides such things as gratify the animal life. In correspondence with this there will be a desire that carrieth us to that which is food to the soul, to Christ especially, and to the ordinances in which He is exhibited to us.

(4) Where there is life there will be growth; so do the children of God grow in grace (Psalms 92:13).

(5) Life is active and stirring. So spiritual life hath its operations; it cannot well be hid. Some only “have a name to live, and are dead.”

2. The differences. They differ--

(1) In dignity. Natural life is but a “wind,” a “vapour,” a continued sickness, but this is the life of God, and was a life bought at a dearer rate than the life of nature (John 6:51).

(2) In origin. The natural life is brought down unto us by many generations from the “first Adam.” All that our parents could do was to make way for the union of soul and body together. But by this life we mid Christ are united together, and He becomes a life-making spirit unto us.

(3) In duration. All our labour here is to maintain a lamp that soon goes out, or to prop up a tabernacle that is always falling. But the spiritual life begins in grace and ends in glory.

The respect that is between this life and Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is--

1. An example of it.

(1) Christ died before He rose, and usually God killeth us before He maketh us alive. The word is a killing letter before it is a word of life (Romans 7:9).

(2) The same Spirit of holiness that quickened Christ quickeneth us (Romans 1:4; Romans 8:14).

(3) Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more (Romans 11:9). So is a Christian put into an unchangeable state; sin hath no more dominion over him (John 11:25-26).

2. A pledge of it. And therefore He is called the firstfruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). His resurrection was in our name; therefore we are said to be raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1), and quickened together with Christ (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:4-5).

3. A cause of it. That Spirit of power by which Christ was raised out of the grave is the very efficient cause of our being raised and quickened (1 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 1:19-20). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The end of Christ’s death for all men

Now what applies to the Old Testament Church applies also to the New Testament Church, for, if the love which God bestowed of old upon His people were to be compared to a drop, His love as now exhibited might be compared to an ocean. Much more, then, may God now look for fruits from those who compose that Church. Now the nature of the fruit which He expects is specified in the text, and it is this: a life which must be a life not unto ourselves, but unto “Him who died for us and rose again.”

What is the manner of life which should not be; or, what is by nature the life unto self? The text is pretty clear in its condemnation of such a life, “That they should not live unto themselves.” We may, then, usefully inquire, What is life to, or living to, oneself? It may be said to consist in following or pursuing our own wills, glory, ends, and lusts.

1. The will of man is by nature in direct opposition to the will of God.

2. But, besides following his own will, the natural man follows his own glory.

3. But we may be so unambitious, perhaps, as that the word glory may seem to be utterly inapplicable in our case; yet all have ends in view, though there may be no glory in them--plans, or something to which God’s great end, for us, and which He sets before us in the Bible, is subordinated. First and foremost is self’s end; it may be a lawful or reasonable end in itself, except as it is brought unduly and unlawfully forward.

4. There is a fourth following, which is neither glorious nor profitable, yet common, and the grossest; it is lust. Christ died that they who lived might live to some purpose.

As to the manner of life which should be, or life not to self, but to Christ.

1. The pattern Saint--with reverence be it said--whom God proposed for our imitation in the matter of the will, as in all things else, is an example. He was subjected to sufferings that He might, in the entire subjection of His own will to His Father’s, teach us by example as well as precept. Our blessed Lord says, “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.”

2. To live to Christ, also, they must seek not their own glory, but the glory of God. This did Christ Himself.

3. Living to Christ will also involve seeking the interests of Christ--not our own, but Christ’s ends.

4. And there is a fourth pursuit if the believer is to crucify and to mortify the old man with his lusts and affections. “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice,” And among the fruits of the Spirit enumerated by St. Paul in writing to the Galatians (6.) are “joy and peace.” But you will observe an important clause of our text to have been as yet unnoticed--“That they which live.” A third and coneluding inquiry should be made concerning this life.

What is it? Whence comes it? It is the Spirit’s work, and it is Christ’s work, for “the Son quickeneth whom He will,” and it “is the Spirit that quickeneth.” Christ is called a “quickening Spirit” because of the power He exercises in this matter, and perhaps the first indication of His work is giving liberty to the will. (O. W. W. Forester, M. A.)

Self not the chief end of life

1. Self is the chief end of every natural man. “That they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves”--implying that all men living, who are not under the actual benefit and efficacy of our Saviour’s death, do live to themselves.

2. The end of our Saviour’s dying and rising again was to change the corrupt end of the creature.

3. Therefore we must be taken off from ourselves as our end, and be fixed upon another, even upon Christ, else we answer not the end of Christ’s death and resurrection.

4. It is highly equitable that, if Christ died for us and was raised for us as our happiness, we should live to His glory, and make Him our end in all our actions and the whole course of our lives. The apostle uses this consideration as an argument, and as a copy and exemplar. Therefore, as He rose to justify us, we must rise to glorify Him. (Bp. Hackett.)

Fully consecrated to Christ

Mr. Moody, in one of his addresses, said, “I see a man on this platform--I do not know if he remembers it--but when I was here in 1867, there was a merchant who came over from Dublin, and was talking with this business man in London; and as I happened to look in, this business man in London introduced me to the man from Dublin. The Dublin man said to the London man, alluding to me, ‘Is this young man all O O?’ Said the London man, ‘What do you mean by O O?’ Said the Dublin man, ‘Is he Out and Out for Christ?’ I tell you it burned down into my soul. This friend said, ‘I was a little ashamed,’ but I thought I was not, though I was a young man then.”

Living to Christ

Living to Christ in small things and living for Christ every day is the secret of large fruitfulness. A peach-tree or an orange does not leap into bounty of fruit by one spasmodic effort; an orchard does not ripen under a single day’s sunshine. Every rain-drop, every sunbeam, every inch of subsoil does its part. A fruitful Christian is a growth. To finish up a godly character by a mere religion of Sundays and sermons and sacraments and revivals and special seasons is impossible. A man may be converted in an instant, but he must grow by the year. The tough fibre of the slender branch that can hold up a half-bushel of oranges is very different from a little willow-switch; it is the steady, compacting process that makes that little limb like a steel wire. Such is a healthy and holy believer’s life. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)


In passing over a mountainous country the traveller comes at length to the water-shed. Up till he reached that elevation the brook has been meeting him; but so soon as he has crossed it a new-born rivulet runs dancing along with him. The external features of this ridge may be different in different cases. In one they may be clearly defined; in another they may be so little marked that it may be difficult to say where precisely the transition has been made, and the tourist can only tell that he has made it when he sees the new direction which the water is taking. But however it may be outwardly indicated, the fact remains that at such a ridge a few yards will determine whether the water falling from the clouds will find its destination in one ocean or another. Now the moment of conversion is the water-shed of life. Sometimes the transition is distinctly defined; sometimes it is hardly discernible; yet always it is the turning-point of a man’s eternity. This is the point which is indicated by the “henceforth” of my text. Mark--

What precedes it. There are three descriptions of the life before conversion given by Paul.

1. In the verse before us. To live unto ourselves is to make self the ruler, and selfishness the motive of our existence. Everybody hisses at the miser, but many actions which are accounted noble are just as selfish as his.

2. In Ephesians 4:7. Walking “as other Gentiles walk” exactly delineates the kind of life which multitudes are leading. They do as other people do; and if a thing is customary, that is held by them to be a sufficient reason for their practising it. They never ask what is the will of God in the matter. Is a man asked to contribute to some good object, then instead of inquiring whether in God’s sight he ought to give, and if so, how much, he will say, “Let me see who are subscribing, and what amounts.” Is he besought to help some struggling cause, then his inquiry will be, not what Christ would have him do, but whether any persons of respectability are connected with it. Is he in doubt as to the propriety of some course of conduct, his scruples are removed when you tell him that this one and that one of the fashionables do the same.

3. In Romans 6:6. Up to the “henceforth” they had been serving sin; and, indeed, this is said in so many words in the 17th verse. This is the most terrible description of the three--“Ye were the slaves of sin,” and the meaning is that in the unconverted sin has the entire mastery. By habitual indulgence in it they have given it the upper hand, and now it holds them in chains which they themselves have formed.

What follows it. We have no such variety as in the former case, for though error is manifold, truth is one. There are different ways to perdition, but there is only one to glory. There may be diversity of phase, but the same root principle exists in every true believer. “To me to live is Christ”; “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” These profound utterances imply that what before was self in the apostle was now Christ. “What things before were gain to him, those he counted loss for Christ.” Now it is the same with every real Christian. When a man truly passes this “henceforth,” his whole being runs Christward. The volume of the river may be small at first; but, small as it is, its direction is decided, and it gathers magnitude as it flows. He has Christ enthroned in his heart as the Lord of his love; over his intellect as his instructor in knowledge; over his will as the guide of his choice; over his life as the director of his conduct; yea, he can say with truth that he is Christ’s, as well as that Christ is his.

What produces it. The influence on a man’s heart of the love of Christ as that is manifested in His atoning death for him. Look at the history of Paul’s own conversion, and you will see that the change in him was brought about through his belief that Jesus died for his sins and rose again for his justification. Now it is the same with the convert yet. It is his faith that Jesus Christ the Son of God loved him and gave Himself for him, which through the agency of the Holy Ghost brings about this transformation. Christ is only a Saviour, or at most the Saviour, till I appropriate Him, but when I do that He is my Saviour; and that moment is the “henceforth” of my life. Conclusion: But some one may ask, Why should I seek to pass this “henceforth”? What is there about conversion that makes it of such importance?

1. It is essential to your reconciliation with God, and your enjoyment of the blessedness of heaven.

2. It will intensify your happiness.

3. It will increase your usefulness. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ.--

The Christian has new views

Of men.

1. He once estimated them by their earthly circumstances.

2. He now esteems them according to their moral and religious worth.

Of Christ.

1. He once despised and lightly esteemed Him.

2. He now regards Him as his Saviour and Lord. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Spiritual knowledge

Of Christ.

1. Is not that the same as wanting to forget the Saviour’s humanity? Should we have only a glorified Christ as the object of our contention? No. Paul simply refuses to boast, as did those false teachers who troubled his ministry, of having known Christ in Judaea; he knows Christ only according to the spirit--i.e., as his Saviour, which is the essential thing.

2. Let us draw from this thought an important lesson. Who has not envied Christ’s contemporaries? It seems to us that had we seen and heard Him, our hearts would have been more moved, and doubt would have been impossible.

(1) Now listen to Christ Himself. A woman cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee.” He answers, “Rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” A man says, “Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without.” He answers, “My mother and My brethren are those who hear the Word of God and do it.” His apostles would like to retain Him. He says, “It is expedient for you that I go away.” Mary Magdalene would lay hold on Him. Jesus answers her, “Touch Me not!” What does all this mean if not that it is by the soul, before everything, by faith that Jesus would be known and possessed. This, then, is the consoling conclusion, that neither time nor distance hinders Jesus from being known and His presence felt. And is not all this bright with evidence? Was not the Church which saw Christ feeble, timid, and sluggish, and did not Christ have to leave her that she might receive the baptism from on high? Did His discourses ever produce the wonderful effect which they have produced since? Why, He touches more hearts in a single day now than during the three years of His ministry!

(2) You envy the privilege of His disciples. Are you certain that His mean condition would not have turned you from Him? Who knows if you would not have denied Him? Supposing, however, that you had remained faithful to Him, would you have understood His work? Would you not have been attached to His earthly person more than to His Divine mission--would you have loved Him according to the spirit, as He would have Himself loved?

3. What is knowing Christ after the flesh to-day? This: To melt at the recollection of Jesus with an emotion entirely human; to weep over Him as the victim of human fanaticism; to honour His relics and memory. He is known according to the spirit. When at the foot of His Cross, it is not over Him, but over ourselves, that people weep; when in His death they contemplate not His sufferings merely, but more especially His sacrifice; when they act in union with His work, rejoice in His triumphs, and prepare for His coming.

Of men.

1. A signification has been given to these words which provokes a righteous protest. We see Christians, under the pretext of an imaginary perfection, break in sunder all the ties of flesh and blood, renounce their families, and, having put before them the wall of monastic vows, say to them, “I know you no longer!” Spiritual heroism, people exclaimed--brilliant triumphs gained over the flesh! Is that what the gospel teaches us? No! St. Paul tells us that the Christian who neglects his kindred is worse than an infidel. If, then, under pretext of renouncing the flesh, people should violate or neglect natural laws, they have against them not only Nature’s voice, but God’s. There will be cited here the numerous passages in which our Lord unsparingly condemns all those who, before following Him, consult flesh and blood. “If any man hate not,” etc. But He speaks of choosing between duty and delight--between the law of God and the affections of the family. Here our conscience gives Christ a full assent. But far from this be the system which condemns the life of the heart, the joys of existence and the flesh, as evil in themselves.

2. What must, then, be understood by “I know no one after the flesh”? In every man there are two natures--flesh and spirit. To the eyes of flesh you are rich, poor--a master, a servant, etc.; to the eyes of the spirit you are a child of God. Now, St. Paul declares to us that henceforth what he would know in every man is the spiritual and immortal nature. Before Christ, what was a poor man, a slave, a publican? Now, to the eyes of Jesus the soul of the lowest harlot weighs as much when put in the scales as the soul of Caesar. Everywhere He only sees sinners to be saved; to all He offers the same language, grants the same love. In the school of Christ Paul learnt to see in the Festuses and Agrippas only lost souls, whom he will cause to hear the truth which saves without being preoccupied with their sceptre or their crown; it is there that he learnt to preach the gospel to an Aquila and a Lydia, with the very same love as had it been the soul of the Pro-consul Sergius or the Governor Publius. It is thus that we must know men. The world has its distinctions of rank, of learning, of fortune, and they are necessary. Should you overturn them to-day they would reappear to-morrow. Let us respect them. But let us know men by what they have that is great and immortal. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

Men not to be known after the flesh

Not to know men after the flesh is not to judge of men according to endowments, though never so glittering, which arise only from fleshly principles. To esteem man by inward grace. Men esteem not their fields for the gay wild flowers in them, but for the corn and fruit; “yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” We do not glory in Him, because He was of kin to us, according to the flesh. We look upon Him no more, only as a miraculous man; but we know Him as the great Redeemer of the world. We consider Him in those excellent things He hath done, those excellent graces which He hath communicated, those excellent offices He doth exercise; we know Him, after a spiritual manner, as the Author of all grace.

1. Natural men have no delight in anything but secular concerns; love nothing but for their own advantage; admire not any true spiritual worth.

2. An evidence of being taken off from ourselves and living to Christ is our valuation either of ourselves or others, according to holiness. And as a new creature is framed after the image of God, so his affections and valuations of men or things are according to God’s esteem of them.

3. Our professions of Christ, serving Him and loving Him barely for ourselves and for fleshly ends doth not consist with regeneration. Such a love is a love to ourselves, not to Christ.

4. We should eye Christ and arise to the knowledge of Him, as He is advanced and exalted by God. (Bishop Hackett.)

The new knowledge of Christ and man

Paul had just said, “One died for all, therefore all died”--i.e., according to God’s thoughts and purpose, the whole race, when Christ died, ceased to belong to the visible and transient world; and we, entering into the thought of God, “henceforth know no man after the flesh.” In death all earthly distinctions disappear. The rich man is rich, the poor man is poor no longer, etc. But further, “Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more.” There were Christian people then living who had seen Christ, and this was surely a great distinction and blessedness; but it may have been a peril to them. I can imagine them assuming a certain superiority over their brethren. “We did not receive the gospel from Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, but from the Christ Himself.” And I can also imagine that others, when the memory of our Lord’s earthly life was so fresh, would feel an absorbing interest in all that they could learn about Christ as a man among men, and would come to think of Him under the common conditions of human life. There are some of us, Paul seems to say, who have known Christ after the flesh; but what does it matter that we remember His face, voice, manner, dress? To us He is not first of all a fellow-countryman, whom we used to see in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and whose brethren and sisters and friends we knew; or a wonderful religious teacher, who in our presence said many wonderful things and did many wonderful works. To us He is the Eternal Son of God, the Brother of all men. His earthly life has passed into a larger, mightier, and more glorious life. Paul’s gospel began where the gospel of those who knew Christ after the flesh ended--with the suffering and the death of Christ. “I delivered unto you among the first things that Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures.” All that went before Paul passed over very lightly. Consider:

The new knowledge of Christ. To Paul, Christ was infinitely more than an august and pathetic tradition, and He must be infinitely more to us if we are to preach the gospel with any effect.

1. We shall miss the substance of our message if we know Christ after the flesh. From the materials given to us in His teaching and history, we may construct a beautiful system of ethics and a noble conception of God, but we shall still miss the most animating and effective part of the gospel. Christianity is a historical religion; but the history on which our faith is founded did not come to an end eighteen hundred years ago. Through sixty generations men of every land have discovered for themselves that He is living still. Not in the remembrance of Christ, but in the living, personal Christ--a great multitude whom no man can number have found God. The life of every Christian man adds to the great story new miracles of mercy and power wrought by Christ. The Canon is not closed. Every age contributes material for new gospels. We have not to teach men a mere method of salvation revealed by Christ eighteen centuries ago. The Christian method of salvation is the method by which Christ Himself saves men now. With a dead Christ, belonging to a remote age, and not able and eager to save men now, the Christian method of salvation would be worthless.

2. To have seen the Lord after He had risen, was one of the qualifications for the apostleship; and the apostles were not merely witnesses that Christ had died and had risen again. When Christ rose He passed into new and higher regions of life. His appearances during the forty days had this among other purposes, to bring home to them the immense change through which He had passed, and to discipline their faith in the reality of His presence in the invisible and eternal order. They saw that the limitations of His human life had been dissolved, and they were gradually prepared to receive His own wonderful words, “All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth.” Not till they had this new knowledge of Christ could they be sent to make disciples of all nations.

3. Now, have we that kind of knowledge of Christ which is necessary both for our work at home and for our missions to the heathen? Do we think it enough to know Christ after the flesh? During the last forty years there has been a remarkable awakening of interest in the earthly history of our Lord. There are tens of thousands who have been reading the four gospels from their childhood who feel as if they had come to know Jesus of Nazareth for the first time. They have been able to place Him in His true relations to His age and to His country. The whole story has become real and solid to them. They know Him almost as well as the men and women knew Him who actually saw and heard Him. There is a real value in knowledge of this kind. But if our most effective conception of Christ is a mere historical conception, then we know Christ after the flesh. And our knowledge is rudimentary and imperfect. We must see Him descend into the mystery of death, wait for His emergence from darkness, join in the songs which hail His resurrection, see Him ascending to the throne of God, rejoice that He belongs, not merely to the distant past, but that He is the contemporary of all generations; rejoice that He is here, not under the limitations of His earthly life, but in the glorious fulness of Divine power, surrounded with the splendour of God’s eternal kingdom.

4. It was one of the innumerable evils which Romanism inflicted on Christendom that it held constantly before the eyes the exhausted, agonised form of Christ on the Cross, and so deprived men of the animation and courage inspired by the knowledge that He is now on the throne of the Eternal. A similar loss may be inflicted on ourselves if our thoughts are imprisoned within the limits of His earthly life, and if we do not exult in His resurrection and in His constant presence in the Church. Are we, then, to forget His earthly history? Ah, no! But we know Him, not as His contemporaries knew Him, but with a larger and deeper knowledge. That poverty, that homelessness, that physical exhaustion, that agony--behind them all we see the Divine glory. In Christ, even during His earthly years, we look “not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at the things which are not seen and eternal.”

5. And there are times when, if the story of the historic Christ is to command confidence, it must be sustained by the testimony of living men who have been delivered by the living Christ from the consciousness of guilt, from evil passion, and habit, and eternal death. Indeed, according to the ordinary methods of the Divine mercy, it is this personal testimony that moves the hearts of men to repent and inspires them with faith.

The new knowledge of man. It is not enough that we cease to know Christ after the flesh. The fires of missionary enthusiasm will burn low unless we are also able to say we henceforth know no man after the flesh. We must see men not merely in their place in the visible and temporal order, but environed with the invisible and the eternal order.

