CHRIST AND HIS ETHIC
THIS epistle is pre-eminently practical. The ethics of Christianity are perhaps more forcefully taught here than in any of the apostolic writings. The letter has often, therefore, been spoken of as being devoted to the subject of works; and Luther, imagining that it contradicted the doctrine of justification by faith as set forth by Paul, decided against its inspiration, denying its right to a place in the canon. It is easy to understand Luthers position when his times are remembered, and the necessity there was for insistence upon faith as the root-principle of Christian relationship. As a matter of fact, however, there is no epistle which reveals more clearly the necessity for faith than that of James. While Romans deals with faith as the principle from which works issue, James insists upon works as necessary for the demonstration of faith. It is around the thought of faith that the epistle may best be analysed. Introduction (1: 1); Faith as a Principle of Victory in Temptation (1: 2-27); Faith as a Principle of Action toward Man (2.); Faith as a Principle of Wisdom in Speech (3.); Faith as a Principle of Purity in Character (4.); Conclusion (5.).
James introduced himself briefly and comprehensively as a
servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His letter was written to the twelve tribes which are of the
dispersion - that
is, to Christian Israelites not resident in
A. FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF VICTORY IN TEMPTATION
The condition of these Christians was that of persons in the midst of temptation and trial; and in this first division James recognised the place of temptation, then dealt with faith as a principle of victory; finally drawing a sharp contrast between false and true religion.
First dealing with temptation as adversity of circumstances he declared that its issue is that they might be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. He then cited three illustrations of this kind of temptation - lack of wisdom, lack of position, and lack of need, closing with a beatitude on such as endure. He then passed to speak of temptation as allurement to sin, declaring that God is never the Author of such, and showing that it consists in an appeal made to a proper desire to meet its demand in an improper way or time.
He next proceeded to show that the Word of God is the stronghold for faith as it meets temptation. Recognising the fact that every good gift and perfect boon is from God, and therefore not evil in itself, James insisted that such as were born again must set forth the Divine intention in human life. The first responsibility in order to obedience is that the implanted Word should be received with meekness. The second responsibility is that of actual and active obedience to the Word thus received. In order to this the attitude must be that of looking into, and so continuing; that is, of determined attention to the Word, and abandonment to its claim.
This division closes with a remarkable contrast between false and true religion, between the man who thinks himself to be religious, and pure religion. Faith therefore fastening upon the Word is the principle of victory in temptation.
B. FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF ACTION TOWARD MEN
In dealing with faith as a principle of action toward men, James first described the failure of conduct which he condemned; and then gave the teaching which corrects such wrong conduct; finally crystallising the argument in a brief statement of principle.
The failure he condemned was that of respect of persons which expresses itself in the worship of wealth. Those who are guilty of this conduct do not hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. They despise the poor, whereas, according to the teaching of their Master, the poor are heirs of the Kingdom. While it is a good thing to fulfil the royal law of love to neighbours, it is an evil thing to have respect of persons.
To correct the failure James charged them first of all to speak and act as men to be judged by the law of liberty; and then, in one of the strongest passages in the whole letter, showed the profitlessness of faith which does not express itself in works, illustrating by reference to Abraham, the father of the faithful, and to Rahab, a woman outside the covenant. In each case faith was the vital principle, but it was demonstrated by works.
The closing declaration summarises the division, and is indeed the central truth of the whole epistle. A faith which does not express itself in conduct is as dead as a body from which the spirit has departed.
C. FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF WISDOM IN SPEECH
After uttering a warning as to public teaching, James described the peril of the tongue, and finally showed the effect of faith upon its use.
When referring to false religion, the one illustration he gave was that of an unbridled tongue. He then showed the disastrous effects which may be produced thereby. Perhaps more burning and scorching words are hardly to be found in the whole of the New Testament. There would seem to be a contrast suggested between the tongue set on fire by hell, and the tongue of fire. Speech always waits for inspiration, and such inspiration comes out of the awful depths of evil, or from the Spirit of the living God.
He then declared that true wisdom and understanding will manifest itself in life; that is to say, he practically affirmed that the silence which is the outcome of faith is the most eloquent testimony to consistent life. In immediate contrast to the effects of unbridled speech, he described the true wisdom as to character and result; and the contrast is extremely vivid. In the description of the former there is the thought of tempest and conflict, strife and malice; in that of the latter there is the manifestation of calm and serenity, of quietness and love. Thus the effect of faith upon that natural character from which speech springs is shown; and thus the effect of faith upon speech itself.
