Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891.
Note 1 — Isaiah 50:4|
Note 2 — Ephesians 2:22; Rev. 18:2
Note 3 — Ephesians 3:17; 1 John 4:15-16
Note 4 — 1 Timothy 4:10
Note 5 — Job 19:25-27
Note 6 — Acts 3:19-21
Note 7 — Galatians 5:5
Note 8 — Rev. 5:12
Note 9 — 2 Cor. 8:15
Note 10 — Matthew 3:11
Note 11 — Romans 5:11
Note 12 — Galatians 6:17
Note 13 — Colossians 2:6-7
Note 14 — 2 Corinthians 13:3-4
Note 15 — John 5:31; John 8:12-18
Note 16 — Philippians 2:1
Note 17 — 2 Corinthians 6:1
Note 18 — Numbers 10:1-9
Note 19 — John 7:16-17
Note 20 — John 7:37-38
Note 21 — Philippians 3:12-15
Note 22 — 1 Cor. 15:45-49
Note 23 — 2 Cor. 2:14-17
Note 24 — John 6:53-56
Note 25 — Psalm 118:14
Note 26 — Hosea 9:15
Note 27 — Psalm 127:2
Note 28 — Colossians 4:2
Although the translation of this scripture is a little difficult, arising out of the ambiguity of the word rendered "learned," the sense is simple and easily apprehended. The Hebrew word in this passage signifies, in different parts of the verb, or in words formed from it, 'to train,' 'to teach,' or 'to learn.' If this is remembered, it will at once be perceived that the word "learned," in the last clause of our verse, would be better rendered, "learner," or, as many prefer, "disciples." This change, moreover, brings out, in a still more striking way, the wondrous place of subjection and humility which our blessed Lord took here as a servant. In verse 1, He speaks as Jehovah; in verses 2, 3, He declares His almighty power in creation and redemption; and then, in verse 4, we are permitted to behold Him down here in all His lowly grace as the teacher of His people, and as such entirely dependent upon God for the words He received and communicated. (Compare John 12:49.) He thus says, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned" (the same word as at end of verse), of those who are taught or instructed, "that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learner," or as "disciples." What an example! And what a blessed lesson for all the Lord's servants! The power to speak the message, and the manner of its delivery, must all come from Himself; and, together with this, there must be the maintenance of constant dependence, the suited condition of soul, in order to hear and to receive the words He would put into our mouths. The apostles surely understood this when they said, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."
Ephesians 2:22; Rev. 18:2.
One of the most striking contrasts in all Scripture is found in these two passages; and the special form of the word, here translated "habitation," does not elsewhere occur. This fact adds immensely to its significance, and to the designed instruction. In Ephesians, then, we learn that believers are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, that the house of God on earth now is composed of His people, and that He dwells in it by the Holy Ghost. Passing on to Revelation, we read that Babylon is become the "habitation of demons." Now Babylon is that which the professing church of God on earth has become. It had once been in the place of God's light-bearer on the earth; but after the rapture of the saints, and the rejection of Laodicea by Christ, because of its denial of Christianity, Babylon arrogates to itself the claim to be the bride of Christ. But the Spirit of God terms her a harlot, and the mother of harlots (Rev. 17); and in our scripture we further learn, that Babylon, instead of being the habitation of God, is the habitation of demons. It is the full expression of the utter apostasy of that which had once borne the name of Christ, seen in the substitution of the power of Satan for that of the Spirit of God. It is for the spiritual mind to discern in how far Christendom has already become morally the home and dwelling-place of demons. (Compare Matt. 13:31-32.)
Ephesians 3:17; 1 John 4:15-16.
It is a matter of great regret that the translators of the Authorized Version should have employed so many words to express the same word in the original; and, on the other hand, should have often used one word to render different words. The exact meaning of Scripture has been thereby much obscured. As an example of the former, 1 John 2:24 may be cited, where "abide," "remain," and "continue" are found as the rendering of one and the same word; and, as an example of the latter, the word "dwell," in the above scriptures, is the translation of two different words. The word in Ephesians is, we judge, rightly given as "dwell," whereas that in 1 John would be better given as "abide"; and the difference is not unimportant. In the former case it occurs in the apostle's prayer, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;" that is, that He, through the faith of His people, might find a home in their affections, that He might be enthroned, and so find His dwelling place in their hearts. In the latter case it is impossible to say, for instance, that he that findeth his "home" in love, findeth his "home" in God, although the word "dwell" really signifies this; only here, in our translation, it is used in a secondary sense, as synonymous with "abide." The meaning, however, of the apostle is, that whosoever abideth in love, in divine love, abideth in God, and God in him, because he is shown thereby to be a partaker of the divine nature. Abiding in love is thus the expression of the activity of the divine nature in a believer, and not only therefore does he thus abide in God in real living dependence, but God also abides in him, and is Himself seen in this expression of activity in and through the believer of what is really divine. Hence it is, "God is love;" this is His nature; and he that abides in love abides in God (for God is love), and God in him; for abiding in love is the expression of what He is. But, as another has written, "While God's dwelling in us is a doctrinal fact, and true of every real Christian, our dwelling in Him, though involved in it, is connected with our state." (See 1 John 3:24.) E. D.
1 Timothy 4:10.
The word here translated "Saviour" is the one usually so rendered, as, for example, in Philippians 3:20; but it means also "Preserver" and "Deliverer." The context therefore must in each case decide upon the signification; for it must always be borne in mind that "Saviour" has other senses than that attached to the word in connection with our salvation. When thus the Lord said to His disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep," they replied, "Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well" — literally, "he shall be saved," using a kindred word — the verb formed from the same root as "Saviour." Remembering this, it will be at once seen that it is no question in Timothy of the salvation of souls, and that therefore "Saviour" is not used with a spiritual meaning. The apostle had been contrasting "bodily exercise" and "godliness"; and, while admitting that the former profited "for a little," that is, in some matters, points out that godliness is profitable "unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." This truth formed the principle of his service and activity; for he trusted, not in his own efforts for the needed strength, but in the living God, who is Preserver of all men, specially of those that believe; for they, it may be added, are the chief objects of His care even in government, and occupy the nearest place to His heart. It is very evident therefore, in view of this special use of the word Saviour, that "Preserver" expresses more exactly the mind of the Spirit in the scripture.
