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Observer, Oct. 1, '71.
NOTES ON EPHESIANS IV., 11-16.*
REFERENCE is here made to the glorified Jesus-to His ascension into heaven, to His royal throne, on God's holy hill of Zion-where the Father anointed Him His King-whence He declared the Father's decree of His appointment, "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." (Psl. ii.)
From henceforth, Messiah, the King, is engaged in establishing His kingdom, the first step towards which appeared on the day of Pentecost, when the ascended Conqueror "received and gave gifts for men," "yea, the rebellious also,"--and this, in order "that the Lord God might dwell among them."
The extent of this dominion is "the uttermost parts of the earth." Its setting up and extension, until completed, was to be accomplished through human instrumentality: first by "the gifts,"-then through "the saints." He gave gifts unto men." These were the Lord's first instructions-but this arrangement was merely provisional-to prepare for permanent operations, the ultimate object being "to build up the body of Christ.”
These permanent operations comprehend the action of the saints, in the service of God. The gifts made provision for all this, their part being to instruct the saints during a period of minority, and so to qualify the church, in absence of the gifts, "to edify itself." Verse 13 explains how far these gifts were necessary in the building up process: "Till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man (full manhood), unto the measure of the stature (or age) of the fullness of the Christ." Verse 14 refers to the weakly condition which preceded that of the full stature of discipleship, the growth of which was to be matured by the gifts, because the infantile state is inconsistent with the service of disciples in the house of their Father. Verse 15 states action in the body, by which they were to effect this transition,-" speaking the truth in love"; and verse 16 gives the result of this action-" the fitness of the body to edify (or build up) itself."
The action of the gifts, as stated in verse 12, was to perfect, or fit, the saints for doing the duties of this service. These duties are service in
the church, regarded as God's holy temple.
As the verse reads there are three times that the word "for" is used in our translation.
The first" For the perfecting of the saints." This one accords with the original. The second and third have not the same word in the Greek; the word for these two is es, which is usually translated "into."
"The work of the ministry," does not refer to a separate class, to be trained by the gifts, and made "ministers." This "ministerial" position wants proof; indeed a literal translation will not admit of this. The definite article is not there. The terms work (epyov), and service (diakovias), are general, not special. With these alterations the passage will read, "For the perfecting of the saints, into work of service, into building up of the body of Christ: Till-" the saints are put into a position to carry on the work without the help of the living voice of the "gifts." This they are now able to do, having the scriptures of the truth for a guide,
These Notes owe their existence to the series of articles on Ministry, which appeared in our pages from the pen of the Editor, some time back. It might be too late to insert them now but for the fact that though arising out of those articles the writer presents his comments upon the text without formal allusion to them, and thus his notes stand complete in themselves. Illness and absence from home prevented earlier completion. ED.
Observer, Oct. 1, '71.
The "service" is no doubt general, and it comprehends great variety, beyond that of "pulpit" service. (See Rom. xii. 4—21, 1 Cor. xii. 12—27) The action of" the many members" in the body must needs differ, because of their varied functions.
The service is one of priesthood. This seems to be the idea here. The gifts were given to train up God's royal priesthood, fitting them to serve Him in His holy temple, "that the Lord God might dwell among them." This accords with the prophecy in Psl. lxviii. 18.
The nature of the service has a practical illustration in the historic record. The germ of the whole, as afterwards developed, is found in the special charge or commission which the Lord gave to His eleven apostles, Matt. xxviii., Mark xvi. "Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth." The Lord rests His commands upon His lordship over the nations-"Go ye therefore." The manner in which the apostles began to carry out their instructions is seen in Acts ii. Compare the whole passage with the conditions laid down in the commission in Matt. xxviii., when He says-"Go ye therefore and teach (disciple by teaching) all the nations, baptizing them (the discipled ones) into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them (the immersed disciples) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
Acts ii. 22-36. Peter made known the glad tidings. In verse 38 he calls to repentance and obedience; verse 41, they gladly received his word and were baptized—that is, being "discipled " by his teaching, they in glad ness of heart confessed the Holy Name in baptism, and now, having become followers of the Lord, they are introduced into the commonwealth of Israel.
The commission given to Saul of Tarsus (Acts xxvi. 16-18) comprehends the same objects, the result being thus expressed-" That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me," (that is, inheritance among the family of God or the citizens of His kingdom). The Church, the household of the faith, was henceforth to be their home and the scene of their services.
The result of Peter's proclamation was, that "the same day there were added about three thousand souls." Obedient ones were added to the Church, to receive instruction from the apostles according to the command Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded
Verse 42 relates things which they were "taught to observe:" "They continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of the loaf, and in the prayers.' Verse 47, "Praising God." "They," the church or assembly of Christ's followers, "continued steadfastly," because they were taught, no doubt, the importance of this steadfastness.
