Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

. (page 15 of 27)
Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 15 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

arate, saith the Lord" — that assuredly expresses
the very essence of Puritanism. Or, perhaps, we
may more precisely say that it is exactly that con-
formity with the world which, above all things,
Puritanism dreads, that Paul here declares, almost
with indignation, to be inconceivable in a true
Christian. "For what fellowship," he demands
"is there between righteousness and iniquity?
Or what communion is there for light with dark-
ness? Or what concord of Christ with Belial?
Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
Or what agreement has a temple of God with
idols ? " Here certainly is Puritanism at the height
of its expression.

Nevertheless we must be careful not to give the


Apostle's exhortation a turn which does not be-
long to it. The Apostle is not here requiring of
Christians a withdrawal from the world, consid-
ered as the social organism; and most certainly
he is not asking of them to segregate themselves
into a community apart, between which and the
mass of men there shall be no, or only the least
possible, intercourse. On a former occasion, when
addressing these same readers, he does indeed
command them not to keep company with forni-
cators. But he immediately adds that he means
this aloofness only as a disciphnary measure
towards sinning brethren. If a man who is called
a Christian be a fornicator. Christian fellowship
must be withdrawn from him, that it may be
brought home to him that a man cannot be both a
Christian and a fornicator. But, says the Apos-
tle, I do not mean that you should not associate
with fornicators of the world; else you would
need to remove out of the world — a thing, he im-
plies, which would be manifestly impossible; and
let us add, for the leaven which is placed in the
world, grossly inconsistent with the prosecution of
its function in the world, which is to leaven the
whole mass. And if we will scrutinize our pres-
ent passage closely we shall quickly see that the
separation which the Apostle is urging here, too,
is not separation from men but from evil — apply-
ing, indeed, to the Corinthians in the way of ex-
hortation what our Lord prayed for in behalf of


His followers, not that they should be taken out
of the world, but that they should be kept from
the evil of the world. The exhortation: "Come
ye out from among them and be ye separate,
saith the Lord," is immediately followed by the
explanation, "And touch no unclean thing." And
the whole exhortation closes with a poignant
prayer that they may "cleanse themselves from
every defilement." It is not from their fellow-
men that the Apostle would have Christians hold
themselves aloof; it is from the sin and shame,
the evil and iniquity, which stains and soils the
lives of so many of their fellow-men. This is the
Apostolic variety of Puritanism.

The opposite impression is perhaps fostered
among simple Bible readers by the phrase which
stands in the forefront of the exhortation in our
English Bibles: "Be not unequally yoked to-
gether with unbelievers." This certainly appears
at first sight to represent any commerce with
unbelievers as indecorous and to forbid it on that
account. This impression is wholly due, however,
to the awkwardness of the rendering given to an
unusual Greek phrase. This Greek phrase is an
exceedingly awkward one to render; and I am
not sure that it is possible to give it an English
equivalent which will convey its exact sense. The
figure which underlies it is, no doubt, the yoking
together, in the bizarre way of the East, incon-
gruous animals for labour, say an ox and an ass.


And the English version is a very creditable effort
to bring the figure home to the English reader;
for surely such a yoking of incongruous animals
together is a very unequal one. Yet the English
phrase fails to express the exact shade of meaning
of the Greek term. This does not say: "Be not
unequally yoked together with unbelievers" but
rather, "Become not bearers of an alien yoke
along with unbelievers" — or, in other words,
"Take not on yourselves a yoke that does not fit
you, in order to be with unbelievers." You see
the point is very different from that which is often
taken from the English phrase. What is for-
bidden is not that we should company with un-
believers; but that we should adopt their points
of view and their modes of life. It is a question,
in other words, not of intercourse, but of standards.
What the Apostle is concerned about is not that
his converts lived in social communion with their
heathen neighbours; this he would have them do.
What he is concerned about is that they took
their colour from the heathen neighbours with
whom they lived. He wished them to be leaven
and to leaven the lump; they were permitting
themselves rather to be leavened ; and this made
him indignant with them.

