OPENING STATEMENT by Robert
Man is called flesh and blood because thence he has his original: but we do not become the children of God as we become the children of our natural parents. Note, Grace does not run in the blood, as corruption does. Man polluted begat a son in his own likeness (Genesis 5:3), but man sanctified and renewed does not generate a son in that likeness.
The Jews gloried much in their parentage and the noble blood that ran in their veins. “We are Abraham’s seed.” Therefore to them pertained the adoption because they were born of that blood. But this New-Testament adoption is not founded in any such natural relation. It is not produced by the natural power of our own will. As it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, so neither is it of the will of man, which labours under a moral impotency of determining itself to that which is good so that the principles of the divine life are not of our own planting, it is the grace of God that makes us willing to be his.
Nor can human laws or writings prevail to sanctify and regenerate a soul if they could, the new birth would be by the will of man. But, it is of God. This new birth is owing to the word of God as the means (1 Peter 1:23), and to the Spirit of God as the great and sole author. True believers are born of God, 1 John 3:9,5:1. And this is necessary to their adoption for we cannot expect the love of God if we have not something of his likeness, nor claim the privileges of adoption if we are not under the power of regeneration.
From their own past condition. Consideration of men’s natural condition is a great means and ground of equity and gentleness, and all meekness, towards those who are yet in such a state. This has a tendency to abate pride and work pity and hope in reference to those who are yet unconverted: “We ourselves also were so and so, corrupt and sinful, therefore we should not be impatient and bitter, hard and severe, towards those who are but as ourselves once were.
Should we then have been willing to be contemned, and proudly and rigorously dealt with? No, but treated with gentleness and humanity and therefore we should now so treat those who are unconverted, according to that rule of equity: [Quod tibi non-vis fieri, alteri ne feceris] “What you would not have done to you that do not to another”
Their past natural condition is set forth in divers particulars. We ourselves also were sometimes, (1) Foolish without real spiritual understanding and knowledge, ignorant of heavenly things. Observe, Those should be most disposed to bear with others’ follies who may remember many of their own those should be meek and gentle, and patient towards others, who once needed and doubtless then expected the same. We ourselves also were sometimes foolish.
And, (2) Disobedient heady and unpersuadable, resisting the word, and rebellious even against the natural laws of God, and those which human society requires. Well, are these set together, foolish and obedient? For what folly like this, to disobey God and his laws, natural or revealed?
This is contrary to the reason and men’s true and greatest interests, and what so foolish as to violate and go counter to these? (3) Deceived, or wandering namely, out of the ways of truth and holiness. Man in this his degenerate state is of a straying nature, thence compared to a lost sheep this must be sought and brought back and guided in the right way, Psalms 119:176. He is weak and ready to be imposed upon by the wiles and subtleties of Satan, and of men lying in wait to seduce and mislead.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. Here let us take notice, (1) A true Believer is a creature begotten anew. He becomes as different a person from what he was before the renewing influences of divine grace as if he were formed over again, and born afresh (2) The original of this good work is here declared: it is of God’s own will not by our skill or power, not from any good foreseen in us, or done by us, but purely from the good-will and grace of God
(3) The means whereby this is affected are pointed out: the word of truth, that is, the gospel, as Paul expresses it more plainly, (1 Corinthians 4:15), I have begotten you in Jesus Christ through the gospel. This gospel in indeed a word of truth, or else it could never produce such real, such lasting, such great and noble effects. We may rely upon it, and venture our immortal souls upon it. And we shall find it a means of our sanctification as it is a word of truth, (John 17:17).
(4) The end and design of God’s giving renewing grace is here laid down: That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures–that we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the first-fruits were and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the first-fruits were consecrated to him. Yeshua is the first-fruits of Believers, Believers are the first-fruits of creatures.
