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3. Doing What Is Good

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

12When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. 13Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. 14And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

15All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

3 For we ourselves 257257     “We ourselves, who had the oracles of God, that had greater privileges than others, were carried out with as strong an impetus naturally, till grace stopped the tide, and, after stopping, turned it against nature. When the mind was thus prepossessed, and the will made the lusts of the flesh its work and trade, there was no likelihood of any co-operation with God, in fulfilling his desires, till the bent of the heart was changed from the flesh and its principles. The heart is stone before grace. No stone can cooperate with any that would turn it into flesh, since it hath no seed, causes, or principles of any fleshly nature in it. Since we are overwhelmed by the rubbish of our corrupted estate, we can no more co-operate to the removal of it than a man buried under the ruins of a fallen house can contribute to the removal of that great weight that lies upon him. Neither would a man in that state help such a work, because his lusts are pleasures; he serves his lusts, which are pleasures as well as lusts, and therefore served with delight.” — Charnock. also were formerly foolish Nothing is better adapted to subdue our pride, and at the same time to moderate our severity, than when it is shewn that everything that we turn against others may fall back on our own head; for he forgives easily who is compelled to sue for pardon in return. And indeed, ignorance of our own faults is the only cause that renders us unwilling to forgive our brethren. They who have a true zeal for God, are, indeed, severe against those who sin; but, because they begin with themselves, their severity is always attended by compassion. In order that believers, therefore, may not haughtily and cruelly mock at others, who are still held in ignorance and blindness, Paul brings back to their remembrance what sort of persons they formerly were; as if he had said, “If such fierce treatment is done to those on whom God has not yet bestowed the light of the gospel, with equally good reason might you have been at one time harshly treated. Undoubtedly you would not have wished that any person should be so cruel to you; exercise now, therefore, the same moderation towards others.”

In the words of Paul, there are two things that need to be understood. The first is, that they who have now been enlightened by the Lord, being humbled by the remembrance of their former ignorance, should not exalt themselves proudly over others, or treat them with greater harshness and severity than that which, they think, ought to have been exercised towards themselves when they were what those now are. The second is, that they should consider, from what has taken place in their own persons, that they who to-day are strangers may to-morrow be received into the Church, and, having been led to amendment of their sinful practices, may become partakers of the gifts of God, of which they are now destitute. There is a bright mirror of both in believers, who

“at one time were darkness, and afterwards began
to be light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8.)

The knowledge of their former condition should therefore dispose them to συμπάθειαν fellow-feeling. On the other hand, the grace of God, which they now enjoy, is a proof that others may be brought to salvation.

Thus we see that we must be humbled before God, in order that we may be gentle towards brethren; for pride is always cruel and disdainful of others. In another passage, (Galatians 6:1,) where he exhorts us to mildness, he advises every one to remember his own weakness. Here he goes farther, for he bids us remember those vices from which we have been delivered, that we may not pursue too keenly those which, still dwell in others.

Besides, seeing that here Paul describes briefly the natural disposition of men, such as it is before it is renewed by the Spirit of God, we may behold, in this description, how wretched we are while we are out of Christ. First, he calls unbelievers foolish, because the whole wisdom of men is mere vanity, so long as they do not know God. Next, he calls them disobedient, because, as it is faith alone that truly obeys God, so unbelief is always wayward and rebellious; although we might translate ἀπειθεῖς unbelieving, so as to describe the kind of “foolishness.” Thirdly, he says that unbelievers go astray; for Christ alone is “the way” and the “light of the world.” (John 8:12; 14:6.) All who are estranged from God must therefore wander and go astray during their whole life.

Hitherto he has described the nature of unbelief; but now he likewise adds the fruits which proceed from it, namely, various desires and pleasures, envy, malice, and such like. It is true that each person is not equally chargeable with every vice; but, seeing that all are the slaves of wicked desires, although some are carried away by one and others by another desire, Paul embraces in a general statement 258258     “The Apostle speaks of what naturally we all were. This, then, is a most merciful influence that is given forth in the regenerating work. It is as if God should have said, I see those poor creatures are perishing, not only tending to hell, but carrying with them their own hell into hell, ‘hell being at last cast into hell’ (as the expression in the Revelation is.) It is a throwing hell into hell, when a wicked man comes to hell; for he was his own hell before. God, beholding this forlorn case of wretched creatures, saith, I must either renew them or lose them; I must either transform them, or they must perish: they are in the fire of hell already. Such and such we were, but of his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing by the Holy Ghost. O! the compassionate influence that is shed upon a soul in this case! The balmy dews that descend from heaven upon a distempered soul, which quench the flames of lust, and which implant and invigorate (after their implantation) a divine principle, in-create a new life, that leads to God and Christ, and the way of holiness and heaven at last.” — Howe. all the fruits that are anywhere produced by unbelief. This subject is explained towards the close of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

