We are indebted to the Upper Room ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is recorded for us, in John’s Gospel chapters 13-17, for illuminating teaching regarding the Holy Spirit. It should be observed that the period covered by chapters 1-12 is about three years, by contrast chapters 13-17 record the events of one evening. So concerned was the Lord Jesus, about the spiritual well being of those Whom He loved, He desired that they should be marked by clarity of vision, and a settled peace of mind, as far as future events were concerned, and having this knowledge imparted, they would be able to rest fully in His promises! The questions of His own were prompted by genuine fear and doubt, in turn these were answered, frankly and fully, and with tenderness and compassion, the answers revealing the magnitude of His love.
The Distinct Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, are truths which should be grasped by every believer. In this day and age, there is so much spurious teaching abroad on this subject, it behoves us to rest on the revelation of the Word of God.
Our present study has this end in view, that the doctrinal truth, and the related practical implications, might become real to every child of God. There are three references in the New Testament, relative to the person of the Holy Spirit, which could profitably engage our hearts and minds :
1. The Great Indweller in the Believer (John 14:17).
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is Personal to every believer, the words of the Lord Jesus are emphatic, verse 17 “and shall be in you.” The teaching of the letter to the Ephesians reiterates this truth, in chapter 1:13 “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” again in the following verse, the Holy Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance.” Again in chapter 4:30 of the same epistle, “ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” The ‘sealing’ carrying the thought of ownership, security, and destination. The ‘earnest’ reminding us of the surety or pledge of our inheritance. Not only is the Holy Spirit Personal to every believer, but this indwelling is also Permanent, verse 16 “that He may abide with you for ever,” what a comforting truth! It is impossible for a believer in this dispensation to pray as David did in Psalm 51:11 “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” This is a truth to lay hold upon, that the Holy Spirit will be with us to the end of the journey, until we see Him face to face! How solemn it is therefore in view of this indwelling, that the quality of life is such that the Holy Spirit is not ‘grieved,’ caused pain and distress by our actions, see Ephesians 4:30. Again, perhaps applying more to the gatherings of the saints, “Quench not the Spirit” Ephesians 6:16, there is a grave danger of thwarting the impulses of the Spirit of God, and substituting a dry mechanical order of things in which the Holy Spirit has no place! In view of this tremendous truth we need heed the injunction, “Be filled with the Spirit” present tense, ‘now,’ this condition of soul, is not for the favoured few, but is possible for every believer. The Baptism of the Spirit, was a once for all act, taking place at Pentecost, the filling of the Spirit is a repeated act. Ephesians 5:18.
2. The Glorious Instructor of the Believer (John 14:26).
The ministry of the Holy Spirit to the believer is fourfold, firstly, Instructive verse 26, “He shall teach you all things” would this link us with the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Prophets, the excellence of the typical teaching of this section of the Word of God, thrills the heart of the believer, speaking of Him, who is the anti-type of every type, the substance of every shadow! Secondly, verse 26, Recollective, “bring all things to your remembrance” here we are reminded of the four Gospels, three quarters of which are composed of the words of the Lord Jesus. Might well Luke preface the Acts of the Apostles with these words “of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” Acts 1:1 “and there are also many other things which Jesus did” John 21:25. Thirdly, chapter 16:13, Directive, the Epistles of the New Testament, revealing the truth of the present ministry of the Great High Priest, the glorious truth of His Coming again expounded, and the unveiling of the truth of the Church which is His body, not forgetting the local aspect of this truth. Fourthly, chapter 16:13, Predictive, “and He will shew you things to come” pointing us to 'the book of Revelation. What a blessing it is to be free from confusion relative to coming events on earth and heaven. So much instability springs from a failure to put in perspective the dispensations, outlined in the Scriptures, detailing for us the plans and purposes of God. See 2Tim. 2:18, not a denial of truth but a displacement of truth was enough to derail some saints!
Divine Instructor, Gracious Lord,
Be Thou for ever near,
Help us to love Thy sacred Word,
And view a Saviour there!