The gospel is called truth, in opposition to types and shadows, to error and falsehood. This truth is effectual to purify the soul, if it is obeyed, John 17:17. Many hear the truth but are never purified by it because they will not submit to it nor obey it. The Spirit of God is the great agent in the purification of man’s soul. The Spirit convinces the soul of its impurities, furnishes those virtues and graces that both adorn and purify, such as faith (Acts 15:9), hope (1 John 3:3), the fear of God (Psalms 34:9), and the love of Jesus Christ. The Spirit excites our endeavours and makes them successful. The aid of the Spirit does not supersede our own industry; these people purified their own souls, but it was through the Spirit (4) The souls of Christians must be purified before they can so much as love one another unfeignedly. There are such lusts and partialities in man’s nature that without divine grace we can neither love God nor one another as we ought to do; there is no charity but out of a pure heart. It is the duty of all Christians sincerely and fervently to love one another. Our affection to one another must be sincere and real, and it must be fervent, constant, and extensive.
How proper a method it is to beat down pride to let persons know the true value of what they pride themselves in! It is but too common a thing for men to value themselves most on what is least worth: and it is of great use to bring them to a sober mind by letting them know how much they are mistaken.
The various distribution of these gifts, not all to one, nor to everyone alike. All members and officers had not the same rank in the church, nor the same endowments (1 Corinthians 12:29, 1 Corinthians 12:30): Are all apostles? Are all prophets? This was to make the church a monster: all one as if the body were all ear or all eye. Some are fit for one office and employment, and some for another; and the Spirit distributes to everyone as he will.
We must be content with our own rank and share if they be lower and less than those of others. We must not be conceited of ourselves, and despise others, if we are in the higher rank and have greater gifts. Every member of the body is to preserve its own rank, and do its own office; and all are to minister to one another, and promote the good of the body in general, without envying, or despising, or neglecting, or ill-using, any one particular member. Observe the order of these offices and gifts.
They are here placed in their proper ranks. Those of most value have the first place. Apostles, prophets, and teachers were all intended to instruct the people, to inform them well in the things of God, and promote their spiritual edification: without them, neither evangelical knowledge nor holiness could have been promoted. But the rest, however, fitted to answer the great intentions of Christianity, had no such immediate regard to religion, strictly so-called.
God does, and we should, value things according to their real worth: and the use of things is the best criterion of their real worth. Those are most valuable that best answer the highest purposes. Such were apostolical powers, compared with theirs who had only the gift of healing and miracles.
What holds the last and lowest rank in this enumeration is the diversity of tongues. It is by itself the most useless and insignificant of all these gifts. Healing diseases, relieving the poor, helping the sick, have their use: but how vain a thing is it to speak languages if a man does it merely to amuse or boast himself!
This may indeed raise the admiration, but cannot promote the edification, of the hearers, nor do them any good. Advice covet the best gifts, [charismata ta kreittona – dona potiora, praestantiorac f0], either the most valuable in themselves or the most serviceable to others; and these are, in truth, most valuable in themselves, though men may be apt to esteem those most that will raise their fame and esteem highest.
Those are truly best by which God will be most honoured and his church edified. Such gifts should be most earnestly coveted. We should desire that most which are best, and most worth. Grace is, therefore, to be preferred before gifts; and, of gifts, those are to be preferred which are of greatest use. But some read this passage, not as advice, but a charge: zeloute , You are envious at each other’s gifts.
Gifts may be valued for their use, but they are mischievous when made the fuel of pride and contention. True charity is great to be preferred to the most glorious gifts. To have the heart glow with mutual love is vastly better than to glare with the most pompous titles, offices, or powers
Every Believer is a member of his body, and every other Believer stands related to him as a fellow-member (1 Corinthians 12:27): Now you are the body of Yeshua, and members in particular, or particular members.
Each is a member of the body, not the whole body; each stands related to the body as a part of it, and all have a common relation to one another, dependence upon one another, and should have a mutual care and concern. Thus are the members of the natural body, thus should the members of the mystical body be, disposed of.
Mutual indifference, and much more contempt, and hatred, and envy, and strife, are very unnatural in Believers. It is like the members of the same body being destitute of all concern for one another or quarrelling with each other.