FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: The Glorious Adornment of Christians
Sermons of Martin Luther-Baker-OUT OF PRINT
Text: Colossians 3, 12-17. 12 Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy
and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, long
suffering; 13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any
man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also
do ye: 14 and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of
perfectness. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the
which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the Word
of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one
another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in
your hearts unto God. 17 And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through
THE GLORIOUS ADORNMENTS OF CHRISTIANS.
1. This text is also a letter of admonition, teaching what manner of
fruit properly results from faith. Paul deals kindly with the Colossians.
He does not command, urge nor threaten, as teachers of the Law must do
in the case of those under the Law. He persuades them with loving words
in view of the blessing and grace of God received, and in the light of
Christ's own example. Christians should act with readiness and cheerfulness,
being moved neither by fear of punishment nor by desire for reward, as
frequently before stated. This admonition has been so oft repeated in the
preceding epistle lesson that we know, I trust, what constitutes a Christian.
Therefore we will but briefly touch on the subject.
"Put on, therefore."
2. In the epistle for New Year's day we have sufficiently explained
the meaning of "putting on"; how by faith we put on Christ, and
he us; how in love we put on our neighbor, and our neighbor us. The Christian
apparel is of two kinds faith and love. Christ wore two manner of garments
one whole and typical of faith, the other divided and typical of love.
Paul here has reference to the latter garment, love. He would teach us
Christians the manner of ornaments and apparel we are to wear in the world;
not silk or precious gold. To women these are forbidden of Peter ( 1 Pet
3, 3), and of Paul (1 Tim 2, 9). Love for our neighbor is a garment well
befitting us -that. love which leads us to concern ourselves about the
neighbor and his misfortunes. Such love is called the ornament of a Christian
character an ornament in the eyes of men.
3. Observe the tender and sacred style of the apostle's admonition,
a style he is wont to use toward us. He does not drive us with laws, but
persuades by reminding us of the ineffable grace of God; for he terms us
the "elect of God," and "holy" and "beloved."
He would call forth the fruits of faith, desiring them to be yielded in
a willing, cheerful and happy spirit. The individual who sincerely believes
and trusts that before God he is beloved, holy and elect, will consider
how to sustain his honors and titles, how to conduct himself worthily of
them; more, he will love God with a fervor enabling him to do or omit,
or to suffer, all things cheerfully, and will never know how to do enough.
But he who doubts such attitude of God toward himself will not recognize
the force of these words. He will not feel the power of the statement that
we are holy, beloved, elect, in the sight of God.
4. Let us disregard, therefore, the saints who elect and love themselves;
who adorn themselves with the works of the Law; who observe fasts and discipline;
who regard raiment and position, for they are unwilling to be sinners before
God. Our ornaments are unlike these, and not associated with such mockeries.
They are honesty, sincerity, good works, service to our neighbor. We are
unfettered by laws regarding food, raiment, times, etc. We are holy in
the sight of God, before whom none can be holy until he sees himself a
sinner and rejects his own righteousness. But the class mentioned are holy
in their own estimation; therefore, they ever remain wicked sinners in
the sight of God. We are beloved of God because we despise ourselves, we
judge and condemn ourselves and reject our self-love. The others, because
they love and esteem themselves, are despicable and unacceptable in the
sight of God. Again, we are chosen of God for the reason that we despise
ourselves as filth. Such God chooses, and has chosen from eternity. Because
the would-be saints elect themselves, God will reject them, as indeed he
has from eternity. Now, this is what Paul means by these words, "A
heart of compassion."
5. They stand for a part of the ornament, the beautiful, charming Christian
jewel, that becomes us better in the sight of God than pearls, precious
stones, silk and gold become us in the eyes of the world. "A heart
of compassion" is evidence of the true Christian. Paul would say:
"Not simply in external deed, or in appearance, are ye to be merciful,
but in the inmost heart." He refers to that sincere and wholesouled
mercy characteristic of the father and mother who witness the distress
of a child for whom they would readily expose their lives or sacrifice
all they possess. The Christian's mind and heart should be constantly devoted
to merciful deeds, with an ardor so intense as to make him unaware he is
doing good and compassionate acts.
