"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.Colossians 2:6.
Our nature is fond of change. Although man was made in the image of God at first, it is plain enough that any trace of immutability which he may once have possessed has long ago departed. Man, unrenewed, could he possess the joys of heaven, would in time grow weary of them, and crave for change. When the children of Israel in the wilderness were fed on angels' food, they murmured for variety, and groaned out, "Our soul loatheth this light bread." It is little wonder, then, that we need cautions against shifting the ground of our hope and the object of our faith. Another evil principle will co-work with this love of change in our hearts, and produce much mischiefour natural tendency to build upon our own works. For a time that pernicious habit is cured by conviction of sin. The law, with its sharp axe, cuts down the lofty cedar of fleshly confidence, and withers all its verdure; but, since the root still remains, at the very scent of water it sprouts again, and there is good need to set the axe going with all its former edge and weight. When we think legality quite dead, it revives, and, linking hands with our love of change, it tempts us to forsake our simple standing upon Christ, the Rock of Ages, and urges us to advance to a something which it decorates before our eyes with fancied colors, and makes out to our feeble understandings to be better or more honorable to ourselves. Though this will certainly be again beaten down in a Christian, for he will meet with trouble after trouble when once he goeth astray from his first path, yet again the old secret desire to be something, to do something, to have some little honor by performing the works of the law, will come in, and we shall have need to hear the voice of wisdom in our hearts saying to us, "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him;" persevere in the same way in which ye have begun, and, as at the first Christ Jesus was the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let him be the same even till life's end, the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and enter into the joy and the rest which remain for the people of God.
In trying to teach this very useful, though simple lesson, I shall, in the plainest possible language, first of all talk a little of the text by way of exposition; then, secondly, by way of advocacy; and then, thirdly, by way of application.
I. Oh that the gracious Spirit, who alone can lead us into all truth, would aid me awhile I endeavor to open up this verse BY WAY OF EXPOSITION.
In expounding the text, we readily break it up into two parts: here is the life of faithreceiving Christ Jesus the Lord; here is, secondly, the walk of faithso walk ye in him.
1. The Holy Spirit here reveals to us the life of faiththe way by which you and I are saved, if saved at all. Remark, carefully, that it is represented as receiving. Now the word receiving implies the very opposite of anything like merit. Merit is purchasing; merit might be called making by labor, or winning by valor; but receiving is just the accepting of a thing as a gift. The eternal life which God gives his people is in no sense whatever the fruit of their exertions; it is the gift of God. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God. The saints are not by nature wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows. They are but as the empty vessel; sovereign mercy puts them under the conduit-pipe, and they receive grace upon grace till they are filled to the brim. He that talks about winning salvation by works; he that thinks he can earn it by prayers, by tears, by penance, by mortification of the flesh, or by zealous obedience to the law, makes a mistake; for the very first principle of the divine life is not giving out, but receiving. It is that which comes from Christ into me which is my salvation; not that which springs out of my own heart, but that which comes from the divine Redeemer and changes and renews my nature. It is not what I give out, but what I receive, which must be life to me.
The idea of receiving, again, seems to imply in it a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial. Gold, silver, precious stonessuch things we can receive; estates, riches, bread, water, food, raimentall these are things which are substances to us, and therefore it becomes possible for us to receive them. We do not receive a dream; we do not receive, again I say, a shadow; we do not speak of receiving a spectre; we do not receive a phantom. There is something real in a thing that is received. Well now so is it also in the life of faith; we realize Christ. While we are without faith, Christ is a name to us, a person that may have lived a long while ago, so long that his life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Christ becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart, as real to us as our own flesh, and blood, and bones, and we speak of him and think of him as we would of our brother, our father, our friend. Our faith gives a substance to the history and idea of Christ, puts real solidity into the spirit and name of Christ, and that which to the worldly man is but a phantom, a thing to hear about, and talk about, becomes to us a thing to taste, and handle, to lay hold upon, and to receive as real and true. I know, ye that are unconverted, that ye think all these things an idle tale; but you that are saved, you who have received Christ, you know that there is substance here, and shadow everywhere else. This has become to you the one grand reality, that God is in Christ reconciling you unto himself.