With all the admitted difficulty in translating this scripture accurately (see the Revised Version, and the French by J. N. D.), the sense is tolerably plain. Two things have, however, to be remembered — the meaning Job attached to his words, and the mind of the Spirit in them. It is quite possible (we do not say that it was so) that Job only thought of his deliverance from his present condition, his restoration and vindication. But the language as used by the Holy Ghost becomes undoubtedly a prophecy of the coming of Christ (in its general sense), and of the resurrection of His people. The same thing is often seen in the Old Testament Scriptures. Many of the Psalms, for example, were written in connection with David's experiences; but these very experiences became, as wrought by the Holy Ghost, typical of the experiences of our blessed Lord. So, too, with the prophets. Speaking of some near event, their words often contained predictions, unknown to themselves, of larger events in the last days, of which what was passing around them was but a shadow. (Compare 1 Peter 1:10-12.) It is of the first importance to remember this principle in studying the prophetic, and, indeed, many of the historical scriptures.
The meaning of this scripture is almost entirely obscured by its defective rendering. When our blessed Lord was on the cross, He prayed for His enemies, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34.) This prayer was heard, and the answer is seen in the presentation of the gospel by Peter and the other apostles to the Jews as a nation. As a nation, by the mouth of their chief priests they had not only rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but they had also denied their national hope and expectation of any Messiah in their fatal words, the consummation of their guilt, "We have no king but Caesar." (John 19:15.) But for the intercession of Jesus, therefore, judgment swift and sure must have been their portion. This, however, was delayed, in order that they might have another opportunity of receiving Christ, as proclaimed in the ministry of the Holy Ghost, through the apostles. Peter's cry, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," is thus addressed rather to the Jewish people than to individuals (although there would be a special blessing for every individual who complied with the exhortation), for he adds (as it should read), "So that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you." The character of these times of refreshing is seen from verse 21; they are connected with the "restitution of all things," under the reign of their glorious Messiah. Had the Jews then even at this time bowed, as a nation, in contrition, under the preaching of Peter, Christ would have immediately returned, and established His kingdom, and would have brought in those blessed days of prosperity of which the apostle speaks. But they still rejected their Messiah, and the restitution of all things is postponed, although it must, according to the purpose of God, take place at a future day. Meanwhile, the counsels of God's grace in connection with the glory of His beloved Son, and the Church, are being accomplished; and hence the Jews must now wait for the fulfilment of the glorious predictions of their prophets, until after the Church shall have been presented to Christ, "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." As the reader, therefore, will perceive, the passage is entirely of a dispensational character. E. D.
Here (in this passage) is the Christian's position. He does not seek for righteousness before God as a man who does not possess it; he is the righteousness of God in Christ, and Christ Himself is the measure of that righteousness. The Holy Ghost dwells in him. Faith rests in this righteousness, even as God rests in it; and this faith is sustained by the Holy Ghost, who turns the heart that is established in that righteousness towards the glory that is its recompense — a recompense which Christ enjoys already, so that we know what that righteousness deserves. Christ is in the glory due to righteousness, to the work which He accomplished. We know this righteousness in virtue of that which He has wrought, because God has owned His work, and set Him at His right hand on high. The glory in which He is is His just reward, and the proof of that righteousness. The Spirit reveals the glory, and seals to us that righteousness on which faith builds. It is thus that the apostle expresses it: "We through the Spirit wait for the hope" (the hoped-for glory) "of righteousness by faith." To us it is faith, for we have not yet the thing hoped for — the glory due to that righteousness which is ours. Christ possesses it, so that we know what we hope for. It is by the Spirit that we know it, and that we have the assurance of the righteousness which gives us the title to possess it. It is not righteousness we wait for, but, by the Spirit in faith, the hope that belongs to it. It is by faith; for in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working by love. There must be moral reality. J. N. D.
As to this angelic ascription of worthiness to the Lamb, it can scarcely be questioned that it is connected with the establishment of the kingdom. The elders, as they sing their new song, speak of the worthiness of the Lamb "to take the book, and to open the seals thereof," as proved by His death, and the redemption thereby wrought out, through the efficacy of His blood, for souls of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. All these were redeemed for heavenly blessing, although they were also to be associated with Christ in the glories of the kingdom. The angels, on the other hand, not being themselves on that ground, have nothing to say of redemption. They speak of what the Lamb is worthy of in Himself, and of the several characters of greatness and glory which would mark His sway in His kingdom. Every possible thing is ascribed to Him that could betoken the perfection and exaltation of His government of the earth. The fact that the ascription is seven-fold would seem to show this. This may be more plain to the reader if 2 Chronicles 9 is read, as we find in it a remarkable foreshadowing of the glory of Messiah's millennial reign. Carefully examined, it will be seen that there are in it all the seven things ascribed to the Lamb. There is "power," for Solomon "reigned over all the kings from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt" (v. 26); "riches and wisdom" are specified in verse 22; his "strength" is indicated in the mention of his chariots and horsemen (v. 25); his "honour" is told out (the "honour" in which he was held) in the fact that "all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom that God had put in his heart" (v. 23); his "glory" in the description of the magnificence of his throne, in the state and apparel of his servants, his "ascent" to the house of the Lord, and in his fame that had penetrated into the uttermost parts of the earth; and the "blessing" in the words of the Queen of Sheba, in which she speaks of Solomon as the object of God's delight (v. 8), for it is just because that Christ is, and will be, when He founds His kingdom, the object — of the heart of God, that "men shall be blessed in Him, all nations shall call Him blessed." The correspondence is remarkable, and affords another proof that we never read the Scriptures aright unless we are on the outlook for Christ, in some of His varied glories, in every page.
