The close of the last chapter had shown us the works of the flesh on the one hand, and the fruits of the Spirit on the other, with the very solemn injunction to the children of God that if they lived in the Spirit, (which they necessarily did, if they were children of God,) they were also to walk in the Spirit. It was in vain to speak about privilege, if there was indifference to practical ways. We cannot have life in the Holy Ghost, without also being bound by the most solemn sanctions that the Holy Ghost should also be the grand directing force of the walk. The act is but the outward expression of the inner principle. The life can only be absolutely known to God: the walk is that which is manifested before men. But now, besides exhorting them to beware of vain-glory, whatever form it might take, whether of provoking, or of envying one another, (Gal_5:26), we have fresh ground taken at the beginning of chapter 6.
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Supposing a person goes altogether wrong, and is positively surprised into what is plainly evil, what then? Still the Holy Ghost presses that the spiritual should "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." A very weighty word indeed. For, first, in case of a fall, through want of watchfulness and dependence upon God, we learn who are most adapted to meet the need. It is the obligation of all in a general way; but who are those that the Holy Ghost urges to deal well with such a case? "Ye which are spiritual." Now it does not follow that he who is born of God is spiritual. To "live in the Spirit" is a very different thing from being "spiritual." A spiritual person not only lives, but walks in the Spirit. Of course, he has the infirmities of other men, and may at times show nature; but in an obvious way, taken as a whole, through the grace of God, he has learnt to judge, not to spare self, to detect, especially in himself, departure from the Lord, and to own it frankly and humbly before God. In consequence of this habitual self-judgment, there will be far greater tenderness in dealing with sin in others. They may have a keen discernment; but where it comes to that which is real and most serious - which perhaps many would give up as making the case hopeless, and think that the person could not be a Christian at all - they, knowing more of the subtlety of the flesh as well as of the grace of God, are able to count upon His goodness, and are the very persons to deal with the evil and to restore that soul. So that you will always find in cases that call for gracious handling, it is for the spiritual, not those that are the most used themselves to trip, not those that are apt to indulge the flesh and depart from the Lord. These men some might think the most like]y to deal pitifully with such as stumble; but on the contrary, those are called for who walk circumspectly and in self-judgment, as a general rule, and who are thus kept from slipping, through habitual leaning on a faithful Lord; because the very power that preserves them from going astray is what gives them to understand the grace of God and to use that grace for others. Accordingly these are told to "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness."
He adds further, "Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." This would justly be before the mind's eye of a spiritual man. He has the deepest sense of his own weakness; and hence would he most readily esteem others better than himself. How is that? Not of course that he who has made progress in the ways of God is to count a babe's knowledge greater than his own. Not that there are not, on the one hand, in the Church, those who are least esteemed, and on the other, men of tried and spiritual judgment. Not that we are to suppose all alike wise, strong, and honourable. This would be not faith, but fanaticism, and contrary to every right thought. In what sense then are we to esteem "others better than ourselves?" When a soul that is in any measure spiritual, thinks of himself, what he feels is his immense falling short of Christ. He has habitually before him how greatly he fails, even of that which he desires in his ways before God. But when he looks at his brother-christian, let him be the feeblest possible, and sees him as a beloved one of Christ, in full acceptance in, and the object of, the Father's tender affections, this draws out both love and self-loathing! Thus, if grace be at work, what is Christ-like in another saint rises at once before the heart, and what is unlike Christ in himself. So that it is not a question of striving to cultivate high feelings about one's neighbours, and to think them what they are not, but really believing what is true about them, and feeling rightly about ourselves too. If one thinks of what a saint is in Christ and to Christ, and what he will be through Christ, then one's heart takes in the wonder of His love, and how much the Lord makes of him: but when the eye is turned to oneself, all the unworthy ways and feelings and shortcomings come up in humiliating remembrance. So, in considering "thyself, lest thou also be tempted," with this difference, that it is not so much looking at what we have been, as at what we have to fear and watch against.
But, further, in the next verse he presses upon them the bearing of one another's burdens. There are difficulties, trials, sorrows; there are things in the shape of infirmity; there are circumstances of the most variedly painful nature that press upon the children of God. Now, if we wish to show our value for the saints, opportunity need not be lacking. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Stoop down, and take up that which your brother groans under. The Ten Commandments may not demand it; but so you will fulfil the law of Christ. This is the law for us Christians. It is not a question of the law of Moses; because although that was the law of God, and always must be the measure with which God deals with the natural man, He is dealing here with those who were living in the Spirit; and the law at Sinai was never given to the spiritual man, but to a fleshly people, even to Israel. The law deals with the natural man, and therefore with what is evil in him. Who can tell the new man, "Thou shalt not kill;" "thou shalt not steal?" Does the new man ever lust, or commit adultery? The very notion carries upon its face the evidence that the whole theory is false. The law of the Ten Commandments never was addressed to the new man at all. The new man can make use of it; but this is a very different thing from taking it up as the language of its own responsibility before God. If we are saints, we are not doing to live, but living to do our Lord's will without such a thought as death or the curse.
You who contend for a legal rule, what, I ask, is this "law of Christ?" Christ was always occupied about others. He never did, in one act of His life, His own will. This is precisely to be holy in love, which Christ was: obedient and truthful in love was what characterized all His existence here below. Supposing we were to do any and every duty merely because we thought it right, it would be always wrong. As a Christian, I should have failed in what is nearest to God, and for this simple reason - that merely doing duty because it is duty, does not put the soul in the attitude of obedience, but may be only proud self-pleasing, and homage to the innermost idol of the heart. To do what I judge right may therefore be no better than a subtle rebellion against God. I have no right to choose my own path. I am under obedience, if I tale the place of being His creature; and still more, if I am and own myself His child. The question, then, is, What is my Father's will? How beautifully our Lord showed this, even before He entered upon the public part of His ministry! He had always, and in the highest sense, the consciousness of His own relationship. "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?' And so it was in every case. Take Him afterwards in His ministry. Even in a matter that had so strong an appeal to His affections as a man, when Lazarus was a-dying, why does He stay in that place two days after hearing that he was sick? He acts not only not on the ground of mere right, but not on the ground of mere love to the person He loved; He must have the Father's command before He goes.