1. This man has immense wealth, but has he risen with Christ and made sure of the everlasting inheritance? If not, how poor! That man is poor, ill-clad, lives a hard and cheerless life, but is he in Christ? Yes; then how rich, for he is the heir of God’s eternal righteousness and glory! So with regard to princes and paupers, learned and ignorant, moralists and profligates, to achieve the dignity to which the eternal purpose of God destined even the obscurest of mankind. That man is a slave, but is he one with Christ? If he is, eternal glories sit already on his brow, and he may stand at last among the principalities and powers of the kingdom of heaven. This man has learning, keen and vigorous intellect, genius which will give him fame through many generations, but does he know the Eternal? If not, he has missed the knowledge which it supremely concerns him to possess. That man, as men deem, knows nothing, his mind is dull and uninstructed, he has never mastered even the elements of science, the songs of great poets have never kindled his imagination, he has never heard even the names of the great teachers of the race; but does he know Christ? Yes? Then he has been taught of God and received the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and has a wisdom transcending all the wisdom of the schools.

2. And in the presence of races degraded through a long succession of generations, we must not despair, for they are living in a redeemed world; every man is dear to God, and by the power of His Spirit may rise to unknown heights of righteousness and glory. We must know no man “after the flesh.”

3. We must not know ourselves after the flesh if we are to have the strength which the great tasks to which we are called demand. Who are we that we should hope to change the religious faith of hundreds of millions of men? What resources have we for so immense a work? We should lose all heart and courage if we measured ourselves against the difficulties, the impossibilities of our enterprise. But we are greater than we seem. We are one with Christ, who descended from the heights of God to seek and to save the lost, and who, now that He has returned to His glory, is seeking and saving them still. And it is He that is seeking, He that is saving them, through us. His power sustains our weakness, and in our very weakness is perfected. Let us be of good courage; all things are possible to us, for we are one with Him. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)

How to view our fellow-men

As a new creature (verse 17), he who is in Christ takes a new view of almost all the objects by which he is surrounded. The eyes of his understanding being enlightened, he sees them in new light, and that a true light. He gets a new view of sin, of Christ, of time, of this world, of himself, and, lastly, of his fellow-men. Henceforth he knows no man after the flesh.

We see the worth of our own souls, and that the souls of others are of equal worth. The father realises that his children have souls, which, like his own, will exist for ever. The mother, as she rocks her infant to rest on her bosom, knows that the heart which has begun to beat in that little frame will not find rest till it is laid on the breast of Jesus. We are not surrounded by the mere creatures of a day, but by responsible and undying men, whose souls shalt exist as long as God Himself.

We see that as by nature we are under the sentence of condemnation, so others are under the same sentence. When is it that we think most of an earthly friend, and are most deeply interested in his welfare? Is it when he is known to be in safety, or is it not rather when he is in peril? When is it that the wife thinks most of the husband, and the sister feels the deepest interest in the brother? Is it not when laid on a bed of distress, or when fighting with the billows of death? It was to seek and save that which was lost that Christ left the bosom of the Father and came to this cold world, and died amidst the agonies of the Cross. Those who have the same mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus will hasten to be fellow-workers with Him in saving souls from death.

As having attained the enjoyment of Christ’s peace, we seek that others may share it with us. As long as we were without Christ and Christ’s peace, we did not know the value of them, and so could not be expected heartily to recommend them to others. But when we have “tasted that the Lord is good,” then we can enlarge upon our own experience, and we feel that if we were but the instruments of communicating that peace to others, we would be conveying a greater amount of good than by the largest temporal benefits.

When we love Christ ourselves, then our hearts are drawn towards those who, like us, love the Lord Jesus. Man is, in his very nature, a social being. It is this principle abused which congregates the wicked. It is the same attraction, now sanctified, which brings together the children of God. And how often has it happened that, when holding sacred converse with one another, Jesus Himself has joined us, as He did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?

These views and motives will impel those who are swayed by them to do good as God may give thee opportunity. All genuine religion begins within, but while it begins within, it does not end there; it begins within only as all streams commence in some mountain where are their heaven-fed fountains; but it flows out like the stream, and carries with it a refreshing and fertilising influence. Watering, in this way, the objects immediately around them, Christian faith and zeal will flow towards more distant objects, towards the world at large. The prayer will be that, beginning at Jerusalem--that is, at home--the gospel be preached to every creature. Conclusion: From this survey we see--

1. What is the grand function of the organised Church; it is to proclaim the way, sustain the truth, and propagate the life.

2. The grand aim of Church ordinances. We are to secure, in regard to them, that they be in thorough accordance with the Word of God, and that they be employed to edify the Church, and not for the purpose of gratifying the senses or stimulating the imagination.

3. What is the style of preaching most fitted to advance the kingdom of God? It is preaching founded on Scripture, that speaks of Christ, and speaks to all--to rich and poor, to rich and barbarian, to old and young. It is a great evil in our community, the separation of rich and poor, especially in our great cities. But it is vastly greater when it is permitted to enter the house of God, which is meant to counteract and soften the severances of the world. (J. McCosh, D. D.)

St. Paul’s gospel

I wonder what impression that strange sentence produces upon the mind of an average Englishman. Does it give him any intelligible idea at all? Yet St. Paul undoubtedly regarded that sentence as one of the most important he ever wrote. It reminds us of the striking difference between him and the other apostles. While Christ lived on earth St. Paul never knew Him. Now the apostles and the Jewish Christians generally attached the very greatest importance to the fact that they had thus known Christ. St. Paul, on the other hand, instead of bewailing his disqualification, as they represented it, declared with special emphasis it made no difference at all. You will remember how emphatically in a characteristic passage in Galatians he repudiated the idea that he owed anything at all to the other apostles. They were in no sense his superiors. They were in no sense better qualified for their office because they had known Christ after the flesh and he had not. When he met these apostles who had known Christ in the flesh he declared, “They, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6). He declares that their knowledge of Christ after the flesh was no advantage to them; and in the passage before us he goes so far as to say that if he himself had known Christ after the flesh he would have rid himself of the knowledge, for that knowledge at that particular time was a danger and a temptation. It led men to exaggerate the importance of those things about Christ which were seen and temporal, and to overlook to some extent those things which alone were of everlasting importance. As a matter of fact, those who did thus know Christ after the flesh either never realised His true glory, or were many long years in coming to the knowledge of Him. Have you ever realised the startling fact that St. Paul never once refers to the lovely life of our Lord as recorded in the gospels? He never mentions any of His miracles, parables, words, or deeds. His silence teaches us, even more significantly than his speech, that the essence of the gospel lies far below the mere details, incomparable as they are, of the human life of our Lord. You and I are particularly interested in this remarkable feature of St. Paul’s experience, for we are like him. We are not like St. Peter, who was a disciple from the beginning. We never met Christ, we never heard His loving voice. We may have an immeasurably better knowledge of Him. We may know Him as St Paul himself knew Him, in the deepest sense of the word, better than any one else, except St. John. How did he know Him? His knowledge is expressed in that ever-memorable phrase, “It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, to reveal His Son in me.” Not outside of me, but in me. O, what does that mean? It means that there are two totally different ways of contemplating Jesus Christ. We may dwell on the known incidents of that lovely life just as we might dwell upon Plato’s incomparable account of the trial and death of Socrates. Any such study of the mere fragmentary history of the beautiful incidents in the human life of our Lord is as inspiring as it is ennobling. But it is outside of us. It does not stir the depths of our being. Or, on the other hand, we may think of Jesus Christ in a totally different way--as the Risen Christ, the Living Christ, the Christ in whom we all at this very moment live and move and have our being; the Christ who is literally in every one of us. This, indeed, is what St. Paul called “my gospel”--the gospel which God sent to him by revelation, the gospel which he was better qualified to propound, because he was not confused by any knowledge of Christ after the flesh. St. Paul himself was amazed and perplexed and agitated, and said, What is the matter with me? I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I have kept all the law, and yet I am as wretched as I can be. Then he discovered that it was Christ who made him wretched. At last, he said, “It pleased God to reveal Himself in me. Then I realised that there could be no happiness for me until I submitted to the Divine Saviour. Thank God, I did not know Him after the flesh, for I might then have been prevented from knowing as I know now, that He is the great light of God, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Take the case of an agnostic, who declares that he never felt the least religious emotion, a man of high character and very scrupulous conscience. You say to me, How do you reconcile that case with your theory of Christ being in the heart of every man? Quite easily. If in midwinter you wander with me into the wood, would you say it was dead? Not a leaf, not a bud, not a blade of grass. But you are not deceived by the superficial appearance. You wait for the sunshine and the rain, and you shall see the summer. And in the case of this agnostic, wait until your Father in heaven has sent him the sunshine of His love and the rain of His grace, and you shall find strange stirrings in the depths of his soul, for Christ is in him, as He is in all of us. This is, indeed, what St. Paul meant in the first part of my text, where he says, “We henceforth know no man after the flesh.” He not only refused to know Christ after the flesh, but he refused to know anybody else after the flesh. He could not think of any man apart from the Divine Christ. He never thought of any man without realising that Christ was in every man. You are not a mere man or woman to me. You are men and women redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. You are human beings dear to God, dearer than you are to yourself or anybody else. (H. Price Hughes, M. A.)

The perpetuity of the Divine incarnation

Consider what the apostle meant. It is very probable that he had in view those who underrated his authority because he had not been one of the original disciples, and so seen Christ face to face. And it was of course but natural, that as years stole on, greater interest and authority would attach to those who, like Peter and John, had held converse with the Redeemer. Whether St. Paul ever beheld the Saviour has been questioned. On the one hand, if he had seen Him, we should expect some mention of it; on the other, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, he could scarcely, we imagine, have failed to have his attention drawn to the miracles and teaching of Christ, and if so would scarcely have failed to obtain a sight of Him. The text sounds as though he were himself uncertain about the matter. And it is quite easy to imagine that he may have been in one of the many crowds which at various seasons gathered round our Lord; and yet have been so situated as to be uncertain whether he had really caught sight of His sacred form. However this be, he declares at any rate that henceforth he would neither build nor exalt himself upon that knowledge.

1. But did the apostle mean that from that time he would cease to think of Him as clothed with flesh and meditate only upon His Divinity? Surely not. So to have done would have been to lose sight of one of the most stupendous truths of the gospel--viz., that Christ Jesus is at this moment in the likeness of man. The Eternal Word when He became incarnate became so for ever. Oh! if we desired to set before you in all its marvellousness the great miracle of the incarnation, it is not through the dimness of past centuries to the valleys of Judah that we would try to lead your thoughts. Beyond the third heaven, where the cherubim and seraphim are ever waiting, where the song that none can learn is ever swelling, and the unspeakable words which it is not lawful for men to utter are ever sounding, in the centre of the light inaccessible, we would teach you to behold the form of Man. And we cannot but observe how thorough recognition of the present manhood of Christ satisfies the longing of the human heart for a sympathetic being in the object of worship.

2. Think you it was this truth, so rich in consolation for all who are partakers of human nature, that St. Paul resolved to put from his mind? Rather was it this truth on which he purposed to build exclusive of all others. He would not in completing the Incarnation be ever going back to the remembrance of the Saviour in His body of weakness, when he might fill his soul with the thought of that same body radiant in beauty, the centre of the heavenly host. The form of the Sob of Man as seen at Jerusalem, was but the first and most transitory revelation of the great miracle of Mary’s conception; the nobler and more lasting results of the same Divine child-bearing were the sight by faith of the same form of a man for ever enthroned on high. Who wonders then that the inspired apostle, thus looking to the present and the future, was ready to forget the past, and that as the vision of the excellent glory rose up in his mind, he cast behind him the remembrance of his God in His humiliation?

The lessons for us.

1. There is amongst us a great tendency to view the days of Christ’s personal sojourn upon earth as days of extraordinary privilege.

2. Now in opposition to these ideas, we conceive Scripture to intimate that we are the more highly favoured. Christ Himself said, “It is expedient for you that I go away.”

(1) We can hardly fail to perceive that the sight of God must have been itself a temptation to unbelief. Was there, think you, nothing hard in realising the fact, that the Being to whom they spoke as man to man was very God? If, therefore, His bodily presence was a source of joy, so also was it a source of temptation. Many a man who believes Christ is God, now that He is unseen, would have disbelieved if he had beheld Him in the form of a servant.

(2) And this being so, we would remind you that Christ is really present with His redeemed now, as He was with His disciples in Galilee. An object is not less real because it is unseen. What spiritual advantages did the disciples reap from proximity to their Master? He was their counsellor; and will He not teach us? He was their support; and are not His everlasting arms around us? Now, moreover, He is not only present, but omnipresent. They could be separated from Him for awhile; we can never be parted. (Bp. Woodford.)

The brotherhood of man

“Henceforth know we no man after the flesh.” In these words St. Paul is evidently contrasting the view he had been accustomed to entertain respecting his fellow-men before his conversion to Christ, with that he took now that he had been brought under the influence of Christian truth. Then he estimated men “after the flesh,” i.e., he judged them by earthly standards. These were the questions he would doubtless have asked himself respecting any upon whom he wished to pass judgment: What is his descent? Where has he been instructed? Has he passed through the schools of philosophy sitting at Gamaliel’s feet? What are his professions? Does he fast twice a week? But now that he had been brought into contact with Christ Jesus, and had become the recipient of His salvation, he estimated men according to a very different standard. Then, “after the flesh,” but now after the spirit. And these, we may reasonably suppose, are the inquiries which would rise within him: Have they the spirit of Christ? Are their hearts right in the sight of God? Do they love and practice the principles of the gospel of peace? This twofold method of estimating men prevails still. If you judge men after the flesh, the undoubted effect will be to narrow and to contract your sympathies. Adopting such a test as this, society will necessarily be broken up into fragments, each caring only for itself; the man of rank caring only for those of noble descent, the man of wealth for those of large possessions, or the man of culture for those of educated tastes, while the mass of those who possess none of the enrichments will be left to themselves. Only let men be judged, not “after the flesh,” but according to their character, and large-heartedness, and world-embracing love will take the place of that exclusiveness which the opposite course engenders. “The Lord looketh at the heart.” He recognised in the fallen those who were capable of being raised from their degradation, and of loving and serving Him in holiness and righteousness. And beholding thus their moral and spiritual capabilities, His heart yearned for their uplifting. The fulness of time at length arrived. Or think of St. Paul. He resolved that he would henceforth judge men after their character, and not after the flesh, and the effect of this decision was that he saw some around him who had clearly become renewed in the spirit of their minds--who had become new creatures in Christ Jesus. And even so with ourselves, if we only view men in the light of their spiritual character and capacities, the effect will unquestionably be that we shall find among all classes in society men whose lives are marked by the principles of righteousness, and beholding what “the truth as it is in Jesus” has wrought for them, and conscious that it can effect similar results wherever it is received, we shall be constrained to labour for its extension throughout the world, that thus the entire moral aspect of the universe may be changed, the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose, earth becoming like heaven. And thus we see theft the religion of Christ calls forth the sympathy and love of men towards the entire race to which they belong. The apostle adds: “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” In this early Church gathered in the city of Corinth there were several parties. In condemning the divisions which had thus arisen, the apostle uses the words: “Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” Now the question is naturally suggested, what could be the meaning of any who said, “I am of Christ.” It would appear that the persons who said this were converts from Judaism, and who claimed some special relationship to Christ, arising from the fact that they had seen Him when He sojourned upon earth. We are now prepared to apprehend the meaning of St. Paul in the words before us. He felt theft he might as justly as any of them rejoice in having seen Christ in the flesh; but he would not, in that he felt there was a far higher view of Christ than that of gazing upon His outward form, even the apprehension by faith of the spiritual presence of the Redeemer; the contemplation of His character and spirit, and the so beholding of this as to enter into it, and to be changed into the same from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. It was after this that his noble spirit aspired. It must not be supposed that the apostle was indifferent to the great fact of the humanity of the Son of God; indeed, is there any writer, save the Evangelist John, who refers more frequently or touchingly to this than St. Paul? Does he not remind the Galatians how that in the fulness of time, “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman,” etc. And, in this respect, the apostle presents a worthy pattern to us. Like him, let us not look so much to that which is material, as to that which is spiritual in relation to Christ Jesus. It behoves us, therefore, to be careful that we do not lose sight of that spiritual apprehension of the Saviour which alone can meet the requirements, and satisfy the aspirations of the soul of man. It is even so. He is the eternal One. He is the very Son of God. And having been made perfect through suffering, He has entered into His glory. His humiliation is past, and He is now exalted at God’s right hand. The kingly diadem encircles His brow. We have known Him after the flesh, battling with poverty, and with temptation and sin, with woe and death, but henceforth we know Him thus no more. He is the victor now--the King of glory. (S. D. Hillman.)

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature.

In Christ and what it involves

The new relation indicated. The believer is “in Christ.”

1. As the ground of his acceptance (Philippians 3:9). Christ by His atoning sacrifice has supplied the grounds whereby sinful men may become objects of complacent regard to God. We are lost in ourselves, but are to find ourselves in Him, surrounded by His merits as with a wall of defence, sheltered by them as by an all-embracing canopy. This alone is the position “wherein we are accepted in the beloved.”

2. As deriving from Him his spiritual life (John 15:4-5; cf. Galatians 2:20). The link of union being faith. Christ is “the living soul” of the spiritual life of the believer. The order is, first the believer enters into Christ by faith, then Christ enters into the believer by power. The branch is in the tree by union with it, and the tree is in the branch by the life it imparts to it in the nourishing sap.

3. As the sphere of his activities. Suppose, e.g., a person hears a glowing account of Australia. He believes every word of the account. By this act of faith Australia enters his heart, and he becomes possessed by an intense desire to get there. Physically, Australia and he are thousands of miles apart, but morally Australia dwells in his heart, and has become a motive power within him, and will not give him rest until it brings him bodily there. He ventures across the ocean, until he finds himself actually in the country which was already in his heart. Here, now, he lives and acts. Thus it is with the believer; the whole fabric of his life becomes permeated by its spirit and purposes. Such expressions as “in sin,” “in faith,” “in wisdom,” “in love,” “in the spirit,” mean that the particular things in which the person is said to be, form the sphere of his activity, the circle in which he moves, the atmosphere in which he breathes. And this devotedness of life to Christ is not limited to the religious activities, but includes all secular employments.

The new experiences involved in this relation.

1. He who is in Christ is a new creation. In what sense? Clearly not in any physical or constitutional sense, for in that case he would not be the same person after the change. The latter portion of the text explains the nature of this important process. It is not the person that passes away, but his things, his former principles, motives, aims, and habits: and new ones have been substituted.

2. This change involves an entire reversal of the whole tenor of the life. Take, e.g., the steam locomotive. Its course is in a certain direction, but connected with it is the reversing gear. By the action of this gear the engine which may be seen proceeding with such speed in one direction may in a few minutes be seen moving with equal velocity in the contrary direction. The change does not involve any change in its construction, but only in its course; every wheel, rod, and crank that worked before works now, only in the reverse direction. This represents the change effected upon the believer through his relation to Christ. There has been no change effected in his constitution, only the whole course of his activities has been changed as to direction. And the change in these respects has been so entire as to justify the statement that he who has undergone it is a new creature. The new life is so different from the old, so changed as to its employment and aims, as to be like the life of another person. Paul himself is a striking exemplification of this truth. (A. J. Parry.)

