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"Be not deceived,...he that soweth to his flesh shall of the
flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of
the Spirit reap life everlasting."—Gal. 6:7,8 .
THE thought of sowing is that of planting with a view to development or result. Some time the harvest will come. All of our thoughts, all of our actions, have an effect on future character. Little by little the character is made up. The sowing of today will bring the reaping of tomorrow. If our thoughts and our attention are given to earthly things, the result will be an increase of development along earthly lines; but if our thoughts and attention are given to heavenly things, the development will be along spiritual lines.
Sowing to the flesh, minding the things of the flesh, means gratification of the desires of the flesh, minding the things that are craved by our fallen nature. If yielded to, these cravings will grow stronger and stronger. It is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that a reasonable gratification of the flesh is proper. Every gratification of the fallen flesh satiates only the animal propensities. Those who continue to yield to these propensities will ultimately reach corruption, death—the Second Death. Those who mind spiritual things set their affections on things above, not on things of earth; those who seek to develop themselves along spiritual lines, will progress in spiritual attainment. In due time such will reap a character likeness to the Lord, and become copies of God's dear Son, sanctified more and more through the Truth. To such is promised the gift of life eternal.
The words of our text are addressed to the Church, and relate, therefore, to "those who have made a covenant with the Lord by sacrifice." If these live after the flesh, they shall die, as the Apostle says; for they have already surrendered their human life-rights. If by earnest endeavors they seek to lay down their lives and to develop the new life by mortifying the flesh, by putting it to death, by striving to overcome the weaknesses which they inherit, they shall shortly be rid of all the impediments and be clothed upon with the new body. Then they shall be like the Lord.
Comparatively few realize to what extent we form our own characters, to what extent our minds, our affections, are gardens in which we may plant either the thorns and thistles of sin, or the merely moral and practical qualities corresponding to the useful vegetables, or those seeds which produce the fragrant and beautiful flowers and fruits which more particularly represent the heavenly and spiritual graces. Whatsoever a man soweth he shall also reap, whether he sow to the flesh or to the spirit. Whoever, therefore, seeks for the heavenly things, joint-heirship in the Kingdom, etc., must plant, or set out in his mind, in his affections, those qualities and graces which the Lord marks out as essential to the development of characters such as will be "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."—Col. 1:12.
Thus the Father throws upon all those whom he calls to this "high-calling," this "heavenly-calling," and who [R4828 : page 168] accept the call and make a covenant thereunder, the responsibility for their success or their failure in attaining the prize. Through his Word he tells them of their own natural weaknesses and imperfections, and shows them how he has provided a full off-set or counterbalance for these imperfections in the merit and sacrifice of the Redeemer; he shows them also what are the fruits and graces of the Spirit which they must possess, in heart, at least, if they would be joint-heirs with Christ; he shows them also, in the Redeemer's life as well as in his teachings, the copy which all must follow who would reach the same glorious station and be his joint-heirs.
We might look at this matter merely from the standpoint of the responsibility which it throws upon us, and might well feel overawed thereby. Rather, however, we should view it from the standpoint of Divine grace, and consider what a blessed privilege has been granted us, of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may come more and more to know and to strive for the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. In addition to all this, God has set before us the grandest reward imaginable for the doing of that which is merely our duty and our reasonable service—the doing of that which would bring us the largest measure of joy and peace, aside from a future reward.—2 Pet. 1:3,4.
There is for all mankind a natural attraction toward earthly things; even though, during this reign of evil, the earthly things are blemished and in many respects distasteful to those who have learned to love [R4829 : page 168] righteousness and hate iniquity, there is still, nevertheless, a strong attraction toward the marred and blemished earthly things. Like weeds, earthly affections and desires spring spontaneously from seeds which come we know not whence. The Christian, therefore, who would keep his heart in the love of God, must not only keep planting good seeds, keep setting his affections on heavenly things, but he must keep rooting out the weeds of earthly desire and attraction.
Our new life is not manifest to all, nor upon all occasions to any. This the Apostle intimates when he says, "Your life is hid with Christ in God"; it is a life of new desires, new aims, new aspirations, which the world can neither see nor fully appreciate, though it sees some outward manifestations of the new life in our daily conduct. Even the "brethren" may not be able to appreciate the progress of the new life in us; and we ourselves may at times be perplexed respecting the rapidity and strength of its growth; and we may need to look back over weeks or months, or perhaps years, in order to determine unquestionably that it is growing. Our new life, represented by our endeavors to follow the will of Christ, is hidden thus in Christ and in the Father.
In harmony with this thought the Apostle in one place declares that neither the world nor the brethren were capable of judging him—that only the Lord, who could read the heart and know all the conditions, testings and weaknesses to be striven against, could properly judge him. He even declares, "Yea, I judge not mine own self." (I Cor. 4:3.) It is an excellent plan neither to condemn others who claim to be walking conscientiously as children of the Lord, nor even to condemn ourselves if we are sincerely striving to do the Lord's will. We should simply press along, day by day, doing the best we can to cultivate the heavenly graces and to serve our Master, leaving all the results with the Lord. He careth for us, and so long as our hopes and aims and objects of life are centered in the heavenly things and our lives thus hid with Christ in God, we need fear no evil, present or future; for the Lord will be with us and bless us and keep us from falling and, ultimately, present us to the Heavenly Father both blameless and faultless.