This is what we need to bear in mind. If you take the law given at Sinai, you have God requiring that which condemns a sinner. God was not manifesting Himself there as Father. Take, again, the sovereign of this country: she sends out her army to attack some foreign enemy, or a word of authority to deal with some rebellious province. Who would argue that she was acting as a mother in these cases? Who would conclude that thus we view her in relation to her children? It is as a sovereign, and with rebellious subjects, that she so acts. At Sinai there was a nation, God's rebellious subjects; and He was laying down in thunder and lightning, and with a voice more terrible than either, what He could not but require from guilty Israel. But when God, who spoke thus terribly, speaks now, how is it? By His Son. It is the same God, but His voice how different! God always maintains His right and title, not only to make good that which He uttered in connection with Israel of old, but to bring in that which is new. What means a new covenant, if it does not antiquate that which went before?
So here, we have the law of Christ, in pointed contrast with the law of Moses, which dealt with rebellious flesh. The law of Christ directs those who live in the Spirit, and ought to be walking in the Spirit, but who have got, nevertheless, an evil nature still. And how are they to be strengthened in the new nature, and to overcome the old? He points them at once to Christ, and says, "Bear ye," etc. Such is the loving, unselfish way to fulfil the law of Christ. Interest your soul about saints in need and distress; and even if there is that which is positively evil, it will cast you upon God to bring out something from Christ suited to lift up the soul that has slipped into the mire. He first introduces the flagrant case of a person falling into sin, and then he enlarges it. If you want to know what is the path of Christ now, and the will of God, this was what Christ was doing. He came into a world full of evil and opposition to God - full of pride and vanity, and what was He doing? "He went about doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil," etc. Though we may not be able to work miracles, yet in all that is in spirit like Christ, the moral principle of the life of Christ here below is precisely that which every believer has. If you have Christ at all, you have Christ not only for atonement, but as your life. He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life; and the everlasting life is Christ, just as truly as by being born into the world from Adam I have got an old natural life that loves evil, and which, as it grows in strength, grows in capacity for self-will. Even so, if I believe in Christ, there is this new life produced, which is developed in proportion as Christ is fed upon and looked to, and as Christ's words and ways are pondered over by the soul.
There is an assimilating power communicated thus to the believer by the Holy Ghost. The words of our Lord are spirit and life. It is not only that they produce life in the first instance, but they sustain the life, and are the means of its vigour. And this is what the Apostle Peter shows us. (1 Peter 1) He speaks of the incorruptible seed, the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever. But then he shows that the same word of God which is the means of first imparting the life through the revelation of Christ, is also the provision for strengthening and refreshing it. Therefore he exhorts them that, as new-born babes, they should desire the sincere milk of the word. The word of God which is first used to introduce the life into the soul, through the making known of Christ, is that which now keeps up the life, draws it out, brings it into healthful exercise. And here is one way - "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." This is what Christ was doing when He was here below. He did not please Himself. He never chose the path of ease; but, on the contrary, every case of wretchedness and sin and sorrow was what occupied the Lord Jesus, provided it were the will of God. When He took His place as man on earth, there was the continual exercise of communion between the Lord Jesus and His Father, the spirit of dependence upon the living God that never acted without His Father's direction. And so it should be with our souls. If we are thus laying ourselves out to bear one another's burdens, we need to wait upon God about it to know what the will of the Lord is. It is not the law nor ordinances, but "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
"For if a man think himself to be something," etc. This is the invariable effect of law acting upon the spirit. It supposes a man to have power - at any rate, to be still alive as a man in the world. But this is the very thing which, even in our baptism, we declare is no longer our confession. For what does the baptism of a Christian man set forth? It is the acknowledgment of the Christ who is dead and risen, and that, in Christ's death, I am dead to sin and the world, and God's judgment too. I have passed out of the scene of living men upon the earth, and am introduced into a new condition before God; I have entered upon a new life; I am dead to what I formerly lived to, and alive to that which I was formerly dead to. Into all this Christ brings him that believes.
Manifestly, then, "If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." The law never crushes the pride of man; and man will bear with anything that supposes he can do something. The law works upon the mere nature of man, and puffs him up, unless it be used of the Holy Ghost to slay him in his conscience. Nature perverts it to the notion that it can do something; and people love this, and are the more pleased with themselves. This is what the gospel destroys by the very roots. And hence persons who are uncommonly self-satisfied when put upon the ground of doing great things for God, would be deeply mortified and offended if told plainly that they are not capable of serving Him. How few would bear to hear that they had never worshipped God all their life, and cannot till born of God! They are offended at such a doctrine as this, because it males self nothing and God everything; it brings before them what an awful peril they are exposed to - lost indeed. If they believed it, they would cry out to God about it, and look to God to give them new life. But as long as men are dealt with on legal principles, the distinction between what is of the first man and the Second is, more or less, merged. Man is addressed as such, and not thoroughly as a sinner, or as a saint; but the two things are confused together: so that souls do not know clearly whether they are saved or lost, whether they have passed from death unto life, or are still under the wrath of God. This is the reason why we find so many, even some who are true believers, frequently suffering from clouds and eclipses. The root of the matter is the abuse of the law. It was what worked among the Galatians; and what has tied and bound with the chain of their sins so many thousands of God's children ever since. Thus it was acting upon their flesh and it made them think themselves to be something, when in truth they were nothing; and if a man does, evidently, as the apostle adds, "he deceiveth himself." Nothing can be more cutting than the words here.