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature

When the Apostle Paul said this, I suppose he was thinking of himself. What a different man he had become since he was a Christian! I do not wonder that he thought himself almost a new creation by the Almighty Maker. How many old things had passed away; how many new things had come! His whole manner of thought had been revolutionised. Before, he was on the highway to position and honour in the Jewish Church; now, he was reviled as an apostate. He had entered a new world of thought and life. But notice the stress laid by the apostle, here and elsewhere, on that little preposition “in.” It is to be in Christ which makes one a new creature. So he says, “My wish is that I may be found in Him”; and in another place, “When God revealed His Son in Me.” It is one thing to be with Christ, and another thing to be in Him. If we had been with Christ when He was walking the streets of Capernaum or Jerusalem, we might not have thought much about it. Nicodemus was with Him, and had a long conversation with Jesus, but does not seem to have come again. Judas was with Jesus during all His ministry, and then betrayed Him. We are all of us with Jesus, in a certain sense, by being taught about Him from childhood, by growing up in the midst of Christian society. But we are not necessarily in sympathy or union with Him on that account. Our purposes may be very different from His. Contiguity is not union. How often parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, live together, side by side, for years, in utter ignorance of each other’s inmost thoughts, sorrows, experiences, and hopes. They do not understand each other at all; for it is mutual love, not proximity, which leads to mutual knowledge. Nor is it enough even to be strongly attached to others, and clingingly devoted to them. That does not necessarily produce real union. We may cling to them externally, yet never be in them, never get a glimpse of the real secret of their lives. It was the sort of feeling with which a snail sticks to the rock, or a barnacle to a ship’s bottom--because they need something strong and solid to cling to. To cling to another for our own comfort is not to be in him. So some persons cling to Jesus-for their own salvation. Weak in themselves, they need something to hold them up. They may cling merely for their own sake, only to be saved. They have not entered into the mind or the heart of Christ at all. Nor is it enough to have a great deal to say or to do about Christ in order to be in Him. You may spend your life in talking about Him, using His Name on all occasions, and yet be in no real union with Him. Men may fight for Him, die for Him, and not be in Him. The crusaders who went to Palestine to die under the banner of the Cross were, many of them, in no sympathy with Him. To be in Christ we must love Him. But love means much more than blind affectionate instincts, or clinging attachments, or sudden emotions. Love looks up to receive a higher influence, to be inspired by a purer life. Love must elevate us, or it is not really love. If any man loves, he is in the person he loves. He has entered into his soul, and has something of his spirit. If any man loves Christ, he is in Christ, because he has something of Christ’s spirit, and is a new creature. He has something added to him, or developed out of him, that was not there before. There is nothing sudden, nothing artificial about this. This change is as natural as that by which the blood renews the body; the body seeming to continue the same, but always becoming different. It is a growth, and all growths are gradual. Conversion is always sudden, for it is simply turning round. But regeneration is gradual, for it is a growth. Paul was converted in a moment on his way to Damascus. He changed his mind about Christianity. He began a new life. But it took him a long time to become a Christian. Thus, if we are in Christ, we grow into new convictions. Not into new speculations or beliefs, for these may change suddenly, or may not change at all. Belief puts us with Christ, but not in him. A creed is like a carriage, which may take us to the place where our friend is, but cannot put us into communion with him. But if we are in Christ, we have new convictions. Spiritual things become more real to us. God becomes to us more real. So, also, if we are in Christ, we grow into new affections. A change of heart, as it is called, does not mean any new faculty or power of loving implanted in us, which we had not before. It means having new objects of love. What we did before merely from a sense of duty, we now do with pleasure. So, again, the Bible is a new book if we are in Christ. If you stand outside of the Cathedral of Milan, or the Minster of Cologne, and look on the vast windows of the choir, they seem dark and dingy. But go inside and let the light stream through them, and they turn into emeralds, and sapphires, and rubies, and are gorgeous with the forms of saints and angels. So enter into a book, sympathise with the spirit and aim of its author, and you can understand it. We call the Bible a supernatural book. I call it the most intensely natural book ever written. It is a revelation of human nature, showing its motives and workings. It is like a watch with a transparent dial, through which we look and see the movement. Again, if we are in Christ, life becomes new. Nothing prevents life from seeming old, stale, flat, and weary, like having an object--something we are interested in, something we love to do. The higher and better this object is, the more of interest it adds to our life. There is no end to the joy and freshness of existence, if we can have Christ in our hearts, and be in His heart, by drinking His spirit. And if any man be in Christ, death is new. Death has lost its terrors. (Jas. Freeman Clarke.)

The man in Christ, and what he becomes

The state supposed. “If any man be in Christ.”

1. Any man may be in Christ. For what hinders? Nothing from without the sinner himself. There is no prohibition, no legal barrier interposed to prevent any one being in Christ.

2. Every man must be in Christ in order to be saved.

3. Every believer is in Christ. The sinner, by the first act of faith in Christ, becomes united to Him, or one with Him. In what respects one? Not one in essence, in nature, or person; but one with Christ in law--in the eye of the Divine Lawgiver. The believer is so treated as if he had done what Christ did.

The consequent change affirmed. The change is not antecedent to, but consequent on, the state of being in Christ. Every man in Christ is brought into--

1. New relations. Every state of being gives rise to corresponding relations. A state of poverty, for instance, has its relations generally among the poor of this world; of wealth, among the rich; of rank, among the noble; of power, among the powerful; of rule and authority, among the rulers of this world; of liberty, among the free; of subjection, among the servile; and of captivity, among the captives. So it is with spiritual relations. Of these Christ is at once the source and the centre. The relations of every one in Christ are all changed. Being in Christ the man is out with Satan; he is severed from the world.

2. Receives a new nature or disposition. New relations tend to the formation of a new character, to fit the “man in Christ,” for intercourse with those to whom he is spiritually related. A mere superficial and temporary change will not answer the appellation of a new creature. That can mean nothing less than a real, a radical, a universal, and abiding change over the whole man, over his whole spirit, and soul, and body. The new creature has new views. It is in the new as it was in the old creation; the first element produced to dispel the darkness and disorders all around was light. New inclinations as well as new views. New affections.

The evidence adduced. Old connections with the devil, the world, and the flesh, are broken off; old idols are cast away. “Behold, all things are become new.” The man in Christ becomes a Christian, who is become a new man, and comes into a new world. To the new creature, even old and familiar things wear a new aspect. To his eyes, the sun shines with new splendour, the heavens display new glory, “the manifold works of God” present new wonders. “Behold!” which is a note of attention, of wonder, and of admiration.

1. With attention, for its certainty and importance.

2. With wonder, for its novelty.

3. With admiration, for its excellence. New things may be noteworthy for their greatness and novelty, but not for excellence or usefulness. (Geo. Robson.)

Man in Christ a new man

(text in conjunction with 2 Corinthians 5:13-16):--We can attach only four intelligible ideas to the expression “in Christ.”

1. In His ever-sustaining energy. This cannot be the idea, inasmuch as Paul uses it to designate the state of a particular class of men; whereas all men, good and bad, live in Him.

2. In His dispensation. Again, as Paul means here the state only of a certain class of men, this cannot be the idea, since all men now during eighteen hundred years have been in Christ in this sense.

3. In His affection. There is propriety in a man saying of his friend, or a loving parent of his child, “He lives in me. He mingles with all my thoughts, sympathies, and plans.” In this sense men are verily in Christ.

4. In His character. Without figure, we live in the character of others. The soul of the: artist lives in the genius of his master; that of the pupil in the ideas and mental habits of his admired teacher. The spirit of our heroes, the ideas of our favourite authors, do we not live in them? So all men in a moral sense live either “in Adam,” or “in Christ.” The selfishness, the carnality, the falseness, and the moral atheism, which came into the world through Adam, form that moral atmosphere which the millions breathe as their vital air. To be “in Christ” is to be so thoroughly impregnated with His ideas, so imbued with His spirit, so inspired with His purposes that our spirits live in Him. This connection is most vital. Hence the Bible teaches that what the foundation is to the building, the fountain to the stream, the root to the tree, the head to the body, Christ is to the good. Now he that is so in Christ is a “new creature,” a new man. This man has three things new.

A new imperial impulse (2 Corinthians 5:14). Love transfigures the lover into the spirit of the object. Now this love in Paul’s case became the dominant passion of his being. It carried him on like a resistless torrent.

1. This new governing impulse is incomprehensible to those who possess it not (2 Corinthians 5:13). The apostle under its influence appeared to be mad to some. They saw him brave the greatest perils, etc., and they could not discover the principle which produced this self-sacrificing conduct. It was not ambition, for Paul repudiated power. It was not avarice, for Paul suffered the loss of all things. The world never has understood the principles that rule the truly good. The world did not understand Christ; even His own relations considered Him mad. “The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” Love alone can interpret love.

2. Arises from reflection upon the death of Christ. The apostle assumes that “Christ died for all.” Now the fact that “Christ died for all,” seemed to suggest to the apostle two strong reasons why he should be zealous in the cause of Christ.

(1) That the whole world was in a ruined condition. “Then were all dead,” in a moral sense. With this view of the world, he felt overwhelmed with the magnitude of his work.

(2) That the principle of self-sacrifice is the binding principle of action. “He died for all, that they which live,” etc. Selfishness is the death of the world. Christ died to destroy it.

A new social standard (2 Corinthians 5:16). “Henceforth” implies that he did once know men after the flesh; that his conduct towards men was once regulated by carnal standards. Such standards, however, Christianity regards as false and evanescent. It estimates man by his righteousness and not by his rank. The fact that this is the true standard serves:

1. As a test by which to try our own religion. What is the kind of sympathy we have with Christ?

2. To guide us in the promotion of Christianity. In our endeavours to convert the world, we are not to inquire if men are rich or poor, etc.; it is sufficient to know that they are men, and that they are morally dead.

3. To indicate the principle on which we should form our friendship with men. It should be not on account of their material condition but of their spiritual character.

4. As a rule to regulate our actions. Paul said, “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in me, I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Spiritual considerations not material ones then ruled him; principles not persons became his authorities.

A new spiritual. History (2 Corinthians 5:17). In what sense can you call this change a “creation”?

1. It is unlike the first creation in many respects. The first creation--

(1) Was the production of something out of nothing. It is not so in the new. No new element or faculty of being is produced; the change is simply in the mode and course of action. When a vessel that has been pursuing her course to some northern port turns directly round and sails to the south there is no change in the vessel, the mariners, or the cargo. The change is simply in the course.

(2) Presented no difficulties. The Creator had only to speak and it was done, to command and it stood fast. But in this moral change there are resisting forces--“the world, the flesh, and the devil.”

(3) There was nothing but direct force. There was no instrumentality. But in this change you must have Divine argument, suasion, example: God did not “strive” to create, but He strives to save.

2. Wherein then is the propriety of representing this moral change as a creation? In both cases there is the production

(1) of something new; a new imperial passion, love! This passion for Christ is a new thing in the universe.

(2) Of something new by Divine agency. The architect can rear n cathedral, the sculptor can carve from marble, the painter can depict life on his canvas, the machinist can construct engines, but not one of them can create. God alone can create. It is so in this moral change. He alone can produce it.

(3) Something new according to a Divine plan. Everything in the universe is formed by plan. The work in the human soul is also so. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” etc. “We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ.” Conversions are accomplished by plan. We may not know the plan. The architect has the outline of that majestic cathedral which is in course of building:--very few, if any, know of it; he has it in the secrets of his own brain. Still the building under his superintendence is advancing. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are helping to work his plan. Some are excavating the mountains, and some are ploughing the seas, etc. Very few of the workers are known to each other, yet the act of each helps to work out the plan of the architect. So it is in the moral creation. Heaven, earth, matter, mind, even hell is unwittingly working for it.

(4) Something new which develops the Divine glory. The universe is a mirror of God, etc. There is more of His glory seen in the free intellect, the pure sympathies, the lofty aspirations, the refined conscience of one regenerate soul than the whole material universe displays.

(5) Something new in n gradual way. According to geology unnumbered ages were taken up in bringing this earth to its present form as a suitable residence for man. So man does not become virtuous and great by a bound; it is by a series of efforts and a course of training.

3. These remarks are sufficient to show the propriety of representing man’s moral change as a “creation.” It is not, however, the things without that change. Material nature, society, events that pass over him--all may remain the same; but the change is within. His consciousness is changed, and with that all has changed. He looks at the forms of the universe with a new eye, with a new judgment. He looks at all through the medium of a new passion, and all assume new phases. If you would have me admire some fine piece of architecture, or some magnificent painting, inspire me first with a love for the artist. The moment we look at the universe through love to Christ, the Great Architect, it becomes new: the old universe passes away, and new heavens and a new earth appear. Conclusion: Such, then, is what Christianity does for us. What a world this will be when Christianity shall have realised its sublime mission! I rejoice to believe that that period will one day come. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Man in Christ a new creature

What a new creature is. It “is a second birth added to the first.

1. The efficient cause is the Holy Ghost; who but God can alter the hearts of men, and turn stones into flesh?

2. The organical cause or instrument is the Word of God (James 1:18).

3. The matter is the restoring of God’s image lost by the fall. He does not bestow new faculties, but new qualities. As in the altering of a lute, the strings are not new, but the tune is mended; so, in the new creature, the substance of the soul is not new, but is new tuned by grace; the heart that before was proud is now humble, etc.

What kind of work the new creature is.

1. A work of Divine power (Ephesians 1:20). It is a work of greater power to produce the new creature than to make a world.

(1) When God made the world He met with no opposition; but when God is about to make a new creature Satan and the heart oppose Him.

(2) It cost God nothing to make the world, but to make the new creature cost the shedding of Christ’s blood.

2. A work of free grace. There is nothing in us to move God to make us anew; “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

3. A work of rare excellency. A soul beautified with holiness is like the firmament bespangled with glittering stars; it is God’s lesser heaven. In the incarnation, God made Himself in the image of man; in the new creation, man is made in the image of God.

4. Concerning the new creature, I shall lay down two positions:

(1) That it is not in the power of a natural man to convert himself, because it is a now creation.

(2) When God converts a sinner, He doth more than use a moral persuasion, for conversion is a new creation.

The counterfeits of the new creature.

1. Natural honesty, moral virtue, etc. Morality is but nature at best. Heat water to the highest degree, you cannot make wine of it.

2. Religious education. This is a good wall to plant the vine of grace against, but it is not grace. Have not we seen many who have been trained up religiously, who have lived to be a shame to their friends?

3. A form of godliness. Every bird that hath fine feathers hath not sweet flesh; all that shine with the golden feathers of profession are not saints. How devout were the Pharisees! Daedalus, by art, made images to move by themselves, insomuch that people thought they were living; formalists do so counterfeit a devotion that others think they are living saints--they are religious mountebanks.

4. Change of opinion. Man may change from error to truth, yet only in the head, not in the heart.

5. Sudden passion, or stirring of the affections. Many desire heaven, but will not come up to the price. King Herod heard John gladly; his affections were moved, but his sin was not removed.

6. Trouble for sin, i.e., while God’s judgments lie upon men; when these are removed, their trouble ceaseth (Psalms 78:34-36). Metal out of the furnace returns to its former hardness.

7. Possession of the Spirit. A man may have some slight transient work of the Spirit, but it doth not go to the root; he may have the Spirit to convince him, not to convert him, the motions of the Spirit, but the walk after the flesh.

8. Abstaining from sin. This abstaining may be from restraining grace, not renewing grace. Men may leave gross sin, and yet live in more spiritual sins; leave drunkenness and live in pride; leave uncleanness and live in malice.

Wherein the essence of the new creature exists.

1. In general it is--

(1) A great change. He who is a new creature is not the same man he was. He is of another spirit.

(2) A visible change, one from darkness to light. Paul, when converted, was so altered that all who saw him could scarcely believe that he was the same.

(3) An inward change. Though the heart be not new-made, it is new moulded.

2. More particularly it consists in two things.

(1) “Old things are passed away.” Old pride, old ignorance, old malice; the old house must be pulled down ere you can set up a new, yet though it be a thorough change, it is not a perfect change; sin will remain. If sin then is not quite done away, how far must one put off the old man, that he may be a new creature? There must be--

(a) A grieving for the remains of corruption (Romans 7:24).

(b) A detestation of old things, as one would detest a garment in which is the plague (Psalms 119:63).

(c) An opposition against all old things; a Christian not only complains of sin, but fights against it (Galatians 5:17).

(d) A mortification of old corrupt lusts (Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:11).

(2) “All things are become new.” The new creature is new all over; grace, though it be but in part, yet it is in every part. There is--

(a) A new understanding (Eph 3:24). The new creature is enlightened to see that which he never saw before. He knows Christ after another manner. He knows himself better than he did. When the sun shines into a room it discovers all the dust and cobwebs in it; so, when the light of the Spirit shines into the heart it discovers that corruption which before lay hid. A wicked man, blinded with self-love, admires himself; like Narcissus, that seeing his own shadow upon the water, fell in love with it.

(b) A renewal of conscience. The least hair makes the eye weep, and the least sin makes conscience smite. A good conscience is a star to guide, a register to record, a judge to determine, a witness to accuse or excuse; if conscience doth all these offices right, then it is a renewed conscience, and speaks peace.

(c) The will is renewed. An old bowl may have a new bias put into it; the will having a new bias of grace put into it is strongly carried to good, and carries all the affections along with it.

(d) A new conversation. Grace alters a man’s walk; before he walked proudly, now humbly; before loosely, now holily; he makes the Word his rule, and Christ’s life his pattern.


1. In this, true Christianity consists. It is not baptism makes a Christian; many are no better than baptised heathens.

2. It is the new creature fits us for communion with God. Birds cannot converse with men unless they had a rational nature put into them, nor can men converse with God, unless they partake of the Divine nature. Every one that hangs about the court doth not speak with the king.

3. The necessity of being new creatures. Till then--

(1) We are odious to God.

(2) Our duties are not accepted with God; they are but wild grapes. When they brought Tamarlane a pot of gold he asked what stamp it had on it, and when he saw the Roman stamp on it he refused it; so if God doth not be His own stamp and image on the soul, He rejects the most specious services.

(3) Get no benefit by ordinances. The Word preached is a savour of death; nay Christ Himself is accidentally a “rock of offence.”

(4) We cannot arrive at Heaven (Revelation 21:27). Heaven is not like Noah’s ark--that received clean and unclean. Only the pure in heart shall see God.

4. The excellency of the new creature.

(1) Its nobility. The new creature fetcheth its pedigree from heaven; it is born of God, and is fellow-commoner with angels.

(2) Its immortality. The new creature is begotten of the incorruptible seed of the Word, and never dies.

5. The misery of the unregenerate creature; dying so “good were it for that man if he had never been born.” (T. Watson.)

The new creature

Our text is to be viewed--

As a requisition upon the sinner. Nothing short of a new creation can constitute any man a Christian.

1. If we consider the extent of the requisition, as applied to individuals, the emphasis rests upon the word “any.” It matters not who he may be. No man can become a Christian in any other method.

2. The requisition may be considered in its application to character in each individual. Here the emphasis is on the words “new creature.”

(1) The object to be obtained marks this necessity for a new creation. This object is not to be in the church. That may easily be secured by conformity to outward ordinances. It is not reform in external conduct merely. This may be accomplished by man’s own exertions. It is not to obtain a good reputation among men. But it is to be in Christ, and to be made an heir of everlasting glory. This object no partial change of character can secure.

(2) That which separates men from God is a radical perversion of motive and principle; the change required therefore is a change of the heart, a new creation of the soul in its principles and objects of pursuit. They have but one simple want. But that want is a total one. They must be new men.

As a privilege to the Christian. He is a new creature--

1. In the personal relations which he sustains.

(1) In his relations to God his Creator and Judge. He stands in the Divine presence no longer under condemnation. The penalty for his sin has been endured. God is no longer angry, but is a reconciled Father. He enjoys the comfort of this new relation. His conscience is peaceful through the blood of sprinkling, and perfect love has cast out fear.

(2) In his relation to Jesus the Saviour. Once, like others, he despised and rejected Him. Now he has embraced Him in the warm affections of his heart, as his comfort, and hope, and portion for ever.

(3) In his relations to men around him. To the children of God, wherever they are, he is a brother and a friend. To the unconverted, he feels a bond of pity which he never knew before. He now knows the galling chain which they ignorantly wear. He labours and prays that they may also become new creatures in Jesus Christ.

2. In his personal character.

(1) He is released from the dominion of sin. It may dwell within him, but it dwells there as a captive, not as a ruler.

(2) He is released from the darkness and confusion of mind, which sin has produced. The image of God which was lost in man’s apostasy, has been restored. In the true order of his powers, his whole soul is devoted to the service of God. Thus his heart has become right in the sight of God.

(3) He has received a principle of Divine grace within him, which shall flourish and increase for ever.

3. In his associates. There was a time when he avoided the society of the pious, when he loved the associations of the worldly. Now there has been a total revolution in all his intercourse with men. He has forsaken the society of those who fear not God, and he selects for his friends those in whom he can find the mind of Christ. He now regards men according to their character in the sight of God.

4. In his occupation and enjoyments. His desire is in the fulfilment of every required duty, to honour the God whom he delights to serve. Religion sanctifies his daily engagements. His comforts and joys come to him from above. He looks beyond the bounds of sense to find his joy and his crown of rejoicing in eternity. Prayer is no longer a task but a pleasure. The Bible comes to him not so much to remind him of a duty as to call him to a privilege.

5. In his prospects. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

The believer a new creature

The Christian’s position--“in Christ.” There are three stages of the soul. First--Without Christ, this is the state of nature, and is a most unhappy condition. It is inconvenient to be without gold; it is miserable to be without health, without a friend, without reputation, but to be without Christ is the worst lack in all the world. The next state, “in Christ,” leadeth to the third, with Christ, which is the state of glory.

