George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling 1.1

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George Swinnock was an English Puritan Minister of whom rather little is known beyond the outline of his biography. This work, “The Christian Man’s Calling” is an extensive treatise on the practical life of a Christian. He begins with a disarming short text for a work which expounds over 2.5 volumes of his collected works: 

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself unto godliness. Exercise thyself unto godliness”.—1 TIM. 4:7.

As is common among English Puritans, Swinnock begins his explanation of the text by putting into context. The first chapter makes some observations concerning the first sentence. The second sentence, “Exercise thyself unto godliness” will take up the remainder of the project. This will be a summary of his work, which is so very long that the gems will easily be unknown unless they are dug up and made plain. 

 Here, begins by a general consideration of the question of “the spring of ungodliness” which flows  

into two main cursed channels, atheism and superstition; in one of which all the children of men swim by nature, and very many, as the silly fish, down the streams of Jordan, till they descend into the lake of Sodom, the dead sea of hell, and perish. Which of these two passages are most fatal and perilous, seems worth our inquiry. The waters in the former stream are deepest; atheism denieth the very being of God, but to prevent sinking in these waters, nature herself hath provided some skin-deep bladders; for though there be many atheists in practice, yet there be no atheists in principles. The being of a deity was so fairly written on the tables of man’s heart at first, that though it be exceedingly blotted and blurred by the fall, yet it is still legible….

The waters in the latter stream are not so deep, but they seem more dangerous; for nature is in some respect a friend to superstition, though an enemy to atheism; it would give God some worship, but it must be in its own way. Atheism denieth the being of a deity; superstition undermineth the authority of God. The atheist would have no God, the superstitious would be his own God; his will, not God’s word, is the rule of his worship. …

The text presenteth us with a caution against the poison of superstition…

And that is done by avoiding superstitious tales.

If thou wouldst not swim down with the tide of those apostatising times, take heed of steering thy course by profane, though ancient customs. Refuse them with scorn, reject them with anger; let thy spirit rise, and thy stomach turn at the very sight of such sins. 

In Pilgrim’s Progress, he illustrates this temptation by Christian’s conversation with Formalist and Hypocrisy. “Chr. But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the city whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed will?

Form. and Hyp. They told him, that as for that, he needed not to trouble his head thereabout: for what they did they had custom for, and could produce, if need were, testimony that would witness it for more than a thousand years.”

The command to avoid is matched by a command to act: 

Something he must also follow after; ‘Exercise thyself unto godliness.’ This is the special help which the skilful physician appointeth his beloved patient in those infectious times to preserve his soul in health. As a pestiferous air is very dangerous to the body, yet for a man to get, and make it his work to keep a sound constitution will be an excellent means to prevent infection. So an apostatising place or people is very dangerous to the soul; spiritual diseases are more catching and killing than corporal; but a spiritual habit of a real sanctity, with a constant care to continue and increase it, will be a sovereign means to preserve it in safety.

He then applies to this principal peculiarly to pastors who must not only provide correct doctrine but also be examples of a correct life

not only divide the word rightly, but also order his conversation aright. He must, as Nazianzen said of Basil, thunder in his doctrine, and lighten in his life. Singular holiness is required of those that minister about holy things; as painters, they must teach by their hands, by their lives, as well as by their lips.

Ministers must exercise themselves to godliness—that is, do their duties with the greatest diligence.

He then gives this charge: 

Our churches must not be turned into chapels of ease. Christ neglected his food, spent his strength, wrought so hard that he was thought to be beside himself. We are called fishers, labourers, soldiers, watchmen, all which are laborious callings. We are compared to clouds; the clods of the earth lie still, but the clouds of heaven are ever in motion, and dissolve themselves to refresh others.

But, alas! how many fleece their flocks, but never feed them, as if their benefices were sinecures. The green sickness is the maid’s, and laziness many ministers’ disease. Who is instant in season and out of season?


Edward Taylor, The Daintiest Draft.5

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At this point, Taylor turns to petition in his prayer. The first part of the poem lays the ground for the prayer, the nature of the need, the greatness of the Savior, and praise. But there he comes to ask that this “sovereign solder” come to repair.

It is a rather musical stanza, particularly relying upon alliteration of R: Rod, bRanch, repair, ridge, rib, rafter, gRace, renew, gRace; D: David, deck, do, ridge, guilD; B: Branch, bough, blood bad, ridge, riB. 

There is the contrast of the Rod and Branch versus the “flesh and blood bag” (which is a ghastly image). 

In line 25, Taylor puts the emphasis on Branch, by placing it immediately after the pause and beginning the second half of the stanza with a trochee rather than iamb: BRANCH of his BOUGH.

Thou Rod of David’s root, Branch of his bough (25)

My Lord, repair thy palace. Deck thy place.

I’m but a flesh and blood bag; Oh! Do thou

Still, plate, ridge, rib, and rafter me with grace.

Renew my soul, and guild it all within:

And hang thy saving grace on every pin. (30)

The prayer is direct, “Repair thy palace.”  He gives details of the repair which must be done in lines 28-30:

Still, plate, ridge, rib, and rafter me with grace.

Renew my soul, and guild it all within:

And hang thy saving grace on every pin

Every element is to be remade “hang thy saving grace on every pin.” The revision is to be total.

The reference to Christ as a “branch” has prophetic warrant. In Isaiah 11, we read:

Isaiah 11:1–2 (AV) 

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 

The Branch from the stem of Jesse (King David’s father) is plainly the Lord. 

Jeremiah 33:14–16 (AV)

14 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.

The prophetic references to Christ as the “Branch” are in the context of the coming of Christ are both in the context of the restoration and repair the Christ (the anointed one) will bring. The full context of the Isaiah prophecy reads:

Isaiah 11:1–9 (AV)

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

The theme of repair also has prophetic background. The repair comes after there has been a lapse. Thus, Elijah calls the people to repair the altar of the Lord which was torn down in the time of Baal worship (1 Kings 18:30); the repair of  the temple by King Jehoash (2 Kings 12) after the usurpation of Athaliah; the repair of the temple by Josiah after the wicked rule of Amon (2 Kings 22); the repair of Jerusalem under Nehemiah after the return from exile.  

Thus, this prayer of Taylor has deep biblical roots: He calls upon the Branch to repair the palace of God, the manner of the Kings and prophets who repaired temple and altar.