Returning to Eph. iv.-Verse 11 describes the "gifts." These were men, possessed of certain endowments, or qualifications, imparted by the Holy Spirit, to fit each for the particular work which was assigned him. First Apostles,"" the twelve," each called by name, and appointed to his work by special charge or commission. This charge was at first given to only eleven; some years later it was also given to Saul, of Tarsus.
The nature and extent of this appointment, as apostles, are to be found in the commission. Looking to that in Matt. we find that the field of operations is "the world" "among all nations"—and, further, that the nature of the labour is two-fold,—the first to evangelize, or convert man
Observer, Oct. 1, '71.
kind into the knowledge of the true God, in Christ Jesus the Lord. The second division is to "build up these discipled ones in their most holy faith," to instruct them in the duties to which they are to attend.
Brought out from the world, from darkness to light, into a new, a spiritual relationship with God, still subject to the surrounding evil influences of this world-they need to associate together to obtain strength by union. Association requires order. Order needs law and government. The new kingdom, though not of this world, is exposed to worldly influences; but, the world presents no rule of man by which to guide this new association. The church is a spiritual body, therefore its order and government cannot be inferred from the institutions which prevail among men. Hence, need for Divine inspiration,-hence, "the gifts," the inspired men. This power is made conspicuous in the apostles, in whose writings the will of God is recorded,-not only as "gifts" then present, but to be guides in all
The appointment of apostles was adapted to meet the emergency; for, in it was included all needful qualification for setting up the new "Nation," in organizing its social polity, and in prescribing its laws and institutions. On apostles was devolved the whole charge of planting churches, setting them in order, and building them up.
But the work was beyond the power of the twelve to accomplish, they were not sufficient to reach over all the churches; hence, the need for more "gifts," which, nevertheless, were all subordinate to apostles,-the Lord's commissioned ambassadors.
One further remark on the labours of apostles. The commission was given them with a promise, as regards the extent and duration of their labours. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This special presence intimates the power which should accompany their special labours, not merely during the few years of earthly sojourn, but, during the whole age or era, which, inaugurated at Pentecost, is to terminate only when the last stone is added to the spiritual temple, of which apostles were and are "Master Builders."
This will more fully appear after examination of the other gifts.
To be completed next month.
THE LOADSTONE OF CULTURE-WHAT IS IT?* "That it is desirable that some effort be made to attract to New Testament ground, more than has hitherto been done, men of education and culture."
"I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
We have a blessed sense of the meaning of the latter quotation; but everyone would not be quite so clear about the first. Not that there is any doubt about the desirability of saving educated people, by all possible means; seeing they need salvation as much as others. Neither can it be
The first quotation at the head of this article is a resolution adopted at the Annual Meeting of Disciples of Christ, held in Huddersfield, and reported in our last issue. No one in the meeting said anything approaching the thought that "New Testament ground" possesses no power of attraction for "men of education and culture." The main consideration was as to the means for bringing the New Testament order of things under the attention of the educated class. We distribute Tracts; but they are almost entirely given to the poor. We instruct children; but, again, they are the children of the poor. We speak to our neighbours and associates; but, as so many of us do not move in educated circles, our social intercourse does not considerably extend to the persons referred to. We open rooms for preaching; but for the most part they are in poor neighbourhoods, and not likely to attract the attention of people who are not in some way directed to them, and those who are thus specially informed are the poor. But," says one, "did not the Saviour point out, as characteristic of Christianity, that the poor have the gospel preached to them." He did, and that because the then existing philosophers ignored the poor. But if anyone suppose that He sanctioned the passing of men of education, culture
Observer, Oct. 1, '71.
questioned that education, when rightly directed, gives additional power for good; but an enquiry naturally arises, as to what means are likely to form a sufficient attraction to men of culture, leading them to take “New Testament ground." Is it a fair inference that the ground itself possesses no power of attraction for the class referred to, and that some outside influence must be sought after gently to lead, unawares, to that which has hitherto repelled when presented directly; and by some spell to charm the sense and make the thing appear what it is not? That men of education and culture are not attracted by the ancient gospel, nor drawn towards the organization, institutions and doctrines of the old faith, and that, therefore, we ought to bestir ourselves as a people, take off the sharp edges, get the rugged corners nicely rounded, and the entire surface polished down until every trace of the divine quarry is lost, and this same “New Testament ground" stands forth fashioned according to the nineteenth century standard, so becoming a loadstone for the culture of the age—the “men and women of the period?" From such a consummation we turn away in disgust. Go with hammer and chisel, and let the rugged grandeur of the Alps be wrought into the devices of art! Go, level the barrier at the mighty Niagara, and bid the stream flow on unruffled to the sea! Then, when the Alpine peaks are hewn, and Niagara is no more, come and assail, with philosophic sand-paper, the sublimist structure of Almighty wisdom!