1. Our business now is with the second, “in Christ,” which is the state of grace. I never heard of any persons being in any other man but Christ. We may follow certain leaders, and imitate eminent examples, but no man is said in these respects to be in another.

(1) We must interpret this by scriptural symbols.

(a) We were all of us in the first Adam. Adam stood for us. Now, as in Adam we all fell, so all who are in Christ are restored.

(b) Noah’s ark was a type of Christ. Christ is the ark of God provided against the day of judgment, and we are in Him.

(c) Christ is God’s eternal city of refuge, and we, having offended, flee for our lives and enter where vengeance cannot reach us.

(2) Christ represents us as being in Him as the branch is in the vine.

(3) Paul describes us as being in Christ also as the stone is in the building. In some of the old Roman walls you can scarcely tell which is the firmer, the cement or the stone, for their cement held the stones together as though they were one mass of rock; and such is the eternal love which binds the saints to Christ.

2. “How do we conic to be there?”

(1) By faith.

(2) By love.

When love and faith come together, then there is a blessedly sweet communion.

The believer’s character--a “new creature.” The phrase suggests--

1. A radical change.

(1) A man may undergo many changes, but they may be far from being radical enough to be a new creation. Ahab may humble himself, but he is Ahab still.

(a) Conversion is sometimes described as healing; but healing does not rise to the radical character of the text. Naaman washed in Jordan, and came up with his flesh clean like unto a little child; but it was the same flesh and the same Naaman. The woman, bowed down with infirmity eighteen years, was marvellously changed when she stood upright; but she was the same woman.

(b) There are great moral changes wrought in many which are not saving. A drunkard may become sober, and many persons of debauched habits regular; and yet their changes may not amount to regeneration. The most startling changes will not suffice unless they are total and deep. The Ethiopian might change his skin, the leopard his spots; but the leopard would remain a leopard, and the Ethiop would still be black at heart.

(c) Even the metaphor of resurrection does not go so far as the language of the text. The daughter of Jairus is the same child, and Lazarus is the same man after restoration to life. A new creation is a root-and-branch change; not an alteration of the walls only, but of the foundation; not a new figuring of the visible tapestry, but a renewal of the fabric itself.

(2) We are new creatures through being in Christ. People object to the doctrine that men are saved by faith in Christ on the ground that there must be a great moral change. But if those who are in Christ are new creatures, what greater change can be desired? He who believes in Christ, finding himself pardoned, loves Christ, and loves the God who gave Christ, and love to God expels love to sin.

2. A Divine work. If any doubt it, let us bid them make the effort to create the smallest object.

(1) Regeneration is God’s sole work. In the first creation who helped God? So the sovereign will of God creates men heirs of grace.

(2) It was more difficult to create a Christian than to create a world. Unto Him, then, be glory and strength!

3. Remarkable freshness. It is very long since this world saw a new creature. All the creatures we now see are old and antiquated. Any new creature coming fresh into the world would startle us all. And yet the text tells you that there are new creatures upon earth, fruits that have freshness and bloom of Eden about them, life with the dew of its youth upon it; and these new creatures are Christian men. There is a freshness about them which is to be found nowhere else. He that prayed yesterday with joy, shall pray in fifty years’ time, if he be on earth, with the selfsame delight. He that loves his Maker, and feels his heart beat high at the mention of the name of Jesus, shall find as much transport in that name, if he lives to the age of Methuselah, as he doth now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Of the nature and necessity of the new creature

That God’s creating of a new supernatural work of grace in the soul of any man, is that man’s sure and infallible evidence of a saving interest in Jesus Christ. Why the regenerating work of the Spirit is called a new creation. First, the same almighty Author who created the world created also this work of grace in the soul of man (2 Corinthians 4:6). Secondly, the first thing that God created in the natural world was light (Genesis 1:3), and the first thing which God createth in the new creation is the light of spiritual knowledge (Colossians 3:10). Thirdly, creation is out of nothing; it requires no pre-existent matter. So it is also in the new creation (1 Peter 2:9-10). Fourthly, it was the virtue and efficacy of the Spirit of God which gave the natural world its being by creation (Genesis 1:2). Fifthly, the Word of God was the instrument of the first creation (Psalms 33:6-9). Sixthly, the same power which created the world still supports it in its being: the world owes its conservation, as well as its existence, to the power of God. Just so it is with the new creation (Jude 1:1, “Preserved in Christ Jesus,” and 1 Peter 1:5). Seventhly, in a word, God surveyed the first creation with complacence and great delight (Genesis 1:31). So this also in the second creation; nothing delights God more than the works of grace in the souls of His people. Next we must inquire, in what respects every soul that is in Christ is made a new creature; and here we shall find a threefold renovation of every man that is in Christ. First, he is renewed in his state and condition: for he passeth from death to life in his justification (1 John 3:14). Secondly, every man in Christ is renewed in his frame and constitution; all the faculties and affections of his soul are renewed by regeneration: his understanding was dark, but now is light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8); his conscience was dead and secure, or full of guilt and horror, but is now become tender, watchful, and full of peace (Hebrews 9:14); his will was rebellious and inflexible; but is now made obedient and complying with the will of God (Psalms 110:2). Thirdly, the man in Christ is renewed in his practice and conversation; the manner of operation always follows the nature of beluga. Now the regenerate not being what they were, cannot walk and act as once they did (Ephesians 2:1-3). Thirdly, let us inquire into the properties and qualities of this new creature. First, the Scripture speaks of it as a thing of great difficulty to be conceived by man (John 3:8). Secondly, but though this life of the new creature be a great mystery and secret in some respects; yet so far as it appears unto us, the new creature is the most beautiful and lovely creature that ever God made; for the beauty of the Lord Himself is upon it: “The new man is created after God” (Ephesians 4:24). Thirdly, this new creature is created in man upon the highest design that ever any work of God was wrought: the end of its creation is high and noble (Colossians 1:12). Fourthly, this new creation is the most necessary work that ever God wrought upon the soul of man: the eternal well-being of his soul depends upon it; and without it no man shall see God (Hebrews 12:14; John 1:3-5). Fifthly, the new creature is a marvellous creature; there are many wonders in the first creation (Psalms 111:2). But there are no wonders in nature, like those in grace. Sixthly, the new creature is an immortal creature (John 4:14). Seventhly, the new creature is an heavenly creature; “It is not born of flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13); its descent is heavenly. Eighthly, the new creature is an active and laborious creature; no sooner is it born, but it is acting in the soul (Acts 9:6). Behold he prayeth! Activity is its very nature (Galatians 5:25). Ninthly, the new creature is a thriving creature, growing from strength to strength (1 Peter 2:2), and changing the soul in which it is subjected from glory unto glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Tenthly, the new creature is a creature of wonderful preservation. There are many wonders of Divine providence in the preservation of our natural lives, but none like those whereby the life of the new creature is preserved in our souls. Fourthly, we will demonstrate the necessity of this new creation to all that are in Christ, and by Him do attain salvation; and the necessity of the new creature will appear divers ways. First, from the positive and express will of God revealed in Scripture. Secondly, this new creation is the inchoative part of that great salvation which we expect through Christ, and therefore, without this, all expectations of salvation must vanish. Salvation and renovation are inseparably connected. Thirdly, so necessary is the new creation to all that expect salvation by Christ; that without this, heaven would be no heaven. Fourthly, there is an absolute necessity of the new creature to all that expect interest in Christ and the glory to come, since all the characters and signs of such an interest, are constantly taken from the new creature wrought in us. Fifthly, the last thing is, how the new creation is an infallible proof and evidence of the soul’s interest in Christ; and this will appear divers ways. First, where all the saving graces of the Spirit are, there interest in Christ must needs be certain; and where the new creature is, there all the saving graces of the Spirit are. Secondly, to conclude: where all the causes of an interest in Christ are found, and all the effects and fruits of an interest in Christ do appear, there, undoubtedly, a real interest in Christ is found; but wherever you find a new creature, you find all the causes and all the effects of an interest in Christ. Is the new creature the infallible evidence of our saving interest in Christ? From hence, then, we are informed--

Inference 1. How miserable an estate all unrenewed souls are in.

Inference 2. On the contrary, we may hence learn what cause regenerate souls have to bless God for the day wherein they were born.

Inference 3. Learn from hence that the work of grace is wholly supernatural; a creation-work is above the power of the creature.

Inference 4. If the work of grace be a new creation, let not the parents and friends of the unregenerate utterly despair of the conversion of their relations, how great soever their present discouragements are. If it had been possible for a man to have seen the rude chaos before the Spirit of God moved upon it, would he not have said, Can such a beautiful order of beings, such a pleasant variety of creatures, spring out of this dark lump? Surely it would have been very hard for a man to have imagined it.

Inference 5. If none but new creatures be in Christ, how small a remnant among men belong to Christ in this world!

Inference 6. If the change by grace be a new creation, how universal and marvellous a change doth regeneration make upon men! First, because the work of grace is wrought in divers methods and manners in the people of God. Some are changed from a state of notorious profaneness unto serious godliness; there the change is conspicuous and very evident: but in others it is more insensibly distilled in their tender years, by the blessing of God, upon religious education, and there it is more indiscernible. Secondly, though a great change be wrought, yet much natural corruption still remains for their humiliation. Thirdly, in some the new creature shows itself mostly in the affectionate part in desires after God; and but little in the clearness of their understandings, for want of which they are kept in darkness most of their days. Fourthly, some Christians are more tried and exercised by temptation from Satan than others are; and these clouds darken the work of grace in them. Fifthly, there is great difference and variety found in the natural tempers and constitutions of the regenerate; some are of a more melancholy, fearful, and suspicious temper than others, and are therefore much longer held under doubtings.

Inference 7. How incongruous are carnal ways to the spirit of Christians! who being new creatures, can never find pleasure in their former sinful companions and practices. If none be in Christ but new creatures, and the new creation make such a change as hath been described, this may convince us how many of us deceive ourselves, and run into fatal mistakes in the greatest concernment we have in this world. First, that the change made by civility upon such as were lewd and profane is, in its whole kind and nature, a different thing from the new creature. Secondly, that many strong convictions and troubles for sin may be found where the new creature is never formed. Thirdly, that excellent gifts and abilities, fitting men for service in the Church of God, may be where the new creature is not; for these are promiscuously dispensed by the Spirit, both to the regenerate and unregenerate (Matthew 7:22). Fourthly, be convinced that multitudes of religious duties may be performed by men, in whom the new creature was never formed.

Next, therefore, let me persuade every man to try the state of his own heart in this matter. First, consider well the antecedents of the new creature; have those things passed upon your souls, which ordinarily make way for the new creature.

1. Hath the Lord opened the eyes of your understanding in the knowledge of sin and of Christ (Acts 26:18).

2. Hath He brought home the Word with mighty power and efficacy upon your hearts to convince and humble them (Romans 7:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).

3. Have these convictions overturned your vain confidences, and brought you to inward distress of soul.

Secondly, consider the concomitant frames and workings of spirit, which ordinarily attend the production of the new creature.

1. Have your vain spirits been composed to the greatest seriousness and most solemn consideration of things eternal, as the hearts of all those are whom God regenerates?

2. A lowly, meek, and humble frame of heart accompanies the new creation; the soul is weary and heavy laden (Matthew 11:28).

3. A longing frame of spirit accompanies the new creation; the desires of the soul are ardent after Christ.

Thirdly, weigh well the effects and consequents of the new creature, and consider whether such fruits as these are found in your hearts and lives.

1. Wherever the new creature is formed, there a man’s course and conversation is changed (Ephesians 4:22).

2. The new creature continually opposes and conflicts with the motions of sin in the heart (Galatians 5:17).

3. The mind and affections of the new creature are set upon heavenly and spiritual things (Colossians 3:1-2; Ephesians 4:23; Romans 8:5).

4. The new creature is a praying creature, living by its daily communion with God (Zechariah 12:10; Acts 9:11). If the new creation be a sound evidence of our interest in Christ, then let me persuade all that are in Christ to evidence themselves to be so, by walking as it becomes new creatures. The new creature is born from above; all its tendencies are heavenward. Let every new creature be cheerful and thankful: if God hath renewed your natures and thus altered the temper of your hearts, He hath bestowed the richest mercy upon you that heaven or earth affords. This is a work of the greatest rarity. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” There are unsearchable wonders in its generation, in its operation, and in its preservation. (John Flavel.)

The new creature delineated

Consider this change, on account whereof Christians are new creatures in respect of--

The inward frame of mind. And this is what the Scripture calls a new heart, a new spirit, a renovation in the spirit of the mind, a transformation by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. There is a change in their--

1. Apprehensions.

(1) They had once a notional sight only of the being and perfections of God; but now they appear to them the surest realities.

(2) They once saw no beauty in Christ, nor were sensible of any need they stood in of Him; but He is now altogether lovely.

(3) They once saw no great evil in sin; but it now appears an evil and bitter thing.

(4) They once saw no great beauty in holiness; but it now appears the most amiable grace.

2. Purposes. Once the bent of their mind was towards the earth; it is now towards heaven.

3. Affections. There is a change in their--

(1) Love. They now hate what they once loved, and vice versa.

(2) Sorrow. The things which once moved their grief were worldly losses and crosses, pain in their bodies, etc. As for their sins, they were not grieved on account of them. But the new creation has wonderfully turned the channel of their sorrow.

(3) Hope. This they once placed on the creature; but they now place it on the Creator. They had once no views beyond this earth; but they now reach to heaven.

(4) Fear. The things which once moved their fear, were the threats of men, the frowns of the world, etc. They now fear God’s displeasure more than anything else. They dare not now live in sin.

(5) Anger. They were once angry with those who were a hindrance to them in sin; but they now love and thank them. Their anger is now turned against themselves.

The outward course and manner of life. They do not now live in sin as they once did; but “have put off concerning the former conversation, the old man,” etc. And this reformation is sometimes so remarkable that it is taken notice of, and admired by others. But this change carries more in it than what is negative. It is a change not only from sin, but to holiness. That is, they live in the practice of the whole of their duty; all that duty they owe, either to God, their neighbour, or themselves. (C. Chauncey, A. M.)

The change which grace makes in the human character

A visible change--“Behold.” There is a change without as the expression and effect of a change within. This visibility will appear--

1. To ourselves. If a man entertains a hope that it has taken place, and yet is not able to perceive that he is in any wise different from what he was before, that man ought rather to fear than hope.

2. To others. It behoves us so to conduct ourselves that men shall take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. We must seem to be religious as well as be so actually. How otherwise can we be the lights of the world? Must we not show our faith by our works?

An admirable change. The interjection is thrown in not barely to attract attention, but to excite wonder and admiration. It is admirable if we consider--

1. Its author. It is God. Every work of God is admirable. What a noble piece of work is man, even in his ruins! how much more then in his restoration!

2. The loving-kindness displayed in making it. “Behold, what manner of love” is here!

3. Its nature and connections. It is a singular change, infinitely superior to any other of which the human character is susceptible. Other changes are necessarily superficial; this is deep and radical. It inserts a new mainspring. What evils other changes restrain or abate, this eradicates; and this communicates the reality of the good, of which they do but put on this appearance.

A thorough change. “All things are become new.” There may be a partial reformation, while the heart remains unchanged; but if the heart is changed, the reformation must be universal. Where one trait of the Christian character is found, there they are all found. Where faith is, there is love, for faith worketh by love; and where these are, in inseparable society is found the whole sisterhood of graces, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance. And so the heart that hates one sin hates all, and is equally disposed to renounce all. Therefore if any of you find that your religion is not universally influential, you may conclude that it is vain.

A change of the nature of a substitution, and not a superaddition. There is a passing away of the old things, and a coming in their place of new. The new man is not put on over the old man, but the old man is first put off. The soul becomes dead unto sin before it is made alive unto righteousness.

A great change. It is hardly necessary to affirm this after what has been already said, It is a work of God; a new creation; a passing from death unto life, a being born again, a translation out of darkness into marvellous light, a resurrection.

A permanent change. It lasts. (W. Nevins, D. D.)

Is conversion necessary

In order to salvation a radical change is necessary.

1. Everywhere in Scripture men are divided into two classes, with a very sharp line of distinction between them--sheep lost and sheep found, guests refusing and guests feasting, wise virgins and foolish, sheep and goats, men “dead in trespasses and sin” and alive to God, men in darkness or in light, “children of God” and “children of wrath,” believers who are not condemned and of those who are condemned already, etc., etc.

2. The Word of God speaks of this inward change as--

(1) a birth (John 1:12-13; John 3:1-36; John 5:4; 1 John 5:1).

(2) A quickening (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 2:1).

(3) A creation, as in our text, and this also is no mere formality, or an attendant upon a rite (Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:24).

(4) A translation (Colossians 1:13).

(5) A “passing from death unto life” (1 John 3:14; John 5:24).

(6) A being “begotten again” (1 Peter 1:3; James 1:18). Can you conceive of any language more plainly descriptive of a most solemn change?

3. The Scriptures speak of it as producing a very wonderful change in the subject of it.

(1) In the character (Romans 6:17; Romans 6:22; Colossians 3:9; Galatians 5:24).

(2) In feeling. Enmity to God is exchanged for love to God (Colossians 1:21). This arises very much from a change of man’s judicial state before God. Before a man is converted he is condemned, but when he receives spiritual life we read “there is therefore now no condemnation,” etc. This altogether changes his condition as to inward happiness (Romans 5:1; Romans 5:11).

4. It is further represented as the chief blessing in the covenant of grace (Jer 31:33, cf. Hebrews 10:16; Ezekiel 36:26-27

This change is frequently very marked as to its time and circumstances. Many souls truly born of God could not lay their finger upon any date and say, “At such a time I passed from death unto life.” Conversion is often so surrounded by restraining grace that it appears to be a very gradual thing, and the rising of the sun of righteousness in the soul is comparable to the dawning of day, with a grey light at first, and a gradual increase to a noonday splendour. Yet, as there is a time when the sun rises, so is there a time of new birth. If a dead man were restored to life, he might not be able to say exactly when life began, but there is such a moment. There must be a time when a man ceases to be an unbeliever and becomes a believer in Jesus. In many cases, however, the day, hour, and place are fully known, and we might expect this--

1. From many other works of God. How very particular God is about the time of creation! “The evening and the morning were the first day.” “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” So in the miracles of Christ. The water turns at once to wine, the fig-tree immediately withers away, the loaves and fishes are at once multiplied in the hands of the disciples. Miracles of healing were as a rule instantaneous.

2. From the work itself. If it be worthy to be called a resurrection, there must manifestly be a time in which the dead man ceases to be dead and becomes alive.

3. From the conversions mentioned in Scripture. Paul was one moment an opponent of Christ, and the next was crying, “Who art Thou, Lord?” and this conversion was to be a pattern (1 Timothy 1:15-16). Let us look at other instances. The Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the three thousand at Pentecost, the Philippian jailer. It would be much more difficult to find a gradual conversion in Scripture than a sudden one.

4. From experience. The matter is one about which I feel it a weariness to argue, because these wonders of grace happen daily before our eyes, and it is like trying to prove that the sun rises in the morning.

This change is recognisable by certain signs.

1. A sense of sin. True conversion always has in it a humbling sense of the need of Divine grace.

2. Faith in Jesus.

3. The change of his principles, objects, desires, life. A convert once said, “Either the world is altered or else I am.” The very faces of our children look different to us, for we regard them under a new aspect, viewing them as heirs of immortality. We view our friends from a different stand-point. Our very business seems altered. We learn to sanctify the hammer and the plough by serving the Lord with them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)



A change.

1. A real change; from nature to grace, as well as by grace.

2. A common change to all the children of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”

3. A change quite contrary to the former frame. What more contrary to light than darkness? (Ephesians 5:8); flesh to spirit (John 3:6); translation from one kingdom to another (Colossians 1:13).

4. A universal change of the whole man, It is a new creature, not only a new power or new faculty. Understanding, will, conscience, affections, all were corrupted by sin, all are renewed by grace.

5. Principally an inward change. It is as inward as the soul itself. It is a clean heart David desires, not only clean hands (Psalms 51:10). If it were not so, there could be no outward rectified change. The spring and wheels of the clock must be mended before the hand of the dial will stand right.