The next three stanzas add more detail to the prayer of repair. 

In this next stanza, the musical effect is upon the assonance, particularly the “o’s”: soul, Lord, floor, o’re, orient, o’re, gold, glorious; and alliteration of p’s and g’s. The words of this stanza must be voiced to be appreciated. 

My soul, Lord, make thy shining temple, pave

Its floor  all o’re with orient grace: thus gild

It o’re with heaven’s gold: its cabins have 

Thy treasuries with choicest thoughts up filled

Portray thy glorious image all about (35)

Upon thy temple wall within and out.

The general tenor of the prayer is plain: make this a golden palace. But of special interest are lines 34-36. Asking to be gilded by God does not have a plain reference in the life of a man. What does it mean to be “gilded”. He gives details here: First, it concerns the nature of his psychological life: it is to be filled with choice thoughts. He is asking specifically for a rational revision of his thought life. 

Second, he asks that the image of God by made plain in him. This prayer is from Colossians:

Colossians 3:9–10 (AV)

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

The Christian is being renewed after the image of God – which is in in Christ. He is asking to be like Jesus. The renewal is a life which is wholly remade in the image of God, which here would be seen in the way in which he thinks (and thus lives). 

The next specific prayer is taken from Ephesians 6 in a well-known passage about “spiritual warefare”:

Ephesians 6:10–17 (AV)

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Taylor reworks that imagery into a prayer as follows:

Garnish thy hall with gifts, Lord, from above 

With that rich coat of mail thy righteousness

Truth’s belt, the Spirit’s sword, the buckler love

Hope’s helmet, and the shield of faith kept fresh.

The scutcheons of thy honor my sign.

As garland tuns are badges made of wine.

The last line is a bit difficult: a “tun” is a large barrel of wine. A garland tun would be a garlanded barrel. I assume this is a reference to festivity. 

The last stanza partakes of two biblical allusions. First, the motto for the poem, 2 Corinthians 5:17 (AV) “Therefore if any man bein Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

The second reference is from David’s great prayer of repentance in Psalm 51:

Psalm 51:9–11 (AV) 

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 

Note the repeated use of the word “new/renew” in this stanza:

New mold, new make me thus, me new create

Renew in me a spirit right, pure, true.

Lord make me thy new creature, then new make

All things of thy new creature here anew.

New heart, new thoughts, new words, new ways likewise.

New glory then shall to thyself arise.

A new heart is the great promise of the new covenant (which the Branch brings about). And all things “new” is the great eschatological promise:

Revelation 21:1–5 (AV) 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 

And so the renewal of one’s spirit in this life points to the eschatological new creation when all is made new. 

Offering Counsel to One Troubled by “Conspiracy Theories”

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A theory is an explanation for a series of facts: these are ways to connect various facts into a comprehensible whole. The theory is useful because it makes sense of the world; it reduces anxiety at one level – but it also refocuses the anxiety on some appropriate response (usually a political response). 

If you confront the theory directly, then the discussion becomes whether the theory is true or false. That will (1) prove to be next to impossible; (2) completely sidetrack your counsel.

Let us assume that this theory is true, and there are nefarious forces at work in the world and that such forces have power. That is nothing new in the history of the world. We do live on the planet that murdered Jesus. What do we do? What is the solution?

When we break this down in terms of the elements of the theory the counseling responses are something you already know. First, there is response to anxiety. Rather than trying to figure out the precise evil machinations of evil people (we know the trouble of the human heart), we should remember the goodness, knowledge, and power of God. Paul wrote about contentment while imprisoned by Rome. Thinking about the theory only causes greater anxiety. Yes, we should be wise, but it is not wise if it creates sinful fear and unnecessary preoccupation of our attention. Phil. 4:8-9

Second, the theory suggests a future course of action. While not counseling complete passivity in response to political problems and while being thankful for common grace means to restrain evil, we need to realize that these responses are at best provisional and limited. Putting more effort into trying to get wild boars to behave like bunnies will always ultimately fail; it will never resolve the anxiety nor fix the world. Yes, we should work for good in the world, but always remember the fixed limitations.In the end only the change of a heart of stone for a heart of flesh will change one. If you are worried about the evil in the world, then we should use those tools which respond to evil. 2 Cor. 10:1-7.

Finally, always be careful to show grace to someone who is deeply concerned about the wrong in the world. They are fearful; you bring comfort. And teach them useful hymns

This is my Father’s world:

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let earth be glad!

Edward Taylor,The Daintiest Draft.4

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Here is another level of the mystery and paradox of the Christ. His death upon the Cross was meant to maximize the shame he would experience: the death was degrading. It was made as public as possible, not merely to terrorize the populace (you will be next!) but to degrade the subject: you are utterly without power against the Roman government. 

And yet, upon his resurrection, those wounds which he still bears in his body, are his greatest ornament of power and praise. The rulers of the world did their worst and he overcame – not merely the men who attacked him but also the death itself. And in conquering death and bearing the penalty for sin he overcame the curse God had laid upon creation for the sin of Adam. 

There is another paradox here: not merely the paradox of power and glory in shame and weakness, but also the paradox of beauty. Isaiah 53:2 says of the coming messiah:

He had no form or beauty that we should look at him

And no beauty that we should desire him.

And yet, in his conquering, the Lord has become beautiful: the evil poured upon him turned to praise, honor and glory. As David prays in Psalm 27:4

One thing I have asked of the Lord

That I will seek after

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord 

All the days of my life

To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

And to inquire in his temple

And so Taylor, looking upon the broken Christ who wounds heal stops in the middle of mediation to praise the beauty of the Lord:

Oh! Lovely one! How doth thy loveliness

Beam through the crystal casement of the eyes (20)

Of saints and angels sparkling flakes of fresh

Heart ravishing beauty, filling up their joys?

And th’devils too; if envy’s pupils stood

Not peeping there these sparkling rays t’exclude?

This stanza is, for Taylor, rather straightforward. The beauty of Christ beams through the eye: The understanding being that rather than light reflecting the object gives off its radiance. This beauty is such that it is “heart ravishing” – it is also a beauty that creates joy in the one who sees the beauty. 