D. FAITH AS A PRINCIPLE OF PURITY IN CHARACTER
Here again the writer described failure, corrected it, and finally declared the true principle of victory.
The failure is that of wars and fightings arising from lust, issuing in envy, and daring even to lay tribute on prayer. He asked, Doth the Spirit which He made to dwell in you, long unto envying? evidently intending to indicate that the only answer to such a question must be a negative one. The Spirit which God makes to dwell in us does not create desire which issues in envy. The character which is self-seeking and unclean, results from lack of faith in God, manifested in failure to submit to the indwelling Spirit.
The Divine corrective to these terrible conditions is then dealt with, first as to the all-inclusive gift of God, and secondly as to human responsibility. The government is that of grace. The responsibility is marked in a series of injunctions.
Finally he revealed the true principle of purity. Faith in God will produce love, rather than censoriousness toward men. Secondly, faith in God means dependence upon Him which is actual and active.
In conclusion the writer addressed himself first in solemn indictment and terrible warning to the rich. The cry of the oppressed comes into the ears of God as a plea which is never heard in vain. In the balances and proportion of the Divine government, nemesis inevitably follows upon any gain which is the result of injury done to others.
Turning to those who suffer, he addressed to them words as full of tender comfort as those directed to the oppressors were full of fiery indignation. He called them to patience in the midst of testing, first with God in the understanding of the meaning of His perfect waiting for their perfecting, and then with each other. To patience and simplicity of speech he urged them by two examples - that of the prophets, and that of Job.
The last paragraph of the letter contains advice and instructions for differing experiences and things. Is any ... suffering? Is any cheerful? Is any ... sick? Those who suffer should pray. Those who are cheerful should praise. As to the sick, the whole paragraph, from verse fourteen to the end, must be read for correct understanding of any portion thereof. The raising of the sick is united with the forgiveness of sin, and immediately upon this statement there follows the injunction to confess sins. The particular cases of sickness in mind were those resulting from wrong-doing. The calling in of the elders of the Church indicated the relation between the sickness and matters of spiritual import. The use of oil was in itself an indication of the necessity for the employment of means. The instruction to pray shows that the Christian man will never depend upon natural means alone. The most important teaching of this final paragraph is that where sickness is related to wrong-doing, by confession and by recognition of church responsibility sin may be removed, and the sickness consequent upon it healed. The value of this exercise of confession and forgiveness is emphasised by the words with which the letter closes.
* * *
CHRIST THE STRENGTH
OF HIS PEOPLE
THIS letter was directed to the same persons as that of James. Its main purpose is the establishing of such as are passing through a period of suffering and testing. In the solemn days in which the Lord had foretold Peters fall and restoration, He had said to him, When once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. In both his epistles the apostle carried out that commission.
The letter abounds with references to his own experiences. Its twofold method is indicated in the closing words, exhorting, and testifying (5: 12). The word exhorting is derived from the same root as Paraclete, and thus reveals the nature of the exhortation. The word testifying means witnessing, in the sense in which the Lord had said to His disciples that they should be witnesses to Him. Thus in the power of the Paraclete, Peter exhorted, and emphasised his exhortation by testifying to Him of Whom the Holy Spirit is Representative and Administrator. These two aspects of the epistle are intermixed, the apostle perpetually passing from exhortation to testimony. The epistle may thus be divided; Introduction (1: 1, 2); Established for Testing in Confidence (1: 3 to 2: 3); Established for Testing in Conduct (2: 4 to 3: 9); Established for Testing in Character (3: 10 to 5: 7); Established for Testing in Conflict (5: 8-11); Conclusion (5: 12-14).
The apostle introduced himself by the name which Jesus gave him, Peter, and announced his apostleship. He described those to whom he wrote as the elect, and explained the meaning of his own term. Election is according to the foreknowledge of God. Its process of realisation is in sanctification of the Spirit. Its purpose is unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. He saluted his readers with the words of the new covenant; grace indicating all the favour of God operative through the work of Jesus; and peace, the resulting condition and consciousness of the life.
A. ESTABLISHED FOR TESTING IN CONFIDENCE
In order to establish them for testing in confidence, he first described the life of faith; then showed the place of the proving of faith; and finally gave them practical exhortation as to the practice of faith.
As to the origin of the life of faith, he reminded them that the beginning of their life was by the act of God, in which He begat us again through the liberation of the life of Christ in resurrection. The final issue of this is that of an inheritance,* all the characteristics of which are in direct contrast to the inheritances of earth. It is incorruptible, while everything here is corruptible; it is undefiled, while everything here is tainted with defilement; it fadeth not away, while everything here is passing, even while it is possessed; it is reserved in heaven, while everything here is overshadowed by the coming of death. The assurance of the ultimate realisation lies in the fact that the saints are guarded by the power of God.
