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"If thou bearest the name of a Jew, and gloriest in God, and knowest His will, and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind: thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself ? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?"—Bom. ii. 17-21.
TN chapter i. of this Epistle we have the terrible unrighteousness of the heathen, with its consequent darkness, portrayed. In chapter ii. the self-righteousness of the Jews, with the fatal delusion that rests in the knowing of God's will without doing it. Men gloried in God and made their boast of Israel's having had a Divine revelation, and being the depository of God's will, and yet never thought of the folly of not doing that will. It is the same evil against which Christ warned, when He said: "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." Our subject to-day is the terrible possibility of glorying in God and delighting in the study and the knowledge of His will, and yet not doing it. Let us try and discover the cause of this sad phenomenon, as frequent in the Christian Church as in Israel. That will lead us to see what its cure must be. Let us bring our own life into the full light of Scripture teaching, and find out whether the doing of God's will has really that supreme place in our thought and conduct which it has in the mind of God and the teaching of Christ.
One would say that from the very nature of the thing every Christian would know that doing God's will is the very essence of true religion. Whether we regard Him as Creator or Lawgiver, as Father or Eedeemer, we cannot but admit that we cannot honour or please, cannot fulfil our relationship to Him, without living to do His will. Whether we think of the escape from the power of sin, or the walk in His fellowship and love, or the participation in the happiness of His service, here or hereafter, everything points to the doing of God's will as the only possible way of really living in the enjoyment of salvation. What can be the reason that so many Christians have never known that doing God's will is the very first duty of the Christian's life, indispensable to its health and safety?
With many the cause is an entire misapprehension of the nature of salvation. They have misunderstood God's glorious Gospel. They heard that God justifies the ungodly, of free grace, without any works of righteousness he ever had done or needed to do to secure God's favour. They heard right. But they understood wrong. They were content to believe in the pardon of sin, and deliverance from punishment, and never saw that salvation means restoration to the love and fellowship of God, to the honour and blessedness of a walk in obedience to His will. Content with being saved from guilt, they never thought that being saved from the doing of sin is the real proof of the power of salvation, and the real entrance upon a life in the likeness and holiness of God. The entire reasonableness, the unspeakable blessedness, the indispensable necessity, the supreme obligation of seeking and loving to do God's will as it is done in heaven, has never dawned upon them. Entirely to give up their own will in order to follow and carry out God's will has never become an article of their creed. They are content with the traditional, conventional view of Christian duty, but never thought that all that is known of God's will must at once be done.
With others the cause of failure in doing God's will is a misapprehension as to the power of salvation. They believe that God's law is unchangeable in its demands, and that it is their bounden duty to obey it perfectly. They have learnt from Scripture and experience how utterly impotent they are to fulfil its claims. They have never understood how in the New Testament the law of God, with its inexorable demand and condemnation, becomes transformed into the will of God, which does not mean mere demand but actual living power. They know not what it means: Ye are not under the law, with its impotence, but under grace, with its omnipotence, working in you all that it asks. They are held in bondage of the legal spirit, and do not believe that it is possible to live a life in the will of God. They admire and delight in a promise such as: My grace is sufficient for thee, My strength is made perfect in weakness; or a testimony: I can do all things in Christ who strengtheneth Me, but dare not expect their fulfilment in their own experience. They do not think it possible always to be doing God's will.
There are still others who believe both in the obligation and the possibility, and yet complain of continual failure. The reason is with them very much misapprehension as to the knowledge of God's will. They study God's Word very earnestly to find out God's will, and yet fail of finding with that knowledge the strength to perform. They know not that it is only where the light of the Holy Spirit shows God's will that His strength will work it in us. The will of God, discovered and accepted by our human wisdom, must be obeyed by our human strength. The humble, childlike spirit that believes that the Father will by His Spirit show us what He wants us to do, will receive grace also to believe that for what the Father wants and shows, He will give the needed strength. As we see that it is not enough for us to have the Word, and out of that take what we think we ought to do, but wait on God for guidance, to know what He would have us to do, we shall learn that to be taught God's will by His Spirit is half the secret of being strengthened by Him to do it.
Believer! Jesus Christ thy Saviour came to do the will of God, and to enable thee to do it too. Dost thou know Him as thy Owner, who claims to have thy whole being, with every power and every moment? Hast thou acknowledged His Ownership, and yielded thyself wholly to live only as He would have thee? Hast thou, in the faith of His strength, made this surrender, and believed that by His Holy Spirit He seals and maintains it? Oh then, be not afraid to believe that He will show thee all God's will for thee, and fit thee for doing it! Believe that, morning by morning, He will open thine ear to hear His voice, and that to the meek and lowly of heart He will give God's light and God's strength for all God's will.