But there is something interesting here: Envy makes it impossible to see and enjoy this beauty. That is an interesting observation: rather than rejoicing in the beauty – which is a proper response to beauty – the devils look upon the sight of Christ with envy for his greatness and rather than rejoicing in the sight they experience envy. The envy in the one seeing the beauty blots out the sight of beauty.

Envy’s pupil peeps out (not the alliteration on the “p”) and excludes the sight of beauty. 

There is something here for us to understand about human nature too. 

Edward Taylor, The Daintiest Draft.3

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The third stanza resolves the issue of whether the poet refers to himself (or humanity generally) or to Christ:

But yet thou stem of David’s stock when dry

And shriveled held, although most generous green was lopt

Whose sap a sovereign solder is, whereby

The breach repaired is in which it’s dropped.

Oh gracious twig! Thou cut off? Bleed rich juice

T’cement the breach, and glory’s shine reduce?

The “stem of David’s stock” can only refer to Jesus, who is the “Son of David” par excellence (“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” Mark 10:47). 

The language of “stock” is a metaphor for a descendent. Thus, the development of the image of this stock=tree in terms of being dry or green sounds as if the poet were merely developing the metaphor at greater length. This is true, but there is also a direct reference to the words of Jesus in this same context.

There is a scene recorded in Luke’s Gospel of a conversation Jesus has with some women while being marched to Golgotha to be crucified:

Luke 23:27–31 (KJV)

27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

Thus the green tree cut, “although most generous green was lopt.” There is one further allusion contained within these lines:

Isaiah 53:2 (KJV)

      2       For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,

      And as a root out of a dry ground:

      He hath no form nor comeliness;

      And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

The concept here is that Christ is a green branch that was cut down and then dried as its sap runs out. 

The sap is a “sovereign solder”, a means of sealing together two broken parts. The sap in this instance is the blood of Christ lost in crucifixion. 

What is not immediately clear from the poem is what the solder repairs. The first two stanzas speak of a ruined palace/image. A palace is not repaired by means of a solder. The image of a solder repairs a break between two things. 

The image of solder seems to be drawn from (1) the sap=blood; (2) the break of the branch which bleeds; (3) and then the healing of the branch. The sap from the breach in the branch becomes the solder which heals the branch. 

Taylor does something fascinating here. The branch itself is healed by means of the sap which runs from the breach:

Whose sap a sovereign solder is, whereby

The breach repaired is in which it’s dropped.

Oh gracious twig! Thou cut off? Bleed rich juice

T’cement the breach, and glory’s shine reduce?

In particular note, “Bleed rich juice/T’cement the breach”. The blood spent heals the wound which caused the bleeding.  This makes for a fascinating theological point.

The death of Christ heals the breach between God and Man. In the body of Christ, the bridge and the breach between God and Man are manifest: Christ is God and Man, the mediator between the two. The death of the mediator heals the breach. 

But there is another level at work in Taylor’s poem: The death of Christ, the wounding of his body is the breach between God and Man. The cross is an assault upon God.

This is brought out by Psalm 2 which is a commentary upon the death of Christ:

Psalm 2:1–6 (KJV) 

          Why do the heathen rage, 

And the people imagine a vain thing? 

          The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together, 

Against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying

          Let us break their bands asunder, 

And cast away their cords from us. 

          He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: 

The Lord shall have them in derision. 

          Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, 

And vex them in his sore displeasure. 

          Yet have I set my king 

Upon my holy hill of Zion. 

The nations attack the Lord in the person of Christ, thinking to free themselves. But in so doing, rather than prevailing, they are witnesses to a coronation; the cross is a throne seen from the right perspective.

Taylor is working on this paradox with these lines: The wound is healed by the blood which flows from the wound. The death of Christ pays for the sin of killing Christ. The breaking of the body of the one who stands between God and Man heals the breach between God and Man. 

Taylor underscores the surprise of the breach being the repair by means of the meter:

Oh GRACious twig! THOU CUT-OFF? BLEED rich JUICE

The excess accented syllables requires one to show down to even say the words. 

Finally, Taylor makes good use of alliteration of D’s and S’s:

But yet thou stem of David’s stock when dry

And shriveled held, although most generous green was lopt

Whose sap a sovereign solder is, whereby

The breach repaired is in which it’s dropped.

Edward Taylor, The Daintiest Draft.2

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The second stanza is perhaps the most difficult in the poem in that here the ambiguity of reference is focused. It looks upon the ruined imaged  and speaks of the heavenly sorrow at the tremendous loss:

What pity ‘s this? Oh! Sunshine art! What fall?

Thou that wast more glorious than glory’s wealth.

More golden far than gold! Lord, on whose wall

Thy scutcheons hung, the image of thyself!

It’s ruined, and must rue, though angels should

To hold it up heave while their heart strings hold.

What pity is this: What a thing is here to pity. 

Sunshine art must refer to the original, before it fell. Since Taylor was writing from a rural place in a Northern latitude during the “Little Ice Age,” a reference to sunshine would be especially potent.  

He is looking upon the ruined image which was “more glorious than glory’s wealth./More golden far than gold!” Rhythmically, note the inversion of the iamb to a trochee at the beginning of line 8:

THOU that was MORE GLORiou. 

The inversion of the “normal” order forces attention upon the “thou”. He focuses our attention upon the lost image. 

Jonathan Edwards who was a generation after Taylor, but whose father knew Taylor, writes of God’s glory in Christ (in the funeral sermon for David Brainerd) with similar imagery:

Their beatifical vision of God is in Christ; who is that brightness or effulgence of God’s glory, by which his glory shines forth in heaven, to the view of saints and angels there, as well as here on earth. This is the Sun of Righteousness, which is not only the light of this world, but is also the sun which enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem; by whose bright beams the glory of God shines forth there, to the enlightening and making happy of all the glorious inhabitants. “The Lamb is the light thereof; and so the Glory of God doth lighten it,” Rev. 21:23. No one sees God the Father immediately. He is the King eternal, immortal, invisible. Christ is the Image of that invisible God, by which he is seen by all elect creatures. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him and manifested him. No one has ever immediately seen the Father, but the Son; and no one else sees the Father in any other way, than by the Son’s revealing him.

Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards (New York: S. Converse, 1829), 459. 

The wall is the thus the human being created to display the image of God. God’s image was hung upon the walls. There are shields upon the walls which show the coat of arms of this royal family. But now it houses a treasonous family. 

