The Epistles to the Corinthians

In the epistles to the Corinthians, as already said, we have the Church presented as the practical fellowship of saints on earth, which is, as such, the living expression of that fellowship with Christ to which they are called (1 Cor. 1:9) as having the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). They are the Body of Christ, He being the Head, to whom they are subject, His Spirit dwelling in them to work out in them intelligently His will. They are thus His witnesses upon earth, and as a whole His corporate witness, — the "epistle" (not "epistles") "of Christ, read and known of all men" (2 Cor. 3:3). For this every member of the Body is needed, and indeed as a whole must "grow up unto Christ in all things," "to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, 15). Thus there is a ministry within necessary, as well as an outside testimony, and "the whole Body, fitted together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body to the edifying of itself in love."

It will be thus seen how essential is the thought of ministry to the Church; and so it will not be wondered at that the second epistle should be devoted wholly to this subject, as a fitting and needful appendix to the doctrine of the first. How can there be fellowship with the Great Minister to all our need, without participating with Him in this character? Love, which "seeketh not her own," is the very spirit of this; and without love, what is all speech, all knowledge, all giving of one's goods to feed the poor? Nay, "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).

For all this, it is Christ who is the one sufficiency; and from Christ alone, therefore, must the Church draw for competence of every kind. Thus for fellowship with Christ, separation from the world and all its wisdom is insisted on; a world which has rejected Christ; which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh; and over which broods the dark shadow of its self-chosen prince, who is not Christ, but the great enemy of Christ and of His people.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians

Scope and Divisions of the First Epistle to the Corinthians

The first epistle, then, is that which gives the doctrine of the  Church as a fellowship of Christians, in the world, while called out from it, subject to Christ in whom is all their sufficiency, and whose witness they are, as His Body by the indwelling Spirit expressing His mind.

The first division (chaps. 1 — 10.) naturally insists upon that sufficiency in Him for such true wisdom as has in it that which meets the need of man as guilty, corrupt, and estranged from God, incapable of himself of any but that which more and more leads astray from Him. Thus of necessity the true wisdom refuses all affinity or mixture with the wisdom of the world, which, as the apostle James declares, is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). Accordingly, such characters develop here. World-wisdom among the Corinthians goes hand in hand with fleshly indulgence, and maintains no due separation from the idolatrous demon-worship round; and the treatment of these things completes the first division of the epistle.

The second division applies to the assembly in itself; — its order, testimony in gathering, membership, spiritual manifestations; with the spirit of love which is the pervading and controlling principle, — the bond of perfectness which unites all together. It is shown, first of all, that God's order in creation is to be maintained in the Church, — an important principle, with which the law of new creation might be thought to be in conflict, and so to supersede it. Nature is set in its true place in regard to faith; and its teaching as not to be slighted, but understood. In the gathering of the assembly Christ is then seen as the object before all, in the love in which He has served and given Himself for them. In fact, the Cross, as the wisdom and power of God, is that which brings into communion with God and with one another. Its character in the supper as a pure remembrance is important here; and, as awaking the love and worship of the hearts, prepares for the activities which necessarily flow out of these. We are led on, therefore, to consider the company so gathered as the Body of Christ; in a relationship of dependence on, and so of ministry to, one another, and of obedience and witness to the Lord Himself. The twelfth chapter shows us how this is secured by the variety of those manifold gifts of which the Holy Spirit is the living energy. While in the thirteenth, we have that which is more excellent than all gift, and which alone can make the gifts answer their designed end in the edification of the Body at large.

After this we come to what practically exemplifies the "more excellent way" in the assembly, and asserts, moreover, the presence of God among His people, — the power of an assembly at all times. God and men are seen here together; and the responsibility of man is necessarily insisted on, — of the gifted in the exercise of their gifts. This ends the second division of the book.