[* See Col. 3: 23, 24. cf. Acts 20: 32; 26: 6-8; 1 Cor. 6: 8, 9, etc..]
The value of the present proving, is the consequent vindication at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The principle of strength in the process of proving, is that of love which springs out of perfect confidence in the Lord Himself. The salvation [of souls] which is to be revealed* is even now received by faith, and so the joy of the present is of the nature of that which is to come; and out of this grows the victory of courage and gladness over all the grief of the manifold trials of to-day. He finally reminded them that this wonderful [future] salvation [and coming glories] had been the subject of the inquiries and the search of the prophets of old; and angels themselves had desired to look into them.
[* NOTE. This future salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1: 5), and the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (verse 9) presumably from the underworld of Hades, and at the time of our Lords return - and the glories that should follow them (verse 11), are all connected to a hope to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ (verse 11): they are exclusive to those only who are obedient to God in all manner of living (verse 15). Matt. 16: 18; Acts 2: 34; 24: 15, 16; 1 Thess. 2: 10-12.]
Having set the testing of their confidence in relation to its purpose, the apostle proceeded to practical exhortations, dealing first with individual, and then with relative responsibility. In personal life the attitude to be maintained is that of strenuous readiness for all present emergencies, in the absolute certainty of the ultimate issue. The ruling principle of obedience is to be that of relationship to God as children. He concluded the personal injunctions with the strongest argument it was possible for him to use. They had been redeemed at infinite cost. In dealing with the relative practice, the individual obedience is taken for granted. The only injunction laid upon the saints, conditioning their relation to each other, is that of love. The character of the love enjoined is described as being from the heart fervently. The energy sufficient to enable obedience in this matter is that of the new birth, wherein life, containing forces equal to every demand, is received. The method of obedience is that of putting away all things contrary to the spirit of love, and the sustenance of life by the Word.
B. ESTABLISHED FOR TESTING IN CONDUCT
Passing from the subject of the testing of confidence to that which is closely allied, the testing of conduct, the apostle first dealt with the life of holiness, and the practice of holiness.
In dealing with the life of holiness he described the Church as a building, of which the chief corner Stone is the living Christ, and in which all members are living stones, deriving from Him a preciousness. The fellowship of this preciousness issues in fellowship in the suffering resulting from rejection by the men of the world.* In a passage of remarkable force and beauty, the vocation of the Church is declared to be that of the manifestation of the excellencies of God.
[* NOTE. The clause, by the men of the world includes some of the regenerate! Forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam. For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them,(2 Pet. 2: 15, 21). Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness (2 Pet. 3: 17). See Acts 14: 22]
The application of this master principle immediately follows. Generally, it means that the members of the Church are to behave as those not of the world, conducting themselves among outsiders in a seemly manner in order to silence slander, and vindicate God.
This general principle is then illustrated in its national bearing. Submission to God does not express itself in disobedience to earthly government, but rather in subjection to such.
The application to household relationships illustrates how things generally considered menial are transfigured in the light of Christian experience. Servants are to be subject, not only to masters who are reasonable, but also to the froward. For the encouragement of such the apostle quoted the great example of Christ, to whom they have returned, and in relation to Whom it is possible for them to obey.
The application to home relationships begins with the marriage relation. The attitude of the wife is to be that of subjection, the true adornment of woman being that of womanly character. The injunction to husbands is that they dwell with their wives according to knowledge. Thus the woman is to be subject to a love which acts in knowledge, and not in selfishness and ignorance. The final reason for the fulfilment of the true ideal of the marriage relationship is that prayers be not hindered, a forceful suggestion that the whole married life is consecrated by mutual intercession.
The section closes with general exhortations to the cultivation of such disposition as shall fulfil the ideals in conduct.
C. ESTABLISHED FOR TESTING IN CHARACTER
The apostle now passed to the establishing of those tested as a result of their realisation of the true Christian character, and he first described the life of victory, and then indicated the process of victory.
He commenced with a quotation from the Psalms, which calls to a life of holiness and declares a truth concerning the attitude of God towards men. In the light of this truth, those who suffer for character are urged to be zealous of that which is good. The one supreme responsibility is expressed in the words, Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord. The perfect Pattern for the believer in order to victory is Christ Himself, and the apostle stated comprehensively the facts of the suffering and victory of Christ. These are, His death and resurrection; His descent into Hades and proclamation of the evangel; His ascension to the right hand of God and assumption of authority. The force of the argument in its bearing on suffering saints is that of showing how through suffering Christ reached a triumph. Through His suffering He was able to make proclamation of His evangel in Hades, and then to ascend to the place of final authority, even above all angels and authorities and powers. Through their baptism of suffering they also find their way into victory.