The closing couplet (lines 11-12) are difficult in terms of their reference:

It’s ruined, and must rue, though angels should

To hold it up heave while their heart strings hold.

“It’s ruined” must refer to the house whose walls bear the image (or at least should do so). But what are we to make of “must rue.” Is that the house should rue it’s loss? Apparently so. But it could also be taken as a cohortative to the reader, you should rue this loss. Both are possible here. 

Angels are sent hold up house. This seems to be an oblique reference to Hebrews 1:14, where angels are explained to be ministering spirits sent out to care for those human beings who will inherit salvation on the basis of Christ’s work. 

We could also read this entire stanza as a reference to Christ in his passion, where he was struck down, killed and buried.  This removes much of the ambiguity of the stanza in-and-of itself. The reader sees this destruction and is called upon the rue the loss of such beauty, while the angels attend to the Savior. And it is angels who “long to look” into this salvation: a salvation which was granted to humanity but not to angels. 1 Peter 1:12.

As noted above, this ambiguity of reference makes theological sense because the image of God which is superlatively in Jesus Christ is by imitation the property of redeemed humanity. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul writes that as the redeemed behold glory of the Lord, the redeemed are transformed into the image which they behold:

2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV) 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 

Thus, that image is both Christ and also the property of renewed humanity. 

There is also reference to the First Adam, Adam of Genesis 2 who was created in the image of God and so quickly rebelled against his place of honor. 

Edward Taylor, The Daintiest Draft.1

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Meditation 30, First Series

2 Cor. 5:17

This poem contains an interesting ambiguity in the way in the precise focus of poem is in places difficult to find. The overall thrust of the poem is a prayer that the Lord would repair the ruined palace of the human being. It is a prayer that the Lord would make the poet into something new

Lord, make me thy new creature. (line 45). Which comes from the text for the meditation, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” 2 Cor. 5:17.

The “palace” in need of repair is the human being. The ambiguity comes about by the unclear focus as to whether it is the poet or Christ who is immediately in view. To call the poet himself “the stateliest palace angels e’er did view” (3) seems wrong. That would necessarily be Christ, himself.  

It would also be appropriate to write that the palace had been spoiled by an enemy. In Isaiah 52:14, the prophet writes that “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of man.”

In the second stanza, the poet writes

Thou wast more glorious than glory’s wealth. (8)

Again, this would be more appropriately addressed to Christ, than to read this as the poet writing thus of himself fin the second person. 

But then in line 26, Taylor writes

My Lord, repair thy palace. 

And the remainder of the poem unambiguously reckons the poet to be the palace to be repaired, with the prayer to be made a new creature being the sum of that prayer. The deliberate use of the word “palace” then brings us back to the first stanza and the reference to “the stateliest palace”. It is possible the move referenes to two separate palaces. 

But I suspect that Taylor is doing something else. The palace is the image of God which is the purpose and the created nature of each human being (“the image of thyself”). Jesus is the perfect representation of that image; human beings who were created to accurately reflect that image are now spoiled and need to be remade to display that image.

The ambiguity which runs in this poem in his moving between apparent references to Christ and then to the poet can be sorted by using Colossians 3:10 as a key:

And we have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. 

In Colossians 1:16 Paul identifies the creator as Christ, “For by him all things were created.” And in verse 15, Paul identified Christ as “the image of the invisible God.” 

The ambiguity in the poem as to the reference of the palace being renewed lies in the identification of the Christian with Christ. I think that Taylor is playing off of this identification and purposefully creating an ambiguity of a dual reference. This is inherent in text for the poem. Consider:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.

To be “in Christ” is to be the “new creature”. What appertains to Christ becomes in a manner impressed upon the creature in Christ. This identification of the individual believer with Christ lies at the heart of this poem. 

The first stanza sets up the problem:

The daintiest draft thy pencil ever drew

The finest vessel, Lord, thy fingers framed

The stateliest palace angels e’er did view

Under thy hatch betwixt decks here contained

Broke, marred, spoiled, undone, defiled doth lie

In rubbish ruined by thine enemy. 

It begins with a series of three parallel descriptions of the object of the poem: “The daintiest draft”, “the finest vessel,” “the stateliest palace.” Dainty no longer carries the same connotation as it did for Taylor, but the meaning is apparent by looking at the parallel construction: This is the finest which could be. To call a human being a “draft” (a drawing) is an interesting play on the concept of “image.”

A vessel and palace likewise make sense as that bears or displays something greater. 

As we have previously considered, the reference is ambiguous in that it appears to refer to Christ (who would be the greatest of all examples) and yet the reference in the end will be to Taylor and his prayer to be remade.

The fourth line creates a nearly impossible combination of metaphors: this draft, vessel, palace, is now stowed between the decks of a ship. A draft could easily fit below deck, but to put a ship or even more strangely a palace below deck is impossible. Perhaps the use of the word “vessel” in line 2 suggested a return to a ship in line 4.

This for Taylor must have been a vivid image, when we realize that he had taken a ship from England to New England in the 17th century, which would have been a couple of months in a cramped tiny ship in the middle of the Atlantic. That many things must be been spoiled below decks on these trips in the salt water and bilge I take for granted. 

And it is there in the depths of the vessel, churning on the sea, something of surpassing value. An enemy has thrown it into the bilge where is now ruined and sloshing in the half light.

a bilge pump

This is an apt image for the fallen human race; and for the head of the redeemed race, the Second Adam Christ as he was struck down at the cross. 

And before leaving this stanza we should know the alliteration:

The daintiest draft thy pencil ever drew

The finest vessel, Lord, thy fingers framed

The stateliest palace angels e’er did view

Under thy hatch betwixt decks here contained

Broke, marred, spoiled, undone, defiled doth lie

In rubbish ruined by thine enemy. 

Thomas Manton, The Temptation of Christ, Sermon 1.c

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The prior post on this sermon may be found here.

Here, Manton ends with the practical application:

III. The good of this to us. 

It teacheth us divers things, four I shall instance in.