3. The Groaning Intercessor for the Believer. Rom. 8:26.
“But the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” there are three Groaning things in this chapter, verse 22, the Creation Groans, in verse 23, the Christian Groans, and in verse 26, the Comforter Groans. Chapter seven of this epistle would remind us of our manifold infirmities, and of the constant fight with the flesh, and the evil propensities within, it is against this background, that the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is realised in our experience. Do we not see the Divine attributes of the Holy Spirit in this verse? Firstly, His Omnipotence, “helpeth our infirmities,” this deals with our impotence, secondly, His Omniscience, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought,” this is the answer to our ignorance. Thirdly, we are reminded of His Omnipresence, “the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us” this would take care of our insufficiency. What a revelation to us, that we have a Divine intercessor, the third Person of the blessed Trinity! We have no record of prayer being made to the Holy Spirit, neither have we scriptural authority to pray to the Son, search the Pauline epistles, for example, Ephesians 3:14 “I bow my knees unto the Father.” God the Father is the Object of our Worship, God the Son is the Subject of our Worship, and God the Holy Spirit is the Power of our Worship. Let us recognise that we come through a Mediator, the One Mediator the Man Christ Jesus. 1Tim 2:5.
One of the historic practices of the evangelical tradition has been to use any prophetic utterance which may in any sense foster the Spirit of Worship in the church. This is especially true when the occasion gives prominence to the sufferings and death of the Saviour.
One example of the kind of usage we have in mind occurs in Lamentations 1:12 ‘Is it nothing to you,’ asks the prophet, ‘all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger.’
The pedantic critic will object that this and similar passages in no way relates to the Saviour’s sufferings. He will point out that the last chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy is an adequate and final key to the verse.
We readily admit that it was because of Judah’s sin that God permitted Nebuchadnezzar’s armies to ravage the temple at Jerusalem. As the prophet says ‘the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions’ (Lam. 1:5).
The record of the plundering of the structure and ornamentation of the Temple makes nauseating reading, as does the removal of the precious vessels of the sanctuary, which were looted for the vainglorious purposes of the invading ruler. All this, in the first instance, provided adequate reasons for the prophet’s outburst of grief.
Having granted this much, we are still faced with the fact that often the early writers recorded incidents, or statements, which were later quoted in the New Testament as fulfilments of prophecy: which superficially at least relate to entirely different sets of circumstances. The critic’s weakness lies in his inability to recognise the prerogative of the Holy Spirit to be the final arbiter in the interpretation of Scripture.
A notable example of this usage is afforded from a quotation in Hosea in which the prophet recalls God’s mercy to Israel at the time of the Exodus (ch. 11:1). Matthew quotes this verse when Joseph and Mary and the infant Saviour are recalled from Egypt by God, upon the death of Herod, quoting the words, ‘that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying ‘Out of Egypt have I called my Son’ (Matt. 2:15).
In his monumental work ‘The Great High Priest’ Adolph Saphir comments on this same problem, as follows—
“We see from the Acts of the Apostles, that they saw, as it were, the whole edifice of scripture in the grandeur and symmetry of its structure. Now they were full of light. Those very men who before were not able to understand what they saw with their own eyes, still less to comprehend His words, remembered and understood now that all these things happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 2:22; 20:19). The infallible instructions of the Son of Man were brought back to their remembrance by the Great Teacher’s aid, and shall we not therefore attain the greater value, and the greatest importance, as well as the most implicit and docile faith, to the explanations given in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Epistles, and in the Revelation, of quotations from the Scriptures? we are bound by a blessed tie to their interpretations. (Follows a footnote)—
“Notwithstanding, many plausible objections to and limitations of this assertion I cannot think and say otherwise! I believe also in the inexhaustible, many sided, and eternal meaning of Scripture above the capacity and measure of the prophet, or of any individual or any period of the church. This has been expressed by Stier as “Vollsinn,” and by another in the quaint and somewhat paradoxical sentence— whatever Scripture can mean, it does mean.”
—Pages 78/9, American Ed. 1902.
This approach to Old Testament prophecies can do nothing but enrich the quality of our worship, rightly applied, since it opens up to us vast areas of revelation which might otherwise be denied us.
