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"Ye are my friends, IF ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:14)
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The word here translated poor-ptochos-is a very strong word. We are told by the lexicons that it was always used in a bad sense before Christ chose it as the badge of His followers.
It means utterly destitute, mean, beggarly, abased, completely lacking in possession, position or self-assertion. It is the extreme opposite of high-spirited. It is the character and state the world most despises.
But God says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).
And our great Teacher and example said, "Learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29). **
**Bro Growcott - The Fleeting Cross and the Eternal Crown
Or, as a command: "Be poor in spirit."
This is perhaps the most striking command of the whole address. The word "poor" here means the lowest degree of abject poverty and destitution. It means beggar.
"Spirit" is disposition. The "poor in spirit" are those who fully realize the true destitute status of perishing mortal man, as compared to glorious and eternal things. What is man? -dust, a vapour, a breath, a shadow, with an urgent, desperate, crying need for help and strength of God.
Those who perceive this are blessed, happy; they have taken the first step toward immortality. *
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Or, more simply: "Be mourners."
The blessing does not include ALL mourners, any more than the first does all poor. It is those who mourn in the right way for the right things; those who have deep fellow-feeling for others' sorrows - for the burden of the sorrow of this sad world; those who realistically face the facts of life -
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting;
"For that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart" (Eccl. 7:2)
It does not conflict with the command to "Always rejoice!" Paul said (2 Cor. 6:10) that he was "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich." *
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meek means yielding, gentle, mild, patient, calm and soothing; not aggressive or self-assertive or bossy; cheerfully putting up with wrong and present disadvantages for the sake of eternal good.
Meek people are self-controlled people and they have great power for good influence. It is a training in controlling the flesh. It is the attitude that can best help others. *
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Hunger and thirst-the basic, most essential needs and desires. The blessing is for those whose whole hearts' desire is not for personal gain or advantage or pleasure, but for righteousness and holiness and godliness-in themselves and throughout the earth.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
In Nazareth Revisited, bro. Roberts strongly emphasizes the necessity of keeping all these teachings in balance. We may tend to over-emphasize those that naturally appeal to us, and give others insufficient weight.
An adamant, forceful stand for righteousness is essential, but equally so is mercy and compassion and patience and understanding. We are fighting sin - the common enemy. We are not fighting people. People we are trying to win and save.
We naturally tend to be very critical of the errors of others, and very compassionate to our own. Let us reverse the process. It is much more healthy and productive and scriptural. *
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
"Be pure in heart" (5:8)
The saddest aspect of the perverted morality of these last dark days of human ignorance is that corruption and vulgarity are being glorified as reality and honesty, and deeper bondage to the flesh is heralded as emancipation and freedom. Decency and purity are condemned as prudery and hypocrisy.
Truly the world is full of hypocrisy, as the new generation of rebels say, but the problem is not solved but worsened by destroying the good things that the world is hypocritical about.
More than ever it is essential that we, as Christ's brethren, realize and emphasize that purity and cleanliness of heart and deed and word and thought are as vital and important and desirable and timely as ever.
The Bible-God's Word-is the ONLY standard for right and wrong, purity and impurity, cleanliness and filthiness, wisdom and folly. Without this standard, man steadily degenerates to the beast, though he glorifies his corruption with high sounding words.
JUST "doing" is not enough. Motive is everything. All that we do, we must do for the love of God. This is the only motive He accepts. We must not do from fear. Or for praise. Or as a burden and a duty. Or in self-importance. Or to impress others. Or in competition or rivalry.
There are many, many motives; and the deceptive, natural human heart is many-faceted and complex. But all must be purged out, leaving only love remaining. Then the heart is pure. The pure in heart and they alone, shall see God. God, cleanse us from folly, and make us pure in heart!
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Peace can only be built on one foundation: "First pure; then peaceable"-
"The work of righteousness shall be peace" (Isa. 32:17).
"There is no peace, saith my Elohim, to the wicked" (Isa. 57.21).
But the emphasis here is on the desire and effort for peace and harmony and reconciliation; the basic bent of the mind-developed through meditation on God's Word-to seek to harmonize conflicts, to reconcile estrangements, to remove barriers of misunderstanding and enmity. To accomplish these things, there must be complete renunciation of self and personal desire.
