The Divine Law Applied
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (6:10)
Here is a final, practical injunction that goes with the principle of sowing and reaping, given as a guide to believers in their walk in the Spirit.
Opportunity translates kairos, which literally refers to a fixed and distinct period of time. The phrase while we have does not refer to occasional opportunities that may arise in a believer’s life but to the total opportunity of his present earthly existence. The idea is, while we have opportunity during our life on earth. In other words, a believer’s entire life is his unique but limited opportunity to serve others in the Lord’s name. The idea is also implied of seeking for and even making particular opportunities within the broader opportunity of our time on earth. The reflexive exhortation, let us do is from ergazomai, which means to be active, to work effectively and diligently, and is here a self-call to great effort in taking every opportunity to sow for God’s glory.
Good is from agathos and has a definite article in front of it in the Greek. In other words, Paul is speaking of a particular good, the good. It is the agathos goodness of moral and spiritual excellence that is a fruit of the Spirit (5:22), not simply kalos goodness that is limited to physical and temporal things. It is the internal goodness produced by the Spirit in the hearts of obedient believers, which then finds expression in external goodness spoken by his mouth and performed by his hands.
It is also good that is unqualified and unrestricted, to be shown all men, including unbelievers. “For such is the will of God,” Peter said, “that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15). One of the best ways to thwart criticism of Christianity is for Christians to do good to unbelievers. Loving concern will do more to win a person to Christ than the most carefully articulated argument. The heart of every Christian testimony should be kindness. “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds,” Paul admonished Titus, “with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7–8). Later in the same letter Paul says, “Concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men” (3:8).
As important as doing good to unbelievers is, however, it is especially to be demonstrated to those who are of the household of the faith. The first test of our love for God is our love for His other children, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “We know that we have passed out of death into life,” John says, “because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves god should love his brother also” (4:20–21).
Such sowing makes for joyful reaping, and it is also dynamic testimony to those outside salvation. How we treat each other is our greatest attraction to a world seeking love, kindness, and compassion.
10 Paul ends his anti-libertine exhortation to the Galatians (5:13–6:10) with this inferential conclusion. Believers are to take advantage of every God-given opportunity (again using the term kairos) to do good. This is not merely Paul consigning the Christian ethic to serendipity or presenting behavioral righteousness as an option of convenience, as though he were suggesting some “Christianized” version of the call to carpe diem (“seize the day”). Rather, he exhorts believers here to maintain a holy awareness or sensitivity to opportunities God places before us to live out the fruit of the Spirit.
Christian ethical and social responsibility, Paul further indicates here, is all-embracing (“let us do good to all people”). Believers, as those who are “spiritual” (6:1), have both the Spirit-given empowerment and the God-given opportunities positively to affect the world around them by keeping in step with the Spirit. We have obligation, then, to manifest the Spirit’s presence (“fruit”) in our lives while among our fellow believers (vv. 1–4, 10) and to all those outside as well (v. 10; cf. Ro 1:14).
10 “So then” (RV, etc.) represents a phrase, found in the NT only in the Pauline writings, which is used to introduce the logical conclusion of a preceding statement. Here the connection with v. 9 may be understood as follows: just as there is a time for reaping, so there is a time for sowing; this being the case, we should make good use of the sowing time. “As opportunity offers,” which suggests the idea “when the opportunity presents itself,” is perhaps more accurately rendered “while we have opportunity” (NASB); the expression implies that believers do have this opportunity.86 Corresponding to the “time” of the eschatological harvest mentioned in the last verse, the “opportunity” of this verse refers to the believer’s life-time: the believer has “the ethical responsibility to make sensible use of the time” at his disposal (cf. Eph. 5:16).
Particular mention is made of the responsibility to “work for the good of all” or to “do good to all people” (NIV). The word for “good” here is to agathon, whereas to kalon is used in v. 9. It has been suggested that while ta agatha are things good in their results, such as beneficent actions, ta kala are things absolutely good, beautiful in themselves. But Mt. 12:12 (where kalon is implied in the phrase “to do good”) suggests that kalon can denote a beneficent act and can as a result be synonymous with agathon in that sense. Be that as it may, the phrase “to all people” makes it plain that the reference here is to beneficent deeds, whether the benefit be spiritual or material. This principle of “doing good to all” is applied especially to “members of the household of faith,” that is, members of the family of those whose characteristic is faith—the last word being taken in the active and subjective sense of trust,91 not in the objective sense as equivalent to the gospel or Christianity (as in NEB “the faith”).92
The concept of believers forming a household or family finds expression elsewhere in Paul’s letters (cf. Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15). Here the distinction between the family of faith and “all people” (cf. 1 Thess. 5:15) shows that for Paul the time-honored division of mankind into Jew and Gentile was less significant than the believer-unbeliever distinction; indeed, the racial and religious distinction of Jew and Gentile lost all significance for him (Gal. 3:28; 5:6). He reckons that the Christian has a greater responsibility toward his fellow-believers than toward other people in general; this may have had to do with the actual historical situation: Christians in financial difficulties could hardly expect assistance from their pagan friends, because they had departed from the religious traditions of their neighbors, but their pagan friends would, however, expect Christians to help one another.96 In this connection, D. Guthrie reminds us that the precedence given to the Christian community does not exclude the wider responsibility for “all”; the latter is, rather, urged on us and linked “with an even greater responsibility towards fellow believers.” As for “the proportioning of responsibility between the larger and the narrower group,” this “must remain a matter for individual conscience.”97
10 Paul now presents the conclusion that he would draw from the foregoing. Now (as long as there is a “now”) is the time, the “season,” for sowing; believers are well advised therefore to make the best use of the opportunity they have during this mortal life to “work what is good” on behalf of every person,209 paying special attention to the “members of the household of faith.” The word “season,” repeated from the preceding verse, refers here to a period of time with certain constraints or duress (namely, that the time will extend only so far, after which people will face God’s judgment).
Paul draws two concentric circles of care and benevolence. Christians are to reflect God’s love in this world, thus offering loving care and assistance to all people, even as God gives the gifts of sun and rain to all (Matt 5:44–48). They need, however, to take special care to extend support to fellow Christians, since the latter would now largely lack the support of non-Christian networks. These fellow believers are here, as so frequently throughout the New Testament epistles (following the precedent of Jesus himself; see Mark 3:31–35; 10:29–30), described as family, consisting of those who have been adopted together into God’s household as God’s sons and daughters (4:5–7), who are children by virtue of trusting (exhibiting “faith” toward) God’s promise. In connection with this identification, early Christian leaders sought also to shape the ethos of the church (a group of largely unrelated people) after the ethos of family. For example, family members (at their best) seek to cooperate with one another and avoid competition. They seek to advance one another’s honor and interests, not competing for honor at one another’s expense, as is typical among nonkin. They more readily hide one another’s shame from public view rather than parade it. Because of this mutual commitment to each other’s interests, kin can share a deep level of trust in one another. They also share resources freely, seek to maintain harmony and unity, and work attentively toward forgiveness and reconciliation.213 Many facets of this ethos are apparent behind Paul’s exhortations to his “sisters and brothers” in Galatia.
