A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;…
The work of grace upon the soul may be divided into two distinct operations of the Spirit of God upon the heart; the one is to break down the creature into nothingness and self-abasement before God; the other is to exalt the crucified Jesus as "God over all, blessed for ever" upon the wreck and ruin of the creature. And these two lessons the blessed Spirit writes with power upon every quickened vessel of mercy.
1. There is, then, "a time to kill" — that is, there is an appointed season in God's eternal counsels when the sentence of death is to be known and felt in the consciences of all His elect. That time cannot be hurried, or delayed. The hands of that clock, of which the will of God is the spring, and His decrees the pendulum, are beyond the reach of human fingers to move on or put back. The killing precedes the healing, and the breaking down goes before the building up; the elect weep before they laugh, and mourn before they dance. In this track does the Holy Spirit move; in this channel do His blessed waters flow. The first "time," then, of which the text speaks is that season when the Holy Ghost takes them in hand in order to kill them. And how does He kill them? By applying with power to their consciences the spirituality of God's holy law, and thus bringing the sentence of death into their souls — the Spirit of God employing the law as a ministration of condemnation to cut up all creature-righteousness.
2. But it is not all killing work. If God kills His people, it is to make them alive (1 Samuel 2:6); if He wounds them, it is that He may heal; if He brings down, it is that He may lift up. There is, then, "a time to heal." And how is that healing effected? By some sweet discovery of mercy to the soul, by the eyes of the understanding being enlightened to see Jesus, and by the Holy Ghost raising up a measure of faith in the heart whereby Christ is laid hold of, embraced in the affections, testified to by the Spirit, and enthroned within, as "the hope of glory."
3. But we pass on to another time — "a time to break down." This implies that there is a building to be overthrown. What building is this? It is that proud edifice which Satan and the flesh have combined to erect in opposition to God, the Babel which is built up with bricks and lime to reach the topmost heaven. But there is a time in God's hand to break down this Babel which has been set up by the combined efforts of Satan and our own hearts.
4. There is "a time to build up." This building up is wholly and solely in Christ, under the blessed Spirit's operations. But what building up can there be in Christ, except the creature is laid low? What has Jesus as an all-sufficient Saviour to do with one who can stand in his own strength and his own righteousness?
5. But there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Does a man only weep once in his life? Does not the time of weeping run, more or less, through a Christian's life? Does not mourning run parallel with his existence in this tabernacle of clay? for "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Then "a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up," must run parallel with a Christian's life, just as much as "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." But these times and seasons are in the Father's hand; and, "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder." Never talk of healing till you can talk of killing; never think of being built up, until you have been broken down; never expect to laugh, until you have been taught to weep; and never hope to dance, until you have learned to mourn. Such only as are taught of God can enter into the real experience of these things; and into them, sooner or later, each according to his measure, does God the Holy Spirit lead all the ransomed family of Zion.
(J. C. Philpot.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
WEB: a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;