2 Cor. 8:15.
A citation from Exodus 16, this passage is a striking illustration of the variety of meanings which are often given to a scripture by the Spirit of God in its application. In Exodus, after the commandment of the Lord as to the manna, that every man was to gather according to his eating, an omer for every man, etc. (v. 16), it is said, "And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack: they gathered every man according to his eating." (vv. 17, 18.) Three things are plainly contained in these words; first, on God's part equal provision is made for each, "an omer for every man"; secondly, on man's part "they gathered every man according to his eating," that is, the appetite governed the amount collected; and hence, lastly, whatever the amount gathered, "he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack"; for both the large and the small desires were sufficed by the quantity respectively obtained. The spiritual application of these various points cannot be missed; but it is the last of these that the apostle uses in connection with his subject in 2 Corinthians 8 He is urging on the saints at Corinth, as knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to contribute towards the necessities of the poor saints of Judea, and he thus explains the ground of exhortation: "Not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality: as it is written, He that [had gathered] much had nothing over; and he that [had gathered] little had no lack." (vv. 13-15.) The principle then laid down by Paul, and sustained by the quotation from Exodus, is, that those believers who have much of this world's goods should contribute to the necessities of those who have little, and that if this is faithfully done, those who have much will have nothing over, and those who have little will have no lack. There will in this case be "equality," and both alike will be satisfied. In Exodus it is, briefly, that if we have a felt need for much manna (Christ) we shall gather much, and have nothing over; but if our need is but small we shall obtain less, and shall have no lack. We all, in a word, have as much of Christ as we really desire. E. D.
We see no reason for departing from the usual symbolical sense of "fire" in this scripture. It is found in Luke as well as in this gospel, while Mark and John both omit it, simply giving, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." The latter was accomplished, as to the Church, on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 1:5), and accomplished, therefore, by an ascended and glorified Christ. The result was, that believers were brought into union with Himself, and in this way the body of Christ was formed. (1 Cor. 12:11-12.) The baptism of fire remains to be fulfilled. That is, taking "fire" as the expression of holiness, the holiness of God as applied in judgment, it will refer to that future day of the Lord's appearing, when He comes forth to judge the living. The first application of this part of the scripture will undoubtedly be to the Jewish nation, the mass of whom will in the last days become idolatrous and apostate. We thus read in Isaiah of the time when the Lord "shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isaiah 4:4; compare Isaiah 66:24); and in Zechariah the Lord expressly says that He will bring the third part (the saved remnant) through the fire. (Zech. 13:9.) It is thus, as we judge, while not excluding further applications, that the Lord will baptize with fire — in the awful judgments which will follow upon His appearing, and which will accompany the establishment of His kingdom. It is quite true, we may add, that, in accordance with Joel's prophecy, Jehovah will pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2); but as this is nowhere termed in Scripture the baptism, or a baptism, of the Holy Ghost, we confine this part of our Lord's blessed work to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The two expressions, therefore, combine grace and judgment.
In the margin, as an alternative to "atonement," is put, "Or, reconciliation." And this is the only possible rendering of the word; and, indeed, it is so translated in every other place of its occurrence. A moment's consideration would suffice to show that "atonement" is a mistake. Atonement is made to God. We receive not it, but the benefits consequent upon it; that is, it is on the foundation of the atonement, which our blessed Lord and Saviour made on the cross, that God is able righteously to forgive, justify, and bless every one who believes in Jesus. (Rom. 3.) We do receive, on the other hand, the reconciliation; for it was not God who needed to be reconciled to us, but we, owing to the enmity of our hearts, who required to be reconciled to Him. And it is He who has done it for us, according to that word, "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 5:18; see also verses 19-21.) And again, "And you … hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death," etc. (Col. 1:21-22.) Reconciliation means for us, not only the breaking down the enmity of our hearts by the revelation in power to our souls of what God is in all His grace and love, notwithstanding all that we have been and are, but also bringing us back into relationship with God in all that He is as revealed in Christ, and according to the efficacy of the death of Christ. It should be noticed, however, that "reconciliation" goes farther in one scripture than in another. It takes its meaning, in each place where it is found, from the context, and in accordance with the distinctive truths of the epistle. It conveys more, for example, in Colossians than in Romans, and more in 2 Corinthians 5 than in Colossians. The word "reconciliation," it may be added, in Hebrews 2:17 should be "propitiation."
It is not difficult to apprehend the force and meaning of this scripture. The Galatians were, to say the least, in danger of falsifying grace through the influence of Judaizing teachers. The law, together with its rites and ceremonies, was resuming its old place in their minds. Even circumcision was again enjoined. (Gal. 5:1-4, Gal. 6:12-13.) All these things, subversive of Christianity, called forth remonstrances and solemn warnings from the apostle, who was, in consequence, the object of hatred and persecution on the part of these false teachers. In every possible way throughout this epistle Paul exposes the anti-Christian character of their legal doctrines; and at the end, from verse 14, he goes to the root of the whole matter in concluding his subject. As for him, he will make his boast, not in circumcision, or in the flesh, but "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." He was thus, by the application of the cross to all that he was as a man in the flesh, and to the world, delivered from the whole sphere in which the flesh finds its home. This enables him to state that "in Christ Jesus" — in that new sphere where Christ is — "neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." If therefore we are brought in Christ Jesus into a scene where old things have passed away, and all things have become new, our walk must be according to it, and not as men in the flesh in the world. Hence he proceeds, "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God," who are now, not the Jews after the flesh, but the true believing remnant. The apostle, having now completed his unwelcome task, adds one word, "From henceforth let no man trouble me," for he could not again turn aside from his service to engage in conflict with these corrupters of the truth; and he gives as a reason, "I bear in my body the marks [or brands] of the Lord Jesus." Slaves often had their owner's initials, or marks, branded into their bodies, that they might be known; and Paul looked upon the scars and wounds he had received in the Lord's service as the "brands" which denoted that he belonged to Christ. Blessed servant! he acknowledged that Christ was his sole master, and to Him, spite of his persecutors, he would devote the whole of his energy in the Spirit. Whatever his opposers might now say or do, he must, in virtue of the claims of Christ, press onward, unhindered, in His service. Christ, and Christ alone, must be the object of his life.