But if they bowed to the word and were willing to be nothing, but that God should work, he adds, "let every man prove his own work." God begins upon the ground that we are nothing; that the wise man must become a fool, in order that he may learn to be wise. Man does not like it, and kicks against it; and the consequence is, that he always remains in his own imbecility. Whereas you will never get a man in the truth of his own ruin without finding God there in the truth of His love, giving him eternal life in His Son. And what then? Let him "prove his own work; and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Supposing one really to examine everything, thus thoroughly to prove his work, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. There the apostle is giving a home-thrust: let him put it to the proof. No doubt the Lord will own true service; but wherever a man honestly examines and proves his work, it is never a subject of self-gratulation, but most humiliating in every possible way. But, at least, when the true time comes, there will be the reaping, if we faint not.
The apostle winds up this part of his subject by another word, and one that might appear to be paradoxical, if compared with the second verse. "For every man shall bear his own burden." In fact, we have here the two great practical principles of Christianity: the one is active energetic love, which bears the burdens of others; and the other is personal responsibility. "Every man shall bear his own burden." Observe, this is not speaking about salvation. If a man had to bear his own burden in the matter of justification before God, it would be to destroy every hope. "Enter not," says the Psalmist, "into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." If in this question God enters into judgment with me, I am lost. He says, "Enter not into judgment" (not with a sinful man, but) "with thy servant." It is a converted or regenerate man. Therefore it is that our Lord brings out, in the question whether a man shall not be left to perish in his own death, or be delivered by the power of the life of Christ, a totally different principle. He says, "Verily I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life." You will observe that in this passage I have altered the word "condemnation" to judgment;" I have done it advisedly, because it is the only true meaning of the word. "Condemnation" is a positive mistake. That which is rightly translated "condemnation" elsewhere, is totally different from this. Thus, "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," is not the same word at all. But sometimes where our Lord and the Holy Spirit say "judgment," the translators have ventured to depart from the word of God, and have introduced "condemnation."
Nor is this confined to one passage only. In the remarkable revelation about the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, a very similar mistake occurs. The translators have introduced a word and idea of their own, unequivocally erroneous: and have ventured to say, that "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." It is not true. God says, "he eateth and drinketh judgment to himself." There is no competent judge, no christian man acquainted with the language of the Holy Ghost, that could deny it, if he fairly examined the evidence. Human tradition accounts for the proneness of persons to put aside plain principles of the truth. For it is not so much a question to be decided on critical grounds; but such an alteration contradicts the whole object of the Holy Ghost in the passage. What is the apostle telling these Corinthians? You have been treating the supper of the Lord unworthily, by making it a common thing. Some of you have gone so far as to forget yourselves in open, gross sin. There is a peculiar solemnity about the Lord's supper as about the Lord's day. He who pretends that the Lord's day is the Sabbath, and that the Lord's supper resembles a Jewish ordinance, does not know what the two most characteristic christian institutions mean. The Lord's day differs from every other day, the day of grace and resurrection (the Sabbath being the token of creation and law). So with the Lord's supper: in it the Lord sets before the believer his perfect deliverance, the blood and the broken body of Christ, and gives the witness to his soul that he is free from all condemnation. Now, says the apostle, you who have eaten and drank as at a common meal, you have been participating unworthily. For a converted person might eat and drink unworthily. These Corinthian saints took it lightly, and the devil got advantage over them, and some had even become drunken. This, says the apostle, was to eat and drink judgment to themselves, not the Lord's supper. The consequence was that some of them were sick, and others were dying. He lets them know that the Lord was judging them, and laying His hand upon them. But this most unquestionably was judgment, not "damnation." And what was the end of the Lord in all this? "That we should not be condemned with the world." "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." It is that we should not have damnation; whereas the common version makes it out that they were exposed to this very doom. Read the word as "judgment," and you will find that an entirely new light is thrown on the passage. Introduce the wrong word, and you disturb the balance, beyond all recovery; but the moment you return to the true sense, suggested in the margin, all is made plain. What before was dark, and troubled your soul, now you see to be simple, and solemn, holy, and withal comforting. If you have been treating the memento of the Lord's sufferings lightly, you are in danger of thus coming under His hand. Some had even been taken away; but it is, "that we should not be condemned with the world." The intimation is, that they were such naughty children that they could not be left in this world any longer. Therefore He put sickness upon them, and took them away by death.
The meaning of the word (κριμα in 1 Corinthians 11 is closely akin to that in John 5 (κρισις What our Lord is teaching in the gospel is that men must have one or the other thing from Christ - either life or judgment. The main difference is, that in John 5 the judgment is the final and eternal act of judging; whereas 1 Corinthians 11 speaks of a disciplinary process in this world. But the right word is "judgment," not "condemnation." Our Lord shows Himself to be the giver of life in communion with the Father, and the exclusive executor of judgment. He is giving life now: whoever believes in Him, has life; whoever refuses Him must come into judgment. For no person can be the object of both life and judgment. The reason why people shall come into judgment, is because they reject the Son of God and eternal life in Him. "He that hath the Son hath life." This is the point of our Lord's words. They might ask, How is this life everlasting to be had I Is it by obedience? or by an ordinance?
