Comments Upon Texts

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PH 2:4-2:5{" But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)."
The first word, here, is "but"; a little word which shows that what follows it is disconnected from what goes before: in this case, it is in contrast with it. Man had just been spoken of,-but now God is brought in, in contrast to man. It was man, according to what God saw of his ways, when dead in trespasses and sins; thus (ver. 1), dead in trespasses and sins—this was their state; and the marks of this state, as found in man's ways, are thus described in ver. 2:-"A walk according to the course of this world" (which is at enmity against God), and, therefore, a walk according to the god of this world, who is the prince of the power of the air; the spirit who now worketh in the children of disobedience; and the habitual walk, the turn of such, was in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, for they were children of wrath, even as others.
That was on one side; and an awful view it gave of man. " But," on the other side, in contrast with all this, there was God, and God according to His nature and ways; " God who is rich in mercy, for His great love, wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." Here is God and His wondrous ways in contrast with man and his ways. First, God in contrast with man—then His characteristic trait, who is rich in mercy- and then a particular proof of it in His love to us. Mark, here, that mercy, in its very nature, excludes every thought of worthiness, merit, or claim, being in the party to whom it comes; it supposes unworthiness, demerit, want, and misery, in the party benefited; and that all the benefit conferred flows forth from the party that confers it, upon the sole ground that He can compassionate and feel pity for the party in need, although He distinctly recognizes, at the very time of doing so, that the said party is in a state other than He counts happy or desirable. We could not say, God was merciful to Christ. If any one used such an expression to us, we should be obliged to point out the impropriety of the expression; it would be a most injurious and wrong word to use in such a connection. For Christ Jesus could say, " He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also"; and the Father could say of Him, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Christ Jesus came to do God's will, and did it perfectly in all things; and had worthiness and claims before God, which God delights to honor. He was not the object of mercy, nor could be so, because there was nothing in Him to move the compassion or pity of God, hut everything calculated to give God delight—everything that pleased God. To use such an expression would be (however unconsciously it might be done) to speak disparagingly and injuriously of the Lord. For in Christ was life, and the life was the light of men. But when God looked on us, we were dead in trespasses and sins; and God's bearing toward us was a bearing of mercy. Death in trespasses and sins He did not delight in; it might have turned him away offended; but He pitied, compassionated us; had mercy upon us, and He who condemned the sins, desired to save the sinner.
Thus we have man, his condition, and ways; and God, his compassion and ways, set in contrast. I say His compassion and ways, because " who is rich in mercy" gives a trait or mark in His character, and " for the great love wherewith He loved us," gives an acting of that characteristic trait in the salvation which grace has set before us and made ours.
" For His great love wherewith He loved us." What a word is this! To know, with certainty, that, notwithstanding all that we have done and were by nature, yet that there
is one bosom in which there is love toward us; and that bosom the very one in which we should have supposed there would have been displeasure and wrath; for, if we look at ourselves merely as creatures standing before a Creator whom we have dishonored, what else but indignation and wrath had we to expect? Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, would have been our just reward for our evil deeds and fallen nature. But it is not so. Vile as we were, and vilely as we acted, God, acting as Redeemer, and not merely in the character of Creator, has loved us freely; has given His Son for us; and we that believe can say, " He loves us and loves us with a great love."
Ver. 5. "Even when we were dead in sins." Here we have our state in nature again brought before us, and brought before us in the most concise way possible. The acorn has an oak tree folded up in it; many a little spring of water is the mother of a river; and a soul that has death in sins in it has all the big tree of sin and all its fruits folded up in it, and is the mother source of all the swollen river of man's wickednesses. Now, if I was such, what had I to expect as such from God? What, if God had acted according to my state and my deserts, would have been my lot? Nothing but the second death. And what motive could God draw from anything which I, who was altogether dead, could give Him. I thought myself to be as God himself; and had no notion that the Lord He is God alone; and had altogether a wrong notion about Himself. No; He could find, He did find, nothing good in me. But where all was death in sins, there He was pleased to act from Himself, to draw forth motives from within Himself; and He could find reasons why He should quicken us together with Christ. If I consider what I was, I can find no reason why God should bless me, and not rather curse; and if I consider that God was the blesser, for His own name's sake, and what the way is in which He has blessed, I say, " It is clear, merit and deserving in the creature is quite shut out of the question." God was the source, the spring of the blessing; why should He have done; it? He is rich in mercy. Ay, He has a character of His own I and 'tis a blessed one too. Fallen man does not like Him alone to be God. But God He is still. Fallen man draws his picture of God according to his own fallen imagination and corrupt lusts and passions. But God has a character of His own. He has no thought of ceasing to be or of ceasing to be God alone—or of changing His character because man has become a wreck and a ruin. He is God, and He is rich in mercy. He has loved us when we were dead in sins. And the how and the why of the blessing, which He has bestowed upon us, both alike declare that it was not according to our thoughts, nor for our sakes, as the end of His acting, that He blessed us thus.