Christ, in perfect self-sacrifice, made peace by the blood of the cross, reconciling and uniting Jew and Gentile in one New Man in himself.
He is the great example of bringing reconciliation to others by personal holiness in himself. He reconciled men to each other, and mankind to God. *
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
'...the reader will see that to be spoken evil of for Christ's sake, is to be spoken evil of on account of the gospel of the kingdom which he preached. Men will bear with you in any thing you may teach, provided you maintain nothing offensive to their self-complacency.
They profess to be pious, to be zealous for God, to love the Lord Jesus, to believe the gospel, and to have obeyed it. Take care then how you define Bible things; and see that you do not come to conclusions incompatible with their piety, zeal, love, faith and practice. If you do, then farewell to your good name and standing in the estimation of those under the malevolent influence of their revilings.
I speak from twenty years' experience of the like, and therefore know truly whereof I affirm.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jan 1854.
He does not mean that the blessedness consists in these evil experiences, but that these evil experiences are in the narrow way that leads to the blessedness to come after. This blessedness is expressed as a "right to eat of the tree of life." It is impossible that we can feel the full depth of these words.
We have not yet tasted truly what life is.
We are in an evil state in which we are scarcely half alive. We are so weak and so afflicted that the mind fails to respond sometimes to the brightness and glory signified by the simple phrase "Life Eternal," life as it is in God, life spontaneous, life strong, life perfect, life inextinguishable, life unimpaired by evil, and undimmed by weakness of any kind, like the Creator of the ends of the earth, who "fainteth not, neither is weary, and there is no searching of his understanding."
That is the life that is coming, and the life that God is both willing and anxious that we should enter. He has sent abroad the freest invitation it is impossible to promulgate-"Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."
Jesus places the same healing comfort before us in saying, "In my Father's house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go away, I will come again, and receive you to myself." Once more, dear brethren and sisters, let us lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees, and run with patience the race set before us.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Suffering is not to be rejoiced in for its own sake, or from self-pity. That, though common, is fleshly perversion. It is to be healthily and intelligently rejoiced in as a necessary means to a glorious end - as an assurance and evidence that God is working in us and through us to accomplish His divine purpose.
"Be ye the salt of the earth"
Our responsibility in all we do or say is to be an element of purity and soundness in an increasingly corrupt and degenerating world.
We are to be the element that keeps God from destroying the whole, as in the Flood, or Sodom and Gomorrha.
But if the salt has lost its freshness and tangy saltiness, what good is it? This is our zeal and dedication and fervent activity for good toward all, without which we are nothing. *
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
A high commission indeed! Similar to the salt, but a different aspect. The salt is the preserving influence, the inner striving and prayer, the life of godliness and purity. The light is the manifestation, the guidance, the enlightenment, the beacon pointing the way in the darkness of human night.
Let your light shine that men may glorify God. Our lives and testimonies must be a manifestation to lost and groping mankind of the reality and desirability and beauty of holiness. *
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
The Law of Moses demanded perfect holiness. The Law drew a sharp line between clean and unclean. The Law, said Paul, was "holy, just and good."
The common idea is that Christ came to lower the requirements, so that man could get life with less effort and less inconvenience - to sweep away all the flesh-crucifying rules under a big, blind, blurred blanket of tolerance and indulgence, falsely described as "love."
Nothing could be further from the Truth- *
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
In the eyes of the people, the Scribes and Pharisees were the very pinnacle of righteousness, but it was a superficial and external fulfilling of the Law. Jesus is about to expound a deeper, infinitely more searching and piercing law. He is going to bring out the real spirit of the Mosaic Law, showing how much further it goes with its commands into the innermost heart of man. *
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
The Law says, "Thou shalt not kill." I say, in expounding the Spirit of the Law, that thou shalt not be angry at anyone, for anger is simply murder locked up in the heart.
"Without a cause" is not in the best manuscripts. The RV and Diaglott and all modern versions omit it. It destroys the whole force of the command. The command is not-
"Thou shalt not be angry without a cause."
But-- "Thou shalt not be angry -- Period."
Anger is the prerogative of God, and we are not God.
In man, anger is loss of control, loss of perspective, a victory for the mind of the flesh. We can accomplish nothing good when we are angry. We lose all influence for good. Anger is infantile immaturity-
"The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." *
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
If you are aware that your brother has anything against you; is in any way estranged or upset (regardless of whether it is justified or not); the command of Christ is, "BE RECONCILED."