We see, then, that the Apostle's urgency here
is against not association with the world, but
compromise with the worldly. Compromise! In
that one word is expressed a very large part of a


Christian's danger in the world. We see it on
all sides of us and in every sphere of life. We
must be all things to all men, we say, perverting
the Apostle's prescription for a working ministry;
for there was one thing he would on no account
and in no way have us be, even that we may, as
we foolishly fancy, win the more; and that is,
evil. From evil in all its forms and in all its man-
ifestations he would have us absolutely to separate
ourselves ; the unclean thing is the thing he would
in no circumstances have us handle. Associate
with the world, yes! There is no man in it so vile
that he has not claims upon us for our association
and for our aid. But adopt the standards of the
world? No! Not in the least particular. Here
our motto must be and that unfailingly: No
compromise !

The very thing which the Apostle here presses
upon our apprehension is the absolute conflict be-
tween the standards of the world and the standards
of Christians; and the precise thing which he re-
quires of us is that in our association with the
world we shall not take on our necks the alien
yoke of an unbeliever's point of view, of an un-
believer's judgment of things, of an unbeliever's
estimate of the right and wrong, the proper and
improper. In all our association with unbelievers,
we, as Christian men, are to furnish the standard;
and we are to stand by our Christian standard, in
the smallest particular, unswervingly. Any de-


parture from that standard, however small or
however desirable it may seem, is treason to our
Christianity. We must not, in any ease, take the
alien yoke of an unbeliever's scheme of life upon
our necks.

Interesting to us as this exhortation itself is,
and important beyond expression for the guidance
of our lives, it, perhaps, yields in interest to the
grounding which the Apostle supplies for it in an
explanation of the essential springs of a Chris-
tian's life. This grounding he gives in a series of
rhetorical questions, by means of which he sets
forth the absolute contrariety of the Christian's
and the unbeliever's points of view, sources of
judgment and principles of conduct. The order-
ing of these questions is such that they begin by
setting over against one another the obvious con-
tradictions of righteousness and iniquity; and
then proceed in a series of rapid and convincing
antitheses until they end in setting the believer
and the unbeliever over against one another as
the embodiment respectively — at least in prin-
ciple — of those contradictions, righteousness and
iniquity. "What fellowship have righteousness
and iniquity," the Apostle demands in support of
his exhortation not to take on themselves the
alien yoke of unbelievers, "or," he continues,
"what communion has light with darkness? or
what concord has Christ with Belial.^ or what
portion has a believer with an unbeliever? or —


clinching the whole matter with a reference to the
source of the entire contrast — what agreement has
a temple of God with idols?"

The force of the appeal lies in the necessary —
and inevitable — identification, as we go on through
the series, of each pair with the preceding; so
that with the fundamental "righteousness" is
identified the light; and, of course, Christ; and
because he is Christ's, the believer, who is the
temple of the living God: and with the funda-
mental iniquity is identified the darkness, Belial,
and the unbeliever, because he is the worshipper
of idols and partaker of the idolatrous point of
view. The reason, then, why a Christian must
not take on himself the alien yoke of unbelievers
is just because it is to him alien; he is in and of
himself, because a believer in Christ and, there-
fore, a temple of the living God, a different, a con-
trary, an opposite kind of being from the unbe-
liever; and it is, therefore, incongruous in the
extreme for him to put his neck in the same yoke
with an unbeliever, seek to live on the same plane,
or consent to order his life or to determine ques-
tions of conduct by his standards, in any degree

Now it is just in this contrast drawn by the
Apostle between the believer and the unbeliever —
in its firmness, its clearness, its extremity if you
will — that we discern the most interesting, the
most important, teaching of our passage. Ac-


cording to the Apostle, obviously, there are two
kinds of men in the world, believers and unbe-
lievers. And these two kinds of men stand over
against one another in complete, not only con-
trast, but contradiction; as complete contra-
diction as righteousness and iniquity. There can
be no compromise between them any more than
between righteousness and iniquity. There may
be intercourse — mutual action and reaction — but
never compromise.

