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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 17 - Philippians 1:18 - A Preached Christ Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




A Preached Christ.


"Christ is preached."-Philippians 1:18.



     Sometimes we read of 'preaching peace;' 'preaching the gospel;' 'preaching the kingdom;' 'preaching the word;' 'preaching remission of sins;' 'preaching the faith;' 'preaching the cross:' here it is 'preaching Christ,' as elsewhere 'preaching Jesus,' 'preaching the Lord Jesus.'

     All these things then we preach; all these you hear-peace, the gospel, the word, the kingdom, remission, the faith, the cross; but, above all, Christ Himself in whom all these things are treasured up, in whom is the fullness of all of them.

     It is not merely truth, or opinions, or a creed, or a speculation that we preach, but Christ Himself; the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Nor is it certain things about Him that we preach, but Christ Himself-presenting Him to men as He presented Himself when He said, 'I am the Light of the world; I am the bread of life.'

     In so doing, then, we preach-

     I. Christ's person.-God and man; the Word made flesh; David's Son, David's Lord; King of kings, yet a servant; Lord of lords, yet a worm and no man. In this person there is, perfection-perfection as a whole, in the wondrous union of the divine and the human; perfection in the parts-perfection in the divinity, perfection in the humanity; perfection in the holiness, perfection in the love; perfection in the power, perfection in the goodness; perfection through the fullness of the indwelling Spirit; perfection in the sight of God and man. Perfection in every movement of that glorious person, in every word and deed.

     II. Christ's name.-His name is Jesus, Immanuel, the Christ, the Son of God. It is a name above every name. The naming of that name is proclaiming the gospel of Christ; for that name contains glad tidings; it is the name of names; His name is as ointment poured forth. With the voice of a trumpet we sound His name abroad, that the whole earth may hear it, and rejoice in it. Of itself that name is good news, the joyful sound.

     III. Christ's life.-He dwelt among us; doing and speaking grace. His whole life was a gospel; each part of it, even the least, was good news. In His going out and coming in we have the good news. Miracles, parables, sermons, all contain the good news. His whole life is the fullness of glad tidings for time sinner. 'This man receiveth sinners.'

     IV. Christ's righteousness.-He was the Righteous One, fulfilling the law for us; working out for us and presenting to us 'the righteousness of God.' A divine righteousness for, the unrighteous is that which we preach. Jesus the Just One, living, suffering, dying for the unjust. A spotless, seamless, glorious raiment, instead of our tattered, filthy rags; perfection for imperfection; glory for shame; justification for condemnation.

     V. Christ's blood.-By blood-shedding and death He has accomplished the infinite work. Life has been given for life, and the sentence of death reversed. Blood has been shed; the blood of the everlasting covenant; the blood of reconciliation and atonement and cleansing; precious blood; the blood of the Lamb without blemish and without spot; the blood of the mighty sacrifice; the blood shed for many for the remission of sins; blood which pacifies the conscience, which cleanses the whole man.

     VI. His resurrection.-He died and rose again. He is now time risen One; and as such we know Him. His grave is empty, for His work is done, and the Father has proclaimed Him His only begotten Son. The work is done; the seal is set; the message has gone forth. He is risen. All testimony to Christ embraces a testimony to His resurrection! For that resurrection is for us, nay, it is ours.

     VII. His ascension.-He has ascended on high, leading captivity captive. He has returned to His Father and our Father. His work on earth was done; His words on earth were spoken. He has now "ascended; and is now exalted, a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. As the ascended One we preach Him.

     VIII. His intercession.-He ever liveth to intercede for us. He is the High Priest above; the Advocate with the Father. He pleads for us; and Him the Father heareth always. In love and power He intercedes; for His is an advocacy which cannot fail-it is a mighty intercession; an intercession in which the Father delights; an intercession which gives us the assurance of present and eternal security.

     IX. His second coming.-'Behold, He cometh with clouds.' 'Behold, I come quickly.' 'Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of His saints.' These are some of the intimations given us concerning an event which (with its accompaniments) occupies a very large portion of Scripture; so large, that one wonders how such a very prominent truth could have been so little preached and so little believed. The early Christians were full of it; but later ages have almost dropped it from their creed, or reduced it to a minimum as an object of faith. The Church of the first century delighted in it; the Church of the nineteenth turns from it with coldness, or aversion, or dread. But if we would preach a full Christ, in all the completeness of His work from first to last, we must preach a coming Christ as well as a Christ who has come. We must preach His second and glorious advent to judge and to reign; to smite Antichrist, to restore Israel, to bind Satan, to convert the world, to deliver creation, to set up His holy kingdom, and to make all things new.