It is easy for the reader to perceive that the introduction of the word "so" in verse 6 mars the force of the apostolic exhortation. The exhortation is based upon the preceding five verses; and it is as a warning against being deceived by "persuasive" words into seeking help or instruction outside the mystery of God, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, that the apostle writes, "As ye have therefore" (or, As then ye have) "received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in Him." The position of the words "the Lord" seems to bring His Lordship especially before the souls of these believers, with the implied claim to their entire subjection. It is then in Him, Christ Jesus the Lord, they were to walk, in accordance with their professed reception of Him, in all that He is, together with all His claims — in Him as the sphere and element in which they were to live, and move, and have their being. The succeeding verse, when rightly understood, gives a greatly increased force to the exhortation. Its first words should be rendered, "Having been rooted, and being built up in Him." They had been, and were, rooted in Him, like a tree rooted in the soil; so that all the roots of their spiritual life proceeded from Him. The "being built up in Him" implies two things. Christ was the foundation on which they had been placed, yet more than this, inasmuch as He is a living foundation, and hence it can be said to be "in Him," besides the fact that we are in Him before God; and secondly, being on the foundation (as involved in the word "built up"), these were to be continuously built up — edified, by the ministration and apprehension of the fulness of the Godhead, which dwelleth in Christ bodily, and in whom we are filled full or complete. The apostle adds, "And stablished [or confirmed] in the faith," the truth of Christianity, we judge from the following words, "As ye have been taught … abounding therein with thanksgiving." It is a wonderful scripture, and teaches, what indeed is the lesson of the whole chapter, that nothing outside of Christ can in any way contribute to the believer, that in Christ he possesses all he needs, whether it be wisdom, or knowledge, or completeness before God.
2 Corinthians 13:3-4.
As often pointed out, the part of verse 3 commencing with the words, "Which to you-ward is not weak," and the whole of verse 4, is a parenthesis. The connection therefore is as follows: "Since ye seek a proof of Christ in me, examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith," etc. They had been tempted to deny the apostolic claims of Paul; and, inasmuch as he had been the means of their conversion, he says, in effect: The proof of my apostleship is found in you, if you are Christians. If you deny that I am an apostle, you must surrender your title to belong to Christ. For this, however, they were not prepared; and thus their folly in turning away from Paul is at once exposed. But the question is as to the meaning of the parenthetical sentences. They present, in part, the man-ward aspect, and the divine side of ministry, illustrated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The apostle says, after the words, "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me," "who (that is, Christ) to you-ward is not weak," however it may so appear in the person of His servants, who are only made, spiritually strong, in proportion as they are weak; "but is mighty in (or, among) you," as shown by the effects of the ministry of Paul and his fellow-labourers. He then proceeds, "For though he was crucified through (better, in) weakness," as He was to all appearances, and as to fact, if His bodily condition, as described in Psalm 22, alone is considered, "yet He liveth by the power of God"; for, indeed, it was "according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (Eph. 1:19-20), that He now lives at God's right hand. These two aspects were seen in the apostle in his service (compare 2 Cor. 4:5-12); and hence he adds, "For we also are weak," as seen by man, since death wrought in the apostle in that he ever bore about in the body the dying of Jesus; "but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you." For it was Christ, who lives by the power of God, that wrought in and through Paul, so that "the life also of Jesus" was made manifest by that power of God, in His service. As He says in another place, "We have this treasure (the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ) in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
John 5:31; John 8:12-18.
So far from there being any contradiction between these scriptures, they serve together to bring out the whole truth of the person of the eternal Son. The Pharisees doubtless thought that, in referring to what the Lord had formerly said (v. 31), they had detected an inconsistency; but the, Lord's reply explains the real import of His words. In chapter 5 He had said, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true"; and He then proceeded to show that He had not been alone in His testimony to Himself, that John, His own works, the Father Himself, and Moses, concurred in His testimony. The meaning is thus evident, that had there been no "witness of Himself" except His own, an impossible thing being what He was, His witness would not have been true. When, therefore, His enemies sought to arrest the force of His announcement, "I am the light of the world," etc., by reminding Him of what He had before declared, He answered, "Though I bear record of myself, [yet] my record is true." And He explained, in His patient grace, the grounds of this apparent contradiction. First, He knew whence He came, and whither He went — which, had He been only man, could not have been the case; secondly, the Pharisees judged after the flesh in a human way according to appearances, thinking that Christ was like themselves, whereas He, while on earth, judged no man; thirdly, He goes to the root of the matter, and says, "If I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me"; and, lastly, He makes the application, on the basis of the Scriptures, "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true." This condition He tells them is fulfilled in His case, thus confuting their objection, for, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me." When the Lord spoke, it was not therefore His own individual testimony; the words that He spake, He spake not "from" Himself, but the Father that dwelt in Him, He did the works. (John 14:10.) He was the Eternal Son, and the Revealer of the Father; and had the Pharisees but known this blessed truth, their foolish objection would have died away upon their lips. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
It can scarcely be doubted that the reference in this scripture is to the ministration to the apostle's "wants" by the saints, through Epaphroditus. (See v. 25, and Phil. 4:18.) The apostle felt their kindness deeply; but so completely was he lost in the desires of Christ for His people, that the only true joy they could give him was to exhibit Christ in their mutual relationships. It is thus that their own ministration to him, interpreted in its spiritual significance, becomes the ground of his appeal. Thus: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ," as I have found through your gift; "if any comfort of love," as you have caused me to experience; "if any fellowship of the Spirit," as you have shown there is; "if any bowels and mercies," as have been expressed in your tender consideration for me, "fulfil ye my joy," etc. While fully sensible of their love, his true joy was in their spiritual welfare; and he thus reminds them that nothing could so delight his heart as the exhibition of the several things he here enjoins. And what are these? Oneness of mind, lowliness, and forgetfulness of self. (vv. 2-4.) It may be of interest to point out, that these three verses are introductory to the wonderful passage that follows. As summing up his desires for these beloved saints he says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus;" and he proceeds to trace the path of Christ from the highest height, where He subsisted in the form of God, to the lowest depth, where "He humbled Himself," and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." As has been well remarked, "As God He emptied Himself, and as Man He humbled Himself"; and all this blessed unfolding of the example of Christ is brought out to teach what kind of spirit or mind should be cherished by the saints
