For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ - This was the strongest argument of all; and it is urged home by the apostle with admirable address.
Ye know - Ye are acquainted with God's ineffable love in sending Jesus Christ into the world; and ye know the grace - the infinite benevolence of Christ himself.
That, though he was rich - The possessor, as he was the creator, of the heavens and the earth; for your sakes he became poor - he emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross; that ye, through his poverty - through his humiliation and death, might be rich - might regain your forfeited inheritance, and be enriched with every grace of his Holy Spirit, and brought at last to his eternal glory.
If Jesus Christ, as some contend, were only a mere man, in what sense could he be said to be rich? His family was poor in Bethlehem; his parents were very poor also; he himself never possessed any property among men from the stable to the cross; nor had he any thing to bequeath at his death but his peace. And in what way could the poverty of one man make a multitude rich? These are questions which, on the Socinian scheme, can never be satisfactorily answered.
For ye know - The apostle Paul was accustomed to illustrate every subject, and to enforce every duty where it could be done, by a reference to the life and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The design of this verse is apparent. It is, to show the duty of giving liberally to the objects of benevolence, from the fact that the Lord Jesus was willing to become poor in order that he might benefit others. The idea is, that he who was Lord and proprietor of the universe, and who possessed all things, was willing to leave his exalted station in the bosom of the Father and to become poor, in order that we might become rich in the blessings of the gospel, in the means of grace, and as heirs of all things; and that we who are thus benefitted, and who have such an example, should be willing to part with our earthly possessions in order that we may benefit others.
The grace - The benignity, kindness, mercy, goodness. His coming in this manner was a proof of the highest benevolence.
Though he was rich - The riches of the Redeemer here referred to, stand opposed to that poverty which he assumed and manifested when he dwelt among people. It implies:
(1) His pre-existence, because he became poor. He had been rich. Yet not in this world. He did not lay aside wealth here on earth after he had possessed it, for he had none. He was not first rich and then poor on earth, for he had no earthly wealth. The Socinian interpretation is, that he was “rich in power and in the Holy Spirit;” but it was not true that he laid these aside, and that he became poor in either of them. He had power, even in his poverty, to still the waves, and to raise the dead, and he was always full of the Holy Spirit. His family was poor; and his parents were poor; and he was himself poor all his life. This then must refer to a state of antecedent riches before his assumption of human nature; and the expression is strikingly parallel to that in Philemon 2:6 ff. “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation,” etc.
(2) he was rich as the Lord and proprietor of all things. He was the Creator of all John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, and as Creator he had a right to all things, and the disposal of all things. The most absolute right which can exist is that acquired by the act of creation; and this right the Son of God possessed over all gold, and silver, and diamonds, and pearls; over all earth and lands; over all the treasures of the ocean, and over all worlds. The extent and amount of his riches, therefore, is to be measured by the extent of his dominion over the universe; and to estimate his riches, therefore, we are to conceive of the scepter which he sways over the distant worlds. What wealth has man that can compare with the riches of the Creator and Proprietor of all? How poor and worthless appears all the gold that man can accumulate compared with the wealth of him whose are the silver, and the gold, and the cattle upon a thousand hills?
Yet for your sakes - That is, for your sakes as a part of the great family that was to be redeemed. In what respect it was for their sake, the apostle immediately adds when he says, it was that they might be made rich. It was not for his own sake, but it was for ours.
He became poor - In the following respects:
(1) He chose a condition of poverty, a rank of life that was usually that of poverty. He “took upon himself the form of a servant;” Philemon 2:7.
(2) he was connected with a poor family. Though of the family and lineage of David Luke 2:4, yet the family had fallen into decay, and was poor. In the Old Testament he is beautifully represented as a shoot or sucker that starts up from the root of a decayed tree; see my note on Isaiah 11:1.
(3) his whole life was a life of poverty. He had no home; Luke 9:58. He chose to be dependent on the charity of the few friends that he drew around him, rather than to create food for the abundant supply of his own needs. He had no farms or plantations; he had no splendid palaces; he had no money hoarded in useless coffers or in banks; he had no property to distribute to his friends. His mother he commended when he died to the charitable attention of one of his disciples John 19:27, and all his personal property seems to have been the raiment which he wore, and which was divided among the soldiers that crucified him. Nothing is more remarkable than the difference between the plans of the Lord Jesus and those of many of his followers and professed friends. He formed no plan for becoming rich, and he always spoke with the deepest earnestness of the dangers which attend an effort to accumulate property. He was among the most poor of the sons of people in his life; and few have been the people on earth who have not had as much as he had to leave to surviving friends, or to excite the cupidity of those who should fall heirs to their property when dead.
