I. SIMPLICITY. PERSONAL LIFE
Having in his appeal declared the true attitude of
the Christian life to be that of surrender to the will of God, the
apostle proceeded to show how such surrender will be expressed. The
teaching is full of interest and importance, as there may be much talk
of submission while there is no practical evidence of the same. The
first positive proof of abandonment to the will of God is that the
personal life is characterized by simplicity. In dealing with this, the
apostle defined the character as being that of humility; and the
consciousness as that of communion; finally describing the consequent
conduct of simplicity.
i. THE CHARACTER OF HUMMITY
Basing his right upon the grace that was given him,
and thus manifesting his own true humility, the apostle appealed
carefully to the individual, as is evident from his phrase, "I say ...
to every man." His message was both negative and positive. A man is "not
to think . . . more highly than he ought"; he is "so to think . . .
according as God hath dealt ... a measure of faith." The plain meaning
of this is that a man's opinion of himself must be that of God's opinion
of him. It is a most searching and safeguarding conception. Let every
man honestly stand in the presence of God, and become conscious of the
Divine measurement of himself, and there will be very little fear of
that objectionable pride which is at the root of so much which is
dishonouring to God, and which hinders the witness of the saints. The
whole setting demonstrates the fact that the humility enjoined is
humility concerning spiritual things. Of course that will create
humility in all things. There is always danger that a person having
solemnly dedicated everything to God, should on that very account become
proud, and there is no pride more dangerous and more objectionable than
ii. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF COMMUNION
The last statement of the paragraph defining the
character of humility, prepares the way for the apostle's discussion of
the consciousness of communion. "God hath dealt to each man a measure of
faith,'' is a declaration which recognizes a certain deposit committed
to the individual; and also the aggregation of such into the faith, - in
the most spacious meaning of that word, - of the whole Church. To be
conscious of that individual deposit, is necessarily to become conscious
of its relation to the larger whole. The apostle therefore immediately
proceeded to the declaration of truth concerning the whole body, and the
complementary nature of the offices of the members thereof; showing that
for the fulfillment of the function of the whole, the service of every
part is necessary. Consequently the importance of each is measured not
by its own significance, but by its contribution to the whole. Using the
figure of the human body, he applied it in his declaration that
believers are one body in Christ, and therefore are related to each
other as members.
For purpose of illustration he then made particular
application of his figure, by an enumeration of gifts, and an indication
of the way in which they should be used, in order to the accomplishment
of the purpose of the whole body or Church.
Of these gifts, four have definitely to do with the
spiritual ministry whereby the whole Church is edified in grace.
Prophecy is the gift of spiritual interpretation. Ministry is that
sacred service whereby the truth revealed in prophecy is applied.
Teaching is the gift of the patient impartation of instruction.
Exhortation is the gift of stirring up those who are taught, to
The remaining three are operative in that material
activity whereby the spiritual realities are made manifest. They are the
gifts of serving tables, none the less sacred than the former, and
absolutely necessary if the former are to be exercised to full
advantage. Giving is the sacred gift through which the actual material
supply is provided. Ruling is the gift of leading and conducting
business affairs. Showing mercy is the gift of distributing material
As the apostle named these gifts, he indicated the
method of their use; and there is a difference between his statements
with regard to the first four, and those with regard to the last three.
For the clearer understanding of this passage I should personally omit
all the italicized words.
It will then be seen that the little phrase
"according to," becomes extremely suggestive with regard to the first
four. He first recognized that gifts differed "according to the grace
that was given to us"; and then insisted upon it that the exercise was
to be according to the gift. Prophecy is to be according to the
proportion of the faith, for here the marginal reading, "the faith,"
instead of "our faith," is of great value. Prophecy has many emphases.
To different men different proportions of the faith are given. Let them
exercise that which they have. The same principle is applied with regard
to ministry, to teaching, and to exhortation.
The use of the preposition "with'' is equally
suggestive with regard to the last three. The exercise of the gift of
giving is to be with liberality; that of the gift of ruling, with
diligence; that of the gift of showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let it be carefully observed that all these things
are gifts bestowed in order to use. In the recognition of that fact
there is a correction of the possibility of pride. All those possessions
which make us of use to Christ and the Church are received from Him, and
not contributed by us to Him, save in the sense that we exercise them
under His control to the glory of His name.