The third brings us to the resurrection from the dead. The Church is built upon the risen Christ: thus the gates of hell (or hades, as it should be) cannot prevail against her (Matt. 16:18). But, though already a partaker of resurrection life, there is still needed the resurrection of the body, or its change, in order to full manifestation in this character. It suits well, therefore, the epistle which treats of the Church on earth, to follow her on to the time when, at the coming of her Lord for whom she waits, "death shall be swallowed up in victory." Accordingly there is a development of this truth here such as we find nowhere else in Scripture. And this closes the doctrine of the epistle.

The last chapter is of the usual character of practical exhortation, mingled with those salutations and topics of personal interest, which have for us, as being likewise in the body, a personal interest too.

The chief divisions, therefore, are —
1. (1 Cor. 1 — 10.): The Assembly in its all-sufficiency in Christ, excluding all mixture with the wisdom, license, and demonolatry of the world, from which it is called out.
2. (1 Cor. 11 — 14.): The Assembly in its fellowship, associate witness, and ministry of each to each and to all in the Body of Christ, "for the edification of itself in love."
3. (1 Cor. 15.): The resurrection, or transformation, of the body; that the heavenly may bear the image of the heavenly One.
4. (1 Cor. 16.): Exhortations and greetings.

Notes.

We have, then, in this epistle the Church in the world, not of it; and what is proper to these two things. The assembly is, in the meantime, gathered here; but, it is the "ecclesia," the gathering "called out," — the Gershom of the true Moses, "a stranger there" (Ex. 2:22).

Whatever its heavenly character, it is always looked at in Scripture as on earth, and nowhere else, at the present time. The number of those who belong to it but have passed into the presence of their Lord in no wise affects this view of it. The Church is here, for here is the Spirit who gathers it; and the very indwelling of the Spirit, by virtue of which we become members of Christ, members of His Body, is in our bodies (chap. 6:19), which departed saints have dropped for the moment. Thus it is plain, the importance to the Church, as well as the individual, of the resurrection doctrine which is developed in the fifteenth chapter; when the Church as such goes to be with the Lord, the body must be refashioned for its new and glorious condition.

Corinth, as we have already seen, was a very type (even among the light-hearted Greeks themselves) of luxurious self-indulgence. The derivation of the name is at least possible from a verb which means "to sate." And this is found in the present epistle — its only occurrence in the epistles — where the apostle reproaches them, for the way in which they had yielded again to the Corinthian spirit: "Now ye are full" (1 Cor. 4:8). Thus the background of the epistle is, as we might expect, eminently fitted to give effect to the presentation of the truth as given in it.

Division 1. (1 Cor. 1 – 10.)

The Church with its one, unique sufficiency excludes all other.

The first division, as already said, shows us the all-sufficiency the Church has in Christ, which renders it entirely independent of the world. This is not simply incapable of yielding help to it — it is hostile. The place of the cross of Christ is not merely a wilderness to it; it is an enemy's country, and its seductions more to be dreaded than its open opposition. This was already proving itself at Corinth; and the apostle's first work here is to fence off the garden of the Lord, not from the irruption of the wild boar that wasted Israel's vineyard, but from the seeds of poisonous growths which every wind wafted, and by which the fruits of Christian life would be vitiated and strangled. The wisdom of the world had shut out from it the glory of Christ, and ministered but to the fleshly lusts which evidenced the heart away from God, and seeking its gratification in that which carried it continually further from Him. Over it all a still darker shadow brooded, — that of a "prince of the world" which it had chosen for itself, and whose power depended upon his ability to foster every delusion, increase the already portentous darkness, and with the heavy dreams of a drugged slumber shut out all the realities of God's own light. This is the scene in which the Church of God is not merely to remain for the time of her pilgrimage, but to maintain a testimony for Christ which is, by the very fact, a defiance of the usurper of dominion in the creation of God, and therefore certain to provoke the whole power of Satan to deadliest opposition. Blessed to know that greater is He that is with us than all that are against us; but that does not mean that the warfare is not one that will put us to the fullest proof, and call for the utmost energy to gain the victory.