The Apostle is far from saying, of course, that
in any given individuals this fundamental con-
tradiction is fully manifested. It finds its com-
plete manifestation only in the abstract — in the
contrariety of righteousness and iniquity; and
in the full concrete manifestation of righteousness
and iniquity in Christ and Belial. Between
Christians and unbelievers the manifested con-
tradiction is only relative. Compromise there
ought not to be — in principle there can not be —
but compromise in fact there is. Christians are
not, like Christ, pure embodiments of righteous-
ness; they require exhortation not to admit in-
iquity into the governing principles of their life.
Alas, alas, though they are temples of the living
God, they are far, far from having no commerce
with idols. The Apostle recognizes all this. On
his recognition of it he founds the urgent exhorta-
tion of our passage. Nevertheless he founds this
exhortation also on the fact that this contradic-


tion exists in principle — that Christians, like
Christ, their Lord, are in principle righteousness,
and that unbelievers are, like Belial, their lord,
in principle iniquity. It is because Christians
are thus in principle holy and unbelievers are thus
in principle unholy that he proclaims that it is
incongruous that Christians should adopt their
standards of life from unbelievers, who are not
merely their opposites but their contradictories;
so that there can be no mean between them but
every one must be one or the other.

There are then, according to the Apostle, two
kinds of men in the world, believers and unbe-
lievers; and these two kinds of men stand in con-
tradiction to each other. One may conquer and
eliminate the other; but there can be no mixture
between them. The ultimate source of the fun-
damental difference between them he finds in the
indwelling in Christians of the Holy Ghost: "Or
what agreement hath a temple of God with idols .^^
For we'' — emphatic here, in contrast with the un-
believers, "as for us, we are a temple of the living
God." The influx of the Holy Spirit into the
heart constitutes, then, a new humanity. Over
against those who have not the Spirit, and who
are, therefore, as another Scripture puts it,
earthly, sensual, devilish, — the children of Belial, as
this Scripture suggests, — those who have the Spirit
are a new creation, with new standards and new
powers of life alike. There can be no compromise


between such opposites. It has become custom-
ary among theologians to speak of these two kinds
of men as the men of nature and the men of the
palingenesis; or as it is now becoming fashionable
to call them, once born and twice born men.
They who are born of the flesh are fleshly; and
they only who are born of the Spirit are spiritual;
and to the spiritual man belong all things. The
message which Paul brings to us in this passage is,
then, that we who are spiritual, because we are
believers in Christ Jesus, have in principle the
righteousness which belongs to Him, and though
it may not yet appear what we shall be, we must
in all our walk comport ourselves as what we are,
the temples of the living God, having the powers
and potencies of a new, even a Divine, hfe within
us. The ultimate reason why the Christian man
is not to compromise with the world is, because
as a Christian man, he is a new creature, born
from above, with the vigour of the Divine life itself
moving in him and with an entirely new life-
course marked out for him. Why should — ^how
can — such an one put his neck incongruously
within the yoke of worldly policy or self-seeking,
or evil-living with unbelievers; and seek to de-
flect his Spirit-given powers to a life on this lower
plane and for these ignoble ends.f^ O, says the
Apostle, O, Christian men, this is surely impos-
sible to you; do you not see that in the power of
your new life you are to — ^you must — take an


utterly new course, directed to a new goal, and
informed with new aspirations, hopes and striv-

On the basis of this great declaration the Apos-
tle erects, then, his exhortation. Nor is he con-
tent to leave it in a negative, or merely inferential
form. In the accomplishment of the Spirit-filled
life he sees the goal, and he speaks it out in a final
urgency of exhortation into which he compresses
the whole matter: "Having, therefore, such
promises as these (note the emphasis), beloved,"
he says, "let us purify ourselves from every de-
filement of flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in
the fear of God." It is perfection, we perceive,
that the Apostle is after for his followers; and he
does not hesitate to raise this standard before the
eyes of his readers as their greatest incitement to
effort. They must not be content with a moder-
ate attainment in the Christian life. They must
not say to themselves, O, I guess I am Christian
enough, although I'm not too good to do as other
men do. They must, as they have begun in the
Spirit, not finish in the flesh; but must go on unto