Alongside other early Christian leaders, Paul recognizes that the steady progress of the individual disciple moving out from being driven by the flesh toward being fully Spirit-led requires the investment, intervention, and support of other disciples. As individuals, we are easily prone to deceive ourselves concerning what comes from the Spirit and what comes from the flesh. We are easily prone to our own weakness and to being “overtaken” by some sin (6:1). Paul commissions all the members of the Christian community to help any individual member recognize when he or she is not speaking the truth to himself or herself about some direction or practice he or she has embraced.
Paul calls for a level of mutual involvement and investment that is rare, particularly in the Western world. In the West, the values (one might even say, the “foundational principles”) of individualism and of the boundary between private and public are so strong that it is highly countercultural for believers now to practice Paul’s exhortations. Nonetheless, we need the intervention of fellow Christians who will confront sin in our lives and who will do it gently and with forbearance. We need the support, encouragement, and admonition of other Christians in order to maintain our resolve to resist the enticements of sin and to give ourselves fully to the Spirit’s victory over our fleshly impulses. Paul’s directions are salutary in another important regard here, as they direct speech about a sister or brother who has fallen afoul of the Spirit-led life to that sister or brother, where it may do some good, as opposed to the common but toxic practice of speaking about that sister or brother to others for no edifying purpose.
Paul seeks to nurture a church culture of mutual burden bearing, rather than one in which we neglect or even add to the burdens of our sisters and brothers. Indeed, the degree to which a church community is committed and effective in regard to such burden-bearing (and not just among its own congregation, but cooperatively with other local and global churches as well) may be one of the more important metrics of its spiritual health and maturity.
Throughout this commentary, we have tried to do justice to justification as “gift and task.” It is “gift” insofar as Christ gave himself on our behalf, as an expression of God’s love and generosity toward us, to reconcile us to God and to redeem us from this present, evil age. It is “gift” insofar as God pours his Holy Spirit out upon all who are joined in trust to Jesus, the Seed. It is “gift” insofar as this Holy Spirit, freely lavished upon us, is sufficient to guide us into and empower us for living righteously before God, specifically by living fully in line with the commandment to love our neighbor with the care, investment, and commitment that the fleshly person reserves for himself or herself above the neighbor. It is “task,” however, insofar as we must “walk by the Spirit” (5:16), “fall in line with the Spirit” (5:25), “serve one another as slaves through love” (5:13), “stand fast,” not submitting again to the powers and principles that formerly enslaved us, from which Christ freed us at such cost to himself (5:1) and, here, “sow to the Spirit” by “working what is good toward all” (6:7–10), fulfilling the command to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” in concrete, practical, beneficent, helpful, needful ways. Participating in this process of transformation that God has opened up for believers in Christ through the power of the Spirit leads to “the final fulfillment of that which began in justification, namely, the gift of salvation to be consummated at the last day.”
Paul closes his exhortations to the Christians in Galatia by reminding them—and us—of our ultimate responsibility before God to use God’s gifts well, to submit our lives fully to the Spirit who came upon us only because Jesus bore the cost of submitting his life fully to God’s good will for us. Paul concludes with the solemn warning that we cannot fool God. No theology of justification or eternal security or other conceptual construct that we espouse will pull the wool over God’s eyes as he peers into our hearts and minds to learn: did we spend our lives sowing to the flesh or sowing to the Spirit? Did we dedicate ourselves to making the best use of the gifts God gave us to bring us fully in line with his righteousness, to bring Christ to life within us and, through us, ongoingly to life throughout the world? Did we resist the Spirit in order to protect some areas of fleshly indulgence? Does God recognize his Son in the people we came to be? The good news is that God lavishly supplies all that is needed for us to walk in righteousness and enjoy the consequences of living righteous lives. What is required of us is, essentially, to cultivate awareness (including honesty with ourselves before God and one another) and steady commitment as we consistently invest ourselves and our resources as the Spirit directs and empowers.
6:10. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
The word καιρός is translated as ‘season’, or ‘time’ (NIV), in verse 9 and as ‘opportunity’ in verse 10. The rough idea is that ‘In time we shall be blessed if we make time to do good.’ We are to do good to all. Albert Barnes cites the words of Cotton Mather: ‘The opportunity to do good imposes the obligation to do it.’ Calvin too writes movingly, ‘We are all of one flesh, and we bear a mark which ought to induce us to do all that we possibly can for one another.’ There is a sense, says Calvin, in which we can speak of the brotherhood of all men, including ‘the Moor’ (the Muslim) and ‘the barbarian’ (the pagan).168 He almost sounds like an old-fashioned liberal here, but he is only saying what Paul is saying.
Yet there is a special claim of the Christian upon another Christian. The house of Israel (Num. 20:29; 2 Sam. 1:12; Ezek. 3:4) is now the household of God (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17). Your family members have more claims upon you than anybody else—if you do not look after them, you are worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). There are certain people whom God has made your special concern. The same is true with the Christian family. All human beings have a claim on us, but Christians have a special claim on us. John Brown says that for a Christian to be unkind to a Christian is ‘monstrous’. Defrauding anybody is wrong, but for one Christian to defraud another is especially wrong (1 Cor. 6:8). Things that are evil become even worse if they are committed against one’s own family. More positively and by extension, there is a special obligation of the Christian towards his fellow Christian. In Haldane’s words, ‘As children of the same family, and members of the same body, they are, therefore, laid under the strongest obligation to love and to do good to each other.’
