Alfred Place Baptist Church

10:1-3 The Meekness and Gentleness of Christ

2 Corinthians 10:1-3 “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you – I, Paul, who am ‘timid’ when face to face with you, but ‘bold’ when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.”

In this tenth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul is beginning a new section which turns out to be the final part of the book. We here meet a distinct change of tone, and that might be due in part to a break of days or weeks before Paul continued and completed this long letter. As we study these chapters we discover that Paul is turning his attention to the opposition he was meeting from a group of people in the Corinthian congregation. Maybe the core of the hostility centred on some Jews in particular who had converted to Christ. These men were now claiming that they were apostles as well as Paul. Colin Kruze, a lecturer in New Testament at Ridley College in Melbourne, characterises Paul’s opponents in this way, “They highly prize eloquent speech, displays of authority, visions and revelations, and the performance of mighty works as the signs of a true apostle” (Colin Kruze, “2 Corinthians”, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, IVP, 1987, p.171). While David Prior, former vicar of St Aldate’s in Oxford, having studied the final four chapters, attributes to Paul’s enemies at least ten characteristics: “accusing other people of operating ‘in the flesh’; writing off the ministry of other men; mutual rivalry; pride in visible results; claiming credit themselves for the work of others; an emphasis on fine speaking; discovery of new truth; insistence that others support them financially; ambitious and authoritarian leadership; attaching overriding importance to visions and revelations” (David Prior, “The Suffering and the Glory: Balanced Christian Discipleship,” Hodder & Stoughton, 1985, p.175). Those were the men undermining the leadership of the apostle Paul.

1. PAUL DOES ANSWER HIS OPPONENTS.

Their presence and activities in the church raises the question as to what extent are Christians to answer fault-finders and critics? There is certainly a time to be silent. The Lord Jesus was as dumb as a lamb before its shearers when he stood on trial before Herod. He said nothing in his own defence there, but, then, he did speak up before Pilate and the chief priests. Often the most God-honouring thing a man can do is be silent and leave his vindication to God. Peter exhorts his persecuted readers, “Entrust yourself to the one who judges justly.” No congregation knows its preacher’s heart. If they were made aware of the extent of the minister’s sins they would never listen to his preaching again. God veils a preacher’s sins from his congregation. A minister will mean it when he acknowledges sadly, “I’m the worst sinner in the town.” So often it is best to be quiet and to say to oneself, “My opponents don’t know half of what is true about me.”

But Paul was not only a true apostle of the Lord Christ, a witness of the resurrected Lord, one who had received authority to teach in the name of Jesus. Hear him for that reason alone! But he also had a special relationship with many of the Corinthians. He was their spiritual father. If his spiritual children began to reject his leadership then they would be inclined to reject what he had been teaching them, and that was the only gospel there is, or ever will be. So Paul was in a cleft stick. If he defended himself he might be considered self-serving. If he were silent, the Corinthians, who were hearing constant criticisms about him, might also lose their trust in his God-given message, and they could easily end up in some Christian cult like the Essenes or the hundreds of mystery religions that were to be found in Achaia and Macedonia.

So Paul thankfully does speak up movingly, and yet with a sense of embarrassment that this has been forced upon him, and he does defend his ministry to the Corinthians, and to ourselves, and all the people of God for the last 1900 years. We have got these final four chapters in 2 Corinthians which tell us why it is crucial to trust what the apostle Paul writes. These words are part of our redemption, of that divine process which prepares us for heaven. Criticism of the apostle Paul never ends, and never will. Yesterday in the “Spectator” there was a review of a religious book, and the reviewer complained that the author’s “commentary neglects Paul, the genius who turned a Jewish messiah into a divine saviour.” The conjurer! What did the reviewer think Paul did? We are solemnly informed that, “he invented a new ‘sacred drama’ to replace the old one which no longer succeeded in providing faith and hope” (Sidney Brichto’s review of Jack Miles’ “Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God”, Spectator, 15/22 December 2001, p.60). Paul, the inventive religious genius! The same tired criticisms of the apostle Paul which he met in Greece in the fifth decade of the Christian era are heard again this week, that Paul was confused and authoritarian, a devious man who had distorted the life of the Lord Christ, while such pure critics as these, called Brichto, or Miles, of course, they all know better than Paul! No one has ever called Paul an evil man except those who know him not.

2. ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS ARE IN A BATTLE.

Paul is aware that the church is involved in one long battle. The ministry is war. It is not some pleasant job where we clock off at 5 pm and take no work home with us. It has to be round the clock fighting in the armies of the Prince of Peace against his enemies. If they know that we believe in the New Testament, in the Lord Jesus and his apostles (and so also believe in the Old Testament), then we will be targets for their arrows. That must occur if we stand near to the King. The archers are going to aim at him and hit us. How then do people like ourselves cope in this war? Paul had seen the marching soldiers of Rome everywhere, individuals, groups of men on duty and off duty, armies leaving for distant parts or returning home at some busy harbour. Paul says to the Corinthians, “we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (vv. 3&4).

Consider how the world fights: in the early hours of September 11 2001, the nineteen hijackers who were to launch their attacks on New York and Washington washed, polished their shoes and checked their wills after a restless night of remembering and praying. They headed out to kill almost 5,000 innocents, and took away for ever a parent from 10,000 children. One of them, named Muhammad Atta, was at the controls of the first airliner to hit the World Trade Centre. He had read a five-page handwritten document which was probably authored by the overall mastermind of the hijacking. It had exhorted him, as also the others, not to falter in the face of fear, to remember his knife, and to embrace death: “When the time of truth comes and zero hour arrives, then straighten out your clothes, open your chest and welcome death for the sake of Allah … you should pray, you should fast. You should ask God for guidance, you should ask God for help. Continue to pray throughout this night. Continue to recite the Koran. Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has gone. The time of judgment has arrived” (The Times, September 29, 2001, quoting from the Washington Post). Some of the incidents which are also recorded on those five pages of large notepaper are scenes taken from Islamic history such as one when Mohammed and 100 men had allegedly triumphed over 1,000 infidels. Obeying all the exhortations of this terror manual the 19 hijackers boarded their three planes on September 11 and utterly ruthlessly, without any mercy, killed some air-stewardesses with their Stanley knives, and then by crashing the planes killed themselves, all the other crew members, the passengers, and thousands in the buildings in New York and Washington. That is how the world wages war. The USA and UK respond with massive targeted bombing of the Taleban army in Afghanistan. Such are the weapons of the world, threat, terror, cruelty and death. When the world hates, it acts with brutality and violence, but the apostle Paul says that we do not wage war as the world does. We are not pacifists but we do not destroy men’s bodies. He begins this section, “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you” (v.1), and he strikes the tone for all that follows by that appeal to the example of the Saviour.

3. THE MEEK AND GENTLE LORD JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE.

Paul is speaking of the one who is the Word, who was with God, and who was God. This is the one who claimed, “I and my Father are one.” The meekness and gentleness of the Ancient of Days, the Everlasting Father, the Mighty God, and Emmanuel. The meekness and gentleness of the Seed of the woman, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the alpha and the omega, the One who has the keys of death and hell. This is the one who spoke and the winds obeyed him. Jesus Christ raised the dead. When he himself rose from the dead he claimed, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” This meek and gentle one is he of whom God the Father spoke, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” When he confronted Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus he was a figure of august majesty and the brightest shinings of glory, so that he shone like the noonday sun. Paul fell into darkness at his feet. It was the only fitting response to divinity. Yet he is being remembered by the apostle for his meekness and gentleness! Who could combine such widest extremes but the living God?

Paul could be thinking of that decade of Jesus’ twenties, in full manhood, when others of his school-friends were confidently getting on in their careers, marrying and seeing their first children. For those ten years Christ chose to live in obscurity at home with his mother and her family in Nazareth, year in, year out. Paul is probably thinking of Jesus’ public ministry, and how he made himself accessible to all kinds of people, the poorest of widows, beggars and leprous outcasts. There was no entourage of minders stopping people getting near. He went and ate in the homes of people dismissed as ‘sinners.’ He wouldn’t break the cracked and fragile reed. He restored it fully. When Jesus was at hand no one was beyond hope, no matter how despairing that one might believe his lot to be. Paul is remembering how the other apostles might have often told him of Jesus’ patience with them. “Do you know, Paul, we were so dumb in those days that we didn’t understand simple stories that he told us – the parable of the sower! We didn’t have a clue what he was on about, but he was so gentle with us”

Paul is speaking about Jesus’ prayer for those who drove nails through his hands and feet, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Paul is reminding us of the way he did not turn on the men who mocked and hurt him. He didn’t summon legions of angels down from heaven to destroy them. He was meek and gentle. He rides into Jerusalem as the promised king of the line of David, but it’s on the back of a donkey. He has no need to hide any weakness behind a show of brute strength. He has no weaknesses at all, and his strength is all focused upon the salvation of sinners.