Neither the one nor the other. "Verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life." He that so hears and believes, knows that God is interested about souls - that He wishes to have them happy and without sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. But further, "he shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life." It is the very same thing in Heb_9:27. "As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." It is the same word. This is man's portion, from which he cannot escape. Man as such must die, and must be judged. But mark, it is he who lives and dies as a mere natural man. It is not said that it is so appointed for the Christian. On the contrary, there are many Christians that will never die; and no saint will ever be judged eternally.
I must prove what I am saying by other passages. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." That is, the living saints are caught up with the dead that are risen already. But take another scripture. "We shall not all sleep." Men must all die; but "we shall not all sleep." We shall not all necessarily die; but we shall all be changed. Whether they be dead Christians, or living ones, all must be changed, conformed to the image of the Firstborn, glorified in their bodies. But all saints will not have departed this life, nor need resurrection; for those Christians who will be found alive when Christ comes, will be taken up to be with Christ, and changed into His glorious image, without passing through death at all, like so many Enochs, at once transformed into the likeness of Christ's glory. This is what all of us as Christians ought to be waiting for, without knowing when it may be. Therefore it is said, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."
But what will become of those who have refused Christ? They must all be judged. "It is appointed unto men once to die; but after this the judgment." But more than this - "as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." There you have the two portions: - man's, death and judgment; the Christian's, Christ, the one offering for sins, and about to return in glory for their full salvation, not judgment. The question of sin had been so completely settled at the first coming of Christ, that not a single question will ever be raised about it. When He comes again, "He will appear the second time without sin [i.e., apart from sin, having nothing to do with it] unto salvation." He had suffered for sin Himself - put it away Himself; and the consequence is, every believer, no matter where he is, no matter what his ignorance may be, is entitled to wait for the Lord, who will come for him, and come for all that have slept in Christ before him; he is entitled to know that Christ will never call him into judgment, because, having been judged for him, and having for ever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, He shall appear to such the second time without sin unto salvation. But those who refuse Christ, so far from not coming into judgment, will be raised expressly for it from the dead afterwards. This is the "resurrection of judgment." Its effect, doubtless, will be damnation, but its scriptural designation is "judgment." It is the same word as before. The object of raising the evil will be for judgment. And what is the character of the believer's resurrection? Life - that the same life which is now given to our souls should have its full course and display over our bodies - that we should be perfectly filled with the life of Christ, body and soul.
Such is the Christian's expectation. Hence, in this fifth verse, ("Every man shall bear his own burden,") it is not the least a question of bearing each our burden in judgment. If this were so, not a soul could be - not one deserves to be - saved. For who has not been guilty of sins, dark and deadly sins? - sins that God could not possibly forgive, unless He had a perfect way of His own, and He has. But that way cost Him His Son, and the cross of His Son; and the cross is the triumph of God. In it Christ has put away sin for ever for every soul that believes in Him. Therefore when He says, "Every man shall bear his own burden," it is simply in view of the difficulties and trials in practical life. Mind, he says, that you bear one another's burdens; - but, after all, every man must bear his own burden. Every one of us must have to do with God for himself. We cannot get any one else to answer for us. Some make Heb_13:17 (" they watch for your souls as they that must give account") to teach that ministers answer for the souls of others; but this is nonsense, or worse. The principle is false. There is no such thing as a person giving an account of another's soul. Each must give an account of himself to God. The sinner must be judged; but every saint, as well as sinner, must give account of everything unto God. The believer, says our Lord, shall not come into judgment; which means that a man is put upon his trial to see whether he shall be saved or not. This can never be the case with a Christian man. Everything will be opened out before the Lord - not only the sins we may have done since we were believers, but what we committed when we were unconverted. We might suppose this would be inexpressibly terrible. But let us remember that the condition in which the believer will give account of himself to God, is when he will be like Christ - when he has not one feeling which is not of Christ - no desire but what will be for the glory of Christ; all sense of shame will be gone, and only that will abide which is according to Christ. The thought that Christ will set us all perfectly, like Himself, in glory, is at once an answer to every anxiety of the soul. But while this is true, it is important to bear in mind that now there is a very active judgment going on. The Father is watching our ways and dealing with us; and we ought to be examining our ways day by day. Every one, saint or sinner, must render to God an account of himself: His power will accomplish it in both; in the one, to his utter condemnation - in the other, that he may learn how absolutely he is indebted to the grace of God. But this is a different thing from judgment. We cannot too strongly press, that to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ is not necessarily judgment. No word of Scripture can ever set aside the truth that "he that believeth ..... shall not come into judgment." God never contradicts Himself. Every man bearing his own burden has to do with our responsibility. What a wonderful thing is this! - that we have done with our responsibility as men; and having got Christ, a new responsibility is begun for us. We have now to behave ourselves as those, who have eternal life, who belong not to ourselves, but to Him who died for us and rose again. Now commences our responsibility to live to Christ - to devote to Him the new life that God has given us, conscious that along with this the Lord sifts day by day our ways.
