J. N. Darby.
Chapter 8, 9
2 Corinthians 1.
Paul was at Ephesus, intending to go to Corinth, but they were in such a bad state there that he could not go, but he wrote a letter, and then went up from Ephesus to Troas, in hope to meet Titus with an answer to his letter. He went into Macedonia, met Titus, and wrote them the second letter, now that his heart could open out more upon blessing. He could go farther on in the truth now, though they were still babes, yet he could lead them on.
Paul could go much nearer to Ephesian truth here, and we have the basis of that in a verse or two, though he does not enter into it as the unfolding of God's counsels. As regards the person of the Christian, it is, "If one died for all, then were all dead"; that is Ephesian truth as a basis in the individual. "Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" is Roman truth, which is much beyond the first epistle; but his mouth is opened and enlarged. In Ephesians he gives the counsels of God, but here he can take the foundation in Christians. And here there was another thing had happened which gave occasion to this; he had gone through the terrible persecutions at Ephesus when the town clerk dismissed the assembly (and he seems, indeed, to have gone farther than we have details of in Acts), so that he despaired of his life. He had been through this which had brought him to the point of all that he sets out in the second epistle - that life was in God who raised the dead, and the flesh was dead. That is Roman truth - dead with Christ; but there are two ways in which men are looked at - as living in sins, or living to sin, if you please; and on the other hand as dead in sins. It is the same state, but in two different aspects. If I look at a man living in his lusts and pleasures, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, then he is both living in sins and dead to God. I may take him up on either side, and say, You are a living man in sins, and you must die: or I may take him up as dead in sins, and say, Life is God's gift; and without it you cannot enjoy Him, or know Him, for you are dead. Death is brought to a living man in sin, and the new creature to a man that is dead. If the man is dead, as in Ephesians, we have all the counsels of God, a totally new creation of everything else, and of the man too, and that is here in Corinthians, not merely "he is a new creature" but there is (that is, the whole thing is) a new creation. You have the man practically realising death, and also as already dead, and the new creation brought in.
302 What I have indicated is the main thought of the epistle, and then we hear afterwards about collections of money. It is addressed more specifically to the saints. In the first epistle there is instruction for the whole of professing Christendom, and governmental directions how to get on. Here he is thinking of the saints, and opens his heart: it is to the saints which are in all Achaia, where Corinth was situated. The word "saints" looks at them as to their standing. Sanctified of the Spirit is always assumed to be a real thing, although there may be a false person amongst those so spoken of. I do not think the word "saint" is ever used, except upon the supposition that they are really so. Sanctified by the truth is like it, but not sanctified by blood as in Hebrews 10. It is not the individual himself sanctified by the Holy Ghost in such cases. See in Hebrews, "hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing." There was positive apostasy from that kind of sanctification, and yet he there speaks to them as sanctified. The true value of the sacrifice is not only to fit them for God, but to set them apart for God. It is like the word calling: "many are called, but few are chosen."
The apostle addresses them here as the "church of God"; in Romans there is no recognised church: there was a church assembled there, but he was dealing about individual justification; he had never been at Rome so as to recognise the church. In Thessalonians it is "the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father." They had just come out of idolatry, and there was but one God, and He was God the Father. Here it is ecclesiastical rather, the church of God; he is dealing with God's assembly in the world. For the same reason he says to Timothy, "the church of the living God," and tells him how he ought to behave himself there: he adds "living," in contrast with dumb and dead idols.
We get hold of the starting-point of this epistle in seeing that God had comforted Paul by the coming of Titus, after all his troubles at Ephesus, and about Corinth too. When he reached Macedonia, "without were fightings, within were fears"; and then comes Titus, and that is where he is in this epistle. He had gone through all at Ephesus, and at the same time had the pressure of the Corinthian state on his heart, and not only their state, but sorrow that he had ever written the first epistle at all, because he was afraid he had alienated the Corinthians from him. And he was now "joyed" by the coming of Titus.
303 He sets out God as "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (Read also v. 5-7.) Then, in verse 8, he begins with the circumstances we were referring to in Asia, but says "we had the sentence of death in ourselves"; he was almost put to death, but God did not allow him to be killed, and this met a man who held himself to be dead already. The sentence of death was written on him, and he held himself dead in himself, so that his confidence was not in any life he had as a man, but it was in God who raiseth the dead. It was the carrying out of Romans 6:11: "Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin," that was counting himself so. We have three things: God sees us as dead; ye are dead; live it. Faith says, I reckon myself dead; Paul was doing so, and is made to carry it out. In Romans he applies it to sin, but here it is to everything. His confidence is in God, and God did deliver him, and did not allow him to be killed, though he feared it. Verse 11 refers to the part all the saints had in the power of deliverance that was with him. It is a remarkable expression, "The gift bestowed upon us through the prayers of many persons." This was at Ephesus.
The country called Asia in Scripture is proconsular Asia, the south-western corner of Asia Minor. I do not know that all Icaria was taken in. Then above that was Bithynia, and Cappadocia, and Galatia, and Armenia, and so on. I do not know that it was quite down to the sea in the south, but near the south-western corner. I would take in Lydia too. When he says, "All they that be in Asia," that is the portion spoken of. Ephesus was a great centre then, where was the temple of Artemis or Diana, "that all the world worshipped," one of the seven wonders of the world.
As to the general use of the Greek word in verse 4, "encouragement" is better than "comfort"; but it is the word for "exhort, and comfort, and encourage": it means to stir up our hearts.
304 "The sufferings of Christ abound in us" (v. 5) means sufferings the same in character; as in Colossians he says, "I fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ." The Head had suffered, and Paul was suffering too for the elect's sake, and doing so in the sphere that was given him. And you can see by their prayers they were all interested in what Paul had from God; they enjoyed it too, though the thing was bestowed upon him: just as we do now when praying for a brother in his labour. "Filling up that which is behind" signifies that there was more to be done. The Head had done His part, of course: Paul's was not atonement. I think this was confined to the apostle Paul. Peter and the rest never suffered for the church, though they suffered for Christ's sake, but Paul suffered from the Jews, which Peter never did. Paul was a minister of the gospel to the whole creation which is under heaven, and a minister of the church to complete the word of God; and this is not said of anybody else, it is Paul especially. I do not say that we ought not to suffer, for we ought; but a dispensation was committed to Paul, and we could not say this. We may have our share in the privilege, as some great banker takes up a large loan, and other people take up bits of it. All that take under him have their share.
The gift bestowed in verse 11 was his life spared, though I do not doubt it was all that he had as an apostle included.
Then Paul gives what I was saying about his journey round the Aegean sea. "In this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that you might have a second benefit, and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea," v. 15, 16. Paul thought to have gone up the west side of the Aegean to Macedonia, and then to have come down the west side again, whereas he did not do so, but came down the east side of the Archipelago again. He says it was to spare them that he did not go to Corinth; if he had gone, it must have been "with a rod." But when Titus came, he heard it was all right, or at least in the main. Now here we have an instance of what we see in Paul: the instant he touches a certain string, off he goes on that string. His mind was so full of Christ, that, if he touches that, he goes away into it all; it is so here. He mentions Christ, and away he is into a whole range of truth in Him. This would not, however, have been so appropriate in the first epistle. "Our word," he says, "was not yea and nay; for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us was not yea and nay, but yea is in him; for all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us," v. 19, 20.
305 Paul says it was not lightness, nor was it uncertainty, but it was to spare them he came not as yet unto Corinth, and he wrote to them instead of going. He says, "not yea and nay," not changing, not the lightness of a mere foolish human mind. In 1 Corinthians 16:5 he says, "I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia"; this was that they might have a second benefit; and in verse 7 he adds, "for I will not see you now by the way," only he did not tell them why just then. He had intended to go by Corinth into Macedonia, and come back again by them, but he says, I will not do that now, so he says in chapter 16. He had intended, and then did not go. And here he asks, "Did I use lightness?" No, it was another thing.
In verse 20 "the promises" are all made to Christ, and not directly to the church. There are promises by the way, such as, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; but all the promises in chief are to Christ. There never was a promise to a man, that is, a sinner, because the first thing that was said for faith to hang upon was a judgment passed upon the serpent; but it was Christ (the Seed of the woman) who was to bruise the serpent's head. There was no promise to fallen Adam, and had he been unfallen, he would not have wanted a promise. It was a revelation of the last Adam to which his faith could cling, but it was no promise to himself. In judging the serpent God says, "Thou shalt bruise his heel" (the heel of the woman's Seed); but "the Seed of the woman shall bruise thy head." The Seed of the woman is Christ, not Adam. The promise in Christ, in Ephesians 3, is everything that God has promised, eternal life, and especially the Spirit, "that ye might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." And then everything else is thus involved in Christ. Promise is an abstract idea, which takes a form as may be needed - bruising the serpent's head; promise of eternal life given is in Christ Jesus before the world began. and so on. There is no promise to the Gentiles. There is a revelation made to the Gentiles about them, as, "Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people"; or, "The promise is unto you and your children, and to them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call": but all is in Christ. There is to the ten tribes; and many statements are made about them in the abundance of revelation. "Afar off," both in Acts and Ephesians 2, leaves it open. The apostle seizes the word "whosoever" in Acts 2, and gives it to Gentiles, or anybody else. He often takes up a word, and gives it a larger application than it had originally. The apostle does not himself apply it to the Gentiles in Acts 2, but, while it is quite true that Peter had the Jews and the ten tribes in his mind then, yet in the mind of the Spirit of God it embraces Gentiles also.
306 In Galatians the promises to Abraham were to Christ and to Christ only: that is the whole of the apostle's argument. There were two classes of promises and all go with Abraham. Abraham is the beginning of promise. If we go back a little, there were no dealings of God before the flood. He turned man out of the garden, if that can be called a dealing, but nothing between that and the flood. Then when God brings in the new world, in Noah He brings in government to restrain man; there is the power of the sword. After this, that it might be understood all was pure grace, God begins with promise. In the flood judgment came in; and thereupon the devil comes in and says, I govern the world, and men take up their idols. Well, God divided the world into nations and Abraham becomes the root of God's ways, and we find promises, election, and calling.
Abraham is the root of the olive tree: the promises are given to him; he is the elect and called one. And God gives the principle of all divine life, faith. Notice that, because people say, Had not God Himself settled all these things already? I say, Yes, because when He settled them, He called me out of them, to go out by faith: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy fathers, unto a land that I will shew thee." - I had formed this world into nations, it has gone to idolatry and taken the devil for its god, and now you must come out and belong to Me. Well, he left his country and kindred, but not his father's house, and therefore he did not get to Canaan then, but after his father's death he went to Canaan. And Abraham was the first person who was the head of a family; Adam was the head of an evil race, man. We find plenty of saints, but no heads; but Abraham was to be father of the faithful. And it is then that God calls out this distinct person to be a stranger and sojourner.
307 There were two classes of promises; that a great nation should spring from him and his seed, to be as the stars of heaven (that is not "thy seed," or one). But in Genesis 12, God says, "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed," that is not Israel. Then we find that promise confirmed in chapter 22. It is never said, "to thee" and thy seed, "to Abraham," but "in thee." But when Isaac had been offered up and been received in resurrection, then he says in Galatians, "to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made." Genesis 12 gave it to Abraham, and Genesis 22 confirmed it, to the Seed. The promise is made to Abraham personally in chapter 12, and confirmed to the seed, Isaac, in chapter 22, and that is a figure in which Christ had died and risen. That was confirmed to Christ (but not in Christ), and the law which came later on could not disannul or add to it. Hence therefore you cannot bring in the law now; law cannot be tacked on to promise. Then you see there was only one Seed, and that is Christ, and then he adds, If I am in Christ, I have the promise That is the way he brings the Gentile in. The Jews were the natural seed, but he says, the promise of the blessing was to the one person, Christ. Very well, I am in Christ, then I have the promise; "If ye be in Christ, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise."
It is not a promise to the Gentiles, but one confirmed to Christ and then to the Gentiles in Christ, through the Spirit. Genesis 15 is specific to the Jews, and in Genesis 22 is promise to the seed. The stars of heaven are the Jews only, as Moses says, "Behold ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude," Deut. 1. It is a great thing to see what the Lord is pointing out in a passage. And He takes two illustrations of a great number - what we see in the heavens, and what lies on the sea-shore.
Some people think that the law was added to recover Israel afterwards. But this was not a thought common to Paul. What he says is, You cannot add the law. And we find another thing (which is what such would say still more); that is, they add grace to the law, and try to get out that way. This is exactly what they had at Sinai; they broke the law then and there, and God spared them by grace and put them back under law. The first time Moses went up the mount, he did not put a covering over his face, and it is then he finds the people round the calf, and that they had broken the law fundamentally before they had it, that is, before they had it in full; though they had undertaken to be obedient to the Lord, they had gone aside from Him already. Still God spares them in His government, and in answer to Moses says, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book"; but He brings them back under law, and it was the ministration of death and condemnation mingled with forbearance, which is not absolute law, but law mixed with grace.
308 The first time the law was given on the tables of stone, it never reached them at all. Moses broke them. You could not put the law by the side of the golden calf. Moses did not know what to do with the tables. He had not asked God about it, at least I always thought so, it was his righteous indignation. "And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing, and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." God could not break His law, of course, but man could not have it. They never did have pure law, therefore; but when he went up the second time, God shews Himself in His proclamation before him: "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, and longsuffering," etc., and the people who were spared are put back under law, though grace accompanies its application to them.
Moses put the veil on whenever he came out: that was to keep the glory on. There is no veil on the glory now; the glory could not come out then, for glory with law is death and condemnation. Now, the veil is entirely off in Christ, because the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, after He has been on the cross, is the proof of salvation. And therefore now I can look at it and be changed into the same image. The veil is off the glory and on their hearts - Israel's - and not on the glory; but when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil that is on their heart shall go also. All the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, is promised, everything about Christ that was told in the Old Testament; but there is added here another thing, it is only through the Holy Ghost. "All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." That brings in an immense element. In Exodus 24 the covenant was sanctioned by death; if it is law, it is death and condemnation; if characterised by death, it is salvation. The blood was to confirm the covenant; but if it is a covenant of law, it confirms it to condemn me: if it is a covenant of grace it confirms it to save me.
