TWELFTH LORD S DAY.
Question 32. But why art thou called a Christian?
Answer. Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of his anointing, that so I may confess his name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him: and also, that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life, and afterwards reign with him eternally, over all creatures.
In this question we are to consider the dignity and communion of Christians with Christ their head, together with the offices which they sustain as members of Christ. The name Christian, was first given to the disciples of Christ at Antioch, in the time of the Apostles. Prior to this they were called Brethren and Disciples. The name Christian is derived from Christ, and denotes one who is a disciple of Christ one who follows his doctrine and life, and who, being engrafted into Christ, has communion with him. There are two kinds of Christians; some that are only apparently such, and others that are really and truly such. Those who are Christians merely in appearance, are those who have been baptized, and who are in the company of those who are called, and profess the Christian faith; but are without conversion, being nothing more than hypocrites and dissemblers, of whom it is said: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven,” &c. (Matt. 20 : 16; 7:22.) Those are true Christians who are not only baptized and profess the doctrine of Christ, but who are also possessed of a true faith, and declare this by the fruits of repentance ; or, they are those who are members of Christ by a true faith, and are made partakers of his anointing. All true Christians are such also in appearance, because it is said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good work, and glorify your father which is in heaven.” “Show me thy faith by thy works.” (Matt. 5:16. James 2:18.) But it is not true, on the other hand, that all who are apparently Christians are also such in reality ; because it will be said of many, “ I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:28.)
We are here to speak only of such as arc true Christians ; and we must enquire, Why are we called Christians, that is, anointed? The reasons of this are two: because we are members of Christ by faith, and are made partakers of his anointing ; that is, we are called Christians, because we have communicated unto us the person, office and dignity of Christ.
To be a member of Christ is to be engrafted into him, and to be united to him by the same Holy Spirit dwelling in him and in us, and by this Spirit to be made a possessor of such righteousness and life as is in Christ ; and to be made acceptable to God on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us by faith, in as much as this righteousness is imperfect in this life. Of this our communion with Christ, the following passage of Scripture speak. “We being many are one body in Christ.” “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ.” u He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” “We may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Rom. 12:5;. 1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12. Eph. 4:15.)
The relation which holds between the head and the members of the same body, is a most fit and striking illustration of the close and indissoluble union between Christ and us. For, first, just as the members of the body have one and the same head, by means of winch they are joined together by sinews and fleshy ligaments, and from which life and motion are communicated through the whole body ; and just as all the outward and inward senses are seated in the head, from which the whole body and every single member draws its proper life ; and as from the head alone life is communicated to every member, and not from one member to another, so long- as they remained joined with the head and with each other ; so Christ is the living head from whom the Holy Spirit is made to pass over into every member, and not from one member to another ; from whom all the members are made to draw their life, and by whom they are ruled as long as they remain united to him by the Spirit dwelling in him and us, and that through faith by which we become the members of Christ ; for it is through faith that we receive the Spirit, through whom this union is effected. But the members are united with each other and among themselves by mutual love, which cannot be wanting if we are joined to the head; for the connection of the head with the body is the cause of the union which exist among the members themselves.
Secondly ; just as in the human body there are various gifts, and as the members perform different offices, and yet but one life animates and moves them all, so in the church, which is but one body, there are various gifts and offices, and only one Spirit, by whose benefit and help each individual member performs his appropriate office.
Thirdly ; just as the head is placed highest, and is, therefore, deserving of the greatest honor, and is the fountain of all life, so Christ has the highest place in the church, because in him the Spirit is without measure, and from his fullness we receive all the good gifts which we enjoy ; but all Christians who are the members of Christ there is only a certain measure of gifts, which is made over to them from Christ their only head. Where fore it is plain that the Pope of Rome lies, when he declares himself to be the head of the church.
Christ is our head, in three respects :
1. In respect to the perfection of his person, because he is God and man, excelling all creatures in gifts, even as far as his human nature is concerned. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him.” (Col. 2:9.) He alone gives the Holy Ghost, as it is said, u he it is that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 8: 11.)
2. In the dignity and order, glory and majesty with which he declares himself to be king, Lord, and heir of all things. For, just as God created all things through him, so he has made him heir of all things, and the ruler of his house.
3. In respect to his office. He is the redeemer and sanctifier of the church is present with every member thereof rules, governs, quickens, nourishes and confirms them so that they remain united to him and the rest of the members, just as the head governs and animates the whole body.
We are also members of Christ, in three respects :
1. Because, by faith and the Holy Spirit we are joined to him, and, also, united among ourselves just as the members are connected with the head and with each other. The joining together of the members of Christ with each other and among themselves, is no less necessary for the safety of the church, than the conjunction of the whole body with Christ the head; for if you separate the hand from the arm, you thereby separate it also from the body, so that it can no longer have any life: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” (Ep. 3:17.)
2. Because we are quickened and governed by Christ, and draw from him, as the fountain, all good things, so that unless we continue in him we have no life in us, as the members cut off from the body can retain no life in themselves. “If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.” (John 15:6.)
3. Because as in the body there are different powers and functions belonging to the members, so there are different gifts and offices pertaining to the members of the church of Christ ; and as all the actions of the different parts of the body contribute to its preservation, so all the members of Christ ought to refer whatever they do to the preservation and benefit of the church, which is the body of Christ. “ For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everv man to profit withal.” (Rom. 12: 4. 1 Cor. 12: 7.)