New Testament ground is essentially rough to the foot of human nature, and for this reason many decline to walk thereon, choosing the broad and smooth asphalte, as more consistent with the elegant ease and refinement which have become part of their nature by careful culture. The Master met gentlemen of the above description, who thought they saw, and therefore perceived no beauty in mud eye-salve. They were whole, and had no need of the Physician. His message to these was soon delivered; He wasted no energy in a special effort to bring in the Pharisees and Saducees -the men of culture and education of that day. The mission of the Christ was to man, in the widest and most solemn sense; wherever manhood was realized in its essential deformity and deep need. True, His anointing had reférence to certain classes of mankind; but they were the meek, the broken-hearted, and the captives, to whom it was fraught with glad tidings, healing and liberty. The world is full of such to-day, in a spiritual as well as a natural sense, and the mission of the Head comes down as a divine legacy to the body, leaving neither room nor time for any novel or original experiment.
If, however, the proposition at the head of this paper points to something in the churches, the existence of which is obnoxious to true refine ment and shocking to cultivated moral sense, then it is, indeed, high time a supreme effort should be made to change such a condition and bring in a better era-to teach those who are otherwise minded, or who, through and riches, as though they had no souls, that one is awfully mistaken. He did nothing of the sort, nor does His doctrine warrant it. Christianity knows the unconverted only as sinners, and the command of the Master reads. "Preach the gospel to every creature." We are not justified in confining, almost entirely, our efforts to one class-that is if means can be found to reach others also. Were we asked to neglect the poor in order to seek the rich the request should be treated with contempt, but we should be quite as little disposed to act as though the soul of one poor and ignorant man were worth as much as those of a half-dozen men of education, culture and money. Not that we suppose that the writer of the above article has fallen into such error. We know him as not likely thus to err. We are glad, too, of his remarks in both directions. It is well to be reminded that whatever we do to attract to New Testament ground, there must be no cutting down of New Testament truth-that if attraction cannot be found without that it must be dispensed with. And it is quite as well to be reminded, that there may be in some churches, something truly obnoxious to "refinement and cultivated moral sense," and that persons of education and culture cannot be attracted to those by whom they are disgusted. We thank the writer for calling attention to these two important considerations. At the same time we did not consider the whole ground would be sufficiently surveyed without remarks such as this note supplies. ED.
Observer, Oct. 1, 71.
ignorance, perpetuate the evil; that coarseness, vulgarity and disorder are alike repugnant to Christian sense and subversive of Christian law; that the Church is the school for, and must be an organization of, gentlemen and gentle-women; and the man or woman who does not become-who is not constantly becoming, more and more refined in habits of thought, speech and life in other words, who is not undergoing a thorough reformation and purification, under the appliances of the faith and hope of the gospel, is a standing disgrace to the Christian name, and an intolerable barrier to the progress of the truth. On the other hand, as iron to the loadstone, so will the purest and most refined natures-the men of truest culture and heart, as well as brain education-be attracted to the noble and true standard of being, which constitutes the normal condition of the Christian Church. To be the responsible instrument, as a labourer in word and doctrine as well as by example, in bringing the Church up to, and maintaining it in, this high standard of excellence, stamps the office and work of a Christian pastor as the highest possible to finite and mortal man, and opens a path to glory and renown, inexpressible because inconceivable. This work well done, will leave no other to be desired.
It is well that there should be social reformers, and every right-minded citizen has good reason to thank the men, who stand forward as the advocates of freedom and right, in connection with temperance, sanitary, ecclesiastical and political matters; but momentous as some of these interests truly are, I believe the Spirit would whisper in the ear of every pastor, notwithstanding, Yet I shew unto thee a more excellent way." Reforms may ameliorate, but they cannot cure. They polish the brass. to-day, only to find it tarnished to-morrow-they cannot transform it into pure gold. Ye must be born again," is the expression of man's real need as well as the fiat of the Deity; and the great factor here, is the Spirit of the living God. It has pleased God to appoint His Church as the medium through which, by the gospel, he seeks to effect the regeneration of the race, and it would be as reasonable for a man to join a dozen weavers, and spend his life in throwing the shuttle of an antiquated loom, with a view to clothing the world, while he had at his disposal the mighty machinery of 1871, as for Christian overseers to be tinkering away all their lives at this and that reform, instead of applying themselves to the preservation and guidance of the divine organization which the Almighty has entrusted to their care. Be assured it was not said for nought, "Ye are the salt of the earth; "Ye are the light of the world." The characteristics of the Church should be “fair as the moon, clear as the sun; then may she hope to be "terrible as an army with banners."
The Great Shepherd has done His part-O how nobly! He calls upon the under shepherds to do theirs to aspire after His heavenly character, to live in the fellowship of the stern, real, earnest work that made His life and name the source and centre of all true greatness, and the fountain of salvation to man.
The great out-looking question seems to be, "How shall we bring man to God?" Brethren, do not suffer this question to become complicated! It is answered for us in the old Book, and it has also become a thing of history, as to how the marvellous success of the primitive days was brought about; indeed, I could hardly more appropriately close these lines than by quoting the record of Macaulay in the following words, viz. :-"It was before Deity, embodied in a human form, walking among men, partaking of their infirmities, leaning on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, slumbering in the manger bleeding on the cross; that the prejudices of