(4) he died poor. He made no will in regard to his property, for he had none to dispose of. He knew well enough the effect which would follow if he had amassed wealth, and had left it to be divided among his followers. They were very imperfect; and even around the cross there might have been anxious discussion, and perhaps strife about it, as there is often now over the coffin and the unclosed grave of a rich and foolish father who has died. Jesus intended that his disciples should never be turned away from the great work to which he called them by any wealth which he would leave them; and he left them not even a keepsake as a memorial of his name. All this is the more remarkable from two considerations:
(a) That he had it in his power to choose the manner in which he would come. He might have come in the condition of a splendid prince. He might have rode in a chariot of ease, or have dwelt in a magnificent palace. He might have lived with more than the magnificence of an oriental prince, and might have bequeathed treasures greater than those of Croesus or Solomon to his followers. But he chose not to do it.
(b) It would have been as right and proper for him to have amassed wealth, and to have sought princely possessions, as for any of his followers. What is right for them would have been right for him. People often mistake on this subject; and though it cannot be demonstrated that all his followers should aim to be as poor as he was, yet it is undoubtedly true that he meant that his example should operate constantly to check their desire of amassing wealth. In him it was voluntary; in us there should be always a readiness to be poor if such be the will of God; nay, there should he rather a preference to be in moderate circumstances that we may thus be like the Redeemer.
That ye through his poverty might be rich - That is, might have durable and eternal riches, the riches of God‘s everlasting favor. This includes:
(1) The present possession of an interest in the Redeemer himself. “Do you see these extended fields?” said the owner of a vast plantation to a friend. “They are mine. All this is mine.” “Do you see yonder poor cottage?” was the reply of the friend as he directed his attention to the abode of a poor widow. “She has more than all this. She has Christ as her portion; and that is more than all.” He who has an interest in the Redeemer has a possession that is of more value than all that princes can bestow.
(2) the heirship of an eternal inheritance, the prospect of immortal glory; Romans 8:17.
(3) everlasting treasures in heaven. Thus, the Saviour compares the heavenly blessings to treasures; Matthew 6:20. Eternal and illimitable wealth is theirs in heaven; and to raise us to that blessed inheritance was the design of the Redeemer in consenting to become poor. This, the apostle says, was to he secured by his poverty. This includes probably the two following things, namely,
(a) That it was to be by the moral influence of the fact that he was poor that people were to be blessed he designed by his example to counteract the effect of wealth; to teach people that this was not the thing to be aimed at; that there were more important purposes of life than to obtain money; and to furnish a perpetual reproof of those who are aiming to amass riches. The example of the Redeemer thus stands before the whole church and the world as a living and constant memorial of the truth that people need other things than wealth; and that there are objects that demand their time and influence other than the accumulation of property. It is well to have such an example; well to have before us the example of one who never formed any plan for gain, and who constantly lived above the world. In a world where gain is the great object, where all people are forming plans for it, it is well to have one great model that shall continually demonstrate the folly of it, and that shall point to better things.
(b) The word “poverty” here may include more than a mere lack of property. It may mean all the circumstances of his low estate and humble condition; his sufferings and his woes. The whole train of his privations was included in this; and the idea is, that he gave himself to this lowly condition in order that by his sufferings he might procure for us a part in the kingdom of heaven. His poverty was a part of the sufferings included in the work of the atonement. For it was not the sufferings of the garden merely, or the pangs of the cross, that constituted the atonement; it was the series of sorrows and painful acts of humiliation which so thickly crowded his life. By all these he designed that we should be made rich; and in view of all these the argument of the apostle is, we should be willing to deny ourselves to do good to others.