Mark the why of His blessing: " That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." What could be plainer? " That He might show the exceeding riches of His grace." Yes; God will not give His glory to another. If He, whose very existence and being, fallen man hates, despises, and rebels against, does act in a way to make such happy, He does it for His own glory's sake as an end; does it on the ground of what He God is. In nature and character He is rich in mercy. And this shuts out all thought of its being done because of any deserving in us.
But as the party blessing, His motives for blessing, and His end in blessing, each and all, bid us think of Him, and cease from thinking of ourselves; just so does also His way of blessing. What is His way of blessing? Is it a way that lies, so to speak, in the field of fallen human nature (as the putting forth of our power to stop sin, and to work good works in ourselves does); Or is it a way such as fallen man never thought of, never knew anything about? Yes; it is a way quite above man, quite outside the field of human nature, fallen or unfallen.
" Quickened us together with Christ," is His first word when setting forth that way. What could Adam in the Garden have understood about being quickened together with Christ? What does a sinner know about God's quickening together with Christ? The way is God's way; and as the heavens are high above the earth, so are God's ways high above man's ways: " His ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts.
God had an only begotten Son. Him He gave, that He might become Son of man, the anointed of God. Man I did he bring in that Christ into the world? No: men, with wicked hands, crucified and slew Him. They did what they could to send Him out of the world, when He had come into it without their leave, and had stayed in it a good bit longer than they liked. And, mark it, this matter whereof He speaks had no place in Eden, did not lie, was not found, in that field which was given to man. Man ought not to have touched the forbidden tree, then would he not have died. But death was the end of all that man could see, so as to reap it by disobedience.
Having a new life, resurrection and glory were not fruits that grew in nature's barren soil. But God, to please Himself, introduced the seed of the woman, this Christ of whom we speak, as the One by whom and for whom He could go on with the earth, after Adam and Eve had altogether failed in the Garden of Eden; saying: " The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.' And that He, the Christ, might, as Son of man and the Woman's Seed, not be alone in His glory, He had to die. For, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." Well! death, the wage due to our sin, He freely took, in obedience to the thoughts of God. He was crucified, died, and was buried, that God might be able to be just while justifying us poor sinners; and He has said, that He reckons us crucified, dead, and buried, as to our old man, together with Christ; and that we are to reckon ourselves so likewise. But His taking of His life again, His rising from the grave, His going up into heaven, His being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, was part of what pertained to the second Adam, and had no place in the portion of the first. Now, no man can go beyond what is human in thought. And it was God, and not man, from whom that thought and that way came forth of believers being quickened together with Christ.
Christ was buried in the sepulcher in the garden. But He could see no corruption. And He who had power to lay down His life, had power also to take it again; for this commandment had He received of the Father. Well, on the first day of the week, He awoke, was quickened while in the grave; and, therefore, all that ado outside, of earthquake, of sepulcher door-stone rolled away, etc.; He was quickened-and, says our text, " we were quickened together with Him."
The act and fact and moment of the Lord Jesus Christ's taking His life again, is not sufficiently thought of by us. It ought to be looked at in and by itself. The Roman Catholic religion (religion of fallen human nature) pictures to us a Christ a-crucifying, and gives us images of wood, stone, and ivory out of all number of a human figure on the cross. Of eternal moment to us is the fact, that the Christ of God was crucified, has been crucified, because He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. But, as Paul tells us 1 Cor. 15, His death was naught, if He did not rise from the dead; we are yet in our sins But Christ is risen from the dead; and He left the grave empty, save of those grave-clothes which have since, as has His cross on which He was hung, and our sins also, passed away; never more to be found. God honors the Christ who was crucified, the Christ who was buried, but is alive again.-Now, if I had to prove, as saith Paul, 1 Cor. 15, the forgiveness of sins, I point to the One that is risen: and might, in a figure, say, " Turn to the grave; it is empty. He left there naught but the grave-clothes." But this is not enough when the question comes as to God's way of blessing us-" quickened together with Christ." Then I have to turn neither to the guarded, imprisoning tomb where the body of the Lord lay; nor to the empty tomb, He being gone up on high; but I turn in thought to the tomb burst open now, for He is just alive from among the dead; and because He is therein, and because God gives testimony in the scene; the guards are fled, and the disciples are being drawn, by various means, thereunto. Oh, it is a blessed thought! that blessed One taking His life again; that One, who was all God's joy, and God's delight, quickening into life afresh, as Son of man, in the tomb. Blessed in itself! and blessed to us, because it is written of us-" quickened together with Him."
The life He took, is that of which He has communicated to us, as He did to Paul and to these Ephesians: and, therefore, as that life which He gives to us believers is of that life which He took when He awoke from death, it can be said, and it is said, "quickened together with Him.".Saul 1 where was he when Christ awoke in the grave? These wicked Ephesians! where were they at that time? Both were dead in sins. Well, when Christ had called them, and given them of that life which He took, they were no longer looked upon by God according to the old man, but according to the new man. By reason of the old man in us, Christ has been crucified, dead, and buried. But He took life anew, and has given to us of that life, of a life which the old man had not; and God looks upon us as vessels in which it dwells -a life inseparable from the source whence it flows; a life in us which enables Him to say to us, enables us to say of ourselves that believe, " Quickened together with Christ." The root, the germ, the incorruptible seed of all blessing is in -this life. And I pray you, reader, to mark, that the moment the Spirit, through Paul, has said, 'Quickened together with Christ,' He makes a pause, -marks a bar, -so as to shut this off from all the consequences of it. For, however blessed and important these consequences of life possessed are, they are not the life itself, but consequences of it. Therefore, the moment He has said, " quickened together with Christ," He makes a pause,-introduces a parenthesis,-which seems to be a mark, to mark off what He has just said from that which follows after it: "quickened together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)." Ay! if quickened together with Christ, then we are saved in, and inseparably from, Him. And that is the best part of what God has to give us.
Truly, this salvation is of the Lord God alone. And as man never dared to say to God, " I have sinned, and Thou must bear the penalty," so he never hit upon such a thought as this, " if God quickened in the grave His Son whom we had crucified, we will share all that is His I" But what man never thought of, what, if he had said, it would have been awful, blasphemy on his part, both in the one case and the, other,-that was God's thought and plan. Man had sinned; God manifest in the flesh should bear the penalty; and the reward and glory which He should win for this service, He would freely share with all His disciples: For they should be quickened together with Him.
OL 2:13{" And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses."
The Epistle to the Ephesians presents us with the doctrine of " ye in Me" (John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)), if I may so say; that is, the doctrine of the believer's being blessed in Christ Jesus—as being hidden by God in Christ. The privileges which go along with being in Christ being the special object of that epistle when it speaks of the quickening of a believer together with Christ—the mind has that subject brought before it, as connected with the character and date of the first blessing of having association with Christ in His life, as taken anew after He had borne our sins in His own body on the tree. The Epistle to the Colossians gives us rather, " I in the Father" (John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)); and accordingly, as it seems to me, when we have the quickening together with Christ spoken of in it, it is more in that connection. Ordinances and man's doings were being plied by Satan on the Colossians, as things necessary to make their salvation complete, to make their blessing perfect and secure. Such a thought was worthy of Satan; to Paul and the Spirit of God it seemed to be nothing short of calling into question the Sonship of Jesus, and all the counsels, plans, and thoughts of God the Father about that Son. The present day is a day in which the busy energy of man's flesh lends itself, in many places, to Satan in this way; and in Romanism, Puseyism, and a good many other " isms," which are but the expression of the workings of the flesh, it is held and taught that there is an " unless ye do" this or that (in addition to having Christ for salvation), ye cannot be saved. This evil may have two phases of it; the one (as in Colossians),:the being subject to ordinances; and the other (as in Galatians), the subjecting of the flesh to rites and ceremonies; but, in both cases, it is, in essence, the same thing. The flesh in us is accredited, man honored, and worldliness sanctioned; and so the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost dishonored, discredited, and contemned.
