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"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "God hath made him to us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Then came in the " false brethren," and say, "Except ye be circumcised and keep the law, ye cannot be saved." To what then were they to look? No longer to Christ, as being " the end of the law for righteousness;" but to circumcision and outward ordinances. This was to subvert their souls :2 to take away that provision and supply of all that is necessary to salvation which the gospel so amply furnishes. And in this way Paul treats the case, when others were afterwards running into a like error. (Gal. vii. 1.) "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" You, to whom it hath been so clearly shown that Jesus Christ has made a complete atonement on the cross for the sins of all men; you that have been used to look up to this, as your hope and confidence;—would you now turn aside from this ground on which you stood, and seek a new foundation for God's favour? This would be indeed the subversion of your souls. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." "For his voke is easy, and his burthen is light."3
a avaoKiva'CovTo;. v. 24. 3 Gal. v. I. Matt. xi. 31.
For what reason may we believe that this dispute is so fully discussed, and left for our instruction in these latter days? That we too may rejoice for the consolation of knowing the ground on which we rest. To unite anything with the merits of Christ, as assisting in reconciling us to God and giving us peace with him, would be to subvert our souls as well as theirs. There is indeed a great difference, in themselves, between the works of the Mosaic law, and the "good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."4 But there is no difference in the place which they hold as justifying us in God's sight. We are justified, not because we "live righteously, soberly, and godly;" but because, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." We walk religiously in good works, not that we may be justified by these; for four justification is not of ourselves, but of Christ: but because we are justified, we "walk nor after the flesh but after the Spirit." The Christians of Antioch might not rest on circumcision, as a ground on which they should be saved. And we must not appeal to our pure, and meek, and just, and charitable practice, for any other purpose than to show that "the life which we live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God."5 "By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" alone do "we hope to be saved, even as they."
1 Eph. ii. 10. s Gal. ii. 20.
PAUL AND BARNABAS LEAVE ANTIOCH ON A VISIT TO THE CHURCHES.—A. D. 53.
Acts Xv. 32—41.
32. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves,1 exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
33. And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
These good men, Judas and Silas, could not visit this flourishing church of God, without dropping the word of instruction and exhortation. Truth is thus established out of the mouth of many concurring witnesses. The people too would see that if their own teachers were urgent with them, so also were others: others as well as their own '' fathers in Christ" were concerned for their salvation, and were zealously affected towards them as children of the same adoption. Besides, as prophets vary in their powers, or in their mode of expounding truth, so hearers vary in their temper and disposition: and Judas and Silas might be enabled to impress and persuade some hearts which had resisted Paul and Barnabas.
1 As xiii. I.
Silas may have found it so. Or he may have been so much interested in what he saw at Antioch, as to desire a longer stay. When the other messengers were let go in peace, that they might return to the apostles at Jerusalem, he remained behind.
34. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
35. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
36. And some days aj'ter, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
Grace in the heart of man is a tender plant in an ungenial climate. The husbandman cannot be satisfied, because he has sown the seed, or raised the stem: he must watch it, weed it, prune it, nourish it. The apostles felt this in regard to those vineyards of Christ which they had planted in the midst of the heathen wilderness. They were anxious to know, how they had withstood opposition, how they had resisted temptation: what errors of doctrine might have been introduced, what inconsistent practice admitted: whether any "false brethren had crept in unawares;" whether any irregularity required correction, any brethren needed to be restrained who were "walking disorderly." Satan was ever vigilant to corrupt and injure: they must be no less diligent to give warning of his snares.
How great is the importance of that salvation, to hinder which so much is done! We estimate rightly the worth of the soul, when we estimate it by that which has been effected for its deliverance: but we may also obtain a fresh sense of its value, by considering how earnest is the enemy of man to recover into his power those who were once escaped from error.
37. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40. And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
41. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
These apostles had said not long before at Lystra, "We are men of like passions with yourselves." Here this appears. They could not agree about Mark's character. He had departed from them seven years before when they first set about the work of conversion among the heathen.2 Paul, it seems, had perceived in this a want of zeal: as in Demas afterwards, of whom he writes, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed into Thessalonica." 3 But Paul might not have been free from austerity, and might
1 xiii. 12. 3 2 Tim. iv. 10.