Jesus does not discuss where the fault may lie. That is unimportant. The important part is-Seek reconciliation, continually, always. Not just go through the motions once or twice, like a technical Pharisee. He says-BE reconciled: keep at it: never give up the effort.
If these commands were obeyed, there could be no ecclesial problems. If they are NOT obeyed, says Christ, we are just building all of our life-long efforts on the sand of the flesh. *
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
In all these commands, we must get at the deep principles that underlie them. They are all far deeper and more broadly applicable than the specific form in which they are worded. But this does not lessen their power, but enforces it.
Christ here is clearly using the right eye and right hand to emphasize the extreme urgency of putting away ANYTHING, however precious to us, that might hinder us in the race for life.
This principle, faithfully carried out, would eliminate many, many things from our encumbered lives, and release much time and money and energy for the work of the Lord. Are we building on rock or sand? *
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Various reasons are given. One is the complete helplessness of weak, mortal man to control anything or make any certain determination for the future. But the deepest reason:
"For whatsoever is more than this--a simple affirmative--cometh of evil."
Speech is a very important aspect of godliness. Control of the tongue is essential to pleasing God. We must learn that EVERY word we utter is important and related to our salvation-
"For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof at the judgment."
What a terrible volume of condemnation we are building up for ourselves with our idle and often malicious chatter!
If we hope for life, every word must be carefully checked and weighed. *
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
This goes very, very deep. Of all the commands this is perhaps the most directly contrary to both the reactions and the wisdom of the flesh.
Why not resist evil? Why not rather fight evil with every possible means available?
First, because it is so commanded. We must obey rather than question. But still we must question to the extent of trying to get the fullest value and purpose of the command.
The present world is built on violence. All governments were established by violence. If we resort to any force, or even threat of force, we are identifying ourselves with the violent world, the "Kingdom of men."
We are making their violence our tool and ally. The threat of naked violence lies behind all the world's "Legal" processes, and gives them power.
We are called out to be separate - harmless sheep in the midst of a world of wolves.
The fact that this command to resist not is directly opposed to the strongest and most vicious motion of the flesh is one big, obvious reason for the command. The whole purpose of our present probation is to overcome the flesh and train the Spirit. *
Of all the commandments of Christ, this of unresisting submission to legal and personal wrong is the one that most severely tests the allegiance of his disciples, and which accordingly is most decisively neglected in all Christendom. It would not be too much to say that it is deliberately refused and formally set aside by the mass of professing Christians, as an impracticable rule of life. That it stands there as the plainest of Christ's commandments, cannot be denied; and that it was re-echoed by the apostles and carried out in the practice of the early Christians, is equally beyond contradiction. Yet, by all classes, it is ignored as much as if it had never been written. To what are we to attribute this deliberate disobedience of all ranks and classes of men, nominally professing subjection to Christ?
Something of it is doubtless due to a wrong conception of the object of the commandments. It is commonly imagined that the commandments of Christ apply, and are intended to supply, the best modes of life among men - that is, those modes that are best adapted to secure a beneficial adaptation of man to man in the present state of life upon earth. Doubtless they would prove such if all men acted on them. But in a world where the majority ignore them and act out their selfish instincts without scruple, it is otherwise. They expose the obedient to personal disadvantage. They were never intended to have any other effect. They were intended to develop "a peculiar people," whose peculiarity should consist in the restraint of natural impulse in submission to the will of God. They were designed to chasten and discipline and purify such a people by the exercise of patient submission to wrong in preparation for another time when such commandments will be no longer in force, but when it will be given to the developed and obedient saints to "execute judgment" upon the ungodly, and "break in pieces the oppressor" as a preliminary to the blessing of all people (Rev. ii, 26; Dan. vii, 22; Psa. cxlix, 9).
Men say society could not be carried on if these principles were acted on. Such a speech is not the speech of a disciple. Christ is not aiming at carrying on society on its present footing, but at "taking out a people" to carry it on rightly - that is, on divine principles - in the age to come. His own case illustrates the position. The people wanted to take him by force and make him a king, but he withdrew (John vi, 15). A man wanted him to interfere in a will dispute. He declined, saying, "Who made me a judge and a divider?" (Luke xii, 14). His part was to testify the truth, to do the will of the Father, to do all the good he could on divine grounds, and as for the world, to "testify of it that the works thereof are evil" (John vii, 7). In this course he created hatred for himself, which finally took the form of personal violence. This violence he did not resist. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, his life was taken from the earth. And he said with regard to his whole experience. "The servant is not greater than his Lord. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John xv, 18, 20).