2 Corinthians 6:1.
Two things require explanation in this scripture. The reader will perceive that the words "with Him" have been introduced by the translators to make out, as they thought, the sense. This addition is very questionable. The apostle and his associates in service were fellow-workmen, and so wrought together; but they were God's servants, His workmen, engaged in His work; and while the secret of all true service is fellowship with God, the enjoyment of His mind as to it, it is going too far to say exactly that they were "workers together with God." The same mistake has doubtless been made in the first epistle (1 Cor. 3:9), and it is important to point it out, so as to preserve the exact thought of the Spirit of God. The second thing relates to the precise meaning of "receiving the grace of God in vain." Is it possible, it has been asked, for a Christian to receive the grace of God in vain? The question loses sight of the fact that God takes men up on the ground of their profession. The first epistle, for example, was written not only to "the church of God which is at Corinth," but also to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's." This designation will most certainly include all who professed to be Christians, without having anything to say as to their reality. Being on Christian ground, they are addressed as Christians. When therefore the apostle, having unfolded the wondrous subject of the ministry of reconciliation which had been committed to him, and to those labouring with him, beseeches the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain, we understand it as a solemn warning against the possibility of their having contented themselves with a mere profession. Grace had been brought to them in the ministry of reconciliation, and they had professed to receive it; but if it had not wrought in their hearts and consciences in the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, they had received it in vain. For this reason the apostle cites a passage, spoken in the first place to Messiah, and applies it to the day of grace; and thereon he founds the appeal (for it is that), "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." He would have them to remember the character of "the accepted time," and to avail themselves of the grace which marked it while the opportunity was vouchsafed. It is really a word for the conscience.
It is quite true that a different word is used for blowing an alarm with the silver trumpets from that employed to blow, either for the convocation of the assembly, or for the gathering together of the princes. The former would seem to indicate a louder and more lengthened blast; broken up, perhaps, into short and persistent sounds. That the trumpet-call signifies testimony can scarcely be doubted. It is thus the testimony of God that gathers His people out from the world, and draws them together, as well as leads them forward in their journey through the wilderness. (v. 2.) None but the sons of Aaron, the priests, it is to be remarked, were permitted to blow with the trumpets; for those who raise God's testimony must enjoy freedom of access into His presence, and be in communion with His mind. This is beautifully illustrated in Nehemiah 4:18, "And he that sounded the trumpet was by me"; close to his leader, to catch the guidance of his eye, and to hear the word of command. It is not enough, indeed, to give forth a testimony, even if divine; but the testimony rendered must be received from God for the moment, and hence the necessity for the qualification of abiding communion. The two other occasions for the use of the trumpets are in verses 9, 10, the significance of which may easily be gathered by the attentive reader. The testimony of God persistently sounded forth in the presence of the enemy, who would oppress God's people, brings God in for deliverance; and the trumpets must never cease to be blown "in the days of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months … over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God." Whenever God's people were gathered together, whatever the character of the assembly, there should alway be a testimony rendered, in communion with His own heart, to the death of His beloved Son, as the foundation of all their blessing. So now, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show [announce] the Lord's death until He come." God's trumpet is thus still sounded in the assemblies of His saints. The trumpets, it may be added, were to be of silver, and to be made "of a whole piece."* (v. 2.) Silver in Scripture is often significant of redemption; but it is also "the type of the immutable steadfastness of God's purposes and ways in the wilderness." While, therefore, all testimony is based upon redemption, it partakes of the unchangeable character and thoughts of God Himself, and hence it can never fail of accomplishment. (Compare Joshua 23:13-14.)
*The rendering "of a whole piece shalt thou make them" is questionable. It should be rather, as in the Revised Version, "of beaten work"; or, as others, "of beaten silver."
The Jews, accustomed to listen to the rabbis, were astonished that Jesus, an illiterate Man from their point of view, could teach as He did. But His doctrine was of the Father, not human. The means of understanding it was a state of soul answering to such a mission; the desire to do the Father's will would recognise the word which came from Him. The moral state of the soul, the single eye, is the means of receiving, of intelligently discerning, the doctrine that came from the Father; the conscience is open, the heart quite ready to receive the truth. Many things in the teaching may go beyond the knowledge possessed by such a soul; but the teaching answers to its needs; it bears to it the impress of truth, of holiness; it suits God; there is not self-seeking. The good of souls is sought, the conscience is sounded, however dealing in grace. Now there is a conscience in all men, and here the desire to obey is supposed. Such a man discerns that which is of God when God speaks. It is not reasoning which convinces the mind; reasoning never convinces the will, but the desire being there, it is God who adapts Himself in His teaching to the wants and to the heart of man. J. N. D.