309 Well, all these promises of God are yea and amen, to God's glory; but it is "by us"; we are brought in, and then He shews how it is. "He which establisheth us with you in Christ and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." It is this security we get established in Christ by God who seals us with the Spirit. The sealing is an additional thing which is by the anointing. "Unction" is the same as "anointing"; it is exceedingly beautiful, and an additional instance of the way in which Christ has associated us with Himself. It is Christ's own anointing is the testimony to our being baptised by the Holy Ghost: "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost; and I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God." The way that we get the Holy Ghost brought into us is that Christ received it. He is the Lamb of God that takes away sin; and the other element in John's testimony to Him is, that He baptised with the Holy Ghost.
There is another thing to be remembered here: Christ received the Holy Ghost, consequent upon His work being finished. "Being by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now hear and see." Christ being perfect, God puts His seal upon Him: "Jesus of Nazareth anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power." Then comes in redemption, and consequent upon that He receives of the Father the Holy Ghost for us. This makes it a heavenly thing for us, for it unites us with Him while He is there, and that is the reason we have assurance. Christ is gone, and the question is, "Is His blood accepted?" The Jews cannot tell this till He come out; but we do not wait for that, because the Holy Ghost has come out, and having come He unites me with Christ who is there. We have a figure of it in Leviticus 9. Moses and Aaron went in, and came out and blessed the people, and so God testified His acceptance of the sacrifice. But we do not wait for that. While Christ has gone in as a heavenly Lord, the Holy Ghost has come out, Christ gone up on high receives the promise of the Father and sends Him down. God puts us into Christ, and gives the Holy Ghost, and the consciousness of being in Christ, and that is the sealing. And I have the earnest of the Spirit in my heart, which, to complete it, means that I am going to have the glory.
310 Baptism of the Spirit and anointing agree in substance, except that one thinks of anointing as more of active continuance. Sealing and anointing are coincident again in a sense, but that sealing is personal, and anointing has a more general bearing. When anointed I can say God has put His seal upon me for the day of redemption. And there is more; for not only does the Holy Ghost seal me and give me title, but He is the earnest of the inheritance too, and in me as such. Sealing is prominent among us, because we want security, and to be sure of it, and we have that by this one fact, that the Holy Ghost is given to us in this way, consequent upon Christ's sitting at the right hand of God. In the Old Testament the leper was washed with water, sprinkled with blood, and anointed with oil. In the case of the priests, the oil and the blood were mingled. It was put on the tip of the right ear, and thumb of right hand, and great toe of right foot. The blood of Christ is applied to all our thoughts, acts, and walk; and then the anointing oil follows, the Spirit to sanctify all my thoughts, acts and walk; and then beside the oil was poured on his head, the whole man as such anointed.
The sprinkling of the blood in 1 Peter 1:2 is used with reference to salvation. There is never re-sprinkling of the blood. There is the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant (the covenant sealed), and the leper sprinkled, and the priest sprinkled; but there is no re-sprinkling. In Numbers 19 when a man had to be restored, the ashes were put into running water, and then he was sprinkled with it. The Spirit of God brought to remembrance what the blood had done in putting away sin long ago. For a ground of communion, the blood was always there before God, seven times sprinkled. The ashes were brought, to say, Sin was dealt with long ago: how came you to defile yourself, forgetting that you were purged? Leviticus is the book of the offerings, but we have this in Numbers as it applied to our path and journeyings.
311 In "sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood," we are sanctified to the obedience and blood-sprinkling of Christ; and Christ's obedience is not what we are apt to think of as obedience, but in its nature quite different from legal obedience, because the law of God meets a will of mine and says, You must not do this or that. But Christ says, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." And in Christ's obedience the will of the Father was His motive. Suppose my child was anxious to run out and see the judges come in, and I say, Sit down and do your lesson; and he then does so cheerfully. This is all well, but Christ never obeyed in that way. He had no will of His own to be first stopped. I have a will, and it is obedience, when it is checked, to stop. The only apparent case of anything of the kind in Christ was when wrath was coming in, and in itself He could not desire that; yet He adds, "not my will but thine be done." In ourselves we never ought to do anything, except because it is positively God's will. In the passage, the object is put first, and the blood sprinkling next.
"Sanctify and cleanse it," in Ephesians 5:26, is when evil has come in, you must have it judged; you must have cleansing then. Christ was sanctified, He set Himself apart; but Adam had not thought of that in the garden. It is absolute as regards the person, and progressive as regards the state. The moment I have a new nature, I am absolutely set apart to God. In Ephesians the order of it is as if I were to say, "he cured me of that fault, having beaten me."
"Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost" means having received it for us. Christ received the Holy Ghost a second time. It was anointing in glory. The baptism of the Holy Ghost took place at Pentecost; then in Acts 11 it is only an analogy to shew that God would have the Gentiles as well as the Jews: nor do you get baptism spoken of there. They do not say in Acts 19, "we have not heard whether there is any Holy Ghost": for every Jew knew that; but it is "whether the Holy Ghost yet is," pointing to a coming of the Spirit, the time of which they were ignorant.
The Spirit Himself is the earnest, the pledge of the possession. Sealing is the act of giving the Spirit. I put a seal on a document, and that is the same idea. The anointing was putting oil on a man's head, and it is the general fact that the oil is put there, but the sealing is the effect on the individual. If I say at a coronation, "The queen is anointed," it is a simple fact, but that fact secures her there as queen. The anointing is a great deal more than the sealing.
312 John says, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things," and yet he is going on teaching them still. The babe in Christ, having this anointing, knows his security, but that does not hinder the apostle from teaching him all the while. The promises of God are in Christ to God's glory, and "by us," and the way they are by us is that God has fixed us firm in Christ, and has also given us the anointing, and has sealed us; and this same Holy Ghost, who is the seal, is the earnest of the things I am sealed for. The earnest shews the present relationship settled, and gives the enjoyment of God's love, and I know my relationship with the Father as a child; but I have not an atom of the inheritance, only the earnest yet.
The Holy Spirit will never leave the heirs. We have a testimony that we shall not lose the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 where it says that through the Holy Spirit Christ gave commandments to His apostles, after His resurrection. He had not lost the Holy Spirit as a man by rising; and that brought me to a very blessed and happy thought, because now it is something like the steam in an engine, where half the force is lost in making the engine go, but when I get to heaven there will be no such difficulty to contend with.
2 Corinthians 2.
To return to our chapter: now Paul tells them to restore the poor man dealt with in the first epistle. He says, "I determined this with myself that I would not come again to you in heaviness; for if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?" and so on. He takes the greatest pains in linking up the Corinthians with his own heart (v. 3-5). "But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part all of you, that I may not overcharge you": because if he had said, You are all bad, this would overcharge them, for he saw that they were grieved as well as himself. In not having dominion over their faith, he wanted them, with himself, to act in restoration; "Forgive him and comfort him, lest such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow."
313 "I wrote," in verse 3, refers to the first epistle, and so in verse 9, I have no doubt. I do not believe much of what they say in these modern times about aorists. I think it is nonsense the way they have attempted to connect the English and Greek tenses. Verse 6 does not imply that they were not unanimous, it should read "the many." He was afraid about some at the end of the epistle, that they had not repented properly themselves; those that did not repent he would have treated as the man himself. If all are not agreed in matters of discipline, they must wait, not as allowing evil; but if they wait, their way will be made clear, or else there is not power enough to set things right. The effect of spiritual power is to make all those who are spiritual act together against the evil. The Greek word for many in verse 6 does not give countenance to a majority acting. The effect of the Spirit of God there is to give God's view of the case, and to put out the disobedient with those who go with the disobedience. He tells them lower down, "Ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."
There is little power among us to restore, because there is want of spirituality and of that love which cares for the members of Christ. There is righteousness, and evil is not allowed. I have not observed any particular defect as to that, but I think the failure is the want of love to the members of Christ and looking after such. The effect at Corinth is given in chapter 7:11: "For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea what vehement desire, yea what zeal, yea what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." And when that was so, then he is anxious they should care for this man. He has been down himself, but he was a member of Christ and washed in His blood, and they are to take care of him. If the body of Christ and the love of Christ were there, the person, if a Christian, would be miserable until he were received in again.
In this case it was a man broken down with overmuch sorrow. There is no restoration properly, and they were in no state to restore until they hated themselves for their own part in all this. And it is so with us all as principle, though we may have a clearer judgment than another as to how to act. I have no gift myself, I avow, in discipline. I see another thing, that where the general state of any gathering is weak, a person may be left out as a proof of their weakness; for if there were more spiritual power, he would be humbled and brought in. At Corinth Paul had no occasion to write this, until the man were broken down about it himself; nor is it any good to attempt to restore a man until his own soul is really restored. And as to putting out, that may be done as mere bold righteousness. This man, when Paul writes this, was grieving over his sin, and you may say restored in soul, but he was not officially restored. To know when a soul is restored requires spiritual power. Peter bows to the rebuke of the Lord, but he does not say, "I love thee more than anybody else."
314 What we need to do is to take the sin of another upon ourselves (like the priest eating the sin-offering). If there were power, though we cannot always hinder sins, yet they would be checked. The Corinthians would not act as priests until Paul forced them to it. The assembly should make the sin their own before God; and that is where I have seen a real pastor: wherever there was an evil, he would lay it on himself, because he had not looked after such an one enough, or else not rightly. "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us" means that Satan was trying to make a division between the Corinthians and the apostle. Paul himself had been sorry he had written his first letter, and that though it was an inspired one; his own heart had got below its level. It is beautiful to see him urging both righteousness and grace; and in the end Satan did not get an advantage - they were of one mind in the Lord. "In the person of Christ" means as if He were there to do it with authority. It is not limited merely to "in the sight of Christ."
We see what exercise of heart it had been to Paul: he came to Troas, and was so full of care for them, that when he did not find Titus there from them, he could not stay, but goes on to Macedonia to meet him. And another thing, he is able to thank God for it all, "which always leadeth us about in triumph in Christ." He might have said, "If I had had but a little more faith, I might have stayed at Troas, and preached the gospel there," but he comforts himself that he is led about in triumph everywhere. It is the thought of captives led in a triumphal procession; He was Christ's prisoner. He was feeling about the saints, having left Troas when an open door was there. "Well, God leads me about in triumph wherever I go." We see a heart that has been beaten about, and it is over-full here. It is deeply instructive, and beautiful too. "A sweet-savour in them that perish" is an allusion to an old practice after victories, of burning incense to the gods, and then sometimes they killed some of the people. The gospel was a sweet savour anyway, but it was for death if it were rejected.
315 If a person preaches, and sees no results, it may be the Lord exercising his faith and patience, especially if he thinks he has a kind of right to convert everybody. Sometimes a person may have a gift, but he does not go to the right place - goes where the door is shut, instead of open. When the Moravians first went out to Greenland, they were there thirteen years without a soul; they were arranging to go away, but thought they would try one year more, and then, as they were reading the account of Christ's sufferings, some one came and listened, and said, "Read those words again," and it resulted in his conversion, the truth burst out, and numbers were brought in. You do have to look for guidance in work; you may be forbidden to preach in Asia, and be sent to Macedonia instead, and if you follow the leading, and go to Macedonia, you will get the working of God directly. Paul says God makes manifest the savour of His knowledge by us, for we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ. He did not distinguish between saints and others, but "God led me about in triumph, because I do not know what best to do." Of course, his was not simply evangelical work and gift, but he was an apostle and teacher. If a person is an evangelist, he will be saying, These poor souls are all perishing; he must not blame another labourer, or undertake another's work - he will take up the work before him in love to souls. Paul had been at Troas before, going down to Ephesus. Originally he had the dream there, and was called over to Macedonia. I do not know if he preached there, but he had been there. He had stayed at Ephesus, and now he was going back.
The only way to obtain guidance in work is by living close to the Lord. We shall not have, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul" now, but the Lord will send by laying it on one's heart to go, and then that may be by circumstances, or otherwise. I may be led to preach, and find the way opened up by a circumstance of some kind; led by an outward thing, like a horse or a mule, that has no understanding. That is what people call providences, but it is a bit or a bridle. To what degree we have the guidance definitely is another question, but there is such a thing as an entrance here, and a dream to go there; of course, there was nothing in the word of God directly telling me to come to Belfast. In the absence of guidance, do nothing, but be a testimony where you are. "Preach the gospel to every creature" is a general truth, only we get guidance in doing it; an open door is guidance in itself, in a certain sense. If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light; and if I do not find my whole body full of light, well, I say to myself, "Your eye is not single," it is no use to say it is, for it is not. I may find that out as one effect of my doubt.
316 There may be direct guidance, I cannot call it into question: when it is given, it is not fanaticism. We get right impressions by living with Christ. John did not go and get a place near Christ in order to know His secrets; but he had a place near Christ, and then the secrets were given to him. Only you cannot go properly to Christ, as John, to ask, unless you are living near Him. Only "trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding." You must live near the Lord, or you cannot reckon rightly on being guided. God's mercy may come in at any time, but "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." I should be filled with the knowledge of His will, and all spiritual understanding.
In verse 17 Paul turns back to himself: "We are not as the many which corrupt the word of God" (that is, adulterate it, or make a trade of it), it is but to suit yourself to your customers. Paul might say, "I come now from God, and I speak in God's behalf, in the sight of God." You cannot have a more simple statement of what carrying the word of God is. The gospel of God is the good news God has sent, but the gospel of Christ is more the subject of the good news. The gospel of the kingdom is the subject again; it is not the source of the kingdom. To me it is a very solemn statement about the gospel here.
317 2 Corinthians 3.
"Do we begin again to commend ourselves?" the apostle had just said. "We are not as many which corrupt the word of God"; but later on he ought to be commended by them. It did look very like commending himself, and yet there was no need, or ought not to be. It is all beautiful in a way, for there is a great deal of heart in it. "Ye are our epistle," he adds. It is beautifully simple. You are my letter of recommendation. It shews how careful he was in dealing with them. It is not like the Epistle to the Thessalonians, which is the freshest of all the epistles: a very different kind of feeling runs through it.
