I know of no better rule of life than to ask yourself the question every day, what influence are my actions now having on the Church of God? What would you think of me as a minister of the Gospel if I stood here tonight and preached purity of life, and tomorrow you find me staggering on the street as a drunkard? What would you think of me if I stood here tonight and prayed God the Holy Spirit to bless us, and tomorrow in my conversation began to curse and swear? What would you think of me as a minister of the Gospel if tonight I said to you, be ye reconciled with God, and tomorrow I show that I am walking in the footprints of the devil?
Table of Contents
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation). Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the Word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Sanctify us, O Lord, through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. Amen.
Beloved in Christ: –
This is the first Sunday in Lent. I wish you could hear the apostle Paul instead of me during this Lenten season. I have often thought I should like to hear him who said, “I am determined to know nothing among men but Christ and Him crucified,” preach a sermon on the sufferings and passion of Jesus. The apostle Paul was well versed in the Old Testament. He knew the story of the fall of man and of his determination to get away from the true and living God. He knew the story of the sacrifices which were types of the promised Savior. He knew the story of the uplifted brazen serpent, which was only a type of Jesus who should be lifted up on Calvary. He knew the stubborn Israel as well as any man that ever lived, because he himself was one of them, and he knew what the grace of God had done for him. He knew that every man on earth needed salvation as much as he did, and therefore, he gave up all of this world that he might become an ambassador for the glory of Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” In this last word you find the burden of the plea that Paul made to a dying world. Be ye reconciled to God! And I might cry out right now, to you as an individual standing before me. Are you reconciled with God? Have you made peace with your God, through the Lord Jesus Christ?
The Plea Of Paul.
Paul’s plea was made in behalf:
- I Of souls.
- II Of the Church.
- III Of the truth.
I. Paul’s plea for souls.
“We then as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee; behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation”). If there ever was a time, my friends when people ought to think of the salvation of their souls, above any other time, it is the Lenten season. In this season of the year the Church of God all over the world is considering the great passion and suffering of Christ on His way to Calvary and on the cross, and if it is a good thing to set apart a day to commemorate the birth of the father of our country, or to set apart a day in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence, how much more should it be the duty of the Church of God to set apart a season of the year when we shall say farewell to the world, and meditate on the awful sufferings of Christ, that we might have eternal life, and when I speak of a passion season, and a season set apart for the purpose of meditating upon the crucifixion of Jesus, I do not mean that the balance of the year we should become worldly again, or that we should go back and away from that cross again, but I do mean to say that we ought to spend forty days in a year meditating upon the cross and upon Christ thereon, so that the whole year we may live nearer to Jesus. I, therefore, beg of you as a congregation, do not sit at home on Thursday evening as if you did not know that the house of God is here. I beg of you, do not stay away from the best service that the Church of God can give, when it holds up the passion of Christ. I make a special plea with the council of my church, I beg of you, do not get careless. I have rebuked you, I have begged of you, I would like to plead with you tonight, standing by the cross of Jesus; I say I beg of you, by the cross of Jesus, stand close to your church and to your Savior, and meditate on the awful sufferings of Christ, I make a plea for souls and –
” … . beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” You know what it means to receive bread in vain. If a hungry man comes to your door and you give him bread, and he throws it to the dogs, he has received it in vain. If a man is dying of thirst, and you give him the water, and he spills it out, he has received it in vain. If a man who is begging receives money for the support of his family, and goes down to a saloon and drinks until he is intoxicated and robbed of the gift that he received, surely he received that gift in vain. If salvation is offered to you tonight and you refuse to accept it, you receive the grace of God in vain. Paul’s plea to a dying world was, Do not, as an immortal soul that might be saved, hear the Gospel and reject it, and continue to reject it, for if you do, you are lost forever, and the grace of God has been given to you in vain.