1. To show us who is our grand enemy, the devil, who sought the misery and destruction of mankind, as Christ did our salvation. (Matt. 13:19 & 39; John 8:44)

2. That all men, none excepted, are subject to temptations. (If Jesus was not exempt form temptation, than neither shall we)

3. It showeth us the manner of conflict, both of Satan’s fight and our Saviour’s defence.

[1.] Of Satan’s fight. It is some advantage not to be ignorant of his enterprises: …He assaulted Christ by the same kind of temptations by which usually he assaults us. The kinds of temptations are reckoned up: 1 John 2:16, ‘The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life.’ …

What then shall we do, knowing that we will be tempted and knowing something of how we will be tempted. The answer comes from the way in which Christ defendanted himself

[2.] The manner of Christ’s defence, and so it instructeth us how to overcome and carry ourselves in temptations. And here are two things whereby we evercome:—

(1.) By scripture….

But not as a talisman which is raised to chase off the Devil. That is evident, because the Devil quoted Scripture as part of his temptation. 

It is good to have the word of God abide in our memories, but chiefly in our hearts, by a sound belief and fervent love to the truth.

The Scripture is effective because it is embedded and is an automatic element of our thinking. It sets out an intellectual habit. This leads to the next element of defense noted by Manton:

(2.) Partly by resolution: 1 Pet. 4:1, ‘Arm yourselves with the same mind,’ viz., that was in Christ. When Satan grew bold and troublesome, Christ rejects him with indignation. Now the conscience of our duty should thus prevail with us to be resolute therein; the double-minded are as it were torn in pieces between God and the devil: James 1:8, ‘A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.’ Therefore, being in God’s way, we should resolve to be deaf to all temptations.

He ends with encouragement. This sermon could easily be discouraging: The Devil will assault you. He is powerful and intelligent. If it was merely make sure you remember enough Bible and stiffen you spine, this could easily become a matter of discouragement, because then it would make it seem as the power lay wholly with us. Instead, he sets out the example as proof that we will prevail:

4. The hopes of success. God would set Christ before us as a pattern of trust and confidence, that when we address ourselves to serve God, we might not fear the temptations of Satan. We have an example of overcoming the devil in our glorious head and chief. If he pleaded, John 16:33, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;’ the same holdeth good here, for the enemies of our salvation are combined. He overcame the devil in our natures, that we might not be discouraged: we fight against the same adversaries in the same cause, and he will give power to us, his weak members, being full of compassion, which certainly is a great comfort to us.

Having provided a general statement of the case, he proceeds to some particulars. 

Use. Of instruction to us:—

1. To reckon upon temptations. As soon as we mind our baptismal covenant, we must expect that Satan will be our professed foe, seeking to terrify or allure us from the banner of our captain, Jesus Christ. 

He then tallies up the types that immediately give way to temptation and return to “Satan’s camp.”

One type do not renounce Christ. Rather, they merely live as if Christ did not matter.

Now these are the devil’s agents, and the more dangerous because they use Christ’s name against his offices, and the form of his religion to destroy the power thereof; 

A second sort give way in a passive manner. They are not set against Christ in any obvious way; Christ simply does not matter to them.  They

tamely yield to the lusts of the flesh, and go ‘like an ox to the slaughter, and a fool to the correction of the stocks,’ Prov. 7:22 ….

A third sort begin well:

But then there is a third sort of men, that begin to be serious, and to mind their recovery by Christ: they have many good motions and convictions of the danger of sin, excellency of Christ, necessity of holiness; they have many purposes to leave sin and enter upon a holy course of life, but ‘the wicked one cometh, and cateheth away that which was sown in his heart,’ Matt. 13:19. He beginneth betimes to oppose the work, before we are confirmed and settled in a course of godliness, as he did set upon Christ presently upon his baptism. Baptism in us implieth avowed dying unto sin and living unto God; now God permitteth temptation to try our resolution. 

A fourth sort may not fall like the first three, but they will not leave the battle without a battle:

There is a fourth sort, of such as have made some progress in religion, even to a degree of eminency: these are not altogether free; for if the devil had confidence to assault the declared Son of God, will he be afraid of a mere mortal man? No; these he assaulteth many times very sorely: pirates venture on the greatest booty. These he seeketh to draw off from Christ, as Pharaoh sought to bring back the Israelites after their escape; or to foil them by some scandalous fall, to do religion a mischief: 2 Sam. 12:14, ‘By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme;’ or at least to vex them and torment them, to make the service of God tedious and uncomfortable to them: Luke 22:31, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat’—to toss and vex you, as wheat in a sieve. So that no sort of Christians can promise themselves exemption; and God permitteth it, because to whom much is given, of them the more is required.

Second, we need to realize that anything can and will be used to temptation, wealth or poverty. We are tempted by ease and affliction.

Third, 

His end is to dissuade us from good, and persuade us to evil. 

On one hand, he 

Dissuade[s] us from good by representing the impossibility, trouble, and small necessity of it. 

He also tempts us to evil:

He persuadeth us to evil by profit, pleasure, necessity; we cannot live without it in the world. He hideth the hook, and showeth the bait only; he concealeth the hell, the horror, the eternal pains that follow sin, and only telleth you how beneficial, profitable, and delightful the sin will be to you:

This quotation is remarkably similar to a passage in Thomas Brooks

Device (1). To present the bait and hide the hook; to present the golden cup, and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin, and by hiding from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. By this device he took our first parents: Gen. 3:4, 5, ‘And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’ Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods! Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit. Oh, but he hides the hook,—the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow!

Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 12–13.

And again, Manton returns to a note of encouragement to close the entire sermon:

4. While we are striving against temptations, let us remember our general. We do but follow the Captain of our salvation, who hath vanquished the enemy, and will give us the victory if we keep striving: ‘The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,’ Rom. 16:2. Not his feet, but ours: we shall be conquerors. Our enemy is vigilant and strong: it is enough for us that our Redeemer is merciful and faithful in succouring the tempted, and able to master the tempter, and defeat all his methods. Christ hath conquered him, both as a lamb and as a lion: Rev. 5:58. The notion of a lamb intimateth his sacrifice, the notion of a lion his victory: in the lamb is merit, in the lion strength; by the one he maketh satisfaction to God, by the other he rescueth sinners out of the paw of the roaring lion, and maintaineth his interest in their hearts. Therefore let us not be discouraged, but closely adhere to him.

Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (Part Two)

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In sum, know these in men in their office, esteem them their labor, do this work in love. 

            How then are we to appreciate and esteem them? What labor is the congregation called upon to render as a fit reward for such labor.

            Before we look to the text, let us consider the relationship between the work of the elder – that is to instruct – and the reward for such work. What actually convey esteem in such a context?