"Written in our hearts" still brings in that he loved them. It is all as if a person said, "Who is this Paul? Where is his letter of commendation? What kind of a man is he? He did not come from Jerusalem." Well, he says, Look at the Corinthians: that is the kind of man he is. He has been blessed to all these souls, and, more than that, they are walking well. And one of the first things he brings in is, "Ye are in our hearts," and he gives a reason, which he could not give in the first epistle, "Ye are my epistle, because ye are Christ's epistle"; they were a recommendation of Christ. That is, the saints are Christ's letter of recommendation to the world - a great deal to say; and he does not say they ought to be, but that is the place you are in, to recommend Christ to the world.
It gives you a statement of what a gathering is - the epistle of Christ - though it is true of individuals. Ye are declared to be "written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God": that is how it was. "Not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart," Christ engraven by the Spirit of God on the people's hearts; that is what the church is; and that, too, while they were going on so badly. He would not say, "That is the epistle of Christ," though it was true in a sense, but, "Ye are."
"Not in tables of stone." This is work written on a man's heart within; the law was a claim on a man's outside. It is a comparison of opposition; instead of getting claims from man in flesh outside him, it is Christ engraven, in the power of the Spirit, inside him. The law, written on stone, is death and condemnation, and Christ, engraven on the heart, is the ministration of righteousness. God used law to test flesh: "I had not known sin but by the law, for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." But to get good, God does not go outside a man to claim good from what is bad, but God brings a new nature that produces the good. Man takes up flesh, but it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. But, instead of that, God gives a new nature that delights in what is holy, and writes Christ in a man's heart. And this is what makes them "the epistle." We have it in another figure at the end of the chapter, "We are changed into the same image"; and in the middle of the chapter he states what does it - "the Spirit giveth life," v. 6. Verses 7-16 are a parenthesis. "Now the Lord is that Spirit," v. 17.
318 It says "letter," instead of "law," because it is general; if one take the letter of the gospel, it would kill people. So Scripture says, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." And if I meet a brother in Germany or France, I always kiss him, but when I come back to England it seems so dreadfully cold; yet the spirit of that instruction is clear, and I can act on it here as well as in France. The letter always kills. Take a particular instance: If you brought a particular lamb to the priest, which had a black spot on it, you brought a curse on yourself. I have brought a lamb without a spot, and I get a blessing. The spirit here is the mind of the Holy Spirit in the letter. If you had the letter which in the main was the letter of the law, yet the Lord is the spirit even of that, because, if it say you must have a lamb without blemish, in Him I have that. There is often a difficulty to distinguish between the spirit of a Christian and the Spirit of God, and consequently whether it should have a large or small S, because the Spirit is so connected with what is put into our hearts.
"Able ministers" (v. 6) is qualified or capable. It is one of the most absolute statements you can find. It is the activity of our minds that hinders. God uses the vessel to act on and in; and that sweeps away human understanding. It is just in the measure in which we are conscious of being mere vessels, and put confidence in nothing within us, that we are fitted to serve. God works in us to will and to do. It is not that we are mere pipes to carry something, but He acts in us and on us, and we have to take care that we give out purely what we have, taking care first, of course, what we take in. What we have to give out is really a revelation - a revelation that fits in with a certain consciousness in the human heart that there is a God, and so on; but there is a certain nature that wants God, a very important thing in its place, for there are atheists in the world. Well, the moment we see all this is revelation, it is not our thought. We never obtain anything, the moment we begin to spin thoughts out of our minds; all is spoilt then. It is the word of God we need, and this discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. There we have God's thoughts brought to us, just as Christ Himself was sent out from God.
319 There are many such scriptures as, "I hate thoughts, but thy law do I love"; "When his (that is, man's) breath goeth forth, they perish." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vanity." In fact, men thinking are just like a spider spinning a web out of its own body, and thoughts are of no more worth. It is immensely important to be clear as to this. He adds, "What hast thou, that thou didst not receive?" This is very distinct; and again, "not to think anything as of ourselves." Of course, if God acts in my mind, I think; but then they are thoughts He has given me."
"New testament" (v. 6) is the "new covenant," which we find also in Jeremiah 31; it is new in contrast with the old. It is characterised by the forgiveness of sins, and a man no more teaching his neighbour. Then the prophet says, that they shall no more say, "Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them." The two chief points are the knowledge of God as Jehovah, and the forgiveness of sins. God's part of that covenant has been done, and Israel would not take it up: so we now are getting the blessings of it, without its being made with us. Our Lord says at the supper, "This is the new covenant in my blood"; and here Paul calls it the same, saying he is an able minister of it. How could he minister it before it was made? The foundation has been laid, and we have the ministry of it. Christ shed His blood, and then the grace was proposed to the Jews; but they would not have it. Peter, in Acts 3, told them Christ would come back if they would have Him, but they would not. God gives the blessings to others, and announces them by His ministers. But the covenant is not made with anybody. It cannot, in any sense, be a new covenant with us, because we have no old one. "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel," God says. "After those days," it is said, He puts His law in their hearts, He forgives their sins, makes them know Himself: that is the new covenant, and a very important one too.
320 We are under no covenant, though we have the blessings of it (unless you take in a way the covenant confirmed to Christ). First, there was a covenant made with Israel at Sinai, on condition of obedience - "If ye obey my voice," and they said, "Yes." Well we know how they failed. Finally Christ dies, and in dying lays the foundation of a new covenant which was, "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them"; and "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more," and "They shall all know me." Now that will be made good to them, but meanwhile we are getting the benefits, the ground of the whole having been laid in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the spared Jews will be righteous, but not necessarily those that are born afterwards. As for Gentiles, they never had a covenant. In Isaiah and Jeremiah "my people" is Israel, and has nothing to do with Gentiles. The "blood of the new covenant was shed for many," which is not Israel only.
A covenant does not always suppose two parties. In Galatians it is only one. A covenant means any term on which God takes me into relation to Himself. The argument in Galatians is: a mediator is not of one; but God is one. Now the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator, and if you have a mediator, you must have two parties. But here you have only one. So now all depends on the sovereignty of God only, and therefore it is infallible.
Again, being all of grace, on a foundation of the counsels of God, it takes the character of an everlasting covenant; Hebrews 13. Under the old covenant God was testing man, and that word "old" signifies it was ready to vanish away; then we read of a new covenant - new, because another was before it; and it is everlasting because, without testing, it was settled in the counsels of God Himself. David says clearly enough, "Who hath made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things and sure," because it was all of grace. In Hebrews we read, "We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle." Nazarenes had no right to come to the altar of the Jews, when the Jews had an altar; and now we have an altar whereof Jews have no right to eat. It is the simple but thorough contrast between Judaism and Christianity, the old thing and the new.
321 Then we have another contrast: death and condemnation characterised the law in contrast with the gospel, which is the ministration of righteousness and of the Spirit. It is the presence of the Holy Ghost, righteousness being established. The law claimed righteousness and could not get it; now, I have righteousness made out for me, and established. A righteousness being established, the Holy Ghost can come and minister righteousness. In Galatians it is characterised by the Spirit: "He that ministereth to you the Spirit," and so on. Indeed the whole blessing now is stamped with the presence of the Holy Ghost. It is what characterises the thing - the ministration of the gospel. It is the presence of the Holy Ghost, and divine righteousness, instead of condemnation and death. The law required righteousness and no lust. This must be death to a man; it is so in his natural condition. "When the law came, sin revived and I died." The old covenant was confined to the law. Only the second time it was under half grace. Moses says, "Blot me out." "No," God says, 'I shall not: everybody shall answer for himself.' That is the law in principle; yet grace is introduced. God tells Moses to lead the people, but His angel shall go first. The contrast here is, if that which is done away took place in glory, much more that which remains is glorious.
Verse 13 is a very important one, because his argument runs from that to the word "veil." It is "that the children of Israel should not look"; for "could" is not right either; it is about half-way between. The use of the Greek word differs: but here in verse 13 it is not "so that they could not," nor "that they could not," but "so that they should not," as nearly as one can say it. In the words "look to the end," the apostle took the law as so many commandments about sheep and bullocks, without ever looking beyond. Christ is really the end of it all. Moses put a veil over his face, because they could not bear to look at his face. There is no veil now; but they were afraid of the glory. The law being a ministration of death and condemnation, they could not look at that. If you connect the least glimpse of the glory of God with the law, then a man cannot look at it; just as they had before said to Moses when God spake out of the fire, "You go and speak to God for us, lest we die." The apostle takes the law absolutely here as law - death and condemnation; but the way in which it worked in Israel then was that it hindered their looking to the end of that which was abolished. So Moses put on the veil in order that they might not see the glory itself. That was before he went in to the Lord. The veil was not put on in order to hinder, but it was put on to the hindrance of their looking. "It came to pass when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him, and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face."
322 The reason they were afraid to look at Moses was because the glory was there. They could not look to the end; they did not know when they offered a sacrifice that this was typical of Christ. The "end" is clearly God's purpose in it, and this was what they could not look to. It was a glory which came requiring righteousness, and this too they could not meet. In Christ Himself you have the explanation of all these images of the law. The veil is now done away, but it is on their (Israel's) hearts still. When Moses was turned to the Lord, the veil was taken off, and so it shall be with their hearts when they are turned to the Lord. "It shall turn" (v. 16) refers to Israel's heart when this is turned to the Lord. There was no glory the first time on Moses' face because he had not been in such close intercourse with God. The whole thing is a beautiful picture of grace and law, for Moses was under grace. God says to him, "Thou hast found grace in my sight."
"The Lord is that [the] spirit" (v. 17), means that the Lord is the spirit of the Old Testament, I believe: the Lord was the real spirit of all those ordinances. It is a beautiful expression to me of what the gospel is in contrast to law. Thus the glory itself is the proof that I am saved.
"As in a glass" (v. 18) is better left out; "we all with open face, looking on the glory of the Lord." There is no veil now on the glory of Christ, nor is there on our hearts when we believe. There is no idea of reflection in the passage: the Greek means 'looking into a mirror' sometimes, but not necessarily. I do not like the idea of Christ being a reflection. People talk of our mirroring Christ from this verse: it is all absurd; how can our mirroring the Lord change us? I look with perfect liberty, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," and I see (I do not mirror) "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," and the effect of seeing is that I am "changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord." The reason is plain. If the law looks for righteousness in man, man has it not, and so is afraid of the glory; the moment there is the least glory shewn out, man shrinks from it. But now the glory of God is shewn in the face of Jesus Christ, and what is that from? It is the effect of His having glorified God, and therefore God has glorified Him, and every ray of that glory is the proof that my sins are gone. "From glory to glory" means that I make progress. "Changed" is the same word as "transformed" in the Gospels.
323 "Into the same image" is a strong expression. If I have a good picture of a man, I say, "It is his very image." And such is the intended effect of this looking at the glory. We see it in Stephen when he is stoned, as he looks up and sees the glory of God and Jesus. Christ had said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; and the view of Jesus in the glory of God draws from Stephen the prayer, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." And again, on the cross Christ says, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"; and Stephen says, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." He is changed into Christ's image. He did not say, "for they know not what they do," for this would not be true then.
2 Corinthians 4.
Paul comes now to the ministration of it. He says "we faint not." We are right out in the light. But then there is another thing, and that is - he explains how he gives out the word of God as purely as he took it in; he did not handle it deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commended himself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God." The consequence is, there is no veil, and not only no veil on the face of Jesus Christ, but Paul put no veil on by want of faithfulness on his part; so that really, if any were lost, it was not through any fault of Paul's. The veil, if any, would be one on their own hearts. "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost in whom the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not." "Are lost" is characteristic. It has nothing to do with time at all; it is "the ones that perish." There is no veil on the glory, and if my gospel comes out in all its glory, the devil has put a veil on the hearts of them that believe not. This would be true now if the gospel was preached as clearly and powerfully as Paul did.
324 A man now, if he does not actually refuse a message, may hear it and be instructed, and come again and again. If it is actually hid to him, it is all over. I can say that of the thing I preach, but not of my own preaching. I should say just as much of what I preach that, if a soul does not believe, he will be condemned. There is a difference, of course, between coming and hearing, and positively rejecting.
"The manifestation of the truth" is here in connection with the word of God. I have no doubt Paul did it practically too. There is another thing in the preaching that makes a difference; there was then a great deal more preaching of the person of the Lord and less about being saved than there is now. I do not mean that there is anything wrong now, but there was a claim put in by God to submission by men to this Son of God; and if that claim were rejected, there was no hope for them. It was not the cry to "poor sinners" (they were that of course), but it. was "Here is Christ: now submit to Him." And if they said, "We will not bow," it was all over.
I think the more we get back to the old manner of preaching the better, especially as in Acts - preaching Jesus and the resurrection, though all the world now acknowledges Christ risen from the dead. I am satisfied, the more we insist on the fact, the more real power there would be to set people free. I know we are so accustomed to these things that they have lost their edge; but suppose I were to say to Jews, "There is a man in the glory of God," they would stop their ears and stone me. Ask anyone, "Do you believe there is a man at the right hand of God, because He died for our sins?" It is the insisting on the fact that is important. Suppose you were sitting down and talking to some man, and then found out it was the Son of God! The habit of hearing is so deadening. Yet by calling yourselves Christians you already say that you are in a world that cast out the Son of God.
325 Well, Paul could say, "not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully." He faithfully declared his message and that is the first point we have. Here is the full glory without a veil; no veil on it at all so that if it were hidden to any, it would be to such as were lost, being blinded by the devil. For Paul did not preach himself, "but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts." There we have a very important thing in the character of the gospel compared with the prophets, for even in the communication the Holy Ghost shines into Paul's heart and gives him the sense of the value of all this for himself first, but also in such a way that he would give it out to others. He says, "when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood," and so on. We find there a revelation of Christ to himself, and for himself, but he was also to give it out, just as here "God shined into our hearts," not "to give" exactly, but for the shining out of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
There is more power when I say in me, than to me, and it was in him, for his own soul as well as for others. In John 7 a man comes to Christ and drinks and then "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The man does not thirst for rivers, but he thirsts to drink, and the draught taken becomes rivers. "In me" in the passage from Galatians does not refer to the church, but to God's Son. In the Acts you find Paul preached that Jesus was the Son of God, and this is what Peter never did. We meet with all sorts of notions of that kind if you look for them, such as that Paul did not know anything about the church until he was in prison at Rome. The old Latin quotation is to the point, "He reads scripture well who brings back a meaning from it instead of carrying one to it."
