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353

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE POWER OF A BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION AND THE INCARNATION.—THE GOSPEL OF ST. PAUL.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elects’ sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”—2 Tim. ii. 8–10.

These words are a continuation of the same subject. They are additional thoughts supplied to the Apostle’s beloved disciple to induce him to take courage and to bear willingly and thankfully whatever difficulties and sufferings the preaching of the gospel in all its fulness may involve. In the three metaphors just preceding, St. Paul has indicated that there is nothing amazing, nothing that ought to cause perplexity or despondency, in the fact that ministers of the word have to encounter much opposition and danger. On the contrary, such things are the very conditions of the situation; they are the very rules of the course. One would have to suspect that there was something seriously amiss, if they did not occur; and without them there would be no chance of reward. Here he goes on to point out that this hardship and suffering is very far from being mere hardship and suffering; it has its bright side and its compensations, even in this life.

354 Throughout this section it is well worth while to notice the very considerable improvements which the Revisers have made in it. One or two of these have been already noticed; but for convenience some of the principal instances are here collected together.

“Suffer hardship with me,” or “Take thy part in suffering hardship,” is better than “Thou therefore endure hardship,” which while inserting a spurious “therefore,” omits the important intimation that the hardship to which Timothy is invited is one which others are enduring, and which he is called upon, not to bear alone, but to share. “No soldier on service” is better than “No man that warreth,” and “if also a man contend in the games” is more definite than the vague “if a man also strive for masteries.” The ambiguity of “must be first partaker of the fruits” is avoided in “must be the first to partake of the fruits.” But perhaps none of these corrections are so important as those in the passage now before us. “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel,” gives quite a wrong turn to St. Paul’s language. It puts the clauses in the wrong order, and gives an erroneous impression as to what is to be remembered. Timothy is charged to “remember Jesus Christ;” and in remembering Him he is to think of Him as one Who is “risen from the dead,” and Who is also “of the seed of David.” These are central facts of the Gospel which St. Paul has always preached; they have been his support in all his sufferings; and they will be the same support to the disciple as they have been to the master.

“Remember Jesus Christ.” Every Christian, who has to endure what seem to him to be hardships, will sooner or later fall back upon this remembrance. He 355 is not the first, and not the chief sufferer in the world. There is One Who has undergone hardships, compared with which those of other men sink into nothingness; and Who has expressly told those Who wish to be His disciples, that they must follow Him along the path of suffering. It is specially in this respect that the servant is not above his Lord. And just in proportion as we are true servants will the remembrance of Jesus Christ help us to welcome what He lays upon us as proof that He recognizes and accepts our service.

But merely to remember Jesus Christ as a Master Who has suffered, and Who has made suffering a condition of service, will not be a permanently sustaining or comforting thought, if it ends there. Therefore St. Paul says to his perplexed and desponding delegate, “Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead.” Jesus Christ has not only endured every kind of suffering, including its extreme form, death, but He has conquered it all by rising again. He is not only the sinless Sufferer, but also the triumphant Victor over death and hell. He has set us an example of heroic endurance in obedience to the will of God; but He has also secured for us that our endurance in imitation of Him shall be crowned with victory. Had Christ’s mission ended on Calvary, He would but have given to the world a purified form of Stoicism, a refined “philosophy of suffering;” and His teaching would have failed, as Stoicism failed, because a mere philosophy of suffering is quickly proved by experience to be a “philosophy of despair.” Renan remarks with truth, that the gospel of Marcus Aurelius fortifies, but does not console: and all teaching is doomed from the outset, which comes to a groaning and travailing humanity without any consolations to bestow. What 356 is the thought which through long centuries has wrung, and is still wringing millions of human hearts with anguish? It is the thought of the existence and not only the existence but the apparent predominance, of evil. Everywhere experience seems to teach us that evil of every kind, physical, intellectual, and moral, holds the field and appears likely to hold it. To allow oneself to be mastered by this thought is to be on the road to doubting God’s moral government of the world. What is the antidote to it? “Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead.” When has evil ever been so completely triumphant over good as when it succeeded in getting the Prophet of Nazareth nailed to the tree, like some vile and noxious animal? That was the hour of success for the malignant Jewish hierarchy and for the spiritual powers of darkness. But it was an hour to which very strict limits were placed. Very soon He Who had been dismissed to the grave by a cruel and shameful death, defeated and disgraced, rose again from it triumphant, not only over Jewish priests and Roman soldiers, but over death and the cause of death; that is, over every kind of evil—pain, and ignorance, and sin. It was for that very purpose that He laid down His life, that He might take it again: and it was for that reason that His Father loved Him, because He had received the commandment to lay it down and take it again from His Father (John x. 17, 18).