            There are some who have coached a children’s sports team, gave instruction in piano, taught someone how to read. Parents teach their children how to drive a car. What is the joy of a teacher when seeing a student?

            You are at a piano recital. The teacher is there with her students, the parents and other family are in the room. As each student comes forward and plays their piece, what does the teacher hope? What would give the teacher joy in that moment? Her students doing well; their success. 

            The coach rejoices in a victory. The school teacher rejoices in the students reading. 

            A teacher is rewarded by the student having learned the matter and putting the instruction into practice. And it is just this which Paul writes to this congregation. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 1:2

            We give thanks always for all of you

Why is that. Look at verse 3:

Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

Go now to chapter 2, verse 19:

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not ever you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? For you are our joy and glory.

What then shows esteem and appreciation for the pastor’s work? Your labor, your love, your hope. Your sanctification is the honor shown to your pastor. 

            Think how wicked a thing it would be withhold this esteem and respect to your pastor. If you withhold your own life of holiness so as to refuse esteem because you have decided that the pastor is not worthy of such respect, it speaks of remarkable wickedness. You are injuring yourself to refuse such esteem.

            You would like someone who be burnt to death in your own house because you have a personal grudge against the fireman who comes to save you. You clutch to the flaming beams and shout, I will die here before I give you the honor of saving me!

            Now that you know what you are looking for you will see this point is made throughout the New Testament. Turn over to 3 John 4:

            I have no greater joy than this to hear my children are walking in the truth.

Do you seek to honor your pastor, then honor the truth which he strives to teach you week after week. Walk in the truth.

            This is for your benefit. In the Christian life, the giving what is due is a blessing to the one who gives. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. The work of the church is the work of everyone. Walk in the truth. 

            Who is the one who is blessed? As it says in Psalm 1:2, the blessed man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord. The 119th Psalm begins with these words:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,

Who walk in the law of the Lord.

            The teacher teaches. You bless the teacher by showing that you have learned your lesson. But in this case, you are the one who is blessed. The pastor who labors to teach the truth and to show you the straight path which leads to the heavenly city is seeking your good. 

            And how do you bless him? By walking in that straight path which leads toward the heavenly city. And what is the cost to you? You will be blessed. This is like a magic treasure that the more you give the more have. Will you esteem your pastor? Then make much of his Lord. The pastor is a steward, the Lord is the pastor’s joy.

            Do you think this wrong? It comes from Paul himself. 

            When Paul was in prison, there were Christians who sought to make Paul’s imprisonment more painful by preaching Christ. This thinking is sad and bizarre. But perhaps these preachers thought: See, we are preaching freely. We are the ones blessed by Christ! Paul is in prison. This only proves that Paul was not all he pretended to be. 

            It is such a strange thing that when we read of this in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, it seems it must not be true. Paul writes that these men “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition.” Phil. 1:17. These were busy trying to dishonor Paul by preaching Christ. They thought they would “cause [Paul] distress.” 

            How does Paul respond? 

            What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Phil. 1:18. You see, Paul was not looking for human beings to praise him; he was looking for praise which comes from Christ:

In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Let us think again about the fear that a pastor preaching our passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 to respect to esteem a pastor. We immediately think, Oh, we must place this man on a pedestal. This means he wants us to all give praise to him.  But what does Paul say, My joy is in you and in your holiness. My reward is from Christ. Perhaps you did not anticipate that turn in our investigation.

But there is more. In John chapter 5, and you should turn there now to see these words for yourself, Jesus is speaking with the crowd at the temple. And as seems to have always happened, there at the temple a dispute broke out. These people were seeking proof of Jesus’ claim. 

In verse 41, Jesus says, I do not receive glory from men.

Then Jesus applies this principle to all of the people present:

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one-another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

            Now think we me along these lines. The esteem which are to show to your pastor is not directly give glory to him. It is not praise for his brilliance. That is not the way to esteem him. 

            There is a story told of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon. After a sermon someone said, “That was a great sermon.” He answered, “I know, Satan already told me.”

            I do not mean that you should never encourage him. The work of being a pastor can be mighty discouraging. To pray for him, to show friendship to him is all very good. When he has helped you learn a thing, it is right to thank him. But do not think that esteeming the pastor is about praising him as if he were some vain entertainer. That is not the point; but do treat him as a dear friend. We do not give vain to our praise to our friends, but we do encourage them. 

            You know how to encourage those you love. Do that. 

            So we have established that walking in the truth is the way in which you actually esteem your pastor. Your holy life is proof of his labor and will become his joy and reward on the day of judgment. 

            Let me show you this one more time how this works. Paul writes to the church at Corinth. Turn to Second Corinthians chapter 3.

            He begins by telling them he is not trying to commend himself: that is, Paul is not seeking to be praised by them. Instead, he writes the Christians of Corinth are actually a letter written by the Spirit:

2 Corinthians 3:1–4 (NASB95) 

            1          Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 

            2          You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 

            3          being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 

            4          Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 

The steward of Christ’s riches; the minister of grace; the pastor who teaches you truth looks to see if this truth is written in your life. If you walk in the truth, the pastor is blessed and you are blessed. Your life is proof and reward for his work. And a life of holiness is blessing to you, to your pastor, indeed to everyone about you.

            Paul’s command to know, to esteem the pastor is no burden to you. The command is seeking your blessing. But we need one more qualification as we examine this matter of walking in the truth. 

            There is a way in which walking in the truth – or at least an appearance of the truth – can actually be sinful. It sounds so strange that I will need to prove this to you. 

            The Pharisees were known to be precise in their obedience to the law. They, of all people, could be said in a way to be “walking in the truth.” They have, but in a wrong way. Paul, writing to the church at Philippi writes in the third chapter of his life before knowing Christ. Paul writes of himself

            As to the law, a Pharisee… as to the righteousness which comes from the law, found blameless. 

            You can take hold of the truth and misuse it. The wrong use of the law can make one rigid, proud, unloving. The truth can make one positively evil, when it is ingested in the wrong way. But the fault does not lie in the law, the fault lies in us. As Paul writes in the 7th chapter of Romans, the “law is holy, and the command is holy and righteous and good.” (12) But sin in us take the law up in the wrong way and turns that which is good to evil. That is the work of sin.