We now come to the instrument; we have had already the fact of the ministry. "We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake; for God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels"; the treasure and the instrument. God caused the "light to shine out of darkness" (v. 6). God did so in Genesis 1. He who did the one, now does the other. Saul was in this darkness, and God said, as it were, "Let there be light," and there was light. Not that in Genesis it was the beginning of light, as I believe, but still so God says to Saul's heart. In Genesis it says "darkness was upon the face of the deep"; it does not say that darkness was everywhere. The face of the deep was without form and void, it was chaos; there it was all dark, and God said, "Let there be light, and it was light." Scripture does not tell us when God made the light, though "all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made"; whatever it was He created it.
326 All geology is left in the background when you see the difference between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. The first gives us, that the things that were made "were not made of things that do appear" - "in the beginning": there it was. "And the earth was without form and void"; it was all chaos and darkness. And then He makes this earth as we have it. And, just as by His own fiat and power God made the light, so He acted in Paul's heart. Universal creation is in verse 1. Then follows specific forming of this world which had fallen into a state of chaos - Scripture does not say how - and of darkness. In verse 3 He begins this form of earth which we have now, with fishes, animals, and so on. All that we find in the chapter is this earth as we have it now, except in verse I the fact of universal creation by God. Verse 3 resembles God's dealings with a soul to bring it out of darkness as a general idea, but I could not take it in detail. It looks as if all creation were made in analogy with spiritual things; trees as kings and empires; and grass for people, and so on; but I could not take it more in detail, and it is only an image: there is no doctrine as to it.
There might have been millions and millions of years between those two verses. In Genesis 1:1-2, I suppose geological times all came in there. Philosophers, who have examined the matter most accurately, have made twenty-six or twenty-seven catastrophes occur, and give the difference by the strata containing various shells and other fossils. But all that, if so, would come between those two verses, there is plenty of room for it all. For my part I do not believe nine-tenths of what they say about time. For instance, one of the greatest infidels in London made borings in the Nile and brought up a piece of burnt brick, from a depth of twenty-eight feet, proving that man's hand had formed the brick, and by this he made out that so many thousands of years had elapsed since it was deposited, long before the time of Adam. But there were no burnt bricks in Egypt till the time of the Romans, and when told so of course he had not a word to say. And you constantly find such things.
327 "Hath shined in our hearts to shine out." The light is put in a vessel that it may shine out. Paul was in open enmity at the time, but it was the revelation of the glory of the Lord to him - "shined into our hearts." In verses 4-6 it is Christ's person that is presented, and in a certain sense that is as high as you can go. Paul's gospel here is confined to that, but I do not say that is everything, for at the end of chapter 5 we have more, "God reconciling," and so on. But here he is speaking of the glory; and redemption was not accomplished and brought down to man until Christ went into the glory. It is clear that no man can eat bread come down from heaven, unless as he eats the flesh and blood in that way: "except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood ye have no life in you"; but when we know that - here "eaten" - all His life becomes the very thing that takes possession of our affections.
He was the invisible God; His coming down was the testimony of love, and there I see God in another character. It was not God sitting in righteousness and holiness, for that was law, but God come down in love. True, that was of no avail, because of man's wickedness and therefore Paul goes on "we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God; 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." That is, we have Him on the cross for the embassy; but when I have the embassy I say "God was in Christ reconciling"; that is the message.
In John 17 there are two glories, so to speak; the glory as God and the glory as Man, and it is the latter He gives to us. In John you will always find Christ's oneness with the Father and yet He receives everything, and so it is He says, "Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." It is a glorious thing being God and being one with the Father; but then, all that He has as man we have. There is His unity with the Father, and we cannot have that; but as it is displayed in man, we have it all. He goes up on high into the glory He had with the Father before the world was; He will come again and we shall see Him as He is. I do not believe the world will ever see Him as He is; flesh and blood would be struck down blind if they were, as Paul was.
328 The treasure is the light of the knowledge of the love of God; and it is in an earthen vessel, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. He puts this amazing glory in the vessel in order that all the power may be of God. There is no fitness between the vessel and the thing that is put into it, and there you will find God and the vessel both brought in. "We are troubled on every side," that is the vessel; "yet not distressed," because God was there; "we are perplexed," see no way out; "but not in despair," for there was a way out after all, for God was there; "persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." The vessel is all broken and dealt with, but still God is there all the while. Into such an earthen vessel all this glory is put, and so in that sense we can now rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. The vessel is made nothing of; but it is sustained by another power, which is neither the treasure nor the vessel, and so the man is dependent.
Then you come to the way the vessel is dealt with. A thing with a will is not a vessel: a person is acting for himself if he has a will; he must not think or will anything for himself, and therefore it says, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." That is obedience, of course. Christ was obedient unto death; that is not a man's will, and I am always to bear about in my body His dying; that is, Christ's dying or being put to death. There are two Greek words used in verses 10 and 11, for "dying" and "death." The first is the fact of death, just the matter of fact, and the other is rather the moral character of it, or includes that here. The fact in Christ becomes the moral character of us. As we have it in Peter, "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind." Christ did actually die, and Peter had just been speaking to them not to suffer for evil doing, but, if it were God's will, for well doing. Christ had once suffered for sins: arm yourselves, therefore, with the same mind. This would be carrying about the dying Christ had died; and this dying of Christ I apply to myself, so that the body never stirs, and the will of the body never moves.
329 We have, then, these two things: first, Paul, as a faithful man, never allows the vessel to have, for one instant, a will or a thought of its own. Just as much as Christ died, and completely died, so Paul was carrying this about constantly, and says, "Now you are as dead as Christ was." And, though Paul was very faithful in that, the Lord helped him by sending him through circumstances, so that he despaired of his life. It was not a chastening, but he was having the sentence of death written in himself. He held himself practically for a dead man, and the Lord says, "Well, now I must bring death right on to you, and so you will be a dead man." In his case, it was making it good by the trials he went through, and with this object, that nothing but the life of Christ could come out. The Lord says, "I must make this thorough, that he may realise it fully in himself"; and then Paul sums it up by saying, "So then, death worketh in us, but life in you"; that is, Paul was so entirely a dead man, that nothing but the life of Christ wrought in him towards the Corinthians. Wonderful description! If the vessel thinks or acts, it is spoilt. There is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to come out, and if the vessel is anything, by so much the light is hindered; but if the vessel is kept dead, nothing but the life of Christ is there to come out. It ought to have been the same in them as in himself, but it was not; of them he says, "life in you." Death was working in him, and so nothing but Christ's life worked out in them. Death and life are both taken morally in this verse.
Read verses 10-12. There would be no "so then," if it had been death in the Corinthians already. There was nothing but the vessel seen. It is a wonderful thing to say for anybody, but it is said of Paul. It did work among them, but it was in them. What was it that wrought that way but the power of the life of Christ in Paul, to effect all this humiliation in them. They had all the engraving of Christ in their hearts, but it was all filled up with mud, and nobody could read it; and now the mud was all cleaned out, it could be read. The treasure was, as we have seen, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It "shined" into Paul's heart. But the vessel is in danger of working, and so he applies Christ's death to the vessel, and then there is nothing but Christ's death to come out. But it was death to him as a man.
330 Paul may have been at work as a tentmaker at this time; he was doing so habitually there. He was very willing to receive from Philippi, but he would not receive anything from the Corinthians, because they were fond of their money. He went on working both at Ephesus and at Corinth. We know he worked, and we know he read too, for he asks for his books in the end of Timothy. Then, "we having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believe, and therefore I have spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak, knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us, also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (v. 13, 14); that is, 'I do not mind death, I have faith in my Lord.'
The next verse in Psalm 116 is, "I was greatly afflicted; I said in my haste, All men are liars." Everybody was against him, and in the pressure of it he said, "All men are liars." It should be, "I said in my anguish or distress," in the sense of the pressure upon him; and then it may apply to the Lord; but, certainly, I should not apply it to Him if it were, "I said in my haste." In the Psalms, except in a very few, you must always first take the remnant in, but sometimes Christ will quote a passage which does not at all apply to Himself in its next clause. Thus, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit," is followed by, "Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth" (Psalm 31:5), but this would not do. It was necessary to bring Christ in if any blessing were to be given to the remnant. We find the remnant in Psalms 1 and 2 as an introduction. In Psalm 1 they come with judgment; in Psalm 2 with the King in Zion, and they are called upon to trust Him. In some of the Psalms we have direct prophecy of Christ, but in spirit He is connected with them all.
Verse 13 of our chapter, already quoted, is the great principle that, though the whole power of the pressure was upon him, even as to life, yet Paul went on preaching just the same. He tells the Thessalonians he was "bold in our God," despite what had gone before, "to preach the gospel of God with much contention." This is not an authority for preaching, but it is the going on in spite of the opposition of man, and it is an encouragement against the opposition of man.
331 This chapter is a wonderful picture, for we have the whole glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and this put into a vessel, and for all that it is such a thing, that if the vessel is not absolutely dead, it will so far be spoiled. And that is not all: there is the positive power of God beside; you must have the vessel made nothing of, so as not to spoil the treasure, and then, when you have done that, some other power must come in and act. It is a wonderful description of ministry in its sphere and operation in creatures like us; and, looking death in the face, to continue still. Verses 10, 11, have both the same end: only he puts "mortal flesh," when he is actually delivered to death. The effect of that is, that Paul becomes a vessel of absolute life to others. All was for God's glory, but as its object, it is for the elect's sake, the church. "All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God." There we have the truth of the church, that everything was for their sakes - all this even in Paul.
Then it had another effect. He says, "For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed day by day." There was a power sustaining him, and the inward man was renewed. And then he tells us the bearing of the next world upon him: "Our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Thus I am going to get all the glory, and this practically acts to perfect the man while he is not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen. The vessel would be linked with this world, and the new man and the Spirit are linked with the other. Now he puts all the glory into the vessel, and the vessel is made nothing of - it goes through the process of annihilating, and then he finds the result. Paul's testimony is wonderfully complete in this chapter, and its effect in us is carried out in its fullest way.
The difference between the Old Testament and the New is this: the Spirit gave them no communion and left them to "search" what He signified; but whatever He reveals to me belongs to me, and so "all things are for your sakes"; only then, Paul laid it by, as it were, and speaks of "what I have committed unto him against that day" - all his own happiness for the other world. And now he says, Work away through this world and get there. This is all applicable to the saints at large now in their measure. He himself has broken all links with the present world, and now says, "The life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." That is what we should seek to realise in our service; we ought to be always in immediate contact with Christ, and to bring out nothing else but according to divine wisdom and guidance in dealing with others. And it should be recollectively so; it is not merely in the main that Christ is the object, but there is another thing, the not being distracted, and also the having our object recollectively: constantly carrying it about with you. If, for instance, I am ministering, I should be consciously ministering direct from Christ to the people. The apostle expresses it when he says, "Whether we are beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we are sober, it is for your cause"; if he was out of sobriety of thinking, it is to God; or if he was in sobriety, it was for them. It shews what a serious thing ministry is, blessed indeed, but most serious.
332 In Philippians, Paul said, "I am in a strait betwixt two." To depart was far better, he says, but to stay was at least more needful for them. "Yet what I shall choose I wot not." It is worth my while to live, because I am working for Christ; and if I go to heaven, I cannot do that. To live is Christ, and dying is gain, and he does not know which to choose; it is better for the Philippians he should stay, and so he says he shall.
2 Corinthians 5.
We have had the subject of ministry, and the vessel for it, and he has spoken of the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and now we have the purpose of God as to the servant, the glory of God by us, and next the way that all this bears upon the responsible state; and then, lastly, we have the love of Christ constraining him. We have the whole scope of this in the new creation, just touching on Ephesian ground, and then the whole basis of it in Christ Himself. First, we have the counsels of God in bringing us to that weight of glory; then he takes it up and contemplates it on the responsible side; and then comes the love of Christ constraining him. All link with this world is broken by the death of Christ; and at the end of chapter 5 the ground and basis of all that in the gospel of Christ's death. It is not then the gospel of the glory; incarnation and death are the two great facts.
333 In the opening of the chapter, he says, "we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; if so be, that being clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life," v. 1-4. He has this death, and now he says the thought of God goes beyond all that, and I have a "building of God, a house not made with hands"; but I am not tired and weary, wishing to be unclothed, and done with all the trouble; but what I am looking for is, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. That is, the power of life comes and swallows me up entirely, so that all that is mortal is lost in life.
Verse 3 is supposing that these are Christians: there is no thought about losing the reward. "Naked" is simply what Adam was before God clothed him. It is quite true that all those at the great while throne are naked of Christ, though each has got his body; this is not mortality swallowed up of life, but, on the contrary, it is going into the second death.
Verse 3 brought in the idea of death. I am groaning and burdened, but then I have seen such power in Christ, that I am not weary and seeking to get out of it all. See verses 1-5. Then from this he begins the responsible side down to the end of verse 12; verses 12, 13, are transitional: and that introduces to the new creation; but it is not now responsibility, which is Romans ground. Then we have the love of Christ constrains us, and hence the committing the ministry of reconciliation to him.
