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Gloria Crucis by J. H. Beibitz

I INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS

The object with which we meet here can be expressed in a Pauline phrase of three words, it is |to learn Christ.|

But, in those three words, there is contained, in the manner of St. Paul, a wealth of meaning. To learn Christ is clearly an affair of the intellect, in the first place. It quite certainly, in this sense, does not mean merely to accumulate information regarding the words and acts of our Lord. St. Paul himself is singularly sparing of allusions to the history of Christ, if we exclude from that His Death, Burial, and Resurrection. The phrase, in fact, describes that kind of knowledge to which a detailed study of the Saviour's Life is related as means to an end, the knowledge, namely, of Christ's character, of His Mind and Will. Such knowledge is not to be acquired in one hour or in three. It is, it ought to be, the life-long object of a Christian man to gain it in an ever-increasing measure of fulness and accuracy. But the last words of the Lord, the seven sayings from His Cross, constitute a special and in some measure unique disclosure of His Mind and Will. And, therefore, to meditate upon them, as we are now proposing to do, will be to advance one stage further, and a distinct stage, in the process of |learning Christ.|

1. But we do well to remind ourselves, at the very outset, that our aim is not merely intellectual, but also practical. There is no real gain arising from the knowledge of Christ's Mind and Will, save so far as that knowledge enables us to make that Mind and Will our own mind and our own will. That is the very meaning of Christian discipleship. |Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.|

2. The end thus set before us is one capable of attainment by all. The individual, indeed, cannot hope to realise that end completely by himself. The embodiment of Christ's Mind and Will is the supreme task and the final achievement of the whole Body of Christ. The purpose of the long development of the Church on earth is, that |we should all (not each) arrive at a perfect man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ.| The whole Church, the Body in its completeness, is meant to reflect back in the eyes of the Father, the moral glory of the Son of man. Each individual has been called into membership in the Body, in order that he might reflect some one of the scattered rays of that glory; might embody in himself one aspect of the infinite perfection of the Son of man. So would each of us truly |come to himself,| realise all that he is capable of becoming.

That progress of the Body of Christ towards its goal is described by St. Paul as being a growth of the Christ Himself. He is |at all points in all men being fulfilled.| There is a true and important sense in which the Incarnation is as yet incomplete, in which the life-history of the Church is its growing completeness. Our individual task is the realisation in ourselves of that part of the Christ life which we, individually, have been created to embody.

3. It will be useful to sum up the Character, the Mind and Will of Christ, in a single phrase. Consider how He impressed His contemporaries. What was it which they saw in Him, who knew Him best, and had been united to Him by close ties of comradeship and discipleship? In one word, what they saw was Sonship. |We beheld His glory, as of an Only-Begotten from a Father.| The Mind and Will of Christ are the perfect realisation of the Divine Sonship in our humanity.

But what is the meaning of God's Fatherhood and man's sonship? The ultimate truth of the relationship, the truth which underlies all such conceptions as care, love, obedience, is community of nature. Our human nature is really akin to the Divine. We are sons of God because our spiritual life is of one piece with His as derived from it. Baptism introduces no new element into our nature. By sacramental union with the Only Begotten, the Ground and Archetype of all sonship, it enables us to realise that which is in us, to actually become that which, potentially, we are. It gives us |power to become children of God,| to attain the meaning of our manhood, to regain our true selves.

4. Baptism gives power, all sacraments give power, but in such wise that that power is useless, even, in a sense, non-existent, till we make it ours by deliberate exertion, by co-operation of mind and heart and will with the Divine in us.

The end of our living, to become truly and completely the sons of God, is to be attained by the joint action of two factors --

(1) The Spirit of Christ conforming our minds and wills more and more to the likeness of Christ.

(2) The co-operation of our whole personality with the work of the indwelling Spirit.

Our meditations this morning on the Seven Words in which Christ made some partial disclosure of His Mind and Will, will form some part of that co- operation, one little stage in the accomplishment of our life-long task.

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