Ver. 10.—As we have therefore opportunity (ἄρα οὖν ὡς καιρὸν ἔχομεν); so then, while (or, as) we have a season for so doing. Ἄρα οὖν: this combination of particles is frequently found in St. Paul’s writings, being so far as appears (cf. Winer, ‘Gram. N. T.,’ § 53, 8 a) peculiar to him (1 Thess. 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:15; Rom. 5:18; 7:3, 25; 8:12; 9:16, 18; 14:12, 19; Eph. 2:19). In every instance it marks a certain pause after a statement of premisses; in several, following a citation from the Old Testament; the writer, after waiting, so to speak, for the reader duly to take into his mind what has been already said, proceeds to draw his inference. The ἄρα seems to point backward to the premisses; the οὖν to introduce the inference. “Well, then,” or “so, then,” appears a fairly equivalent rendering. In 1 Thess. 5:6 and Rom. 14:19 ἄρα οὖν introduces a cohortative verb, as here; in 2 Thess. 2:15, an imperative. The words which follow seem to be commonly understood as meaning “whenever opportunity offers.” But this falls short of recognizing the solemn consideration of the proprieties of the present sowing-time, which the previous context prepares us to expect to find here; the term “season,” as Meyer remarks, having its proper reference already fixed by the antithetical season of reaping referred to in ver. 9. Moreover, instead of ὡς, would not the apostle, if he had meant “whenever,” have used the intensified form καθώς? Chrysostom gives the sense well thus: “As it is not always in our power to sow, so neither is it to show mercy; when we have been borne hence, though we may desire it a thousand times, we shall be able to effect nothing.” Indeed it is questionable whether the sense now pleaded for is not that which was intended by the rendering in the Authorized Version. The particle ώς probably means “while,” as it does in Luke 12:58 and in John 12:35, 36, where it should replace the ἕως of the Textus Receptus; but this needs not to be insisted upon. Anyway, we are reminded of the uncertain tenure by which we hold the season for doing that which, if done, will have so blessed a consequence. Let us do good unto all men (ἐργαζώμεθα τὸ ἀγαθὸν πρὸς πάντας); let us be workers of that which is good towards all men. The verbs ἐργάζομαι and ποιῶ appear used interchangeably in Col. 3:23 and 3 John 5; but the former seems to suggest, more vividly than the other, either the concrete action, the ἔργον, which is wrought; or else the part enacted by the agent as being a worker of such or such a description—as if, here, it were “let us be benefactors.” The adjective “good” (ἀγαθός) is often, perhaps most commonly, used to designate what is morally excellent in general; thus, e.g., in Rom. 2:10, “the worker of that which is good” is contrasted with “the worker-out of that which is evil,” as a description of a man’s moral character in general. But on the other hand, this adjective frequently takes the sense of “benevolent,” “beneficent;” as e.g. in Matt. 20:15, “Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” 1 Pet. 2:18, “masters, … not only the good and gentle, but also the froward;” Titus 2:5; 1 Thess. 3:6; 1 Tim. 6:18; Rom. 12:21. In the remarkable contrast between the righteous man and the good man in Rom. 5:7 (see Dr. Gifford’s note on the passage, ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ p. 123), the latter term appears distinctly intended in the conception of virtuousness to make especially prominent the idea of beneficence. Naturally, this sense attaches to it, when it describes an action done to another, as the opposite to the “working ill to one’s neighbour,” mentioned in Rom. 13:10; “good” in such a relation, denoting what is beneficent in effect, denotes what is also benevolent in intention (see 1 Thess. 5:15). Indeed, that the present clause points to works of beneficence” is made certain by that which is added, “and especially,” etc.; for our behaviour should be in no greater degree marked by general moral excellence in dealing with one class of men than in dealing with any others; though one particular branch of virtuous action may be called into varying degrees of activity in different relations of human intercourse. “Towards all men;” πρός, towards, as in 1 Thess. 5:14; Eph. 6:9. The spirit of universal philanthropy which the apostle inculcates here as in other passages, as e.g. 1 Thess. 5:15, in one which flows naturally from the proper influence upon the mind of the great facts stated in 1 Tim. 2:3–7, as also it was a spirit which in a most eminent degree animated the apostle’s own life. Witness that noble outburst of universal benevolence which we read of in Acts 26:29. Such an escape from bigotry and particularism was quite novel to the Gentile world, and scarcely heard of in the Jewish, though beautifully pointed forward to in the teaching of the Book of Jonah (see Introduction to the Book of Jonah, in ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ vol. vi. p. 576). Especially unto them who are of the household of faith (μάλιστα δὲ πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους τῆς πίστεως); but especially towards them that are of the household of faith. The adjective οἱκεῖος occurs in the New Testament only in St. Paul’s Epistles—twice besides here, namely, in Eph. 2:19, “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household (οἰκεῖοι) of God;” and in 1 Tim. 5:8, “if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household (οἰκείων).” In the last-cited passage, the adjective, denoting as it plainly is meant to do, a closer relation than “his own (ἰδίων)” must mean members of his household or family; and we can hardly err in supposing that in Eph. 2:19 likewise the phrase, οἰκεῖοι τοῦ Θεοῦ denotes those whom God has admitted into his family as children. So the word also signifies in the Septuagint of Isa. 3:5; 58:7; and Lev. 18:6, 12, 13. It is, therefore, an unnecessary dilution of its force here to render it, “those who belong to the faith,” though such a rendering of it might be justified if found in an ordinary Greek author. The meaning of τῆς πίστεως is illustrated by the strong personification used before by the apostle in ch. 3:23, 25, “before faith came;” “shut up for the faith which was yet to be revealed;” “now that faith is come.” The apostle surely here is not thinking of “the Christian doctrine,” but of that principle of believing acceptance of God’s promises which he has been insisting upon all through the Epistle. This principle, again personified, is here the patron or guardian of God’s people aforetime under a pedagogue: “of the household of faith,” not “of the faith.” The apostle is thinking of those who sympathized with the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ without legal observances; and very possibly is glancing in particular at the teachers under whose care the apostle had left the Galatian Churches. At first, we may believe, the Galatian Churchmen, in the fervour of their affection to the apostle himself, had been willing enough to help those teachers in every way. But when relaxing their hold upon the fundamental principles of the gospel, they had also declined in their affectionate maintenance of the teachers who upheld those doctrines. He now commends these, belonging to faith’s own household, to their especial regard (comp. Phil. 3:17). “Especially;” this qualification in an intensified form of the precept of universal beneficence, is the outcome of no cold calculation of relative duties, but of fervent love towards those who are truly brethren in Christ That to these an especial affection is due above all others is a sentiment commended and inculcated in almost all St. Paul’s Epistles; as it is also by St. Peter, as e.g. in 1 Pet. 1:22, etc.; and again by St. John. With all, “love of brethren (φιλαδελφία)” is a different sentiment from that sentiment of charity which is due to all fellow-men; that is, it is an intensified form of this latter, exalted into a peculiar tenderness of regard by the admixture of higher relations than those which antecedently connect true Christians with all members of the human family. Christ has himself (Matt. 25:31–46) taught his disciples that he deems a peculiar regard to be due from them to those “his brethren” who at that day shall be on his right hand; meaning, evidently, by “these my brethren,” not suffering men, women, or children as such, but sufferers peculiarly belonging to himself (comp. Matt. 10:42; 18:5, 6). Thus we see that, after all, there is a particularism properly characteristic of Christian sentiment; only, not such a particularism as a Gentile, and too often a Jew likewise, would have formulated thus: “Thou shalt love thine own people and hate the alien;” but one which may be formulated thus: “Thou shalt love every man, but especially thy fellow-believer in Christ.” The reader will, perhaps, scarcely need to be reminded of Keble’s exquisite piece on the Second Sunday after Trinity in the ‘Christian Year.’