To revert to our original citation, as we progress from there to the third chapter of Lamentations, we discover further thought provoking, not to say, spirit stirring examples of prophetic utterances which are conducive of deeper worship in the church. This also holds true for so much that we find in the Old Testament. Often the poetic structure of the books of Wisdom adds a wealth of meaning to the message; here, especially, our thoughts can range beyond the context to the enrichment of the Spirit of the worshipper.
It is evident that the Holy Spirit' does not necessarily use all the contents of a passage in the application of this principle. Selected verses and even phrases are adequate for His purpose. Nor is it required of us to strain our interpretation to include the entire context of the quotation.
In this we may simulate the many New Testament examples of applied prophetic fulfilment. The final test of all ministry in the Church is that of edification. Paul stresses this in 1Cor. 14 when chaos had ousted edification.
Our Lord Himself as He traversed the Emmaus road leaves us the most authoritative precedent for our plea. For ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’
Sometimes the message is clear beyond any cavil, as for instance ‘In all their afflictions He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them, in His love and in His pity He redeemed them’ (Isa. 63:9). In other cases the test must be simply ‘Does it reveal something concerning Himself?’
We have perforce confined ourselves to the sufferings of the Saviour, but an equally faithful field exists in every aspect of His Glorious Person and work, for our profit.
In the rising generation of young men can be convinced of the value of applied prophecy as a contribution to the Churches worship, the result will be equally as positive as it was when those two Disciples by Emmaus exclaimed, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:32).
Philemon 9. “Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee . .
This letter of Paul to Philemon is the one strictly private letter of his to survive the years, and yet in another sense the letter is not ‘strictly private’ for although its main subject matter is between the one to whom it is addressed and the one concerning whom it is written, yet the church is involved. for it cannot be imagined that the letter would be withheld from “the church in thy (Philemon’s) house”—that same church to which Paul wrote at the same time as this letter to Philemon.
Set aside is the writer’s apostolic dignity and fatherly authority and we see one believer speaking to another with Christian courtesy and love. True, he makes certain claims upon Philemon, but not with the voice of authority, unless that authority be the authority of love.
It must be emphasised that any appeal to Philemon is also an appeal of the Church at Colosse.
An outstanding point of interest in this letter of less than five hundred words is that apart from the mention of his own name, he mentions ten others by name—seven in Rome and three in Colosse—in addition to the ‘church’ in the house of Philemon, and to the bare mention of their names he adds a testimonial—brief, but revealing, and over each of the eleven members of this ‘faith team’—this ‘mini-portrait’ gallery—can be written “for love’s sake.” The ‘centre’ of this team is Onesimus—the one concerning whom the letter is written.
Before looking at the reasons for this letter, it will be of advantage to look at the pen portraits given by the Apostle. We take them in the order in which they occur.
(1) The writer of the letter, Paul, needs no introduction. What is recorded in this letter is, perhaps, just one of many similar incidents in his life, and even in this matter of individual approach, he is true to his reputation as the Apostle of the Reconciliation. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9). From him flowed, by the grace of God, and grace of his Lord, Jesus Christ, love. His one hatred, sin. Indeed, “the love of Christ” was his constraining power (2Cor. 5:14). We see the meaning of this ‘constraint’ in Luke 4:38 where Peter’s mother in law was ‘taken’ (or, pressed) with a great fever.
Here, he describes himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (or, more correctly “Christ Jesus”—that is, He Who humbled Himself). A favourite expression.
In Ephesians 3:1, he is “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles” and in 4:1, “I therefore the prisoner of (or IN) the Lord.”
In 2Tim. 1:8, he exhorts, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner.”
True in a typical sense, but how much more true of his spiritual experience. Imprisoned by, and in, his Lord, Jesus Christ; a willing prisoner in bonds; a bond slave of the Lord Who had humbled Himself. “For love’s sake”—for their sake. The physical imprisonment was a mirror of his spiritual experience.