Christendom resists evil; sues at law; resents injury, brandishes the constable's truncheon, and fights in the army, even if the men it is called upon to shoot are fellow Christians. If pointed to the law of Christ, it shakes its head. It speaks of "duty to society," the "protection of life and property," and the certain chaos that would set in if the law of Christ were in force. In this, Christendom speaks as the world, and not as "the church," because it is not the church, but the world. The true church is composed of the brethren of Christ, and he tells us that his brethren are those who obey his commandments, and do the will of the Father, as expressed by his mouth (Matt. xii, 50; John xii, 49, 50). The question for such has no difficulties. The question is: "Does the law of Christ allow them to employ violence under any circumstances?" If not, the loss of life itself would not be a consequence to be considered by them. Thoughts of expediency or philanthropy are out of place when urged in defence of doing that which the law of Christ forbids. If riots must rage unless we disobey Christ, let riots rage. If life and property must be exposed to the ravages of wicked men, unless we do that which Christ tells us we are not to do, let all houses and all lives be unprotected. If we must incur and pay heavy penalties, unless we choose to break the law of God, let the penalties be paid. If we must be killed, and all our families with us, unless we forfeit the approbation of the Lord and Master, and lose eternal life at his coming, let us die at once.
It is a mistake to hamper the question of duty with any secondary consideration whatever. The time has not come for the saints to keep the world right. It has to be made right before even keeping it right can be in question. The position of the saints is that of sojourners on trial for eternal life. God will take care that their probation is not interfered with by murder and violence before the time. The matter is His. We are in His hands: so is all the world. We need not therefore be distressed by thoughts of what will be the effect of any course required by Christ. He will take care that His work comes out right at last. The simple and only question for us, is that which Paul put near Damascus: "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?" We may not do what involves disobedience to Him.
A special constable, for example, is required if need be, to break a man's head with a truncheon. The question in such a case is, therefore, best put thus: "Does Christ allow his servants to break people's heads with truncheons?" It is not a proper answer to this question to say that being commanded to obey magistrates (Titus iii, 1), we are bound to act as special constables if the magistrates order us; because no one will deny that this exhortation is governed by the larger precept, that we are to "obey God rather than man" (Acts iv, 19). No candid person will contend that Paul meant we were to obey magistrates when their order might be to disobey God. If any such contention is made, it is a sufficient answer to cite the practice of the apostles, who must be allowed to be reliable interpreters of their own exhortations.
They were constantly disobeying magistrates in the particular matter of preaching the gospel, and brought themselves to prison and death by this disobedience. There was no inconsistency between this course of theirs, and their exhortation to "obey magistrates"; for in the matters referred to in this exhortation, they were themselves obedient to magistrates. They paid tribute, honoured the ruling powers, and recognised the authority of the law, in all matters not affecting their allegiance to the law of God. This is a duty required of all saints, and cheerfully rendered by them, notwithstanding that they expect all such orders and institutions to be abolished in due time. That time is the Lord's time; and for this they patiently wait. The work is the Lord's work, and for Him they wait.
But are they to be induced or coerced by human law to do what Christ has expressly forbidden? The only question is, has he forbidden what is in question in this case? Has he forbidden violence? As to this, nothing is clearer, "He hath left us an example that we should follow his steps" (1 Pet. ii, 21). This is what Christ himself said to his disciples: "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you" (John xiii 15). Now what is the example of Christ as to the matter in hand? The testimony is that he did no violence, neither was deceit found in his mouth (Isaiah liii, 9). As Peter tells us. "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter ii, 23).
But some say, this refers only to circumstances of persecution: that when he said: "Resist not evil," he meant that his friends were not to fight against those who persecuted them for their faith, but patiently and unresistingly allow them to do their will. It will be found, upon investigation, that this is a mistake. Christ was not speaking of persecution at all. He was speaking of the legal maxims and practices of the Jewish nation. He says: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." By whom - to whom, for what purpose had this been said? It was said by Moses to Israel, as the principle that was to regulate proceedings at law. This will be apparent by referring to Exodus xxi, 2224. " He (the offender) shall pay as THE JUDGES determine, and if any mischief follow, thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth," etc. When, therefore, Jesus enjoins non-resistance of evil, it is not with reference to persecutors, but with reference to legal proceedings, and the ordinary relations of man with man.