Coming down to a particularization of the changes which take place in those who have consecrated themselves wholly to the Lord, the Apostle enumerates certain alterations of disposition which should be attempted and, so far as possible, accomplished, namely, the putting away of all the following: anger, wrath, malice, evil-speaking, impurity of language and falsehood in its every form. (Col. 3:8,9.) The necessity for such correction of life might, at first thought, seem to be unnecessary to mention, such evil traits being too coarse and entirely opposed to every true Christian principle; but, as we scrutinize the matter we find that the Apostle has really taken into his list nearly all the weaknesses of the flesh which beset those who have become "New Creatures in Christ."
What is more common with Christian people than to become angry? How many there are who have named the name of Christ, but who have malicious or, at least, unkind thoughts respecting others, and who harbor these, permitting them at times to influence their conduct! How many are there who indulge in evil-speaking—that is, slander (here translated blasphemy)! This is often done in such a manner as to deceive, not only the hearer, but also the speaker as respects his real intention in speaking of others discreditably, unkindly.
If all evil and impure language were avoided, what a wonderful world this would be! Every Christian should see to it that, henceforth, every word which proceeds from his mouth shall be such as will minister grace to the hearers, such words as will do only good and be edifying. Finally, how much need there is, not only of having good intentions in the heart, but also of expressing those good intentions truthfully one to another, without deception, without hypocrisy. But it requires that a heart be very pure and very full of love if it would be very truthful; otherwise it would lead to trouble continually. If the unloving, ungenerous, unkind hearts, full of evil surmising, malice, hatred and strife, were to express themselves frankly it would add immensely to the trouble of the world. The Apostle therefore urges, first the purifying of the heart, and then general candor.
With the thought before our minds of the oneness and equality of those who have been accepted into the Body of Christ, the Apostle urges upon our attention the necessity not only of putting off the evil dispositions of our fallen flesh, but also of putting on, cultivating, the various graces of the Spirit exemplified in our Head, Christ Jesus.—Col. 3:12-14.
He specifies these: (1) Compassionate sentiments; a disposition of largeness and generosity of heart toward everybody and everything—toward the saints, toward our neighbors, friends and relatives, toward our enemies, and toward the brute creation. Amplifying, he continues, showing that it would imply (2) kindness toward all; (3) humbleness of mind, the reverse of boastfulness, headiness, arrogance; (4) meekness, or gentleness of disposition; (5) long-suffering, or patient endurance with the faults and weaknesses of others. It implies that we should bear with one another's peculiarities of temperament and disposition, freely forgiving one another, if there be found cause of offense in each other—learning the meanwhile to correct ourselves, as we see our own blemishes mirrored in others. And the standard [R4829 : page 169] for all this course of conduct is found in the Lord's course toward us; for he surely has been generous, kind, forbearing and forgiving.
The Apostle brings to the attention of the "holy and beloved," the Elect, the fact that he is not attempting a reformation of the world along these lines, but merely a transformation of those who have entered into a special covenant with the Lord. All who have thus covenanted with the Lord and who hope to make their "calling and election sure" to membership in the glorified Church, will not only seek to cultivate these fruits of the Spirit in their own lives, but also to assist in the cultivation of the same fruits, as they may have opportunity, in their Christian friends and neighbors; and above all, will seek to exercise so good an influence upon their own families that, as their children receive from them, as parents, the natural life and the necessary instructions and start therein, these may also, if possible, receive from them a start in the new life, and the necessary instructions and equipment for it.
But the Apostle, as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, is a thorough instructor. Not only does he tell us what dis-graces to put off and what graces to put on, but, viewing the Lord's Body arrayed in these qualities of heart—compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patient endurance, forbearance and forgiveness, he adds, "And above all these put on love, which is the bond of perfectness." Love is thus pictured as the "girdle" which binds and holds in place the folds of the robe of Christ's righteousness with its various graces. In other words, the Apostle would have us see that forbearance, meekness, patience, etc., must not be matters merely of courtesy or merely of policy. However much they might partake of these qualities in the beginning, the wearers will not be perfected in heart, nor be fit for the Kingdom, until they have reached the place where these various graces of their wills, or intentions, are bound to them by the cords of love—love for the Lord, love for righteousness, love for the "brethren," and sympathetic love for the whole groaning creation. Love is, indeed, "the bond of perfectness," the very Spirit of the Lord.
In our text the Apostle says, "Be not deceived." The question naturally suggests itself, Is there danger that we may not know whether we are sowing to the spirit or sowing to the flesh? We answer, there is danger of being deceived along this line. The Scriptures represent that the flesh is very crafty; that the natural mind is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and that the new mind needs to guard continually lest it fall into a trap of the old nature. If one is living according to the flesh, he may expect to reap accordingly. Though others may be deceived, God cannot be mocked by our outward service of him and his Truth while we inwardly live according to the flesh. If we plant corn, we reap corn; if we sow wheat, we reap wheat. In all the affairs of our lives we are either building up the old nature that we agreed should be destroyed, or faithfully seeing to it that the deeds of the flesh are mortified and killed, that we may prosper as New Creatures.
We "Sow to the flesh" every time we allow the fleshly, selfish, unjust, unrighteous desires of the flesh to have sway in our hearts and lives. Each sowing makes more sure the end of the way, which is death—Second Death. On the contrary, each sowing to the Spirit, each resistance of the desires of the flesh toward selfishness, etc., and each exercise of the new mind, of the new will, toward the things that are pure, the things that are noble, the things that are good, the things that [R4830 : page 169] are true, the things that are spiritual, is a sowing to the Spirit, which, if persevered in, will ultimately bring the attainment of the Lord's gracious promises and arrangements—everlasting life and the Kingdom.