Our God (2)

"The God of patience and consolation" (Romans 15:5).
"The God of hope" (Romans 15:13).
"The God of peace" (Romans 15:33).

The knowledge of God has enlightened our darkness, and we have it as our treasure in our earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4); it is our glory (Rom. 5); but not that only, it is of the greatest practical value to us in the trials of life. I turn to Romans 15 to see how it works out for us when we are faced with things that test us. The subject of this part of the Epistle is how we may help one another who are members of one body in Christ (chap. 12), and consequently in the closest possible relationship one with another. It is recognised that difficulties do arise among brethren; temperaments differ, spiritual attainments and knowledge are not the same, some are weak in the faith and of a legal mind, others are strong and in the liberty of grace, some are not very careful of their walk, and others would set up their own opinions and prejudices as the standard for their brethren and imagine that they were serving God. The devil is a watchful foe and is always ready to take advantage of these differences and sow discord among brethren, and nothing poisons Christian life like that, and brings such misery into it, and robs God of His joy in us. What is the safeguard against this evil? God is the God of patience and consolation, or as another translation puts it, the God of endurance and encouragement: that is the answer.

God has come to us as the fountain of these virtues. He has poured out His patience and consolation upon us, or if we have not yet experienced this which is the portion of all who believe, He is waiting upon us that we may. I question whether anything should impress us more than this twofold way in which we may know our God. We know in part our own waywardness and selfishness. He knows us through and through. Yet when we turn to Him in confession of our folly and sin, as we often must, how wonderfully we learn that He is the patient God and the God of consolation. He has never failed in these qualities, they are divine, and His ways with us in them often make us wonder.

We are His children — through grace, and it is His will that we should be like Him and bear this twofold character in our ways with all who are with us the object of His love and tender solicitude. Our knowledge of Him, (I speak of experimental knowledge), will strengthen us to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. The prayer of the Apostle was "the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus." According to Christ Jesus! What a standard is this! Yet God will have no other, and He is able to make us like- minded one toward another, according to that standard. Christ Jesus is our pattern; we must consider Him. In Him we must see what God is to us, and in Him we must learn what we ought to be towards one another. So we read, "Let every one of us please his neighbour for His good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself." Is there a more moving statement than that in the whole of Scripture? He was the only one who ever lived upon earth who had a right to please Himself, and if He had done so, everything that He did would have been perfect, but it was not on that principle that He ordered His life: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O my God, " He said, and wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business, " and "I do always the things that please Him." To do the will of His Father in serving the needy sons of men was the motive and the joy of His life. He "came not to be ministered to but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."

He showed what the patience and consolation of God were, and was reproached for it, as we learn from this quotation from Psalm 69, "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee have fallen upon Me." That is the second half of a verse, the first half is "The zeal of Thy house has eaten Me up." This is quoted and applied to the Lord in John 2, when with a whip of small cords, He drove from the Temple those who had turned it into a den of thieves. He did that alone, we could have no part in such divine and holy indignation, but in these reproaches we may share, and shall if we are like Him, and that which causes the reproaches is as necessary to the well-being of God's house on earth now as was the zeal that cleansed the Temple then.

For what was He reproached? The continual taunt of the despicable religionists of His day was that He companied with sinners. "Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?" they ask in Luke 5. "A friend of publicans and sinners" they jeer in Luke 7. "This man receives sinners and eats with them, " is their taunt in Luke 15, and in Luke 19 they murmur, "He's gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." They could not endure the grace that refused to recognise class and sectarian distinctions, and that laboured for the good of the weakest and the worst. They reproached Him for His condescending mercy, it exasperated them: but it was God's mercy. He was showing forth God's nature and ways, and it was their hatred of God that fell upon Him. We must be like Him and not like them. He was the great burden-bearer, and if we are strong in the grace that is in Him we shall bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves, we shall reach out to the ignorant, and to the babes in God's family, and seek the edification of everyone of them and if reproached for it we shall have the compensation of the Lord's approval, and the support of the God of patience and consolation.

