Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:…
This is the great argument of awakened sinners, when they seek mercy at God's hands.
I. GOD'S ARGUMENT FOR MERCY. He forgives us "for Christ's sake."
1. Let us consider the force of this motive by which God is moved to forgive sinners.
(1) The first thing which will move us to do anything for another's sake is his person, with its various additions of position and character. The excellence of a man's person has often moved others to high enthusiasm, to the spending of their lives; ay, to the endurance of cruel deaths for his sake. In the day of battle, if the advancing column wavered for a single moment, Napoleon's presence made every man a hero. When Alexander led the van, there was not a man in all the Macedonian ranks who would have hesitated to lose his life in following him. For David's sake the three mighties broke through the host, at imminent peril of their lives, to bring him water from the well of Bethlehem. Some men have a charm about them which enthralls the souls of other men, who are fascinated by them and count it their highest delight to do them honour. How shall I, in a fitting manner, lead you to contemplate the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing that His charms as far exceed all human attractions as the sun outshines the stars! Yet this much I will be bold to say, that tie is so glorious that even the God of heaven may well consent to do ten thousand things for His sake. He is Almighty God, and at the same time all-perfect Man. In the surpassing majesty of His person lies a part of the force of the plea.
(2) A far greater power lies in near and dear relationship. The mother, whose son had been many years at sea, pined for him with all a mother's fondness. She was a widow, and her heart had but this one object left. One day there came to the cottage door a ragged sailor. He was limping on a crutch, and seeking alms. He had been asking at several houses for a widow of such-and-such a name. He had now found her out. She was glad to see a sailor, for never since her son had gone to sea had she turned one away from her door, for her son's sake. The present visitor told her that he had served in the same ship with her beloved boy; that they had been wrecked together and cast upon a barren shore; that her son had died in his arms, and that he had charged him with his dying breath to take his Bible to his mother — she would know by that sign that it was her son — and to charge her to receive his comrade affectionately and kindly for her son's sake. You may well conceive how the best of the house was set before the stranger. He was but a common sailor; there was nothing in him to recommend him. His weather-beaten cheeks told of service, but it was not service rendered to her; he had no claim on her, and yet there was bed and board, and the widow's hearth for him. Why? Because she seemed to see in his eyes the picture of her son — and that Book, the sure token of good faith, opened her heart and her house to the stranger. Relationship will frequently do far more than the mere excellence of the person. Our God had but one begotten Son, and that Son the darling of His bosom. Oh, how the Father loved Him.
(3) The force of the words, "For Christ's sake," must be found deeper still, namely, in the worthiness of the person and of his acts. Many peerages have been created in this realm which descend from generation to generation, with large estates, the gift of a generous nation, and why? Because this nation has received some signal benefits from one man and has been content to ennoble his heirs forever for his sake. I do not think there was any error committed when Marlborough or Wellington were lifted to the peerage; having saved their country in war, it was right that they should be honoured in peace; and when, for the sake of the parents, perpetual estates were entailed upon their descendants, and honours in perpetuity conferred upon their sons, it was only acting according to the laws of gratitude. Let as bethink ourselves of what Jesus has done, and let us understand how strong must be that plea — "for Jesus' sake."(4) If any stipulation has been made, then the terms, "for His sake," become more forcible, because they are backed by engagements, promises, covenants.
(5) It tends very much to strengthen the plea "for Christ's sake," if it be well known that it is the desire of the person that the boon should be granted, and if, especially, that desire has been and is earnestly expressed. No, beloved, if I anxiously ask for mercy, Christ has asked for mercy for me long ago. There is never a blessing for which a believer pleads, but Christ pleads for it too; for "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
2. Pausing a minute, let us enumerate some few other qualifications of this plea by way of comfort to trembling seekers.
(1) This motive, we may observe, is with God a standing motive; it cannot change.
(2) Remember, again, that this is a mighty reason. It is not merely a reason why God should forgive little sins, or else it would be a slur upon Christ, as though He deserved but little.