As to the difference between the gospel of the glory and the gospel of the humiliation, the latter is pure grace in God, manifested in Christ here. John's writings shew God revealing Himself in Christ to man in His life down here. What we have habitually in Paul is man manifested in righteousness before God. The gospel of humiliation is perfect grace; it is God coming down here to man where he is, visiting him in his condition as such a one on earth. The gospel of the glory takes this treasure and unfolds it. In Philippians 2 we have the whole line from the time when Christ was in the form of God till He was on the cross, when, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death. There is the manifestation of God down here among men as sinners. Well, I say, here is God come right down to me in love, and if I cannot trust anybody in the world, I must trust God now. The woman that was a sinner loved much; she did not know her sins were forgiven, nor could she have explained it theologically, but she trusted Christ, and loved much; and that is the bearing of the humiliation. But in the gospel of the glory man is looked at as the old man totally set aside, yet man is in glory in virtue of the complete work that redeems us and justifies us, and gives us a place in the glory. The glory is the testimony to the efficacy of the work; the humiliation is the testimony to the greatness of the love. Of course it is all the same gospel.
334 I must have faith in Christ as a sacrifice. If I do not eat the flesh and blood, I cannot properly eat the bread come down from heaven, because I must come to God as a sinner. Death is due to the sinner; regrets will not do. We find the women weeping after Christ as He goes to the cross, but He tells them to go and weep for themselves, for judgment is coming on them. If I realise that the work of Christ for the sinner is death, then I can freely look at all the blessedness of the grace of God and enjoy it.
The gospel is both the gospel of the glory of Christ, and the gospel of the grace of God. It was grace to put the best robe on a man, and to bring him into the house. After all it is not that Christ is in glory merely, but in the riches of His grace God visits me as a sinner. If one sees a poor vile sinner, then it would be the riches of the grace that would be made conspicuous. The person of Christ comes out greatly in all that; it is not simply, Here is forgiveness for you, but "God was in Christ reconciling," and this is His person.
Then we have another thing. After saying, not for that we would be unclothed, "but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up in life," he says, "now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God." God has wrought all us Christians for the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. He has not given it to us yet, but He has wrought us for it, and given us also the earnest of the Spirit. We have not it yet; God has wrought us for it and given us the earnest. This it is that gives me confidence. He calls it "our house," not my house. Thus I have two truths certain. I am wrought for it, and I know it now while here, for God has given me the Holy Ghost. Now, supposing death comes: well, it is "I am always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord," though "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord": such is the certainty of being clothed with glory.
335 Then comes in the sad fact of death and judgment; but by getting Christ in the glory I have all I can possibly need to meet that - "willing rather" ("pleased rather," is the word) "to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." I am looking for the mortal to be swallowed up of life; but if I die, I must wait a while with Christ. As to the judgment, does it take away my confidence? Not at all; it stimulates my zeal, for I have not to think about myself, but only about other people as to that. They are all dead in sins, and so he says, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," for we must all be manifested at the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The judgment takes effect upon them; yet Christians too shall "be manifested," and I am manifested. It refers to all. We shall "receive the things done." If Paul has built with wood, hay, and stubble, he will suffer loss; that is only an illustration. The wicked will receive the bad, and if I have gone on very poorly, I shall have the effect of that. It has all nothing to do with righteousness for me: this Christ is already. The wood, hay, and stubble are to be burned up, though that scripture has its own special connection. So he says, "Wherefore we labour (or are zealous) that, whether present or absent, we may be acceptable to him."
We are on the responsible side here: Paul says, "Whether I am dead or alive, we are all going to come before Christ." First, we have the purpose, and then the responsibility, but it does not destroy Paul's confidence - "accepted" is no question of judgment. "Therefore we labour," is what Paul is bent upon doing. We have a complete thing - security and confidence - and we gladly labour because of it - not to get it. "The terror of the Lord" is the fact itself. He says, "we persuade men." The thing the judgment sets Paul to do is to persuade men - other people who have reason to be afraid. The love of Christ constrained him. Paul, then, in the view of this, judged everything as a present thing, as it will be judged in the day of judgment. Paul and everybody must be judged, and that makes him persuade other people, for he himself must be manifested too. He adds, "We are made manifest unto God, and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." It is all out before God, and I trust it is so before you. They might have charged him with being beside himself, and he says, If I am out of myself, I am with God; or if I am in myself it is for your good; that is the difference between the two states. It is wonderful how Paul did keep himself dead; and most humbling to us. Mark, it is not a question of gifts at all; but there was not one bit of flesh living: practically he was always bearing about in his body the dying of Jesus.
336 Now we go farther than responsibility into the unconsciousness of the state that people are in, which was learnt in grace; but the effect of the fulness of grace was to make him say that not merely the people had sinned, but also there was a day of judgment. "We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." What is the use of his going down thus into death, if men were not all there in that horrible pit? The epistle to the Romans takes up the conduct of men, and there is Christ's work. The Ephesians takes up the state of men, and then there is a new creation. And that is here: "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more; therefore, if any man be in Christ, it is a new creation." We have done with man altogether. I do not know anything on the world's side of Christ's grave except this, that they are all dead in sins. Christ coming down into the world was Christ's coming to men in this life to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; but He there tested man, and the cross shews there was no ground to go upon. Now we know a dying Christ, for men would not have Him, and so everything is gone, and God does not own this world at all. That is the way Peter meets the Jews as to the very fact: God hath exalted Him whom ye by hands of lawless men have crucified and slain, and that is where you are with God.
In interpreting "If one died for all, then were all dead," if people would get God's mind, they would not say absurd things. As for all dying with Christ, I deny it altogether, and do not admit that we must get God's mind through the Greek. It is a total departure from the apostle's argument, and contradicts the next verse. The theory is that people live and die; but "they which live" are those who are not left in that state. The next sentence is demonstrative of it: "He died for all, that they which live"; that is not all. The aorist gives the historical fact, but it does not say that the historical fact is the consequence of Christ's having died. Why did Christ go down there? It was because they were all in the pit; and then the point is that some live (not all), and if they live, they are to live to Him that died for them and rose again. If it were translated, "then all died," it would be historical. There is no consequence in it, and "then" is not time, but "consequently"; the Greek in this verse for then is ara, which is nowhere time. It is not consequence, though it may be a fact. The proper force of ara is illative in later Greek. (That is, it introduces an inference).
337 Again the whole object of the apostle too is lost by the change. Responsibility is not where I am, but what I have done. If He died, then indeed that is their state. The thing we do not find in Scripture is substitution for all. On the great day of atonement, there were two things in the sin-offering of the people - the Lord's lot and the people's lot. The Lord's lot was killed, because it met the whole character of God; God was completely glorified in Christ, and the gospel goes out to the whole world. Then with the people's lot, the sins of the people were confessed on its head; that is the scapegoat; in that I find Christ for His people, and in the other atonement, Godward. That, of course, was for those whose sins he confessed. In Romans 3 we hear of the "righteousness of God unto all, and upon them all that believe." It goes out toward all, and is upon believers. Many a one will say that Christ bore the sins of the world; but if so, how can God ever impute them? He could not, nor does Scripture ever say so. Then the Calvinist only takes the blood upon the mercy-seat; really he denies the propitiation. We have the satisfaction to God's glory, and then the gospel goes out and says, "We beseech you to be reconciled to God: come in." When they come I can say, I have something else to tell you; Christ bore all your sins, and it is impossible God can ever impute them or any one of them. An evangelist would not be right in saying, "Christ bore all your sins." If he makes it personal, God of course knows His own elect from all eternity, but we can only know them as they are shewn out in life.
338 Well, Christ died, "that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again." Death has come in, and the whole world is the wrong side of the cross now, except believers. Christ was not crucified in the world, but lifted up from the world, and this is distinctly the ground Scripture takes. As Messiah He came to the Jews; but if we find Him lifted up from the earth, the world has rejected Him, and all God's counsels come out, and we find propitiation for the race of Adam. But the world is gone - "the world seeth me no more." Every eye shall see Him when He comes in judgment, but as to dealing with the world as such to reconcile it, it is all over. The devil is the prince of this world, and he is judged. I grant all the privileges as a nation that the Jews had; but it is no use talking now about a poor Jew, for he has lusts in his nature, just like a Gentile, and by nature he is a child of wrath, even as others. The very thing that comes out is, I have no good in me at all. I am lost already, I have sinned, and I have sin in me. This, for faith, cuts down the state of probation altogether. A state of probation is estimated by the day of judgment, and then we could not tell till the day of judgment what the result of probation would be. The testing of man now is by the presentation of the gospel, and he sees the condition he is in before God by the gospel. But "if any man be in Christ - a new creation." It is one short absolute sentence. It brings in the new heavens and the new earth - everything to be made new.
If we trace the presentation of the gospel in the Acts, I do not think we find anything there strictly of the glory, though all recognise Christ in the glory. They are all to the Jews in Acts; even in chapter 13 it is so; but Paul there does not go beyond Peter. At Athens it is only his defence at Areopagus. We never find, in Peter's preaching, even that Jesus is the Son of God: but Paul preached this as soon as he began. The burden in Acts is, that the Jews rejected Christ whom God raised up. Peter says in Acts 5:30, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom ye slew and hanged on a tree"; but we do not find grace coming down in its completeness. The facts are there, of course, but the point is that the Jews had rejected the One whom God raised up. It is not even that He is the Son of God. When Peter says, it is really "servant" in that passage. See Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30.
339 The first thing a sinner needs is, that Christ died for him; to preach Christ in the glory involves this, but where the gospel is preached, no matter how far you go, if there is a real work it attaches you to the place where the Man you preach is. Suppose John the Baptist says, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," this goes right on to the new heavens and the new earth. All that His disciples reached is, "we have found the Messiah." If you preach the greatest glory, you will find souls saying, in the sense of contrast, "Why, I am all in my sins," and in that way the glory works in the place the sinner is in; it attaches itself to the condition of the man, and then reaches his conscience; it gets hold of persons where they are. If it reaches a man, he finds out his own sinfulness, and so it touches the conscience. It is striking in Acts 10, though you get the Gentiles there, it is remission of sins that is preached for "whosoever believeth in him." Peter says, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it was he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive the remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." He testifies of Christ in full, and thereon preaches remission of sins, and then the Holy Ghost fell on those who heard. It is because there was a dealing with the Jews all through the Acts that we do not find the full and positive glory there. It is only in the last verses of the Acts that the Jews are given up. So we have no gospel of the glory actually preached, nor of the grace either in the strict sense of the term as we have been speaking of it. Even Stephen preached Jesus and the resurrection, not more.
340 In John 15 we have witnesses. "When the Comforter is come, whom I shall send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness because ye have been with me from the beginning"; and He says, "He shall receive of mine and shew it unto you." Well, the apostles had to add the exaltation of Christ, ascension too, to the repentance and remission of sins which were to be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem; Luke 24:47. But that is the furthest we find in the Gospels and even in the history in the Acts.
It is remarkable how we think to get something all settled and complete for a long while, and then find it is only provisional; if you take it as settling things in the world, it soon proves very provisional. Until Stephen is killed we have the fact of the Jews having rejected the person whom God has exalted. Christ intercedes for the Jews on the cross and the Holy Ghost comes in with the testimony. "And now brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers," and so on. Grace begins at Jerusalem, and they are called to repentance; then in chapter 3 after the fact of the establishment of the church amongst the Jews (though it is striking how provisional it all is), and having told them too in chapter 2 that they had by wicked hands crucified and slain Jesus of Nazareth (judgment accordingly), next in chapter 3 he says, Repent and be converted, and then Christ shall come back again. In chapter 2 it is more individual testimony, and in chapter 3 it is wider in the character of testimony. In verse 26 it is not "raised up" in the sense of from the dead, His Son Jesus, but as Moses had said, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you," v. 22.
It is quite true God knew the Jews would not repent; and we have the church begun to be formed in chapter 2. Then, when Stephen is put to death, the offer to the Jews is over. Christ had interceded for them; Peter said, Repent and Christ will return. They would not, and it was all over. They had had the law, the prophets, the Messiah, and now the Holy Spirit. They had broken the first, stoned the second, killed Christ, and resisted the Holy Ghost. Stephen goes to heaven, and then there was an end to Christ's coming back for that time to the earth. God goes on with the Jews, but looked at as a people, it was over for them now, and the church goes on forming. God gathers in by the gospel message into the church "such as shall be saved," instead of gathering together the nation. It is the salvation of the soul, but it is the preserving those of Israel. They all thought that, if God did not spare a remnant, they would be as Sodom and Gomorrah, and that is what the Lord says to them. At the last, when the end comes, all Israel will be saved and all the wicked will be cut off. All the grace is displayed here, though all is provisional.
341 In the Acts the gospel is not developed as in the epistles, though it is the same truth so far as it goes. Death and resurrection embrace the whole thing if you regard it as to foundation. Death is the end of the old thing, and resurrection is the beginning of the new. Besides being atonement and the putting away of sins, it is the end of the world as such, and the beginning of the new creation. Satan has no more power, and neither has sin. Death is put away, so that, looked at as to the establishment of the thing, resurrection is the basis of it all. As for the church, there is much developed of blessing in various ways. When Paul states what the gospel was which he preached, it is Christ's death and resurrection. It is evident that, when a person is raised, he is brought into a new place, and that, though all the result may not be before him yet. And again it says Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection. If I were preaching among nominal Christians, I should bring out the whole scheme of what God's intentions are.
The church is relationship to the risen Christ; 'children' means relationship to the Father. They are both immense privileges. In Ephesians 1 the mystery is not exactly introduced, but God puts us in a place and as it were says, I can tell you My mind: and that is how the church comes in. Saints were children and heirs, but differed nothing from a servant; but when the Son comes out, they get the place of children. Then, being in this blessed place, He says, "I will unfold to you all that I am going to do." We might have children without glory, but not the church without Christ in glory. The basis of all is laid in resurrection. When we see Christ's place is that of Son naturally, then He takes manhood to bring us into such a place, but there is nothing to do with the church in that; as we have in John, "My Father and your Father, my God and your God." There is not a word of the church as such. We are with Christ a glorified Man, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and there we have the mystery.