10. While we have opportunity. The metaphor is still pursued. Every season is not adapted to tillage and sowing. Active and prudent husbandmen will observe the proper season, and will not indolently allow it to pass unimproved. Since, therefore, God has set apart the whole of the present life for ploughing and sowing, let us avail ourselves of the season, lest, through our negligence, it may be taken out of our power. Beginning with liberality to ministers of the gospel, Paul now makes a wider application of his doctrine, and exhorts us to do good to all men, but recommends to our particular regard the household of faith, or believers, because they belong to the same family with ourselves. This similitude is intended to excite us to that kind of communication which ought to be maintained among the members of one family. There are duties which we owe to all men arising out of a common nature; but the tie of a more sacred relationship, established by God himself, binds us to believers.
Ver. 10. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.—
Opportunity, man’s treasure:—If time be as “the grass,” fading and fleeting, opportunity is as “the flower of the grass,” more fading, as it is more beautiful and valuable. In the ordinary transactions and affairs of life, as well as in natural things, of how much importance is that juncture of concurrent circumstances which we style opportunity. Opportunity, even in natural things, when once lost, can never be recalled. The spark, that one single drop would have quenched in the outset, may, if neglected, spread fire around till it wraps a whole city in one wasting conflagration. The garment, spotted with the plague, that might have been destroyed with the least possible effort, may, if it lie unheeded and neglected, communicate the fearful infection, and the pestilence may spread its frightful ravages far and wide through a desolated nation. In the course of nature, God has been pleased to “furnish “opportunity” to every man, to awake the diligence and keep alive the watchfulness of His dependent creatures. If the husbandman passes by the season of spring, that precious season returns not again to him; and if he delay but a little space, watching the wind and waiting for the clouds, he shall not reap. And in the ordinary transactions of mankind one with another, how much depends upon seizing the passing and present opportunity! Many a man, by missing the “tide in the affairs of life,” has missed the highroad to fame and fortune, and whatever this world could give to make him illustrious and distinguished. How many gray-headed and aged men look back upon the squandered opportunities of early life with bitter regret and unavailing sighs? They can now see where they turned down the wrong pathway, and where they missed the golden and precious season, which, had they employed it well, would have brought them to far different results. (Hugh Stowell, M.A.)
Universal beneficence the duty of Christians:—The law of Jesus Christ lays Christians under obligations to the whole human race. This is at once its triumph and its difficulty: its triumph as it stands contrasted with moral codes of narrower scope, whether national or religious; its difficulty, when we look upon it as having to be put in practice. “While we have time, let us do good unto all men.” The race which our Lord and Redeemer has honoured by taking its nature upon Him appeals to the thought and energies of all the redeemed. Whether civilized or barbarous, whether European or African, whether Christian or pagan, man, as man, has claims upon the servants of Christ; it is their business and their privilege to do him any good they can: the highest good, before all else—the communication of the True Faith, the bringing him into living contact with the Divine Redeemer, His Person, His Cross, His Spirit, His Word, His Sacraments; and then lesser forms of good, all that we commonly mean by civilization and useful knowledge—alms, advice, medicine, service, means of education, helps to material happiness and progress, as opportunities for doing so may present themselves. (Canon Liddon.)
Benevolence never kills:—Said a speaker at a missionary meeting: I have often heard of congregations starving through niggardliness, but never of one laid on its deathbed through benevolence. If I could find one that had thus suffered by overgiving, I would make a pilgrimage to that church, and pronounce over it this requiem, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
The beauty of beneficence:—An Eastern legend tells us how Abraham wore round his neck a jewel whose light healed the sick and raised up those who were bowed down, and that when he died it was placed amongst the stars. You may see it now among the stars in all holy lives; but, more than that, if such be your desire, your Saviour will grant it to you also, to wear it. No diamond can shine so gloriously on the white neck of beauty, no order blaze so worthily on the breast of noble manhood. It becomes even the sceptred monarch better than his crown. It is the diamond of pure sympathy with your fellow-men. In one word, it is charity. Usually she is painted as nursing young children, and giving dolls to paupers, but with a far greater insight Giotto represents her as a fair matron with her eyes uplifted, trampling on bags of gold, while coming out of heaven an angel from the Lord Christ gives her a human heart. Yes, it is the human heart by which we live—the heart at leisure with itself to soothe and sympathize; the heart which can be as hard as adamant against vice and corruption, but as tender as a mother towards all that suffers and can be healed. (Archdeacon Farrar).
Opportunity:—A sculptor once showed a visitor his studio. It was full of gods. One was very curious. The face was concealed by being covered with hair, and there were wings to each foot. “What is its name?” asked the spectator. “Opportunity,” was the reply. “Why is his face hidden?” “Because men seldom know him when he comes to them.” “Why has he wings upon his feet?” “Because he is soon gone, and once gone he cannot be overtaken.”
Transient nature of opportunity:—Opportunity is like a favouring breeze springing up around a sailing-vessel. If the sails be all set, the ship is wafted onwards to its port; if the sailors are asleep or ashore, the breeze may die again, and when they would go on they cannot: their vessel stands as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean. (Union Magazine.) Opportunity is like a strip of sand which stretches around a seaside cove. The greedy tide is lapping up the sand. The narrow strip will quickly become impassable; and then how sad the fate of the thoughtless children who are now playing and gathering shells and seaweed inside the cove! (Ibid.)
Seizing opportunities:—Coming once down the Ohio River when the water was low, we saw just before us several small boats aground on a sandbar. We knew the channel was where they were not, and, shaping our course accordingly, we went safely by. They saw our intention; and, taking advantage of the light swell we created in passing them, the nearest ones crowded on all steam, and were lifted off the bar. Now, when in life’s stream you are stranded on some bar of temptation, no matter what it is that makes a swell, if it is only an inch under your keel, put on all steam, and swing off into the current. (H. W. Beecher.)
Prepare for opportunities:—Once upon a time, a wild boar of a jungle was whetting his tusks against the trunk of a tree. A fox passing by, asked him why he did this, seeing that neither hunter nor hound was near. “True,” said the boar, “but when danger does arise, I shall have something else to do than to sharpen my weapons!”