The process of this victory is therefore, first that of being armed with the same mind. This mind belongs to the saints, and is a good conscience through the finished work of Christ. Let them act in the power of it by ceasing from sin, and all those gratifications of the flesh-life which have characterised their past. The result of that will be their suffering, but the issue will be their triumph in the Gospel, as through them it is preached to others. The apostle then suddenly turned the light of the future on to the present. The end of all things is at hand. The darkness of every day has on it the purple promise of the end. The proper effect of this certainty is then described in its personal and relative aspects. The individual is that they be of sound mind and sober unto prayer. Relatively, love is to be the master motive, and this is to find expression in hospitality and mutual ministration.
The apostle then showed that the fiery trial resulting from loyalty to Christ is inevitable, as partnership in the sufferings of Christ. In such fellowship with His sufferings they are to rejoice, inasmuch as the issue must be that of fellowship in His [millennial] glory. That result, however, does not follow suffering which is the consequence of [wilful] sin; if a child of God suffer through wrong-doing, there must be no expectation of glory issuing therefrom. Remembering that the fires through which His children pass are watched by God, Who never allows them to harm His own, let them commit their souls to Him.
Finally the apostle gave instructions as to the orderliness of the Church. The leaders are to care for the flock, not lording it over them, but serving them; not indeed under the authority of the flock, but under that of the Lord and Master, Who is the chief Shepherd. The younger are to be in subjection. All of them are to gird themselves to service, which is to be characterised by humility, and by freedom from all anxiety.
D. ESTABLISHED FOR TESTING IN CONFLICT
The life of the saint is one of conflict. The apostle named the adversary; he is the devil; he is neither careless nor neutral; his business is the destruction of all good. To those to whom Peter wrote the attitude of the devil was that of a roaring lion. It is not always so. Sometimes his opposition is stealthy and slimy as that of the serpent. At others it is radiant and fascinating as that of an angel. His purpose is always the same, seeking whom he may devour; and his method is ever that of seeking, watching for the weak moment, the unguarded entrance, the unprepared occasion. The attitude of the Christian toward this foe is to be that of soberness, watchfulness, and actual conflict. An incentive to all this is that we are not alone. Our brethren in the world are all fighting. Our battle is not our own; it is theirs also. They fight for us; and we for them. The strength of conflict is the certainty that the God of all grace will through the process accomplish His purpose.
In the last words the apostle indicated the method of the letter, with which we dealt in the introduction; and closed with personal salutations and the benediction of peace.
* * *
THIS letter is addressed to the same persons as the first. While the purpose of the first was the strengthening of those who were passing through a period of testing from without, this is for their strengthening in view of the dangers threatening them within the Church. The aim of the epistle may be gathered from the concluding exhortation: Beware, Grow. It is a solemn warning against the perils that threaten the inner life of the Church, and an exhortation to growth in that grace and knowledge in which the perils will be overcome. It may thus be analysed; Introduction (1: 1, 2); Principles of Preservation (1: 3-21); Perils threatening (2. to 3: 9); Conclusion (3: 10-18).
Through varied experiences the writer had come into possession of the character which the surname Peter suggested. As he commenced a letter intended to strengthen his brethren for the testing arising from perils threatening them within the Church, he introduced himself by the names of Simon Peter, the first of which speaks of his own old life of instability, and the second of the character of stability into which he had been brought. Describing himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, he addressed his brethren as having a like precious faith, thus reminding them that the faith which in his case was preserved through the supplication of his Lord, was theirs also. His ultimate desire for them was that they might have knowledge. As the perils against which he was about to warn them resulted from false teaching, so the principle of preservation was that of [mature or advanced spiritual] knowledge.
A. THE PRINCIPLES OF PRESERVATION
In dealing with the principles of preservation, the apostle first stated and then defended them.
The statement of principles consists of a setting forth of the actual facts of the perfect provision, and a declaration of the consequent responsibility of the saints. The provision is described first as to present possession; all things that pertain unto life and godliness are granted through the knowledge of Him Who called by His glory and virtue. This possession is made more sure by the precious and exceeding great promises. Because of this perfect provision the saints are called to diligence and the development of their resources; and to more diligence, in the light of the things of the eternal Kingdom, wherein all the meaning of participation in the Divine nature will be realised.