Then comes another thing, and it would appear that these saints had forgotten it: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth, in all good things." I think there is a little danger of ourselves forgetting this kind of relationship to all those whom the Lord has raised up for the good of the Church. There are certain landmarks never to be obliterated. One is this very thing - the privilege and obligation of the taught to remember Christian teachers in love. It is not said, To him that teacheth them; but, "To him that teacheth." What blessed largeness of feeling this! Supposing you are free from such a need in the particular place where you live, are you to be so shortsighted as to overlook the claims of the Lord elsewhere? This would be selfish indeed. Nothing could be more degrading for Christians than, when they have abandoned evils here or there, and do no longer what was almost compulsory, that they should take advantage of the name of the Lord to have what one might call a cheap Church; forgetting that they belong to the Church of God as a whole. "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." Let none suppose that this was given only for early days; or that any circumstances can alter the responsibility of the saints in this respect. It is well for us to remind one another of it, that we are members of the body of Christ. Take the case of persons labouring abroad: has not that a voice for us? What a claim upon our love and sympathy! The Lord looks for far greater self-denial and service of love now than when it was a question of law. Let us not content ourselves with ceasing to do evil; but also learn to do good.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." Evidently there it is a question of self-indulgence in one way or another. If there is a heart for the Lord, a way will soon be found wherein to serve Him fully; but that way often demands much self-denial. No circumstances set this aside. "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." This is very strong, yet most true. A person might say to me, I understood you to teach, that those that believe had life everlasting already; but here it is said, He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Both statements are of the utmost value; but the point of view is totally different. If God is exhorting His people to a holy walk, He shows that life everlasting is the crown of that walk, and the end of it. Whatever may be the salvation that grace brings in, it never sets aside the value of holy devotedness to God. And, therefore, those who have true faith, manifest also real holiness; and only those. The two things coalesce. The believer in Christ receives everlasting life. What is the consequence? He sows to the Spirit, and reaps life everlasting. The life everlasting here is evidently what we are to have in glory. The everlasting life spoken of by John is what the saint possesses on earth. Both are tree. In glory he will find everlasting life without alloy. I receive it now as a believer from Christ, and I find it in heaven, pursuing the path of the holy will of God. The life-resurrection of believers consists of those who have done good here below. "Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." There is often a great danger of relaxing in the course. A man starts well and graciously; but after awhile he finds that he has been taken advantage of by so many people, that he becomes reserved and suspicions. This is to be weary in well-doing, or its effect. He is determined to be duped no more. The truth is, there is a great deal of flesh in that kind of talk and feeling. Where souls are occupied with the grace of God, they are not so easily worn out. Because another has been selfish, is that a reason why a saint should become selfish too? The becoming state for a Christian is to have an open, generous heart, and to be active in looking out for suitable ways of doing good. The Lord does not say, Give what they ask; but the principle remains true, that the Christian is to keep the blessed vantage ground of being the giver. If I am on the standing of law, I shall merely be a bargainer; but if on the ground of grace and faith in Christ, I shall have the more blessed place; and it is more blessed to give than to receive. This reaping, plainly, is in glory. We are not to expect it here. We may meet with that which is sweet and grateful, but we are not to be surprised if we do not, and if there is much from men that is painful. Let us remember, it is to the Lord we are lending. Is there anything disappointing there? He that looks to the Lord is never disappointed. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men." This is the business of the Christian - doing good, and "especially unto them who are of the household of faith." There is a special connection with saints; but we are not to stop there. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, specially unto them who are of the household of faith."
It is important to bear in mind, in reading every part of the word of God, that there is nothing brought in without the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost. There is one particular passage in 1 Corinthians 7, where the apostle asserts expressly, that it was not the I,ord, but himself, who gives a certain judgment about the natural relations of believers. But even the apostle did not write thus without the Holy Ghost. He was inspired to say it was not the Lord, but himself. Hence there is not the slightest contrariety, even in so exceptional a manner of speaking. Again, take the Book of Job, where you have Satan speaking, as well as elsewhere. But then, while no intelligent person would assert that what Satan said was inspired, yet the writer of the book was inspired to give it to us perfectly; the writer was thoroughly led of God to present just so much of what those concerned said, good or evil, man, Satan, or the Lord Himself, as would accomplish the divine object in that writing. Thus there is no exception whatever in the Bible to the grand truth that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." This is not a mere deduction of man, but the positive doctrine of God Himself. Everything coming under the designation of "Scripture" (πᾶσα γραφή is inspired of God. Such is the express statement of the Apostle Paul in his last epistle, (2 Tim.,) not limiting it, I apprehend, to what was already extant, but leaving room also for what was to be written; such as the Apocalypse. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," etc. Whether what had been given, or the little that remained in order to close the canon of the Bible, all was equally from God; not all is equally lofty in its character, not all taking the form of doctrine, not even all revelation - for revelation and inspiration are two different things. In giving the account of our Lord's life, the writers occasionally, of course, reported what they themselves saw and heard. It was inspired, but a revelation is that which man never knew. When the Apostle Paul says, It is by the word of the Lord I declare unto you, that the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, that is not merely an inspired portion, but a revelation. So, of course, all prophecy is necessarily a revelation; and it was only in case of a positive revelation that there was any licence to hinder a person who might be speaking; no matter how important what he was communicating, if something was revealed to another who was sitting by, he was entitled to stop the speaker. This is necessarily, it seems to me, at an end now. Revelation being complete, any attempt to act upon it would be not only irregular and indecent, but a virtual pretension to a new revelation, which is positively false, and a dishonour to the old. When there was still a part of the mind of God yet to be imparted, God maintained the sovereign right of His Spirit to introduce a revelation. But when all the mind of God was thoroughly revealed in His word, such a line of conduct would naturally terminate. Accordingly, although a person might have what was most truly from God, it would be his duty to wait till the due time came; flesh, Satan, might hinder, but God is above all difficulties. I make these general remarks in reference to the verse which is about to come before us.