A vital principle. This new creation is a translation from death to life (1 John 3:14). It is not, then, a gilding, but a quickening; not a carving, but an enlivening.

A habit. It is impossible to conceive a new creature without new habits. Nothing can be changed from a state of corruption to a state of purity without them.

A law put into the heart. Every creature hath a law belonging to its nature. Man hath a law of reason, beasts a law of sense and instinct, plants a law of vegetation, inanimate creatures a law of motion. A new creature hath a law put into his heart (Jeremiah 31:23; cf. Hebrews 8:10). It is called the “law of the mind” (Romans 7:23), it beginning first in the illumination of that faculty as sin began first in a false judgment made of the precept of God, “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” It consists in an inward conformity of the heart to the law. The soul hath a likeness to the word and doctrine of the gospel within it (Romans 6:17). As melted metal poured into a mould loses its former form, and puts on a new shape, the same figure with the mould into which it is poured; the soul, which before was a servant of sin, and had the image of the law of sin, being melted by the Spirit, is cast into the figure and form of the law.

A likeness to God. Every creature hath a likeness to something or other in the rank of beings: the new creature is framed according to the most exact pattern, even God Himself. The new creature is begotten; begotten, then, in the likeness of the begetter, which is God. Were not a real likeness attainable, why should those exhortations be, of being “holy as God is holy, pure as He is pure”? (1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 3:3). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Verses 18-21

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.

High doctrine

Whatsoever the Christian can desire is to be found in the “all things.” But lest even that should not be comprehensive enough, our summary contains a still greater word, “God.” If we be thirsty, here are streams that never can be exhausted. If we be poor, here are riches inexhaustible.

The doctrine itself.

1. What is meant here by the term, “all things”? Do we call that man an infidel who should teach that some things of the old creation were of man? What name shall I give to him who will say that anything in the new creation of grace is of man? This is of God as to--

(1) Its first implanting. If thou hast but one good thought in thy heart it is of God; for “all things are of God.”

(2) Its subsequent outworking. Has the believer strength--it is of God. Is he preserved in the midst of temptation--his integrity is of God.

(3) Its privileges, pardon, justification, sanctification, adoption, communion. Who will dare to think of these things apart from the unspeakable grace of the Most High?

(4) Its actions. See yonder missionary venturing even unto death? Let us give him his raced of tribute; he hath done valiantly. But let us remember that everything in him that was good, was of God. Does the martyr burn at the stake? Is there a Christian, generous, thoughtful of the woes of others, mighty in prayer and diligent in service? All these things are of God. Set down no virtue to man. Good things are exotics in the human heart.

2. How and in what respect are all things of God?

(1) In the planning. Nay, in all the work of salvation God is the sole designer.

(2) In the purchase and procuring. One price hath bought His people.

(3) In the applying and bringing of it home to each individual conscience. God Will make moll willing in the day of His power.

(4) In the maintaining. Leave the Christian to himself to maintain the grade already begun, and he is gone.

(5) In the completing. The last steps shall be of God as much as the first.

3. Why is it that “all things are of God”? Because--

(1) There cannot be anything of man. What can a dead man do towards his own resurrection? Till the stone shall of itself fly upwards, till the sea shall beget fire, and until fire distil the shower, then and not till then shall depraved humanity breathe goodness within itself.

(2) It is expressly told us not that some good gifts, and some perfect gifts are from above, but every one. God were only in part the world’s benefactor, if there were other fountains out of which the world could draw.

(3) All the glory is God’s. Now if that be so the work must have been His; for where the work is, there must be the merit.

(4) You as Christians are compelled to feel Thou hast wrought all our works in us.”

The excellent tendencies of this doctrine.

1. It compels men to think.

2. It rouses enthusiasm in the minds of those who believe it.

3. It humbles men.

4. It affords consolation for the troubled heart. If all things be of God, let not thy spirit be ruffled and affrighted by the tempest.

5. It encourages the sinner. You are naked; the robe in which you shall be dressed is of God. You are filthy; the washing is of God. You are unworthy; your worthiness must be of God. You are guilty; your pardon is of God. All you are bidden to do is simply to be a receiver. Come with your empty pitcher, and hold it now to the flowing fountain. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God the new Creator

God is the original author of the new creature, and all things which belong thereunto. That will appear--

1. From the state of the person to be renewed. Can a stony heart of itself become tender? (Ezekiel 36:26), or a dead heart quicken itself? (Ephesians 2:5.)

2. From the nature of this work. Creation is a work of omnipotency, and proper to God.

3. From its connection with reconciliation. We can no more convert ourselves than reconcile ourselves to God. Renewing and reconciling grace are often spoken of together, as in the text. There must be a supernatural work upon us, to cure our unholiness, as well as a supernatural work without us, to overcome our guiltiness,

4. From the effect of this renovation, which is the implantation of the graces of faith, hope, and love, which are our light, life, and power.

5. From the fact that all things belonging to the new creature the Scripture ascribeth to God (Philippians 2:13).

6. What is the true use to be made of this doctrine?

(1) To make us sensible that it is a hard task to get the change of the new creature.

(2) To check despair. He that can turn water into wine can also turn lions into Iambs.

(3) To keep us humble--“All things are of God” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

(4) To make us thankful Give God the praise of changing thy nature, if from a bad man thou art become good.

(5) To inflame our love to God in Christ.

(6) To encourage a cheerful and continual dependence upon God for that grace which is necessary. If we did keep the stock ourselves the throne of grace would be neglected.

God is the author of the new creature, as reconciled to us is Christ.

1. He would not give this benefit till justice be satisfied; not set up man with a new stock till there was satisfaction made for the breach of the old. All grace floweth from this, that God is become a God of peace to us (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

2. God is never actually reconciled to us, nor we to Him, till He give us the regenerating Spirit; that is receiving the atonement (Romans 5:11). Nothing but the new creature will evidence His special favour (Romans 5:5). Other things may be given us during His anger, but the regenerating Spirit is never given in anger.

3. Apply all this.

(1) Let us seek after this reconciliation with God by Christ; then we may comfortably look to obtain every good thing at His hands.

(2) It showeth us how much we are obliged to Christ, who by His death hath satisfied God’s justice and merited all the mercies promised.

(3) Let no breach fall out between God and you, lest it stop grace; the continual sanctification and perfection of man once regenerate dependeth upon this reconciliation, as well as the first renovation, God’s sanctifying power, and the abode of His Spirit, is still necessary to renew us more and more. (T. Manton, D. D.)

God the author of reconciliation

What reconciliation is.

1. It implies that there was a former friendship. There were once good terms between God and man.

2. It implies an enmity on one or both sides. On man’s part this enmity is by sin; on the part of God--

(1) From the righteousness of His nature (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalms 5:5-6).

(2) From the righteousness of His law made against sin, whereby He cannot but according to His veracity punish it.

3. It implies that God is the prime Author of this reconciliation, yet no man is actually reconciled to God till he complies with those conditions whereupon God offers it. “God was in Christ” when He was “reconciling the world”; we must be in Christ if we be reconciled to God. We must distinguish between reconciliation designed by God, obtained by Christ, offered by the gospel, received by the soul.

4. This reconciliation is--

(1) Very congruous for the honour of God.

(a) For the honour of this wisdom. Had not a mediator been appointed, mankind had been destroyed at the beginning, and God had lost the glory of His present works.

(b) For the honour of His truth and justice.

(2) Necessary for us.

God the father must needs be, and is, the author of this reconciliation. If God be the first cause in all things, He is the first cause in the highest of His works. No creature could originate this work.

1. All human nature could not. Man was so depraved that he knew not how to desire it, and had no mind to cherish any thoughts of it (Romans 1:29-30; 1 Corinthians 1:21).

2. Nor the unblemished wisdom of angels (1 Peter 1:12).

Wherein the agency of the Father in this affair doth appear. “God was in Christ reconciling the world.”

1. As choosing and appointing Christ (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 43:10; Hebrews 3:2).

(1) He was appointed by the Father to this end (Psalms 40:6-7; Romans 3:25).

(2) God appointed Him to every office in order to this: as a priest, to offer sacrifices; a prophet, to declare His mercy; a king, to bring men to the terms of reconciliation.

(3) God chose Him to this work with a high delight, as one fully fit for the work, in whom He could confide.

2. God the Father solemnly called Him (John 10:36).

3. God gave Him a particular command concerning our reconciliation (John 10:18; Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19).

4. The Father did fit Christ for this great undertaking.

(1) He is fitted with a body.

(a) This was necessary. Man, as constituted of soul and body, had violated the articles of the first covenant; therefore man, as constituted of soul and body, must answer the violations of it. It was also necessary that He might be nearly related to us in all things (sin excepted), and redeem us by His passion. Yet He was to have a whole body, free from any taint of moral imperfection, fit for the service He was devoted to, for which the least speck upon His humanity had rendered Him unfit.

(b) Therefore the Holy Ghost frames the body of Christ of this seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), and makes the union between the Divine and human nature (Luke 1:35).

(2). He is filled with His Spirit by the Father, i.e., with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit necessary to this work (John 3:34).

(a) Habitual holiness. This was necessary. It became Him and us, as our High Priest, to be undefiled (Hebrews 7:26).

(b) Wisdom and knowledge (Isaiah 11:2-4).

(c) Tenderness to man.

(d) Mighty power to go through this undertaking. He had a “spirit of might” (Acts 10:38).

5. God commissioned Christ to this work of reconciliation. He gave Him a fulness of authority as well as a fulness of ability. He is therefore said to be sealed, as having His commission under the great seal of heaven (John 6:27). The end of this commission was the reconciliation and redemption of man.

(1) Satisfaction for our sins (Galatians 1:4).

(2) Testification of the love of God (Isaiah 43:10-11).

(3) Final and perfect salvation (Galatians 1:4) (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The ministry of reconciliation

Christ’s work--the reconciliation of God to Man. Reconciliation is identical with atonement. In Romans 5:11 the word “atonement” is the same word which is here translated “reconciliation.”

1. God needed a reconciliation.

(1) The Unitarian view is that God is reconciled already, that there is no wrath in God towards sinners. Nothing can be more unphilosophical and unscriptural. First of all, take Galatians 4:9, which is decisive. St. Paul declares that the being recognised of God is more characteristic of the gospel state than recognising God. “Know God”: here is man reconciled to God. “Are known of Him”: here is God reconciled to man. Next, it is perilous to explain away those passages which speak of God as angry with sin. We feel that God is angry; and if that be but figurative, then it is only figurative to say that God is pleased. Then, again, Christ was the representative of God. Now Christ was “angry.” That, therefore, which God feels corresponds with that which in pure humanity is the emotion of anger. If we explain away such words, we lose the distinction between right and wrong; and you will end in believing there is no God at all, if you begin with explaining away His feelings.

(2) It is said that God needs no reconciliation, because He is immutable. But remember that, God remaining immutable, and the sinner changing, God’s relation to the sinner changes. “God is love,” but love to good is hatred to evil. If you are evil, then God is your enemy. “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.”

2. The way in which the text speaks of the reconciliation of God to us is, “Not imputing their trespasses”; for the atonement is made when God no longer reckons the sinner guilty. God is reconciled to humanity in Christ; then to us through Him; “God was in Christ.” It was a Divine humanity. To that humanity God is reconciled: there could be no enmity between God and Christ: “I and My Father are one.” To all those in whom Christ’s Spirit is God imputes the righteousness which is as yet only seminal, germinal--a spring, not a river; a righteousness in faith, not a righteousness in works.

The work of the Christian ministry--the reconciliation of man to God. Distinguish Christ’s position from ours. It was Christ’s work to reconcile God to man. That is done for ever; we cannot add anything to it. That is a priestly power; and it is at our peril that we claim such a power. Ours is ministerial. We can offer no sacrifice. “By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Therefore the whole work of the Christian ministry consists in declaring God as reconciled to man, and in beseeching, with every variety of illustration, and every degree of earnestness, men to become reconciled to God. All are God’s children by right; all are not God’s children in fact. All are sons of God; but all have not the Spirit of sons, whereby they cry, “Abba, Father.” All are redeemed, all are not yet sanctified. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.--


Christianity is eminently a remedial dispensation; it supposes disorder and confusion, and it seeks to introduce order and harmony. Now, it is this peculiar feature of the gospel as the religion of sinners that the apostle adverts to in this passage.

Consider the necessity of reconciliation. Sin has broken the friendship between God and man. When God created man at first, He created him holy and happy. Adam was the friend of God. Ever since the Fall man has vainly endeavoured to hide himself from God, and to widen the distance between him and his Maker. Hence the fear of death, the terrors of an accusing conscience, the various bloody sacrifices among heathen nations. And this breach of friendship is mutual. On the one hand, God is justly offended with the sinner; He hates all the workers of iniquity; His justice, His holiness, and His truth, are directed against the transgressors of His law. “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” And, on the other hand, the sinner is filled with enmity against God--he is averse to the spirituality and strictness of the Divine law. It is very true that God is a God of infinite mercy, and that the sinner is the object of His compassion; but He cannot possibly be merciful at the expense of His justice. But, behold, there may be reconciliation; the offended Majesty of heaven is willing to be reconciled. He who is the offended and injured party is the first to make the overtures of reconciliation. From the depths of His mercy proceeds a plan by which His justice might be satisfied, and yet the sinner saved.

Consider the nature of the reconciliation. The great ground upon which the reconciliation rests is the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. “God has reconciled us unto Himself by Jesus Christ; for He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ is the Mediator of reconciliation; He comes in between the two parties; He is the Day’s-man betwixt us, who can lay His hand upon both. And it must ever be remembered that it is on the ground of His atonement that the reconciliation rests. The atonement of Christ has reconciled these opposing claims of justice and mercy. Here, in the words of the Psalmist, “Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The death of Christ has satisfied the claims of justice. The grand effect of the atonement of Christ is the non-imputation of sins to all who believe. “God,” says the apostle, “is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This, of course, arises directly from the substitution of Christ; it is its immediate effect: we and He, as it were, change places; our sins are imputed unto Him, and His righteousness is imputed unto us. Further still, God hath given us the gospel as the word of reconciliation. “He hath committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Consider the message of reconciliation. “We are ambassadors for Christ.” Christ is the chief ambassador; but we are the delegated messengers of this peace--we are in Christ’s stead. God might have sent angels as His ambassadors; they would be more worthy of so great a King and of so important a message. But, in condescension to human weakness, He has sent us weak and fallible men. He would rather allure us with love than terrify us by His greatness. Oh! how high and how responsible is our office! But what is the message? It is to treat with sinners on peace and reconciliation. The embassy is one of infinite grace. God promises that He is ready to receive sinners into His favour. And can it be that such a gracious message should be rejected? There are two motives which we would present before you--motives which the apostle uses in this very chapter: the one of fear, arising from a consideration of Christ on the throne of judgment; the other of love, arising from a consideration of love on the Cross of suffering. (P. J. Gloag, D. D.)


Premise three things in general.

1. That to reconcile is to bring into favour and friendship after some breach made and offence taken (Luke 23:12; Matthew 5:23-24)

2. That the reconciliation is mutual; God is reconciled to us, and we to God. The alienation was mutual, and therefore the reconciliation must be so. The Scripture speaketh not only of an enmity and hatred on man’s part (Romans 5:10), but also of wrath on God’s part, not only against sin, but the sinner (Ephesians 2:3; Psalms 7:11).

3. That reconciliation is sometimes ascribed to God, to Christ, and to believers.

(1) To God the Father, as in the text and verse 18, and Colossians 1:20.

(2) To Christ (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:21).

(3) To believers (2 Corinthians 5:20).

More particularly note three things.

1. The foregoing breach.

(1) God and man were once near friends (Genesis 1:26-27.)

(2) Man got out of God’s favour by conspiring with God’s grand enemy.

(3) Man fallen drew all his posterity along with him; for God dealt not with him as a single, but as a public person (Romans 5:13; 1 Corinthians 15:47).

(4) The condition of every man by nature is to be a stranger and an enemy to God (Colossians 1:21; Romans 8:7).

2. The nature of this reconciliation.

(1) As the enmity is mutual, so is the reconciliation; God is reconciled to us, and we to God. His justice is satisfied in Christ, and He is willing to forgive. Our wicked disposition, too, is done away, and our hearts are converted and turned to the Lord. God offereth pardon, and requireth repentance. When we accept the offer, and submit to the conditions, and give the hand to the Lord, to walk with Him in obedience, then are we reconciled.

(2) This reconciliation is as firm and strong as our estate in innocency, and in some considerations better (Isaiah 57:4). A bone well set is strongest where broken.

(3) This active reconciliation draweth many blessings along with it.

(a) Peace with God (Romans 5:1).

(b) Access to God with boldness and free trade into heaven (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18). When peace is made between two warring nations, trade revives.

(c) Acceptance both of our persons and performances (Ephesians 1:6).

(d) All the graces of the Spirit.

(e) The sanctification of all outward blessings (1 Corinthians 3:23; Romans 8:28).

(f) A pledge of heaven (Romans 5:10).

3. How far Christ is concerned in it, and why.

(1) God was resolved to lose no honour by the fall of man, but to keep up a sense of--

(a) His justice.

(b) His holiness.

(c) His truth.

(2) Christ was a fit Mediator.

(a) Because of His mutual interest in God and us (Job 9:33). He is beloved of the Father, and hath a brotherly compassion to us.

(b) He is able to satisfy. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The word of reconciliation

We owe the word “reconciliation” and the conception of the gospel as a reconciliation to the Apostle Paul. Whether it was that the circumstances of his own conversion so coloured all his thought that henceforth there was nothing more wonderful in the gospel than the new relation it created between God and man, and between man and God, we cannot, perhaps, tell. In this chapter, for example, five times over he dwells on the word, as if it were some sweet memory from which he was loth to part. Nor is this conception of the gospel confined to the earlier period of St. Paul’s ministry. In the two great Epistles written when he had reached the fullest revelation of the glory of Christ, the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, he still loves to dwell on the reconciling work of Christ. “For He is our peace who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that He might create in Himself of the twain one new man, so making peace.”

The word of reconciliation. It has been maintained by some theologians that “the word of reconciliation” concerns only man in his relation to God, and has no meaning for God in His relation to man. The blew Testament--it is said--never once speaks of God as being reconciled to man, or as needing to be reconciled: it does speak of man being reconciled to God, and the reason is clear. On the side of God there was no enmity, no alienation: these were all on our side; we were “enemies by reason of wicked works,” and “the word of reconciliation” is therefore a message to man. On the other hand, it is said--and in this many of the profoundest Evangelical theologians are agreed--that this purely subjective view of reconciliation unduly narrows the message we have to bear; that the sin of man not only affected his relation to God, but necessarily altered God’s relation to man; that the death of Christ has a Divine significance as well as a human meaning; that it has made peace between God and man, as well as between man and God: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself--And how? By that great objective reconciliation involved in the forgiveness of sins, “not imputing their trespasses unto them.” There are four great positions underlying the message in “the word of reconciliation,” on which all men who believe in the gospel of Christ will be agreed.

1. It is a word, first, concerning God. In the address delivered by Dr. Dale, at the opening of the International Council, he said, “In Christ God is the Father of all men. This is the glorious discovery of the Christian gospel, and although he went on to warn us that the universal Fatherhood of God did not involve the universal sonship of man, he did not hesitate to say it was “the very foundation of the order of the world and of human life.” And to those words of Dr. Dale let me add one word more, that this eternal Fatherhood of God is not only the foundation of the order of the world and of human life, but it is the foundation of the gospel of Christ: the first word in the message of reconciliation we are sent to proclaim. The Fatherhood of God is a greater thing than even His sovereignty, for it contains in it all that sovereignty means. The Father must be a ruler, but the ruler need not be a father; and the eternal fatherhood is as awful in its justice as it is tender in its pity; as infinite in the wonder of its holiness as it is in the wonder of its love. And yet Love is its chief word, its all-embracing word. The Love of God for all men, even for the worst, is the first word in the message we have to proclaim. It is even before the Cross of Christ; for if there had been no love there would have been no Cross.

2. It is a word about Christ. And that word is contained in the chapter from which I take my text, “He died for all.”

3. The word of reconciliation is a word concerning the Holy Spirit. There is a gospel of the Spirit as well as of the Cross. Pentecost had a meaning for the world as well as for the Church.