The Lord could appeal to that gentleness in his own invitations, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart.” “Don’t let my mighty miracles put you off coming to me.” He made himself so accessible. His whole life was one of self-humbling, and he declared that the blessed people are those whom God has made meek. They will inherit the earth. Do you believe it? That meekness is the way of church growth?

Yet Christ could also speak with great authority, and rebuke the Pharisees with the sharpest of language. He referred to Herod as a fox. He make a whip and drove the money-changers out of the temple. He pronounced his woes on Bethsaida and Chorazin and told them it would be better for Sodom in the day of judgment than for them. He told his disciples to remember Lot’s wife. He said to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan.” He spoke on hell more often than anyone else in the New Testament. His severity did not annul his gentleness, on the contrary it showed that his meekness was not the genetically created pleasant personality which cries for peace at all costs. Christian gentleness is not to be misunderstood as though incongruous with sternness in refuting any false teaching. The Puritan Henry Smith said, “As Christ ceased not to be a king because he was like a servant, nor to be a lion because he was like a lamb, nor to be God because he was made man, nor to be a judge because he was judged; so a man does not lose his honour by humility, but he shall be honoured for his humility.”

4. CONQUEST COMES THROUGH MEEKNESS AND GENTLENESS.

Paul is going to speak up for the truths of a salvation of grace through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, and he will use irony and mockery in order to discredit those who preach another gospel because its origin is the pit. But he will always set before him the Lord in whose steps he follows as the great meek and gentle one. The weapons he uses will be commensurate with the character of Christ. So it has to be in the life of every congregation. We will conquer our enemies, our colleagues, the unbelieving members of our family by gentleness. Think of the amazing meekness and longsuffering of God to you. How long did you provoke the Lord? Meekness and gentleness is the repentance of pride. Lay yourself at Christ’s feet and he will take you into his arms. Many of you can identify with John Newton’s own experience:

In evil long I took delight, Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight, And stopped my wild career.

I saw one hanging on a tree, In agonies and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me, As near his cross I stood.

Sure, never till my latest breath, Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death, Though not a word he spoke.

My conscience felt, and owned the guilt, And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt, And helped to nail him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did, But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid? For I the LORD have slain.

A second look he gave, which said, “I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid, I die, that thou may’st live.”

Thus, while his death my sin displays, In all its blackest hue;
(Such is the mystery of grace) It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy, My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy, Yet live by him I killed.

John Newton was one of God’s choice acquaintances, and with the best of the Lord’s meek and gentle people, have abhorred themselves. Like the spire of a steeple, we are least at the highest. The sight of God’s glory makes us meek, and where is that meekness seen more clearly than at Golgotha? I want to say that no one can look at the cross of Christ as Newton describes it and be unaffected by it. You cannot have your sins forgiven by the cross work of Christ, you cannot bow before Jesus as the Lamb of God who has taken away your sin, and be the same man or woman that you were before. What happens to you? Well, your soul is filled with wonder and love from him. You want to please him from that day on, and at home and at work, indoors and out of doors, you desire to possess the gentleness and meekness which you see in him. You don’t want to go on living as tough and confidently and with such a mean spirit that you used to live. You lay down those weapons and put yourself in a state of vulnerability.