This is perhaps more evident in the next verse (Matt. v, 40). "If any man will sue thee at law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." Here is no persecutor but a man who simply wants your property and tries to dispossess you by legal process. "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." A persecutor would not be likely to want your company on the road. It is the case of a wayfarer who wants your comfort and protection on a lonely road, and to whom you are commanded to be liberal beyond his desires. "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away." Surely this is no persecutor, who would take without your leave.
The suggestion that these precepts apply only to circumstances of persecution, is the thought of a combative nature which rebels against Christ's flesh-crucifying precepts, but is not prepared to go the length of openly denying Christ. It is a suggestion that is absurd in itself; for why should we be allowed to fight for ourselves, and be forbidden to fight for the Lord? One would imagine that the distinction, if it existed, would lie in the other direction, viz., that we would be allowed to repel and retaliate when it was the authority of the Lord that was in question, but that we should be submissive when it was a mere question of taking our purse. But the fact is, no such distinction is made. The suggestion that it exists is gratuitous. It is a distinction that cannot, in fact, be made; for how are you to know when a man hurts you for your faith, and when from his own cupidity?
The command of the Lord is absolute, that we are to act the part of sheep in the midst of wolves; wise as serpents, but unharmful as doves. The faithful of the first century recognised this as involving non-resistance. This is evident from James's incidental remark to the wanton rich men of the twelve tribes: "Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you" (James v, 6). It is also distinctly evident from Paul's claim in 2nd Epistle Corinthians xi, 20, to be heard on this ground: "For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face."
As much as to say, "It is a usual thing with you to submit without resistance, to personal injury; how much more may you endure my words." He had expressly enjoined: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. xii, 19-21). Again, he says, "See that none render evil for evil" (1 Thess. v, 15). Again, "Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (1 Cor. vi, 7).
These principles exclude a resort to law on the part of those who obey the commandments of Christ. Going to law is inconsistent with submission to precepts requiring us to accept evil, and to refrain from vindicating ourselves. What is going to law but resorting to the utmost extremity of personal violence and coercion? Those who look on the surface may not see this, but they feel it readily enough when directed against themselves. They may imagine it is doing a very gentle deed to pay a visit to a quiet lawyer's office, and ask him to set the law in motion in a "legitimate " way, protesting you want only justice, etc., etc.
But follow the matter to its upshot; see what it means, and then judge whether, as a friend of Christ, you are at liberty to do such a bloody and forbidden thing. You get the judgment of the law in your favour: and let us suppose the debtor is unable to pay. What happens? Your servants (for the agents of the law are your servants, for the time being, and would not act a moment after your authority was withdrawn) enter his house and sell his bed, and cast him homeless on the street. But suppose he is able to pay and won't, and takes it into his head to resist, enlisting, let us suppose, a band of bold spirits to his aid. The myrmidons of the law arrive at the house; the door is locked, admission demanded in vain. Your agents knock the door down, but they find the passage barricaded. They demolish the barricades, but find the occupants of the house in an attitude of defiance. Your servants of the law push them; the debtor's friends smite your servants of the law. Your servants smite in return, but seeing they are over-matched, they withdraw.
The debtor exults and fearing a return of the myrmidons, he sends for and obtains a reinforcement of roughs. The bailiffs return with assistance. A melee ensues: heads are broken and property destroyed, and the bailiffs are repulsed. What next? A riot. Part of the people take sides with the debtor and part with the bailiffs. What next? The soldiers are sent for. The soldiers are now your servants. If the men in the house don't give in brains will be blown out and lives taken, and all this will be done because you have set the law in motion. In fact, this is the law in motion. What is commonly called " the law," is but the smooth end of the bludgeon. It is the fear of the other end that makes people cower at the sight of the handle. A bailiff goes and shews the handle, and this is generally sufficient, but the fact remains, that what is called the law is a terrible instrument of destruction, which will break skulls if there is any resistance. A battered house and blood-covered corpses, are elements in the picture to be considered. The fact that it is rarely needful to push matters to this length does not alter the nature of the transaction, or weaken the conclusion that saints are not at liberty to employ such an engine of offence.