4. It is a word concerning man: “Be ye reconciled to God.” And this word is as sad as the former words were glorious. His alienation from God, that alienation that is at once the result of sin and the punishment of sin, his guilty fear of God, his inward hostility to God--all are here, or men would not need to be “reconciled to God.” It is the human side of our message, the word of reconciliation so far as it concerns man; but I ask you to remember all the power of this appeal to man depends on our first uttering the word concerning God. One word about God has more power over the human heart than all the words one can speak concerning man. The tides which swept around the shores of this earth are all moved by attraction far up in the heavens, and the great tides of emotion which carry the soul back to God are all lifted by the Cross of Christ. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”

The greatness of the trust committed to us. All work that is the service of man is honourable work, and all true service of man is work for God. The artist who fixes on canvas the dream of beauty; the scientific man who spells out letter by letter the secrets of nature; the philosopher who discovers to us the mysteries of our own minds--nay, the humblest toiler at the bench or in the shop--all of them just so far as they make the will of God the law of their life are “fellow-labourers with God”; and all may share the honours of a Divine reward. But this is not all the truth. There are degrees of glory even in Divine work, there is some work that lies nearer the heart of God, that touches Christ more than any other work; and of all work done for God on this earth there is none so dear to God, none that confers such unspeakable honour on the servant who does it, none that will receive so glorious a reward at last as the work of saving men. And our responsibility is as great as the honour laid upon us.

1. We must be faithful to the word “committed to us.” We have a message from God to deliver, not a science of religion to discover.

2. And, finally, it is not enough for us to be ourselves faithful to the word of reconciliation; we are responsible also for speaking that word to others. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

The incarnation; God’s work in Christ

God is a great worker. He is the mainspring of all activity in the universe but that of sin. There are at least four organs through which he works: material laws, animal instincts, moral mind, and Jesus Christ. By the first He carries on the great revolutions of inanimate nature; by the second He preserves, guides, and controls all the sentient tribes that populate the earth, the air and sea; by the third, through the laws of reason and the dictates of conscience, He governs the vast empire of mind; and by the fourth, namely, Christ, He works out the redemption of sinners in our world. There is no more difficulty in regarding Him in the one person--Christ, for a certain work--than there is in regarding Him as being in material nature, animal instinct, or moral mind. The text leads us to two remarks concerning God’s work in Christ:--

It is a work of reconciling humanity to himself. “He is reconciling the world unto Himself;”

1. The work implies--

(1) Enmity on man’s part; and the existence of this enmity is patent to all. “The carnal mind,” etc.

(2) A change of mind in one of the parties.

2. Paul speaks of the human world as being reconciled to God in contradistinction--

(1) To fallen angels. Hell hates God, but He does not work for its reconciliation.

(2) To any particular class of the human family. Some would limit the redeeming work to the few; but it is not so restricted. “He is a propitiation, not for our sins only,” etc.

It is a work involving the remission of sins. “Not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Three facts will throw light on this.

1. A state of enmity against God is a state of sin. There may be virtue in disliking some persons, but it is evermore a sin to dislike God; He is infinitely good.

2. A state of sin is a state exposed to punishment.

3. In reconciliation the enmity is removed, and therefore the punishment obviated. What is pardon? A remitting of just punishment--a separating of man from his sins and their consequences. This God does through Christ.

From this subject four things may be considered in regard to this work of God in Christ.

1. It is a work of unbounded mercy. Who ever heard of the offended party seeking the friendship of the offender, especially if the offender was sovereign and the other subject? But this is what the Infinite God is doing in Christ, and doing earnestly every hour.

2. It is a work essential to the well-being of humanity. It is impossible that the creature can be happy whose thoughts, feelings, and purposes are directly opposed to the being, purposes, and procedure of the Absolute.

3. It is a work exclusively of benign moral influence. No coercion on the one hand, no angry denunciations on the other, can produce reconciliation; it is the work of loving logic.

4. It is a work which must be gradual in its progress. You cannot force mind; it must have time to reflect, repent, and resolve. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

Not imputing their trespasses to them.--

The non-imputation of sin

The pardon or non-imputation of sin.

The nature and worth of the privilege--“not imputing” (Romans 4:8).

1. It is a metaphor taken from those who cast up their accounts; and so it implies--

(1) That sin is a debt (Matthew 6:12).

(2) That God will one day call sinners to an account, and charge such and such debts upon them (Matthew 25:19).

(3) That in this day of accounts God will not impute the trespasses of those who are reconciled to Him by Christ (Psalms 32:2).

2. Now this is--

(1) An act of great grace and favour on God’s part, because--

(a) Every one is become “guilty before God,” and obnoxious to the process of His righteous judgment (Romans 3:19). There is sin enough to impute, and the reason of this non-imputation is not our innocency, but God’s mercy.

(b) He would not prosecute His right against us, calling us to a strict account, and punishing us according to our demerits, which would have been our utter undoing (Psalms 130:3; Psalms 143:1-12.).

(c) He found out the way how to recompense the wrong done by sin unto His Majesty, and sent His Son to make this recompense for us (verse 21; Psalms 53:4; Romans 4:2).

(d) He did this out of His mere love, which set-a-work all the causes which concurred in the business of our redemption (John 3:16). And this love was not excited by any love on our parts (Romans 3:24).

3. This negative or non-imputation is heightened by the positive imputation of Christ’s merits.

(1) A matter of great privilege and blessedness to the creature. This will appear if we consider--

(a) The evil we are freed from; guilt is an obligation to punishment, and pardon is the dissolving this obligation.

(b) The good depending upon it in this life and the next.

The manner how this privilege is brought about and applied to us.

1. The first stone in this building was laid in God’s eternal decree and purpose to reconcile sinners to Himself by Christ, not imputing their trespasses to them.

2. The second step was when Christ was actually exhibited in the flesh, and paid our ransom for us (1 John 3:5; John 1:29; Hebrews 10:14).

3. The next step was when Christ rose from the dead; for then we had a visible evidence of the sufficiency of the ransom, sacrifice, and satisfaction which He made for us (Rom 5:25; Romans 8:34).

4. We are actually justified, pardoned, and reconciled when we repent and believe.

5. We are sensibly pardoned, as well as actually, when the Lord giveth peace and joy in believing, “and sheddeth abroad His love in our hearts by the Spirit.”

6. The last step is when we have a complete and full absolution of sin--that is, at the day of judgment (Acts 3:19).

It is a branch and fruit of our reconciliation with God.

1. Because when God releaseth us from the punishment of sin, it is a sign His anger is appeased and now over.

2. That which is the ground of reconciliation is the ground of pardon of sin (Ephesians 1:7).

3. That which is the fruit of reconciliation is obtained and promoted by pardon of sin, and that is fellowship with God and delightful communion with Him in a course of obedience and subjection to Him (Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 1:7). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 5:20

Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ.

Of the nature and use of the gospel ministry as an external mean of applying Christ

First, Christ’s ambassadors commissionated. “Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ.” Secondly, their commission opened; wherein we find, first, the work whereunto the ministers of the gospel are appointed, to reconcile the world to God. Secondly, their capacity described: they act in Christ’s stead, as His vicegerents. He is no more in this world to treat personally with sinners. Thirdly, the manner of their acting in that capacity; and that is by humble, sweet, and condescending entreaties. Doct.: That the preaching of the gospel by Christ’s ambassadors is the means appointed for the reconciling of sinners to Christ. First, we will open what is implied in Christ’s treaty with sinners by His ambassadors or ministers.

1. It necessarily implies the defection of man from his estate of friendship with God. If no war with heaven, what need of ambassadors of peace? The very office of the ministry is an argument of the fall.

2. It implies the singular grace and admirable condescension of God to sinful man.

3. It implies the great dignity of the gospel ministry. We are ambassadors for Christ.

4. Christ’s treating with sinners by His ministers, who are His ambassadors, implies the strict obligation they are under to be faithful in their ministerial employment (1 Timothy 1:12).

5. It implies the removal of the gospel ministry to be a very great judgment to the people. The remanding of ambassadors presages an ensuing war.

6. And, lastly, it implies both the wisdom and condescension of God to sinful men in carrying on a treaty of peace with them by such ambassadors, negotiating betwixt Him and them. Secondly, we are to consider that great concernment about which these ambassadors of Christ are to treat with sinners, and that is their reconciliation to God. First, that God should be reconciled after such a dreadful breach as the fall of man made is wonderful, No sin, all things considered, was ever like to this sin; other sins, like a single bullet, kill particular persons, but this, like a chain-shot, cuts off multitudes which no man can number. Secondly, that God should be reconciled to men and not to angels, a more excellent order of creatures, is yet more astonishing. Thirdly, that God should be wholly and thoroughly reconciled to man, so that no fury remains in Him against us (Isaiah 27:4) is still matter of farther wonder. Fourthly, that God should be freely reconciled to sinners, and discharge them without the least satisfaction to His justice from them, is, and for ever will be, marvellous in their eyes. For though Christ, your Surety, hath made satisfaction in your stead, yet it was His life, His blood, and not yours, that went for it. Fifthly, that God should be finally reconciled to sinners, so that never new breach shall happen betwixt Him and them, so as to dissolve the league of friendship, is a most transporting message. In the last place, we are to inquire what and whence is this efficacy of preaching to reconcile sinners to Christ. First, this efficacy and wonderful power is not from the word itself; take it in an abstract notion, separated from the Spirit, it can do nothing: it is called “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Secondly, it derives not this efficacy from the instrument by which it is ministered, let their gifts be what they will. Thirdly, but whatever efficacy it hath to reconcile men to God it derives from the Spirit of God, whose co-operation and blessing gives it all the fruit it hath. First, admire and stand amazed at this mercy. “I will praise Thee, O Lord,” saith the Church (Isaiah 12:1). “Though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me.” Secondly, beware of new breaches with God. God will speak “peace to His people and to His saints, but let them not turn again to folly” (Psalms 85:8). Thirdly, labour to reconcile others to God, especially those that are endeared to you by the bonds of natural relation. Fourthly, Let your reconciliation with God relieve you under all burdens of affliction you shall meet with in your way to heaven. (John Flavel.)

Ambassadors for Christ

1. The dignity of an ambassador is measured--

(1) By the grandeur of the power he represents. Compare a minister from Paraguay with one from Prussia. The former may have more personal wealth and dignity of character than the latter; but how difficult their official dignity! The apostle’s official exaltation was the very loftiest in the world.

(2) By the grandeur of the State to which he is sent. An ambassador to Russia is a greater personage than one to Liberia. Now; Paul was sent, not to one State or kingdom, but to the world.

(3) By the subjects about which they are commissioned to treat. Compare the Treaty of Ghent with the settlement of the “Alabama Claims.” The object of the apostle’s mission was not to make peace between contending nations, not to adjust spoliation claims, but to restore a world of rebels to their prime allegiance, and to wrest from hell its illgotten spoils.

2. The apostle says, “We are ambassadors for Christ.”

3. Behold here an evidence that God delighteth not in the death of the sinner. Not content to commission a body of men simply to announce, He condescends to plead through them (Ezekiel 18:23-32; Isaiah 1:18; 2 Peter 3:9).

Let us analyse this wonderful divine solicitation. It assumes--

1. A state of alienation from God on your part and offence on His.

2. That God has been propitiated.

3. That without the sinner’s own consent the interposition made by Christ can be of no avail.

How is man’s aversion to reconciliation to be accounted for?

1. While conscious of sin, they are really unconscious of peril. When danger is realised no man is indifferent. Hence the necessity for preaching about law and hell.

2. Sinners love their sin. Sin has its pleasures. You see no pleasure in holiness. Admit that the life of the sinner reconciled is a gloomy journey, nothing to compensate him for the life of revelry that he is to abandon. Is it not better to experience temporary unhappiness for the sake of immortal bliss? Now God, who knows the unsatisfying nature of sinful pleasures, beseeches you by us, “Be reconciled to God.” (J. W. Pratt, D. D.)

Ambassadors for Christ

The office in which the ministers of Christ appear.

1. An ambassador holds an office of distinguished honour. He represents the king who sends him. Ambassadors may, or they may not, be talented men. It may be of importance to the sovereign that they should be so; but they are not to be respected for their talents, but for their office, and any disrespect shown them in a foreign court is levelled at the office. Now all this is true of the ministers of Christ. Christ accounts every kindness shown to them as shown to Him, and every unfriendly act towards them as done to Him. Talents and piety commend ministers; but it is their office which is the ground of their honour.

2. The ambassador’s is an office of important trust. They are not sent to make laws, but simply to convey instructions. Now the apostle says that he was “put in trust with the gospel,” and God “requires in stewards that a man be found faithful.” They have, therefore, simply to deliver that to the people which they have received of the Lord Jesus.

3. This office is one requiring great skill, diligence, and labour. What tact, and ingenuity, and application does it often require to conduct the king’s business at a foreign court! And oh! how much more to negotiate the affairs of Christ’s kingdom among them! “Who is sufficient for these things?” “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews,” etc.

The object at which they aim--that men may be reconciled to God.

The message they have to deliver.

1. It is free.

2. Full.

3. Final.

The manner in which their object is to be prosecuted. Not by compulsion, not by punishment, but “we pray you”--“God beseeches you by us.”

1. Such a mode answers to the character of God and His gospel. “God is love”; His gospel is “goodwill toward men.” Methinks it is very easy to be reconciled to love.

2. The method corresponds with the character of man. Men are more easily drawn than driven. Love wins the heart, when terror would often drive it away. (J. Sherman.)

God beseeching sinners by His ministers

Man became God’s enemy without the slightest provocation; but man did not make the first overtures for peace. Consider--

The ambassadors of reconciliation.

1. They themselves were once enemies to God. God might have sent angels to you, and you might have been awed by their glory; but their sermons must have been unsympathetic compared with ours, for they could not know your misery as we do.

2. They are now reconciled, and therefore can speak not theoretically, but experimentally. They were reconciled, too, by Jesus Christ, in the same way as other sinners. Again, Paul tells us--

3. They have a message to deliver which has been given to them. Their mission is not to invent a gospel. I send my servant with a message, and if she, in her wisdom, alters my message to suit her own views, I discharge her, for I want some one who will bear my message, and not make one of her own. God would have His ministers be like transparent glass, not like painted windows, which colour all the rays after their own nature.

The subject-matter of our message.

1. That reconciliation is only to be obtained towards God on the ground of substitution. You cannot reconcile yourself to God by lamentation on account of your past sins, by any future arduous service, nor by any ceremony of man’s invention, or even of God’s ordaining. This is the plan:--Men were all lost and condemned; then Jesus took upon Himself our manhood, that He might be our brother; and in His death He bore the burden of human sin.

2. That this reconciliation was not apart from God, but that God was in Christ. You must never fall into the idea that God is revengeful, and that the death of His Son was necessary to pacify the Father. God was love before Jesus died. The substitution made on Calvary was a substitution provided by God’s love. It is not Jesus, a stranger, who hangs there to gratify the Father’s vengeance; it is God who, in one of His Divine Persons, bears the penalty which justice demanded of sinful men.

3. That in consequence of God’s having reconciled the world to Himself in Jesus Christ, He is able now to deal with sinners as if they had never sinned. “Not imputing their trespasses unto them.” “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Aye, and something more. God treats us who are reconciled to Him as if they were full of good works; “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

4. That the atonement of Christ is for the “world” (John 3:16).

5. That there is nothing whatever needed in order to their reconciliation and acceptance with God, except what Christ has already wrought out.

The manner in which this message is to be delivered. The text tells us very plainly--

1. By beseeching and praying men. We are not merely to convince the intellect; neither are we alone to warn and threaten, though that has its place.

2. By beseeching men as though God did beseech them. Now how does God beseech them? Read Isaiah 1:4.; Ezekiel 33:11; Jeremiah 44:4; Hosea 11:8.

3. By praying souls in Christ’s stead--i.e., we are to preach as if Christ were preaching. That would not be in a light or trifling manner, or in a cold official style, but with melting eyes and burning heart. Sometimes He prayed--

(1) By setting before them the evil of their ways. “For which of these works do you stone Me?” And so I inquire, “For which of God’s works are you His enemy? Are you His enemy because He keeps you in life, gives you your food, or sends you the gospel?”

(2) By showing them the uselessness of their rebellion (Luke 14:31). Why will you be God’s enemy when you cannot win the battle?

(3) By displaying the result of their sin, as He did when He stood on the brow of the hill and looked down on Jerusalem. Remember the passages where He speaks of dividing the sheep from the goats, where He treats of the virgins who had no oil in their vessels with their lamps. Whoever puts the doctrine of hell into the background, Jesus never did.

(4) By pleading the love of God--e.g., in the parable of the prodigal son, And, oh, how tie implored man to be reconciled, in such words as, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”; “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

4. By bringing this matter home and pressing it. We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. It comes to this with you: God says to you--

1. Throw down your weapons; why dost thou contend with thy Maker? What has Christ done that thou shouldst not love Him? What has the Holy Ghost done that thou shouldst resist Him? What wilt thou gain by it in time or in eternity?

2. Accept the Lord Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian ambassador

The character that becomes ministers as ambassadors for Christ.

1. Intelligence. No wise prince would employ as his representative at a foreign court a man destitute of good sense and of acquired knowledge; otherwise the interests of the empire might be compromised, and the lustre of the sovereign’s reign tarnished. Surely, then, the care of souls, every one of which is more valuable than worlds, ought only to be entrusted to men gifted by nature, whose minds have been roused by cultivation, and whose conduct gives evidence that they have been taught by God.

2. Attachment to Christ and His cause. In the early stages of society ambassadors were chiefly chosen from among the personal friends of the prince, and, being often bound to him by the ties of consanguinity or marriage, afforded the best guarantees of fidelity and zeal. And so love to the Saviour, arising from the heartfelt power of His religion, and from the workings of a devoted gratitude, is the highest qualification of a Christian minister.

3. Fidelity. When an envoy is sent to a foreign court he bears with him not only credentials, but written instructions, defining the conditions on which a treaty of peace may be ratified; and should he exceed his instructions the treaty so negotiated would not be sanctioned by his king. And so when ministers entreat sinners to be reconciled unto God, they should always remember that they are acting for Christ, and should only propose salvation in the manner and on the terms in which it is offered in His gospel. “Thus saith the Lord” should be distinctly attached to all their announcements.

4. Zeal. The man to whom is committed the dignity of a prince and the interests of an empire should subordinate every personal feeling to the glory of his sovereign; and so the ambassador for Christ should spend and be spent in his Master’s cause.

5. Wisdom. The ambassador of an earthly monarch behoves not only to maintain a courteous deportment, but to mark, with eagle glance, the ever-shifting relations of the kingdoms with which he negotiates, and to adapt his policy to their changing circumstances; and so the minister of Christ requires to display much wisdom, both in maintaining an inoffensive conversation and adapting his lessons to the existing state of society.

6. Diligent and persevering exertion. A superficial observer, who gazes on the splendid attire and retinue of an envoy, and who observes his attendance upon the levees and gala-days of royalty, is apt to imagine that his duties are light and his post nearly a sinecure; but a person who peeps behind the curtain, who notices the thousand channels by which he gleans information, his anxious consultations with confidential advisers, his sleepless nights, devoted to unravelling the mysteries of the passing masquerade, and his frequent interchange of correspondence with his sovereign--the man who looks to the details of all these labours must admit that his employment is most arduous and harassing. In the same manner, many suppose that the station of a minister is one of indolence; but those who survey their ministrations in the sanctuary, their diligence in study, their hours devoted to prayer, their painstaking visitations, and their sympathy with the sick, must admit that the employment is most harassing, and need feel no surprise that so many fall as martyrs who devote themselves with zeal to the duties of this profession.

7. Great dignity. If the envoy of an earthly monarch, whenever he presents his credentials, has a portion of the respect due to his sovereign awarded to him, so the man, however humble, who acts for Christ as the “legate of the skies,” derives a dignity from his office before which all worldly honours sink into insignificance.

The motives which should rouse us to increased zeal.

1. Should souls perish through our negligence, their blood will be required at our hands.

2. The example of the apostles should stimulate us to exertion.

3. The example left us by the Luthers, Calvins, and Knoxes, of the reforming era, and by the fathers of this Church at a later period, should rouse and ashame us.

4. Were the motives derived from religion forgotten, patriotism and humanity should rouse us.

6. It becomes us to recollect that our lots have been cast in critical and perilous times, which demand from us extraordinary zeal and watchfulness. (J. Brown, A. M.)