But receiving means also a third thing, that is getting a grip of it, grasping it. The thing which I receive becomes my own. I may believe it to be real, but that is not receiving it. I may believe, also, that if I ever do get it, it must be given to me, and that I cannot earn it for myself, but still that is not receiving it. Receiving is the bona fide taking into my hand and appropriating to myself as my own property that which is given to me. Now this is what the soul doth when it believes on Christ. Christ becomes my Christ; his blood cleanses my sin, and it is cleansed; his righteousness covers me, and I am clothed with it; his Spirit fills me, and I am made to live by it. He becomes to me as much mine as anything that I can call my own; nay, what I call my own here on earth is not mine; it is only lent to me, and will be taken from me; but Christ is so mine, that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, shall ever be able to rob me of him. Oh! I hope, dear friends, you have that blessed appropriating faith which says, "Yes, he is not another man's Christ, he is my Christ," I hope you can look into his face to-day and say, "My beloved, who loved me, and gave himself for me." I hope you do not talk of these things as I might talk of my lord So-and-So's park, and admire its beauties, while I myself have no right to one acre of the many thousands within the park-fence; but I trust, on the other hand, you can say"The blessings and promises of the Lord my God are all my own; whatever I read of in the covenant of grace that is good, that is comely, that is desirable, I have heard a voice say in my ears, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look to the north, and the south, to the east, and the westall this have I given thee to be thy possession for ever and ever by a covenant of salt." Now put these three things together, and I think you have the idea of receiving Christ. To receive him is to have him as the result of God's free gift; to realize him; and then to appropriate him to yourselves.
The word "receive" is used in some ten or a dozen senses in holy Scripture; five of them will suffice my purpose just now. To receive is often used for taking. We read of receiving a thousand shekels of silver, and of receiving money, garments, olive-yards, sheep, and oxen. Perhaps in this sense we understand the words of the Master"No man can receive anything unless it be given him from above," and that other sentence"To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." We take Christ into us-to return to my old simile-as the empty vessel takes in water from the stream; so we receive Christ. The love, life, merit, nature, and grace of Jesus freely flow into us, as the oil into the widow's vessels. But the word is also used in Scripture to signify holding that which we take in; indeed, a vessel without a bottom could hardly be said to receive water. I do not suppose any one would talk of a sieve receiving water except in a mock sense. But the life of faith consists in holding within us that which Christ hath put into us, so that Jesus Christ is formed in us the hope of glory. By faith it comes in; by faith it is kept in; faith gives me what I have; keeps what I have; faith makes it mine; faith keeps it mine; faith gets hold of it with one hand, and then clasps it with both hands with a grasp that neither death nor life can loose. Then, receiving sometimes means in Scripture simply believing. "He came unto his own and his own received him not." We read of receiving false prophets, that is, believing them. Now, to receive Christ is to believe him. He says, "I can save you."I receive that. He says, "I will save you."I receive that. He says, "Trust me and I will make you like myself."I receive that. Whatever Jesus says, I believe him, and receive him as true. I make his word so true to myself that I act upon it as being true, and regard it not as a word that may possibly be true, but which must be true, even if heaven and earth should pass away. This is receiving Christbelieving what he has said. Receiving, also, often signifies in Scripture entertaining. Thus the barbarous people at Melita received Paul and his companions kindly, and kindled a fire. Ah! after we have once found all in Christ to be our own, and have received him into ourselves by faith, then we entreat the Lord to enter our hearts and sup with us. We give him the best seat at the table of our souls; we would feast him on the richest dainties of our choicest love. We ask him to abide with us from morn till eve; we would commune with him every day, and every hour of the day. We entertain him; we have a reception-chamber in our hearts, and we receive Christ. And then, once again, receiving in Scripture often signifies to enjoy. We hear of receiving a crown of life which fadeth not away; that is, enjoying it, enjoying heaven, and being satisfied with all its bliss. Now, dear friends, when we receive Christ, there is intended in this an enjoying of it. I am only now talking the simplicities of our faith, but I do want to make them very personal to you. Are you thus enjoying Christ? if you had a crown you would wear it; you have a Christfeed on him. If you were hungry and there were bread on the table, you would eat. Oh! eat and drink, beloved, of your Lord Jesus Christ. If you have a friend, you enjoy his company: you have a friend in Christ; Oh! enjoy his conversation. Do not leave him, like a bottle of cordial for the fainting, sealed up from us; let him not be as some choice dainty all untasted, while you are hungry. Oh! receive Christ, for this is the very heaven and rest of the soul. His flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed. Never did angels taste such divine fare. Come hither saints and satiate yourselves in him. To take him into one's self, to hold him there, to believe every word he says, to entertain him in our hearts, and to enjoy the luscious sweetness which he must confer upon all those who have eaten his flesh, and have been made to drink of his bloodthis it is to receive Christ.
