Изображения страниц

apostle inquires (ver. 11), " I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid : but rather, through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy: Now, if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness ?” Again, at ver. 26, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” “ And so all Israel shall be saved." Thus the purpose of God is manifested in the existence of the church as “a perfect man---the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

In the accomplishment of this, God put all things under the feet of Christ, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which, as we have already observed, he describes as his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. In the text it is, “ The measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ.” The existence of the church, as we have endeavoured to show, is for a particular end-the manifestation of God's glory. And this, as Christ is the Head, and those given to him of God in eternity from out of all kindreds, nations, tongues, and languages, which were to be upon the earth, form the body; which, in their numbers and provided blessings in Christ, will form the perfect man, by which alone the glory of God, according to bis purpose in the existence of the church can be manifested.

Let us now proceed to consider the means provided of God for the accomplishment of this the predestinated end of God in the churcli's existence, which is the second subject suggested from the text. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists : and some, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” We have not time, on the present occasion, to notice the distinctions between these variously gifted officers of the church ; suffice it to say, that though, in some parts of the word, these names or titles may be used synonymously, that here ihe distinction that there is between them is intended to be regarded, as showing the due respect which God had to the suitableness of his appointed means to their end. These were, and still continue to be, thus fitted for their appointed work in the church, by a special gift from Christ, which power was given to him on his ascension. This was foretold concerning him by the psalmist, and had its accomplishment, as the apostle sets forth, in the gifts bestowed on the various members of the church after Christ's ascension ; according to the wisdom of God, fitting them as instruments for the accomplishment of his design in the existence of the church. We read (ver. 7 and 8), “But unto every one of us-is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

"The perfecting of the saints," is the first thing named to be accomplished by means of these gifts bestowed of Christ upon men, to qualify them for an appointed work in his church. God's purpose is, that the church should be sa perfect man,” which it cannot be without the perfecting of the number, and also of each individual member, of which that church was appointed to consist. The members of the mystical body of Christ are called "saints," and more particularly “the saints." Saints are the called of God's electthose to whom are discovered their right and title to blessings in Christ which are theirs of God's sovereign grace and good-will towards them from eterb pity. And wherein consist their meetness and fitness to form a part of Christ's mystical body, the church? The apostle, in addressing the church of God at Corinth, says, " To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." This perfecting, of the text, is not a perfection of the flesh ; itbores are no means appointed for this ; * perfection in the flesh, on fleshly carnal nature, is unattainable. The flesh must be crucified, mortified, desstroyed, by means of Christ's death ; and be supplanted by a new nature that, instead of being carnal or fleshly, is spiritual. We are to be dead in our old nature with Christ in his death, and alive unto God in our new, with Christ in his resurrection. 2... The perfecting of the saints consists in bringing them to a realization of

their privileges and blessings in Christ, wherein is found their only perfection; one with him in all that God has made him to be to them. "But of shim are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made upto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ; that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. i. 30, 31).

The perfecting of the saints consists in bringing them to act upon those principles of the Gospel which are discernible to faith, and in acting upon which there is an acknowledgment of the great truths which constitute the Gospel, and of which the Gospel is a revelation from God, and by means of which a revelation also of God, whereby it becomes the channel of communi. cating to the chosen people that eternal life which is God's gift to them by 2 the Lord Jesus Christ. '". These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to - heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent (John, xvii, 1-3).

The only perfection we can attain to, is in Christ, of our union to him; we ware and have nothing in and of ourselves but sin; but in Christ we possess all things. The church is perfect and complete in him, and to this their perfection they are to be led and directed by the ministers of the word. Gospel ministers are to preach Christ, and the truth as it is in him, so as to lead belierers away from looking into themselves for any good thing, to a simple looking to Christ, resting and depending upon him. We have much to learn in this respect after that we have been effectually called to Christ. It is through much severe discipline in the school of Christ that some attain to any proficiency here. If there is to be any conformity to Christ in our walk and conversation in the world ; if there is to be anything wherein is found any Yapproaching, though ever so distant, to the perfection of the Father ; it can only be as we are, through grace, acting upon the principles and spirit of the Gospel, and producing the fruits of the righteousness of Christ, of his holiness. Not of righteousness found in ourselves, or any holiness which can