It might seem somewhat surprising in an epistle so full of statements of doctrine, and appeals to the conscience and heart. In the midst of all this, the apostle says, "Ye see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand. Or if you take the phrase, as it may very well be taken, "Ye see with what large letters," etc., it is still more striking. Writing was somewhat unusual, even for the Apostle Paul. To write an important document was not common, save through a secretary; it was a trade or occupation to itself. Therefore it was the habit of those occupied actively and arduously otherwise, to employ some one to write for them. In this instance! however, the apostle wrote himself, and, from not being used to writing, he drew attention to the large characters in the epistle. It was comparatively a short letter, but it was all written by him; and, from not being used to write his own compositions, the letters seem to have been in this large handwriting, executed probably with considerable difficulty to himself. For we must remember that there was a great difference in the facility afforded for writing then, and at the present time. But there was something connected with the manner and bearing of the whole epistle in this simple fact. It is not a mere isolated circumstance, but the apostle lays stress on it, because of the state and dangers of the Galatians whom he was addressing. The Holy Ghost led him out in the strongest and most ardent desire for their deliverance. He therefore put aside any thought of employing a medium between them and himself; no matter what the difficulty, he will write to them himself. On other occasions, he might employ Tertius; but the case in hand was so urgent, the question at stake so all-engrossing and momentous, that every other task must give way. It was an hour so full of grave peril, that he tales no account of time, trouble, or anything else. It was a testimony of his intense interest in these Galatian saints, and so much the more striking, because of the marled absence of his customary greetings of personal, brotherly kindness. There we have a beautiful confirmation of the remarkable way in which the Holy Ghost mentions facts that bear the impress of God's own mind, His care and love for His people, His deep concern in them. The apostle himself draws attention to the circumstances of this epistle. He had written by others, and to others, far more freely; for, as I said before, there is not a single salutation in the epistle. Not that he was straitened in desire before God; but he could not let out his Christian affections toward them. There was that in their conduct which, though it might be mingled with good, was so disastrous and contrary to Christ's glory, that he stood in doubt about them; he hoped about them, and that was all. He had confidence in the Lord touching them; but if he looked at themselves - at what they were doing and saying - he could have none.
The two facts, then - the absence of personal salutation, and his writing the letter himself - both bear a remarkable testimony to the manner of God's love working through man's heart. All the mere interchange of the fraternal amenities is at an end. People would have said, How unkind of Paul! But brotherly kindness is not love, though people often confound them. Had the apostle, as things were, sent friendly messages to one or another, it would have been merely human, and not of God. He could do that in writing to the Romans, and even to the Corinthians, but not to the Galatians. What an idea this gives of their state! And yet there were to be greater abominations than these: things incomparably worse must creep in, but these were reserved for John. And though of all others, he was (may I say it?) the conspicuous champion of love, yet so far was John from direct personal references in his first epistle, that it is not addressed to an assembly at all, but introduced without heading in the most general form; and therefore it is commonly called a catholic or general epistle. It was perhaps so written that it might be pre-eminently a sort of circular letter to the whole Church. I gather from this, that where there is that which torches the work of Christ, as in Galatians, or the person of Christ, as in St. John, all personal considerations must give way. As the Lord, in His final mission to Israel, (the Seventy, Luke 10) forbade the disciples to salute any man by the way, so here the Spirit carries out something analogous, because Christ's glory was at stake, and the foundation of all blessing was menaced. Another thing to be observed is, that the children of God generally do not understand how the mingling of the law with Christ lies at the root of a thousand difficulties. It is a rare thing now to find a Christian who is not in principle where the Galatians were. In the present state of Christendom, we have been all trained to it from our' childhood. We shall not see it only in particular spots, here and there; but in one form or another it is the universally prevalent, the settled, chronic, fatal complaint in Christendom, insinuating itself into men's thoughts and ways, and everything.
Having so spoken, with that remarkable abruptness which marks his character - for we must all have noticed the exceeding rapidity of transition from one subject to another which so frequently characterizes the writings of the apostle - he turns to the subject that agitated his spirit, and sums up in these last verses both the danger and the blessing. "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ." He does not mind what people may say. They might call it imputing motives, but no matter. It is in vain to deny that legalism fraternizes with the world, and loves its own ease, loves present reward, boast as it may of piety; it is, after all, only a desire to make a fair show in the flesh. This is very important; because, I ask, What is it now that men look for, and that men would be gratified with? If you had all the world attending churches and chapels - persons walking soberly and in a decent, orderly way otherwise - what universal rejoicing over the improved state and prospects of Christendom! And what would all this be in the sight of God; I have not the slightest hesitation in saying, that, if there were no more, it would only be "a fair show in the flesh." What we, as Christians, are entitled to look for, and what we ought never to be satisfied without is, that souls pass from death unto life" - that souls should be delivered from the power of Satan and be translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Until they have passed the boundary, from the regions of men into the presence of God, what has been done that could be a positive ground of Christian joy and thankfulness? It is not a question now merely of society or the world. We know that the world is under condemnation, that ever since the cross of Christ, judgment has been impending, as decidedly as after a criminal has been tried and found guilty; as ha is waiting in his condemned cell for the sentence to be executed - such is man's condition. Do Christians realize it? Most imperfectly. If they did, could they be upon common ground with the world? Could a person go into the convict's cell and talk to him as if nothing were the matter? We must think such a speaker destitute of all right feeling. So it is in a far more awful way than the execution of a single criminal. We know well that in the day which is coming, there will be no escape then nor for eternity. "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank. they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot: they did eat, they drank, they bought they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot wells out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." God looks that all His children should bear their testimony in the world that they know from Himself that all hangs on the uncertainty of a thread; that judgment is suspended over it; that Christ is ready to judge the quick and the dead. He awaits the will of His Father. All simply turns upon that. But we are told and know that He is coming, and coming shortly; and we wait for this. Yet in the midst of this scene of a condemned world, with the Lord coming to execute judgment upon it, there is such a thing as a number of souls who have passed through the faith of Christ into life everlasting, and who know it - at least who ought to know it. They belong to Him who is going to judge, not to the scene that is going to be judged.
