« AnteriorContinuar »
AT ST. GEORGE THE MARTYR'S, SOUTHWARK, LONDON,
WEDNESDAY EVENING, MARCH 7TH, 1877.
St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, the 2nd Chapter, the latter part of
the 8th Verse.
My text is a short one, and in dealing with it, we shall have to examine two or three important points, because there is implied in it more than is expressed by it.
In opening up the text to you, I propose in the First place, to point out its connection; Secondly, some of the things which are "not after Christ;" and Thirdly, some of the things which are after Christ. These divisions will form our principal heads.
The First is the connection of my text. And, in order to get at this somewhat clearly, I shall have to ask you to look at the preceding part of this chapter. I find in the 1st verse that the Apostle shows his very great concern on behalf of those to whom he wrote: “ the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse" (Colossians i. 2). “I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” The
A postle's conflict, as stated in this verse, seems to have been that spiritual conflict which frequently takes place in the ministers of God concerning those whom they esteem dear in Christ Jesus. He had said in the preceding chapter that he had a wish that every man,—that is, every man to whom he addressed himself,—" the saints and faithful brethren"-should be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. Anything that could take away from the perfection and the completeness in Christ was a source of grief and agony, and of spiritual conflict, to the Apostle. Hence the language as you have it in the first verse of this chapter, “I
have great conflict,"--great agony,--great spirital distress in my soul on
He then expresses his design in the 2nd verse—“that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” The Apostle desired the comfort,--the spiritual comfort of those to whom he wrote; he desired that they should experience the truth of God as spoken in Isaiah: 6. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." Tell them that their sins and their iniquities are pardoned. Tell them that they are complete and perfect in Christ Jesus, “ that their hearts may be comforted, being knit together in love,”—cemented together by the Spirit in Christ. This expression points out the closeness of the union which exists between Christ and His people, and amongst Christians themselves. I do not mean mere nominal Christians, but real Christians who are cemented together by sovereign grace, and who are deeply-rooted in the everlasting love of our Saviour. And that you may have “all riches of the full assurance of understanding :" that your understandings may be filled with spiritual knowledge. And that you may experience in yourselves that you have an assurance that your names are written in heaven, and that whenever it may please God to call you hence, you will enter into the upper chamber of Glory. And that your experience here upon earth may be " to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, even of the Father, and of Christ.”
What are we to understand by the mystery of God? Let me tell you what appears to me to be a very simple explanation of it. If I be wrong, search the Scriptures until you find a better one. It seems to me that the mystery of God is the eternal covenant of grace which is ordered in all things and sure, between the three Persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Or, in other words, it is the great Gospel scheme for the salvation of the Church, which has been settled and arranged from everlasting. Read a portion from the preceding chapter. “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which he hath hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles ; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory " (verses 25 to 27). This is the mystery as it is expounded and explained by St. Paul. It is the same mystery in the Epistle to the Romans. “Now, to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made_known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (chap. 15, 25-27). For this revelation of the mystery the Apostle ascribes honour and glory to God.
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”
I find the same great truth brought out in the third chapter to the Ephesians, when he speaks of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (verse 8.) Then in the 9th verse we read :-“To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,"—hid in God,—hid in Christ,- hid in the promises,—hid in the types and shadows,—“Who created all things by Jesus Christ : to the intent that now into the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, “ According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” These Scriptures will help us to understand the Apostle's words in the 2nd verse of this chapter. “To the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ,” and of the Holy Ghost. In the 3rd verse we have the mystery of God laid up in Christ. " In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” You never need be at a loss for a subject of study. The wisdom and knowledge of Christ, -His great power and love-His wonderful work and grace-are an everlasting subject for meditation, contemplation, and admiration. “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” Why did the Apostle say this? “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words " (verse 4). The Apostle knew well that in every man there is that which tends to go astray, and to lead others astray. And consequently he impressed upon these Christians that they were not to be carried away by plausible arguments, nor by rhetorical flourishes, nor by the enticing words of men. “ For if I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (verse 5). The Apostle commends some things in these Christians. Hecommends their order, and “the steadfastness of their faith in Christ,” being settled and grounded in Christ. He then proceeds in the next verse. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." How did they receive the Lord Jesus Christ ? Was it not as poor and needy sinners? They had nothing to commend themselves to Christ. They were poor and wretched and naked, and blind, and miserable. It is in this way that poor sinners are brought, by the power of the Holy Ghost, to receive Christ at first. And now as ye have received him after this sort. As
ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." They had received Him as the Christ,—the Messiah of the Old Testament. They had received Him as the Anointed One of God. He himself declared—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me" (Luke iv. 18). He is the Messias, He is the Anointed One, He is set apart by God for that particular work which no other person could do. “ As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus." Well, this is Jesus, the Saviour. Surely this is another title which brings Him before us in His gracious and saving character. “ Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins ” (Matthew i. 21). Then there is another title. He is also “ the Lord." He is the Lord to put down, and He is the Lord to lift up; He is the Lord to rule over them. Now then,—"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” Jesus is the Way in which believers walk, and His Word is the rule by which they walk.