6. With this single phrase Paul condemns the works and arbitrary rules
of hypocritical saints, whose severity will not permit them to associate
with sinners. Their rigorous laws must be all-controlling. They do nothing
but compel and drive. They exhibit no mercy, but perpetual reproach, censure,
condemnation, blame and bluster. They can endure no imperfection. But among
Christians many are sinners, many infirm. In fact, Christians associate
only with these; not witl1 saints. Christians reject none, but bear with
all. Indeed, they are as sincerely interested for sinners as they would
be for themselves were they the infirm. They pray for the sinners, teach,
admonish, persuade, do all in their power to reclaim. Such is the true
character of a Christian. So God, in Christ, has dealt with us and ever
deals. So Christ dealt with the adulteress (Jn 8, 11) when he released
her from her tormentors, and with his gracious words influenced her to
repentance and suffered her to depart. We read of St. Antony having said
that Paphrutius knew how souls are to be saved, because he rescued a certain
individual from brethren who persecuted and oppressed him for his transgression.
See "Lives of the Fathers." Were God to deal with us according
to the rigor of his laws, we should all be lost. But he mercifully suspends
the Law. Isaiah says (ch. 9. 4): "For the yoke of his burden, and
the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken."
God now only persuades.
7. Note how involved in the Law and in hypocrisy they still are who
esteem themselves prominent saints and at the same time are intolerant
of the infirmities of Christians. If they fail to find perfect holiness
-a miracle of purity -in those who possess Christ and know the Gospel,
then nothing is as it should be; the heavens are on the point of falling
and the earth about to be destroyed. They can only judge, censure and deride,
saying: "Oh, yes, he is truly evangelical; indeed, he is a visionary!"
Thus they indicate their utter blindness. With the beam constantly in their
own eyes, they show how little they know of Christ. Know, then, when you
meet one so ready to censure and condemn, one requiring absolute perfection
in Christians know that such a one is merely an enforcer of the Law, a
base hypocrite, a merciless jailer, with no true knowledge of Christ. As,
with Christians, there is no law but all is love, so neither can there
be judgment, condemnation and censure. And he who calls another a visionary
is certainly a visionary ten-fold himself. In the thing for which he judges
and condemns another, he condemns himself. Since he ignores mercy and all
but the Law, he finds no mercy in the sight of God; in fact, he has never
experienced, never tasted, God's mercy. To his taste, both God and neighbor
are bitter as gall and wormwood.
8. But tender mercy is to be shown only to Christians and only among
Christians. With the rejecters and persecutors of the Gospel we must deal
differently. It is not right that my charity be liberal enough to tolerate
unsound doctrine. In the case of false faith and doctrine there is neither
love nor patience. Against these it is my duty earnestly to contend and
not to yield a hair's breadth. Otherwise when faith is not imperiled I
must be unfailingly kind and merciful to all notwithstanding the infirmities
of their lives. I may not censure, oppress nor drive; I must persuade,
entreat and tolerate. A defective life does not destroy Christianity; it
exercises it. But defective doctrine false belief destroys all good. So,
then, toleration and mercy are not permissible in the case of unsound doctrine;
only anger, opposition and death are in order, yet always in accordance
with the Word of God.
9. On the other hand, they who are mercifully tolerated must not imagine
that because they escape censure and force, their beliefs and practices
are right. They must not construe such mercy as encouragement to become
indolent and negligent, and to continue in their error. Mercy is not extended
them with any such design. The object is to give them opportunity to recover
zeal and strength. But if they be disposed to remain as they are, very
well; let them alone. They will not long continue thus; the devil will
lead them farther astray, until finally they will completely apostatize,
even becoming enemies to the Gospel. Such will be their end if they permit
mercy to be lavished upon them in vain. We may not be indolent and asleep
in the matter of our false doctrines, relying upon the fact that we are
not despised nor constrained of men. There is particular need to be active
and diligent, for the devil neither sleeps nor rests. We need beware that
he does not lead us where we will never enjoy God's mercy.
"Kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering."
10. These words represent the other elements of Christian character.
Kindness you will find defined in the second epistle lesson for the early
Christmas service. It characterizes the conduct of the individual who is
gentle and sympathetic to all; who repels none with forbidding countenance,
harsh words or rude deportment. We Germans would call such a one affable
and friendly disposed. Kindness is a virtue not confined to certain works;
it modifies the whole life. The kindly person is obliging to everyone,
not displeased with any, and is attractive to all men. In contrast are
those peculiar characters who have pleasure in nothing but their own conceits;
who insist on others accommodating themselves to them and their ways, while
they yield to none. Such individuals are termed "uncivil."
11. But the liberality of kindness is not to be extended to false doctrine.
Only relative to conduct and works is it to be exercised. As oft before
stated, love with all its works and fruits has no place in the matter of
unsound doctrine. I must love my neighbor and show him kindness whatever
the imperfections of his life. But if he refuses to believe or to teach
sound doctrine, I cannot, I dare not, love him or show him kindness. According
to Paul (Gal 1, 8-9), I must hold him excommunicated and accursed, even
though he be an angel from heaven.
Thus remarkably do faith and love differ and are distinct. Love will
be, must be, kind even to the bitterest enemy so long as he assails not
faith and doctrine. But it will not, it cannot, tolerate the individual
who does, be it father, mother or dearest friend. Deut 13, 6-8. Love, then,
must be exercised, not in relation to the doctrine and faith of our neighbor,
but relative to his life and works. Faith, on the contrary, has to do,
not with his works and life, but with his doctrine and belief.
12. I think we must know by this time the meaning of "lowliness"
of mind esteeming one's self least and others greater. As Christ illustrates
it, occupying the lowest seat at the wedding, and this cheerfully. We are
to serve even when our service is not desired, and to minister unto our
enemies. So Christ humbled himself before Judas the betrayer, and before
all of us. He came, not to be served, but to serve. That humbleness of
mind is a rare virtue is not to be wondered at, for every Christian grace
is a rarity. Particularly are graces lacking with those who, professing
to know most of Christ, find something to censure in all Christians. Christianity
Paul calls a mystery of God; and it is likely to continue so.
13. "Meekness" is opposed to anger. The meek man is not easily
excited to exhibit anger, to curse, smite, hate, or wish evil to any, even
an enemy. To refrain thus is an art. Hypocrite sin fact, all the world
can be meek toward friends and those who treat them well. But true meekness
and humility will remain only among the elect and beloved saints of God,
as Paul here implies. Even among these are many deficient in all, or at
least a large part, of the Christian graces. Hypocrites may thus find something
to censure, something whereat to be offended, in the beloved, elect saints
of God. And the true saints have occasion to exercise mercy, humility,
meekness and forbearance. They whom Paul here terms elect and beloved saints
of God, though slightly deficient in humility, meekness and forbearance,
are not therefore unholy, not rejected and despised.
14. Paul makes a distinction between longsuffering and forbearance,
as in Romans 2, 4: "Despises" thou the riches of his goodness
and forbearance and longsuffering?" In "longsuffering" we
have the thought here and there expressed by God in the Psalms and elsewhere
by the Hebrew "arich apaim""slow to wrath." God patiently
bears with evil. Indeed, he repeatedly delays vengeance, apparently more
ready to forgive than to punish, even under extreme provocation and having
just reason to chastise. Longsuffering extends farther than patience. Patience
bears evil and injustice; but longsuffering delays punishment. It does
not design to punish; it would not take hasty revenge. Unlike the revengeful,
it wishes no one evil. Many we see, indeed, who suffer much and are patient
but at the same time trust in a final avenging. The longsuffering Christian,
however, is opposed to revenge, desiring the sinner to amend his ways.
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have
a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye."
15. In this verse all law is abolished among Christians. One is not
permitted to demand, through process of law, the recovery of his property.
He must forgive and yield. Christ's example enjoins this principle; he
has forgiven us. And what is the extent of his forgiveness? He pardons
past sins, but that is not all; as John says (1 In 2, 1-2), "If any
man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteousness
and he is the propitiation for our sins."