342 To look again at the gospel of the humiliation, as it is called; it gives a character which the gospel of the glory does not. The gospel of the humiliation is God in grace, whereas the gospel of the glory is man in glory - fruit of grace, of course. Romans 5 and 8 are very like to the two. In chapter 5 we have the grace of God on to our joying in God, and higher things than in chapter 8, though we do not have the man as high. In chapter 5 it is more the revelation of what God is and of our joy in Him. But if we take people then in chapter 8, we have them higher up in Christ. They are the two passages which give the blessings that belong to Christians. In chapter 8 we have that fact of the gospel that the man is in Christ before God, but we have a great deal more of God in the first part of chapter 5. In a certain sense it is a lower part of the work, for it is only meeting the sinner's need by Christ "delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification." "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." There I have what led him to say in our chapter (2 Cor. 5) that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them"; but in the second part of Romans 5 we have what led him to say, "for he hath made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." In the gospel of the humiliation we have God in Christ, and in the gospel of the glory we have man in Christ. The latter is a glorious result of the other, no doubt, but it is a different aspect of the gospel.
Notice the omission of the "you" in verse 20 of our chapter. "Did beseech by us": there is the verb only without the pronoun: he is saying how he preaches to the world, begging them to be reconciled. What he says is, "when I preach the gospel, this is what I do": of course it means to the world. If he is an ambassador, he is an ambassador to somebody. It would be confined to the apostles to go as absolute ambassadors. There are not now ambassadors in quite the same way, but in some degree.
343 2 Corinthians 6.
"Workers together with him." "With him" is not exactly right; the "with" is there, but not the "him." I believe the idea is that of workers with one another; they are companions or journeymen, because they work together. "We then as co-workers beseech that ye [Corinthians] receive not the grace of God in vain." They had all received it; but whether they had all received it in their hearts is another question. He looks at them as Christians, but he had become uneasy about them because they were going on so badly. It is no use trying to weaken these particular statements which we often find in Scripture. It is not bearing fruit merely, for if they did receive it in vain, they were not quickened at all. It is not that I have received grace to no purpose, if I am saved by it. I have received the gospel to a very great purpose if I am going to heaven. The grace of God comes to people, and then, as in Hebrews 6, they have tasted the good word of God; and in such cases as theirs it was not possible to save them after, because they had "fallen away." In the parable of the sower, it says "received the word." A man may receive a tract and tear it up, and throw it away; or if he reads it, hemay treat the truth the same.
Isaiah 49 comes in here, because there we have their sin before Jehovah, and next against His Christ. "Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken, ye people, from afar; Jehovah hath called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name, and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me, and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." And then Messiah says, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain, yet surely my judgment is with Jehovah and my work with my God; and now, saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength." Then in verses 7 and 8 we come to the Redeemer of Israel, and God owning Messiah in resurrection glory, though Israel has rejected Him, and now is the accepted time when Christ has been heard though rejected. It is Christ who has been heard in an accepted time, and Isaiah applies it to the Jews at the end; but we come in between, and by the Holy Ghost come down we believe, though without seeing, and get heavenly things; they will believe and see and get earthly things. We have the better thing now. "I have heard thee" - Christ. Christ used the acceptable time in His ministry, though, if in Christ, we are accepted, of course.
344 In our chapter we must link together verses 1 and 3. Paul had the ministry of reconciliation, and he would give no offence lest it should be blamed. There were three things that came from God in Christ: God was reconciling; was not imputing trespasses; and did commit this ministry to Paul. Christ had to die first, of course, and this rest follows; but the agents should walk so that no slur could be put upon the ministry. He is here stating what his ministry was and what he went through in it. He stood there to represent God, and had to conduct himself so that nobody should have anything to say. But he had the devil against him and all things. An ungodly walk would bring reproach against the testimony of course, but here it is of ministry he is speaking.
It is better to leave out the "yets" in verses 8-10. Some looked on him as a deceiver, and some looked on him as true; "unknown and well-known; as dying, yet behold we live"; for a kind of 'yet' comes in here. It is the Holy Ghost in verse 6 and the power of God in verse 7. God acts by the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost was a direct manifestation of power and grace, yet He might be directing and guiding without apparent power. People have gone all wrong about the Holy Spirit; and we have not the signs now. In Galatians he appeals to all Christians, "received ye the Spirit?" etc. Instead of persons looking whether they have the Holy Ghost as they do now, he speaks to them as having the Holy Ghost; he is not speaking of tongues, but of what ought to be found now. I have no doubt Paul displayed the Holy Ghost in a way that we do not (I do not mean with signs); but we have grieved Him so that there are different degrees of the consciousness of the presence of God. For instance, in a gathering there is a solemnity at a time when not a word is uttered, and at another time they hold their tongues only because they have nothing to say. I have no doubt the presence of the Holy Ghost was much more sensible than it is now. At the present time how could you ask a number of persons, "How did you receive the Holy Ghost?" when they do not know whether they have the Spirit or not? I can shew you books by bishops and others who say that at first the church had the Holy Ghost; but now we have not, and so we have to go to college; and all that kind of thing.
345 The recompense in verse 13 refers to himself. There is a great deal in that condition of the apostle, which is very instructive. He represented God as he ought to do; his vessel was all smashed - all that would be reckoned in a man - and consequently the power of God could come out in him. The vessel is all done with, and God is there. That was so in Paul, and he approved himself as given here. This has nothing to do with signs, but is what should be now. "Confirming the word with signs following" was at the first, and was all provisional. Then the church lost power, when it gave up waiting for God's Son from heaven, though that, I believe, was ordered in God's wisdom. The church was never looked at as continuing; we assume a false thing, in such a way, looking at it. Then, people say, the church was only set up for thirty years or so. Of course God knew about it, but He does not put it out as to continue, but to go and meet Christ and come back. They all slumbered and slept, but they ought not to have done thus. The fact is stated, yet it is sin. The church did go to sleep, but there is no pre-arrangement for its continuance; it is the same virgins who do go out to meet their Lord when they awake. "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming," shews just the same; and it is the same servant who is punished. There is no arrangement made for continuing the church.
If you say, Then are we not right to help ourselves as best we can? I reply, Very well, go and make apostles, then. People say that the church is competent like every other society: it all sounds plausible. I know of no prohibition against carrying about the mass, and the "Corpus Christi," or whatever you call it. Some do make elders; but why do they not make apostles too? That is what I said once, and they felt the folly of it; but they could make only an imitation of elders. We have certain things which guide us as to practices; there are young widows as well as old widows; and all such directions are available for the present time. What is said about bishops would be guidance for those who have it on their hearts to exercise oversight. It was this that broke them down at Geneva. When I went there, three brethren would not speak to each other. They were called pastors, and I asked who made these three pastors. They had chosen them and would have them. "Oh," I said, "you assumed the power to make them, and now you must take the consequences." Yet we find ample provision for godly men, but appointments must fail. Suppose it said, There must be order among you here, whom are you going to put in authority? In 1 Peter 5 the elders are not ordained. It is a more general use of the term there. I see no elders among the Jews; elders might be known very well without official appointments.
346 They were not straitened in Paul's heart (v. 12). Paul's affections were as large, and full, and free as could be. The same thought is in what our Lord says, "how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" Then come verses 14-16, etc., giving the relative position of believers, and as the temple of the living God. Unbelievers, as amongst them, are not alluded to here, though there might have been such. The coming out is from the world. It would embrace anything where you have to act in common. The "unclean thing" was the heathen world then, no doubt, but it is much more than that now. You could not apply this to Protestantism and Romanism; for we are perfectly warranted in treating Protestantism as the world. Popery is a different thing. In Sardis Protestants are treated as the world, for we find there, "I will come on thee as a thief," which is what it was said He would do to the world in writing to Thessalonica; but He says He will overtake them so. They have the responsibility of Christians, and are treated as the church in responsibility, and yet they are dealt with as the world.
Verse 14. It is a new subject altogether; but if a Christian gets into the world, the heart gets narrowed, and then into deeper sin. The "world" is a great system, which the devil has built up round man, to give men their sphere of enjoyment. We have a beautiful expression at the end of the chapter: "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." That is added here to what is quoted from Isaiah. Lord and Almighty are the two Old Testament names of God. He was "Almighty" to Abraham, and "Lord" to Israel; and now He says "Father" to you, and ye are My sons and daughters. Isaiah could say, "doubtless thou art our father," and it may be in that general way that He will be as father to the remnant. "Belial" is a word that means wickedness. The separation applies to everything. Not to those who are married; we have instruction elsewhere about such, not to leave the one the other: "for what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
347 2 Timothy 3 would apply to Protestantism now; and to more that is not Protestantism - wherever we find the form of godliness, but the power denied, and from all such we are to turn away. It is not merely open wickedness, it is more; it is a form of godliness. I think people ought to have a great tenderness towards Protestantism; they do own the word of God. They may be the more guilty, having the more light, and not acting up to it: but they systematically, at least, own God's authority in His word, while many others put the church in its place. Romanists say positively, quoting from Augustine, they would not receive the gospel if the church had not given it to them. They say you must have the church to authenticate the words, and that is denying the direct authority of God over the conscience, unless somebody else comes in to give authority. The priest will ask you, How do you know it is the word of God? and in that way they always take infidel ground. Such is their principle. There is an utter denial both of the truth of the word and of its authority; and beside that, they have put in the Apocrypha - have corrupted the word of God. If any will not believe the word of God, unless the church says it, it is not the word they believe as such, but the church. It is under the power of Satan, I doubt not, that there is brought in not merely a denial of authority in the word, but also the setting up of the right of private judgment. Now this is meddling with God's rights. If I send a message to my servant, and you will not let him have it, you are not meddling with the servant's rights so much as with mine. And God has sent this message to those who call themselves Christians; but if you will not let them have it, that is meddling with God's rights, and not merely with man's. In a certain sense, man has no right to the word of God; he is a vile sinner, and has not a right to anything. But if I set up and judge the word of God, this is open infidelity. I take the ground that the word of God judges us, not we it: otherwise it is clear that there is no owning the word of God as His word. The moment it is said, I must judge, I am in the place of authority, and in the place of the word. I have nothing to do with judging.
348 If I were asked how I know it is the word of God, I should reply as I once did to a priest: I asked him, if I took a knife, and gave him an awful gash in his arm, how would he know that this was a knife I had. He could not say the same of the Maccabees: no one dare say that. And I will tell you why: because the writer himself, at the end of the book, says, "If I have done well, and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired; but if slovenly and meanly, it is that which I could attain unto." And again, he says something like this: It is not good to be always drinking wine, but to drink sometimes a little water.
As to teaching children the word of God, I have often said that it is like coals in a grate where there is no fire; but it is known that coals make a fire, and if a fire is wanted, the coals are not thrown out, but they lie there all ready. So with the knowledge of the word of God in people and children too, though we know very well that educational knowledge of the word is not faith. And in using the word of God, we should try to deal by it, and not reason about it. I remember once a man in a coach saying to me, "You use that book, but I do not own it." I said, "That is all very well, my friend; but I have a well-tempered sword, and it would be no use for an opponent to say whether he owned it or not." The point for us is not the rejecting of the word, but using it. I told him, "I believe God loves me perfectly; but supposing there is no God at all, you have done heaps of things that your conscience condemns." He owned that, and said he was very unhappy.
2 Corinthians 7.
In this chapter, he applies the promises to the Corinthians themselves: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." First, rescue them out from the mass, and then purify them fit for God. The point here is, their being set apart to a holy God, and then in detail purify everything. We also find in Leviticus, "Be ye holy, for I am holy: sanctify yourselves, for I am Jehovah that has sanctified you: for Jehovah your God is holy," and such like words. That is, when they have been brought out of Egypt.
349 "To die and live with you," is not to die to sin first. Scripture never says we have to die to sin. "I die daily" is a dying in an outward sense every day. Paul's life was not worth sixpence, as men speak. Then we have a beautiful expression, "God that comforteth them that are cast down." God lets us be cast down that we may be comforted of Him. It is not a cold dead thing. People speak of the apostles as if they were like vultures soaring above the heads of others, and pouncing down when they were obliged to do it; but it is not so. "Though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent though I did repent." Paul said he "did repent," and when writing an inspired letter! The power of the Holy Ghost makes him write it, and then, when he looks at his own heart, Titus was so long coming, that he thought the Corinthians would not have him; and that was his sorrow. Such is the human side of Paul, and is very instructive.
There is a thing that strikes me very much in Paul, that we may find at the bottom of our own hearts, too, perhaps, but there is a kind of character in it - a claim that he feels upon the affections of the people, and that of the strongest kind. "Ye have not many fathers, but in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." There is a kind of claim of relationship, which in the state of the church we cannot have in the same kind of way now.
Sorrow led to repentance (v. 9). There is more in repentance than a certain feeling, for when the Jews asked, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter says, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." They were already pricked in their hearts. Sorrow before God led to judgment of the sin. One man had done the act, but they had all gone in heart with it; and now they sorrow, not the man only. Conversion, repentance, being born again, and faith, all go together; and yet I must believe in order to get it, and still they all go together. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"; to be a child you must believe. A blow and pain are identical as to time, though I must give the blow, in order to the pain. Where there is not that settled estimate of the will and mind that looks back and judges everything under grace in the power of the word, there is repentance and judgment of self all one's life.
350 Verse 11 is the effect of their repentance (v. 10). All the outward things in which repentance shewed itself prove its reality. In verse 8, "repent" is another word in Greek meaning "regret"; so in verse 10 it is, "worketh repentance to salvation not to be regretted." It is not connected with a judgment of the evil, and is sometimes used for remorse. When he says, "Repentance not to be repented of," you get a very different idea from the expression "Repentance not to be regretted." The gifts and calling of God are without change of mind. In the passage "It repented God that he had made man upon the earth," it is not the change of mind in God, but when the thing changes, God does not like it; not because God changes, but because He Himself does not change. The Greek for repentance in chapter 7:9 is used for change of mind; you would not find that with Judas; it is remorse there, regret.
It is very beautiful to see the way in which Paul's heart was in them all: even natural affection is beautiful in such a world as this; but all this work had tended to check their love towards him; they had gone to the other side, so to speak. Moses was trained in all the habits of a court, and then when he had been forty years in the desert, and God would send to the court for His people, he said, "I cannot speak" - he quite fell over on the other side; that is how we change. But Paul had written, that his care for them might appear, and he heartily rejoiced in the joy of Titus, and was glad to say he had confidence in them in all things.