And see the result of this, instead of discord among brethren, which is one of the seven abominations to God, we read, "Ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We must be like-minded to do this, but is it not a state of things most earnestly to be desired? and not desired only but sought after in self-sacrificing whole-hearted energy? It is the patience and encouragement of God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that can make this holy happy unity a fact, and produce this praise which is the answer in us to what we have learnt Him to be to us. It is this that the devil would spoil, but God is greater than the devil and we may ever count upon His patience and His encouragement.

But mark well what follows, "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God." If our praise springs upward to God our love must flow out to all whom He loves, and it will and does if we receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Our reception of one another glorifies God equally with our united praise; indeed, how can we praise Him with one mind and one mouth if we do not receive one another? And again Christ is the pattern; if He has received me to the glory of God, I must also receive those whom He has received. There is not room here for partiality; sectarianism, "the natural weed of the human heart" is outside of this; cliques and parties, the dead sea fruit of the carnal mind, are utterly condemned by it, but there is plenty of room for the operation of the patience and consolation of God. These divine qualities can bring about what it is impossible for our fallen, selfish nature to secure.

"Now the GOD OF HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (v. 13). If there are difficulties in the Christian circle, that can always be met and overcome by the patience and comfort of God, what of our life in the world? One of our poets has written:

"This world is a wilderness wide."

and if it is this to us what shall our lot be in it? Well, God is the God of hope. He has set before us a great destiny. He will not allow either the power of the foe or our weak faith to thwart His purpose for us, and He has told us what this purpose is in chapter 8 of this Epistle. We are to be "conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren"; we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus, waiting to be glorified together with Him. We were saved in the hope of this and God would have us filled with all joy and peace in believing this. No matter how great and many are the difficulties, we may abound in hope, for the Holy Ghost has come to us and indwells us as the earnest of that great inheritance, the pledge to us that we shall most certainly enter into it. The pressure upon us may be great, our circumstances very testing, but this only makes the hope more real, and above all these is the love that rests upon us from above which draws us onward to Him whose love it is. So we sing:

"'Tis the treasure we've found in His love
That has made us now pilgrims below.
And 'tis there, when we reach Him above
As we're known all ills fullness we'll know.
Till then 'tis the path He has trod.
Our delight and our comfort shall be;
We're content with His staff and His rod,
Till with Him all His glory we'll see."

We are more than conquerors through Him that loves us, when we abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

"Now the GOD OF PEACE be with you all. Amen. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (chaps. 15:33; 16:20).

"He has said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, " and it is the God of peace who has said it, and this is the portion of all who love God and are the called according to His purpose. What blessed company — the God of peace! Life has its downs and ups, its nights and its days, its sorrows and joy, but who would be afraid if the God of peace is with him? "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Only let the heart be set upon Christ, let there be joyful obedience to His word and through every phase of life and in all its vicissitudes the God of peace will be with us, keeping the heart and mind in confidence and peace.

"And the GOD OF PEACE shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (chap. 16:20).

Then we look forward to God's triumph and ours over Satan himself, he is to be bruised beneath our feet shortly; we are to share in the triumph of the woman's Seed (Gen. 3), and it is the God of peace that will bring us into this. Satan is the adversary; his name means that. Every bit of trouble that ever came on the church of God was engineered by him; all the persecutions that the saints of God have ever suffered lies at his door; but he has a more subtle way of working. He is not Satan only, but that old serpent, who "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Verse 18 describes his way of working well. "I fear" wrote the apostle to the Corinthian church, "lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11). So here these Roman Christians are warned against those who would bring in divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine they had learned; such were the ministers of Satan and not the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be avoided. They abound today, men who preach another gospel, who despise the gospel of God, who tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and have done despite to the Spirit of grace. It is Satan's work, and those who would be faithful to the Lord must suffer because of it, but the end is near. God's triumph will soon be complete and we shall share it. Then strife and conflict will give place to peace, for the God of peace will establish and display His righteousness in the heavens and the earth, and the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and peace. Meanwhile we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is THE GOD OF PATIENCE AND CONSOLATION, THE GOD OF HOPE AND THE GOD OF PEACE.