16. Note, it is the true Christian saints whom Paul describes, but he
looks upon them as infirm to the extent of offending and complaining against
one another. This is a state of affairs by no means becoming Christians
and saints. So I say Christ's kingdom is a mystery obscure beyond the power
of our preaching and teaching sufficiently to explain. Unbelievers cannot
be induced to work, but believers cannot be withheld from working. Some
would not believe and some would not love.
It is true of Christ's kingdom that his Christians are not perfectly
holy. They have begun to be holy and are in a state of progression. There
are still to be found among them anger, evil desire, unholy love, worldly
care and other deplorable infirmities, remains of the old Adam. Paul speaks
of these things as burdens which one must bear for a neighbor (Gal 6, 2),
and in Romans 15, 1, he admonishes us to "bear the infirmities of
the weak." Likewise Christ loved his apostles much and suffered much
from them, and he still daily bears with his own.
17. Some, enumerating the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians
5, 22-23, say a Christian should be gentle, meek, longsuffering, chaste;
and they look upon this passage as a law commanding such fruits. Hence
they refuse to recognize as Christians any who fail to possess the fruits
in perfection. Now, such individuals cannot believe there is a Christ,
certain as the fact is. They judge malignantly, complaining that Christians
do not exist. They take offense at Christ for his superior wisdom. For
Christ has given us scriptural authority for knowing Christians by their
fruits. He says (Mt7, 16), "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Here they are emphatic.
18. Can you locate the failure of such an individual? He fails in the
fact that he understands absolutely nothing of Christ's kingdom. For he
misinterprets the passages referring to Christians. He understands the
statement that Christians should be kind and meek, to mean they must never
become angry, must bear anything and show impatience toward none; if they
do not so, they cannot be Christians, for they have not the fruits. Dear
man, what but his own blindness can lead him to such a conclusion? He fancies
Christianity to be a holy order of perfection, altogether without infirmity,
a perfection as in heaven among the angels. But tell me, where do the Scriptures
speak thus of Christians? But whoso recognizes Christianity as a progressive
order yet in its beginning, will not be offended at the occasional manifestation
of ungentleness, unkindness and impatience on the part of a Christian;
for he remembers that Christians are commanded to bear one another's burdens
and infirmities. He knows that the enumeration of the fruits of the Spirit
is not a record of laws the observance of which is imperative or Christ
will be denied. He is aware the passage is to be interpreted as meaning
that Christians are to strive to be kind; that is the mark at which they
aim. However, even though they have made a beginning and some progress
in this virtue, they often are unkind and bear fruits directly the opposite
of the fruits of the Spirit. True, the text quoted says we should be kind,
but it does not say we are kind. We are tending toward it, we are in a
state of progression; but during the progress much of the old and as yet
untransformed nature is intermingled.
l9. Know, then, that in a mysterious way Christ is in his saints, and
beware of judging or condemning anyone when You have not positive assurance
that he believes and teaches contrary to the Gospel. But whoso does oppose
the Gospel, you may safely judge to be without Christ, and under the sway
of the devil. Pray for such a one and admonish him, in the hope of his
conversion. But in the case of one who endorses and honors the Gospel,
observe Paul's comment (Rom 14, 4): "Who art thou that judgest the
servant of another?. to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall
be made to stand; for the Lord bath power to make him stand." And
again (1 Cor 10, 12): "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall." Christ would be at the same time hidden and
revealed, found and not found. He permits the intermingling of some infirmities
with the fruits of the Spirit, that he may conceal himselú, and that malicious
judges may be offended. "And above all these things put on love, which
is the bond of perfectness."
20. From longsuffering and meekness the apostle distinguishes love and
other jewels of spiritual beauty whereof we have already heard, though
all are comprehended in love. As faith is the chief element of Christian
character, so love is chief of the fruits of the Spirit, the jewel of surpassing
beauty. Therefore Paul says, "Above all these things put on love."