Having thus stated the principles of preservation, the apostle defended the truth of his statement. He was conscious of his approaching departure, and expressed his determination to stir them up by putting them in remembrance. There flamed upon him the memory of the Mount of Transfiguration; and the effect which his experiences there had upon him is very evident here. On that mount he had seen the Power and Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ [in His kingdom.]* These words correspond to the present and future provision with which he had already dealt. On that holy mount moreover he heard the voice of God, and that voice confirmed for him the prophecies of the past, which were as a lamp shining in a dark place.**
[* Matt. 16: 28.
** Here are some selected and unfulfilled prophecies of the past from the Psalms:- 72: 7-19; 89: 34-37; 96: 10-14; 97: 1-6; 99: 2; 102: 16-22; 110: 2, 3, 5, 6; 111: 6; 116: 8, 9; 145: 10, 11, etc., etc.]
B. THE PERILS
Having thus described the principles of preservation, the apostle now dealt with the perils threatening the Church from within. These are two, the one growing out of the other. The first is that of false teachers, which threatens the power. The second is that of the materialisation of mind resulting from their teaching, which threatens the coming.
As in the days of ancient prophecy there were false prophets, so
now there will be false teachers; and many will follow, and the way of truth be evil spoken of. The judgment of God
against such is sure, and this assertion is defended by the citation of the
cases of the casting out of the angels, the destruction of the ancient world,
and of the cities of
False teaching which denies the power of Christ issues in false thinking which questions the coming of Christ [into His Kingdom]. There will be mockers who will walk in lust, and make sport of the great hope of the Church, declaring that things will continue as they have done. To strengthen his readers against the new peril, the apostle reminded them of the prophecies and the commandment of the Lord. The argument that as things have been they remain is contested first by reference to the deluge, and then by the declaration that a fire judgment is reserved for this earth. What appears to be delay is due to the long-suffering of God, with Whom time does not exist.
The conclusion consists of a summary of teaching grouped around these two subjects of the coming and the power of the Lord, with a final warning and injunction. The day of the Lord will come. It will be destructive. The heavens and the elements will be burned up. We may hasten that day by holy living and godliness. It will also be constructive, for there will be new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The result of this conviction in the experience of the saints should be new appropriation of the power. Personally this means diligence for the creation of the character for which at His coming He will seek. Relatively it means patience during the delay, knowing that it is caused by His long-suffering.
All this leads to the final exhortation, which is twofold. Beware - that marks the attitude of caution. Grow - that indicates the necessity for progress [and a deeper knowledge of the Word]. To conclude, there is a brief and comprehensive doxology; glory to the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, both now, that is, in response to His power, and for ever, that is, as the result of His coming. Thus the [obedient] soul is established in Him against all possibilities and perils, both now and for ever.
* * *
CHRIST AND FELLOWSHIP
THIS is probably the last apostolic message to the whole Church. If the second and third epistles were written later, they were to individuals. This letter is catholic in the fullest sense of the word, being addressed to no particular church or district, and dealing with the fundamental question of the life which is the true bond of the Churchs unity.
A comparison of John 20: 31 and 1 John 5: 13 will show the gospel and epistle to be complementary. The gospel was written that men might have life, the epistle that believers might know they had life. In the former we have Divine life as revealed in Christ; in the latter the same life as realised in the Christian. The gospel declares the way of life through the incarnate Son; the epistle unfolds the nature of that life as possessed by the children of God.
[* NOTE. The life we might have may be a reference to life in the coming Age; which has to do with a double portion of the inheritance, (Rom. 8: 17b): the life which regenerate believers might know they had, has to do with the free gift of God, which is eternal life. (Rom. 6: 23, R.V.).]
The subject of the epistle is that of fellowship with God, into which believers are introduced through their union with Christ. Its divisions mark the subjects dealt with. These subjects overlap in each case. This is the outcome of the fact that they are closely inter-related, the three forming phases of a great whole. They may be indicated thus; Introduction (1: 1-4); Fellowship with God as Light (1: 5-11.); Fellowship with God as Love (3. to 4.); Fellowship with God as Life (5: 1-12); Conclusion (5: 13-21).
By way of introduction John affirmed his knowledge, in common with others, of the certainty that eternal life was manifested in the Word. We have heard ... we have seen ... beheld ... our hands handled. The word that refers in each case to a Person. As in the gospel, the Word which cannot be touched, became flesh which could be touched, so here, the Word of life, which is a quantity intangible, imponderable, and immeasurable, had yet been touched and handled by men. The purpose of the manifestation was that of bringing men into fellowship with God. This the apostle proceeded to discuss under the three headings of light, love, and life, showing not only the privileges but also the responsibilities of such fellowship.
A. FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. GOD IS LIGHT
In this division the apostle first dealt with the fellowship of the saints with God in light, and then described the perils of darkness.
The first great message of the Word of life to men is that God is light. This is a truth never to be lost sight of. To forget it is to minimise the meaning of the next declaration that God is love. The exercise of such fellowship on the part of the believer consists of walking in the light of God. Yet because of perpetual imperfection even in holy things, there is need of constant cleansing, and this is provided in the blood of Jesus His Son. Light makes sin known. Sins of the past are forgiven, and the soul is cleansed from unrighteousness. The apostle was careful to state that he wrote in order that we sin not. He added, however, a gracious declaration concerning the provision of the Advocate Jesus, through Whom sins might be put away. Having stated the nature and conditions of fellowship with God as light, the apostle proceeded to speak of the tests whereby we may know our relation to light, first as to God, and then as to our fellow-men. The test of light is love - love to God exemplified in obedience. The supreme commandment was not new, in that it was the original Divine intention for man. Yet it was new in its new interpretation in Christ, and in the experience of men who in its power love each other.
In approaching the subject of the perils of darkness against which he was about to utter warnings, the apostle, in a beautiful passage, declared the groundwork of his appeal to be the experience of believers in Christ. The perils against which he warned believers were those of materialism, and the false spirit of Antichrist. The description of worldliness is very clear. It consists in the lust of the flesh, that is, desires which are wholly of the flesh, without the control of the spirit; the lust of the eyes, that is, desire to see things which minister to the flesh only, evil curiosity to contemplate unholy things; the vainglory of life, that is, satisfaction and boasting in things which are of the world only, and are passing and perishing. He then described the spirit of Antichrist to be that of denying that Jesus is the Christ, which denial involves also the denial of the Father and the Son. The Church needs to be ever on the watch against such desires or teachings. Her safety consists in the fact that she has the record as received from the beginning; and moreover, that she has that anointing of the indwelling [Holy] Spirit which interprets and explains the things received, so that she has no need that any one teach her.
B. FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. GOD IS LOVE
In this division the apostle dealt with the fellowship of the saints with God in love, and then declared the perils of hatred.
The love of God s supremely manifest in that we are called children of God. All the meaning of this relationship we do not yet know, but this much is certain that eventually we shall be like Him. The present influence of this hope, born of love, is that he that has it purifies himself. The apostle proceeded to declare that in Christ there is no need for any one to sin, and that if a believer do so it must be in violation of the very life-principle which makes him a child of God. The test of fellowship with God as love is righteousness of conduct, and love one to another. The result of fellowship with God as love, will be that of hatred toward us on the part of the world. Yet such hatred is to be answered by the love of the Christian, such love being the proof of the presence of the new life. Affirmations of love for the men of the world, which are not demonstrated by ministry to their actual needs, are of no value. The apostle then declared the test by which we may ourselves know that we are of the truth. The true anxiety of Christian experience is to possess a heart at rest before God. Doubt or uncertainty in the inward life is ever productive of harm. The place of peace and power is that of abiding in Him. To keep His commandments is to abide in Him, and to abide in Him is to have strength to keep His commandments. The all-inclusive commandments are two in number. The first is that we should believe in Jesus Christ; and the second is that we should love one another.
Two closely related perils threaten our fellowship with God as love: those of false prophets, and the spirit which actuates them. There is a simple and yet searching test which the children of God are carefully to apply. The testimony of the Spirit of God is to Jesus Christ as having come in flesh. Those who confess not Jesus are those who deny what the Spirit of God affirms concerning Him. All such are of Antichrist. The test of the spirits is the indwelling [Holy] Spirit. There need be no fear, for the indwelling One is greater than the spirit working in the world; but there must be no carelessness in the matter of testing. The apostle then made an appeal. He used two arguments as he urged the duty of love. First, the nature of God is love, and therefore those begotten of Him should love. The second argument was that of the manifestation of the love of God. He sent His only begotten Son into the world. That is the last word of love, and upon it the apostle based his appeal. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. The argument and appeal now go a step further. The perfect love which has no fear is the true revelation of God. There may be this realisation and revelation because as He is, even so are we in this world. The apostles consciousness of the glorious perfection of his provision lent strenuousness to his words of application. If a man say I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. To every person in actual union with God in Christ, love is possible. Moreover, it is not a privilege merely, it is a stern duty. The world waits for the knowledge of God, and can only attain it through His revelation in the love of His children.
C. FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. GOD IS LIFE
The final subject is that of our fellowship with God in life. This is fundamental, and is here shown to be so. Passing back over the ground traversed, the apostle shows the relation between life and love, and then between life and light.
As to the first God gives life to the believer. The love of one begotten for the One begetting issues in love for all begotten. In other words, children of the Father love each other. The spring and power of love is life. Fellowship with God in life issues in love.
There is also a close relationship between life and
light. Those who are begotten of God
overcome the world. Fellowship with the light of God
is not possible to those who are alienated from His life. As the fundamental aspect of fellowship with
God is fellowship in life; and moreover, as man enters into that life by
believing, the apostle now gives the witness upon which faith takes hold. Jesus Christ came by water and blood. He came by water in the sense that the baptism in
In his concluding words John stated the reason of his writing. His purpose was that of confirmation. The certainty of life possessed, results in a confidence in God which is calm and content. That confidence is exercised in intercession, the limitation of which is clearly marked. The letter closes with a group of certainties, and an injunction against idols. The force of the final warning lies in the certainty of the fellowship of the believer with God in light, and love, and life.
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THIS second epistle is a concrete application of the principles taught in the first. Its subject is the value of truth in the threefold life of fellowship. Its scheme may be stated thus; Introduction (1-4); Love (5); Love and Light (6); Light and Life (7-9); Conclusion (12, 13).
The repetition of the word truth in the address gives the keynote to the letter. The salutation refers to grace, mercy, and peace, which are the effects of truth, the inward sanctifier; and the expression of love, the outward result. This is followed by a declaration of the apostles joy that the children of the elect lady were found walking in truth.
The apostle then wrote the central and all-inclusive commandment, and urged her to obey it. It was not a new commandment, but the repetition of that possessed from the beginning.
B. LOVE AND LIGHT
Then followed the statement of supreme importance that love is obedience to light. The commandment heard from the beginning was that of love. Love, therefore, is obedience to the commandment.
C. LIGHT AND LIFE
All already written was preliminary to the warnings which followed, and the necessity for which constituted the real occasion of the letter. Deceivers were gone forth into the world, denying essential truth concerning the Christ. Because love is walking in light, the test of love is light. Any consent to darkness out of a so-called charity, is not true love. Loyalty to truth concerning the Person of Christ is the true way of love, and any charity which compromises [with the truth] - that is false, and eventually violates love.
The teaching against which the apostle warned the elect lady was progressive teaching. Progress out of first principles is retrogression. The stern requirement of the apostle manifests the sanctified son of thunder, and the determined apostle of love. No hospitality or greeting must be given to those who by false teaching imperil the life, and light, and love, of the believer.
The special teaching of this letter may thus be summarised. Christianity is love. Love is dependent upon the light of truth. To deny the truth is to make love impossible. The continued experience of fellowship is dependent upon the continued fact of fellowship in love and light and life. The continued fact of fellowship is proved by the continued experience of fellowship.
The apostle expressed his hope that he might soon see face to face the one to whom he wrote, and sent the salutation of the children of her elect sister.
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THERE are three persons previously mentioned in the New Testament bearing the name of Gaius: Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19: 29), Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20: 4), and Gaius of Corinth (1 Cor. 1: 14). The Gaius to whom John wrote may be yet a fourth. It is, however, extremely probable that he was the Gaius of Corinth, for there is similarity between the hospitality which Paul mentioned (Rom. 16: 23), and that commended by John.
This letter is indeed on the subject of that hospitality as it revealed love, and afforded the apostle an opportunity to utter a warning against schism, which is always due to lack of love. His argument circles around three persons - Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. It may be divided thus; Introduction (1-4); the Hospitality of Gaius its Value, Love practised (5-8); the Arrogance of Diotrephes, its Condemnation, Love violated (8-10); the Example of Demetrius, its Cause, Love, Light, Life (11, 12); Conclusion (13, 14).
Very tender and delicate is the introduction. The apostles recognition of the spiritual health of Gaius when he prayed that his physical prosperity and health might equal it, is beautiful. Again the keynote is Truth. As in the letter to the elect lady the apostle had uttered his warnings against a false charity and hospitality, here he commended true love and hospitality. If there is a hospitality impossible to loyalty to truth, it is equally true there is a kind which such loyalty necessitates and inspires.