But we have not brought out the real meaning of this life of faith yet till we dwell upon another word. As ye have received. Received what? Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but beloved, beloved, here is a thought hereoh that you may get hold of it! We have not only received these things, but we have received CHRIST. "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord." Do you catch it? It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. Mark, I say, not merely the blessings of the covenant, but himself; not merely the purchase of his blood, but he himself from whose veins the blood hath flowed has become ours; and every soul that hath eternal life is this day a possessor of Christ Jesus the Lord. Now we will put this, also, personally to you. Have I received Christ, that is the anointed. My soul, hast thou seen Christ as the anointed of the Father in the divine decree to execute his purposes? Hast thou seen him coming forth in the fullness of time wearing the robes of his priesthood, the anointed of the Father? Hast thou seen him standing at the altar offering himself as a victim, an anointed priest, anointed with the sacred oil by which God has made him a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec? My soul, hast thou seen Jesus going within the veil and speaking to thy Father and to his Father as one whom the Father has accepted, of whom we can speak, in the language of David, as our shield and God's anointed? Oh! it is a delight indeed to receive Christ not as an unsent prophet, not as a man who came of his own authority, not as a teacher who spoke his own word, but as one who is Christos, tho anointed, the anointed of God, ordained of the Most High, and therefore most certainly acceptable, as it is written, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people. It pleased the Father to bruise him, he hath put him to grief." Delightful is the contemplation of Christ under that aspect! Soul, dost thou thus receive the Messias of God? But the text says," Christ Jesus." Now Jesus means a Savior. Christ is his relation to God, Jesus his relation to me. Have I received Christ in his relationship to me as a Savior? My soul, has Christ saved thee? Come, no "ifs" and "ans" about it. Hast thou received him as thy Savior? Couldest thou say in that happy day when thy faith closed with him, "Yes, Jesus, thou hast saved me!" Oh! there are some professors of religion who do not seem to have received Christ as Jesus. They look upon him as one who may help them to save themselves, who can do a great deal for them, or may begin the work but not complete it. Oh! beloved, we must get a hold of him as one that has saved us, that has finished the work. What know ye not that ye are this day whiter than the driven snow because his blood has washed you? Ye are this day more acceptable to God than unfallen angels ever were, for ye are clothed in the perfect righteousness of a divine one. Christ has wrapped you about with his own righteousness; you are saved; you have received him as God's anointed, see that you receive him as Jesus your Savior.
Then, again, it is clear that saving faith consisteth also in receiving him as he is in himself, as the divine Son. "Ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord." Those who say they cannot believe in his Deity have not received him. Others theoretically admit him to be divine, but he is never a subject of confidence as such; they have not received him. But I trust I speak to many hundreds this morning who willingly accept his Godhead, and say, "I entertain no doubt about his Deity, and, moreover, on that I risk my soul; I do take him into my heart as being God over all, blessed for ever, Amen; I kiss his feet while I see his humanity; but I believe that, since those feet could tread the waters, he is divine. I look up to his hands, and as I see them pierced I know, that he is human; but as I know that those hands multiplied the loaves and fishes till they fed five thousand, I know that he is divine. I look upon his corpse in the tomb, and I see that he is man; I see him in the resurrection, and I know that he is God. I see him on the cross, suffering, and I know that he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; but I hear a voice which saith, 'Let all the angels of God worship him,' 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;' and I bow before him and say, 'Oh Lord, thou Son of God and son of Mary, I receive thee as Christ Jesus the Lord.'"