(3) Then, brethren, it is a most clear and satisfactory, I was about to say, most reasonable reason, a motive which appeals to your own common sense. Can you not already see how God can be gracious to you for Christ's sake? We have heard of persons who have given money to beggars, to the poor; not because they deserved it, but because they would commemorate some deserving friend. On a certain day in the year our Horticultural Gardens are opened to the public, free. Why, why should they be opened free? What has the public done? Nothing. They receive the boon in commemoration of the good Prince Albert. Is not that a sensible reason? Yes. Every day in the year the gates of heaven are opened to sinners free. Why? For Jesus Christ's sake. Is it not a most fitting reason? If God would glorify His Son, how could He do better than by saying, "For the sake of My dear Son, set the pearly gates of heaven wide open, and admit His chosen ones."(4) This is the only motive which can ever move the heart of God.
II. THE BELIEVER'S GREAT MOTIVE FOR SERVICE.
1. We begin with a few hints as to what service is expected of us.
(1) One of the first things which every Christian should feel bound to do "for Christ's sake" is to avenge His death. "Avenge His death," says one, "upon whom?" Upon His murderers. And who were they? Our sins! our sins!
(2) Then, next, the Christian is expected to exalt his Master's name, and to do much to honour His memory, for Christ's sake. You remember that queen, who, when her husband died, thought she could never honour him too much, and built a tomb so famous, that though it was only named from him, it remains, to this day, the name of every splendid memorial — the mausoleum. Now let us feel that we cannot erect anything too famous for the honour of Christ — that our life will be well spent in making His name famous. Let us pile up the unhewn stones of goodness, self-denial, kindness, virtue, grace; let us lay these one upon another, and build up a memorial for Jesus Christ, so that whosoever passes us by, may know that we have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him.
(3) And above all, "for Jesus' sake" should be a motive to fill us with intense sympathy with Him. He has many sheep, and some of them are wandering; let us go after them, my brethren, for the Shepherd's sake.
2. A few words, lastly, by way of exhortation on this point. Clear as the sound of a trumpet startling men from slumber, and bewitching as the sound of martial music to the soldier when he marches to the conflict, ought to be the matchless melody of this word. Review, my brethren, the heroic struggles of the Lord's people, and here we turn to the brightest page of the world's annals! Think of the suffering of God's people through the Maccabean war! How marvellous was their courage when Antiochus Epiphanes took the feeblest among the Jews to constrain them to break the law, and found himself weak as water before their dauntless resolve. Aged women and feeble children overcame the tyrant. Their tongues were torn out; they were sawn asunder; they were broiled on the fire; they were pierced with knives; but no kind of torture could subdue the indomitable spirit of God's chosen people. Think of the Christian heroism of the first centuries; remember Blandina tossed upon the horns of bulls and set in a red-hot iron chair; think of the martyrs given up to the lions in the amphitheatre, amidst the revilings of the Roman mob; dragged to their death at the heels of wild horses, or, like Marcus Arethusa, smeared with honey and stung to death by bees; and yet in which case did the enemy triumph? In none! They were more than conquerors through Him that loved them! And why? Because they did it all "for Christ's sake," and Christ's sake alone. Think of the cruelty which stained the snows of the Switzer's Alps, and the grass of Piedmont's Valleys, blood red with the murdered Waldenses and Albigenses, and honour the heroism of those who, in their deaths, counted not their lives dear to them "for Christ's sake." Walk this afternoon to your own Smithfield, and stand upon the sacred spot where the martyrs leaped into their chariot of fire, leaving their ashes on the ground, "for Jesus' sake." In Edinburgh, stand on the well known stones consecrated with covenanting gore, where the axe and the hangman set free the spirits of men who rejoiced to suffer for Christ's sake. Remember those fugitives "for Christ's sake," meeting in the glens and crags of Scotia's every hill, "for Christ's sake." They were daunted by nothing — they dared everything "for Christ's sake." Think, too, of what missionaries have done "for Christ's sake." With no weapon but the Bible, they have landed among cannibals, and have subdued them to the power of the gospel; with no hope of gain, except in the reward which the Lord has reserved for every faithful one, they have gone where the most enterprizing trader dared not go, passed through barriers impenetrable to the courage of men who sought after gold, but to be pierced by men who sought after souls.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: