A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
We have spoken of the Christian's attitude in waiting for Christ's return, in the last paper, in which we also saw that two other attitudes are also closely connected with this event; namely, the Christian's walk and work. We will now briefly consider the former of these two. In the first place, let us clearly understand that “walking” is not “working,” properly so-called. The distinction, indeed, seems so plain as to be hardly necessary at all, yet there is a great deal of confusion on this very point. People seem to think that if they are walking steadily and correctly, and are manifesting Christ more or less in their daily lives, they are doing all that can be required of them; and yet it may be that with all this, beautiful as it is in its place, they may be ignoring and leaving undone a large amount of Christian work that is ready for them. We will point out one or two scripture expressions on this subject.
Walking and Working
“To me to live is Christ” is a very comprehensive one, and includes both the walk and work, indeed, all that Christ did. Would that we knew more of its meaning!
Take, however, the exhortations to a godly walk in the Ephesians—to walk worthy of our vocation, to walk in love, and walk circumspectly; also those of Peter on the same subject, and compare them with “Always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor.15:58); “If any man's work abide” (1 Cor.3:14); “To every man his work” (Mark 13:34), etc., and it will be at once seen that “walk” is not the same as “work,” though in some cases the word is so used as to include it: as, “Walk worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the true knowledge of God.” (Col.1:10; JND Trans.).
We, however, are so one-sided in our actions and views that, far from maintaining the even balance of Scripture, we either are very active in works, often seeking in that activity to cover up the want of a really godly and Christlike walk; or else we become so occupied with the passive side of the new life as to have but little Christian activity left. Some, indeed, press work, work, work, till it would seem as if Christianity were all work. Others say only walk, walk, walk, as if the Christian had no real work to do. What Christ wants is both.
Leaving the working, however, just for the present, let us briefly consider the walking. Now our walk is characterized by two great principles, for as we ought to walk even as Christ walked (1 John 2:6), and as He was light and love, even as God is (1 John 1:5; 4:8-16), these two principles govern our path.
Walking in the Light
Taking light first, we find that all believers walk in the light (1 John 1:6,7), but not according to it (Eph.5:8); that is to say, being brought out of darkness into His marvelous light, we are set in a position where no darkness affords an excuse for stumbling. The twilight is passed; we stand in the full blaze of the gospel day. Hence the exhortation in Ephesians is to walk according to the sphere in which we are set. When a Christian sins, therefore, it is not in darkness, but in and against the light, so that we are without excuse. But light is not merely a question of position; from it flow several important qualities of the Christian walk. Righteousness, holiness, truth, purity, are all fruits of light, and of cardinal value in the Christian life.
Fruits of Light
Righteousness is divine light applied to the affairs of daily life; holiness is divine light applied to the life with God; truth is divine light ruling my words; purity, divine light ruling myself (1 John 3:3). We have already considered the question of a righteous walk in paper number 4, and that of a holy or sanctified walk in number 5; both of these, let us remember, are directly connected with the Lord's return in Revelation 22. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, as we have seen, holiness is connected with the Lord's return; but here, let us remark, it is inward, a holy heart before God. What a thought!—a heart really consecrated to God, where He is first in all things, separated to Him. What a source this is for the holy walk that follows in the next verse (4:1).
“The lip of truth shall be established for ever” (Prov.12:19). But God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psa.51:6), and “walking in truth” (2 John 4) goes far beyond these words, all-important as they are. With regard to speaking the truth, one has expressed a very beautiful thought to the effect that we should so “seek to speak that our words shall express exactly the fact, no more and no less; so that speaking, like painting, shall become an art, which shall in the most appropriate words, instead of colors, lay the matter before the hearer.” In the present day, especially, when exaggeration is so common, it is as singular as it is refreshing to find a young Christian so weighing his words as to be as accurate as a good picture. Is not our Lord's reply when asked who He was, in John 8, a proof how perfectly true and transparent His words had ever been? “Altogether that which I also say to you” (John 8:25; JND Trans.). Surely the habit of consciously being in the light of God's presence greatly tends to this true speaking. But truth in the inward parts is what God requires — true to God, to myself, and to others — to God, in all His Word requires from me — to myself, in really and truly being what I am, no more, no less, putting on no false appearances, not deceiving myself— true to others, not deceiving them, avoiding all hypocrisy. This true living is of all importance to a young believer, as many things may tend to make him unreal. If he has learned quickly much spiritual truth, and yet not been brought very really into God's presence, he is very apt to desire to appear more than he really is, and prone to seek to be accredited for the truth he knows, rather than for the life he leads. The most dangerous position of all is when he has stepped into some right position before God without real exercise of conscience, and then supposes that the position entitles him at once to look down on others, and imagines himself far on in the school of God. Be severe with yourself, beloved reader; at all costs be truthful; underrate rather than overrate your spiritual state. This alone leads to a truer and holier walk. Walking in the truth is different (2 John 1), and means walking according to the revealed Word of God. This, it is needless to say, is of all importance. No walk, however sincere, can possibly be according to God that is not according to “the truth.”
Purity is a beautiful quality in a Christian's walk. Occupation with what is defiling can never make us pure, but occupation with Christ does. We see that in 1 John 3, where Christ is the measure of our purity (v.3), our righteousness (v.7), and our love (v.16).
The Threefold Sphere of Love
Love is the second great characteristic of God, and therefore of the Christian's walk. We are exhorted to walk in love — love to God, to our fellow believers, to our fellow men. Love to God shows itself in obedience. Obedience, to be worth anything, is the offspring of love. Thus alone Christ obeyed, and to His obedience are we set apart (1 Pet.1:2-14). Turning instinctively to God for direction in every event of life, waiting till we get it, and then following it. Such is the path of Psalm 32, and that of the obedient child—a path of security, of happiness, of freedom from care, though not from carefulness. “To obey,” too, “is better than sacrifice,” and it springs from hearkening, which is better than “the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). It may not bring us much praise or credit, but it always pleases God, and even when we are slow of understanding, if the desire is to obey, the Lord will guide. This then is the proof of love to God, and a special blessing is reserved for those who thus walk (John 14:23). Love to our brethren is mostly shown in washing one another's feet; this is the most delicate proof of real love that can be given, and the rarest (John 13). Love can be shown in the cup of cold water, in the offering of a sweet-smelling savor (Phil. 4:18), in caring for bodily or spiritual needs. The heart that is “at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize,” will readily discover the appropriate way of showing love. Love to the world at large is most shown in pointing them to Christ. Caring for the suffering and the poor is an essentially Christian duty; but care for the soul comes first, though it may not always be made the most prominent.
Such then is a brief and most imperfect sketch of the Christian walk, all perfectly summed up in the three words, “as He walked.” This is the best direction of all — “as He walked” — in righteousness (Isa.53:11), goodness (Matt.19:16), truth (John 7:18), lowliness (Matt.11:29), patience (Matt.27:14), self-denial (Matt.8:20), humility (Luke 22:27), obedience (John 4:34), compassion (Luke 19.41), benevolence (Matt. 4:23,24), love (John 13:1).
May the Lord exercise our hearts to a more godly, truthful, and lowly walk in view of the nearness of His return.
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