The Christian Walk

<27015E> 158

We find in Ephesians 4 and 5, a very seasonable unfolding of the principles of the Christian walk, of the height of the principles which ought to govern it, and of its moral elevation, to which I desire to draw the attention of your readers. In chapter 4 the apostle, after having developed Christian doctrine as to our relations with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (relations founded on these two names, and afterwards the relations of the church with Christ), begins his exhortations to Christians with respect to their walk. They ought not to walk as the rest of the nations in the corruption which was bound up with the state of darkness in which they were found; they had not so learned the Christ, if they really knew what the truth is in Jesus, namely, to have put off the old man and put on the new man, which is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth.

For there is the truth such as it is in Jesus; not that we should strip off, but, inasmuch as we are risen with Him, that we have put off the old man and put on the new man. There then is the first principle of the Christian walk: we have put on the new man; and here is its character, created according to God; not only the absence of sin, which was realised in the first Adam, but according to God fully revealed to one who has already the knowledge of good and evil, and created according to the thoughts of God Himself as to good and evil, according to the estimate which God by His very nature has of good and evil. What an immense privilege! The new man, born of God, is, in his nature, the reflection, and the intelligent reflection, of the nature of God Himself. Wherefore the apostle John says he cannot sin because he is born of God. Also we find in the Epistle to the Colossians, which is parallel to this, "renewed into knowledge* according to the image of Him who has created him." Such is the first principle of the Christian walk, a nature which comes from God, created as an expression and reflection of what He is in righteousness and holiness of truth. Here it is a life, a nature, that which we are.

{*The Greek word translated "knowledge" means full knowledge, personal knowledge, so as to recognise anyone.}

The second principle is the presence of the Holy Spirit. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God by whom you have been sealed for the day of redemption." It is God Himself who dwells in us by His Spirit. Nothing unworthy of such a guest, unworthy of God Himself, ought to go on in us. Also, our walk should be characterised by that which characterises God Himself, for His love is active in us. Consequently we find here love also, and not only righteousness and holiness. We forgive one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven us. Christ being ascended on high, and thus the righteousness of God being established, ourselves perfectly purified by the blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is come down, and the bodies of the believers are become the temple of God. It is the seal of God put upon their persons, the earnest of their entire redemption and of their part in the inheritance of glory.

159 The walk of the Christian ought then to be the manifestation of the divine nature, and of the ways of God in grace towards us. Such is the instruction which chapter 4 gives us; but chapter 5 furnishes still more light. Who is it that has been the expression of this nature in man down here below? Evidently it is the Saviour, the image of the invisible God. Thus, God Himself becomes the expression of this divine life in man, the model of our conduct. Let us examine our chapter 5 in this point of view, that we may draw from it the instruction it contains.

"Be ye therefore imitators of God." Have I not been right in speaking of the moral elevation of the Christian walk? Be imitators of God! Partakers of His nature and of the indwelling of His Spirit, we are called to imitate Him in the principles of His conduct. But then, as we have said, Christ is the perfect example of it; as the Holy Spirit goes on to say, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." This adds a very precious element to the principles of the Christian walk. Here love has not the character of the divine love which pardons, being above evil, when a wrong is done to us, as God pardons (in virtue of Christ) sin against Him. Here it is devotedness, an offering made of oneself to God. It is no more a law which would have one love his neighbour as himself, which would be blessedness without any remains of evil in the world. It is not loving God with all the heart, which supposes that evil is not there. It is a devotedness, which supposes evil, a necessity which is the occasion for the exercise of love. One is given up for others, one is devoted. But for love in man, there must be a motive, an object. For this love to be perfect, the object, the motive of the love, must be perfect. If one is given up to a man, there may be a noble devotedness in it, but the motive is imperfect: love does not and cannot rise above its object. Just so, that there should be devotedness, there must be needy objects. These two elements are found in Christ. He gave Himself for us, for needy beings, objects of compassion on His part; but He gave Himself to God, infinite and perfect object, which could not have been, had He only given Himself to us and for us.

160 It is thus we ought to walk, ready to sacrifice ourselves for our brethren, always in self-abnegation to serve them, whilst offering ourselves to God Himself, to Christ whose we are. Thus the measure of our conduct is that of God Himself, Christ being our example in His life here below, in order that we should add love, the bond of perfect action, to brotherly kindness. It is not said that we are love, which is God's prerogative. He is love, and He loves, as to us, without any other motive than what He is; which could not be the case with a creature. We imitate Him in the matter of the wrongs that have been done to us. But the love which acts from itself towards others is of God alone.

Again, light is a quality in itself, a purity which also manifests everything. It is the second name that God gives Himself to express what He is. God is light. So Christ, when He was in this world, was the light of the world. We were in darkness, we are light in the Lord. Thus in the Epistle to the Philippians we find, respecting Christians, that which might be said in every point of Christ Himself, "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." In this pure nature we share, inasmuch as we have Christ for our life - purity in motives, in thoughts according to the divine nature; that which, manifested in this world, manifested the true character of all that is around us. We are light in the Lord.

Thus the two names, the only ones God gives Himself to express what He is, love and light, become the expression of what the Christian ought to be in his walk. He is even light in the Lord.

161 There exists another sort of motive and of rule, the relationships in which we are found, as father and children, husband and wife, master and slaves. We are in these relationships also with God and with His Christ. But it is another ground on which I do not enter at present. That of which I speak is the Christian character, as having divine life in Christ and the Holy Spirit: so that one has to imitate the conduct of God, and to take Christ for model on the earth.