A merciful embassy

There has long been war between man and his Maker. Our federal head. Adam, threw down the gauntlet in the garden of Eden. From that day until now there has been no truce between God and man by nature. But though man will not make terms with God, God shows His unwillingness any longer to be at war with man. He Himself sends His ambassadors. Consider--

The ambassadors. All nations, with one accord, have agreed to honour ambassadors. Strange, then, that all nations and all people should have conspired to dishonour the ambassadors of God! But the ambassador of God may be very welcome to some of you, who have bitterly felt your estrangement, and are prepared by a sense of ruin for the good tidings of redemption. Ambassadors are welcome--

1. To a people who are engaged in a war which is beyond their strength, when their resources are exhausted and the peril of defeat is imminent. Ah, man! thou hast bid defiance to the King of heaven, whose power is irresistible. How canst thou stand against Him; shall the stubble contend with the fire? Happy for thee that terms of peace are proclaimed. Wilt thou not gladly accept what God proposeth to thee?

2. When the people have begun to feel the victorious force of the King. Certain cities have been taken by the sword and given up to be sacked. Now the poor, miserable inhabitants are glad enough to get peace. Doubtless there are some here who have known the power of God in their conscience. Surely you will rejoice to hear that there is an embassage of peace sent to you.

3. To those who are labouring under a fear of total and speedy destruction.

4. If the people know that he brings no hard terms. When a certain king sent to the inhabitants of a town that he would make peace with them provided he put out their right eyes and cut off their right hands, the ambassador who brought those tidings could not expect a cordial welcome. But there are no hard terms in the gospel. They are simply, “Believe and live”; not “Do, and live”; not “Feel this, and live”; but simply “Believe, and live.” And should not the fame of the King increase the zest with which the embassage is received? No temporary peace is proposed that may presently be broken, but a peace that shall stand for ever and ever. This peace is proclaimed to all men. “Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved.” None are excluded hence but those who do themselves exclude.

The commission of peace which God has entrusted us to proclaim--“To wit, that God,” etc. Let us open the commission. Our commission begins with the announcement that God is love, that He willeth to forgive. Our commission goes on to disclose the manner as well as the motive of mercy. God has been pleased to give His only-begotten Son that He might stand in the room of those whom God has chosen. Thus the justice of God should be satisfied, and His love flow over to the human race. But the proclamation needs something more to give us any satisfaction. Are there any tidings in it for you and me? Well, our message goes on to announce that whosoever in the wide world will come to Christ shall forthwith be at peace with God. Though only some will accept it, the preacher is not warranted in showing any partiality. When Charles II. came back to England there was an amnesty, except for certain persons, and these were mentioned by name--Hugh Peters and others were proscribed; but there is no exception here.

The duty we have to discharge--“As though God did beseech you by us,” etc. Then we have not merely to read our commission, but to beseech you to accept it. Why?--

1. Because You are men, not machines.

2. Your hearts are so hard that you are prone to defy God’s power and resist His grace.

3. You are unbelieving, and will not credit the tidings. You say it is too good to be true that God will have mercy on such as you are.

4. You are so proud and self-satisfied that you will sooner follow your own righteousness and cling to your own works than accept a peace already sealed and ratified, and now freely proffered to you for acceptance.

5. You are careless. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

As though God did beseech you by us: we pray You in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.--

The arguments by which men should be persuaded to reconcile unto God

Man hath an indisposition God-ward, which doth expose him to the greatest danger.

1. That the motion of reconciliation begins with God.

2. Though the motion of reconciliation begins with God yet God expects our concurrence and consent. Reconciliation is never accomplished without us.

3. God in this motion of reconciliation accommodates Himself to humane principles, which are two: intelligence and freedom. To show you wherein this reconciliation doth consist, and whereby you may come to be reconciled to God.

(1) Rectify your wrong apprehension of God. To lay aside false opinion, this is the first; but it will not be the last. We find in ourselves, that if we have had wrong apprehension of a person, if we have a better representation of him, we begin to change in our minds. Wrong apprehensions of God are very mischievous; they, keep us off from Him, at the greatest distance. The first step to reconciliation is to lay aside wrong apprehension.

2. Let your affections be inflamed toward God, for this is due order; let understanding go before and affections follow after. If we apprehend God to be good and lovely, we cannot but adore, love, and magnify Him; the second will follow upon the first.

3. Be reconciled to God by savouring the things of God. Through reconciliation we come to harmonise with the nature, and mind, and will of God: to think of things as He thinks; to relish them as He doth. Friends that are of a familiar acquaintance, they come so to harmonise, that you may know one by the other.

4. Be reconciled to God by imitating Him in acts of goodness, acts el mercy, acts of love.

5. Let us direct all our intentions towards Him.

6. Acknowledge His grace and goodness in Christ. Now to apply this-1. This doth highly recommend religion to us, in that it is a reconciling principle.

(1) The reconciliation of man to God.

(2) The reconciling of man to man. (B. Whichcote, D. D.)

Reconciliation with God

I have a special errand; I bring a message from the King. When the President of the United States sends a message to the national legislature it takes precedence of all other business. When the ambassador of England or Germany presents his credentials, he has behind him the authority and prestige of a mighty empire. How much more authoritative the voice of him who is the ambassador of the King of kings. I have no theory to propound, but only the command of nay Master. “I beseech you on the behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.” Notice:--

How positions here are reversed. It is not the rebel pleading for pardon, but the King asking the rebel to fling down his weapons; not the returning prodigal seeking the father, but the loving Father entreating the return of the wayward son. A son once quarrelled with and stole from his father, then fled to London, where he wasted his substance in sin. A detective discovered him in a haunt of vice--health and money gone. The father was notified, and hastened to the wretched abode. He climbed to the attic, and found his sick son in a broken, troubled sleep. He bent over him and was recognised. “My poor boy, I’ve come for you; will you go home with me?” “Go home! yes, if you’ll forgive me, father.” He lifted up the invalid, and took him home repentant and forgiven. So God says to you, “Poor son, daughter, come home, come home!”

The cause of this conroversy. Sin; it affects the whole nature. If I should let fall a single drop of ink into this glass of water it would discolour the whole. There is also a penalty to be met. Christ becomes our substitute. It is His grace that bridges the gulf between us and heaven.

The one condition of reconciliation--that is, submission to God’s government. “Unconditional surrender” is the message. We remember how the large-hearted Lincoln pleaded, “be ye reconciled.” But he held to the one condition, yield! SO God says, “Put away the evil of your doings.” You cannot pass over this bridge till you have left at the gate your evil ways and thoughts.

The fruits of this reconcilement are sweet and precious. You may be lying like a rosebush beaten by the blast and pelting rain. Your heart is crushed and bleeding, but as the sun comes and talks, as it were, with the flower; covers its petals with warm kisses and lifts it up to drink in the sunshine, and to be beautiful again, so will He give you beauty for ashes and joy for heaviness when you repentingly and lovingly open your heart to Christ. Conclusion.

You have heard of the Highland mother whose daughter had long led a reckless life in Edinburgh, sunk in sin. Her eyes were opened. She returned home to the but by the hillside, finding her way in the darkness. The daughter entered and found her old “mother” crooning over the ashes of the fire. The penitent was clasped in her mother’s arms. “I came home in the dead of night and found the cabin door unlocked!” “It’s never been looked since you went away, for I didna ken when you might come back.” So God keeps the door of mercy ajar and waits to welcome you. Think of that Saxon word, well-come--that is, “It is well for you to come.” To stay away is hell! (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Reconciliation to God

What ministers, as Christ’s ambassadors, are to do in order to sinners being reconciled to God.--They are not to be silent, but to speak; and as they are ambassadors of Christ, He should be the principal subject of their ministrations. But more particularly--

1. In order to sinners’ reconciliation to God, it is necessary for ministers boldly to declare

(1) The natural enmity of their hearts against Him. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God.

(2) That though the groundwork of our reconciliation was laid in the eternal counsels of God, yet that it is actually brought about in time (Ephesians 2:13).

(a) The law being fulfilled, and justice satisfied in the person of Christ, the offended Deity now says, “Fury is not in Me,” This is reconciliation on God’s part, with respect to which we have nothing to do but to cordially embrace it.

(b) Reconciliation on our part is begun and completed by the grace of the Spirit. He slays the enmity of the heart, subdues the obstinacy of the will, and sanctifies the carnal affections, so that we are made to resign ourselves up to Him as our lawful Sovereign, and at the same time choose Him as our supreme good.

2. Christ’s servants are likewise to declare that there is need of a farther reconciliation in those who are already reconciled to God. Be ye particularly reconciled

(1) To the absolute sovereignty of God. Deny Him not that right which you yourselves exercise in disposing your favours as you please.

(2) To the providences of God, so as neither to quarrel with Him for what He has done, nor prescribe to Him what He shall do.

(3) To all the requirements of God. His laws are founded upon the highest reason, as well as enforced by the highest authority.

(4) To the methods of Divine grace, and “the way of salvation” by Jesus Christ. Be ye then reconciled to the gospel, as a mystery far above your comprehension: yet a mystery of godliness, the manifest design of which is, to make you more like God, and meet for heaven.

3. Ministers are faithfully to denounce the terrible judgments of God against those who live and die unreconciled to him. They are to tell their hearers that if reconciliation do not take place in this world, it will not in the next.

The manner in which ministers thus treat with sinners about their reconciliation to God.

1. With a perfect unanimity. However various their gifts and abilities may be, yet the subject of their ministrations is the same.

2. With warmth and affection. We not only direct and exhort, but “we pray you “ (Acts 20:31).

3. With spiritual power and authority, “as though God did beseech you by us.”

4. With meekness, gentleness, and all the means of persuasion, “We beseech you.”

Conclusion.--The subject teaches us--

1. The dreadful corruption and depravity of human nature. Nothing worse can be said of the devil than that he is an enemy to God.

2. The necessity of a Divine change; not a change of the conduct only, but of the inward frame and temper of the mind.

3. How much are we indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom this reconciliation never would, nor ever could have taken place! (B. Beddome, M. A.)

On reconciliation

This earnest entreaty of the apostle supposes alienation from God, and enmity against Him, as the natural character of mankind. That they are naturally averse from God may be proved from the general tendency of their desires and affections. The desire of knowledge is natural. The philosopher, the scholar, the artist, are all in earnest pursuit of knowledge. But of what kind?--on questions and speculations which natural objects suggest, and which are all of temporary importance. In no class of men, indeed, do we perceive a natural desire after the best of all knowledge, the knowledge of God, and of the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ. That knowledge is the last and the least desired. Again, we are all desirous of happiness; but where is it generally sought? Look at the young, and you find them pursuing their happiness among trifles and amusements that are ever shifting with the hour. Look at those of maturer age, in what do they place their happiness? In pursuits as idle as the play of children, but more dangerous. Again, we take much pleasure in social conversation. We are made for society, and the social principle belongs to our nature. If then no alienation from God has taken place, the most delightful topics of conversation would be His nature, His works, our” relation to Him, the duties we owe to Him, and the blessedness of communion with Him. Our experience, however, tells us that these are by no means the favourite themes of social conversation.

The possibility, notwithstanding man’s natural enmity, of his reconciliation to God. Observe what wisdom and grace appear in the exact adaptation of the gospel to our actual condition! If reconciliation be proposed at all, it is not for the inferior and offending party to determine the way. God well knew that His wisdom alone was adequate to this. But in making known the purposes of His grace, how conspicuous does His wisdom, how glorious does His majesty, appear! His offended justice requires satisfaction, and His truth declares that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” But further, in this work, in this combination of might, wisdom, and grace, we see each Person of the Godhead harmoniously engaged.

That our text suggests the leading object of the Christian ministry--to beseech men to be reconciled to God.

1. We beseech you by the imminent dangers of a state of enmity against God.

2. We beseech you by the mercies of God.

3. We beseech you by the blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins. Think of the costly sacrifice made for this gracious purpose.

4. We beseech you by the promised influences of the Holy Spirit, “be ye reconciled to God.” We know that your own efforts cannot effect this object; but we call upon you to put into diligent use the means with which Divine grace has furnished you.

5. Finally, we beseech you, by the awful importance of eternity, and the value of your never-dying souls. (T. Lewis.)

Reconciliation with God, man’s truest interest

I shall endeavour to prove that a state of sin is a state of hostility against God; that the impenitent offender is at enmity with God. That obstinate sinners are the enemies of God, we have His own unerring word for our confirmation. This is the very name which He gives them, speaking by the prophet Isaiah, “I will avenge Me,” says He, “of Mine enemies, and render vengeance to Mine adversaries.” Nor is He unjust in branding them with this title, since their constant practice proves them to be no other, for they live in a direct opposition to His will, in a presumptuous violation of His laws. But the greatest instance of enmity is when we enter into a strict alliance with avowed adversaries. The first and greatest enemy of God is the devil, and the wicked man is entered into a close covenant with him. A second enemy of God is the world, and therefore the apostle positively assures us that the friendship of this world is enmity with God. But how dear and tender a union is there between this and the wicked man! A third enemy of God is the flesh. I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind. Friendship is generally founded upon a resemblance of dispositions, and enmity is often caused by a contrariety of humours. But what inclinations can be more opposite than those of God and the sinful man? Holiness and justice are the delights of the one; uncleanness and iniquity the darlings of the other.

To inquire into the dismal consequences of being God’s enemies, and having Him for ours.

1. By considering the nature and probable effects of this enmity. How is it possible to taste any enjoyment of our lives, our fortunes, or any other friendship, whilst we thus continue out of favour with our God.

2. From the consideration of our own weakness and infirmity, and the vast power and ability of our formidable enemy, we may learn how miserable a thing it is to be at enmity with our God. We cannot resist His anger.

3. The great misery of this condition will yet further appear if we consider that he who has God for his enemy is thereby deprived of the only cordial which can sweeten the bitterness of this present life. For what is there that can carry a man comfortably through all the troubles and disappointments of this turbulent world, but a sober consideration of his living under the protection of Almighty God?

The invincible necessity which lies upon us of complying with the advice which the apostle here gives us, “That we should, be reconciled unto God.” Having just laid before you the miserable consequences of continuing in a state of enmity with God, one would think any other arguments useless. Shall the traitor at the gallows need to be importuned to accept of pardon and be restored to his Prince’s favour? One would think there should need no entreaty in such a case.

1. The infinite condescension of Almighty God in vouchsafing to make such a passionate address to us, should prevail with any grateful and ingenious soul to lay hold of the reconciliation which is offered by his God.

2. We should be prevailed with to be reconciled to God, because no just reason or pretence can be alleged for our continuing to stand out in hostility against Him. The causes which are wont to occasion our continuance in any enmity are either our hopes of victory, or our despair of peace, or the difficulty of the terms of our reconciliation, but none of these hindrances can fairly be pretended as the obstruction of our agreement with Almighty God.

3. We ought heartily to close with a reconciliation to our God, because otherwise we shall be unable to resist those enemies which we must expect to encounter in this troublesome world.

4. Let us reconcile ourselves to God, because then we shall be sure of such a friend as is able to deliver us out of all distresses, and to impart to us both temporal and eternal advantages. When once we have entered into a friendship with Him, we are placed beyond the reach of any other enemies; for who is he that will harm you if ye be the followers of that which is good? (N. Brady.)

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 5:21

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin

Christ being made sin, for us

In every age of the world mankind seem to have been conscious to themselves of guilt.

Now guilt is universally accompanied with a sense of demerit. The altars have groaned under the victims that were heaped upon them; and the temples have been filled with the most costly perfumes. Men have every given the fruit of their bodies for the sin of their souls. We are new no longer permitted to wander in ignorance, uncertainty, and error, respecting the method of our acceptance with God.

Consider the character of Christ as upright and innocent. Not only was He free from original sin; throughout the whole course of an active and eventful life, He kept Himself unspotted from the world. Immediately before entering upon His public ministry, His innocence was put to a severe trial. But though the words of the text speak only of our Saviour’s innocence, we ought not to overlook His high dignity and excellence. He was the everlasting God.

Illustrate the doctrine of His being made sin for us. The original word, here rendered sin, is also employed to signify a sin-offering; in which signification it is frequently used in the Septuagint. This phrase is borrowed from the Jewish ritual, of which the sin-offering formed a part. The design of this offering was to take away the guilt of the offerer by the substitution of a victim in his place.

1. That Christ suffered and died in our stead, and consequently expiated our guilt, appears from the nature of His sufferings themselves. Whence proceeded those groans that indicated the agony of His soul? It is impossible to account for this anguish upon the supposition that His sufferings were the same as those of any other man. Many who were thus witnesses for the truth have met death in its most terrible forms with composure, and even with transports of joy. If Christians, then, in such circumstances have triumphed, why did Christ tremble? Not surely because their courage and constancy were greater than His. The causes were completely different. They Suffered from men, who can kill the body but cannot injure the soul. He suffered from God, before whose indignation no created being is able to stand.

2. That Christ suffered in our stead appears from the nature and design of sacrifices. That sacrifices were of a vicarious nature is plain from all the accounts we have of them. The Jewish sacrifices were unquestionably of this nature. But not only were the ancient sacrifices of a vicarious nature--they were instituted as types of Christ, our great High Priest. They must have originated with God, as a proper means of directing the view of men to Him, who was to appear in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Viewed in this light, sacrifices were worthy of God to appoint, and reasonable for man to perform. Since these sacrifices were of a vicarious nature, and since they were also types of Christ, when He offered Himself as a sacrifice upon the Cross, He must have borne the punishment of our sins, and thus have expiated our guilt.

3. That Christ died in our room and stead, appears from the express declarations of Scripture. In Isaiah 53:4, Christ is said to have “ borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”; and in the 12th verse, “He poured out His soul to death, and bore the sins of many.”

The improvement of the subject.

1. To the faithful follower of Jesus this subject is full of consolation. His guilt is expiated. Not so the impenitent sinner, who will not come to Christ that he may be saved.

2. From this subject we may learn the dreadful nature of sin.

3. From this subject we may learn the amazing love of God to man. (John Ramsay, M. A.)

The incarnation from the human side--

Christ conversant with sin

1. These are bold words of Paul. So much so that the great majority of interpreters are tempted to alter them. For “sin” they take the liberty of reading “sin offering.” I suppose if Paul had meant sin offering he could very easily have said so. The ideas conveyed by “sin” and “sin offering” are exceedingly different. No man carefully expressing himself would now use the one term, when he intended to give the idea contained in the other. We know no man without sin. He who has had no experience of sin, has not had a human experience. If Christ had been man in every other respect, but without being in some way conversant with sin, men would not have felt the power of His sympathetic love reaching to the worst extremities of their case. The problem is clear enough; Christ to establish His thorough sympathy with my heart must be conversant with sin, which forms so very large a part of my experience; and yet to deliver me from sin He ought to be above it, and in no way involved in its entanglements. He knew no sin, and He was made sin. Here Paul affirms as real those very two things that I have felt to be a necessity.

2. Let us try and find our way through this difficulty, and understand some of the important conclusions in which we may be landed. The difficulty may come up in three different forms.

(1) As an intellectual difficulty; arising from the apparent impossibility of the infinite entering into the experience of the finite. Christ is not the manifestation of the infinite and absolute, which in its infiniteness is incapable of being manifested, he is the manifestation of all that is intelligible and conceivable in God, which can be pictured to the mind.

(2) There is the moral difficulty we are necessitated to consider. How then is it morally possible that the sinless should have the experience of sin? Here careful reflection is necessary. The experience of sin, so common to men, is more complete than may at first seem. There are three things to be carefully distinguished in it.

(a) There are all those inducements that lead to it, and that may for a long time be operating on the mind before its commission.

(b) Then there is the deliberate, wilful act of sin, which for the most part is momentary; and

(c) There is that long course of sorrow, in numerous forms, which flows out of sin.

