2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Edwards series of sermons on love (published as “Charity and Her Fruits). The sermons as published by Yale may be found here in volume of 8 of the collected works of Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings: www.edwards.yale.edu
Charity, or Love, the Sum of All Virtue
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. I CORINTHIANS13:1–3.
Edwards begins his sermon with the observation that love is of greater value than any other virtue mentioned in the New Testament:
IN these words may be observed
1. Something spoken of as of special importance, and as peculiarly essential in Christians, which the Apostle here calls charity. Charity we find abundantly insisted on in the New Testament by Christ and his apostles. And indeed there is no virtue so much insisted on by them.
Having raised his topic, Edwards immediately dispenses with a potential problem in the text. The word English word “charity” had far too narrow a significance for Edwards’ congregants in 1738. They must not think of giving alms or having kind thoughts about another person. Rather, when they read the word they must think of a broader idea, “that disposition or affection whereby one is dear to another”.
Edwards then makes second observation about the text, any action—even “the most excellent things that ever belong to natural men—are of no true importance if not stemming from love.
Based upon his observations, Edwards draws out the doctrine which he will explain in the sermon:
All that virtue which is saving, and distinguishing of true Christians from others, is summed up in Christian or divine love.
Now the word “love” can be used in a variety of ways to describe a variety of things. Therefore, Edwards begins explanation by setting out the nature of true Christian love:
I. I would speak of the nature of a truly Christian love.
A. That all true Christian love is one and the same in its principle.
When love springs from my desire to some-thing, then the love will vary because of my heart and will vary with the thing loved. A truly Christian love cannot be so. This is a strange idea, because we naturally experience a different love toward friends than toward someone we have never met. And that is Edwards’ point for his hearers. The love which the Bible commends and commands has a different source and nature than our common affections. Edwards makes three points to demonstrate that Christian love is unique in its source and purpose:
First, such love is an operation of the Holy Spirit in and on the human heart:
It is all from the same Spirit influencing the heart. It is from the breathings of the same Spirit that the Christian’s love arises, both towards God and men. The Spirit of God is a spirit of love. And therefore when the Spirit of God enters into the soul, love enters. God is love, and he who has God dwelling in him by his Spirit will have love dwelling in him. The nature of the Holy Spirit is love; and it is by communicating himself, or his own nature, that the hearts of the saints are filled with love or charity.
This must be understood: The love which a Christian is called upon to possess, exhibit, expend does not originate with the individual human being. True Christian love is God’s work in the Christian’s life.
The difficulty which Christians often experience in their love toward neighbor lies in a failure to understand this point. They look upon the requirement to love neighbor—and even their enemies—and think, I can’t make myself do that. Of course not. The love which a Christian must expend is a love which comes from God. Therefore, the Christian’s trouble lies in their Godward relationship: They are not receiving love from the Spirit’s work and thus have no true love to expend.
If I send my child to the market to buy something, I give him money to spend. God does not merely command love, but God also supplies the love.
Edwards proves this point with the following Scripture references:
Hence the saints are said to be “partakers of the divine nature” [2 Peter 1:4]. And Christians’ love is called the love of the Spirit. Romans 15:30, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit.” And having bowels of love and mercy seems to signify the same thing with having the fellowship of the Spirit in Philippians 2:1, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.” It is the Spirit which infuses love to God.8 Romans 5:5, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” And it is by the indwelling of this Spirit that the soul dwells in love to men. 1 John 4:12–13, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”9 And ch. 1 John 3:23–24, “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
Second, the love which the Christian shows to God is the same love which the Christian shows to neighbor:
The Spirit of God in the work of conversion renews the heart by giving it a divine temper. Ephesians 4:23, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” And it is the same divine temper which is wrought in the heart that flows out in love both to God and men.
Third, true love proceeds from motive to glorify God. Things in nature, particularly human beings, are loved with reference to God. The Christian is love neighbor because of God. Not as a fearful, if I don’t love I’ll get in trouble. Rather, the Christian must love neighbor because God is excellent, beautiful, holy:
When God and men are loved with a truly Christian love, they are both loved from the same motives. When God is loved aright he is loved for his excellency, the beauty of his nature, especially the holiness of his nature. And it is from the same motive that the saints are loved; they are loved for holiness’ sake. And all things which are loved with a truly holy love are loved from some respect to God. Love to God is the foundation of a gracious love to men. Men are loved either because they are in some respect like God, either they have the nature or spiritual image of God; or because of their relation to God as his children, as his creatures, as those who are beloved of God, or those to whom divine mercy is offered, or in some other way from regard to God.
