To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.…
I. LIFE IN ITSELF.
1. This language implies that we are by nature destitute of life. The Scriptures draw a wide distinction between life in Christ and the morality and the immorality of the world. There are immense differences between those who "give themselves to work all uncleannesses," etc., and those who are respected for excellence of character, but no fundamental difference is recognized by God. True life is wanting in both, because both are "alienated from the life of God." It is not what virtue I may see in the face of man, but has he that "holiness without which no man can see the Lord."
2. We must not soften the truth that there is no life apart from Christ. One statue may be marked by rough outlines and coarse features, and another may be an Apollo Belvidere, but though one may bear more resemblance to a man, both are dead.
3. Between the feeblest Christian and the best specimen of the unrenewed man, if not to human eyes, to the eyes of God, there is all the difference between life and death.
4. Because there is no self-restorative power in man. Christ has come that we "might have life."
II. THIS LIFE IN ITS FULNESS.
1. Progress is one essential quality in life. Where will you look to find life springing at once into full development? Not to the corn; not to the forest. The outer man is first a babe, weak and helpless. The inner man follows the same analogy. There are babes in Christ, etc. In some cases the new man may rise into sudden perfection; for who shall confine the power of God. But the law of God's general working is that the path of the just shall shine more and more, and go from strength to strength.
2. Christ lays emphasis on this point because we are prone to be content with a little life. How common for a man to rest satisfied with mere pardon: a blessing indeed beyond all price, but only the porch of the great temple of salvation. Many sit down here and sing a new song; but Christ comes and says I will show you greater things than these. I have come to give life more abundantly. Don't think less of your pardon but more of your sanctification. You were once like sick men in a hospital on fire — you needed rescue first, but healing also. Do not forget that you were pardoned in order to be purified.
III. THE REASON FOR WHICH WE SHOULD SEEK THE MORE ABUNDANT LIFE. Feeble life is —
1. A miserable thing. —
(1) To look at. There is but little to attract in a river which, through drought, flows but a thin and sluggish current; it pleases best when it fills the channel and sweeps in majestic volume through the valley. There is nothing to delight in a tree almost barren; we love to see it thick and bossy. It distresses us to see a man bent and worn with disease; but delightful to see one healthy and strong. And free, robust life is not less but more beautiful in the spiritual world.
(2) To endure. You have known the pain of physical weakness, its agony which has seemed to turn every nerve into a string of fire; its weakness, when you have started at every noise; its sleeplessness. A little life is more painful than none at all. And a Christian whose spiritual life is languid is more miserable than a man dead in sin. His eyes are opened, but while a blind man feels no pain his eyes are so weak that the light distresses them, And what a disastrous effect has religion without cheerfulness — particularly on children.
2. A dangerous thing. Epidemics find their way to those who are in a low condition of health. When a storm rushes on the deep it tries the stoutest vessel, but woe to the vessel that is slim and leaky. So when the spiritual life is weak it becomes an easy prey to all perils. If we are to be safe we must be well fortified within.
3. A useless thing. We are fit for nothing when our bodily strength is reduced. We have enough to do to support our own debility. But the more life we have the more strength we have to expand our work. And Christian life may be so feeble as to be of no service in the way of influence on the world. It is for the world's sake as well as our own that Christ desires us to have abundance of life.
IV. IN WHAT MANNER THIS ABUNDANT LIFE IS TO BE SECURED. Like all life it is mysterious, but it is not magical in its growth. It requires exertion and will not take care of itself. We are to "grow in grace."
1. We must compare ourselves, individually, with the standard of holiness as given in the gospel rather than with that actually reached by the Church. The question with many is not what is possible, but what is a fair, average piety.
2. To have more life we must have more prayer. According to prayer, and therefore the prayer of faith, it will be done unto us.
3. We must dwell more beneath the Cross, the fountain of life, when we begin to live, that we may have our life increased.
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.