Love transcends mercy, kindness, meekness and humility. Paul calls it "the
bond of perfectness" because it unites human hearts; not a partial
unity, based on similarity or close relationship, but a complete unity
among all men and in all relations. It makes us of one mind, one heart,
one desire. It permits no one to originate a peculiar order of doctrine
or faith. All who love are of the same belief. Consequently there is the
same purpose of heart with the poor and the rich, with rulers and subjects,
the ill and the well, the high and the low, the honored and the disgraced.
The loving heart permits all to share in its good; more, it participates
in the adversities of all men, regarding them as its own. Where love is,
perfect unity and communion obtain in every event, good or bad. It is a
most perfect bond.
21. Where love is lacking, hearts are united and aims single in but
few relations; in most things there is disagreement. For instance: Robbers
have a common bond, but it is no more than a common purpose in committing
robbery and murder. Worldly friends are of the same mind so far as concerns
their own interests. Monks are united in relation to their order and their
honor. Herod and Pilate agreed, but simply in regard to Christ. For the
most part it is exceptional that one monk, priest or layman agrees with
another. Their bond of union is weak; they are as chaff bound with straw.
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which also
ye were called."
22. There is much to threaten the sundering of love's bond. The devil
never sleeps, but continually stirs up discord and unrest. Paul does not
deny that the bond is assailed. But he exhorts us to resist, remembering
that love must be exercised by opposition. He admonishes us to let the
peace of Christ have dominion in our hearts. The thought of the verse is:
Though the peace of the world and the flesh abides not, though you must
witness the forces of discord and disruption, nevertheless let your hearts
have peace in Christ.
We spoke of the peace Or God in the epistle selection for the Fourth
Sunday in Advent Philippians 4, 7. This is the peace whereunto the Gospel
calls; not the peace of the world, the flesh or the devil, but the peace
that passeth all understanding, of which Paul tells us. We are to hold
the peace of God, not only when all is well, but when sin, death, the flesh,
the world and all calamities rage.
"And be ye thankful."
23. "Thankfulness" here may be taken in either of two senses:
First, thankfulness toward God, Paul's thought being: Let the remembrance
of all God has done for you move you to gratitude for his grace and mercy,
a gratitude to which shall succeed love and peace. Secondly, we may understand
thankfulness toward me - gratitude for all the benefits received from our
fellows. The apostle elsewhere (2 Tim 3, 2) speaks of there being, in the
last days, among other vices, that of "unthankfulness" of men
toward each other. Let everyone make choice for himself of the two applications.
It is my opinion, since Paul later takes up the subject of gratitude to
God, and since he is here handling that of love to our neighbor it is my
opinion he has reference here to gratitude to our fellowmen. This, I think,
is his meaning.
Man is glad to have love shown him; he is quite willing to receive good
from others and to be dealt with according to the Gospel. At the same time,
he is not disposed to manifest love to his fellows: favors shown him are
lost upon his ingratitude. Though love is not defeated by ungratefulnessfor
it bears all things (1 Cor 13, 7)yet unthankfulness produces weariness
and aversion; and it is a base, unjust and shameful thing for one who continually
lends assistance not to be served in return.
24. Paul says on this topic (Gal 6, 6), "Let him that is taught
in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."
And he declares (1 Tim 5, 17) that they who labor in the Word and doctrine
are worthy of double honor. In the ninth chapter of First Corinthians he
speaks at length on how teachers are entitled to support, saying the mouth
of the threshing ox should not be muzzled; that would be gross ingratitude.
Of such unthankfulness he here hints. It is true today, and ever has been,
that preachers of the Word of God must in general seek their own bread,
and receive ingratitude as their reward for the wonderful blessings they
confer. Were it their part to celebrate masses and indulgences, gratitude
would be forthcoming; great would be the gifts and service rendered them
as expression of thankfulness. But just as ungratefully were the Levites
treated under the old Law, in contrast with the favor shown the priests
of idols and groves.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching
and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts unto God."