The more limited sphere of beneficence:—Humanitarian aspirations, as they are termed, are exhilarating, especially to noble natures: but we cannot all of us do everything. And there is some danger in dreaming of doing it; the danger of ending by doing nothing, on the ground that to do everything is plainly impossible. Schemes which embrace the human race are apt to fade away into vague unattainable outlines, instead of leading to practical and specific results. And, therefore, while our duties towards humanity at large are to be kept in view, as the real measure of our obligation, and as a valuable incentive to generous efforts, our actual enterprises are necessarily restricted to this or that portion of the great human family, which, for us, and for the time being, represents the whole. Hence it is that St. Paul adds to his general exhortation to do good unto all men a specific limitation, “especially unto them that are of the household of faith.” The household of faith! There is no doubt as to the sense of the expression. As the whole human race is one vast family banded together by the indestructable tie of blood, so within this family the possession of a common faith creates another and a selected household, whose members are bound to each other by a yet closer and more sacred bond. Of the natural human family Adam is the departed head and father: the family of faith is grouped around the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, as its ever-living and present Parent. To all members of this family He has given a new and common nature; He has clothed each and all in that sacred Manhood which, after God, “is created in righteousness and true holiness,” whether that precious gift have been forfeited or not. By faith each member of the family understands his relationship, first to the common life-giving Parent, and next to those who are his brethren in virtue of this new and sacred tie. (Canon Liddon.)
Doing good in trifles:—There is a story of a man living on the borders of an African desert, who carried daily a pitcher of cold water to the dusty thoroughfare, and left it for any thirsty traveller who might pass that way.
Doing good by a child:—“Children, I want each of you to bring a new scholar to the school with you next Sunday,” said the superintendent of a Sunday-school to his scholars one day. “I can’t get any new scholars,” said several of the children to themselves. “I’ll try what I can do,” was the whispered response of a few others. One of the latter class went home to his father, and said, “Father, will you go to the Sunday-school with me?” “I can’t read, my son,” replied the father, with a look of shame. “Our teachers will teach you,” answered the boy, with respect and feeling in his tones. “Well, I’ll go,” said the father. He went, learned to read, sought and found the Saviour, and at length became a colporteur. Years passed on, and that man had established four hundred Sunday-schools, into which thirty-five thousand children were gathered! Thus you see what trying did. That boy’s effort was like a tiny rill, which soon swells into a brook, and at length becomes a river. His efforts, by God’s grace, saved his father, and his father, being saved, led thirty-five thousand children to the Sunday-school.
Doing good by little means:—See that well on the mountain-side—a small, rude, rocky cup full of crystal water, and that tiny rill flowing through a breach in its brim. The vessel is so diminutive that it could not contain a supply of water for a single family in a single day. But, ever getting through secret channels, and ever giving by an open overflow, day and night, summer and winter, from year to year, it discharges in the aggregate a volume to which its own capacity bears no appreciable proportion. The flow from that diminutive cup might, in a drought or war, become life to all the inhabitants of a city. It is thus that a Christian, if he is full of mercy and good fruits, is a greater blessing to the world than either himself or his neighbours deem. Let no disciple of Christ either think himself excused, or permit himself to be discouraged from doing good, because his talents and opportunities are few. Your capacity is small, it is true, but if you are in Christ it is the capacity of a well. Although it does not contain much at any moment, so as to attract attention to you for your gifts, it will give forth a great deal in a lifetime, and many will be refreshed. (W. Arnot, M.A.)
The Christian’s duty:—Now let us consider—1. The solemn exhortation or advice given here by the apostle, that is, “Let us do good.” Notwithstanding all the sin and misery that are to be found in the world, yet the world would not be so bad after all, were it not for our own selves. That is, it is we, through our conceit, pride, and unfriendly behaviour to one another, that really constitute and render this world so unpleasant as it is! And if you admit the truth of this statement, then it is obvious that it is the duty of all of us, as true Christians, to endeavour to reform ourselves in the first place, and then try to spread this reformation amongst others by our own good examples. There are some people to be found who will only do good at times, and upon some extraordinary occasions, and then only when they are really ashamed to withhold their hands. 2. The extent of this duty, “Unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith!” You may recollect that when Joseph made himself known unto his brethren in Egypt, and entertained them at a sumptuous dinner, that “Benjamin’s mess was five times as much as any of the others;” and do you recollect the reason of that strange proceeding of his? I will tell you, Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons of Rachel by Jacob, their father, and so they were two brothers by the same father and the same mother, and therefore were more nearly allied to one another than all the rest. And we read that when Joseph first saw his brother Benjamin, “his bowels did yearn upon him, and he sought where to weep.” And so I would have you, my brethren, to follow Joseph’s good example, if ever you shall meet with any member of “the household of faith,” “who in this transitory life is in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity”; then give him more readily and more abundantly than to any one else, for he is more nearly related to you by the Spirit, if not by the flesh, for he is a member of the same Catholic Church as yourself. 3. The time that we are to attend to this most important duty—“As we have an opportunity,” or, “whilst we have the opportunity of this life and as occasions present themselves.” No one offers a word of advice, nor an alms, nor a dose of physic, nor anything else to a dead man. Oh, no! for the time for these things and the like is gone by for ever with regard to him. And so I would have you to bear in mind that it is not after a poor fellow-creature has been left to starve to death with cold and hunger; that it is not after a long “hope deferred” had broken his tender heart in twain, and caused it to cease to beat for ever, that you are to take pity and compassion upon him. Oh, no! but you should do so now while you have him with you, while you can relieve him, and while he can appreciate your good attention, your sympathy and kindness. Some are in the habit of putting poor people off indefinitely when they ask assistance, though perhaps the favour they ask for will be hardly worth receiving, and so the time is lost when it can be of any value to the recipient. For my own part, if I do not get a favour when I beg for it and when I want it, I would not care for it, if the opportunity, or “the time of need” is gone. (H. H. Davies, M.A.)
The Church household an especial scene of kind deeds:—Every one entering a Church has a right to feel that he is going into a higher atmosphere than that in which he has been accustomed to move. Every one has a right to feel that when he goes into the Church of Christ he goes into an association, a brotherhood, where the principle of gentleness and kindness is carried on to a higher degree than it is outside the Church. I know that it is not so. I know that the Church is keyed, often, very low in the matter of sympathy. I know that too frequently persons who go into the Church are like those who go at night to a hotel. Each lodger has his own room, and calls for what he himself needs, and does not feel bound to take care of any of the other lodgers. And a Church, frequently, is nothing but a spiritual boarding-house, where the members are not acquainted with each other, and where there is but very little sympathy. Now, every Church should be under the inspiration of such large sympathy and benevolence as to make every one of its members the object of kindly thought and feeling. There should be a public sentiment and an atmosphere of brotherhood in every Church. (H. W. Beecher.)