Now this is all very plain talking you will say; and I remind you that souls are saved by very plain truths, and the dealings of men's souls with Christ are not carried on in learned or metaphysical terms. We do believe, and so take Christ Jesus the Lord into us, and by that act of faith, without any doing of our own, we are completely saved.
I shall only make this further remark here, that the apostle speaks of this as a matter of certainty, and goes on to argue from it. Now we do not argue from a supposition. I must have you clear, dearly beloved in the Lord, that this is a matter of certainty to you. We can hardly get to the next point unless you can say, "I have received Jesus." The verse runs, "As or since ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in him." We must not alter it into, "Since I hope I have," "Since I trust I have." Ye either have or have not; if ye have not, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and cry to him for his great gift; but if you have, O, dear friends, do not let it be a question with you, but say "Yes, yes, yes, I can say, once for all, I have received him; poor, weak, and worthless though I am, I do put my humble seal to the fact that God is true, and I trust in him who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him." This is the life of faith.
2. Now, in expounding the text, our second point was the walk of faith. "Since ye have received him, walk in him." Walk implies, first of all, action. Do not let your reception of Christ be a mere thing of thought to you, a subject only for your chamber and your closet, but act upon it all. If you have really received Christ, and are saved, act as if you were saved, with joy, with meekness, with confidence, with faith, with boldness. Walk in him; do not sit down in indolence, but rise and act in him. Walk in him; carry out into practical effect that which you believe. See a man who has received an immense fortune, his purse is bursting, and his caskets are heavy; what does he do? Why, he behaves like a rich man; he sees a luxury which pleases him, and he buys it; there is an estate he desires, and he purchases it; he acts like a rich man. Beloved brethren, you have received Christact upon it. Do not play the beggar now that boundless wealth is conferred upon you. Walking, again, implies perseverance not only being in Christ to-day, that would be standing in him and falling from him; but being in him to-morrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next; walking in him all your walk of life. I remember Matthew Henry, speaking about Enoch walking with God, says he did not only take a turn or two up and down with God, and then leave him, but he walked with God four hundred years. This implies perseverance. You have received Christpersevere in receiving him; you have com to trust himkeep on trusting him; you hang about his neck as a poor, helpless sinnerremain hanging there; in other words abide in him. Walking implies habit. When we speak of a man's walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, dear friends, if you and I sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget him; sometimes say he is ours, and anon loose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in him. But if you have received him, let it be your habit to live upon him, keep to him; cling to him, never let him go, but live and have your being in Him. This walking implies a continuance. There is no notice given in the text of the suspension of this walking, but there must be a continual abiding in Christ. How many Christians there are who think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Christ, and then they may be in the world all the day. Ah! but we ought always to be in Christ, that is to say, all the day long, every minute of the day; though worldly things may take up some of my thoughts, yet my soul is to be in a constant state of being in Christ, so that if I am caught at any moment, I am in him; at any hour if any one should say to me, "Now, are you saved?" I may be able still to say, "Yes." And if they ask me for an evidence of it, I may, without saying so, prove it to them by the fact that I am acting like a man who is in Christ, who has Christ in him, has had his nature changed by receiving Christ's nature, and has Christ to be his one end and aim. I suppose, also, that walking signifies progress. So walk ye in him; proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost limit of knowledge that man can have concerning our Beloved. "As ye have received him walk in him."
But now I want you to notice just this; it says, "Walk ye in him." Oh! I cannot attempt to enter into the mystery of this text"Walk in him!" You know if a man has to cross a river, he fords it quickly and is out of it again at once, but you are to suppose a person walking in a certain element always, in Christ. Just as we walk in the air, so am I to walk in Christ; not sometimes, now and then coming to him and going away from him, but walking in him as my element. Can you comprehend that? Not a soul here can make anything out of that but the most silly jargon, except the man who having received the inner spiritual life, understandeth what it is to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Dear friends, in trying to open up that point just for a moment, let us notice what this walking in Christ must mean. As Christ was at first when we received him the only ground of our faith; so as long as we live, we are to stand to the same point. Did you not sing the other day when you first came to him
The dearest idol we have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help us to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall our walk be close with God,
Calm and serene our frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads us to the Lamb."
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