Christians will be characterized by meekness and gentleness. You will observe them showing it in many different circumstances. Consider Professor John Murray my former teacher. He is the man I have described as more full of God than anyone else I have known. He came to preach here on the two occasions, but on the second there was a muddle so that he was under the impression that he was coming down to speak at the University Christian Union on the Saturday night, and for that engagement alone. That willingness to come, in his seventies, from the most northern county in Scotland of Sutherland, north of the town of Dingwall, on that long train journey, stopping in Glasgow overnight on the way, and simply to speak to 80 students, is itself noteworthy. He did so. But when he arrived he discovered that he was to preach for us on the Sunday. He came back to the Manse from the university and he said to my wife, “If Geoff expecting me to preach here tomorrow?” “Yes,” she said, “Didn’t you think you were speaking?” “No,” he said, “But it’s all right. Don’t tell Geoff when he comes home later. Tell him on Monday after I have gone, and when you do, make a joke of it because it’s quite all right.” So it was. He preached twice in his customary powerful way, and then I was told, after he had gone, of my failure to make it plain to him that he was to speak for me too. John Murray was more concerned not to embarrass me than of the way I had put him out. Meekness and gentleness!

You come across Christian humility like that in numerous places. A preacher was once taking a service for the elderly in a rather poor home for old folks, and when he had finished speaking he turned to them and said inquiringly, “Now my friends, is there anything you would like me to pray for?” One old man raised his hand and spoke very plaintively, “Please pray,” he said, “that we could have some gravy.” His requests at dinner time had obviously been turned down. The minister, of course, did. Once when Dr John Kennedy of Dingwall was speaking in a small gathering a simple lady raised her hand and said to him, “You are too high Doctor. Come down here where we are.” Immediately, and with great tenderness, he set about to adapt his message to her level. Meekness and gentleness!

There was a lady called Miss Nugent, a pastor’s daughter in the Ramsgate Strict Baptist chapel, long since closed and sold. The visiting ministers stayed with her, and they were given many opportunities to display meekness and gentleness. She barely heated her house but she herself wore layers of woolly jumpers. One winter’s Sunday in the cold parlour when she left the room Bernard Honeysett picked up some of the wood drying in the grate and put it on the fire. When she returned she spotted the dancing flames and the missing wood: “You haven’t used that wood have you?” she asked, more in sorrow than anger. “That was for lighting the fire tomorrow morning.” “Yes, Miss Nugent,” Bernard said meekly. What more could be said? She was very gracious, and she ran a creaking Bed and Breakfast where nothing phased her at all. She might have thirty people, most of them Strict Baptists, staying for breakfast, and she would come into the room with a number of boiled eggs and give them out one by one, but she would not have enough to go round. “Well, we’ll go in the other direction tomorrow,” she would say. That was it. No apologies. She charged her guests very little. Christian people loved her straightforwardness, and took it all meekly from her. She said to Bernard Honeysett one Sunday, “Now this is your seventh visit here. Next time you’ll have a clean towel.” With meekness and gentleness is the only way to respond.

A certain pastor would hear young preachers in the congregation, and if he thought some had a preaching gift he would visit their wives or fianc=E9es and he would say, “Now he is a lovely preacher but there is just this little habit which is a bit annoying. You tell him, because you’re his wife and he’ll listen to you.” Again, consider William Carey, amongst the greatest of all missionaries. He set sail for India in 1793 and there he remained until his death in 1834. Forty years of labour far from home. There in India he buried his mentally disturbed wife, and there he translated Scriptures into eleven different tongues. When he died he had these words inscribed on his gravestone, “A wretched, poor and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.” Carey’s meekness was one of the causes of all his achievements. He knew all his ability and hope of completing what he had began came from God. Can we be persuaded of that? Can the students believe that the Christian Union will have success in bringing Christ to the University only if they remain meek and gentle people?

There is a false meekness isn’t there, and a counterfeit gentleness? It is seen in self-deprecation, and a spineless refusal to stand for anything. It avoids trouble at the cost of allowing even greater trouble to develop. You meet it, for example, when a singer sings a beautiful piece and when you thank her she dismisses your thanks, “I’m just getting over a cold.” That is not a meek answer. That is an ungracious dismissal, showing the abjectness of a base mind. Give me rather a low fulness than an empty advancement. A friend met a missionary who had decided not to return to the field because that was the one thing she wanted to do, but she had been told that she must deny herself every desire, no matter what it might be. She must suppress it for God’s sake. She was a miserable young lady. That is not meekness. That is lying to ourselves and lying to others. Meekness doesn’t mean we don’t thank and praise people who have been good and kind to us. If you’re sensitive about giving praise because you don’t want to puff up people then do it in the manner Susanna Wesley did, saying to children, “Hasn’t God given you pretty curls?” Or “Wasn’t it good of the Lord to give you a fast pair of legs!” “Hasn’t the Lord given you a love of reading?”