Kind deeds to go beyond the Church:—And here I may say, in carrying out this work, beware, while you do not neglect home, that you do not confine the disclosure of yourself to your own household. It is right for a bird to make herself a nest, and put the finest moss and softest feathers in that nest, and it is right that she should sit upon it. It is right that she should have but one chamber—for birds never build for more than themselves and their own. But they are only bird, and do not know any better. It is for us to build a broad nest. To build it so that nobody can get into it but ourselves, to line it with our own prosperity, and so selfishly fill it with everything that is sweet and soft—that is not right. I think that a man’s house ought to be a magazine of kindness. Its windows ought to send out light. I like, when I go by a house at night, to see the window-shutters open, so that the light shines forth from inside. A person says, “I will put this clump of flowers under the parlour window.” No, no; put them by the gate. A thousand will see them there, where one would see them in that other place. A person says, “I will put this plant where nobody can reach it.” Well, do; but put two close to the fence, where they can be reached. I like to see little hands go through the pickets and pluck off flowers. And if you say, “That is stealing,” then let it be understood through all the neighbourhood that it is not stealing. There are some who seem to have such a sense of property that if they had a hundred magnolia trees in full blossom on their premises, they would want the wind to blow from the north, and south, and east, and west, so that all the fragrance would come into their own house; whereas the true spirit would be a desire that a thousand others should be blessed by these bounties as well as themselves. Make your dwelling beautiful; but not for your own eyes alone. Fill it sumptuously, if you have the grace to rightly use that sumptuosity Let the feet of the poor step on your plushy carpet. Let their eyes behold the rich furniture of your apartments. Would it make their home less to them? Not necessarily. If you take a child by the hand—you, whose name is great in the town; you, who tower up in power above all your neighbours; if you lay your hand on his head, and call him “Sonny;” if you bring him into your house; if you go to the cupboard and take out the unfamiliar cake, or what not, that children so much like (for the senses must be appealed to in childhood before the spirit can be reached; and by feeding the mouth of a child you come to his affections and feelings); if you show him your rooms, and give him something in his pocket to carry home and show his aunt or sister, do you suppose that child ever thinks you are stuck up, or looks on you with an unkindly eye? When he comes into the neighbourhood again, and your house dawns upon him, he remembers, the moment he sees it, how happy you made him there. And that house of yours can be made to bless generation after generation. (Ibid.)
Doing good according to opportunity:—
- There is good which Christians can do. This is a common thing to notice, and you may think it is not likely to be overlooked. Perhaps not, as far as the eyes are concerned, but certainly liable to be overlooked so far as the heart and the hand are concerned. To do good (as we all should say if we were asked to define it), is to secure by our own efforts the welfare of others. The doing good to human nature, as it is made up of body and spirit, is required of us by our God, but beside this we are all required to do good to others in all the variety of condition in which they are found. Hence we have such particular directions as, to doing good to them that hate us, giving meat and drink and raiment to the poor, visiting the sick and the prisoner, the widow and the fatherless, holding forth the word of life, and distributing to the necessity of saints. What a wide and life-long service do these two words cover, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good.”
- To do good there must be both intention and exertion, aim and effort. Benefits sometimes accrue to men from their fellow-men without any intention or effort on the part of those who are the channels of good; but being the channel of good or the occasion of doing good, and the willing and active agent, are widely different things. It is one thing to lose a piece of money, which is picked up by a beggar, and by which he supplies his wants, and another thing to give that beggar money for the purchase of food. The man is fed in both cases, but the ministering is only in the one case. It is one thing to utter words at random by which bystanders are instructed, and another thing to endeavour, as in the case of our devoted Sabbath school and ragged school teachers, steadily and perseveringly to impart instruction to the ignorant. The difference here is as broad and as clear and as palpable as that between the stone head of a fountain through which the water flows, and from which you drink, and the loving hand which brings you a cup of water that has been intentionally, thoughtfully, and sympathetically filled for you at that fountain. Doing good partially, if self-originated and self-willed, is easy; but to do good fully we must overcome much within ourselves. Then we must do it as servants—not when and as we like, but when and as the great Master bids us. Moreover, real good is not done except by labour of some sort. In the sweat of the brow we not only eat bread, but we cast bread on the waters.
III. The kind of good done and the amount must both be governed by what Paul here calls “opportunity.” Circumstances being suitable for a particular ministration, we must minister; and circumstances fix the time and place, and the means, and the powers of the individual. They say to him, Thou art the man to do this thing here, and to do this thing now. “Opportunity” is that season in which we can minister to the benefit of others. Our opportunities test us. You will always see that a man is just what he is to his opportunities. You will find this in every walk of life. Opportunities test us Christians. Some opportunities are rare, others are common; some are fleeting, others abide. “The poor,” said Jesus, “are always with you, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good;” here is the permanent, abiding opportunity. “But Me ye have not always;” here is the fleeting, passing opportunity. Doing good, dear brethren, if men be faithful to their trust, never can be monotonous. (S. Martin.)
On doing good:—
- Illustrate the duty in the text. 1. The duty inculcated is goodness. Now this necessarily supposes that we are renewed in our mind. In our natural state, we cannot do good. We must first be made partakers of Divine goodness before we can diffuse it abroad. The Christian may do good—(1) By the exhibition of a pious example. Thus to be monitors to those around. (2) By imparting spiritual instruction. (3) By our prayers and supplications (See 1 Tim. 2:1). (4) By imparting of our substance to the poor and necessitous. 2. The extent of the goodness we are to exercise—“To all men.” 3. The seasonableness and constancy of our goodness—“As we have opportunity.” 4. The preference appointed—“Especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
- Enforce the duty is the text. 1. The commands of God require it. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” &c. (Psa. 37:3; 1 Tim. 6:18). 2. Our resemblance to God requires it. If we are His spiritual offspring, then we must be followers of God as dear children. 3. The example of Christ requires it. “He went about doing good.” 4. The Spirit of God within us requires it. “The fruit of the Spirit is … goodness.” 5. Our own happiness requires it. It enlarges the mind, expands the heart, elevates to the most heavenly dignities and enjoyments. 6. Our acquittal at the last day requires it (Matt. 25:34, &c.). Application: 1. Does not the subject condemn most of the professed disciples of Christ? How few have their hearts set upon doing good! How few do all the good they can! 2. Let it lead us to a closer acquaintance with the Lord’s will, and provoke us to love and good works. 3. A religion without goodness is not of God, and shall not receive a reward at the last day. (J. Burns, D.D.)