Why then do Christians have such difficulty with the love described herein by Edwards? A great deal of the fault lies with their guides, their pastors and teachers. The love which the Christian must exhibit flows from a sight of the surpassing glory and beauty of God in Jesus Christ. Love does not proceed by merely haranguing people to “love”.
It is possible to manipulate and guilt people into particular actions. But all such manipulated behaviors will fall short of what Paul commends in 1 Corinthians 13. Indeed, Paul’s point is that such actions are inadequate because they do not proceed from true Christian love: such actions are “nothing”.
If true Christian love proceeds from the operation of the Holy Spirit and proceeds on the basis of exalting in the beauty and excellencies of God, then love can only be rightly motivated by a sight of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
2 Corinthians 3:18, adoption, Glorification, Hebrews 12:14, imputation, Imputed righteousness, John Flavel, Lordship Salvation, Puritan, reconciliation, Redempton, Romans 4:5, The Method of Grace, Union with Christ
The previous entry will be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/john-flavel-the-method-of-grace-5/
Prop. 8. Lastly, Although the several privileges and benefits before mentioned are all true and really bestowed with Christ upon believers, yet they are not communicated to them in one and the same day and manner; but differently and divers, as their respective natures do require.
Christians have often been perplexed by the relationship between grace and holiness: other making the relationship with God solely a one paying a mountainous, unpayable debt; or one of a God who forgives and forgets. One person strives for perfection and thinks all others vicious scoff-laws. Another thinks any effort at all makes one a “legalist”. Flavel shows that both are dangerously wrong.
Flavel explains that in union with Christ we gain a whole – not a partial Christ:
That the lord Jesus Christ, with all his precious benefits, becomes ours, by God’s special and effectual application.
Thus, the believer – in Union with Christ – does receive the righteousness of Christ, but also receives wisdom, sanctification, and redemption. However, one does not receive wisdom in the same way on receives righteousness:
These four illustrious benefits are conveyed from Christ to us in three different ways and methods:
his righteousness is made ours by imputation;
his wisdom and sanctification by renovation;
his redemption by our glorification.
Flavel’s explanation helps to make sense of the seemingly difficult balance between grace and good works, between faith and perseverance. The difficulty comes from the seeming contradiction of
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 (ESV)
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, Romans 4:5 (ESV)
How can we counted righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) and be called onto holiness (Hebrews 12:14).
Flavel explains that we are brought into a relationship with Christ by means of imputed righteous; however, that righteousness is not the end but rather the beginning of the renovation. God does not merely impute righteous, but he also imparts a transforming holiness.
An analogy may help: Imagine two children in a household, an adopted son and a neighboring child. Now, the son does not gain or lose his status as a son on the basis of his immediate behavior. The father’s act of adoption created the relationship with the child: it was an initial, gracious act of love to bring the child into a household.
It is only by such adoption that we are brought in to relationship with God in Jesus Christ, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4b-5a). No amount of effort in the child can ever create the initial bond of adoption. Just like the neighbor’s child can never become a son merely by being quick to obey; nor will the adopted son’s disobedience undo that relationship.
However, a loving father will not leave adopted child without attention, care, concern or love. The father will train, correct and raise up his child. For instance, let us pretend a child is adopted from a country where English is not spoken, but lives in a family in the United States. Loving parents will teach the child English. The parents will impart knowledge to the child to be able to live in his new surroundings.
Likewise, God having adopted us does not leave us as we were, but rather imparts wisdom and sanctification – change – to us:
But in conveying, and communicating his wisdom and sanctification, he takes another method, for this is not imputed, but really imparted to us by the illuminating and regenerating work of the Spirit: these are graces really inherent in us: our righteousness comes from Christ as a surety but our holiness comes from him as a quickening head, sending vital influences unto all his members.
Now these gracious habits being subjected and seated in the souls of poor imperfect creatures, whose corruptions abide and work in the very same faculties where grace has its residence; it cannot be, that our sanctification should be so perfect and complete, as our justification is, which inheres only in Christ. See Gal. 5: 17
In Union with Christ, the Holy Spirit transforms the human being who has been brought into relationship with God in Jesus Christ:
16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16–18 (ESV)
The one for whom the veil is removed is the one who has been brought into relationship with Jesus Christ by the operation of the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit’s work does not end with merely removing the veil. The veil is removed so that the change will begin.
Now, the one who does not change gives every appearance of being one who still wears the veil. While change takes place in a combustible heart which has not been freed of all corruption, the change must take place. A child who has neither breath nor heartbeat is not alive.
Finally, one receives redemption as the capstone of adoption (Romans 8:16-22):
For redemption, that is to say, absolute and plenary deliverance from all the sad remains, effects, and consequences of sin, both upon soul and body; this is made ours, (or, to keep to the terms) Christ is made redemption to us by glorification; then, and not before, are these miserable effects removed; we put off these together with the body.
