The more one studies the writings of Paul, and the principles inculcated therein, the more one is conscious of the sharp cleavage between his teaching and the practices of the nominal religious Christian, and the more one is painfully aware of the shortcomings of even the most sincere believer.
It is probably symptomatic of the age that such features should present themselves, but there seems to be one failure in particular which has been common among all believers from Pauls own day even to the present, and that is the prevalence of narrowness of heart and mind.
In his second letter to Corinthians, Paul makes a moving appeal to his hearers not to receive the grace of God "in vain." He has just revealed two marvelous truths, one concerning the saint, and the other concerning both saint and sinner. Those who believe, he says, have been created anew in Christ, the old humanity has been put to death and a new humanity created--" Lo, it has become new!" Then he reveals Gods present attitude towards men, that of conciliation, with the saints occupying the enviable position of ambassadors of the Court of Heaven, beseeching men to be conciliated to the glorious God Who, in Christ, has dealt finally with their sin and is not taking their offences into account.
If these revelations are comprehended and meditated upon they will produce a really heart-warming effect in us. The love of Christ will constrain us, as it did Paul, to conclude that if One died for the sake of all consequently all died, and the vast implications of this statement will enlarge the horizons both of our expectation and our outlook. But how many receive such grace as this in vain! There is nothing in this message to cause anyone
to stumble, but it brought to Paul afflictions and blows, because then, as now, the hearts of his hearers were too cramped to receive it.
The love of God is broader than the measure of mans mind, and for the majority of those who profess to love Him, and who owe everything to Him, He is too liberal, too little a respecter of persons in His dealings with others, so His declarations concerning those others must be whittled down to mean but a tithe of what they say--" We make his love too narrow by false limits of our own, and we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.,,
Too many of us would limit to the narrow confines of their own cramped hearts all that revelation teaches of Gods love and kindness. We develop a selfish exclusiveness, regarding Gods Word as a personal perquisite, and our decisions upon it as settling the course of Gods actions. People limit the truth of God "to their poor reach of mind, to notions of their day and sect, crude, partial and confined."
Was there not something of this spirit in the Corinthian church to cause Paul to write these words :-- "Our mouth has opened towards you, Corinthians, our heart has been broadened. You are not distressed in us, yet you are distressed in your compassions. Now as a recompense in kind (I am saying this as to children) you also be broadened." II. Cor. 6, 11-13.
With what emphasis can that invitation be repeated to most believers today--YOU ALSO BE BROADENED!
Now, at a time when so-called "broadmindness" is prevalent, it may seem strange to urge believers that they should be broadened, for the popular meaning attached to modern broadmindedness is far removed from the Apostles thought. The modem "practical" application of Gods Word and the preaching of a "social gospel," far from being an indication of broadness of outlook, is actually a distressing and cramping condensation of a spiritual message into very restricted and common place limits.
The type of mind that finds the ultimate value of Gods Word to be for use only as a text book of ideals for daily living cannot possibly be called "broad," and although in some people such thinking develops an admirable humanitarianism, in far too many of its followers it degenerates into" being kind to Granny
It is not, however, to those who "mind earthly things" that the need for this appeal for broadening of heart should be most urgently addressed, for their spiritual perceptions have been so dulled as to need a very special degree of enlightenment to awaken them to realities. The really sad feature is the cramped and narrow outlook of so many who really imagine that they accept Gods declarations at their full value. As the poet says :-- "They dare to bind to their dull sense
The oracles of heaven, To all the nations, tongues and climes, And all the ages given."
It is important to remember (and we cannot too often insist on this) that it is ONLY the Scriptures themselves which are inspired, not our deductions from them. The most advanced student has a vast wealth of knowledge still to acquire which should make him hesitate to give to his views the dogmatic assumption of finality. We all know how true this is, and how beliefs which, years ago, we should have fought for to the last ditch are now seen in the light of further research to be either only partially true, or incorrect altogether.