possibly be in us, but of God's providing for us in Christ. In this sense we * understand that Scripture found Matt. v. 48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even

as' your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It respects the Christian loving his enemies, and so testifying that he is a child of his Father which is in heaven. This can only be as united to Christ we do, by his spirit and grace, and not by any power or inherent holiness in ourselves, bring forth the fruits of his righteousness and holiness. The principle is in Christ, and if the fruits of the principle are borne by us as we are united to him, and he acts in us and on us in our renewed nature, of his own principles of holiness and righteousness, in accordance with which he wrought that obedience to the law in his life on earth, which justifies all that believe.

The perfecting of the saints is their establishment in Christ. The exhortation of the apostle in his Epistle to the Colossians (chap. ii, 6-9), is to this effect, where he says, As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in' him; rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving:

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. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him.” de. The apostle shows that this is what he means by " the perfecting of the

saints," when in Heb. vi. 1, 2, 3, he says, “ Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying -again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards 1God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrectioni of the dead, and of eternal judgment." Thus God, purposing the existence of a church that should form a perfect man, for ends which were solely of himself, chose the individual members each one in Christ; blessed them each individually in him; gave them to Christ, ordaining them to an veternal dependence on him for everything needful to their attainment of sthe end to which they had of God been predestinated. * Therefore,” says ithe Holy Ghost by Paul (1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 233), “ let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the

world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, oand ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Being Christ's, and being thus nblessed in him, when we fell, he redeemed us out of our lost state and con9dition; so the apostle says (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20), “What ? know ye not that 9your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have jöf God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.” Thus

we read (Col. i. 21, 22), And you that were sometime alienated and senemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the ibody of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and - unreproveable in his sight.” 194 Here is the perfecting of the saints. The desire of Paul for himself is to bthis end; the attainment of this, the saint's perfection in Christ Jesus.

(Phil. iii. 8, 9), “ Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the nexcellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have asuffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is bof the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ.” 708" The work of the ministry” is the second thing named in the text, for twhich gifts were bestowed upon members of the church, whereby they smight further God's design in the existence of the church. This seems to

be for both gathering in, and perfecting when gathered in, the various amembers chosen and ordained of God to form his church. The apostle - Paul, in 2 Cor. v. 18-21, says, “ All things are of God, who hath reconneiledi us to himself by Jesus Christ, and bath given to us the ministry of ureconciliation. To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto

himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto bus the word of reconciliation. Now we are ambassadors for Christ, as sthough God did beseech you by us; we pray you, in Christ's stead, be breconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no bsin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” How again cand again do those who have been effectually called to Christ need the truths of the Gospel, in which the sovereign love, grace, and mercy of God, shine forth, to be set before them by the ministers of Christ, to reconcile them to God in his particular dealings with them. What powerful motives to this are presented to our minds in the faithful ministry of the word, as

the Holy Ghost enables his servants scripturally, spiritually, and suitably : to set forth the truths of the Gospel; such as our election of God in Christ unto eternal life ; our being blessed of God in him with all needful bless



ings for our eternal happiness; with the gift of Christ as our salvation, to redeem us to himself by his own blood, and justify us by his righteousness; making Christ our sanctification, in whom we are dedicated, separated, and set apart for God for holy ends and purposes.

