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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gott


On several occasions we find a Christian confession made that someone was “hemmed in” and not able to do anything else.  Sometimes the word used is constrained or pressed in or the idea is to be surrounded.  Jesus, for example, used that word to speak of being obligated to go to the cross.  He was constantly urged or constrained in that one direction.  He had to go that way with a sense of mission.  He was hemmed in because love left Him no choice.

So that, all of us should be also obligated in some way—compelled and captured by Christ!  The statement Paul made is exactly that, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced …” (II Corinthians 5:14, NIV)  But also, “the love of Christ leaves us no choice” (New English Bible).  Literally that, he had been hemmed in.  So that, nothing he faced could change his mind—not great adversity, not strong opposition, or total apathy would phase him in his mission.  Paul said that he was “convinced” so that he would go on through fatigue and pain that the calling he had might be faithfully fulfilled.  He was surrounded and compelled, he had literally no choice!  It had totally overpowered him.  His heart was fixed! (read Psalm 112:7)

We cannot fail to understand how overwhelmingly this had gripped him.  Love had left him no choice!  All of us need the same, the love of Christ pressing upon us, firmly but gently, so that we have the exact sense of calling.  Let us be constrained in one direction and with only one motivation.  Just as Jesus with His all-consuming motivation that was sending Him like a great force to the cross.  Yet, the emphasis for us must be on the commanding control of love, “For the love of Christ controls us” just as Paul said with complete understanding.

The impression is like being drawn by a very powerful magnet, in order that we “might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (verse 15).  The ultimate expression of love was Christ and His going to the cross.  And for us too, the cross must be much more than a theme for a Sunday school lesson or a sermon.  The idea of Christ dying for us should overwhelm us, as it did to Paul.  To him, Christ alone had suffered in his place; in love so amazing Christ was willing to die for him.  So he could no longer live for himself “but for him who for their sake died and was raised” which made Paul no longer his own man and he could not live any longer for himself.  He was “compelled”—the cross remained a magnet of his soul.  The cross of Christ must be the one event not only of the great fact of truth revealed but the wonder of God’s love.

Very simply as we have been told, the cross of Christ is the single most revolutionary thing that ever appeared on this earth!  It shows not only how far men will go in the rejection of God but how far God will go in the redemption of humans.  Paul and early Christians would have gladly sung with Isaac Watts:

“Was it for sins that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree!”

So that, when asked, “Who delivered up Jesus to die?” the only answer is, it was not Judas because of treacherous money; it was not Pilate because of cowardly fear; it was not religious leaders because of spiritual blindness; but the Father God, because of amazing love!  This display of love seen on the cross meant human sin was condemned and canceled and grace was openly available and forever amazing!

Paul said he was captured by the message of the cross, hemmed in and compelled by it.  Two things he had done related to it:  he had been drawn to it and he too had died upon it, and he said, “nevertheless I live” (Galatians 2:20).  So that, he no longer lived for himself for he had been bought with a price (see I Corinthians 6:20) and therefore there was a fantastic new life exclusively for the glory of the Son of God, who had loved him and given Himself for him (Ephesians 5:2).

Chrysostom said, “To be another than I am, I must abandon that I am!”  Abandoned to Christ, nothing counts eternally until we give ourselves away to Him.  We are grateful then for the insight of C. S. Lewis, who said, “[God] cannot bless us until He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.”  So, in that very real sense we are “hemmed in.”

“And what,” some may ask, “does that lead to?”  It is surely this:  There can never be eternal disappointments to any of those whose wills are buried in the will of God. 

This matter of “leaving us with no choice” involved speaking the Word of God with boldness, standing before Jewish leaders in synagogues, and declaring who Christ was, even facing stoning—it left him no choice.  It was the full overflow of their lives that were full of God’s love and the Spirit of Christ overflowing.  James S. Stewart was forceful in speaking of Christian love and its not being a type of sentimentalism but seen in selfless service.  He felt this involved the consistency of lives with the message of truth on our lips.  It was an immense feature for us all.


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