(2) Paul’s associate in writing, Timothy, a young man who he links with himself in six out of his ten letters to the churches; his “dearly beloved son” (2Tim. 1:2) and a “man of God” (1Tim. 6:11). One who worked “the work of the Lord” (1Cor. 16:10). A man who ‘cared’ (Phil. 2:19), and who was capable of tears, (2Tim. 1:4). Who preached the gospel (2Cor. 1:19) and was a ‘workfellow’ (Rom. 16:21); “Faithful in the Lord” (1Cor. 4:17). All “for love’s sake.” Here, he is simply, “brother” (omit ‘our’). How much is involved in this term ‘brother’! One reading suggests that he was THE brother.
(3) Philemon, who received the letter, of whom nothing is known outside of this letter, but see how Paul addresses him- “Our dearly beloved, and fellow labourer.” Separated by many miles, yet, “fellow labourers.” See how Paul speaks of his “love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints ... we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” Thus, with the simple word, ‘brother,’ Philemon is linked with the Apostle and with Timothy, and with all saints.
(4) Apphia, our‘beloved.’ Possibly the wife of Philemon, and there is no doubt that she is included in the commendation of the Apostle.
(5) Archippus, “our fellow soldier”—possibly Philemon’s son. He, too, is included in the commendation of the Apostle. The letter to the church at Colosse—in Philemon’s house—also has a word for Archippus—“Take heed to the ministry that thou hast received IN THE LORD, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). In other words, “Be sure to do all that the Lord has given you to do.” Note that the ministry, or service, was received IN THE LORD. Tradition makes Archippus a bishop of Laodicea. We pause to recall the link of the church at Colosse with that at Laodicea. (Col. 2:1; 4:16; and cf. Rev. 3:14-22).
In that separate letter to the church in the house of Philemon there was also a commendation for these “saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” They too were commended for their faith and love but Paul and Epaphras were worried about the two churches—perhaps because Epaphras was instrumental in forming the church at Colosse —for there was error in the air. There were “speculations as to the Godhead and the outgrowth of emanations from it; to create a separation between those who believed themselves perfect in this higher knowledge, and the mass of their brethren: and, above all, to obscure or obliterate the sole divine mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This letter was a warning. As it is to us, for even in these enlightened days we see rifts between those who consider themselves more enlightened than their brethren. But in this personal letter to Philemon there is no mention of anything which might cause dispute. What a day both for Philemon and the church when these letters arrived, carried by Tychicus and Onesimus.
(6) Onesimus of whom there are two things written. He had been ‘unprofitable’—but he was now ‘profitable;’ a play, in the Greek, upon his name. Again, apart from tradition, nothing is known of him outside of this letter.
Was he a thief? An idler? We do not know. What we do know however is that he ran away from the godly atmosphere of Philemon’s house and the church therein, and put a good one thousand miles between Philemon and himself. In Rome, by the grace of God, he met the Apostle and was ‘born again,’ and confessed his sin to him.
Paul sends him back home with this letter and the letter to the church. Onesimus is his son, ‘begotten in bonds,’ a ‘brother beloved.’
(7) Epaphras, ‘my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus’ who in the letter to the church Paul calls ‘our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit’ (Col. 1:7-8. “A servant of Christ ... always labouring fervently for you in prayer” (4:12). Tradition makes him a bishop of Colosse. “For you; one of you; labouring for you; ministering Christ.” “For love’s sake.”
(8) “Marcus, my fellow labourer.” His mother Mary was a friend of Peter (Acts 12), (and he may have been the young man of Mark 14). Otherwise, John Mark, he was author of the Gospel which bears his name. In Acts 13 he is with
Paul and his cousin Barnabas upon the first missionary journey. Later, for some reason, Mark left Paul and Barnabas at Perga in Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem. Still later at Antioch, Barnabas wished to take Mark with them upon a second journey. Paul refused to have Mark and they parted company. Col. 4:10-11 reveals that they had been reconciled, and they were now ‘fellow labourers’ and still later, Timothy was exhorted to “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he was profitable to me for the ministry.” If Mark was indeed the young man in the Garden of Gethsemane then he must have been the source of the record of the scene in the Garden when the disciples slept. Was it such a memory which made him a ‘fellow labourer?’