     Once and again in this chapter the apostle enforces his preaching of Christ by reference to his bonds. Paul the preacher was Paul the prisoner-'the Lord's prisoner.'

     In order that we may fully see the force of this twice repeated expression, let us call to mind the circumstances of the case. He was not actually in a Roman dungeon. By the kindness of the praefect Burrus, he was not thrust into prison, or confined within the Praetorian barrack, but was allowed to stay in his own hired house; though Roman law demanded that he should still be treated as a prisoner, and guarded by soldiers,-one soldier by day and two by night. To these he was chained by the arm constantly; so that, whatever might be the kindness of the perfect, he was exposed continually to the rudeness of the soldiery, who had no sympathy with him in any point, and who were not likely to soothe, but rather to aggravate his trials.

     Thus far fettered, though not otherwise hindered, he held conferences with his fellow Jews, he preached and he wrote, or at least dictated, several of his epistles. We find him throughout his marvelous history in various circumstances and postures; sometimes tossed upon the deep; sometimes pleading before a judge; sometimes walking along the Asian sea-beach, the waves of the Aegean breaking at his feet; sometimes let down in a basket from the window in the wall of Damascus; sometimes standing on the stairs of the temple, or the tower of Antonia, addressing a Jerusalem crowd; sometimes journeying at dead of night, with a company of horsemen, on the road between Jerusalem and Caesarea; sometimes in the jail of Philippi, singing praises, with his feet fast in the stocks; sometimes standing up on Mars' Hill, before an audience of Athenian philosophers, announcing Jesus and the resurrection; sometimes on the sands of Miletus, kneeling down and praying with his friends, while they hung about him, and kissed him, and wept sore at their last farewell; sometimes at Malta, standing on the shore of the bay, and shaking off the viper by the fire, or healing the father of the governor; sometimes marching along the Appian Way to Rome as a prisoner, through the Pomptine Marshes and by the Alban hills; and sometimes, as we see in the Epistles to Philemon, to the Colossians, to the Ephesians, a prisoner of Christ, with the Roman chain upon his aged arm.

     When the old heathen was pleading for his brother's life before Athenian judges, he held up his arm, the hand of which had been lost at Salamis when fighting his country's battles. This action was the most resistless of his arguments, and won his cause. In the expressions made use of in these epistles-'prisoner of Christ,' 'remember my bonds,'-we have an argument equally irresistible and touching. We seem to hear the clanking of the chain, as he subscribes his name to each, for he does not write them all with his own hand, but makes use of the pen of some ready writer. With what power do his arguments and persuasions and exhortations come to us, thus enforced and carried home by the sound of his chains! And when standing up to preach in the Christian assemblies at Rome, among beloved brethren, how overwhelming must have been his discourses, as, lifting up or extending his fettered right hand in the fervor of his heavenly eloquence, he showed and shook the chains wherewith he was bound for his beloved Lord, and, by their sight and sound, won for his words the completest victory that Grecian orator ever won in the Areopagus of Athens, or Roman in the Forum of the seven hilled city!  It has been said that when all other pleadings fail, we can tell men of the argument of Paul in tears; but have we not here an argument equally resistless and not less moving,-the argument of Paul in chains?

     Thus it was in chains that Paul preached Christ. As an ambassador in bonds he pleaded with men. His, chains, no less than his, words, said, 'Be ye reconciled to God.' What a preacher! What an ambassador! What sermons! What epistles! And thus Paul writes and preaches still! Let us read, let us listen, let us drink in his blessed eloquence. Let not such apostolic pleadings be in vain. Paul was in earnest, if ever man was in earnest. Is Jesus less so? Paul was sincere and honest in his dealings with men. Is Jesus less so? Could we have gone to Paul, and gathered confidence as we looked upon, or touched his chain? And shall we go to Paul's gracious Master with less confidence in His sincerity and love? If the prisoner's chains increased our confidence, shall not the nails 'of the cross, and the soldier's spear, and the crown of thorns increase our confidence in Him who came not only to preach the gospel, but Himself to be the gospel of the grace of God?