What are they to cleanse themselves from.^^
Every defilement — every kind of defilement — not
only of the flesh but of the spirit. Aiming at
whsii? At the completion of holiness in the fear
of God ! The Apostle does not tell them they are
already holy — except in principle. They ob-


viously were not already holy — except in princi-
ple. They were putting their necks in the alien
yoke of unbelieving judgments. They were con-
tenting themselves with heathen standards. They
were prepared to say, O, the Lord doesn't ask
all that of us; O, there is nothing wrong in this;
O, I guess it will be enough if I am as good as the
average man; O, you can't expect me to live at
odds with all my neighbours ; O, these things are
good enough for me. Such compromises with the
spirit of the world are wrong; and the Apostle
tells his readers plainly that they are unworthy of
them as Christian men. They were, if not born
to better things, yet certainly born anew to better
things. Let them turn their backs on all such in-
consistencies and live on their own plane of life
as believers, believers in Christ, Christ the Light,
Christ our Righteousness. Let them remember
they are temples of the living God and have no
commerce with idols.

No, they were not perfect — except in principle.
But in principle, they were perfect; because they
had within them the principle of perfection, the
Spirit of the Most High God. Let them walk in
accordance with their privileges, then, on a level
with their destiny. Hear God's great promise.
And having these promises, cleanse yourselves;
O, cleanse yourselves, the Apostle cries; cleanse
yourselves from every defilement whether of flesh
or spirit, and so perfect — complete, work fully


out to its end — holiness in the fear of God. Let
your standard be the hoHness of the indwelHng
Spirit whose temples you are. Let your motive be,
not merely regard to the good of others, much less
to your own happiness, but joy in God's gracious
promises. Let your effort be perfect sanctifica-
tion of soul and body, cleansing from all defile-
ment. Let your end be, pleasing God, the Holy
One. In a word, says the Apostle in effect, here
as elsewhere: O, ye Christians, work out your
own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God
who is working in you the willing and the doing
according to His own good pleasure.

We perceive, thus, in the end that the thing
Paul is zealous for is the holiness of his followers.
For in their holiness he sees the substance of their
salvation. We are saved by Christ and only
Christ; and Christ is righteous; both for us and
unto us. For it is by grace that we are saved,
through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the
gift of God — not out of works, lest we should
boast, but unto good works, which God has afore
prepared that we should walk in them. And if we
walk not in them — are we, then, saved .^^ Holiness
of life is, I repeat, precisely the substance of sal-
vation, that which we are saved to, that in which
salvation consists. If then we are in Christ Jesus,
shall we not live like Christ Jesus .^^ "If we are
in the Spirit, shall we not walk by the Spirit?"
This is Paul's final exhortation to us; since we are


Christ's, and the Spirit dwells in us and we are
the temples of the living God, let us be careful of
good works; let us, remembering the great prom-
ises He has given us, cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of body and soul; and let us perfect
holiness in the fear of God, so that we approve
ourselves His children and He will be to us as a
Father and we shall be to Him sons and daughters.


Eph. 1 :3-14, especially 3 — "Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing
in the heavenly places in Christ."

If we would know how Paul felt about the gos-
pel of the grace of God, by which he was saved,
we could not do better than go to "the great
thanksgiving" with which he opens the epistle to
the Ephesians. The epistle to the Ephesians is,
of course, not singular in beginning with a thanks-
giving to God. That is Paul's customary method
of beginning his letters. But it is, perhaps, sin-
gular in the marvellous richness and fervor of the
thanksgiving with which it begins. And this is,
perhaps, due to what we might have thought an
entirely unimportant circumstance. The Apostle
was accustomed to draw the theme of his thanks-
giving from the special conditions and attain-
ments of those he was addressing. But, unlike
his other letters, this was addressed neither to an
individual friend and fellow-worker, nor to a
separate church with its special circumstances
fresh in the Apostle's mind. There was in this
case, therefore, no particular subject of thanks-
giving, peculiar to the person or church ad-
dressed, pressing in on the Apostle's mind and
requiring mention. He was thrown back on



what was common to Christians to thank God for
in behalf of his readers. And that is as much as
to say he was thrown back on the great funda-
mental theme of the Gospel. Now, Paul's fervour
always rises when he is face to face with the first
principles of the Gospel.