What is the effect of all this? They have in spirit abandoned the circumstances in which men are striving to keep up a vain show; they have repented towards God; they have bowed down to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus, and have found eternal life and peace in Him. All is settled between their souls and God. With Christ the light, the truth, the life, the fair show has vanished. And while this great transaction is going on, a large part of the world seek to be as religions as they can; i.e., to reconcile religion with the world. And as the effect of this strategy of the enemy, and of their own unwatchfulness, very many of God's children descend to it, because great names are there, appearances are there, and even the word of God may be quoted to show that it is right to walk there. This is commonly done by taking what God says to Israel, who were God's people after the flesh, governed by the law, and applying it to those who are God's people now, called to walk under grace and Christ alone, who have the Holy Ghost that they may walk in the Spirit, and not yield to anything of the flesh. The mingling of the two things beguiles Christians into what is, after all, only the religion of the flesh. They think that an earthly system of religious forms must be right now, because it had His sanction in the Old Testament. They see that God acknowledged "a worldly sanctuary" once, and they reason thence for all times and places. Thus they get drawn into the "fair show in the flesh;" the more easily, as it habitually entails an absence of persecution, nay, credit with the world. People are sensible that you cannot raise the world to walk with you above its own level of sight and reason. But the moment you come down to meet the world, you are off Christian ground. A new nature is required. Faith is indispensable. The world has not this. You must descend to the world's path, if you will take common action with the world. It is not that the world becomes Christian thereby, but that Christians thus become worldly. Such is the only issue of the attempt to join Christians with those that are not Christians in the service and worship of God.
Hear the solemn sentence: - "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ." They want you to submit to these religious forms. The reason is that they dread suffering for Christ. The cross is the term of the old world, where the flesh was acknowledged; and the introduction of the new state of things where nothing but what is of the Holy Ghost is of value in the sight of God. He shows that selfishness, after all' is at the bottom. When persons are walking with the world, there is never au easy conscience. Nothing so much pleases the world as to get real Christians to walk with them. How humbling is the success of Satan in this. What God called out Christians for is to manifest a people happy in Christ, and yet having nothing but tribulation in the world. I am not speaking now of our common, every-day trials. If saints do foolish things and suffer from them like others, they have their share of the results of their own folly. But there are the trials that come upon a Christian because he is a Christian - to be despised and rejected, evil spoken of and calumniated, because he walks with God and has taken the side of God against the world; because he is a sharer of Christ's cross and waits for His glory, refusing therefore not only the world's bad, but its best things. This it is that the world is so angry at. They may talk about the faults of Christians; but were the same faults committed by the world, how soon and easily they would be got over! But where it is a Christian, there is that which makes them feel that, though the person may be weak and foolish, yet there is something above the world; and it is really this which makes them uneasy.
If the Christians in question here would only have submitted to be circumcised! But any one could be circumcised, even if unconverted. Only take a pledge with a worldly man, and he will be pleased, because you come down to a level that he can occupy with you. I am not meddling with the world's trying to reform the world; but I have much to say about the sin and the shame of Christians joining with the world in their efforts to stay the plague by means of man's promises and vows. It is altogether false ground and contrary to the gospel, which starts upon the utter badness of man's nature. Whereas the moment you do a work to improve that nature, which the worldly man can equally do, (and he can sign the pledge as well as you,) it is plain that you have reached ground where the Christian gives up Christ as his one divinely-tempered weapon for dealing with man in the flesh, and is gone back to the bow and arrows, if I may so say, of moral restraint. Indeed, I cannot but view it as a lower thing even than circumcision, which was the type of a most blessed truth - the entire putting away of the flesh. But when Christ died, all that had been merely types, and had entirely failed as adequate remedies, were buried in His grave; and now He is risen and there is a new life in resurrection, which has nothing to say to the old, save to mortify it. The reality of life has come out, and this is what the Christian has to do with now. Christ has become his life and his object too. It is the great aim of the devil to get Christians to write some other name along with Christ on God's children: so that no matter what it is, whether you take circumcision as type of spiritual blessing, or the mere natural moral restraints of the present day, it is altogether a mistake as to the object for which God has called us out in this world. The Christian is outside that sphere; he is called into the place of grace. The magistrate's place is not one of grace, but of government, which, of course, calls for the punishment of evil. That is not grace. Grace is not law, but "If a man smite thee on the one cheek, turn to him the other also." There would be an end of all justice if magistrates were to attempt to act thus. But while the Christian has no business out of the place of grace, he is boned to respect the government, and never to speak loweringly of dignities in the world. The better he knows his own privileges, the more he can afford to maintain the honour of the magistrate. He owns it so much the more, because he does not covet it himself. He has a much better place himself; but if he knows the secret of his own joy and liberty in this world, let him at the same time acknowledge the higher powers which God has ordained in earthly rule. When persons are in the same sphere, there may be more or less rivalry; for men prefer to rule others rather than to be ruled themselves. But when a soul is entirely delivered from the world, he can the more heartily own what is of God here below, and see the wisdom of His order there. It is on this ground that the Holy Ghost always presses the Christian's obedience of the law, and honour to the king or other governor he may be under.