The fact that a man does not personally employ the violence only makes the matter worse, so far as the nature of his act is concerned; for which is worse: to do the deed honestly and bravely yourself, or to stand behind a curtain and whisper the words that set a lot of heartless ruffians to do it? If you were the personal actor, your debtor might have some chance of mercy by personal appeal; but when you set the law in motion you hand him over to the tender mercies of men with hearts of stone, and without the power to be merciful even if they had the mind.
It is generally conceded that a brother has no right to resort to law against a brother, because of Paul's express words in 1 Cor. vi, 1-4; but some conceive they may do so against a stranger. The first thought upon such a proposition is, that it is contrary to the entire spirit of Christ's teaching to suppose we are at liberty to apply any process of hurt to strangers which we are not to apply to brethren. His command to be absolutely harmless, extends even to any enemy, still more to a debtor, who may not necessarily be an enemy. The supposed distinction in favour of brethren in this matter would be a return to the spirit of things which said "Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy," which Christ expressly superseded.
How comes it that Paul mentions a "brother," in connection with law-going at all in 1 Cor vi.? Is it to intimate that a brother may go to law with a stranger, while not at liberty to do so with, a brother? There is no such hint in the context. It is rather to illustrate the great extent to which the Corinthians had gone in their disobedience. "Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." He commands the brethren to judge if there is anything wrong between brother and brother; but does he recommend a resort to even this judicature? On the contrary, he says, "Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
The command to be passive in relation to evil, is an ordinance for the present probation merely. In due time, the saints will trample the wicked as ashes under the soles of their feet, if they prove themselves worthy of the honour by a faithful submission to what God requires of them now. "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." (Rev. ii, 26). In this view, it is of paramount importance that the saints remain true to the commandments of Christ; and do not suffer themselves to be led into the path of disobedience by glosses on his word, which while making the way smoother to the flesh will have the effect of depriving us of the crown in the day of glory to be revealed.
Christendom Astray L. 18
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
Not just resist not evil, but give to the evil more than they demand. Is it folly? Or is it the highest and most beautiful spiritual wisdom, so far above the mind of the flesh that the flesh cannot even comprehend it?
Do we - in deed, word and thought - obey this command to yield to the evil more than they take from us? Or are we still foolishly building on the sand of the worldly thinking? *
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Some day, perhaps very soon, we must face the man who gave us these commands, and who said he would measure our love for him by them.
We know in our heart whether we are being obedient to them, or whether we are allowing the mind of the flesh to water them down and explain them away, or ignore them altogether. *
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
These are very wonderful, powerful words. Many have been won from evil to the way of life by a Christlike example. Infinitely many more, of course, have not, but they do not count. They are just part of the perishing background of the glorious divine plan.
God is drawing a precious few out of the innumerable multitudes of the ages unto Himself, and the magnet is this free, glorious, unmerited, spiritual love of which we are called to be a part. *
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
WHY does God send His rain on the just and on the unjust? Because His present loving purpose is to call men to life, to call sinners to repentance. And to be His children, this must be OUR whole purpose of life. Everything must be subordinated to this, for the present.
There are two ways of life - the way of self-assertion and self-advantage; and the way of manifesting love and goodness toward all with a view to awakening love and goodness.
We cannot be half-and-half. We must make our choice between them. Christ is the perfect example of the way of love. He went through life completely unselfish, completely unresisting, and he has had more influence for good than all other men put together.
The non-resistant, Christlike life is the ONLY pattern of life, if we desire to do eternal good. Truly a time of judgment upon evil will come, and if we are worthy, we shall be used with Christ to carry out God's will at that time, and establish the universal triumph of righteousness, but our present duty is to try to win men to God by the Christlike way of good for evil. *
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Does He really expect us to be perfect? What He expects - what He DEMANDS - is that we strain every effort in that direction. He requires no more than the very best we can do, but He will accept no less.
The command leaves us absolutely no excuse for relaxing our efforts at any point short of perfection. The great example that is set before us in this verse is GOD HIMSELF, and as those who aspire and claim to be His children, we must always strive to be like Him. *
* Bro Growcott - Be Ye Therefore Perfect