But “to remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead” does more than this. It not only shows us that the evil against which we have such a weary struggle in this life, both in others and in ourselves, is not (in spite of depressing appearances) permanently triumphant; it also assures us that there is another 357 and a better life in which the good cause will be supreme, and supreme without the possibility of disaster, of even of contest. We talk in a conventional way of death as the country “from whose bourne no traveller returns:” but we are wrong. We do not mean it so; yet this saying, if pressed, would carry with it a denial of a fact, which is better attested than any fact in ancient history. One Traveller has returned; and His return is no extraordinary accident or exceptional and solitary success. It is a representative return and a typical success. What the Son of Man has done, other sons of men can do, and will do. The solidarity between the human race and the Second Adam, between the Church and its Head, is such, that the victory of the Leader carries with it the victory of the whole band. The breach made in the gates of death is one through which the whole army of Christ’s followers may pass out into eternal life, free from death’s power for evermore. This thought is full of comfort and encouragement to those who feel themselves almost overwhelmed by the perplexities, and contradictions, and sorrows of this life. However grievous this life may be, it has this merciful condition attached to it, that it lasts only for a short time; and then the risen Christ leads us into a life which is free from all trouble, and which knows no end. The miseries of this life are lessened by the knowledge that they cannot last long. The blessedness of the life to come is perfected by the fact that it is eternal.

Once more, to “remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead,” is to remember One Who claimed to be the promised Saviour of the world, and Who proved His claim. By its countless needs, by many centuries of yearning, by its consciousness of failure and of guilt, 358 the whole human race had been led to look forward to the coming of some great Deliverer, Who would rescue mankind from its hopeless descent down the path of sin and retribution, as a possibility. By the express promise of Almighty God, made to the first generation of mankind, and renewed again and again to patriarchs and prophets, the chosen people had been taught to look forward to the coming of a Saviour as a certainty. And Jesus of Nazareth had claimed to be this longed for and expected Deliverer, the Desire of all nations and the Saviour of the world. “I that speak unto thee am He” (John iv. 26). By His mighty works, and still more by His life-giving words, He had shown that He had Divine credentials in support of His claim: but not until He rose again from the dead was His claim absolutely proved. It was the proof which He Himself volunteered. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John ii. 19). “There shall no sign be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. xii. 39, 40), and then return again to the light of day as Jonah did. He had raised others from the dead; but so had Elijah and Elisha done. That proved no more than that He was a prophet as mighty as they. But no one before Jesus had ever raised Himself. If His Messiahship was doubtful before, all doubt vanished on Easter morning.

And this leads St. Paul on to the second point which his downcast disciple is to remember in connexion with Jesus Christ. He is to remember Him as “of the seed of David.” He is not only truly God, but truly man. He was risen from the dead, and yet He 359 was born of flesh and blood, and born of that royal line of which Timothy, who “from a babe had known the sacred writings,” had many times heard and read. The Resurrection and the Incarnation;—those are the two facts on which a faltering minister of the Gospel is to hold fast, in order to comfort his heart and strengthen his steps.

It is worth noting that St. Paul places the Resurrection before the Incarnation, a fact which is quite lost in the transposed order of the A. V. St. Paul’s order, which at first sight seems to be illogical, was the usual order of the Apostles’ preaching. They began, not with the miraculous birth of Christ, but with His resurrection. They proved by abundant testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead, and thence argued that He must have been more than man. They did not preach His birth of a virgin, and thence argue that He was Divine. How was His miraculous birth to be proved, to those who were unwilling to accept His mother’s word for it? But thousands of people had seen Him dead upon the Cross, and hundreds had seen Him alive again afterwards. No matter of fact was more securely established for all those who cared to investigate the evidence. With the Resurrection proved, the foundations of the faith were laid. The Incarnation followed easily after this, especially when combined with the descent from David, a fact which helped to prove His Messiahship. Let Timothy boldly and patiently preach these great truths in all their grand simplicity, and they will bring comfort and strength to him in his distress and difficulty, as they have done to the Apostle.

This is the meaning of “according to my gospel.” These are the truths which St. Paul has habitually 360 preached, and of the value of which he can speak from full experience. He knows what he is talking about, when he affirms, that these things are worth remembering when one is in trouble. The Resurrection and the Incarnation are facts on which he has ceaselessly insisted, because in the wear and tear of life he has found out their worth.