Whether there is any allusion in verse 37 to the custom of fetching water in a golden vessel from the pool of Siloam in the several days of the feast of tabernacles, and then pouring it out into another vessel on the altar, it is impossible to say. Nor need we be concerned to ascertain; for it is with the truth signified in this blessed invitation of our Lord that we have to do. It is clear, from verse 39, that the invitation is anticipatory; that is, that it looks on beyond the cross to the time when the Lord should be glorified on high; for it is from thence the Holy Ghost has been given to believers. (See John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7.) And living water represents life in the power of the Holy Ghost, life therefore in Christ. And hence it brings those who possess it into a new scene, into the place where Christ is. To quote the words of another, "It is well that we should call attention to three operations of the Spirit of God. In John 3 we are born of the Spirit; in John 4 it is a fountain springing up to everlasting life. Here (in John 7) the new man enters into the enjoyment of things not seen, of things heavenly and eternal. When they fill the heart, when the heart, drinking of that which is in Jesus, is satisfied, then these things overflow, and refresh thirsty souls. Heavenly affections meet souls, showing what it is that revives a soul without God, which groans without knowing, perhaps, what is wanting. The words of Jesus were truly some of these waters." But it is necessary to mark the two actions indicated., First, the thirsty soul comes to Christ, drinks, and is satisfied. To "drink" is, of course, a figure in relation to the symbol, water. In this gospel man is seen as dead rather than guilty (John 5:24-25), as without spiritual life. It is Christ therefore as risen out of death in the power of life, and as glorified, who alone can meet his need. Hence His cry, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." And coming, he passes out of death into life, himself now, by the gift of the Spirit, in a new state and condition, and belonging to the sphere "of things heavenly and eternal," into which he will be actually introduced when the Lord comes to receive him unto Himself, that "where He is, he may be also." (John 14.) Secondly, there is believing. "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water." Believing here, it should be well observed, is not like "coming," once and for all, but it is faith in continuous activity, as the condition for the outflow of the rivers of living water. It is the same in chap. 14, where we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father." (v. 12.) In other words, it is not simply a believer, but a believer in whom faith in Christ is in present exercise, of whom these things are said. This is of the first importance; for it reveals to us first of all the qualification for being a channel of blessing to others, viz., that we must be in living connection, through faith, with Christ as the fountain — and, together with this, it enables us to discover the secret of all power in service. (Compare Matthew 21:21; Luke 17:5-6, etc.) It is a wonderful thing to reflect upon, that the rivers of living water that first flowed forth from Christ may now flow, and will flow, from His people who live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
The apparent contradiction in these verses springs from mistranslation. "Perfect" in verse 12 should be "perfected"; and this means, as the context shows, conformity to Christ, in body, as well as morally, at the resurrection from among the dead. (v. 11.) Then, when the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall change the body of our humiliation (our vile body), that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory (His glorious body), according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (vv. 20, 21), we shall be in our "perfected" condition; and it is to this the apostle refers when he says, "Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfected." But when he says, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded" (v. 15), the meaning is quite different. "Perfect" here is that translated in Heb. 5:14 as "full age"; and this, in fact, is, in its general use, its proper signification. In other words, it implies mature Christians; those, according to the teaching of this chapter, who know Christ in glory, and the power of His resurrection; and accept nothing less than conformity to Christ, as so revealed, as the goal of the Christian, as the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. To recognize this involves the acceptance of God's judgment upon the first man in the cross of Christ, and his utter displacement for faith, by the second Man, the glorified Christ; and also of the fact, that Christ glorified is the commencement of God's new order of things, after the pattern of which God is now working, according to His eternal purpose, to conform the redeemed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. The "perfect," therefore, are those who accept, and are in the power of, the full truth of Christianity. This chapter, it may be said, presents to us the present effect, in the person of Paul, of the knowledge of this truth, of having Christ in glory as his alone object, while pressing toward the mark, with all the energy thus begotten in his soul, for the prize set before him, viz., conformity to a glorious Christ. E. D.
1 Cor. 15:45-49.
Scripture is more exact in its use of language than most suppose. It would, for example, be a great mistake to conclude that the two terms in this passage "the last Adam," and the "second Man" — are employed interchangeably as meaning one and the same thing. There is indeed a most significant difference. The "last Adam," as applied to our blessed Lord, points Him out as the Head of a new, the new race, in contrast with the first Adam as the head of the sinful race of men. This is developed in connection with the truth of the resurrection, and the condition of the resurrection body, and for this reason: It was not until after Adam had fallen that he became the head of a race of mortal men; and it was not until after His resurrection, although He was in His incarnation the Man of God's counsels, that our Lord became the Head of the new race. Therein too lies the significance of the contrast in verse 45, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening Spirit." But this leads on to the difference shown in verse 47 between the first man and the second Man. The term "second Man" relates to the condition into which the new race will be ultimately brought; whereas, as we have seen, the last Adam has to do with headship. We say, "The condition into which the new race will be ultimately brought"; but this requires further explanation. The last Adam, although He ever quickened as the Son of God in all ages, is a quickening Spirit, and hence quickens after His own order, or according to His new condition, as the Second Man. The consequence is, that the life believers possess now is heavenly in its character; and it ensures, or rather the Lord Himself ensures, for those on whom He bestows life, the resurrection of the body after the pattern of His own glorified body. (See John 6:40.) "As is the heavenly" — as Christ is as the heavenly Man — "such are they also that are heavenly," those who are of His race and order; and hence the apostle proceeds, "As we have borne the image of the earthy" — of the first man, who is of the earth, earthy — "we shall also," in resurrection, "bear the image of the heavenly," of Christ in His glorified body. (See Philippians 3:20-21.) It is a great thing for the soul to apprehend what is involved in these terms, both as to Christ Himself and as to those that are His. It is only thus that we can learn how completely we are dissevered from the first man, his condition and his home, and how that, as to the present character of our true life, as to our hopes and our future condition, we are a heavenly people. To understand what Christ is as the last Adam and the second Man is to understand what Christianity is, and what Christians are, and will be, according to God's eternal counsels.