Having now explained what it is to be a member of Christ, and in what manner we are his members, it will be more clearly seen what it is to be a partaker of the anointing of Christ. Anointing signifies a communion of the gifts and office of Christ ; or it is a participation in all the gifts of Christ, and consists in the participation of his kingly, sacerdotal and pro phetical office. To be a partaker of the anointing of Christ, is, therefore, 1 To be a partaker of the Holy Ghost and of his gifts, for the Spirit of Christ is not idle or inactive in us, but works the same in us that he doe* in Christ, unless that Christ alone has more gifts than all of us, and these also in a greater or higher degree. 2. That Christ communicates his pro phetical, sacerdotal and kingly office unto us.
The prophetical dignity which is in Christians, is an understanding, acknowledgement and confession of the true doctrine of God necessary for our salvation. Or, our prophetical office is,
1. Rightly to know God and his will.
2. That every one in his place and degree profess the same, being correctly understood, faithfully, boldly and constantly, that God may thereby be celebrated, and his truth revealed in its living force and power. “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32.)
The office of a priest is to teach, to intercede, and to offer sacrifice. Our priesthood, therefore, is,
1. To teach others; that is, to show and communicate to them the knowledge of the true God. “ When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.)
2. To call upon God, having a correct knowledge of him.
3. To render proper gratitude, worship and obedience to God, or to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, plea sing, and acceptable unto God, being sanctified by the sacrifice of Christ, which includes,
1. That we offer ourselves by mortifying our old man, and .giving our members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
2. Our prayers. “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” (Heb. 13:15.)
3. Our alms. “Thy prayers, and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4.)
4. Confession of the gospel. “Ministering the gospel of God. that the offering up of the gentiles might be acceptable.” (Rom. 15:16.)
5. Cheerful and patient endurance of the cross, and all the various calamities which God sends upon us. “ Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice, and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (Phil. 2:17. 2 Tim. 4:6.)
Furthermore, Christ communicates his priestly office unto us,
1. By accomplishing and bringing it to pass that we offer the above named sacrifices of thanksgiving.
2. By causing them to be acceptable and pleasing to God.
The sacrifice of Christ, therefore, differs from ours in the same way in which it differs from the sacrifices of the priests of old.
1. Christ offered up a sacrifice of thanksgiving and propitiation, at the same time, we offer only sacrifices of thanksgiving. The priests of old also offered up sacrifices of thanksgiving, because these belong to the whole church, even from the beginning to the end of the world. The sacrifices, moreover, which they offered, were only typical, which is no longer the case, since all types and shadows have been done away with by Christ, who offered, not a typical sacrifice, but one that was real the one which was signified by all the sacrifices of the Old Testament; and this he did, because he was not a typical priest, but the true and great High Priest of the church, to whom all the others looked.
2. The sacrifice of Christ was perfect; ours is imperfect and defiled with many sins.
3. The sacrifice of Christ is meritorious in itself, and avails before God on account of itself; our sacrifices mean nothing, and are pleasing to God only for the sake of the sacrifice of Christ.
The kingly office of Christians, is,
1. To oppose and overcome, through faith, the devil, the world, and all enemies.
2. Having subdued all our enemies, to obtain at length through the same faith, eternal life and glory. “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34.) We are, therefore,, kings.
1. Because we are lords over all creatures in Christ; for, says the apostle, “all things are yours.” (Cor. 8:21.)
2. Because we conquer all our enemies through faith in Christ, “who giveth us the victory.” “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1. Cor. 15:57. 1. John, 5:4.)
The kingship of Christ, however, differs from that of Christians, in this.
1. The kingdom of Christ is hereditary, for he is the natural Son of God, whilst we are the sons of God by adoption. “But Christ as a Son over his own house.” “God hath spoken unto us by Christ, whom he hath appoint ed heir of all things. (Heb. 3:6 ; 1:2.)
2. He alone is king over all creatures, and especially over the church; but we are kings and lords, not of angels and the church, but only of other creatures. Heaven, earth, and therefore all things shall serve us, for we shall be crowned with glory, majesty and the greatest excellency of gifts, so that we shall condemn devils and wicked men, by cheerfully submitting and yielding to the judgment of God in passing sentence of condemnation upon them. Hence we are kings, not over the church, but over all remaining creatures; but Christ rules with full right, not only over the whole church, but also over all creatures. “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world.” (Matt. 19:28. 1 Cor. 6:2.)
3. Christ conquers his enemies by his own power, but we overcome our foes in and through him by his grace and assistance. “Be of good comfort, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.) 4. Christ rules the world by the sceptre of his word and Spirit, swaying our hearts and restoring in us his image which was lost. This is peculiar to Christ alone; for we are unable to give the Holy Spirit, being nothing more than ministers and administrators of the outward word and rites, as John the Baptist said, “ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, and shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man.” (Matt. 3:11 . 1 Cor. 3:5.)
The use and importance of this doctrine is great.
1. For consolation, because we are through faith engrafted into Christ as members to the head, that we may be continually sustained, governed and quickened by him ; and because he makes us prophets, priests and kings unto God and his Father, by making us partakers of his anointing. This is truly an unspeakable dignity conferred upon Christians.
2. For admonition and exhortation ; for since we are all prophets and teachers of God, we ought continually to celebrate and praise him ; since we are priests, we ought to offer ourselves wholly to God, as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving ; and since we are kings it becomes us to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil, that we may reign with Christ.
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