5. WE MEEKLY RESIST THOSE WHO OPPOSE THE GOSPEL.

Maintaining a sweet gentle spirit, but standing up to the enemies of the gospel at the same time, is not easy. If the gap between vice and virtues is a razor’s edge and not a chasm, that is certainly so here. Not even Paul got the balance right always. There was a time when he called a man a ‘whitewashed wall’. That man had ordered an underling to hit him in the face, but then Paul had to apologise when he discovered that the man was actually Ananias the high priest. But in these chapters at the conclusion of 2 Corinthians he shows us how to speak with the holy authority of God as his servant, and yet to be meek and merciful too.

Paul’s opponents were provoking him by their accusations about his way of life: “some people … think that we live by the standards of this world” (v.2), literally, that Paul walked ‘according to the flesh.’ It is a phrase of the apostle’s which he uses to describe men without God, worldly men who don’t have the Spirit of God. Their lifestyle and whole way of life is carnal. His Christian opponents were clearly not merely thinking evil of the apostle (which is a sin) but spreading such stories about Paul – “Do you know he walks according to the flesh?” How dreadful it is when Christians fail to speak meekly about other believers. What a pernicious influence it has on those who hear them talk. S.M. Houghton has drawn our attention to a man named William Hone the arch-blasphemer of England in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was brought to court for blasphemous parodies of the Athanasian Creed and the Church of England catechism. His father was an earnest evangelical Christian, a follower of William Huntington whose ministerial career was marked by a ‘war to death’ against Arminianism. The Huntingtonians despised and spoke with great harshness about John Wesley in particular. To them he was the apostle of error. They were even prepared to call him a ‘child of the devil’.

As a boy William Hone attended an old-dame school, even though, strange as the case may seem, the proprietress was a member of the Wesleyan body. Hone was one of her favourite pupils. She was taken ill. The boy was given the special privilege of sitting with her in her bedroom. As he did so on one occasion, the maid came into the bedroom to announce a visitor. It was none other than John Wesley in old age. The boy sitting by the bedside was at once thoroughly alarmed, for was not Wesley ‘a child of the devil’? The boy gazed in terror and wonder as the door slowly opened. Into the bedroom came a venerable old man, his silvered hair hanging down to his shoulders, his complexion fresh and placid, his smile sweet. To the boy’s amazement he seemed to have the countenance of an angel. He ministered to the lady, spoke comforting words, knelt down, prayed, and took his departure, saying to the awe-struck lad as he did so, “God bless you, my child, and make you a good man”. In later years Hone passed this comment: “I never saw Mr. Wesley again; my teacher died; but from that hour I never believed anything my father said, or anything I heard at chapel. I felt, though I could not have expressed it, how wicked was such enmity between Christians; and so I lost all confidence in my good father and in all his reli gious friends, and in all religion.” There was no meekness and gentleness in the attitude of the Christians he knew towards the John Wesley who turned out to be a godly old man and not a monster. Anyway, the Lord heard Wesley’s prayer for the boy, and in later life Hone tasted sovereign grace to the full, repented deeply, and preached the faith which once he destroyed. Many glorified God in him (S.M.Houghton, “My Life and Books,” Banner of Truth, 1988, p.79).

6. IT IS BETTER TO BE MEEK AND GENTLE THAN ‘BOLD’.

It is clear from these verses that Paul was far happier being meek and gentle than being bold. He says to them, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world” (v.2). What parent enjoys chastising its child? Every parent prefers to have the child sitting on his lap listening to a story. But there comes an occasion of deliberate defiance, and a refusal to say sorry, and then parents must be bold with the mandate they have received from God to bring up their children in the admonition of the Lord. We hope we will never face such occasions in our lifetime, that our children will be sweet and obedient but we will find strength and wisdom from God to speak and act to them as we should.

So Paul is prepared to be bold, but he hopes that this letter will have its desired effect and the opposition he is facing will have melted away. Paul is basically asking such things in this second verse, that he need not come to deliver a stern address to them. No one enjoys doing that, especially a sensitive man like Paul. But he would do it, because the gospel itself was at stake. Paul loved to write letters like his letter to Philemon or his letter to the Philippian congregation, but he was also prepared by God to write a letter like the Galatian epistle in which he gave them no word of thanks for their testimony but began his letter saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gals. 1:6-8).