2 Cor. 2:14-17.
There is no question that verse 14 should run, "Now thanks be unto God, who always leads us in triumph" (not "causeth us to triumph") "in Christ," etc. From the context it is to be gathered that the apostle had been somewhat interrupted in his labours by the state of things at Corinth. "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart" he had written to them, "with many tears," concerning the sin in their midst, and had sent the letter by the hand of Titus. In the meanwhile, he had gone to Troas to preach the gospel, and had hoped to meet Titus there; but not finding him, Paul, although a door was opened to him of the Lord, had no rest in his spirit, could not settle down to his work, because of his anxiety for tidings from the Corinthian assembly. He accordingly left Troas and went to Macedonia, where he was comforted by the coming of Titus, and by the tidings which he brought. (2 Cor. 7:6-7.) But the "thought of having left Troas affected him, for, in fact, it is a serious thing, and painful to the heart, to miss an opportunity of preaching Christ, and the more so when people are disposed to receive Him, or, at least, to hear of Him." It is in this state of mind that Paul finds his consolation in the fact that, whatever his own failures in service, he could yet thank God, who always led him and his companions in triumph in Christ, and made manifest the savour of His knowledge in every place. God had His way, and accomplished His purposes in the apostle's preaching wherever he went; Christ was everywhere proclaimed, and the savour of His knowledge thus went forth continually. In what follows, Paul alludes to the ancient triumphal processions after successful campaigns. The conqueror's chariot was followed by the captives taken in the war, and the aromatic perfumes burnt in honour of the successful general were a savour of life unto life to those who might be spared, and of death unto death to those who might be doomed to execution. The application is easy, "For we" (as led of God in triumph), says the apostle, "are unto God a sweet savour of Christ," that is, in preaching Christ, "in them that are saved and in them that perish." The proclamation of the gospel delights the heart of God; and this sweet odour, which goes up so acceptably to Him, becomes to those who receive the gospel and are saved, "the savour of life unto life; but to those that refuse it, those that perish, "the savour of death unto death." Fragrant, therefore, as the setting forth of Christ in the gospel is to the heart of God, it is yet a solemn thing when considered in the light of its tremendous issues for those to whom it is preached. It is this which leads the apostle to exclaim, "And who is sufficient for these things?" The answer to this question is found in the next chapter. (v. 5.)
It is impossible in the limits of a "Scripture note" to give anything like an exposition of this significant scripture. The utmost that can be done, is to indicate a few points to help the reader to study it for himself. The first thing of importance to note, is the character of the death of Christ here, and in the gospel generally. He is not seen here as dying for our sins, although every aspect is included in His one act of death, but rather as bearing the judgment due to what we were as men in the flesh. In one word, it is the brazen serpent aspect (John 3); that is, the condemnation of sin in the flesh; and hence it is the judicial end of the first man, inasmuch as God passed judgment in the cross upon all that man was. Secondly, as corresponding with this character of the cross, man is not seen in this gospel as alive in his sins, as for example in the epistle to the Romans, but as dead, without one movement of life towards God, as morally dead, as in 2 Cor. 5:14, Eph. 2 and Col. 2:13. This is distinctly taught in John 5:24-25. Thirdly, "the flesh of the Son of man," and "His blood" can only refer to His death; for the two things could not exist in separation excepting in death. The contention — sacramentarian contention — that the Lord's Supper is referred to, ignores the plainest teaching of the chapter. That the Lord's Supper looks back to, and is the commemoration of, His death is true; and that the flesh and blood of the Son of man speak of His death is also true; but the two things must not be confounded. The meaning of eating, it may be noted in the next place, is identification with, appropriation of, and so assimilation. It is "to acknowledge, realize, feed upon His death — to identify ourselves with it before God, participating in it by faith." The last point to be mentioned is, that verse 53 should run, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of man, and drunk His blood, ye have no life in you." Thereafter "eat," as rendered, is in the present tense. That is, verse 53 refers to the first appropriation of the death of Christ, as the way of life for dead souls, and the following verses speak of the continuous feeding upon that death in their several connections. A few words may be added upon the blessings specified. On the first, that of receiving life, we call attention to the following language: "In receiving by faith Christ's death as the absolute condemnation of that which I am, I have part in the efficacy of that which He has done. Sin has been before God, and has disappeared before His eyes in the death of Christ, who, however, had not known it. I say to myself, That is I. I eat it; I place myself there by the operation of the Spirit of God, not that I believe that it is for me personally, but I recognize what His death signified, and I place myself in it by faith in Him. There, where I was, in death spiritually, by sin and disobedience, Christ entered in grace and by obedience, for the glory of His Father, in order that God might be glorified. I recognise my state in His death, but according to the perfect grace of God, according to which He took my place there; for it is in this that we know, love, that He laid down His life for us. Now, if one died for all, then were all. dead. By faith and repentance I recognise myself there, and I have eternal life." (Collective Writings of J. N. D., vol. 33 pp. 292-3.)
Hence it is the Lord proceeds to say that he that eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life; having eternal life the soul feeds upon His death constantly, for only thus can it maintain its new condition morally in having passed out of death into life, and be in the enjoyment of the assurance of resurrection at the last day. Already living in the new scene to which eternal life belongs, it awaits its perfected condition in resurrection. Further, the one who thus eats dwells in Christ in abiding communion, and Christ in him as the source of his power while still down here. And finally; "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by [by reason of] the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by [by reason of] me." It is not now eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ, but eating, feeding upon, Christ Himself, and upon Christ Himself in the place where He is, in His glorified state. Down here, as sent of the living Father, He lived "by reason of what the Father was and His living," and now he that feeds upon Christ lives by reason of what Christ is, for He is our life, and because He lives, we shall live also. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." We live, therefore, in Him before the Father, and by reason of what He is, and hence it is as we feed upon Him that we really enjoy the life which is inseparable from Himself.
