The possession of Christ does wonderfully bind hearts together; and as affection one toward another is a spiritual instinct, so all that is learnt of Christ deepens it intelligently. Intercourse may test its reality sometimes, but as a whole develops it actively, and the more as sharing the same hostility from the world.
1911 336 Scripture says, “Let brotherly love continue“; and indeed it is so sweet, that the wonder is that we should ever let it drop. But we are such an unwise people, and the hardening influence of the world so much affects us, that even where there has been happy fellowship, coldness often creeps in. Sometimes brotherly affection will wither, just for want of a little expression, and our watchful enemy is only too glad to see it die down. Then, Christian, if you have love in your heart to your brother, do not hide it as a secret that must not be known. Refrain not from those small expressions of love, which will not only refresh thy brother’s heart, but keep love from dying in thine own. One can imagine how Satan may chuckle when he manages to estrange Christians from one another. Where you see this estrangement, you see the work of Satan; but where Christians are loving one another, you see the work of God’s Spirit, for “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). Do you see a Christian walking in the power of love? Then you see one who is under divine teaching, for Paul says of the Thessalonians that they were “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). God is glorified and Satan defeated when love triumphs amongst Christians.
Scripture distinguishes between “love” and “brotherly love.” They are expressed by distinct words in the original. Love is “agape,” and brotherly love is one word, “philadelphia.” “Philadelphia” is rather friendly love; and the Authorised Version has tried to convey this by the expression, “brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7). But it is more than that. It includes kindness, but it is love; only, love in the form which it takes in the intercourse of brethren. Perhaps the best rendering is Mr. Kelly’s, which is “brotherly affection.”
Peter tells us to add to godliness, brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection, love (2 Peter 1:7). That is to say, dry godliness — if one may speak so — won’t do; we must have with godliness, the warmth of Christian friendship, brotherly affection. How stiffly, hardly, with what grinding and creaking, the machine sometimes moves; per haps won’t move at all, when a few drops of oil make it all right and smooth: so is love amongst brethren. Love surmounts the difficulties of the day, conquers coldness and apathy, and goes forth winning the hearts of the saints in order to serve them. Surely it is not without significance, in a book so full of symbols as the Revelation, that “Philadelphia” is the name of perhaps the most admirable of the seven churches. But then brotherly affection will not suffice alone, or it may degenerate into mere human sentiment, so there must be godliness; and with godliness, brotherly affection: then again, with brotherly affection, love: that is, love in its highest, broadest, noblest sense; love to God, love in the truth, love to the brethren shown in walking according to His commandments (2 John 1-6), love to poor fallen man. How perfect is Scripture!
Now love to the brethren is an evidence of divine life. First to ourselves, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14); secondly to the world, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). Thus, then, love amongst Christians is a positive testimony for God in the world. Do you desire to bear testimony for Christ, to preach the gospel? Good! it is a good aspiration. But all are not gifted for this. Yet there is a testimony which everyone can display — even the humblest: he is greatest who shows it most, and the most splendid gift is naught without it. It is love! Love “in truth,” manifested amongst believers, preaches Christ to the world. E.J.T.
“Thus we are a heavenly people; our life, blessings, inheritance, supplies, and home, are there; so that we are partakers of a heavenly calling, and are taught to look for the Savior to change our body of humiliation, fashion it like His body of glory, and take us there. The consciousness of this will produce heavenly-mindedness, and ways.”
“We are not to think that our exalted position in the Lord Jesus,
seated with Him in the heavenly places, frees us from the need of
further application of the Cross. We never reach a point where we can
leave the Cross. We are invincible, more than conquerors through Him
that loved us, only as we are brought into an ever deeper conformity to
the Saviour’s death unto sin.
Our abiding place is His wounded side. Elsewhere, the flesh reinstates
itself and we once more fall prey to the old man. There are always
remaining, however much we may have advanced, hidden strongholds
of the sinful self-life which must be overthrown by the Spirit’s application
of the finished work of the Cross.” — F. J. Huegel
Let me quote the verse from which these words are taken: “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned (the instructed) that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (Isa. 50:4).
1st. Who speaks the word in season
Who is that “Me” who is instructed by the Lord God for a service so precious and so deeply needed?