25. This verse appropriately follows the injunction to be thankful.
Paul would say: Be careful to honor teachers and preachers, being grateful
that they handle the Word and may richly impart it to you. I do not imagine
Paul refers to the giving of the Word of God from heaven, for it is not
within man's power to so give it; God alone can commit it to us. So he
has done and continues to do. On every occasion when he permits the Gospel
to be preached, he showers the message upon us abundantly, withholding
no essential knowledge. But, after it is given, we ought to be thankful
and to faithfully read and hear it, sing and speak it, and meditate upon
it day and night. And it should be our part to secure teachers enough to
minister it to us liberally and continuously. This is what is meant by
letting the Word of God dwell among us richly.
26. Satiated, indolent spirits soon grow tired and dismiss their pastors
to go wherever they wish. The latter are forced to seek a living by other
work, and thus God's Word is neglected and becomes rare and thinly sown
in the land. Nehemiah (ch. 13, 10) complains that the Levites, because
of lack of support, were forced to leave their worship and temple and flee
to the fields or start false worship and fables to mislead the people.
They then received enough to exist they became wealthy.
It has come about in the Christian Church that as often as the support
of godly pastors and teachers has grown to be a burden, as Augustine laments
has been the case, these have been either forced to neglect the Word to
labor for their own support, or forced to invent: that wretched, accursed
worship nor prevalent throughout the world and whereby the preachers have
attained lordly position. With the revival of the Gospel the financial
difficulty mentioned is recurring, and it will continue to recur. One hundred
dollars cannot now be raised for the support of a good schoolmaster or
preacher where formerly a thousand dollars yes, incompatible sums were
contributed toward churches, institutions, masses, vigils and the like.
Once more God punishes ingratitude by permitting his preachers to withdraw
wholly from the ministry and to engage in their own support, or by sending
upon the people even greater delusions than ever, which defraud them of
wealth and destroy body and soul. For they refuse to let the Word of God
dwell among them richly. Paul adds the modifying phrase,
"In all wisdom."
27. Were we to have the Word of God so richly as to ring in every street
corner, to be sung everywhere by all children as they designed who into
the pulpits and the lessons introduced canonical prayers and singing and
reading what would all this profit without an understanding mind without
wisdom? For the Word of God was given to make us wise. It was intended
that we should understand it; that it should be preached and sung intelligibly.
And they who minister it, who sing and speak it, ought to be wise, understanding
everything pertaining to the salvation of the soul and the honor of God.
That is what it means to have the Word of God dwell among us in all wisdom.
Here Paul briefly overthrows the vociferous practices of the churches and
monasteries where so much preaching and reading obtain while at the same
time the Gospel is not understood. He seems to have foreseen the coming
time when the Word of God should freely prevail, but with no resulting
wisdom; the time when men should daily increase in ignorance and fanaticism
until they should become mere dolts, so completely void of wisdom as to
call vociferation and boasting divine worship, and to regard that preaching
the salvation of souls.
28. What it is to teach and to admonish has been frequently explained.
Here Paul makes the duty of instruction common to all Christians"
teaching and admonishing one another." That is, aside from the regular
office of preaching, each is to teach himself and others, thus making everyday
use of the Word of God, publicly and privately, generally and specially.
29. As I see it, the apostle's distinction of the three words psalms,
hymns and spiritual songs is this: "psalms" properly indicates
those productions of David and others constituting the Book of Psalms;
"hymns" refers to the songs of the prophets occasionally mentioned
in the Scriptures songs of Moses, Deborah, Solomon, Isaiah, Daniel, Habakkuk,
with the Magnificat, the Benediction, and the like, called "Canticles";
"spiritual songs" are those not written in the Scriptures but
of daily origin with men. Paul calls these latter "spiritual"
to a greater degree than psalms and hymns, though he recognizes those as
themselves spiritual. He forbids worldly, sensual and unbecoming songs,
desiring us to sing of spiritual things. It is then that our songs are
calculated to benefit arid instruct, as he says.