Moreover all these are gifts of equal value to the
well-being of the whole, and no graver mistake can be made than that of
attempting to set them in some order of importance. In the economy of
faith they are of equal value.
Humility therefore is manifest in the exercise of a
gift, when it is used with a view to the fulfillment of the function of
the whole body, rather than for the glorification of self.
iii. THE CONDUCT OF SIMPLICITY
The character of humility, and the consciousness of
communion, inevitably result in the conduct of simplicity. In dealing
with that, the apostle first enunciated the principle, and then enjoined
a. THE PRINCIPLE
The master-principle of simplicity is expressed in
briefest words, "Let love be without hypocrisy." It will be noticed that
this injunction pre-supposes the presence of love, and indicates the
true method of its activity. It is to be without hypocrisy; that is,
without acting, or simple, as opposed to complex; it must be genuine.
The command is all-inclusive, at once revealing the true impulse of
obedience to all the instructions concerning the practice, and
indicating the unifying bond which holds them in true relation.
b. THE PRACTICE
The practice of simplicity has two realms of
application, the first within the fellowship; and the second in the
relation between the saints and those who are antagonistic to them.
1. Within the Fellowship
In examining the teaching of the apostle concerning
the practice of simplicity within the fellowship it is interesting to
note the alternation between personal character and relative conduct.
There are three groups of instructions.
The first concerns the personal purity of the mind of
love; it abhors the evil and cleaves to the good; and shows that the
relative expression of it, is that of tender affection, and the
rendering of honour to others.
The second concerns the personal activity of the mind
of love, indicating its energy, "in diligence not slothful"; its
inspiration, "fervent in spirit''; its motive, "serving the Lord"; its
buoyancy, "rejoicing in hope"; its persistence, "patient in
tribulation"; its power, "continuing steadfastly in prayer." The
relative expression of this activity is that of supplying the needs of
others, "communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to
hospitality"; the bestowment of blessing on those who persecute, "bless
them that persecute you; bless, and curse not"; the keen sensitiveness
which enters into the experience of others, "rejoice with them that
rejoice; weep with them that weep"; and the unity of mind which is of
the essence of peace, "be of the same mind one toward another.
The third concerns the personal humility of the mind
of love. It is not ambitious, "Set not your mind on high things"; it is
meek, "condescend to things that are lowly"; it is not arrogant, "be not
wise in your own conceits." The relative expression of humility is that
of non-resistance, "render to no man evil for evil"; and honesty, "take
thought for things honourable in the sight of all men."
2. Towards Enemies
Such self emptying, love-centered devotion to the
will of God will alone make possible obedience to what follows. The aim
of the simple life in which love is without hypocrisy is to be that of
peace. In this connection it is to be carefully noted that the "if it be
possible" is not an excuse for a believer under any circumstances to
break the peace. It is rather a recognition that there will be some men
who will not be at peace. The burden of responsibility is indicated by
placing emphasis upon the word "you," "As much as in you lieth." There
is an old adage that two are necessary to a quarrel. Taking this for
granted, the Christian is to see to it that there shall be no
contribution on his part to the making of a quarrel. If there is a
breach of the peace, it must not be created by those who are devoted to
the will of God. Where this aim is recognized, the attitude which the
apostle enjoined is the result. If an outsider violates the principle of
peace, the believer is not to avenge, for "Vengeance belongeth unto Me;
I will recompense, saith the Lord."
This attitude is to be demonstrated by an activity.
If the paragraph had ended with the words we have quoted, it would have
been possible to understand a very popular attitude of mind toward the
great declaration. How often we are tempted to say with a sigh of
relief, Yes, thank God, vengeance does belong to the Lord! Thus although
active reprisals are prevented, the heart rejoices in the thought that
at last the punishment of God will be meted out to the wrong-doer. This
thought is entirely out of harmony with the will of God for His child,
and therefore the believer is called to such action as will demonstrate
the existence of true and unfeigned love. The hungry man is to be fed,
and the thirsty one supplied with water.
The closing injunction deals with the inner motives.
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Thus the first
expression of true devotion to the will of God is to be found in that
simplicity which expresses itself in the humility of a self-emptied
life, and the genuine love which creates true relations with all men.