"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « 5 Hours on the Dividing Line | Main | Regeneration by Charles Hodge »

    Constraining Love By J. Gresham Machen

    This sermon was preached at the communion service that preceded the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1939) on November 12, 1936. It appeared in the Presbyterian Guardian, December 12, 1936. Dr. Machen died on January 1, 1937.

    For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)

    In these great verses Paul speaks of love as a constraining force. Love, he says, hems us in. There are certain things which love prevents us from doing.

    Earlier in the passage, he has spoken of another restraining force—namely, fear. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord," he says, "we persuade men." Since we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, it behooves us to stand in fear of him; and there are many things which, because we shall stand before his judgment seat, we are afraid to do.

    That motive of fear is used in many places in the Bible. It is used in the Old Testament. It is used in the New Testament. It is used with particular insistence in the teaching of Jesus. I think it is one of the strangest of modern aberrations when men say that it is a degrading and sub-Christian thing to tell man to stand in fear of God. Many passages in the Bible might be summarized by the words: "The fear of God constraineth us."

    "The Love of Christ Constraineth Us"

    In our text, however, it is something other than fear that is the thing that is said to constrain us or hem us in. It is love. "The love of Christ," Paul says, "constraineth us."

    What then is here meant by the love of Christ? Our first impulse, perhaps, might be to say that it is our love of Christ, the love which we bear to Christ, the love in our hearts for Christ our Savior. The comparison with verse 11 might perhaps suggest that view. As there the fear which is in our hearts when we think of our standing before the judgment seat of Christ constrains us from doing things that we might otherwise do, so here the love which is in our hearts when we think of what Christ has done for us might seem to be the second constraining force of which Paul speaks.

    Now if that is the right interpretation, the verse tells us something that is certainly true. It is certainly true, and eminently in accordance with Paul's teaching elsewhere, that the love of Christ which we have in our hearts restrains us from doing things which otherwise we might do. We refrain from doing those things not only because we are afraid to do them, but also because we love Christ too much to do them. Ah, how powerful a restraining force in the Christian's life is the love he bears to Christ, his Savior! That love in the Christian's heart is a restraining force even more powerful than any fear.

    As a matter of fact, however, that is not Paul's meaning here. The love of Christ which he here says constrains us is not our love for Christ, but it is Christ's love for us. We are restrained from doing evil things, Paul says, by that unspeakable love which Christ manifested when he died for us on the cross.

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    Posted by Marco on February 28, 2014 10:42 AM

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