What a sight was this for Heaven to look upon! Christ, who knew not the least taint of sin or defilement, took our nature in its deteriorated condition. This was humiliation greater than finite man can comprehend. God was manifest in the flesh. He humbled Himself. What a subject for thought, for deep, earnest contemplation! So infinitely great that He was the Majesty of heaven, and yet He stooped so low, without losing one atom of His dignity and glory! He stooped to poverty and to the deepest abasement among men. For our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. “The foxes have holes,” He said, “and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). 1SM 253.1
Christ submitted to insult and mockery, contempt and ridicule. He heard His message, which was fraught with love and goodness and mercy, misstated and misapplied. He heard Himself called the prince of demons, because He testified to His divine Sonship. His birth was supernatural, but by His own nation, those who had blinded their eyes to spiritual things, it was regarded as a blot and a stain. There was not a drop of our bitter woe which He did not taste, not a part of our curse which He did not endure, that He might bring many sons and daughters to God. 1SM 253.2
The fact that Jesus was on this earth as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, that in order to save fallen man from eternal ruin, He left His heavenly home, should lay in the dust all our pride, put to shame all our vanity, and reveal to us the sin of self-sufficiency. Behold Him making the wants, the trials, the griefs and sufferings of sinful men His own. Can we not take home the lesson that God endured these sufferings and bruises of soul in consequence of sin? 1SM 253.3Read in context »
The owner of all our earthly treasures came to our world in human form. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. We cannot appreciate how deeply interested He must be in the human family. He knows the value of every soul. What grief oppressed Him as He saw His purchased inheritance charmed with Satan's inventions! CS 136.1
The only satisfaction Satan takes in playing the game of life for the souls of men is the satisfaction he takes in hurting the heart of Christ. Though He was rich, for our sake Christ became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. Yet in view of this great fact, the majority of the world permit earthly possessions to eclipse heavenly attractions. They set their affections upon earthly things, and turn away from God. What a grievous sin it is that men will not come to their senses, and understand how foolish it is to permit inordinate affections for earthly things to expel the love of God from the heart. When the love of God is expelled, the love of the world quickly flows in to supply the vacuum. The Lord alone can cleanse the soul temple from the moral defilement. CS 136.2Read in context »
He who embezzles his Lord's goods not only loses the talent lent him of God, but loses eternal life. Of him it is said: “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” The faithful servant, who invests his money in the cause of God to save souls, employs his means to the glory of God and will receive the commendation of the Master: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” What will be this joy of our Lord? It will be the joy of seeing souls saved in the kingdom of glory. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 3T 387.1
The idea of stewardship should have a practical bearing upon all the people of God. The parable of the talents, rightly understood, will bar out covetousness, which God calls idolatry. Practical benevolence will give spiritual life to thousands of nominal professors of the truth who now mourn over their darkness. It will transform them from selfish, covetous worshipers of mammon to earnest, faithful co-workers with Christ in the salvation of sinners. 3T 387.2
The foundation of the plan of salvation was laid in sacrifice. Jesus left the royal courts and became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. All who share this salvation, purchased for them at such an infinite sacrifice by the Son of God, will follow the example of the true Pattern. Christ was the chief Cornerstone, and we must build upon this Foundation. Each must have a spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice. The life of Christ upon earth was unselfish; it was marked with humiliation and sacrifice. And shall men, partakers of the great salvation which Jesus came from heaven to bring them, refuse to follow their Lord and to share in His self-denial and sacrifice? Says Christ: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The very vital principle, the sap which flows through the vine, nourishes the branches, that they may flourish and bear fruit. Is the servant greater than his Lord? Shall the world's Redeemer practice self-denial and sacrifice on our account, and the members of Christ's body practice self-indulgence? Self-denial is an essential condition of discipleship. 3T 387.3Read in context »
Already a great deal of time has been wasted, and angels bear to heaven the record of our neglects. Our sleepy and unconsecrated condition has lost to us precious opportunities which God has sent us in the persons of those who were qualified to help us in our present need. Oh, how much we need our Hannah More to aid us at this time in reaching other nations! Her extensive knowledge of missionary fields would give us access to those of other tongues whom we cannot now approach. God brought this gift among us to meet our present emergency; but we prized not the gift, and He took her from us. She is at rest from her labors, but her self-denying works follow her. It is to be deplored that our missionary work should be retarded for the want of knowledge how to gain access to the different nations and localities in the great harvest field. 3T 407.1
We feel anguish of spirit because some gifts are lost to us that we might now have if we had only been awake. Laborers have been kept back from the whitening harvest. It becomes the people of God to humble their hearts before Him, and in the deepest humiliation to pray the Lord to pardon our apathy and selfish indulgence, and to blot out the shameful record of duties neglected and privileges unimproved. In contemplation of the cross of Calvary the true Christian will abandon the thought of restricting his offerings to that which costs him nothing and will hear in trumpet tones: 3T 408.1
Go, labor in My vineyard;
There's resting by and by. 3T 408.2