Into how much of this can the sinless enter? Into the deliberate determination and act of wrong, it is clear that Christ the sinless cannot enter; nor can He have the slightest sympathy with it. But this forms the very least part of the experience of sin; and in every case, as we may see, forms the greatest barrier to all sympathy. But the inducements to sin, the prompting occasions and influences, as they are not in themselves morally wrong, becoming so only when they are wilfully ripened into action, in themselves arising from weakness and suffering, into all these the sinless can enter, without the least moral contamination. I admit that Christ could not Himself feel any inclination to do wrong; therefore neither could He personally feel the difficulty of resisting.. But He could feel for those in whom that inclination and difficulty are greatest. His feelings can go with us up to the point of actual commission, where our guilt begins. Can we not see at once the truth of this? There may be strong temptations to a child that are none at all to an adult. That does not prevent a parent from entering into the difficulties that beset his child’s path. In Christ this sympathy was immensely strong, so strong that we can scarcely realise its power. So too was His experience of the general condition of humanity wonderfully deep and comprehensive. Hence into all this experience of sin He could enter sinlessly, to an extent that would make the realisation of temptation in Him far greater than in any one single human being. Then again on the same grounds He could enter as fully into all that after experience of sin in bodily sufferings and bitter mental agonies, with which we are all so well acquainted. He could enter into these because they are not themselves morally wrong; and though He could not know personally the reproaches of conscience and the dreadful remorse of a soul under self-condemnation, He could enter into it all, and that most intensely, through that strong sympathetic love and that perfect knowledge of our human condition which we know Him to have possessed. Still in putting this view before thoughtful men, I have found them clinging yet to the notion that Christ’s sympathy and temptation could not be perfect without His actually committing wrong, being a sinner, and overcoming it, which leads me to another remark or two.

(i.) It might be so if sin (actual) were a misfortune that we could not avoid, a calamity and woe in which we were plunged against our will. Then our sympathising Saviour would go with us there. And I think the difficulty greatly arises from taking that view. But sin is not that. It is a deliberate intentional act, which at every point we are perfectly conscious of the ability to avoid. Temptation is not doing wrong. Many men are most powerfully and sorrowfully tempted in those cases in which they triumph. It would not lessen the reality of that temptation if they should conquer in every case. Nor does it in Christ who enters perfectly into our temptations so far as they are suffering and wrestling; but who cannot go with us, even in sympathy, when we turn the temptation into actual crime.

(ii.) As a matter of fact, it is by no means true that we either get or expect most sympathy, as sinners, from those who have committed most crimes. Quite the opposite. Nothing so destroys sympathy as wrong doing. And that for a very obvious reason. Every commission of crime destroys the sensibility of the soul and makes us comparatively indifferent both to the suffering of temptation and to the after sorrows which form so large a part of the experience of sin. All our instincts as sinners teach us that it is not in the guilt of another that we shall find the ground of his sympathy with us; but quite apart from that, in the moral tenderness of His nature (which the commission of sin destroys), and in that general humanity of disposition which enables him to make another’s case his own. This is just what we see so wonderfully manifest in Christ we may say then that it is His entire freedom from sin in act that gives that fine tone to His sympathy.

(iii.) I only add one remark on the practical view of the matter. If you can feel the force of what I have put before you in removing objections, then you can unhesitatingly fall back on the simple narrative as it stands in our Scriptures. And in doing that I may confidently assert that as a matter of fact we do in our deepest sinfulness feel the sympathy of the sinless Jesus, as we feel no man’s sympathy.

3. I have now only briefly to notice the concluding part of this verse. The entire power of Christianity over us rests in the love, or the loving sympathy of Christ, towards and with us; just that which we have been looking at. It is the love of a holy Saviour to us, that breaks our bonds, that gives us hope that all evil may be conquered, and strengthens us to enter upon the warfare. Most beautifully has Paul put this fact into its sublimest form, when we thus understand his words. Christ the sinless, he teaches, came down into the midst of our sinful humanity, took it and us into his warmest heart of love, became conversant with all the forms of sin that oppress us and make us miserable--though without ever allowing Himself to be in the least degree conquered by them. Herein He awakens our hearts to love, He strikes to the very depths of the soul with His loving sympathy, till His conquest over us is complete. (S. Edger, B. A.)

Christ made sin

Christ was absolutely sinless. Not that He was unacquainted with sin, for no man knew it so well as He did. He knew its origin, growth, ramifications, and all the hells it ever had created or ever would create. It was His knowledge of sin that caused Him to fall prostrate in Gethsemane. What then does it mean? That personally He was free from sin. It never stained His heart.

1. He was without sin though He lived in a sinful world. Everywhere sin surrounded Him as a dense, pestiferous atmosphere. But it did not taint Him. His generation failed to corrupt Him.

2. He was without sin, though He was powerfully tempted.

That though sinless, He was, in some sense, made sin by God.

1. This cannot mean that God made the Sinless One a sinner. This would be impossible.

2. Two facts may throw light upon the expression.

(1) That God sent Christ into a world of sinners to become closely identified with them. “He was numbered with transgressors.”

(2) That He permitted this world of sinners to treat and punish Him as if He were the greatest of all.

That the Sinless One was thus made sin in order that men might participate in God’s righteousness. The grand end was the moral restoration of man to the rectitude of God. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The sinless recede sin, and the sinful made righteous

Christ was personally sinless. The conception and birth of Jesus, while they linked Him to human nature, did not connect Him with human depravity. He was the second holy man, but unlike the first He continued so. He understood the nature of sin, and knew what it was to be tempted; yet in His own experience He was sinless--He knew no sin in His desires, motives, volitions, or acts. His heart never knew self-disapprobation.

As the voluntary representative of sinful men, Christ was through a limited period accounted by God a transgressor. In this sense God “made” Christ sin. Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He did not come into this condition by His own misconduct. Free from exposure to suffering on all personal grounds He consented to suffer for us. But Christ held this position only for a time--and Christ is the only suffering substitute of a guilty race for the purpose of redemption.

The object of God in treating Christ as a sinner was to place Himself in a position whence He might account sinful men righteous, and really work righteousness within them. Generally the “righteousness of God” means that provision which God has made in the sacrifice of Christ for the justification of the ungodly. To be made the righteousness of God by Christ is to have our guilt removed by His sacrifice, and our persons sanctified. Conclusion: Behold--

1. The riches of the goodness of God! God made Christ sin to make us righteousness.

2. The unutterable love of Christ. He who knew no sin made sin for us, and this not by constraint, but willingly, not for self interest, but of a ready mind.

3. An absolute human necessity provided for. But for this interposition.

(1) We are lost.

(2) We have no meeting place with God.

(3) We have no offering wherewith to come before God.

4. The hopeful circumstances in which mankind are placed, and the security of such as participate in Christ’s mediation!

5. The lessons which by Christ’s mediation God reads to His intelligent universe (Luke 15:1-32.). (S. Martin.)

Christ made sin for us

The personal character of Christ. “He knew no sin.” The virtues of others are only comparative: their excellencies are counterbalanced by defects. How seldom do men appear to the same advantage in public and in private. There are virtues which are in some degree incompatible: the circumstances which go to form the contemplative character, are unfavourable to the active; and contrariwise. Some virtues border closely on defects:--courage degenerates into temerity; caution becomes timidity. It not unfrequently happens that men, after having established their claim to some particular quality, fail in those points in which their chief excellence consists. It was thus with the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, and the patience of Job. Even where there is no flaw in the character which strikes the eye of the public, or which is noted by private friendship, the individual himself is deeply conscious of his deficiencies. Confessions of this kind are found in the diaries of Luther. In all the particulars referred to, our Lord stood out in marked contrast to the most distinguished servants of God. His virtues were not comparative, but absolute: there was no inconsistency--no disproportion, His was not the excellence which arose from the predominance of some one virtue, but from the union and harmony of all: in the active and contemplative, He was alike eminent. In none of His virtues was there any exaggeration or excess. This purity did not arise from the absence of temptation. Some who have risen superior to greater trials, have been overcome in smaller. To lighter trials our Lord was not less exposed than to severer ones; nor was His conduct in regard to the one, less admirable than in regard to the other. Jewish fishermen would never have drawn that character if they had not seen it.

His mediatorial office--“He was made sin for us.” To assert, and to found the assertion on the text, that Christ, having the guilt of our sins imputed to Him, may be considered as the greatest sinner on earth, is language utterly indefensible. It is not to explain the language of Scripture, but to distort it. Guilt is a personal quality: it is incapable of being transferred. At the very time that Christ was expiating the guilt of sin upon the Cross He was the Holy One of God--the just suffering in the room of the unjust. He who was not guilty suffering in the room of those who were. Some understand the word “sin” to mean sin-offering. The word rendered sin-offering, as the marginal reading indicates, strictly signifies sin. The terms are singularly emphatic. God made, or treated, or permitted Christ to be treated, not merely as sinful, or a sinner, but as sin itself. Look in proof of this to the records of His life. Consider the estimate which His enemies formed of His character. They did not speak of Him merely as a sinner, but as a friend or favourer of sinners. They did not impute to Him merely gluttony and intemperance, but the indictable offence of blasphemy. “Away with Him,” was their cry, “let Him be crucified.” Had there been nothing more in the treatment of Christ than what has been here mentioned, the propriety of the language in the text would have been sufficiently vindicated. But whence the agony in Gethsemane?

His benevolent undertaking. “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” This clause is to be explained on the same principle with the former. If by the expression, being made sin for us, is to be understood His being treated as a sinner, the corresponding expression, being made the Righteousness of God in Him, must imply, that we, on His account, are treated as if we were righteous. The sinner on believing in Christ is acquitted, and treated as if he were righteous. This view of the design of Christ’s sufferings, independently of the direct testimony of the text, follows from the fact of His innocence. If suffering and death are the penalty of sin, as He could not have suffered for His own sins, He must have suffered for the sins of others. (R. Brodie, M. A.)



The doctrine. There are three persons mentioned here.

1. God. Let every man know what God is.

(1) He is a sovereign God, i.e., He has absolute power to do as He pleaseth. And though He cannot be unjust, or do anything but good, yet is His nature absolutely free; for goodness is the freedom of God’s nature.

(2) He is a God of infinite justice. This I infer from my text; seeing that the way of salvation is a great plan of satisfying justice.

(3) He is a God of grace. God is love in its highest degree.

2. The Son of God--essentially God; purely man--the two standing in a sacred union together, the God-Man. This God in Christ knew no sin.

3. The sinner. And where is he? Turn your eyes within. You are the person intended in the text. I must now introduce you to a scene of a great exchange. The third person is the prisoner at the bar. As a sinner, God has called him before Him. God is gracious, and He desires to save; God is just, and He must punish. “Prisoner at the bar, canst thou plead ‘Not guilty’?” He stands speechless; or, if he speaks, he cries, “I am guilty!” How then shall he escape? Oh! how did heaven Wonder, when for the first time God showed how He might be just, and yet be gracious! when the Almighty said, “My justice says ‘smite,’ but My love stays my hand, and says, ‘spare the sinner’! My Son shall stand in thy stead, and be accounted guilty, and thou, the guilty, shalt stand in My Son’s stead and be accounted righteous!” Do you say that such an exchange as this is unjust? Let me remind you it was purely voluntary on the part of Christ, and that it was not an unlawful thing is proved by the fact that the sovereign God made Him a substitute. We have read in history of a certain wife whose attachment to her husband was so great, that she had gone into the prison and exchanged clothes with him; and so the prisoner has escaped by a kind of surreptitious substitution. In such a case there was a clear breach of law, and the prisoner escaping might have been pursued and again imprisoned. But in this case the substitution was made by the highest authority.

The use of His doctrine. “Now, then, we are ambassadors for God,” etc., for--here is our grand argument--“He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin.” I might entreat you to be reconciled, because it would be a fearful thing to die with God for your enemy. I might on the other hand remind you that those who are reconciled are thereby inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. But I shall not urge that; I shall urge the reason of my text. I beseech thee, be reconciled to God, because Christ has stood in thy stead; because in this there is proof that God is loving you. Thou thinkest God to be a God of wrath. Would He have given then His own Son? God is love; wilt thou be unreconciled to love?

The sweet enjoyment which this doctrine brings to a believer. Are you weeping on account of sin? Why weepest thou? Weep because of thy sin, but weep not through any fear of punishment. Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ our sin-offering

What is the essential idea of sin? Some people desire to minimise sin; some evaporate it entirely away; some sneer at the idea. As men grow superficial and heartless they lose all true conception of sin, as a real, abiding, universal, awful fact; but, with Luther, we want no painted sin or painted Christ, we have to do with realities. If sin is not a reality, the Bible is inexplicable. At the outset we say that sin is not merely an individual, personal act. It involves the transgression of the law, but more. No man lives to himself. No act stops with the act or the actor. Your gun is fired in the air, the blaze goes from your chimney, but there is grime left in each. So the channels of our nature grow sooty. The act of sin leaves a stain which we and others see. Sin sinks into us. The sot is powerless. The fibres of his will are unstranded, unravelled. The impure become infected through and through. Sin is not a merely personal act, for it affects others. It scalds and scars the souls about us. We breathe our speech into the delicate membrane of the phonograph, turn the handle, and hear again the same. Had we instruments delicate enough we might grind out again from yonder post the sounds it has recorded here. No, sin is not an individual, isolated act, stopping with the act. Sin is a debt. We owe something to the laws of our being, those of the universe. We may overdraw, but we have got to pay sooner or later, though there be a delay. Sin is also spoken of as a disease. Sin is transmissible to posterity. Furthermore, we cannot say that it is a natural incident in the process of evolution, as did Emerson, so that the thief or the man in the brothel is on his way to perfection. Such a statement is an insult to conscience, an affront to God. Some flippantly say that Adam’s fall was a fall upward, which is absurd. Dives went down into the pit and Lazarus upward, borne to Abraham’s bosom. Some talk of a lie as but an incomplete form of truth. Then the devil, the father of lies, is the grandfather of truth! Darkness is partial light! It is folly to excuse our sin by subterfuge.

The remedy and cure is a crucified Christ. “Sin for us, who knew no sin.” Christ, once for all, has been made a sacrifice for sin. He instead of the sinner dies. His death for sin is a real matter. He alone can deliver and purify those who are polluted by sin. (J. B. Thomas, D. D.)

The substitution of one for all


That the saviour was personally free from all sin. “He knew no sin.”

1. And of whom can this be said, but of Him? There is not one who must not acknowledge with David, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” And if our Saviour had been born, like others, after the flesh, such would have been His state also. But He knew no sin. Though He assumed our nature He did not partake of its corruption. Before His incarnation He was known as the Holy One of Israel; before His birth, He was declared to be a holy thing; and when He was born, He was born “without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin.” Thus the Lord created a new thing in the earth. Christ then was born into the world holy, perfectly holy; did He continue so till He left it? The disciple who betrayed Him, confessed that he had betrayed the innocent blood.

2. And this was necessary in order to His being the Saviour of sinners. If He had once sinned, His obedience would not have been commensurate with the demands of the law which we had broken (Hebrews 7:26).

That God made Him, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, i.e., a sin offering. Sin is a great evil, and required a great sacrifice. It is a breach of God’s law which is holy, just, and good; and subjects the unhappy transgressor to the heavy curse of that law (Galatians 3:10); and to us sinners there was no hope of deliverance, unless some one should be found who could make a sufficient atonement. We could never have done this. Neither repentance, nor future obedience would have been sufficient to repair the breach which sin had made. No personal sufferings of ours could ever have expiated our offences. Even the sacrifices under the law could not make the comers thereunto perfect. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us. He left no demand of the law unfulfilled, and no claim of Divine justice unsatisfied. His work is perfect. There needs no righteousness of our own to be added to His, nor any sufferings of our own to be joined to those which He endured.

The end which God had in view. “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

1. God, the moral Governor of the world, requires righteousness from all the children of Adam. But we have all come short of the glory of God, and of the righteousness He requires. How then can man be just with God? There is no answer but that of the gospel. There we read that the Son of God in human nature--the nature which had sinned--became obedient to the law for man, obedient unto death, and thus brought in perfect and everlasting righteousness. We read also that this righteousness is imputed to us of God, for our complete justification before Him, the very moment we believe in Christ; which is therefore called believing unto righteousness. There is thus a reciprocal imputation; the believer’s guilt is transferred to the Saviour, and the Saviour’s righteousness made over to the believer. And as that Saviour is a Divine Saviour His righteousness may, with the strictest propriety, be called the righteousness of God.

2. This happy and glorious change of state is attended with the most blessed and transforming effects on the spirit and conduct. He who frees from the guilt and consequences of sin, delivers also from its love and power. Christ is made of God sanctification as well as righteousness. The very faith which justifies, sanctifies also. In particular, it secures the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, by whose powerful operations we are renewed in righteousness and true holiness, after the image of God. Conclusion:

1. How glorious does the character of God appear in all this! Mark--

(1) His love. Was there ever such love?

(2) His wisdom in providing a Saviour so exactly adapted to our wants.

(3) His holiness and justice.

2. How anxiously should we inquire whether we are made the righteousness of God in Christ!

3. How studious should we be to grow in grace and in holiness, and thus evince that our faith is a lively and active principle, working by love, and bringing forth much fruit to the glory of God! (D. Rees.)

The heart of the gospel

1. The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the Divine message. In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in Rome, although there was abundance at Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel went down to the sea coast, and there he noticed many hungry people, watching for the vessels that were to come from Egypt. When these vessels came to the shore there was nothing but sand in them which the tyrant had compelled them to bring for use in the arena: Then the merchant said to his shipmaster, “Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn, for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them.” Alas! I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and speculation, and I have said, “Nay, but I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people.”

2. The doctrine of substitution is set forth in the text. I have found, by long experience, that nothing touches the heart like the Cross of Christ. The Cross is life to the spiritually dead. There is an old legend that when the Empress Helena was searching for the true Cross they found the three Crosses of Calvary buried in the soil. Which out of the three was the veritable Cross they could not tell, except by certain tests. So they brought a corpse and laid it on one, but there was neither life nor nation, but when it touched another it lived; and then they said, “This is the true Cross.”

Who was made sin for us? “He who knew no sin.”

1. He had no personal knowledge of sin. Throughout the whole of His life He never committed an offence against the great law of truth and right. “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Even His vacillating judge enquired, “Why, what evil hath He done?”

2. As there was no sin of commission, so was there about our Lord no fault of omission. He was complete in heart, in purpose, in thought, in word, in deed, in spirit.

3. Yea, more, there were no tendencies about our Substitute towards evil in any form.

4. It was absolutely necessary that any one who should be able to suffer in our stead should Himself be spotless.

What was done with Him who knew no sin? He was “made sin.” The Lord laid upon Jesus, who voluntarily undertook it, all the weight of human sin. Instead of its resting on the sinner it was made to rest upon Christ. Christ was not guilty, and could not be made guilty; but He was treated as if He were, because He willed to strand in the place of the guilty. Yea, He was not only treated as a sinner, but He was treated as if He had been sin itself in the abstract. Sin pressed our great Substitute very sorely. He felt the weight of it in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the full pressure of it came upon Him when He was nailed to the accursed tree. The Greek liturgy fitly speaks of “Thine unknown sufferings”: probably to us they are unknowable sufferings. The Lord made the perfectly innocent one to be sin for us: that means more of humiliation, darkness, agony, and death than you can conceive. I will not say that He endured either the exact punishment for sin, or an equivalent for it; but I do say that what He endured rendered to the justice of God a vindication of His law more clear and more effectual than would have been rendered to it by the damnation of the sinners for whom He died. The Cross is under many aspects a more full revelation of the wrath of God against human sin than even Tophet.

Who did it? “He,” i.e., God Himself. The wise ones tell us that this substitution cannot be just. Who made them judges of what is just? Do they say that He died as an example? Then is it just for God to allow a sinless being to die as an example? In the appointment of the Lord Jesus to be made sin for us, there was a display of--

1. The Divine Sovereignty. God here did what none but He could have done. He is the fountain of rectitude, and the exercise of His Divine prerogative is always unquestionable righteousness.

2. The Divine justice.

3. The great grace of God. God Himself provided the atonement by freely and fully giving up Himself in the person of His Son to suffer in consequence of human sin. If God did it, it is well done. If God Himself provided the sacrifice, be you sure that He has accepted it.

What happens to us in consequence? “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Every man that believes in Jesus is through Christ having taken his sin made to be righteous before God. More than this, we are made not only to have the character of “righteous,” but to become the substance called “righteousness.” What is more we are made “the righteousness of God.” Herein is a great mystery. The righteousness which Adam had in the garden was perfect, but it was the righteousness of man: ours is the righteousness of God. Human righteousness failed; but the believer has a Divine righteousness which can never fail. How acceptable with God must those be who are made by God Himself to be “the righteousness of God in Him”! I cannot conceive of any thing more complete. (C. H. Spurgeon)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Corinthians 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/2-corinthians-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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