"Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father."—Gal. i. 4.
AUL ever carried with him a very deep sense
of the will of God as the source and the rule of all things. In five of the Epistles he speaks of himself as an apostle " through the will of God." The thought of God's will dominated his whole ministry, inspiring at once devotion and obedience, dependence and perfect confidence. He loved to think of God's will working out its purpose through him. Of his intention to visit Rome he speaks more than once as coming to them "by the will of God." Of the Macedonians giving themselves first to the Lord and then to him, he says too that it was " by the will of God." And so here, in speaking of the work of God's Son in our redemption, he shows how its chief characteristic is that it was "according to the will of God." Whether in his own life, or in the grace manifested in his converts, or in the work of our Lord Jesus, salvation is to him the will of God manifesting itself and working out His purpose.
The expression he uses in regard to Christ's work is a somewhat unusual and remarkable one. "He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father." It gives us a new aspect of the Father's will as revealed in Christ's death. In our last meditation (Rom. xii. 2) we saw how, in the spiritual life, being conformed to the world was the first great danger of the consecrated soul, and being transformed out of it into newness of life the only way to a life in the good and perfect will of God. Here we discover the deepest root of that teaching. The whole will of God in Christ's death had this one object — to deliver us from this present evil world. The spirit of the world and the will of God are diametrically opposite; the will of God demands, and promises, and works entire deliverance from it. If we would know the will of God aright, and live in it and according to it, we must come out and be entirely separate from all that is of this present evil world. That alone is true and full salvation.
"This present evil world." And was not this world created by God? And is it all so entirely evil as to deserve the name "this evil world," and to need the Son of God to deliver us from it? Yes. Scripture teaches that with the entrance of sin into the world it came into the power of the prince of evil. When, in Adam's fall, Satan obtained power over him, the world, over which he was to have been king, fell with him, and Satan became the god of this world, and all men born into it. The world is now an organised kingdom of evil, ruled by the god, animated by the spirit, of the world. "The whole world lieth in the evil one." The development of evil, now in its slow growth, then again in its sudden outbreaks, is no blind evolution, but the result of a deliberate systematic war of an intelligent power of evil against the rule of God. Whether in the grossest forms of heathenism, or amid the refinement of art and culture, or even under the guise of a nominal Christianity—everywhere the world lieth in darkness, and is in its principles and aims the very opposite of the kingdom of God and of heaven. The pursuit of the visible, the assertion of man's will against that of God, the pride of man's wisdom, are its distinguishing characteristics, in contrast with the will, and the love, and the service of the invisible God.
Jesus Christ came to deliver us out of this present evil world, by freeing us from its spirit, and making us partakers of the life and the powers of the heavenly world. In His intercourse with the rulers of this world, both among the Jews and before Pilate, He more than once gave expression to the truth: "Ye are of this world, I am from above; I am not of this world: My kingdom is not of this world." This other-worldliness He claimed for His disciples too: "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you." He described His work as an overcoming of the world, and a casting out of the prince of the world. He encouraged His disciples to expect and, in the power of His victory, to endure the enmity of the world. The life He brought with Him from heaven, and came to impart to us, was one as different from that of the world, yea, more so, than heaven is higher than earth. The great object of His work was to deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God.
This is an aspect of truth that enters all too little into the preaching or the practice of our days. We sometimes hear of a worldly Christianity, and of a religious world, but there appears to be but little conception of the extent to which a worldly spirit pervades and enfeebles the Christian life. We are all of us so born and bred under the power of the spirit of the world, it is so difficult exactly to define or recognise its power and influence, we are so little warned of the need of our entire deliverance from that spirit by the Spirit of God dispelling it and taking its place, that one often sees an earnest and active religious life with but little of the truly unworldly and heavenly spirit. As a consequence of this, the power of Jesus Christ and of faith in Him overcoming the world and proving that we are just as little of the world as He was, is little sought or known. Our Lord gave Himself that He might deliver us from this present evil v)orld, according to the will of God: is it any wonder that His full revelation in the heart is so little enjoyed? Only He who seeks to have Jesus do His perfect work, and is ready for complete separation and emancipation from the spirit of the world, can expect it.
Let each one of us who would prove, who would know and do, the perfect will of God study the lesson: God wills complete deliverance from this present evil world. To this end Jesus Christ gave Himself for us: as we receive Him to live in us, that Will will be done in us. We are surrounded on every side by the powers of which the spirit of this world has possession, and are unable to resist, or even to recognise them, unless they are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. In the literature and the newspaper press of the day, in all the interest and attraction of politics and commerce, of culture and pleasure, we are carried along without knowing it. In our own hearts, the love of self with its honour and pleasure, the desire of and dependence on the visible, the lack of absolute surrender to God and His will, are all so many tokens of the worldly spirit. Not until we allow the Spirit of God to convict us of all this, and to possess us with all that is its opposite, can we fully know what the deliverance is that Christ gives according to the will of God.
May God help us to connect inseparably the three blessed truths set before us here: the will of God, as the source; Jesus giving Himself for us, as the means; deliverance from this present evil world, as the mark and fruit of the great salvation. May He teach that we are just as little of this world as Jesus was, because we are one with Him. And may the presence and power of the Son of God from heaven in our hearts, with its complete deliverance from a worldly spirit, be known as in very deed the will of God for us.