He not only says that some people will hear the Gospel, and hear it and hear it, and at last be lost and damned, but he says that some people who have accepted Christ get careless and reckless, and they, too, receive the grace of God in vain. I picture before my mind tonight a young man who comes to catechetical instruction, prepares himself to hear the Word of God, understands it and promises upon his knees before the altar to be faithful to his God until death, partakes of the bread and wine, and in God’s mysterious way receives the body and blood of Christ, after the Sunday School closes hears the preaching of the Word, but sometime or other in his life he finds out that there is a path of sin which he would follow, and the more he follows that the less he wants the light; the more he follows in the footprints of Satan, the less he wants to hear of the Church; he drops out of the Sunday School class, he drops out of the Church service; he now, instead of coming up and shaking hands with his pastor, tries to avoid him; you can see him no more in sacred surroundings; he is going to destruction. He is sick and dies; his soul is lost. He has received the grace of God in vain. Paul made a plea for men not to receive the grace of God in vain, either by never accepting Christ, or, having accepted Him, by finally rejecting Him. There are others again who receive the grace of God in vain by putting off from day to day what ought to be done at once. “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation.” There is a day to be born; there is a day to be born again. There is a day to be saved, and that day lies somewhere between the hour of birth and the hour of death. That day is offered to every man. It does not come before birth; it cannot come after the words are said, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” Paul’s plea was to living men not to pass by that day of salvation when offered to them, lest they receive the grace of God in vain. And how often we must see men putting off from winter to winter, and from season to season, what ought to be done today. It may be there is some one listening to me this night who thinks I am a little severe or in bad order, and making my plea too strong, but my friends, I have been taught from my mother’s lap that God’s house is God’s house; I have been taught from my mother’s knees that if I cannot behave myself in any church I must stay at home; I have been taught from my mother’s knees that salvation is worth more than all the world, and consequently I made the plea, as Paul made it, be careful how you act in God’s house; be careful not to consider that this is simply a meeting-house. It is a place where a plea comes from a man as an ambassador from God, pleading with you, Be ye reconciled with God. And that is nothing to laugh at; that is nothing to put off from day to day, for remember, when a man makes such a plea, he makes it as in God’s own presence.
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” If Jesus Christ were standing here tonight, with His wounded hands and bleeding breast, there would be nothing to joke about. If God Almighty were standing here tonight making a plea with you, you would say, now we must listen; but, my friends, the Word that I am speaking to you tonight is the Word of Him whose hands and breast were bleeding. The words that I preach to you tonight are the words of the Almighty God. And so Paul made a plea that the people should not receive the grace of God in vain.
Paul set up this great danger signal before the world that they might remember not only that there is a day of salvation, but there is an hour in the day when a man must be saved or lost forever. “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.” Right now, right in this moment. Paul never had any use for the man that wanted to put off until tomorrow what ought to be done today, or to put off until evening what ought to be done this morning; Paul never made a plea that said, do this before sundown. Paul’s great plea was that now is now, and that now is the only opportunity that any man ever did or ever will do anything. If we could simply learn what time means we would not be so foolish as to put off into the future what never can be done in the future. If a man will ever be saved, he must be saved in the present moment. If a man is ever going to be damned, he must be damned in the present moment. There is not a thing ever done that was done in the past, I do not care of what you speak. Here stands a great temple. Stone after stone was laid up on top of each other; at last it was completed and dedicated to the triune and living God; then soon after a man of God stood here where I stand and plead with you as I plead, plead for the same Savior and for the same cause that I plead with you tonight; but remember, every stone in that wall was laid up in the present; when one stone was placed upon the other, it was now, and only now; and every member of this church that was ever saved, was saved in the present; and when you die, it will not be tomorrow; when you breathe your last breath it will be just as much now as if you died this moment. Do you grasp the idea? Paul’s plea was, now is the time to be saved. For fear that some of you may not live until the end of this sermon, I hold up before you now Jesus Christ, dying on the cross in your stead, as a substitute for your sins. You were guilty and He was not. He is dying for you, wretched sinner, that you might have eternal life, and says, Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And, Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. That is true now; it will be true when the Judgment becomes the now; it will be true when eternity is now. I beseech you, therefore, as an ambassador of God, make up your mind this moment that this Christ whom I preach to you tonight shall be your Savior, now.