What Paul returns thanks to God for here, is
nothuig less than the salvation in Christ. And
with what magnificence of diction as well as depth
of feeling and comprehensiveness of view he deals
with it! The salvation in Christ involves, nat-
urally, the saving action of the whole triune God :
and it is easy to make out a trinitarian distinction
in the parts of this long ascription of praise to God
for His salvation. Many expositors have, there-
fore, so divided it. And in any event it is useful to
note that there is described to us here the loving
activity of God the Father in salvation (in verses
3-6), of God the Son (in verses 7-12), and of God
the Holy Spirit (in verses 13-14). This successive
adduction of the work of the persons of the trin-
ity in salvation would seem, however, only an in-
evitable incident of any full description of the
process of salvation; for in it all three persons of
the trinity are, of course, concerned. And it is
more useful to us, therefore, as an indication of the
place which the doctrine of the trinity held in
the mind of the Apostle, than as a principle of
division of the thanksgiving before us. They
gravely err who imagine that the trinity is only


rarely or incidentally alluded to in the New Tes-
tament. On the contrary, it forms the underlying
presupposition of the entire account of salvation
given in the New Testament; and its elements are
continually cropping out in the New Testament
descriptions of the saving process. It lies in the
very nature of the case, therefore, that a trini-
tarian suggestion should be visible through this
description of the salvation in Christ.

The principle of arrangement in the present
instance would seem, however, to be what we
would call chronological, rather than economical.
We would seem to be following more closely the
natural lines of the development of the passage,
if we note that Paul traces in it the salvation in
Christ for which he blesses God, consecutively, in
its preparation, execution, publication and appli-
cation: in its preparation (verses 4-5), its execu-
tion (verses 6-7), its publication (verses 8-10),
and its application (verses 11-16), both to Jews
(verses 11-12) and to Gentiles (verses 13-14).
Thus he brings before us the whole ideal history
of the salvation in Christ, from eternity to eter-
nity — from the eternal purpose as it formed itself
in the loving heart of the Father, to the eternal
consummation when all things in heaven and earth
shall be summed up in Christ as under one head,
and He shall be ready to restore the now perfected
kingdom to the Father, that God may again be all
in all. So looked upon, this splendid passage ex-


hibits lucidly its true character as a compressed
history of the kingdom of God in the world — an
apostolic precis of human history conceived from
the point of view of the Divine activity in the es-
tablishment and development and consummation
of the kingdom.

Let us observe how the contemplation of the
unrolling of this great historical process affects
the Apostle's own mind and heart. This is re-
vealed to us in the intense fervour that informs the
whole passage — which is not a measured expres-
sion of the Apostle's thanks to God, but can be
literally described as an inextinguishable burst
of praise. Its keynote is struck in the opening
word — "Blessed!" Note the reiteration of the
term: ''Blessed be God who hath blessed us with
every spiritual blessing!" It is easy to perceive
where Paul's mind and heart were when he was
writing down these words. When a man's lips
can frame only this one word — "Blessing, bless-
ing, blessing!" we know what is in his heart.
We should not fail to observe the ingenious, and
more than ingenious, for it is the ingenuity of the
heart, correlation of the term "Blessed" here, as
applied to God, with the same term as applied to
man. Paul blesses God because God has so highly
blessed man: only, God blesses with deeds while
man can bless Him only with words. But the
thing to be especially observed is the joyful grat-
itude, the delighted wonder, the swelling praise


that fills the Apostle's heart, as he contemplates

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 15 of 27)