            How then do we walk in the truth such that it does not turn to sin? The truth taken up in the right way causes no sin; rather, it brings a blessing as we have seen.

            Look over the 2 John 6 and read:

2 John 6 (NASB95) 

                        And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 

Now look at 1 John 2:5, 

            but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. 

The truth of God, the command of the Lord is kept in love. It is not a rigid, joyless obedience to a tyrant it is love toward God and love toward man. This is what the Lord himself said:

Mark 12:28–31 (NASB95) 

            28       One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 

            29        Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 

            30        and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 

            31        “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

            What would true obedience look like? It would look like love. Love fulfills the law. This is what Paul wrote to the church at Rome:

Romans 13:8 (NASB95)

           Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Do you hear that? Do you want to truly fulfill the law, love. Paul continues on this point:

Romans 13:10 (NASB95) 

            Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 

You are supposed to esteem your pastor. How do you do that? You walk in the truth. What does that look like, living in love with one another. And what does love look like? Turn to 1 Corinthians 13. You know the passage well; we always read it at weddings. But I want you to understand something important: Paul wrote this to a church. Yes a marriage should be filled with such love. But it is to a local congregation that Paul gave this instruction.

            Do you want respect your pastor? Do you wish to obey the commandment of this passage? Then live like this. When the members of this congregation come together, this is precisely how we should live. This is the fact of a congregation that esteem the pastor:

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NASB95) 

            4          Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 

            5          does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 

            6          does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 

            7          bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

You want to bless the pastor, live like this. You want to esteem his labor, bear with one another. You wish to show respect for the Word of God diligently laid before you, explained and made plain? Be patient, be kind. Stop with your arrogance; put an end to seeking your own. 

And do this to and for your pastor. He is a shepherd, but he is also a sheep. Show him patience. Be kind to him. Don’t engage in any silly jealousy. Don’t brag and speak as if you could all of this better. Do not seek your own. Don’t be provoked when he fails, because the work of a pastor does not confer perfect sanctification. Bear with him. Believe the best of his family. Weep with him when he weeps. Rejoice with him when he rejoices. 

And a last note. Part of the love you must show this man and his family is to provide for their livelihood. You have determined that your congregation would best be blessed by a pastor who can devote himself full time to this work.

            Sadly, it is at this point, that many, many congregations and pastors have come to conflict. Congregations routinely begrudge the pastor’s family sufficient money that they should live without constantly burdens. I have known truly sinful ways in which congregations have abused their pastors. 

            It would not profit at this time to rehearse the history of such stories. But know that it seems to be a mark of pride for congregations to impoverish their pastor; as if his poverty was a mark of their holiness! These same people would think it a scandal if they had to live in such straits. But to starve their pastor they excuse because the pastor will receive some heavenly reward. 

            Are their pastors who live too well, who abuse their congregation and “fleece the sheep.” Yes. But stealing from the congregation is the mark of a false teacher. 

            And starving the pastor is the mark of a selfish and sinful congregation. 

            Why should a pastor live worse than a plumber or painter? The plumber and the painter do good honest work and are rightfully rewarded for their skill. But the pastor? It takes years of education to become a pastor. The work and skill needed to become a pastor could easily have been turned to any number of careers such as being a lawyer or professor. The pastor has given up those opportunities to do good to you.

            We want to pay for the best doctor, because we think the doctor can do good or evil to our bodies. And we treat pastors as if their work could be done by anyone, and we pay them accordingly. 

            The pay of a pastor is not the primary point of this passage. The point is to live in love with one another. But one application of that command to live in love is to care for and protect the pastor and his family – just as you should care for and protect the reputation, and the health, and the well-being of everyone in the congregation. 

            Esteem the Lord, walk in the truth, live in love. And in so doing you will become a blessing to your pastor.

[A Final Note: I wrote this sermon for a friend’s congregation. The structure is primarily such that someone who was not a member of the congregation would preach this. The reason for that structure is that in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul is not commending himself but the current leadership of the church. He is not writing, “esteem me”, but “esteem them”.]

Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (Part One)

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1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 (NASB95) 

12      But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 

  13      and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 

            There is an awkwardness in any pastor standing at his home pulpit to preach this passage. A man stands before you to read a text which says to acknowledge or respect or honor him to show him great esteem. What we hear in such words is honor me, highly esteem me. This easily leads us to rebel against such an apparent display of pride: Who does he think he is? Why does he think himself so very special? There are others who preach better, who pray better, who care better, who live better. There are others who are more holy, and so on, as think how to knock him down from his perch. 

            How does any man preach this passage faithfully and avoid sounding like a egotist? How can he tell you to esteem those who teach, all the while referring to himself, because we know the application is he is the one who is teaching you.

            And even if we surmount that first barrier, what could it possibly mean to esteem, to respect? Is the congregation subservient to some man who happens to have the job? Can we disagree with him, ever? 

            Let us take the objection first. Until we get over the trouble here, we can never get to the application. Even if it is not everyone, someone will be fussing the entire time, ready to object about the apparent self-serving nature of this passage. 

            Let us then concede that one could easily preach this passage as the work of a vain egotist, seeking to gain adherents for himself. But such vanity is not in the text; it is nowhere to be found in these words. The vanity would be in the man. And it is a real temptation for a pastor to take up these words and misuse them for his own ends.

            When a judge applies the law, the judge does not make himself a king over others. The authority which the judges exercises is in his robes and in his seat. The judge is given authority to apply law. When he takes off the robes and steps down from the bench, he lays that authority aside. If a judge pronounces sentence in a courtroom, the sentence stands. If he pronounces judgment in his living room, it means nothing more than the sound of the words. 

            The authority is in the office and the exercise of that office. The authority is not in the individual human being. 

            And so it is with the pastor. The pastor’s authority lies in the office, not in the man.

            But that still needs some qualification. The authority of the pastor is not precisely the office, either. 

            If a judge begins to make-up rules and apply his own whims and claim the authority of law for his imagination, he loses that authority. Other judges will reverse his decision, because he has become a lawless judge. He will be removed from his office, because he has abused the authority of his office. 

            A pastor has authority only so far as the Word of God has authority. His authority is in the Word, not in himself. Look down at the text. If you start in the middle of verse 12 you will this:

                        Appreciate those ….

And now go to the end

                        Who give you instruction.