A. GAIUS. LOVE PRACTISED
Certain evangelists had been received and entertained by Gaius. For this the apostle commended him, and declared that he would do well to set them forth on their journey, worthily of God. This is a remarkable phrase, and capable of more than one interpretation. It may mean that Gaius was to see in them the messengers of God, and was to send them forth in a way befitting such sacred calling. It may have reminded Gaius that he was a child of God, and urged him to act accordingly. In all probability it included both these thoughts. The privilege of showing hospitality to the messengers of the Gospel is set forth in the words, that we may be fellow-workers for the truth.
B. DIOTREPHES. LOVE VIOLATED
In striking contrast to Gaius stands Diotrephes. He had refused to receive some who were recommended to the Church by John, and had gone so far as to cast out of the Church those who did receive them. The whole truth about this man is seen in one of those illuminative sentences in which the character of a man is so often revealed in the Scriptures. Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence. That is the essential violation of love, for love ... seeketh not her own. This is an instance of heterodoxy of spirit or temper, rather than of intellect. There is no evidence that this man was teaching false doctrine, but he was not submissive to authority. As is always the case, the un-submissive one becomes the greatest tyrant, and thus by disobedience he manifests his lack of love. As loyalty to truth is the sphere of love, so also is it the evidence of love. The arrogance of this man shows the governing principle of his life to be selfishness rather than love.
C. DEMETRIUS, LOVE. LIGHT. LIFE
Gaius is urged to imitate good rather than evil, and immediately another change is before us in the introduction of Demetrius. In all likelihood he was the bearer of the letter, and John quoted him in direct contrast to Diotrephes. The central statement of the epistle is found in verse eleven. He that doeth good is of God; he that doeth evil hath not seen God. The relation of love to life and light is suggested. Doing good is to be interpreted by the subject of the letter, hospitality. Those who act in love thus, do so because they are of God, that is, related to Him in the fellowship of life. Such are Gaius and Demetrius. Those who act in evil by selfishness, do so because they have no fellowship with God in light, not having seen Him.
The letter closes with words anticipatory of a meeting, and with a message of peace.
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CHRIST THE PERFECT AND
THE subject dealt with in this epistle is that of apostacy - its possibility, peril, and punishment. It solemnly reveals the relation existing between the will of man and the sovereignty of God. Apostacy is shown to be wilful return to ungodliness. Two classes are dealt with. Those who kept not and are therefore kept. Those who keep themselves and are kept from stumbling. While man is free to will, he is never freed from the restraining government of God. It is one of the most solemn and searching of the New Testament writings, and cannot be carefully studied without solemn searching of heart. The following analysis may be followed; Introduction (1-3); the Danger described (4-16); the Duty devolving (17-23); Conclusion (24, 25).
Judas introduced himself as brother of James, and servant of Jesus Christ; and his letter was addressed to those who were called, beloved, kept. He wrote in order to urge upon such the necessity for contending earnestly for the faith, and what he meant must be interpreted by all that follows.
A. THE DANGER
The peril threatening those to whom he wrote was created by ungodly men, who,
turning grace into an occasion of lasciviousness, denied all authority. The perils of such attitude were illustrated
by reference to
Apostacy is then denounced in a passage full of fiery force. Jude figuratively showed that it means failure to fulfil purpose, and then by quotation of the prophecy of Enoch declared that failure to fulfil purpose must issue in destruction.
The final description of these men reveals their inward fault and motive in two phrases walking after lusts, and for the sake of advantage.
B. THE DUTY
Turning to the subject of the true attitude of believers in the presence of apostacy, he indicated that there must be first a recognition of the danger. It had been foretold by the apostles, and may be known by two distinguishing marks. Men guilty of apostacy are to be known by their influence - they make separations; and by their temper - they are sensual rather than spiritual.
He then described the sphere and habit of safety, the central charge being, keep yourselves in, the love of God. This is to be done by building on faith, praying in the Spirit, and looking for mercy.
Beyond personal responsibility there is a relative duty. On some have mercy - that is, those in doubt; some save - that is, such as have been ensnared by the libertines; on some have mercy with fear - and here perhaps the reference is to the libertines themselves. This mercy is not to be the condoning of evil, or complicity therewith, but the patient hopefulness that seeks to win all.
The apostle closed with a glorious doxology which shows that the writer had no panic in his heart, even though he was profoundly conscious of the surrounding perils. He ascribed to God the Saviour Christ the Perfect and perfecting Lord all honour in the immeasurable ages, past and present, for that He is able to accomplish the salvation of His trusting ones in two ways which are all-inclusive; as to continuity, able to guard you from stumbling; and as to consummation, to set you before the presence of His glory.