30. But what is the significance of Paul's phrase "with grace"?
I offer the explanation that he refers to the grace of God and means that
the singing of spiritual songs is to be voluntary, uncompelled, spontaneous,
rendered with cheerfulness and prompted by love; not extorted by authority
and law, as is the singing in our churches today. No one sings, preaches
or prays from a recognition of mercy and grace received. The motive is
a hope for gain, or a fear of punishment, injury and shame; or again, the
holiest individuals bind themselves to obedience, or are driven to it,
for the sake of winning heaven, and not at all to further the knowledge
of the Word of God the understanding of it richly and in all wisdom, as
Paul desires it to be understood. I imagine Paul has in mind the charm
of music and the beauty of poetry incident to song. He says in Ephesians
4, 29: "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such
as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them
that hear." Likewise should songs be calculated to bring grace and
favor to them who hear. Foul, unchaste and superfluous words have no place
therein, nor have any inappropriate elements, elements void of significance
and without virtue and life. Hymns are to be rich in meaning, to be pleasing
and sweet, and thus productive of enjoyment for all hearers. The singing
of such songs is very properly called in Hebrew singing "with grace,"
as Paul has it. Of this character of songs are the psalms and hymns of
the Scriptures; they are good thoughts presented in pleasing words. Some
songs, though expressed in charming words, are worldly and carnal; while
others presenting good thoughts are at the same time expressed in words
inappropriate, unattractive and devoid of grace. "Singing with grace
in your hearts unto God."
31. Paul does not enjoin silence of the lips. He would have words of
the mouth proceed from the heart sincerely and fervently; not hypocritically,
as Isaiah mentions (ch. 29, 13), saying: "This people draw nigh unto
me, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor me, but have removed
their heart far from me." Paul would have the Word of God to dwell
among Christians generally, and richly to be spoken, sung and meditated
upon everywhere; and that understandingly and productive of spiritual fruit,
the Word being universally prized. He would that men thus sing unto the
Lord heartfelt praise and thanks. He says let the Word "dwell"
among you. Not merely lodge as a guest for a night or two, but abide with
you forever. He is constantly apprehensive of human doctrines.
"And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
32. The works of Christians are not circumscribed by name, time nor
place. Whatever Christians do is good; whenever done it is timely; wherever
wrought it is appropriately. So Paul names no work. He makes no distinction,
but concludes all works good, whether it be eating or drinking, speaking
or keeping silence, waking or sleeping, going or staying, being idle or
otherwise. All acts are eminently worthy because done in the name of the
Lord Jesus. Such is Paul's teaching here. And our works are wrought in
the name of the Lord Jesus when we by faith hold fast the fact that Christ
is in us and we in him in the sense that we no longer labor but he lives
and works in us. Paul says (Gal 2, 20), "It is no longer I that live,
but Christ liveth in me." But when we do a work as of ourselves, then
it is wrought in our own name and there is nothing good about it.
33. The expression "in the name of God," or "Go in the
name of Jesus," is frequently uttered falsely and in sheer hypocrisy.
The saying is, "All misfortunes rise in the name of God." For
teachers of false doctrines habitually offer their commodities in the name
of God. They even come in the name of Christ, as he himself foretells.
Mt 24, 24. To sincerely and earnestly speak and work in Jesus' name, necessarily
the heart must accord with the utterances of the mouth. As the lips declare
in the name of God, so must the heart confidently, with firm faith, hold
that God directs and performs the work. Peter teaches the same (1 Pet 4,
11): "If any man ministereth [perform anything], ministering as of
the strength which God supplieth." Then will the venture prosper.
No Christian should undertake to do any deed in his own ability and directed
by his own judgment. Rather let him be assured that God works with and
through him. Paul says (1 Cor 9, 26): "I therefore so run, as not
uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air."
34. Such an attitude will result in praise and thanks to God as the one to whom are due all honor and praise for every good thing. So Paul teaches and also Peter. Immediately after declaring that we are to work according to the ability which God gives, Peter adds "that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." But he who undertakes anything in his own ability, however he may glorify God with his lips, lies and deceives, like the hypocrite in the Gospel. Thankfulness, therefore, is the only duty we can perform unto God; and this is not to be rendered of ourselves, but through our Mediator, Jesus. Without him none can come to the Father, none can be accepted. Of this fact we have often spoken.