(9) Aristarchus “my fellow labourer”—who at Ephesus during the rioting of the silversmiths was dragged with Gaius into the theatre: accompanied Paul to Jerusalem and to Rome (Acts 27:2). Was he in the shipwreck at Melita? Not only was he the ‘fellow labourer’ but in the church letter he is the “fellow prisoner.”
(10) Demas, “my fellow labourer” who is mentioned with the others in the church letter (Col. 4:14), but how sad it is to read in the letter to Timothy (2Tim. 4:10) “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world (the present age as against the world to come).” How sad to lose a ‘fellow labourer!’ A different love here!
(11) Luke, “my fellow labourer” the “beloved physician” of the letter to the church (Col. 4:14), author of the Gospel which bears his name, and of the Acts of the Apostles. Companion of Paul on much of the Apostle’s journeyings, and including the shipwreck. What pathos we see in the word of Paul to Timothy (2Tim. 4:1), “Only Luke is with me.”
What giants these men were! What hardships they endured! What a fellowship theirs was! Fellow labourers; fellow soldiers; fellow prisoners; brethren in Christ; what a warfare they fought! These were just a handful of the church builders who, like the wall builders of Jerusalem (Neh. 4) were “they that builded the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”
These were men who in their lives fulfilled the royal law, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2).
Not only within the confines of the “church in thy house” but in that greater fellowship which stretched from Rome to Colosse and on again to Jerusalem we see the RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE—they were ‘fellows’—‘partners.’
The Apostle writing to the church at Corinth (1Cor. 13) prefixed his song of love with, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” The love of the church at Colosse was such that it stretched a thousand miles! “Hearing of thy love and faith which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward ALL saints;” (v. 5). This REPORT OF LOVE was not just sounding brass of a tinkling cymbal, but (playing upon the word) something that was heard in Rome.
Notice how their love is described it is “love and faith TOWARD the Lord Jesus, and TOWARD all saints.” An outward and onward movement with an end in view—first the Lord; then the saints. This is the PROGRESS OF LOVE—a passing on, and the Apostle prays that this “fellowship of thy faith (the passing on of, and the interchange of, that faith) may become effective (work powerfully) by the acknowledging (sure knowledge) of every good thing which is in you in Christ.”
This love is—in a sense—not for the world. This is genuine love toward the Lord Jesus Christ and toward the saints, and the Apostle continues his prayer for the forwarding of their love and faith because, says he, “I have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed (given rest) by thee, brother.” The direction of his prayer changes from the inclusive to the personal, it is to “thee, brother.” See what this onward flow of love does. It brings the REJOICING AND THE REFRESHING OF LOVE in ever increasing circles.
It is to this love Paul now appeals. Knowing of the love which existed at Colosse he has freedom of speech in Christ to command, but he will not command but rather appeal to that love. He does take the opportunity of reminding Philemon of his (Paul’s) age, and that he was a prisoner of Christ Jesus. A prisoner, but with freedom, he appeals for someone who Philemon had no doubt given up for lost—Onesimus. Philemon would know what Paul meant by speaking of Onesimus as his ‘son’—begotten in my bonds. Onesimus had been born again! Wonderful news to Philemon, his family, and the church.
Onesimus, unprofitable as servant and as slave, but now “a brother beloved,” both in the flesh and in Christ.
We notice how Paul respected the law. Minded to keep Onesimus at Rome “that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel” (v. 13) he knew that Onesimus was still the property of Philemon, and so Onesimus had to return to Colosse. This would test Philemon’s reaction. Would his love prevail over his wrong? Would he indeed give a free will offering of his forgiveness? Would THE REQUEST OF LOVE be turned away?
“Perhaps” says Paul, “because of this, he was separated from you for a little while, so that he might come back ‘for ever’.” A servant no longer, but linked in the Lord for time and for eternity. Such is the REFORMATION OF LOVE.
“As you would receive me, so receive Onesimus” (v. 17), and further, “Charge any debt he owes you, to me. I will repay it.” How like his Lord!
“But I will not speak of what you owe me—your very self.”