But to return to our subject. The apostle further shows that, after all, these zealots for circumcision did not keep the law. They only observed it in part, with no little inconsistency, however hot their feeling against the advocates of Christian liberty. This is always the case. Those who insist on the perpetuity of the sabbath, how do they keep it? It is not only that they never heed the true day; but supposing the Lord's-day were really the same as the sabbath, do they observe it according to the law? Not at all. They will tell you that Christianity, besides changing the day, has modified the mode of its observance, that the gospel mitigates the severity of God's law, etc. If this be not to make void the law through unbelief, it is hard to say what is. I deny their facts, doctrines, and conclusions. Christianity, so far from attenuating the law, or reducing its sanctions, is that which alone gives the law its full value - "By faith we establish the law." (Rom_3:31) The doctrine of faith, instead of weakening the law's obligation, illustrates and maintains it to the utmost. But the establishment of the law, of which the apostle speaks in Romans 3, has no reference whatever to the question of a rule by which the Christian has to walk. The chapter treats of man's ruin and God's righteousness, not of practice, and shows that faith upholds the authority of the law in the cross of Christ, which owns men's just and total condemnation, and is the basis of divine justifying righteousness, which is revealed to and becomes the portion of the believer. The law's curse fell upon Christ, which has thus been magnified to the uttermost, its full sentence having been exhausted upon the head of the Son of God. Hence, whether you look at God or man, or the Saviour, faith establishes the law, as nothing else could. But as to the Lord's-day, far from being the same as the sabbath, it is the first day of the week, not the seventh, and rests on quite different foundations. When you come to test the would-be teachers of the law, their zeal is soon seen to break down in practice; and they are easily convicted of introducing changes and modifications in order to suit the time, country, climate, and people, i.e., to suit themselves in the things of God. This theory of mitigation, and of a flexible law, can never stand a fair scrutiny. On the other hand, those who hold that the Lord's-day is a new thing, in no way connected either with creation or with the law, are under no difficulty; because they see that the same God who sanctified the sabbath originally, and gave the law to Israel, was pleased to put special honour on the first day of the week, in commemoration of redemption accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ; but they see it as having its own proper character, and not as confounded with the sabbath. The Lord's-day calls for no mere rest which you may share with your ox or your ass; and so far from its due honour consisting chiefly in bodily quiet, I believe that if a Christian were on that day enabled to walk twenty sabbath-days' journeys on special services for the Lord, he would not only be at liberty to do that work, but that it would be most acceptable to the Lord. Each day is separated from other days by divine authority; but in other respects they differ as decidedly as law from grace, or the old creation from the new.
"For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law, but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh." That is most true in the present time. The truth is not the test in the religious world, nor Christ Himself, nor His service. Refuse their party or their idols, and be prepared for reproach, calumny, scorn, and hatred. Yield to their Judaizing, and you may hold blasphemous doctrine with impunity as far as they are concerned. Touch their abuse of the law, and their cry is, "They have taken away my lord, and I know not where they have laid him." The law is their lord yet more than Christ. I am now alluding to a literal fact in the most popular organ of the so-called Evangelical, but in truth the legal, party of the day.
And now the apostle, having spoken of the evil, turns to the blessed side: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." They were glorifying in what would exalt human nature; because in that way they could get the world and its multitudes to unite with them. In chapter iii. the cross of Christ is viewed as deliverance from the law, because Christ was thereon made a curse for us. A man who believed in Christ, who owns Him as the Son of God - would you deny that he had everlasting life? But unless such an one receives tee doctrine of the cross intelligently, and applies it to his position, he is still more or less under the law, and does not understand that he is completely brought out of the old condition of things into a new ground.
In Galatians 5 the apostle applies the doctrine of the cross to the flesh, and shows that they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Here I find that my flesh is a thing I am entitled to regard as done with before God, no less than the law.
Now, in Galatians 6, comes in the third thing, the world. You have a regular gradation - freed from the law which would affect the conscience of a godly person. Then, when a man is free from that anxiety, comes in the question of the flesh, with its affections and lusts. But this, he is told, was all judged in the cross of Christ. Therefore, as a part of the comfort God gives me, I am entitled, as a matter of faith and not of mere feeling, to know, "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts." It does not say, "They are crucifying it," as if it were something going on; but it is done in receiving a crucified Christ. In God's sight, and now to faith also, their nature was nailed to the tree, and is done with before God; anti now they have got a new nature: as St. Paul says, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." The old nature that we have still exists, of course; but to faith God has already done with it in the cross of Christ; so that the business of the christian man is to occupy himself, not with mere restraints, but with Christ; which fills the soul, by the energy of the Spirit, with all that is good, draws it out into what is lovely, and, in short, is the true power of Christian holiness. If a man is occupied with what is good, he will hate his flesh; but it is only occupation with Christ that gives the soul power thus to put the sentence of God upon the flesh. Now comes the third and last thing in Christian experience; for you will find men who know somewhat of deadness to the law and to the flesh, but who still think that it is the duty of the Christian man in this world to serve God in his generation. But how would God have Himself to be served now? Never by anything that contradicts the cross of Christ. The service of the Christian is to be founded on the cross; and what does the cross declare about the world? That it is now at open war with God. Ever since the cross of Christ, God has no alliance with the world. Before that, the world was allowed: and therefore it was not wrong for Joseph to be governor in Egypt, nor for Daniel to sit in the gate of the king of Babylon. But it is utterly ignorant to reason from what was tolerated then to what pleases God now that the cross of His Son is a fact.
God does not ignore the cross, if Christians do. The very same cross of Christ that is my salvation, my deliverance from the law and the flesh, shows me that I have no part with this world, save as a blessed stranger passing through it. We may have occupations that are all quite right; but that is not at all what you can call a thing of the world. The Lord lived here, died here, rose here, eat and drank in this world; but He never was of the world: and so it is and should be with the Christian. Our Lord did not form such a part and parcel of this world as that His appearance in it or departure from it ruffled the stream for a moment. He would not have been missed in the world; and the moment that a Christian becomes an integral part of the motive power which carries on the wheels of the world, all is out of course, as far as his allegiance to Christ goes. A Christian ought to be the means of constant blessing in this world. But how, and of what character? Bearing the testimony of Christ, of his Saviour; but as He never sought His own things - was always doing good, yet doing it as the will of His Father - always acting upon motives that were not of the world, but from above - ne