Not until our bodies are redeemed (Romans 8:22) will we receive glorification – but glorification is the end which beings with justification:
So that look, as justification cures the guilt of sin, and sanctification the dominion of sin, so glorification removes, together with its existence and being, all those miseries which it let in (as at a flood-gate) upon our whole man, Eph. 5: 26, 27.
And thus of God, Christ is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption; namely, by imputation, regeneration, and glorification.
2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 3:18, A Godly Man’s Picture, action, Biblical Counseling, Brooks, Heaven, hell, James, John Calvin, knowledge, Obedience, Precious Remedies Against Satans Devices, Puritan, Reading, The Christian's Great Interest, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Watson, William Guthrie
Reading is doing:
Thirdly, no that is not the knowing, or the talking, nor the reading man, but the doing man, that at last will be found that the happiest man. “If you know these things, blessed and happy are you if you do them” (John 16:14). “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my father that is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Judas called Christ Lord, Lord, and yet betrayed him, and has gone to his place. Ah! how many Judas is have we in these days, that kiss Christ, and yet betrayed Christ; that in their words profess them, but in their works denying them; but now there need to him, and yet in their hearts despise him; but call him Jesus, and yet will not obey him for their Lord (1 Brooks 9).
In writing so, Brooks does no more than emphasize what is already clear in Scripture:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22–25 (ESV)
On this point John Calvin writes:
22. Be ye doers of the word. The doer here is not the same as in Romans 2:13, who satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in every part, but the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes, according to the saying of Christ,
“Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it,” (Luke 11:28;)
For he shews by the fruits what that implanting is, before mentioned. We must further observe, that faith with all its works is included by James, yea, faith especially, as it is the chief work which God requires from us. The import of the whole is, that we ought to labor that the word of the Lord should strike root in us, so that it may afterwards fructify
William Guthrie true saving faith is faith which shapes commands heart and conforms it to Christ:
And accordingly, faith, which God has appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument of conveyance of His fulness unto man, and of maintaining union and communion with Him, acteth variously and differently upon God in Christ: for faith is the very shaping out of a man’s heart according to God’s device of salvation by Christ Jesus, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell’ (Col. 1: 16); so that, let Christ turn what way He will, faith turneth and pointeth that way. Now He turns all ways in which He can be useful to poor man; and therefore faith acts accordingly on Him for drawing out of that fulness, according to a man’s case and condition. As for example, The soul is naked, destitute of a covering to keep it from the storm of God’s wrath; Christ is fine raiment (Rev. 3: 17, 18); then accordingly faith’s work here is to ‘put on the Lord Jesus.’ (Rom. 13: 14.)
Thus reading, which is work to increase one’s knowledge and faith, must be aimed toward doing that which will give glory to God. As Thomas Watson writes in A Godly Man’s Picture true knowledge of God is a transforming knowledge:
“We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18). As a painter looking at a face draws a face like it in the picture; so looking at Christ in the mirror of the gospel, we are changed into his likeness. We may look at other objects that are beautiful—yet not be made beautiful by them. A deformed face may look at beauty, and yet not be made beautiful. A wounded man may look at a surgeon, and yet not be healed. But this is the excellence of divine knowledge, that it gives us such a sight of Christ as makes us partake of his nature! Like Moses when he had seen God’s back parts, his face shone; some of the rays and beams of God’s glory fell on him.
A reading which merely increases knowledge does not transform the heart is a reading which will condemn:
Reader, if it not be strong about my heart to practice what thou read is, to what end dost thou read? To increase that condemnation? If thy light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing that thou art, the poor miserable man thou wilt be in the day of recompense; thy light and knowledge will more torment thee that all the devils in hell. By knowledge will be that Rod that will eternally lash thee, and a scorpion that will forever bite thee, and that worm that will everlastingly knobby; therefore read, and labor to know, that thou may us do, or else if thou art undone forever(1 Brooks 9).
A reading which does not transform is a common thing in these days. The common course of education is for one to read and gain knowledge sufficient to pass a test, but not sufficient to change one’s life. Indeed, current education aims more at scores than virtue. As Christians, we must read with the aim to living in accordance with the rules of our King. Even the words of profane unbeliever can be turned into profit for us by demonstrating to us the folly of this world.
May we read to know and do those things which are pleasing to God, so that we can receive reward:
That man that reads that he may know, and that labors to know that he may do, we’ll have to heavens — the heaven of joy, peace, and comfort on Earth, and a heaven of glory and happiness after death(1 Brooks 9).