II. He not only made a plea for souls; Paul’s plea was for the church.
“Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed; but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” When that great mind of Paul begins to reach out, it seems as though He can reach from sky to sky. His love is wonderful. It reminds me of a little verse one time found on the wall in a cell of an insane asylum. The author of these words was not so insane when he wrote them:
"Could we with ink the ocean fill And were the skies of parchment made, And every stalk on earth a quill, To write the love of God to man Would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole If stretched from sky to sky."
When this great mind of Paul begins to write, one would suppose that a scroll from sky to sky could not contain the thoughts that are crowding themselves into the great pages of God’s Word. He has in mind the Church of God, and he says, be careful in your Christian life that you do not give offense to the ministry; that you do not give offense to the Church of God. I know of no better rule of life than to ask yourself the question every day, what influence are my actions now having on the Church of God? What would you think of me as a minister of the Gospel if I stood here tonight and preached purity of life, and tomorrow you find me staggering on the street as a drunkard? What would you think of me if I stood here tonight and prayed God the Holy Spirit to bless us, and tomorrow in my conversation began to curse and swear? What would you think of me as a minister of the Gospel if tonight I said to you, be ye reconciled with God, and tomorrow I show that I am walking in the footprints of the devil? Oh, says the Apostle Paul, I make a plea for the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ, and therefore, as members of that bride, we should be very careful not to give offense in our lives. The question ought to arise tomorrow, what are those things that I am about to do, what kind of an impression are they going to make on the world concerning my church; what are my actions in the church? I am satisfied if every man would listen to this plea of Paul, he would not come to Sunday school and then run home, and give offense to the Church of God. I am satisfied he would not give offense to the Church of God by living an ungodly life, or by conducting himself in his business affairs in such a way as to hurt and harm the bride of Christ. A man that is a true Christian will ask himself the question, no difference what he does, what effect will this have upon the world as to my church? It ought to regulate marriage; it ought to regulate the home; it ought to regulate all the business affairs of life; it ought to regulate our conversation. How often I find myself talking in public and in private, but not always in such a way that every sentence may be an honor to the Church which I so dearly love.
Let us, therefore, not offend this church, but always come to her defense. How shall we do this? “By pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” The man that tries to live a pure life is coming to the defense of the church. The man that wants to know more of the Bible and more of his catechism is able to defend the truth which he confesses, and is coming to the defense of his church. The man that has much patience and long-suffering, like Paul, and like Christ, is coming to the defense of his church. The man that is always looking out for an opportunity to do some good, kind act for some poor, fallen, wretched being, is coming to the defense of his church. the man that depends wholly and solely upon the light of the Holy Spirit, that is filled with that love of which we heard so much last Sunday, is coming to the defense of his church. My dear friends, as Moses on Mount Sinai, dwelling with God, came down and had to veil his face because he was in the presence of God, so we should always live in such a way that to be in our presence makes people feel that they are in the presence of just such a character. That is the plea of the Apostle Paul.
There are enough words in this text to make a thousand sermons, but let me say, in one word, never do a thing that will hurt your church. Christ purchased it with His blood on Calvary, and when anyone says anything against your church, come to her defense. I pity the poor children who live in homes where fathers have no more sense than to talk against the church; that live in homes where mothers are fighting their preachers; where children are allowed to hear things that will reflect upon the church, which Jesus Christ bled and died for on Calvary. I used to wonder why it was that every time we Would say one word against our pastor our father would say, Now hush right there; hush. When the neighbors would say we needed a change of pastors, father would say, I don’t see any need, as long as we have got God’s Word preached in its purity, I do not see any need. My friends, I do not remember, in the fifteen years I was under the parental roof, that father or mother ever said one word against their pastor or against their church. At the time I thought they could not see as well as some of the neighbors. We had another neighbor who was always fighting the church, always found fault with this and with that, and his children heard it. Today they have nearly all left the church. No wonder. No wonder. When a parent in the home slaps the bride of Christ in the face, the children will fight her. Paul made a plea for the Church of God, that you do not offend her, and always come to her defense.