2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
We now come to what Paul is ill at ease in, and that is getting money from them. He would not take any for himself, but he would for others. He told them about Macedonia, and takes occasion of the forwardness of others; he knows the forwardness of their mind; had boasted Achaia was ready a year ago; he goes all round about the bush with it, as it were, but thought it better to send somebody, lest his boasting should be in vain, and he be ashamed of it in the presence of the Macedonians, who were coming with him. The man Paul, as the instrument comes out in all that.
351 It would be very sad that there should be any poor among us, and for them not to be cared for. The laying by here was for the poor at Jerusalem. 1 Corinthians 16 did not contemplate anything but the poor. Here every man was to lay by, but "God loveth a cheerful giver"; and again, that it "might be ready as a matter of bounty and not of covetousness." And then the administration of it abounds with many thanksgivings unto God.
We see, all through, beautiful heart exercises; and then he says all this wonderful work of grace, "the experiment of this ministration," glorifies God, and calls out "their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you" (chap. 9:14): blessed exercises of heart on both sides, one towards the other.
They would be making "themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." We find three things in Luke just before it. The first is the grace of God towards us, in three parables of chapter 15. In the first and second we have the absolute grace that seeks: Christ the Good Shepherd, and the Holy Ghost lighting up the light of truth. Nothing at all is done by the persons, who are the mere objects of the saving grace. The great subject is, grace is God's joy; the shepherd is happy, the woman is happy, and the father is happy. It is God's happiness to have souls back, and He is saying here, "I am going to save sinners, whether you Pharisees like it or not." In the third parable, we have the prodigal's reception by the father when he comes back: first, the working of sin, next the working of grace, and then the father's reception. We have the whole series of gracious dealings, till the man has on the best robe, and is at the father's table. That is, grace in chapter 15 has come, and visited man, and takes him out of Judaism and all else (for God will not have the Pharisee); and then we find that man is a steward out of place in chapter 16. In the Jews, the whole thing was tried under the best of circumstances. Man, Adam, was a steward, having the Master's goods under his hand, but he is turned off because he is unfaithful; and then comes this question: How can I - if I have these goods under my hand as steward, and am turned out of place - how can I take the mammon of unrighteousness, and use it to advantage? I do not use it for myself now, but with a view to the future. The steward might have taken the whole of the £100 to spend it, but if so, that would not do for the future, and therefore, while he can, he uses it to make friends then and there; that is the aim of it. Just while I am here, I have the mammon of unrighteousness, and, as we have it in 1 Timothy 6:17, I am not to trust in the uncertain riches, but so use them as to lay up in store a good foundation against the time to come. I turn this mammon of unrighteousness into friends, that, when it fail, I may be received into everlasting habitations. I am put out of all that man has as man, that I may yet have it for a time; but by use of it I get reception into everlasting habitation. I use this world for the future. "They shall receive you" is a mere form for "you shall be received." Suppose it is now a person under grace; we find him acting in grace with things here, in view of the future; it is his preference, he would rather look out for the future. "When it fail" is when all this scene is gone, and the life ends: that is, when stewardship is over.
352 Then, in the third case, our Lord draws the veil, and says, "Now look into the everlasting habitations." The poor man Lazarus died, and was carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. Here is a rich man using all for himself now, and you see the result; then do not use the world for your present enjoyment, but use it in view of another world. "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, but thou art tormented." If we do not use this world's things in grace, after all we cannot keep them; and therefore, He says, you have the privilege of turning them into friends available for the future. It shews how the other world belies the whole of the present. God's blessing on a Jew was marked by the possession of such things, but the Lord shews the other world to tell him how all these things are changed.
2 Corinthians 10.
In this chapter we have the character of Paul's ministry, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." I suppose Paul was some poor-looking man instead of being a fine commanding person - "in presence am base among you." In verse 5 I have put "reasonings" for "imaginations." The word has the force of both. In verse 6 "when your obedience is fulfilled," means he waited for them to go with him in all. There is the greatest grace in this, for he comes with authority behind, and has what I may call a rod for them, if needed.
353 In chapter 10, we have a clue to all these difficulties with these false people, and also to what his thorn in the flesh was. "We will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us," v. 13. These people had come and acted as if they were originally authorised, where God had not give them any measure. Paul had had all the difficulty, and persecution, and danger; and then it was all very comfortable for them to step in and try and spoil his work. He had not gone outside his measure. All very right in a good spirit that apostles should water what Paul planted, but that is if it is done in a right spirit. These were coming without being asked, and that to spoil the thing. Paul did not boast of things without (that is, outside) "our measure," things of other men's labour. "Enlarged by you" (v. 15) simply means, they were to help hum to go on to other places.
It all shews how the apostles went through the same kind of difficulties that we do. Suppose we saw all the churches of the country giving up justification by faith, how we should feel it! We should think it was all no use. But God met this at Corinth, and would now. Here were people drunk at the Lord's supper, and puffed up about wickedness, and so on. All these things were there, but power by the Spirit of God met them. Now people try to take an advantage of it in this way; they say, All these churches are just as bad as the Established Church, or anything else now. It is a great mistake, for now we find all is the world, and not the church at all. We have no church to appeal to, no grace or life to appeal to. It is not a question of more or less outward wickedness; they are not out from the world to walk in the Spirit, so that the exercise of the power of the Spirit may come in.
2 Corinthians 11.
"As a chaste virgin" (v. 2) is individual. It is the whole, but it must be individual. Verse 4 refers to false teachers who might preach another Jesus or another gospel, but it was not another. Here he feared they might "be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ"; in Galatians it was not so much corrupting the gospel as presenting another, which was not another, for there could not be another. Paul says, "though I be rude in speech" (v. 6), and "in speech contemptible"; he was behind no one and he pleads hard with them. Poor Paul! he had a heart in these people and could not give them up. "I did not take your money; is that the wrong I did you? I did not do any other, I am sure."
354 Verse 15 is very solemn. You may even get Satan's power at work in the form of ministers of righteousness: Satan can ape in that way. Of course, he can never be really Christ. It is not that everybody who is ignorant and preaches below the full truth is Satan's agent, but there are those that bring in a working of Satan. It is people here; but there always will be some doctrine at the bottom of it. It appears these false teachers were pretty impudent, for he says, "If a man bring you into bondage; if a man devour you; if a man take of you; if a man exalt himself; if a man smite you on the face." It is wonderful what people will suffer from what is false - very much more than they will endure from what is true. That which is false pleases the flesh. Take any system: it is surprising with what rapidity people learn a system. And you will always find Satan's teaching is always learned a great deal more rapidly than God's.
It is in verse 16 he begins to talk about himself. "If they boast, I must boast too, so much so that you have made me make myself a fool about it." In the two last verses of the former chapter he was ready to glory, "but he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord, for not he that commendeth himself is approved but whom the Lord commendeth." Yet, he adds, "I must glory: you have forced me to it"; and the Lord has allowed it for our instruction. "I speak as concerning reproach," he says (for some had said "his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible") "as though we had been weak; howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, I speak foolishly, I am bold also; are they Hebrews? so am I," and so on. We have here a wonderful picture of Paul's life, telling what it really was. Paul does not boast of being a Hebrew, but no one had any advantage over him in that respect.
"The care of all the churches" (v. 28) is not the taking care of them, but care for them as now for Corinth. It is wonderful to see the power of the apostle, the way in which he could take up all the highest doctrines and yet go into detail about all these other things. We see a flexibility of power that is astonishing, a generalising power and an individualising power that he is never tired in using. In us the tendency is to get weary when we see one or two gatherings going wrong. Verse 29 is sympathy with the saints.
355 Paul gloried in what he had gone through, he required power to go through all these things; it was not in his own power he went, and the sustaining is wonderful. Suppose a man preaching in this town was flogged for it, and he goes and preaches all the same at a neighbouring one! So he says, "But even after that we had suffered before and were shamefully entreated, as ye know at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention." Nothing broke him down: he was not cowed a bit after having his feet in the stocks. How naturally the apostle writes! After a kind of conversation in verse 31, he comes out with something he had quite forgotten, but that now occurred to him. It made little of himself to have escaped in such a way, but he did not mind that; it was what he was glorying in.
2 Corinthians 12.
Here Paul says, "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord"; and then we come to infirmities and persecutions, a kind of honour on one side; but the Lord is able to unite what is in one sense honourable with discipline in the flesh on the other side. It was Paul's honour in that he was suffering for Christ, but along with that it was discipline to the flesh. We have another aspect here to these infirmities, for they are the same though looked at in a different way.
Verse 2 should read, "I know a man," not "I knew"; he knew him while he wrote. The fourteen years ago is when it happened. "I know a man in Christ fourteen years ago caught up." The term "in Christ" is important, because that takes him out of himself; for he says, in himself he will not glory, but of such a one he will glory. The sense is, a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up. For it really was Paul; but he will not allow it was himself, because whether in the body or out of the body he cannot tell. He had not a consciousness of human perceptions; he perceived these things now, but then he did not know how he knew or saw it all. There is consciousness of the body and so he could not say whether in or out. His perceptions were gone from him; and when he got back, he could not tell about them; he did not receive them humanly, neither could he communicate them humanly. The church he had by revelation as he says. We have it as a thing we are accustomed to, but to have had it all come in fresh - a revelation - a thing we have never known nor heard of before, is an amazing thing: and especially so to him, a strong Jew.
356 The third heaven here is in a different character from paradise. The third heaven is going on high - a degree of exaltation; paradise is rather the character of the thing. Our Lord went to paradise, but paradise is the character. The word "paradise" means nothing but a Persian garden; there they had beautiful gardens. The third heaven is hardly the heaven of heavens. There are the sky, the created heavens, the starry heavens, and then the heaven where the throne of God is placed, though this again is a figure no doubt. "Heaven itself" in Hebrews 9 means the reality, and not the figure. We see the same thing in Ezekiel, where he saw the covering of the cherubim and above that the throne of God or the figure of it. These have not exactly to be atoned for; but wherever any creature has been, it has to be cleansed.
We have also the tabernacle for a type. The camp is the world; the court gives the first heavens; the holy place the second; and the most holy, where the ark was, the third, with the throne of God. The brazen altar was not in the world, because Christ was lifted up out of the world. Then the holy, and the most holy; the expression "heaven of heavens" is used, I take it in rather a general way. "Rejoice, ye heavens," is in contrast with earth and that you find constantly; only we have in the tabernacle something more specific, and the Jews constantly used it so, and spoke of three heavens. It was very natural, if God had said Moses was to make all these things after the pattern of things in the heavens, that they should call them so, the three heavens, because there were the three places. The tabernacle represents three things: Christ Himself; the church because God dwells in it; and the creation or created heavens. Christ Himself, for the veil is His flesh - through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; next, as we have seen, we get, as shewn in creation, the three heavens; and then we have "but Christ as Son over his own house, whose house are we." It is not His body there, because we have it as the dwelling-place of God. We never find the temple in Hebrews, because the temple is the permanent thing, the millennium, while in Hebrews the saints are looked at as strangers and pilgrims in the wilderness.
357 The thief was not in the "body." The very thing the Lord taught the thief was that he was to be in paradise before the "body" was formed. It is not into His kingdom, but "Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom." He had learned as a Jew that a Christ should come, and there Christ hung upon the cross. He owns Him there as Lord, and the Lord says, 'I cannot wait for that kingdom, but you shall be in paradise to-day.' That is, it is the happiness of soul meanwhile. That is the character of Luke all through in grace. We have no "abomination of desolation" in Luke 21, but we have Titus's army, and Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. All is referred on to the kingdom. Our Lord said at the passover, "I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." He looks at the present things: they are always brought in, though they are carried on. In these things Paul's ministry and Luke run together a good deal.
It is when Paul speaks of paradise that he speaks of hearing things he could not utter: that is where blessedness is. The paradise of God, and my Father's house are very different ideas. We have not the Father in Revelation except "having his Father's name written in their foreheads" (chap. 14), after the opening chapters. There is brightness and blessedness there, but not fellowship with the Father exactly: we have not that in the Revelation. We have all that is descriptive of glory and blessedness, and beauty, and so on - golden street and glass, and all the pictures of things, which, if we compare scripture with scripture, we get to understand. We have the capital of God's dominion where He has the garden of His delights; but this is a different idea from the relationship of the Son with the Father; and we are going into all that. One is secured delight with God and the other is with my Father; and this is the highest way of blessing.
The "place" John speaks of in chapter 14 is a place in these mansions; as if He said, 'Do not you fancy I am going off to leave you in the lurch,' as men speak. "I am going to prepare a place for you. It is not only a place for the high priest, but for the priests, for all of you, and I am going to get it ready for you." As regards locality, this is not brought into question, but it is the Father's house; and the place of it we really know nothing about. We say going up to heaven, but then that to Australia would be going down, and yet it is all quite right; it is only language adapted to our thoughts and feelings as men. There is no place with God in a sense, and no time either, but we speak as men. God is "I am," the self-existing One. Yet all these things are real, when you come to the moral relationship - very real indeed.
358 The "not lawful" in verse 4, means not morally possible. It is not that the things were not capable of being uttered, but that they were unutterable in their character. It is not like "cannot be uttered," but a thing that morally cannot be done. I say, such a thing cannot be, without meaning to say that the thing is not physically possible, but that it is a thing not to be done or thought of. I do not know any one word good for it. In Romans it is the denial of the utterableness of the groans. Then we have the glories of the man in Christ in the third heavens. We are not to be taken up there for unutterable revelations, but for unutterable glory we shall be. We are sitting in heavenly places in Christ; the man in Christ, is in Christ where He is.
Satan accuses the brethren before the throne. We have Satan in the opening of Job coming among the sons of God, where the government of God is carried on. "Spiritual wickedness in heavenly places" is in contrast with earthly things. Joshua wrestled with flesh and blood, we do not; but it is where our blessings are, and this does not say anything, except that they are not on earth. We shall rise into the air, and meet the Lord there first; we shall be in the Father's house, and we shall be free of all the heavens then; the Father's house is the highest thought we can have.