            It does not say that you are to give this appreciation to a bishop because of his consecration. It says that appreciation is to be given to those who teach. If someone takes the office and exercises the apparent authority and then also does not do the work of the office; if he does not instruct, the office has become a weapon and the outcome is merely sin. If a police officer uses the authority to stop and search to harass and abuse, the officer is a criminal even though he wears a badge. 

            Appreciate those who give instruction. And it is right you should.

            The work of delivering a sermon may look easy. Someone stands and speaks for some period of time and then is done. It all seems so easy. But the hour on Sunday comes after hours and hours throughout the week. And that comes after years of experience and school.

            Every task appears simply when it is done by someone with skill. To see a task performed well is to hide all the difficulty which came before. Watch a musician or athlete. The great ones look like they are at perfect ease. When we watch them we say they play. They play an instrument; they play a game. This wor looks like play. But that play comes after years of work. 

            That does not mean that you show this appreciation and esteem to the pastor because he has worked hard. It is just to say that you should not despise his work because it appears easy to you. 

            Moreover, you are not respect the pastor because he has done a good job. It is not the appreciation of his personal worth. Perhaps you respect the athlete because of his performance, but the appreciation of a pastor is not a matter of appreciation his effort. 

            You are showing respect for the office he holds; and even more than that, you are showing respect to the Word of God which establishes the office and gives authority and worth to what he does. 

            There is another way which showing esteem for the pastor shows esteem for the Word of God. Look down at your Bible. This instruction to appreciate, to esteem those who teach is an instruction found in your Bible. By complying with this instruction, you are showing that you give honor to the Word of God. You cannot say that you honor the Word of God and then decide which commands you will abide. If you refuse a command, you are refusing the one who gave the command. 

            But someone will say, This particular ma nis not as good a pastor some others I have known. He does not preach as well Mr. X, or whatever comparison you may wish to make.

            Now if the concern with the pastor is one of sin; then the Scripture is clear on how to respond. If the concern is the pastor is not truly fit for the work, then perhaps he should find another way in which to serve. But I hope that you had made such a determination before you retained him for the work. 

            But if the concern is merely a matter of preference, what is it that you are truly seeking to do? Is your concern first for the honor of God and good of the Church? Or is you concern rather for your own control, your own taste? Perhaps it is you are wrong in the matter. 

            Moreover, there are many directions which God gives for us to follow in the matter of relationship. And in these directions, God does not specify that you must be personally pleased before you give obedience. 

            You are to honor your parents. Not because they are the best parents, but because they are your parents. 

            You are to honor governors. Not because you have the best governor, but because the governor is the governor.

            Wives are to respect their husbands. Not because they have the best husband, but because he is her husband.

            Husbands are to willing lay down their lives for their wives. Not because they have the best wife, but because she is his wife. 

            You must fulfill these duties because God has told you to do so. You are not given some veto. 

            An old illustration may help you understand this. Let us say I have lent to you one million dollars. You are to pay me back $100 per week. On the first week you come to me with your crisp $100 bill. I tell you to give the bill to so-and-so, who happens to be someone you dislike. 

            You refuse.

            I remind you, that you owe me the money and you must pay it as I direct. You pay the money, not because you owe so-and-so. You pay the money because you owe me. 

            The illustration is imperfect, but it should help. Our Lord has the right to demand of you, even your life. How many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, throughout the history of the Christian Church have given their liberty or even their lives because they would not refuse to obey Christ? 

            They have been obedient even to death. And yet you think that you should not be troubled to even hold your tongue? Your children must honor you, but you have no duty to esteem the pastor?

            This I trust is sufficient to deal with the most troublesome objections to this passage, but there is one further matter to consider before we move on to the matter of what does it mean to appreciate and show esteem. 

            Ask yourself, Why does it irk me so to be told to honor my governor, honor my spouse—especially when they have not pleased me.

            We must admit that there is rebellion here, a refusal to obey a direct command of God. Nowhere does it say to honor the governor because I think it is a good idea. Nowhere does it say submit to your husband because he is particularly amazing or because he thinks what I think is best. Nowhere are children permitted to cast the vote on honor, nor may husbands refuse to love their wives, even to the point of giving their own lives. 

            Can you see, that this rebellion is because we want to make our own rules. Can’t you hear an echo of the Serpent’s, ye shall be God in the refusal to give honor to whom God says we must?

            But to the actual command in this verse? So far we have seen that the command is binding upon us, but what does the command entail? 

            First there are two sets of commands. One command is to the congregation, and that is clear. But there is a second command implied: this the command which describes the work of the pastor, to work diligently, to keep charge, to teach. We will leave the pastor’s duty to the side.

            What then are the commands to the congregation? Paul gives two commands, first, “appreciate”; second, to highly esteem. We will look at those two commands, and then spend some time figuring how we actually do the work of appreciating and esteeming.

            The command to appreciate comes in verse 12. Look at the beginning of the verse

            But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate ….

If you have another translation than the NASB, you may read, “acknowledge” or “respect” or “honor”. The reason for the differences in the translations is because the original word simply means “to know.” 

            But here the word cannot simply mean to know about the pastor, nor can it mean to simply have acquaintance with the pastor. That is certainly part of the idea, but it does not meet the usage here. 

            Here it means to meet him in the context of a particular relationship. You know this pastor in the context of the work which he does. 

            Let us say Mrs. Smith, you neighbor is a heart surgeon, but you know her as your neighbor. You know that she smiles and waives. You know how she keeps her lawn. You know when she takes out the garbage cans. There is not much in that to esteem her. 

            But then the day comes when your infant child comes near to death. The baby needs heart surgery. In the hospital, it is Mrs. Smith who is now Dr. Smith you operates and saves your child’s life. Before you knew her as your neighbor. Now, you know her as the surgeon who spared you untold sorrow. When you look at her, you look at her now through the prism of his new relationship. 

            Before you had an opinion about how she kept her yard. But now you know her, you respect and acknowledge what she has done for you. Your knowledge of her takes on a new and very special color because you now know her as a doctor. 

            The same is true of your pastor. One time you may have known him only as your neighbor. But now you know him as one who painfully labors to teach you the Word of God. And this is precisely how you are to know him

            In 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul writes

            Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of mysteries of God.

Such knowledge is precisely how Paul instructs the Thessalonians in his letter. Look down at verse 13

            Esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

It is the work which is the basis and sphere of your knowledge and esteem.