While the work of the ministry is for the benefit and blessing, according to God's purpose, of the individual members of his church, in their calling and attainment to the privileges of believers ; it is also for the benefit of the whole body of the church" For the edifying of the body of Christ," as the text sets forth. The church being one body composed of many mem! bers, or, one building raised up of many stones, and there being a mutual dependence of the church in all its numerous and various members one upon the other; the whole upon each individual, and each individual upon the whole; the perfecting of the saints by the work of the ministry, is found to be an edifying of the body, a building of it up. The gathering in of the saints to the church, is an adding to the church, a causing the: body to grow, and the building to increase and rise up. So we read (Acts, ii. 47),

"The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." of those who are the added to the church by the preaching of the Gospel, it! is said, " Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, buti fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ him. self being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”. (Eph. iiil 19-22). Whatever tends to the furthering of God's design in the church's existence (which we have endeavoured to show consists in her becoming a perfect man—the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ), is to the edification of the church or the body of Christ. So the Apostle Peter, speaking of individual members of the church being brought to Christ (1 Peter, ii. 4, 5), says, “To whom coming as unto a living stone, odisat allowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious ; ye also, as 1 lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”. 1.1 : { 1 ມ 1ນມາ

The church being edified or built up after this manner, by means of an appointed ministry of the word and ordinances, there is a set time for the continuance of these means set forth in the text, which is the third and last subject for our present consideration. “ Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." - These means will be continued to the church, we are here told, till all are gathered in and perfected, which is a very strong proof of a predestinated end of God in the church's existence; we could not well have a stronger.“' The means are effectual only, as God blesses them, only as he works by them to ac complish his own purposes. Who;" inquires the apostle (1 Cor. iii. 5,16,7), “is Paul, and who is Apollos, būt ministers by whom ye best lieved, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.!! The appointed means for gathering in, and building up, and perfecting of the saints, are to continue till all are gathered; while the work is of God and not of man. This is indeed very clear evidence of a predestinated end on God's part, in the church's existence. " God, then, will continue these means until he has achieved by them, through his own mighty power, and the discovery of his wisdom in their appointment, the ends for which he has given them to his church. It is a great thing at:

tained in our experience of spiritual and divine things, when we know for. ourselves, not by hearsay, or even from the letter of God's word, the suitableness to their divinely appointed ends of those means with which, as forming a part of the outward and visible church, we are favoured. To know, for instance, that there is a regenerating or converting power belonging to the word of God, as a word preached or a word read, by the effect produced by the word on our own souls, this is a very important attainment. Being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter, i. 23). "Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James, i. 16, 17, 18).

„To know that God is faithful to his own word of promise, and that also there are promises in God's word meeting our own particular case and condition, by their having been fulfilled to us, bringing with them those blessings to our own souls with which, in the letter of them, we have seen that they so abound: thus to know for our own selves such things as these, is an important attainment in the estimation of all who would have an internal evidence of the reality of their faith. While it strengthens and refreshes our own souls amidst the trials we are called to endure, it also tends to the edifying of the body of Christ ; joining us one to another in spiritual communion and fellowship, in soul union as fellow-members of Christ. In this way we are brought to that unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God in which the whole body are to come, "unto a perfect man the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” In this way each member of the body will be greatly aided to hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering, knowing that he is faithful that promised: while we shall be led to consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching. This would tend to the edifying of the church in the perfecting of the saints. As there is one faith and one Lord (see verse 5), so is there a unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to be wrought in each individual whom God has chosen in Christ to form a part of his church. The promises are made to those possessing this faith; while the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of this faith, is he in whom these promises are yea and amen. In such experience as this consists that growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which is our perfecting as saints, our contributing towards the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, according to the measure of the gist of Christ that is in us. The expression which the apostle uses in stating the time of the continuance of the appointed means for the church being perfected is, "till we all come.” We have already spoken of the church in God's predestination of her, consisting of a chosen number to be found amongst Jews and amongst Gentiles, called the fulness of the one and the fulness of the other. The gathering in of the elect Gentiles has been carrying on by God through casting away for a time the Jews as a nation, in whom alone, for a long period, was to be found the outward and visible church of God. After the coming of Christ, the middle, wall of partition contained in ordinances was done away; the vail was rent in twain from top to bottom at his crucifixion, and a way was thus opened for the admission of Gentiles to the church, and the elect from among them being gathered. Isaiah, lvi. 6, “The sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »