Remarks on I Peter 5:5, and Romans 12:10. Reply to "A Friend to the cause of Truth."
From Peter's exhortation to the elders, which are among the flock of God, and Christ's charge to Peter in John 21:16,17, as also from Paul's charge to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28, we unavoidably infer that the pastoral work of the elders is very definitely and clearly stated, to feed the flock of God, the sheep and lambs of Christ. No authority, expressed or implied, is given to provide a flock, or to increase the flock, but to attend to the flock which the chief Shepherd has gathered with his arm, and which he carries in his bosom (Isaiah 11:2); and to take the oversight of them, as shepherds, whose business is to look after their welfare, vigilantly watching for their peace, comfort and safety, and ready to give the alarm at the approach of their invading foes; their principal business being to see that they are well fed on good and wholesome pasturage. "Not by constraint." In the spiritual application of our figure, how unfit for the pastoral duties is he whose heart is not in the work; who does not delight to mingle freely with the flock; who must be induced by filthy lucre, or some worldly inducement appealing to his selfish, carnal nature. "Neither as being lords over God's heritage." Instead of being lords, God's ministers are servants of Christ, and by his will, servants of his church. "Ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Looking not to men for a reward, but to the chief Shepherd who has the hearts of all men under his control, and will see that they shall be provided for here, and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, they shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away; or, as Paul says, "a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (II Timothy 4:8)."
Having thus briefly noticed the apostolic exhortation to the elders, which are among the flock of God, we pass to notice the relative duties enjoined by the same unquestionable authority on all the other members of the Lord's flock.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves to the elder." This submission is in like manner, as the word likewise means. There is a reciprocity in the submission of pastor and people, of elders and younger. Whether we consider the elder as a pastor, or only a senior in church membership and experience, the submission must be mutual and reciprocal; for while the ministers of Christ are vested with authority to "preach the Word," and to "teach with all authority" according to that Word; so that when they preach and teach according to the Word, every member is solemnly required to submit to the instruction, and no member of the church has a right to disregard the preaching of instruction. So, on the other hand, while the elders preach, the church sits in judgment, and are authorized to investigate and decide whether they preach and teach according to the Word; for if they do not, it is because there is no light in them. "Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?" or messengers. Elders, whether by age or position in the church, are under the authority of the church, and must be in submission to the authority which Christ has invested her with. And this extends not only to the doctrine they may preach, but all their walk and deportment in the church, and in their intercourse with mankind; for all is under the supervision of the church. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." And God has set his King upon his holy hill, Zion. There Jesus, by his Spirit, sits in judgment, and arraigns all his subjects at his bar in Zion. That there is a marked deference to be paid to pastors and to senior brethren, there can be no doubt. Divine instructions are clear on this point. Read I Timothy 5:1,17, and 18. Here, while the apostle commands double honor to the elders in both applications of the term, and especially to those elders which labor in word and doctrine, he adds a most solemn charge before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, to observe these things without partiality. As all the members of the body of Christ are equally precious, and all to be recognized in their appropriate places or gifts, as it has pleased God to set them in the church, the honor or distinction of honor due to age or gifts, is not to be observed in a manner disparaging to all the other members of the body.
The injunction or command of the apostle to the younger is applicable to all in the church who are not elders, either by age or vocation, and none are left at liberty to disregard, disrespect, or disobey the instructions, admonitions or teachings of the elders, except where the elders evidently depart from the law and order of Christ as settled by the apostles. Thus while the elders are required to be kind and gentle, and in submission to the authority of Christ in his church, as servants and not lords, all the members who are permitted to receive their services are in turn bound to appreciate their labor and be in submission to them.
"Yea, all of you be subject one to another." The church of God is one body, having one spirit; her members are called in one hope of their calling.
The movement of the body in obedience to the dictation of its spirit requires that there shall be harmony in all the members which make up the fullness of the body. To attain this harmony, no member can be independent of its fellow members; but all must be subject one to another, and all subject to the spirit by which the whole is governed. Otherwise there will be schisms in the body paralyzing all its actions. If, for instance, the eye refuses to see for the body, there is no other member that can perform that service for the body; or if the ear refuse to hear, or the tongue to express the sentiments of the body, or if the hand refuse to labor, the foot to walk, the body cannot travel. As a whole, all the members must obey the head, and each member be in subjection to the body. If in labor, one hand refuses to act in harmony with the other, the one builds, the other throws down; nothing is gained. The one foot, in obeying the Spirit, would move Zionward, the other inclines towards Babylon, and will not be in submission - the whole body must be in confusion, and the Spirit which directs to Zion is disobeyed until the unyielding and offending foot or hand be cut off, or the offending eye be plucked out. As in the natural body, so in the church, all the members of the body are members one of another. The hand can do nothing without the cooperation of the arm, and the arm must have the cooperation of all the body; and this cooperation and harmony requires that all the members shall be in submission one to another.
A morose, haughty, selfish disposition in any of the members would involve all the body in perplexity, and therefore that spirit is forbidden, and the opposite is enjoined on all. "Be clothed with humility." Clothing not only shields and protects the body and members from the cold and so contributes to the health and comfort of the body, but covers and conceals its deformity. The whole church and all her members being clothed with humility allows no manifestations of arrogance or want of unanimity to appear. And this seems to be the design of the figure in our text. "For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." No higher incentive can be known or felt by an humble child of God than to enjoy his divine approval. A proud, lofty or haughty carriage, especially when detected in a child of God, is sure to meet the marked disapprobation of our Heavenly Father. His rod will find them out; but he giveth grace or favor, beauty and support to the humble.
"Blest are the humble souls who see
Their emptiness and poverty;
Treasures of grace to them are given,
And crowns of joy laid up in heaven."
The other text proposed for consideration (Romans 12:10) presents the same admonition, only in other words: "Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love: in honor preferring one another." Both are addressed to the children of God, who, being born of God and led by his Spirit, are a spiritual brotherhood; but being also in the flesh which is born of the flesh, are liable to be led by the corruptions of their fleshy nature to a selfish and unlovely course, in which there is danger of biting and devouring of one another. Were it not that they have a law in their members, warring against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin which is in their members, they would not need these admonitions with which the scriptures abound. But in their present condition they need to give the more earnest heed to them, lest they should fall out by the way. The ardent desire of Paul for the well-being of the saints seemed to enlist his whole soul, and in the most pathetic and imploring manner he says: "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God," (what a striking appeal!) "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." This sacrifice of our bodies includes all our worldly interests, wealth, honor, fame, ease, or life itself, if need be, and all must be laid upon the altar, all surrendered and submitted to God to be disposed of as he shall direct; allowing nothing of a worldly nature to divert us from that course which we are called to pursue as the followers of the meek and lowly Lamb of God. This living sacrifice requires that we shall not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Not indulging in vain conceit, or cherishing exalted views of ourselves; but regarding our standing in the body of Christ, as members of Christ, and as members in him one of another. Each member having its appropriate gift and measure of faith is for the benefit of all the body. "Let love be without dissimulation." Let it not be feigned, or in hypocritical pretense; but the honest, sincere and unfeigned out-gushing of holy affection which comes welling up from the depth of the heart where God has shed abroad his love. "Abhor that which is evil." Those who love God supremely, and by virtue of his love in their hearts, love his Word, his people, his ordinances, and all that God approves, do not, as some seem to suppose, therefore, necessarily love everything. If they love truth, they hate error; if they love holiness, they hate sin; if they love God, they hate mammon; for God's love is discriminating. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us. And just as far as we love that which is good, we will hate and abhor that which is evil.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another." As the possession of Christian love in our hearts to all the fraternity of the saints is the distinguishing and infallible evidence that we have passed from death unto life, are born of God, and belong to the brotherhood of the saints, it is therefore clearly established that all who are born of God do possess an undying affection for all the saints. But the peculiarity of the words of this admonition seem to imply something more than that the principle of love, or of affection shall exist in our hearts. To be affectioned, as we understand, means not only that we love; but that we should show our love. And to be kindly affectioned, means that our spiritual affection shall rule and control our actions, and that our affections shall be seen in acts of kindness, sympathy and devotion to those whom we love in the Lord. That brother who sees his brother in need, and shuts up the bowels of compassion, saying, Be warm, or be clothed, without ministering to his necessities, is not kindly affectioned towards him. "How dwelleth the love of God in that man?" Not the priest nor the Levite, but the good Samaritan was kindly affectioned towards the man who had fallen among thieves. Yet his might only have been a natural affection; still it was manifested by at least neighborly kindness. The kind of affection enjoined on the saints in our text is more than neighborly; for the admonition is, "Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love," by that love in which our fraternal relationship is founded. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us that we should be called the sons of God." If love is thus displayed in our sonship, and our being the sons of God makes us brethren, then our sonship shows that God was kindly affectioned towards us. "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ," etc. "To be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love," is to be so governed by that filial, fraternal, spiritual, and divine love which God has bestowed on us, that in all our deportment our actions should be marked with kindness to all our Father's children. No unkind, ungenerous, unfeeling, or reproachful word or action can result from the love of God in our hearts. The kindly affectioned brother loves with a pure heart fervently, can bear a brother's burdens, share his sorrows, seek his comfort, sympathize in his affections, weep when he weeps, and participate in his joys. He will not watch for his halting, nor exult in his downfall, nor make him an offender for a word.
"When free from envy, scorn and pride,
Our wishes all above;
Each can his brother's failings hide,
And show a brother's love.
"Love is the golden chain that binds
The happy souls above:
And he's an heir of heaven that finds
His bosom glow with love."
"In honor preferring one another." The Christian who is kindly affectioned to his brother is not ambitious to monopolize the honors which distinguish some above others. It is a remarkable and a distinguishing trait in the children of God that each esteems others better than himself. The young convert in the fullness of the love of God newly shed abroad in his heart says, O how gladly would I mingle with the dear people of God if I were worthy. The lovely ordinance of baptism, how joyfully would I lay my poor sinful body in the watery grave where Jesus laid, if I were worthy. The old travelers on our King's highway are often heard to say, If I had such a gift as my brethren and sisters have, how I would delight to improve it. They sometimes think all their brethren are far before them in all that is excellent, and themselves less than the least of all saints; unsparing after preferment, in honor preferring one another. A minister is to be called to the work, but O, not me. "Ah, Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child (Jeremiah 1:6)!" If a deacon is to be set apart to the work, every other brother seems better qualified than myself. Now while we hold that each member should be subject one to another, and abide the decision of the church as to where their place shall be, we still hold that it is a heaven-granted right each one saint may claim, in honor, to prefer one another. Oh that this spirit may prevail in all the church of God, and then what jealousies would have to die! What fires of hell would be quenched! What strife and bitterness would be banished from our borders!
What is more lovely in nature, in families, and in communities, than a kind and affectionate regard for the welfare and happiness of each other; a sight but too seldom witnessed. But in the church of God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, it is superlatively glorious, and as delightful as it is beautiful. Especially so, when all around in the world and in anti-christian communities, all is hatred, malice, wrath, strife, seditions, envies, murders and every abomination. Then how beautiful for situation is Mount Zion, in the sides of the North; the city of the great King!
March 1, 1866.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 398 - 304