“You have given joy and refreshment of heart to so many others, will you now do the same for me—in the Lord? “Let me have profit of thee in the Lord.” THE RECOMPENSE OF LOVE. Yes, the love of Philemon, though many miles separated him from Paul, gave the Apostle full confidence in the obedience of Philemon to his plea for Onesimus—not only in the bare essentials, but bevond! This is THE RESPONSE OF LOVE.
The letter closes with a request that a lodging might be prepared for Paul in the hope that the prayers of the company at Colosse would be granted them. Here, finally, is the REASSURANCE OF LOVE.
v.18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, Paul now proceeds from the general application of the above relative relationships to their application to particular individuals. He sets before different persons their duties as Christians in various family relationships. A like exhortation is found in Eph. 5:22—6:9, though there slightly enlarged.
Similar lists are found in other epistles—1Peter 2:13-20 defines political relationship; 2Tim. 2:1-10—social relationship; 1Tim. 2:8-15—ecclesiastical relationship; 1Tim. 6:1-18—personal relationship.
In the original Greek the various persons addressed in this section are prefixed by the definite article, which before the nominative case has the force of a vocative—a calling, or commanding; it defines the persons intended. Six classes of Christians are mentioned—paired into three different relationships. One of each of the three pairs has a duty of submission to perform—wives (v. 18), children (v. 20), servants (v. 22). The corresponding persons in the couplet have also a duty set before them—husbands (not to be bitter); fathers (not to discourage their children); masters (not to forget righteousness).
Wives are enjoined to submit themselves to their husbands. The A.V. adds the word ‘own’—not in the original text here, but found in the Greek text of the corresponding injunction in Eph. 5:22, Tit. 2:5, 1Peter 3:1, whence it is possibly inserted here. Does this suggest that some of the Christian wives had unbelieving husbands (1Peter 3:1), and they were inclined to obey the assembly elders rather than their unconverted husbands, whom they had married before being born again? Paul teaches where their responsibility lies. Peter shows the possible outcome of obeying this injunction —the conversion of the husband.
The husband is the head of the wife, and therefore must be in general control (Eph. 5:23).
as it is fit in the Lord. The verb here is in the imperfect 'tense, suggesting that this state of affairs was fit, and still is fitting. It was the edict of God at the first, after the Fall, for the man to rule the woman (Gen. 3:16), and has not been abrogated. It is even more fitting now, when the woman has acknowledged the Lordship of Christ (v. 17).
v. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Love must be the over-riding principle in the Christian home, even on the part of the husband. It is his responsibility to his wife, who is subject to him, to show his love for her.
The Christian home is seen as a replica of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:23). As the Church is subject to 'the Lord so must the wife be to her husband (v. 18). But the relation of the husband to his wife should be a copy of the attitude of Christ to the Church—an unfathomable love that caused Him to give Himself up, even to the death of the Cross.
To emphasise further the nature of the husband’s love for his wife, he must never be bitter against her, even though, if not born again, she may have given him occasion -to retaliate, because of her constant nagging, and lack of submission to his wishes. He must show love, as did Christ, even to those that reviled and despised Him; his love should follow the pattern of his Lord’s. This reminder to love his wife is all the more necessary if the husband is given to display undue respect for his fellowmen in the world, and be inclined to change his demeanour when he arrives home, as so commonly happens.
v.20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. This exhortation is to children who are believers. They must obey all their parents’ commands. The word here translated ‘obey’ is lit., to listen under, that is, looking up to, paying good attention to what is said. This is well-pleasing, a word nearly always used in relation to God.