The witness to the ennobling principle:—Life is a work. The best efforts of the human spirit spring from the energy of an artist toiling at himself. And just as Van Eyck, or Memling, or Dürer, each possessed “the sacred science of colour,” each noted faithfully the teachings of experience, each rose into some vision of a better country, drew down the results of that vision to the practical purposes of daily life; and neither neglected the claims of the present nor forgot the solemn certainties of another world; so the human spirit, alive to its responsibility, and therefore to the need of sorrowful toil here, without the reminding of the preacher, hears voices like passing bells, now loud, now dying; sounds tossed up in sorrowing cadence, surging and solemn, mystical and threatening, like the roll of the Atlantic in the caves of Cornwall; or tender and saddening, like the water of the spreading surf on the sands of the Adrian Sea; and the voices, whether loud or soft, whether threatening or tender, are chanting an unchanging story: “Death is coming, diligence and fortitude; life is passing, use it while you may.” Listening to these the human spirit works in the vision, with the sense of eternity; unites the ideal and the practical, strives to make idealism into realised result, does not merely travel a destitute journey, nor work a work fruitless to others as well as self, but exercises in the highest of all subjects, with the possibility of the most lasting results, exercises an artist’s powers. I. Let us note swiftly some of the characteristic features of the self-sacrificing temper, the productive principle of a noble life. 1. First we may note what is negative. In a really self-sacrificing temper there is the absence of that miserable taint and bane of rich and gifted natures which the Greeks would describe as a withering ὕβρις—an insolent scorn. The self sacrificing spirit, believe me, will not lose faith in human nature; will learn for itself simple-hearted sincerity; will not demand too much from others; will “possess” itself “in patience,” and thus lay a stern arrest upon the too natural encroachments of ὕβρις—of insolent scorn. 2. Another mark of a self-sacrificing temper is a sincere, a supernatural, a gentle yet chastened sorrow. “Sorrow!” you say; “why, that is nothing so strikingly exceptional.” A short experience of the most shallow observer says “there is plenty of sorrow! It requires no special gaze on eternity, it demands no yearning desire for a higher life, to find one’s self plunged in the mystery of sorrow.” Quite so; but stay. There are violets and violets. The violet of the bleak hedge-side on the edge of the windy common, cramped with the crisping frost and shrivelled by the withering storm, is generically the same, but in individual fact how different from those rich masses of unfathomable colour which carpet the ruined pavement of Hadrian’s Villa. So there is sorrow and sorrow. There is the sorrow of a broken life, the sorrow of a greedy, unsatisfied desire, the sorrow of a degraded moral purpose, and the sorrow of a brave and tender soul, which sees the beauty of the ideal and the sadness of partial failure, and yet, though sorrowing, does not faint or grow weary; which realizes the possibility of human progress, and is heartstricken at the spectacle of men with gifts of noble nature living for the changeful and passing, when they might live for what can never die. This sorrow is an outcome of the self-sacrificing temper. Is it yours? Are you sorry when wrong is done? sorry at the record of wretchedness and the chronicle of crime; sorry at lives with possibilities of glory falling into the depths, missing the standard, the example of Christ? Is yours such sorrow as stimulates you to read and obey the secret of this unearthly loveliness? Is your soul’s life touched into activity by the tragedy of human misery and the tragedy of the cross? Blessed are ye if it be so. Then it is the principal anxiety of your life to enrich the lives of others. This is the witness of self-sacrifice. 3. And a third feature of such a temper is a sunny earnestness. What is earnestness? It is not gloom, it is not grim determination, it is not dogged persistence, it is not revolting narrowness, or wearying one-sidedness, or stupid and tormenting fanaticism. What is earnestness? Earnestness is that temper of mind, that habit of thought which comes of taking, of habitually taking, the truths of eternity as realities, as in fact they are. II. Let us ask, then, what ground can be shown for cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice? 1. My brothers, first, unquestionably first, a loving gratitude. Christ died for you. If you have a grain of gratitude in you for the highest blessings, act by grace towards Him in the spirit in which He has acted towards you. 2. And another ground is a wise and gracious estimate of the dignity of man. Man is an animal; yes, but man is also a spirit; mysterious instincts within him—despite the passing crotchets of sciolists and dreamers—witness to him his immortality. III. And now for the result. Self-sacrifice is the ennobling principle. It ennobles the world; it fertilizes the soul. How? For all man it leaves behind rich memories and great examples; it shows thus what man can, and therefore what man ought, to do, and encourages to use the strength God gives to do it. And again, it enriches the individual soul. It is strange, yet it is true, that to give in love increases the store of love within us; strange, but true, that self-love weakens the moral fibre and impoverishes life; strange, but true, that self-sacrifice stores moral treasures, and produces moral power. IV. “While we have time let us do good.” What is life then but a severe probation to test the metal of our souls, and prove their value? “While we have time let us do good.” Nay, what is life then but a careful education, wherein stern circumstances and trials—the calls of duty, and the sharp assaults of sorrow combine, or may combine with inward principle, to train the soul, to “try us and turn us forth sufficiently impressed.” “While we have time.” Nay, what is life but a great opportunity, though an opportunity not perhaps to leave behind the rich results of patient and daring investigation, or the astounding stores of accumulated knowledge, yet something better? While you have time! The days are travelling on, the night is coming, let us bestir ourselves to assist in the triumph of goodness, let us act in self-sacrifice, and so let us advance—oh! blessed opportunity—advance the kingdom of Christ. (Canon Knox-Little.)
- The principle of Christian beneficence. The excellence of any action in the sight of a heart-searching and holy God, depends entirely on the motive from whence it proceeds, and on the spirit with which it is performed. Christian beneficence is founded in the noblest of principles—love to our God and Redeemer.
- The objects of Christian beneficence. True believers are united to each other by the most sacred and indissoluble bonds.
III. The qualities of Christian beneficence. 1. Active in its nature. 2. Constant and unwearied in its operations.
- The value of Christian beneficence. (John Hunter, D.D.)
- The nature. 1. Preserving goodness. 2. Uniting goodness. 3. Communicating goodness.
- The rules. We must do good—1. With that which is our own (1 Chron. 21:24). 2. With cheerfulness and alacrity (2 Cor. 9.). 3. So that we do not disable ourselves from doing good (Psa. 90:14; 112:5; 2 Cor. 3; 8:13).
III. The reasons. 1. From the grounds of love and beneficence, which are in all men. 2. From the example of God Himself (Matt. 5:44, 45). 3. The testimony of Christ (Acts 20:35). (R. Cudworth.)
- God made all things to do good.
- Christ saves men in order that they may do good.
III. Do good because—1. God commands it. 2. It will overcome evil. 3. It will make you happy. 4. It will make others happy. 5. Others will then do good to us. (W. Newton.)