There is no emphasis on the “my,” as the Greek shows. An enclitic cannot be emphatic. The Apostle is not contrasting his Gospel with that of other preachers, as if he would say, “Others may teach what they please, but this is the substance of my Gospel.” And Jerome is certainly mistaken, if what is quoted as a remark of his is rightly assigned to him by Fabricius, to the effect that whenever St. Paul says “according to my Gospel” he means the written Gospel of his companion St. Luke, who had caught much of his spirit and something of his language. It would be much nearer the truth to say that St. Paul never refers to a written Gospel. In every one of the passages in which the phrase occurs the context is quite against any such interpretation (Rom. ii. 16; xvi. 25; cf Tim. 1. i. 11). In this place the words which follow are conclusive: “Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor.” How could he be said to suffer hardship unto bonds in the Gospel of St. Luke?

A word of protest may be added against the strange and impossible theory that the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles were written by St. Paul himself. If there is one thing which is certain with regard to the authorship of the Books of the New Testament, it is that the Acts was written by a companion of St. Paul. Even destructive critics who spare little else, 361 admit this of portions of the Acts; and the Book must be accepted or rejected as a whole. Moreover, it is admitted by both defenders and assailants that the writer of the Acts did not know the Epistle to the Galatians; and it is highly probable that when he wrote he had not seen the Epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians.9292   It is not credible that a writer who was very familiar with the incidents and persons mentioned and alluded to in Gal. i. 17; ii. 1–5, 11–14; Rom. xv. 19, 28; xvi. 1–3, 23; 1 Cor. i. 11–16; v. 1; xi. 30; xvi. 15; 2 Cor. ii. 12; vii. 5; xi. 24; xii. 3, 7, 18, should make no mention of them or reference to them. The silence respecting Titus would be most extraordinary if the Apostle himself were the author of the Acts. See Bishop Lightfoot’s article on the Acts in the new edition of the Dict. of the Bible. How then can he have been St. Paul? And why should the Apostle write sometimes in the third person of what Paul said and did, and sometimes in the first person of what we did? All this is quite natural, if the writer is a companion of the Apostle, who was sometimes with him and sometimes not; it is most extraordinary if the Apostle himself is the writer. And of course if the Acts is not by St. Paul, the third Gospel cannot be; for it is impossible to assign them to different writers. Moreover, not to mention other difficulties, it may be doubted whether, more than two years (Acts xxviii. 30) before the death of St. Paul, there would have been time for “many” to “have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us” (Luke i. 1), and then for him to have collected material for the third Gospel and to have written it, and then, after an interval, for him to have written the Acts. All the arguments in favour of the Pauline authorship of the third Gospel and of the Acts are satisfied by the almost universally accepted view, that these two works 362 were written by a companion of the Apostle, who was thoroughly familiar with his modes of thought and expression.

The preaching of this Gospel of the Resurrection and the Incarnation had caused the Apostle (as he here tells us) to suffer much evil, as if he had done much evil, even to the extent of a grievous imprisonment. He is bound as a malefactor; but his Gospel “is not bound,” because it is “the word of God.” He perhaps changes the expression from “my Gospel” to “the word of God” in order to indicate why it is that, although the preacher is in prison, yet his Gospel is free;—because the word which he preaches is not his own, but God’s.

“The word of God is not bound.” The Apostle is imprisoned; but his tongue and his companion’s pen are free. He can still teach those who come to him; can still dictate letters for others to Luke and the faithful few who visit him. He can still, as in his first Roman imprisonment, see that what has befallen him may “have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel; so that his bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest” (Phil. i. 12, 13). He has been able to influence those whom, but for his imprisonment, he would never have had an opportunity of reaching,—Roman soldiers, and warders, and officials, and all who have to take cognisance of his trial before the imperial tribunal.

“The word of God is not bound.” While he is in prison, Timothy, and Titus, and scores of other evangelists and preachers, are free. Their action is not hampered because a colleague is shut up. The loss of him might have a depressing and discouraging effect on some; but this ought not to be so, and he hopes will 363 not be so. Those who are left at large ought to labour all the more energetically and enthusiastically, in order to supply whatever is lost by the Apostle’s want of freedom, and in order to convince the world that this is no contest with a human organization or with human opinion, but with a Divine word and a Divine Person.

“The word of God is not bound,” because His word is the truth, and it is the truth that makes men free. How can that of which the very essence is freedom, and of which the attribute is that it confers freedom, be itself kept in bondage? Truth is freer than air and more incompressible than water. And just as men must have air and must have water, and you cannot keep them long from either; so you cannot long keep them from the truth or the truth from them. You may dilute it, or obscure it, or retard it, but you cannot bury it or shut it up. Laws which are of Divine origin will surely and irresistibly assert themselves, and truth and the mind of man will meet.


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