Satan is very crafty; he hates Christ with a perfect hatred; and hates those who stand upon Christ as the foundation for His sake. If he cannot injure Christ in His own person, he is glad in any way to show his own hatred against Him, and to mar: His honor in His people. He will attack them, and Christ's honor in them, in foundation and superstructure. Is a soul brought into peace, and at rest, to the praise of God's grace and mercy, upon Christ? Satan sees it, and his spite is kindled. He knows the self-righteousness of our flesh, he knows the love of man for having something to do; he does not like that hanging, that dependance of ours, upon what is above in Christ; he would like to have us occupied for rest with something round us in that world which is enmity against God. Some one comes to the place where such are, no one may know whence or why, and sets forth most beautifully the great work which God has done in Christ, and all the wondrous benefits connected with it; and that all man has to do to get the benefit, is to observe a rite (as circumcision, etc.), or some ordinance, a sabbath-day or a moon. O how little a thing to give for so great a benefit! Only just suffer yourself to be dipped, only just do this or that little thing! What heart will refuse? And oft he so succeeds, and draws the very hearts which were full of mercy and grace, in their folly and simplicity, to allow all the impulse which mercy and grace had to their hearts to be turned round against the Giver. Such a little thing! such a nothing! Yes: but it is man's little thing,-it is a nothing of this world which is at enmity with God. God will not give His glory to another; and if you substitute anything for mercy as the fountain, if you give anything in exchange for Christ, man, and not God, is glorified. The energy that raises my foot to go into the water, or leads me to forbear touching a dog, is quite as bad in this place, little as it be, as the energy which would compass sea and land to make one proselyte. The gift to God of a prayer, even, would be as great an insult, if it were in exchange for Christ, as a bag of gold. The Spirit's severity in meeting both cases is awfully stern: " But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8,98But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8‑9)).
And though the rebuke be couched in softer words in Colossians, yet is the judgment of the apostle quite as clear. Such things are tantamount to " not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. 2:1919And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Colossians 2:19)).
See who and what the Christ is, in whom we are complete; and then, as a man, say whether we can add anything to Him, and whether, it is not worse than madness to think of doing so. " The Father hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;.: -bath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Such is our blessing; and who is He in whom it is?
He is, 1st, the Son of God's love (Col. 1:1313Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13)); and He is, 2ndly, the image of the invisible God; 3rdly, born. pre-eminent to every creature; (necessarily so, because) 4thly, all things were created by and for Him; who is, 5thly, the one by whom all is upheld; 6thly, He is the Head of the body, the church; the beginning; the first-born from the dead; and in Him, too, it was pleasing that all fullness should dwell -Redeemer, for heaven and for earth. He being such, and the one in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and we complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power, how can we add to or take from him as foundation? If quickened together with Rim, no ordinance, no rite, can possibly be necessary in order that we be blessed; for we are blessed in Him. And to say otherwise was, according to Paul, to give up Christ as the Head, and to compromise the faith.
There is this difference in the two contexts, Eph. 2 and Col. 2 In the first, the quickening comes in as the starting-point of all the vast range of blessing attendant upon faith. In Colossians, it comes in as showing that law and ordinance had no hold of a Christian, because they had no hold upon Christ when He took His life anew—we were quickened together with Him. And the life so communicated is given without ordinances or rites; and it leads us to walk as they could not give us power to do.
Note.-If any have, or make, any difficulty as to the meaning of quickening in Scripture, the following texts will serve them:-