Whether this scripture is a quotation from Exodus 15:2, or whether it is a repetition only of the same words, it is impossible to say. The point to be observed is their beautiful applicability to Israel's new deliverance, a deliverance as wonderful and complete as when they were brought out of Egypt and through the Red Sea by their Redeemer God. It is the voice of the remnant in this Psalm, and of the remnant now brought through their final trials into blessing, looking back upon their past circumstances and celebrating their deliverance. The Lord Himself gives the key to its interpretation in the allusion He makes to the Psalm in Matthew 23:39. The first four verses take up the well-known chorus of Israel's praise, and the fifth gives the occasion of the rehearsal of the enduring character of the Lord's mercy, "I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place." The distress had been caused, will be caused, if taken in its prophetic form, by the nations who will be gathered against Jerusalem, as we read in Zechariah, in the last days. Israel's case will then be hopeless to man's eye, and would be hopeless but for the intervention of Jehovah, "The Lord helped me." (v. 13.) Hence the burst of praise, as in days of yore, when standing on the banks of the Red Sea, "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation." Two or three other interesting features may be noticed. Suffering as they will from the hands of man, they yet recognise it as chastening from the Lord (v. 18, compare Heb. 12), and the effect of the chastening is to open their lips in praise in the Lord's house. (vv. 19-21.) Moreover, they connect their deliverance with the once rejected, but now glorious Messiah: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes," etc. (vv. 22-24.) The reader will find the study of the whole Psalm both interesting and profitable.
No language could more forcibly depict the moral corruption into which Israel had fallen than the words, "All their wickedness is in Gilgal." Gilgal, it will be remembered, was the place where the twelve stones taken out of Jordan were set up, the place of circumcision, after Israel had crossed the Jordan (Joshua 5); the place, too, where their camp was pitched, and to which they had to return after every battle. It was significant therefore in every way of death to the flesh, of the end of the first man, speaking now of its Christian meaning; for it was there that the truth of the Jordan was made good practically, just as that of the Red Sea was realised at Marah. Here then it was that Israel, forgetful of the import of Gilgal in their history, practised their iniquities in connection probably with idolatry, giving rein to, instead of circumcising, the flesh in all its inclinations and lusts. It was this which led the prophet to say, "All their wickedness is in Gilgal." Another illustration of the same kind is found in chapter 4: "Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The Lord liveth." (v. 15.) We refer now only to the use of the word Bethaven. There was a city of that name lying to the east of Bethel; but on several grounds, it is clear, we judge, that the Spirit of God uses the name here for Bethel. The reason is most solemn. The meaning of "Bethel" is the house of God (see Genesis 28); but it was in this very place that Jeroboam set one of his golden calves (1 Kings 12), and thereby seduced Israel into apostasy. (Compare Amos 7:10-13.) It could therefore be no longer truly called "the house of God," and hence it is termed by the prophet Bethaven, "the house of vanity." The leaders of Israel were thus linking their idolatrous rites with the very places which ought to have reminded them of God, of His grace, and His claims. This aggravated in every way their iniquity. The application to our own day is as easy as sorrowful.
A question of translation has been raised on the last clause of this verse. It is contended by some that it should be rendered, "So He giveth His beloved in sleep." The word "in" however is not in the original; and out of some nine or ten versions consulted, almost all give the sentence as it stands in our version. Accepting this, then, as correct, we have to ascertain its meaning. The contrast drawn is manifestly between dependence on one's own energy and strength, and rest in the Lord. The first verse makes this clear. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it," etc. This truth is enforced in verse 2, the psalmist urging the vanity of seeking to attain the proposed end by human energy. He teaches, in short, that the Lord gives to His beloved what others seek after by their own persevering efforts and carefulness. You, he says, hope by striving and anxious labour, to reach your haven; the Lord bestows rest, as gift and blessing, upon His people. We do not therefore think that "sleep" necessarily means natural sleep; but rather that it is a figure for peace or repose of mind or soul. And what a blessed lesson to learn, that peace can only be enjoyed as the Lord's gift. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Another point may be noticed. The Psalm is attributed to Solomon; the "for" in the title being more properly rendered "of" — that is, "A song of degrees of Solomon." This may explain to us the introduction of the "house" and the "city." Solomon had learnt the lesson, in building the temple, that his work would be in vain, unless the Lord built it; and so also, as regarded the security of Jerusalem, that it would never be safe except the Lord kept it. This, moreover, has another application. The remnant of the last days is found in all these "songs of degrees," and they are thus prophetic. When restored to their own land, they will see the temple being built in unbelief, and the city guarded by an apparently irresistible force of human power. As instructed by this Psalm, they will be comforted by the knowledge that "they labour in vain that build" the temple; for the true temple will be built by the Lord Himself (Zech. 6:12); and also that all the human precautions for the safety of the city will be utterly in vain, because they will be taken without the Lord. Into the obvious applications to ourselves we need not enter, further than to remark, that all rest of heart, freedom from anxiety, blessing upon the work of our hands — all these things are connected with dependence on the Lord.
The word here rendered "continue" is more accurately given by others as "persevere." The same word is found in connection with prayer in Acts 1:14 and Romans 12:12. (Compare also its use in Acts 2:42-46.) It means that we all are to apply ourselves diligently to, to persist in, prayer, whatever the difficulties or the obstacles in the way. There is a reason, as well as a needs-be, for the exhortation; for whenever a soul, in the realization of its dependence, desires to wait on God in prayer, hindrances to it, raised doubtless by Satan, will be sure to abound; and, on the other hand, such is our natural slothfulness that nothing but purpose of heart, inwrought by the Spirit of God, will overcome it. Epaphras, named later on in the chapter, may be well cited as an example of this spirit — one who, as the apostle says, was "always labouring fervently" ("combating earnestly") for the Colossian believers in prayer, that they might "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Would that many such intercessors for the saints might be raised up in these last days. To "watch in the same with thanksgiving" will mean that we are to be careful not to forget to praise as well as pray, not to allow the responses of God in His grace to our cries to pass by without the expression of our gratitude.