The words ‘unto the Lord’ are really a translation of Greek words meaning, ‘in the Lord.’ They would suggest that the obedience of believing children pleased God, as becoming disciples who were one in the Lord. Such obedience suggests that they were acting in close communion with the Lord. Compare a similar expression in 1Cor. 7:39, ‘only in the Lord,’ that is, only as the Lord would authorize. The Lord would amply repay such obedience by permitting them a long and happy life (Deut. 5:16).
v.21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. On the other hand the fathers are exhorted not to produce in the hearts of the children those very conditions that would cause contention and disobedience.. Some Greek versions use a word that implies making the children angry, as in Eph. 6:4, by vexatious compulsions. The suggestion is that often the responsibility for right relations in the family depended much on the father’s attitude to the children. The word translated ‘discouraged’ is here its only use in the New Testament, and implies loss of spirit, or of courage, that is, disheartenment on the part of the children; they find obedience to be difficult.
v. 22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; The word for servants here is lit., bondservants. The duty of slaves to masters is dealt with here at greater length than any of -the other two dutiful relations, that is, of wives and children. Possibly this was due to the fact that Paul was sending along with this letter to the Colossians another shorter letter, which dealt more specifically with the subject of the duty of a slave to his master, viz., of Onesimus towards Philemon. As Paul sent this letter, and that to Philemon by the hand of Onesimus (4:9), it would seem as though the apostle had instructed Onesimus personally, and then Philemon by this letter as to the relationship of slaves and their masters.
Paul particularly emphasises that the duty of a slave is to a master in the flesh. Bondservice, as such, has no part in the relationship of believers one to another (v. 11), but if the slave had belonged to a believer as his master before he had been converted, his duty to him still remains the same (1Cor. 7:20-21). Obedience and attention to the master are the paramount consideration in such conditions.
The injunction in this section is not to be confined to the days when slavery was generally recognised, but would apply also to-day to any relationship between an employer and an employee.
not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; This would suggest that the bondservant had a greater responsibility when he was born again. His service was not merely that of one who kept his eye on his master, to see if he was being watched, and only worked then. This was the custom of the men of the world—keeping up an appearance of working, so as to please his earthly master only,
but in singleness of heart, fearing God: As a Christian slave he had a higher duty; he did not merely work to please another man; his mind was set upon one purpose—to fear the Lord, and to please Him, that ever saw and knew what he was doing; he was ever conscious of the Lord’s eye upon him.
The R.V. changes the end of the verse to ‘fearing the Lord,’ implying that his real ‘Master’ then was Christ. He was Christ’s bondservant (1 Cor. 7:22 R.V.), a higher bondservice than that of any fleshly relationship. This Lordship of Christ is emphasised in 3:22—4:1.
v. 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; The believer’s bondservice to an earthly master must be as if he reckoned all service was being done unto the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely to a fellowman.
Two different Greek words are translated ‘do’ here, (1) ‘Whatsoever ye do,’ that is, any human activity that a slave would be called upon to perform, (2) ‘do it,’ describes the way the work is done—putting energy into it, further emphasised by the word ‘heartily,’ lit., out of your soul. Work for his master should be the result of servile compulsion, but putting his whole heart and soul into it, just as he would perform any service for his heavenly Master, to whom he was so much indebted. He was not merely serving another man. The Lord Jesus was also being served. Masters according to the flesh were but the Lord’s overseers. The Lord is the believer’s real Master.
v. 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: Paul would remind the bondslave that in the Lord he has a Master who will faithfully give a reward for service rendered to Him. The word here translated ‘reward’ is lit., an exact repaying of what is due. That reward will be incorporated in the inheritance of the saint.
The bondservant is aware that he has no entitlement to a reward from an earthly master, but as a believer he has an inheritance reserved for him in heaven (1Peter 1:4). He may be a bondservant of a man on earth, but he is the Lord’s freeman (1 Cor. 7:22), with an inheritance in heaven, to which any reward earned on earth will be added (2Cor. 5:10). Service done for his heavenly Master down here will receive a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1Cor. 3:14).
for ye serve the Lord Christ. After conversion, the slave of a man, in addition to being God’s freeman, is God’s bondservant (Rom. 6:22). In all his faithful service down here for whatever master, he is serving the Lord as bond-servant, and from Him he will receive a reward, in contradistinction to what human masters do.
v. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: Note the change found in 'the R.V. margin, from the A.V. rendering; it does not say, he ‘shall receive for the wrong which he hath done’, as in A.V., but, ‘he shall receive again the wrong that he hath done.’ It would seem as if Paul still has in mind the Judgment Seat of Christ, before which all believers, slaves and freemen, will be made manifest. There each one will receive the things done, lit., through, by means of the body (2Cor. 5:10, R.V. margin). This is not the receipt of rewards, but of the character that has been manifested at the Judgment Seat. It is given back to us—to wear for eternity. Possibly this is the same figure as the fine linen, in which we shall be arrayed—‘the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints’ (Rev. 19: 8 R.V.). The fine linen of some saints will be brighter than of others, ‘according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (2Cor. 5:10 R.V.). We shall receive a character just according to what we have done—according to the nature of our work; if good, ‘whatsoever good thing that each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord’ (Eph. 6:8 R.V.); if bad, ‘he that doeth wrong shall receive again the wrong that he hath done’ (Col. 3:25 R.V. margin). Note particularly the use of the word ‘again.’
This verse would teach bondservants, and indeed all servants, that their every work, well or poorly done, will be taken into account; it should be an incentive to them to give good service, in that which is being done primarily to the Lord.
and there is no respect of persons. Lit., there is no accepting the face—thus expressing the impartiality of God in His judgment of men. To each slave would be given a reward suited to his service (v. 24).
This would be guidance to Onesimus as to his future life and work, in returning to Philemon. God would not assess his service differently because he had been born again. Rather should he serve his old master more faithfully because of his regeneration—the better to please the Lord, his new Master. He was a bondservant, and should continue so to serve.
As we enter another year, it is with deep sorrow and regret that we record the Home-call of our esteemed brother and member of our Committee, Mr. James Henry Mayhew. The Lord was pleased to call His servant to be with Him in the glory on Lord’s Day, 14th January, 1979. His service in the Lord’s work extended for sixty-one years. He was a great help to us by his counsel from time to time, and he was always willing to help the production of this magazine from its beginning. We know we shall miss him in many ways, but the God he knew remaineth, and will “undertake to guide the future as He has the past.” Kindly remember his wife Nellie, and his sons Willie and Jim in your prayers. They are all in fellowship in our assemblies.
Readers will appreciate that we need your prayers now more than ever. Our need of our God’s guidance and help increases, but we are glad we have the same God Whom Abraham trusted, Jehovah-Jireh, the “Lord will see, or provide” (Genesis 22:14).
We thank all those who remembered us in their prayers during the past year. We trust the Lord will add to their number.
We also thank all those who showed their practical fellowship with us throughout another year. For all this great kindness we express our gratitude in our Lord’s worthy Name.
To those who contributed papers we express our heartfelt thanks. This service means long hours of devoted study which only the Lord can estimate, and we know He will gladly reward our beloved contributors for their labour of love in a soon-coming day.
It is also our desire to thank all those who help in distribution. We are glad to ensure that whoever desires can have a copy free, but to ensure that there is no waste, the help of our distributors is of great value as they inform us of necessary amendments from time to time.
Again we thank the Lord for the help of our Honorary Editor. His is a big responsibility. His service in the ministry of the Word demands much of his time, and in his many journeys at home and overseas he constantly needs the preservation of our faithful God.
Like our Editor, our brother Glenville, “in journeyings often,” in the ministry of the Word, needs our prayers. For his help in the correspondence connected with the magazine we offer our sincere thanks. v ^ v..
“Above all things have fervent charity (R.V. love) among yourselves”
There is power for the present. There is no quality of Christian character which follows faith that is so completely necessary and so alarmingly lacking as in the quality of love. It is the premier virtue and the pinnacle purpose of the Christian.
Love possesses different qualities. This love is not just sentimental gush. It is called “fervent,” and the word “fervent” has a different meaning here than when used elsewhere in Scripture. When the New Testament speaks of a “fervent spirit,” it implies “to boil.” But when it speaks here of a “fervent love,” it means to be “extended” or “stretched out.” But how shall love be extended and stretched out? There are two ways: First, by forgiving (v. 8). Second, love can be extended by giving (v. 9). Love gives a practical demonstration.
Christianity gets its character from the present position of Christ: and determines, therefore, the believer’s position on earth— heavenly. It is the great aim therefore of Satan to obstruct the truth of the personal presence of the Holy Ghost on earth.