It is He who (as the same passage states) asks the question: “Is My hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? . . . I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”
In His hand is all that power. He can redeem; He can deliver; He can darken the face of the sky; in His hand is omnipotence—a truly wonderful Person is He!
And yet He it is who is qualified to do a service so infinitesimal as to drop a word of comfort into the ear of the weary. What vast extremes are in His service!
He who covers the heavens can comfort a poor weary heart here below. And He does!
2nd. How did He acquire this ability?
How, in what school, did He receive this learning? How comes He to act in sympathy and to feel the sorrows of His afflicted people? The answer is given us in Hebrews 2 and 5. There we read that He “took part in flesh and blood”; He became incarnate; He stooped from Godhead glory into the fashion of man; as man He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. He who had hitherto commanded, who “spake and it was done,” now learns obedience in suffering, as each of the four divinely-given biographies of His perfect life makes known to us; it was in this school—that of weariness and weeping, of hunger and poverty) of contact with every phase of human misery and woe, the tears of the doubly bereft widow and the desolated home of Bethany, the painfully visible effects of sin and the groan of a convulsed creation—in this familiar school and not in the unruffled dignities of heaven He learned the art, rare and precious, of sympathy and of speaking a word to the weary. His sympathy is the result of dearly-bought experience, and is, therefore, ever efficacious.
He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. “He was tempted in all (note the word) points like as we are, yet without sin” (sin wholly absent).
3rd. The Word spoken is seasonable
His word to the weary is spoken, we read, “in season.” That is, He knows the exact moment when to whisper into the wearied ear, and just when to support the breaking heart.
It was in a moment of physical crisis in my own career, that I learned the meaning of His rod and staff comforting me. I had, till then, attached the idea of support to that staff. Now, I discovered that there was also “comfort.” So says the charming pastoral psalm, where we find the sheep drifting down through the valley, but, even there, comforted by the shepherd’s rod and staff! Yes, but this makes the dreaded valley a very easy journey when you find that such comfort is yours in it, and that beyond its shadow is the House of the Lord for ever!
Christ’s ministry is always seasonable, never out of season. It may not assume an audible form, as it oft-times did in days of old, as, for instance, to Abraham, Moses, the prophets, or to Paul, once and again, but in some sweet and suitable way by the Word, or otherwise—a psalm, a hymn, or a spiritual song—the patient service and comfort of the living Lord, is proved by the weary.
4th. Who are the weary?
Well, such a question is superfluous today . . . Who is not weary?
“And they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” (Jer. 51:64)—a striking statement at the close of this significant prophecy, but not very dissimilar from the “groan” of Romans 8. Wearying and groaning are, did we only allow the fact, the chief features of humanity today. The frivolity of nature can only be accounted for by its insensibility. The awful fact is that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not,” and this diabolic obfuscation of mind, on the part of all such, is the reason of this sad phenomenon. Did every one feel as he should that he “must give account of himself to God,” how different would be his thoughts and habits! But “God is not in all his thoughts,” and hence the trifling.
But not so is the weary. To him God is real, and needed, and obeyed, and loved. He follows in the blessed steps of his Master and Lord. He realizes the contradiction to God on all hands. He is oft-times weary, rightly so, and he it is who receives and enjoys “a word in season” from Him who has power to redeem and to deliver, as well as to cover the heavens with blackness, or do what He will in the armies of heaven.
“Thy sympathy how precious,
Thou succourest in sorrow.”
It is often just this lack of true balance which brings in disaster upon the path of service. Liberty is claimed and subjection refused, or subjection is pressed and freedom in service disallowed. “Am I not free?” asked the apostle in 1 Corinthians 9:1. I am “free from all” (v. 19), he said, in regard to the work with which he was entrusted, though he made himself servant of all for their good. Nevertheless he was truly subject: “not as without law to God, but as legitimately subject to Christ” (v. 21, N.Tr.). No servant enjoyed greater freedom! Indeed, some sought, he tells us, “to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Gal. 2:4); yet he served the Lord in a consistent manner, for he knew that one “is not crowned unless he contend lawfully” (2 Tim. 2:5). It is the Son who makes us “REALLY FREE,” for the Son is free; but He took upon Him the form of a servant, and said Himself, “I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment even so I do.” When we meditate upon both His freedom and His wondrous subjection, we learn what is acceptable to God.