I believe that the apostle would have hesitated long before he, with a heavy hand, took up a pen and began that letter. He was begging God that when he wrote he might not have to be as bold as he expected to be toward some people. Paul did not want to do that, but he was ready to do it if the gospel was going to be undermined. Paul could be like a nursing mother and he could also be like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Bold as a lion, gentle as a lamb. A minister must be both. Wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove. A minister has to sustain both in spiritual tension by the grace of Jesus Christ. There was old John MacRae of Ness, a son of thunder who had such a powerful ministry on the Hebrides. One day he was walking to a meeting with another minister whose name was Peter MacLean who was a much gentler disposition. They were passing through the lovely Galson valley, and Peter MacLean remarked about its beauty, and said, “What a suitable place for prayer this would be.” “Yes,” said John MacRae, “But better on a battleship by far!” Come the hour, come the man. In the sixteenth century it was a Luther whom God raised up to purify the church, and then a Calvin could build on those new biblical foundations. The gospel was under threat at Corinth and Paul wouldn’t allow it to be strangled without defending it and overcoming those trying to kill it. There is a time when the most gentle man must lift up his voice with strength, where the gospel is concerned.

Then Paul is also saying in this second verse that when he arrived in Corinth he longed that he would have the courage and confidence to stand up to those who were slandering him, and look them in the eye, and answer all the charges they were making against him. He did not want to be bold to those people, but if he had to then he prayed God to give him that courage. Also be prayed that his conduct would be above reproach, so that they would be offended by his message and not by the man.

The fact that Paul’s opponents could not understand how he could be both so gentle a personality while also acting with such authority is an indication of their spiritual ignorance. For them it had to be one or the other, and if a man showed both then he was acting the part with one. He was a hypocrite. They said about Paul, “When he is here he is timid, but when he moves away and writes his letters to us he is bold” (v.1). Now the apostle loved and admired the grace of subservience. “Let the mind of the servant be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Remember how he humbled himself to the death of the cross,” he told the Philippians. But his opponents considered meekness to be weakness, a miserable attitude for a Christian before the world, they judged. So when Paul slipped into a meeting in Corinth and then spoke without the rhetorical flourishes of Greek orators they dismissed him as a timid man and a weakling, beginning a murmuring campaign against him.

This passage seems to suggest to us that the mark of a true Christian is that people in the world judge you as a quiet man without a lot of personality. Do they think of you like that? Does your Christian meekness and gentleness impact those whom sin has blinded as making you seem a bit of a milksop? Even a religious wimp? I think of a man who was influential forty years ago in the Welsh Nationalist political party but was converted. His political convictions were still with that party (as they are to this day) but now he wrote and spoke as a Bible-believing Christian. For example, he supported Christian schools, while they were state-interventionist. So they said, “Pity he has lost his fire and radical views.” He lost influence in that political world because of a new submission to the Bible. But there is no alternative for the Christian but to follow the example of Christ. The Christian is obliged to be meek and gentle. We are earth. We are flesh. We shall be worm’s food. We were rebels. We have been saved by the death of the Lamb of God. No other way. All the strengths and gifts we have are by the grace of Christ. The indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ has made us what we are. Boasting is excluded. The mercy of God has made us meek.

John Flavel points out that when the corn is nearly ripe it bows the head and stoops lower than when it was green. There is no sadder sight than an older man who has failed to attain the grace of meekness and gentleness. You excuse it in a young Christian. The corn is yet green, but when the people of God are near ripe for heaven then their meekness and gentleness must be striking. A phrase written in an obituary almost 35 years ago by Professor John Murray has always stuck in my memory. I went to an old copy of a Banner of Truth magazine today and read again his striking testimony to his colleague Professor Edward J. Young: “In the last few years before retirement from my work at the Seminary, I was deeply impressed by the evidence my friend gave of the maturing fruit of the Spirit. But little did I think that he was being rapidly prepared for the immediate presence of the Saviour whom he loved and whose glory he delighted to proclaim” (Banner of Truth, Number 54, March 1968, p.1). Paul had one foot in heaven when he called himself the chief of sinners and least of all saints. I appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ to follow his example.

16th December 2001 GEOFF THOMAS