The Galatians began in the Spirit, but tended to perfect themselves by the flesh. This was their folly. Having begun in the
Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh ?” The Apostle counsels the Colossians to continuance and steadfastness in Christ. “ Rooted and built up in him.” “ Rooted in Him." You will perceive that this is a figure of speech taken from the planting of trees which strike their roots deep. So the Lord's children are described as trees planted by His right Hand,—the planting of the Lord. He planted them in Christ Jesus. Hence, Jesus said of those plants which are not the planting of His Father: “Every plant, which My Heavenly Father, hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew xv. 13). The trees and plants which God has planted shalì be watered by the Spirit, that they may bring forth fruit to the honour and glory of God. “And built up.” Another figure of speech to show that Christ is the Foundation on which believers are built. The very stone on which they are built was placed in Zion by God Himself. Christ is the One Foundation. Now when the Holy Spirit puts this Foundation into a man's heart, as He does in regeneration, then he wishes to realize for himself the Foundation, Christ Jesus the Lord, the Rock of Ages. Rooted in Christ and built up in Him. On Christ they were to be settled and fixed, “not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth ; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”
• Built upon Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught.”. Did St. Paul teach them any gospel which would lead them away from Christ? No! And now he says :-Go on as ye have been taught the truth as it is Jesus. He then proceeds in the 8th verse, to caution these Christians at Colosse in the following words : “ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” You will now see the connection of my text, and as we shall have to take up
this verse and examine it at some length—I shall proceed with our second head.
Secondly, then, consider some of those things which are not after Christ. Now the words for not after Christ in this verse, mean not according to Christ, not according to His teachings, and not according to His doctrines which He left us. The text contains good counsel and excellent advice. Take heed. And why are they to take heed ? “Lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world.” Take heed lest a Jew come to you with his circumcision, or a gentile with his philosophy and vain conceit. Take heed, and be on the look out, “lest any man spoil you.” Spoil you ? This word is applied to persons who are carried away captive. They are said to be spoiled when they are taken as a prey.
« Lest any man spoil you.” Can Christians be spoiled ? you say. This is a very fair question to ask. I think they can. I will name two or three ways in which a Christian man can be spoiled. He is spoiled when he is deprived or robbed of his comfort. And this is very often done by vain and foolish preachers. “ Take heed that no man deceive you."
“False prophets and false teachers shall arise and deceive many." If it were possible they would deceive the very Elect (Matthew xxiv). They cannot spoil a Christian by robbing him of his salvation, but they can spoil him, or rob him, or deprive him of the joy and comfort of salvation. They can spoil him after this sort. And they would spoil you, if you were to
believe them when they tell you that you can do something in the work of your salvation. You are spoiled when you are led into bondage. “Ye suffer, says the Apostle, if a man bring you into bondage (II Corinthians xi. 20). And a Christian man suffers whether he be brought into bondage to himself, or to the preacher, or to ordinances. Thus you may be spoiled or robbed. Why? Because you are taken away from the greater to the less ; from Christ to that which is insignificant and of no value, and which is not after Christ. Now, in this verse you will perceive that the Apostle mentions three things which are not after Christ. The first is this :-“Philosophy and vain deceit.” The second is :-“The tradition of men.” And the third is :-“The rudiments of the world.” In looking over the verse I think those three expressions will cover all things which are not in accordance with Christ.
Through philosophy and vain deceit.” It is just possible that there are some persons here who may be saying that it is a waste of time to talk about philosophy, and that in doing so I shall make a great blunder, or mistake. Well, if I do, it will not do you any harm. But, be careful, friends, lest any of you should make a great blunder, or mistake. I am not about to say one word against true science, or true wisdom, or true philosophy. Not one word will I utter against any of these. All I have got to say about them is this,—that these things were never intended to teach Christ. Hence, “ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit." The philosophy of men, and the vain deceit of men can never teach Christ. We must never confound human philosophy, and human wisdom, though true, with the philosophy of God, nor with the philosophy of Christ, nor with the philosophy of the Holy Spirit, nor with the philosophy which Paul preached. Now, what is God's philosophy ? Let us look into it. Why! the whole plan of salvation is but one grand scheme of philosophy, the philosophy of God, devised, developed and completed by the Trinity. Let us notice the contrast between human wisdom and the wisdom of God. St. Paul speaks of human wisdom as “the wisdom of words,"
,” “the wisdom of the wise.” " Where is the wise ? where is the scribe} where is the disputer of this world ? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? and the world by wisdom knew not God” (I Cor. i). This wisdom of the world is very foolishness. But St. Paul preached another wisdom—a wisdom which stands in contrast with the “wisdom of words,”-the “wisdom of the wise, “ the wisdom of this world,” -“ the enticing words of man's wisdom," “ the wisdom of men.” He puts this carnal wisdom in contrast with the Gospel,—which is the philosophy of God. He
6. When I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling, and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom.” I did not use fallacious arguments, nor carnal reasoning, nor fair speeches to catch you, but the testimony of God which I declared unto you proved itself with a mathematical certainty, for it was "in demonstration of the