Moreover, since Paul, by these marks, distinguishes the children of God from unbelievers, if we wish to be accounted believers, we must have our heart cleansed from all envy, and from all malice; and we must both love and be beloved. It is unreasonable that those desires should reign in us, which are there called “various,” for this reason, in my opinion, that the lusts by which a carnal man is driven about are like opposing billows, which, by fighting against each other, turn the man hither and thither, so that he changes and vacillates almost every moment. Such, at least, is the restlessness of all who abandon themselves to carnal desires; because there is no stability but in the fear of God.

Either the principal clause in this sentence is, that “God hath saved us by his mercy,” or the language is elliptical. Thus it will be proper to supply, that they were changed for the better, and became new men, in consequence of God having mercy upon them; as if he had said, “When God regenerated you by his Spirit, then did you begin to differ from others.” But since there is a complete sense in the words of Paul, there is no necessity for making any addition. He classes himself along with others, in order that the exhortation may be more efficacious.

4 But after that the goodness and love towards man appeared First, it might be asked, — “Did the goodness of God begin to be made known to the world at the time when Christ was manifested in the flesh? For certainly, from the beginning, the fathers both knew and experienced that God was good, and kind, and gracious to them; and therefore this was not the first manifestation of his goodness, and fatherly love towards us,” The answer is easy. In no other way did the fathers taste the goodness of God under the Law, than by looking at Christ, on whose coming all their faith rested. Thus the goodness of God is said to have appeared, when he exhibited a pledge of it, and gave actual demonstration, that not in vain did he so often promise salvation to men.

“God so loved the world”, says John, “that he gave his only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16.)

Paul also says in another passage,

“Hereby God confirmeth his love towards us, that, while we were enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8.)

It is a customary way of speaking in Scripture, that the world was reconciled to God through the death of Christ, although we know that he was a kind Father in all ages. But because we find no cause of the love of God toward us, and no ground of our salvation, but in Christ, not without good reason is God the Father said to have shewn his goodness to us in him.

Yet there is a different reason for it in this passage, in which Paul speaks, not of that ordinary manifestation of Christ which took place when he came as a man into the world, but of the manifestation which is made by the gospel, when he exhibits and reveals himself, in a peculiar manner, to the elect. At the first coming of Christ, Paul was not renewed; but, on the contrary, Christ was raised in glory, and salvation through his name shone upon many, not only in Judea, but throughout the neighboring countries, while Paul, blinded by unbelief, labored to extinguish this grace by every means in his power. He therefore means that the grace of God “appeared” both to himself and to others, when they were enlightened in the knowledge of the gospel. And indeed, in no other way could these words apply; for he does not speak indiscriminately about the men of his age, but specially addresses those who had been separated from the ordinary ranks; as if he had said, that formerly they resembled those unbelievers who were still plunged in darkness, but that now they differ from them, not through their own merit, but by the grace of God; in the same manner as he beats down all the haughtiness of the flesh by the same argument. “Who maketh thee to differ,” or to be more highly, esteemed than others? (1 Corinthians 4:7.)

Goodness and love He has with propriety assigned the first rank to “goodness,” which prompts God to love us; for God will never find in us anything which he ought to love, but he loves us because he is good and merciful. Besides, although he testifies his goodness and love to all, yet we know it by faith only, when he declares himself to be our Father in Christ. Before Paul was called to the faith of Christ, he enjoyed innumerable gifts of God, which might have given him a taste of God’s fatherly kindness; he had been educated, from his infancy, in the doctrine of the law; yet he wanders in darkness, so as not to perceive the goodness of God, till the Spirit enlightened his mind, and till Christ came forth as the witness and pledge of the grace of God the Father, from which, but for him, we are all excluded. Thus he means that the kindness of God is not revealed and known but by the light of faith.


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