III. He made a plea for truth, that stands like a mountain in the distance, which only the fingers of the rays of the sun can touch.
“By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” Paul saw very well that the path of life can never be so drawn as to suit everybody. One of the most foolish men on earth is the man that tries to be so popular as to please everybody. It is simply impossible. What pleases a child of the devil can never please a child of God, and what pleases a child of God cannot please a child of the devil. The Apostle Paul recognized there is a path on which a man must go, and that must be the path of Him who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no man cometh to the Father but by Me,” and he recognized that when a man takes that path he has got to do some fighting, and continue until the end, and when he reached the end he changed not his mind, but he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
On the right hand will be those who will defend us; on the left hand will be those who will find fault with us. And so he goes on this straight path and sees on both sides some fighting to be done. By the Word of Truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor on the right and dishonor on the left, by evil report on the left hand and good report on the right hand; as a deceiver on the left, and yet true on the right; as unknown on the left, well known on the right; as dying on the left, behold, we live on the right; as chastened on the left, not killed on the right; as sorrowful on the left, yet always rejoicing on the right; as poor on the left, yet making many rich on the right; as having nothing on the left, and yet possessing all things on the right. A wonderful path! When a man of God does his duty there will be those who will honor him for it and stand by him to the last; there will be others that will find all kinds of fault with him. When a man does his full duty, there are always those that want the truth and rejoice in it and pass good reports; there are others that cannot stand the good news, and, therefore, they pass evil reports. There are those that will stand by the truth and say it is true, no difference how hard it hits us, and there are cowards who will go out and say, he is a deceiver. Some when they hear the truth will say, we know him well and he is popular among us; and then a man that cannot bear the truth will go away and say, I do not know him at all; he is unknown. There are some who will say. Now there is the life in the church; and the man that does not like the truth will go away and say. The church is dying. There are some who will say, We will chasten him; and the others say, But you cannot kill him. Some will find they are very sad; others are rejoicing. The man that proclaims the truth may be so poor as not to have anything but the soul, and the body, and the clothing that he wears, but the man that preaches the truth, even if he has no home, is making his congregation rich, and giving them a home in heaven. He may have nothing, and yet if he has Christ and salvation, he possesses all things.
Such, my friends, is the plea of the Apostle Paul, and now in conclusion let me urge upon you, yourself, to become co-workers with Christ in this great work. I conclude, therefore, with the first verse of my text: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” Do you realize tonight how much is being done for your salvation? Do you realize that God is working for it? Do you realize that Paul gave his very life that you might be saved? Do you realize that many a minister of the Gospel is pleading with you that you might be saved? Do you realize that our Sunday school superintendent is giving his life, and his time, that you might be saved? Do you realize that these Sunday school teachers are coming to their teachers’ meetings, studying the Word of God, in order that they may become more efficient and sufficient, to work hand in hand that you might be saved? Do you understand tonight that the very angels of heaven, the messengers of God, are watching over the saints, that they may be saved? Do you realize that the great Church of God all over the earth is praying, Thy kingdom come, that you might be saved? Do you understand that the very hand of the Almighty God is pushing down the walls of China, is guiding the war between Russia and Japan, breaking down the walls everywhere, that the Gospel of Christ may have its way all over the world, that every nation on earth may be convinced that there is work being done, work by the hand of God Almighty, by the angels and the saints, and by the living men of God, that you might be saved, and then, when you are saved, you are supposed to take up your hand, as Saul took up the hand of Paul, and work together for the salvation of souls, that none may receive the grace of God in vain? Amen.
Our Father in heaven, if we were to pray all night, we could not ask for more than Thou hast taught us in Thy prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
– Long, Rev. Simon Peter. The Eternal Epistle: Sermons On The Epistles For The Church Year. Columbus, OH: F. J. Heer Company. 1908. To be republished in 2018