The government of Israel was carried on at the altar of incense, and that rather belonged to the most holy, though it stood outside, and the effect of the sin of the priesthood was that, after the death of Nadab and Abihu, they could not go inside, had it not been that the priest would have gone in and out continually as in the millennium. The incense belonged to the inner place. God spoke to Moses from the cherubim, but Moses was distinct from all the rest, for he found grace in God's sight.
There was nothing in the government of God in Israel that corresponded to the church of God. God governs us now according to the relationship in which we are placed; Israel was governed according to what a man ought to be, for although God was in heaven, in a certain sense, He governed on earth. Although what they had were shadows of things in the heavens, yet it was real government by them by earthly means. God gave distinct law, which goes to the extent of what a man ought to be and no farther: but we are brought into the light to God, as His own children, with fitness for the heavenly places. There may be something of likeness in the individuals because saints in Israel had to go and suffer like us; but this was exceptional, while with us it is the reality. Israel's calling was a very different thing from the exercises of individual faith. But God had to deal with the individuals on what was really higher ground than that of the calling within which they were. Individually Abraham must go higher up to get with God, even as a figure he is not in the plain but on the mountain.
359 Discipline is government. We ought to walk in the light as God is in the light. We have two things, the veil rent, and our calling into God's presence without a veil; and also we have a Father who is holy: "Holy Father, keep them in thine own name." And then we have a third thing, and that is "the Lord" in the general administration of things - the general idea of the Lord's disciplining. The whole place of the Christian is a different thing from Israel's. God may shew His government as He did in bringing in the flood, and if He need He will. Righteousness does exalt a nation, though the direct government of God is over. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him, but direct government with laws leading to certain results is over, though what a man sows he reaps. God does not let the reins out of His hand. He takes His people of old and deals with them as a nation, but now His children have the fullest revelation of His dealings with them, and that as children, and He does not even say "not a sparrow falls to the ground without (God, but) your Father"; as one who has to you the place and tenderness of a Father, and not a thing can happen to you without His care.
Well, we are in Christ; we have not these visions and revelations of course (they were special to Paul), but we have this association above, and the place of a Christian in which we can glory. All that was revealed to Paul belongs to us. We are not made the vessel of its revelation as he was, but all things are ours, just as much as they were Paul's, and it is "a man in Christ," and of such an one will I glory. If I look at myself "in Christ," I can glory, not talking of revelation now, but if I say "myself," I cannot glory except in my infirmities; "for though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool, for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me" - revelations, of course, were neither seen nor heard - "and lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." Now we have the vessel again - we have had it before - we have the immense revelations that he had, so that he could not tell them, and then the vessel in which the revelations were, and which had to be put down.
360 And another thing we have in passing; we see here a proof that no extent of divine communication ever corrects the flesh, even where it is real; but the flesh is a judged thing, and a hopelessly bad thing. If we take the flesh by itself, it is lawless, so that God has to bring in the flood upon it. If you take it under law, then it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Then if we take flesh in the presence of Christ (that is, God come in grace), it crucified Christ; or, if we bring in the Holy Ghost, men resist Him; and then, if we put flesh in the third heaven, he will be puffed up; and if there were a fourth heaven, and he be put there, he would be more puffed up still. Such is its character; all the effect of the abounding of grace and glory is only to shew its character out. Here the Lord had to put Paul in danger, and gave him a remedy; the flesh is not exactly corrected here. Morally all the Lord could do was to keep the flesh down for him. Paul was a man, and he must be dealt with as a man in his responsibility. The time was not come to give him glory instead of flesh, and so he is dealt with as he is.
It is a great point - man's real condition. All would own that flesh is bad in a general sense, but because they think so, men would correct and improve it. We are bound to do good to every man, whoever it is, even as man; but the pretension of men is, that at bottom there is something good in a man, and so ultimately you may make anything out of him. And so they are working education for one great thing. Of course, everybody has to learn something, but the common idea of education now is an infidel idea. They give everybody votes, and then it follows that they must be educated in order to know how to use their vote. The whole thing is nonsense - a mere question of the passions of the flesh. In some states they compel education. God has committed children to parents, and the parent is bound to care for his child. No state can come in between God and the parent. If the state come in, you will have to leave the state. It is from no resistance of the power that I say so, for that would be wrong directly; but it is the word of God that gives the state its authority, and therefore I submit or go. If you were compelled to be a soldier, if it is against your conscience, you must be shot, or something else: that is all.
361 But we have not got quite to the end of the thorn in the flesh. It is called the "messenger of Satan," because it was an instrument of Satan; just as in Job's case, when Satan brought sickness and disease on Job, the Lord let Satan loose at him; so it was Satan's messenger here to buffet Paul. It is an additional proof, that no grace ever mends the flesh. Put the flesh down; everything is useful for that. It was putting down the flesh, making Paul contemptible; it was a sort of counterpoise to the abundance of revelation. He besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him; but the flesh must be put down. "You must trust My grace, and the character of My grace is that My strength is made perfect in weakness. If it is My strength, it is not in man's power that it is made good." Of course it was all through death: Christ was crucified through weakness, and that He might destroy him that had the power of death; and the character of Christ's strength working in us is the putting down of all our strength, and then His power can work - "Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." We have the man in Christ first, then we have from the "in Christ" abundance of revelation, which might puff up the flesh, and then flesh is made totally nothing of, a hindrance put upon it, and Christ's power brought out. Only in the case of Paul, all this was for Christ's sake, though it was a thorn in the flesh, so that it was his glory in the other aspect of it, and he was suffering for Christ. All this is very instructive as to any ministry, because the power of ministry is in putting the man down that Christ's power may be there. God's power is a very different thing from man's. Man may take a vessel and do what he likes, but he cannot fit the vessel with any conscious power in itself. God cannot use the vessel until its qualities be mere qualities, and this connection with man's will and energy be broken.
362 Men are found constantly trusting in means. Now I quite admit certain things, and all things are lawful to me, and I am thankful for any facility in my way, but trusting in such things will not do. The Holy Ghost is acting, and when He works, all else must fall into low place. The apostles went on foot, and we go by rail; but ten thousand times more was done then, because the Holy Ghost was carrying on things everywhere. "Your faith to Godward is spread abroad." That is better than any railroad; the power of the Spirit of Christ was what he reckoned on and trusted to, and that really did the work. We go looking at what are facilities for the body, human things, and things which we are thankful for; and they get trusted, instead of the power of God. In Paul's day these things were not known, and yet immensely more was done, because the Holy Ghost wrought. We see it clearly enough. Instead of three thousand souls converted by one sermon, it takes more like three thousand sermons for the conversion of one soul. Yet God is working now remarkably through mercy; He comes in and acts sovereignly. Take printing again, it is all very well; God can use such things as well as anything else. All things are lawful, but it is the trusting to these immense facilities that is our error. Here was a little handful of Thessalonians converted, and all the world is really preaching the gospel by telling what had happened there: "from you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad, so that we need not to speak anything." All the world was talking about it. "Why, there is such a people started at Thessalonica, they have given up all their idols, and they are waiting for God's Son from heaven." The world itself spread it - there was such a power in the testimony.
Some use placards. I leave every conscience free to judge for itself, but I should not use them. I doubt very much that more work is really done by it, but I leave every conscience free. I would trust God for it all, and meet people as God brings them. I would not announce even a gospel meeting, except among the saints, and I should be glad of their fellowship in it. I was in Edinburgh once, and there was a certain person who asked me to go on with his meetings. I did not, but I got to know some of the people with him, and talked to them about the Lord's coming. They considered it quite a wild thing, but yet thought I ought to lecture about it, but I would not have any bills. They wanted them to be put in the shop windows, but I would not have any. Well, we had the meetings on the Lord's coming - a set of lectures - and this man who had been very violent came. We had twenty people from different congregations - just the people I wanted - and it set the Lord's coming as a thing on its legs again; and then some of them set up a kind of society for having lectures every year.
363 I find these things going, and it is a very serious question. I see a great deal of work doing, and work that I delight in abstractedly, missionary work, tracts distributed, and so on; but I see, too, that the world and the church are mixed up together, and the manner of doing these things is of the first importance in doing them. Am I to do good, or seem to destroy my good by mixing with the world? There was a dear old man - an Independent secretary for the Irish schools - and he asked me if I would be on his committee. I said, 'I cannot go with an accredited religion through the world.' 'Oh,' said he, 'we must be accredited with the world.' 'But I will not be so,' said I; 'and look! here come all these people with their guineas. Why, even Peter himself could not be a member of your society, for he says, Silver and gold have I none.' It is very often the question whether the way of doing a particular thing is right. By the manner you may do a great good, or a great deal of evil. Am I to accept the evil in order to do good, or am I to trust the Lord? What God is now doing is separating the precious from the vile; and this is not a matter about which I have no feeling. It is often pressed upon my spirit, Am I to put water in the wine that people may drink it? At first, I did not care where I went - into a church or elsewhere - to preach the gospel, or into a Methodist chapel, and so on. I have no principle that directly hinders me, but one day, at Plymouth, they brought me short up, for I had in the vestry to write down who ordained me, and this brought me to a point. There was the question straight out: Am I to accept that, in order to get an opportunity to preach to five thousand people? Spiritual means, of course, can be used, such as saints going round to houses in the way of positive love to make the preaching known. The means are all in our power.
364 It was that verse in Jeremiah 15:19-20, that laid hold on me, "If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me; and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth; let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee? for I am with thee to save thee, and to deliver thee, saith Jehovah. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible." Jeremiah is in exactly that position. Jerusalem is looked at as a blessed thing and as a wicked thing, and so is the church now in a sense. And after speaking of all that conflict in Jeremiah's spirit, the Lord says to him, "If thou separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth." At the first beginning that sentence laid hold of me. An infidel might say of the church, 'Down with it! Down with it!' and I could not say, "The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah are ye." So, then, what am I to do? Separate the precious from the vile. And then comes the question, What means am I to use for doing that which I desired to do? and can I associate myself with worldly means for a divine thing?
I know that preachers come by rail, preach, and are away again; but I doubt that more work is done. I doubt that this great employment of means to carry things through has any real power in it. Some ask how would I compel them to come in; but this is compelling them to come in to heaven, not to come in to the preaching. The question is, are the means I am employing, such that I am not mixed up with the spirit of the world and the mere world's instrumentality? Though I quite believe God is using means, many means that I could not use, it does not move me. Take the handbills; it does not follow that these people would not have been converted if there had been no handbills. Yet I have not the most distant idea of even convincing other people about it, or of binding their consciences. We have to go on with the Lord. I see God working in all kinds of ways. One gave it me as a reason for staying in the Establishment, that he was useful there, and that he had such numbers of people to hear him there, that he would never get elsewhere. And that might be quite true as to fact. I am delighted when good is done; but what I see, even as a fact, is that where there is earnestness and faith, God blesses the earnestness and faith. But there is a quantity where there is a flood; and if the earnestness is great, it is like a river swollen, that carries down a quantity of mud with it, and there is a bar made outside. After a revivalist sermon, for instance, you find the greatest difficulty in the world to get the people to go on without excitement. Still I rejoice that many are converted. God may use all sorts of means that I could not use; but He can do what He pleases - I must do what is right. If I cannot do what others do, I should be very wrong in condemning them for using such and such means. It is not merely placards that I speak of; but it is a large question that one has to be exercised in - what means can I use? I can suppose one who has not had his conscience awakened, going on with this and that - take a clergyman saying that children are converted in baptism; or any one kept excusing plenty of inconsistencies, and worse, where numbers are converted by the preaching; but that justifies nothing. Take women again, who are going about preaching, but I do not believe it is right, however many conversions there may be.
365 2 Corinthians 13.
If we take chapter 12 as a whole, we have the third heavens at the beginning, and the grossest, vilest sins a Christian can fall into at the end; but between those two, we have where the real power is to avoid the sins, and that is to have the flesh put down, and the power of Christ resting on him. Then Paul refers to the persons who had sinned - "I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that if I come again I will not spare." He was afraid, lest there were debates, envyings, and strifes, and so on among them, and he would not spare them.
Then follow some verses in chapter 13. "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves." Most are familiar with what the real truth of it is; that the beginning of verse 3 is connected with verse 4: "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, examine yourselves," and so on. The last part of verse 3 with verse 4 is a parenthesis. The apostle had already shewn that these false teachers had been calling him in question; he had been giving the proofs of his ministry, and at last he says if you are looking for proof of Christ speaking in me, examine yourselves, as much as to say, "You foolish people, you are calling me in question; look then at yourselves." He adds, "Except ye be reprobates." A reprobate is one cast out as good for nothing; a figure from reprobate silver. He means, "If you are Christians, Christ has spoken by me, and it is by my means you are Christians."
366 "We shall live with him by the power of God toward you" (v. 4) is, I take it, like saying life works in you, the power of God manifested towards them; but Paul was dead as a man; yet, by the power of God that wrought in him, he lived with Christ. That helps to introduce "examine yourselves," because he did not doubt they were living. He says in one place, "I protest by your rejoicing I die daily." But if dead here, he had life in Christ which is much more solid, I am sure. This examination could not be to pacify themselves. It is not my examination of my spiritual state which gives me peace, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I ought not to get peace in looking at myself, though I trust there are signs of grace there; but really, unless a man has the Spirit of Christ, he is not competent to examine himself; and if he has the Spirit of Christ, there is no sense in doing it. One was insisting on this examination, and I asked, Are you competent to judge without the Spirit? It is a blessed thing when souls are brought to find out that there is no good in themselves, that is, in their flesh; and then they do not look for any; they find that Christ appears in the presence of God for them, and then all is settled. Nobody ever gets clear about it until he knows there is no good in him, and then he looks at Christ.
"Though we be as reprobates" (v. 7), is as though he said, "you may consider me good for nothing, but I hope you will be all right." It is a kind of taunting speech, not bitter, but yet taunting in a way - "what are you all about?" "Wish your perfection" (v. 9) is, he wishes everything complete in them; not so much looking at them as full-grown men, but with everything complete.
In the benediction "Lord Jesus" is title; Jesus is a name. We are accustomed to take Jesus Christ as a name, which it is not. The communion of the Holy Ghost is the power of the Holy Ghost in us.