The occasion for the injunction:—The admonition is thrown into a general form, but it has evidently a special application in the apostle’s own mind (see 1 Cor. 16:1). He had solicited their alms for the suffering brethren of Judaea. The messenger who had brought him word of the spread of Judaism among the Galatians had also, I suppose, reported unfavourably of their liberality. They had not responded heartily to the appeal. He reproves them in consequence for their backwardness; but he wishes to give them more time, and therefore refrains from prejudging the case. (Bp. Lightfoot.)
Beneficence:—Give what you have. To some it may be better than you dare to think. (Longfellow.) There may be a furlough from our customary work; there can be none from doing good. There may be change of scene and place and fellowship; there must be none in the spirit of self-sacrificing beneficence. (A. L. Stone.)
The danger of selfishness:—Let us proportion our alms to our ability, lest we provoke God to proportion His blessings to our alms. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Seizing opportunities:—A lady once writing to a young man in the navy, who was almost a stranger, thought, “Shall I close this as anybody would, or shall I say a word for my Master?” and lifting up her heart for a moment, she wrote, telling him that his constant change of scene and place was an apt illustration of the word, “Here we have no continuing city,” and asked if he could say, “I seek one to come.” Trembling she folded it, and sent it off. Back came the answer: “Thank you so much for those kind words. I am an orphan, and no one has spoken to me like that since my mother died, long years ago.” The arrow, shot at a venture, hit home, and the young man shortly afterward rejoiced in the fulness of the gospel of peace. How often do we, as Christians, close a letter to those we know have no hope “as anybody would,” when we might say a word for Jesus! Shall we not embrace each opportunity in the future?
Do good to all men:—Some years ago a society was formed in London which called itself the “Titus Society.” It took its name from Titus, the Roman Emperor, who counted a day lost in which he had not done some act for the good of others. The members of this society bound themselves to act on this benevolent principle. In this they did well; but their obligation lay back of their pledge, inasmuch as the voice of God in Scripture and in the love He pours into every regenerate heart is constantly saying, “Do good! Do good!” There is no need of looking far to find the opportunity, since sorrow, suffering, ignorance, poverty, and sin are everywhere. No one who walks the streets with his eyes open can fail to find some one to whom a kind word, a pleasant smile, a small gift, a few words of instruction or of exhortation, or even a cordial grasp of the hand, would be a benediction. To encourage such effort the God of love has ordained that the satisfaction of doing good is greater than that of receiving a favour. In the laws of the kingdom of Christ, is it not written that “it is more blessed to give than to receive?”
American. Lost opportunities:—A poor fellow in connection with a Liverpool mission lay dying the other day, and, as his mother stood by his side, he said, “Mother, I shall soon be with Christ, but it makes me miserable to think that I have never done aught for Him.” Yes, it will make you miserable when you come to die, if you have done nothing for Christ. I charge you to go away and consecrate yourselves to this work. Listen to the cries of the heathen world—“What must we do to be saved?”
The Expansion of the Exhortation (6:10)
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Notice Paul relates this verse to what he has written, So then. This is the conclusion. He builds on the exhortation that we are to persevere in our sowing, in verse 9, ‘Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap.’ Therefore, let us sow while there is opportunity. This exhortation reminds us of the exhortations of the Saviour, ‘Walk while it is day’ (John 11:9); ‘Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest’ (John 4:35); ‘Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’ (Matt. 9:38). Today is a time of work and the apostle reminds us to seize the opportunity. Seize the opportunity and do not grow weary; boldly plunge into the labour.
Furthermore he expands from support for the ministry to service in the body of Christ: Do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Yes, you are to care for your ministers, but you are to do much more. You are to direct your charity, your giving of yourself, as well as your service, to those in the church. The phrase household of the faith refers to those who are marked out by the faith of the Bible; those in the local congregation who profess that faith. We are to seek to do good to all men, but our first responsibility is to our brothers and sisters in the church. Paul does not mean that we are to focus our attention exclusively on our own congregation; yet we begin in our congregation, next sister congregations in the presbytery and denomination, and then to all evangelical Christians. Neither does he rule out helping those in the world. But our first priority is our brother and sister in the Church.
6:10 “So then, while we have opportunity” Believers must continue to watch for opportunities to live out their faith in Christ (cf. Col. 4:2–6).
© “let us do good” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE (deponent) SUBJUNCTIVE. Paul states with conviction that our standing with God does not come by human effort, but he is equally emphatic that once we know God we should live a life of strenuous service. These twin truths are found in Eph. 2:8–9, 10. We are not saved by good works, but we are most definitely saved unto good works.
© “to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” Notice that our love is meant for all people for there is always a view toward evangelism in all of our actions (cf. Matt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 9:19–23; 1 Pet. 3:15). However, our primary focus is on members of the family of God. This is not denominationally focused for we are to take a person at his word that he has trusted in Christ. Once he has made that confession we are to serve him as Christ served us.
10. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everybody.… Here again the negative—“Do not grow weary,” “Do not give up”—is followed by the positive, “Let us do good.” Perseverance in good works as a product of grace is what Paul is constantly urging (3:3; 5:7, 18, 25; 6:2). God preserves his people by means of their perseverance. The power to persevere is from him; the responsibility is theirs. Accordingly, as long as—and since—we have opportunity, let us at each and every occasion that presents itself do good to everybody. The believer has been placed on this earth for a purpose. The best way to prepare for Christ’s second coming is to use to the full every opportunity of rendering service. Moreover, this service should be rendered to everybody regardless of race, nationality, class, religion, sex, or anything else. As our lord’s active love overleaped boundaries (Luke 9:54, 55; 10:25–37; 17:11–19; John 4:42; 1 Tim. 4:10), so should ours. This, however, does not mean that there is no sphere of special concern. This is altogether to be expected. Parents, for example, have a duty toward their neighbors. Nevertheless, their first obligation is toward their own children. So also here. Paul says: and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. In this respect, too, we should imitate our heavenly Father, “who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” For explanation see N.T.C. on 1 Tim. 4:10. Note the term, full of comfort, “the household of the faith.” All believers constitute one family, “the Father’s Family” (see N.T.C. on Eph. 3:14, 15). See also 1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15; and let us not forget Ps. 133. By the term “the household of the faith” is meant those who share the gospel. With respect to material aid, is it not altogether probable that it was exactly this “household of the faith” that was most direly in need of such assistance?
6:10. The believer is to do good to both believers and unbelievers with believers having priority. Christians in that era suffered great economic hardship as a result of rejection and persecution. With no government assistance programs, they had no one else to help but other believers. Though Christians should be willing to help anyone in need, caring for fellow believers is still a priority.
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