It seems amazing that those who have obtained grace and favour undeservedly at Gods hand should violently oppose any suggestion that those who are less fortunate now should one day be reconciled to God. What a cramped and distressed heart must have been that of the ancient divine who wrote that "one of the chief delights of the redeemed hereafter will be the witnessing of the torment in unquenchable fire of wretched sinners." This horrible thought, even if not expressed, still lurks in the minds of some religious fanatics.
It is a great cause for rejoicing that God is so much greater than those who profess to follow Him, but why cannot the influence of His love enlarge our cramped hearts beyond their narrow limits, so that in a new creation we may look with new eyes upon both material and spiritual things? We all suffer acutely from cramped conceptions, and for our own good and for Gods glory we must be broadened.
When Isaiah beheld the Lord" high and lifted up "it is recorded that the skirt of Jehovahs robe filled the Temple. Israel, with its narrow outlook, would have limited God to the nations own use and advantage, but inspiration symbolises the
awe-inspiring magnificence and majesty of the great Creator by thus indicating the relative smallness of all Israels priority, in His sight.
So the believer of today is far too prone to imagine that within the limits of his own comprehension God is confined, and that the extent of his knowledge of God is the full extent of the Divine really. Against this attitude, Paul puts it on record that those who imagine they know something KNOW NOTHING YET AS THEY SHOULD KNOW!
What we all need is a broadening of heart, of knowledge, of understanding and of compassion. God is so much greater than we can ever imagine; His purposes are so vast that while we may grasp the outline and perhaps discern the direction we cannot see a thousandth part of their perfection and detail. Our knowledge is only finite and partial apart from His revelation, and the thrill of the future is in the "glories yet to be revealed in us." Even the most advanced and intelligent of men will confess to a wide field of material knowledge as being outside their comprehension ; therefore how can we, hampered as we are by all the limitations of the flesh, claim at present to know anything of spiritual things as we should and shall know them?
Our attitude, instead of being sectarian and parochial, in order to accord with Pauls expressed desire should be such as will break down the barriers which, like a ring fence, confine and narrow our hearts and minds. God has done such a marvelous thing in Christ as to be above all words to explain. The Cross of Christ will for ever dominate all things and be the pivotal. center of the universe, and through that Cross we who have been chosen through Gods grace, in addition to the favour we enjoy now, know that this choosing will culminate in an eonian burden of glory for us. Let us not receive such grace as this in vain, but let it be realised in us, and overflow in a widening of outlook, a broadening of compassion and an enlargement of heart. It should produce in us such a vision of the glory of God as to humble our hearts to acknowledge that we are nothing but poor, blind and ignorant creatures, and only as He has given us the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus our Lord can we obtain any true wealth, or real spiritual sight and knowledge.
The limit of possibility is not what our minds can comprehend, but what God can perform, and the limits of knowledge are by no means confined to what we can understand with our human, cramped mentalities, for Gods thoughts are not our
Let us widen our horizons, get rid of the assumption that "we have the truth" and have it all nicely buttoned up. Let us break down the barriers of selfishness which cramp our hearts, acknowledge our lack of wisdom and apply our minds afresh to the things of Gods Word. It is a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom of which we have only just opened the door.
Look at the wide sweep of revelation--all things are ours, whether the world, or life, or death, or the present, or the future--all are ours, yet we are Christs and Christ is Gods!
Our hearts are so often cramped because we try to limit our God and our faith to ourselves. Gods purpose is broad, all-embracing, universal, and He seeks a universal reconciliation for the universal good, and for His Own great glory.
Let us think in larger terms, and love in broader measure, as befits sons of the mighty Creator, Sustainer and Saviour, Who is operating the entire universe in accord with the counsel of His will.
"0, the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His Judgments and untraceable His ways! For who knew the mind of the Lord? or who became His adviser? or who gives to Him first and will be repaid by Him? seeing that all is out of Him and through Him and for Him: to Him be glory for the eons! Amen!"
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