The first division, then, deals largely with the foe outside, but with one constantly seeking to gain footing inside; in which also he is aided, alas, by the unfaithfulness of the people of God themselves, which is, indeed, his main dependence. To meet all this the apostle shows the fulness of the resources that are in Christ for His people, and insists upon whole-hearted reliance upon them/ and refusal of all the spirit and moral elements of the world around.

Subdivision 1. (1 Cor. 1 – 4.)

The barrenness of human knowledge, — the sufficiency of the divine.

The apostle necessarily begins with what is the first necessity; contrasting the barrenness of human knowledge with the sufficiency of divine. What so many slight as doctrine is thus the basis of all else. So we find the order elsewhere: Scripture is profitable first for doctrine, then reproof, then correction, instruction in righteousness. There must first of all be the light, which shows us the road and whither we are going. And the light must be from heaven, as nature witnesses; in himself man has none, save as the candle which lights up but a few yards round us, and that dubiously. The best natural knowledge is of our own lack of it, the sin that perverts our judgment, the death which we in vain call natural, the foreboding of what is beyond, a God whose handiwork we recognize, yet afar off: why is the Maker of the world so far off practically, as it has to be confessed He is? Revelation must come in, as the wisest of the heathen recognized, to deliver man front the uncertainty in which he is, and declare to him, what surely there must be, the way of life. Spite of all this, the world congratulates itself upon its wisdom; but "the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God."

Section 1. (1 Cor. 1:1-16.)

The Church under Christ the Lord.

It is this darkness and uncertainty on man's part, which could not be but as the result or a moral obliquity, which has turned him from the Source of light and blessing, that has placed him under the control of the "gods many and lords many" that oppress him now. His passions govern him and by the skillful use of these he is turned, as the ship in the master's hand, "whithersoever the governor listeth." With the entrance of the light from heaven, this misery ceases; the kingdom of truth has come: one righteous and sufficient rule is discerned and welcomed, which embraces all circumstances, and sets the subject heart at, rest. How completely may it be so for him for whom a Son of man sits upon the Father's throne, and the crown of glory rests where once was the crown of thorns. It was soon understood of Christians that they had "another king, one Jesus;" whose sovereignty meant freedom in obedience, the sweetest possible despotism of a perfect and divine love.

This is what animates the apostle as he addresses himself to the Corinthians now. He is full, as may be plainly seen, of the Lordship of Christ, their Lord and his. Alas, they needed the reminder of what alone set right the whole state of things amongst them. How could they be "frill" and "rich" and "reign as kings" in the scene of His cross, if the sovereignty of Jesus had not been losing its rightful hold upon them? How could they be parcelling themselves off as followers of this and that one among the servants by whom He had ministered to them, if all were serving the Lord Christ with the simplicity they once had? The "day of the Lord," with its "revelation of the Lord," did not shine for them as once, with its overmastering display of glory that eclipsed all others with its radiance. Hence his first aim, without any formal argument, which was unneeded, was to remind them of Him they served, To serve Him would soon be proved greater than to reign as kings on. earth.

1. Paul reminds them also of his own call as an apostle by the will of God, which had wrought in spite of the opposition of the human heart in his own case, as in that of "Sosthenes our brother," whom he joins with himself in his epistle, now a "strong helper," according to the probable meaning of his name, as he seems to have been, in the time of the apostle's earlier labors at Corinth, a strong opposer. The brief way in which he is mentioned here, though the name itself may not have been an uncommon one, suggests that he was known to the Corinthians as the former ruler of the synagogue would be. It is certain he would not be brought forward in this way without some reason for it.

Thus divine sovereignty had wrought for Christ, as it had wrought in the self-same grace toward every one of those Paul addresses here, if not so manifestly. He does not fail to assert this presently in direct terms where he presses upon them their own knowledge of their calling (ver. 26). Here too he addresses them (as before the Romans) as saints by calling — God's creative call (Rom. 8:30) — as he an apostle. The assembly is also by its designation as such a company "called out," which expresses in this application a body separated from the world which has crucified the Son of God, and to which every one who believes in Him is crucified in His cross.

The two epistles to the Corinthians are the only two written to the assembly of God as such, — that is, in true church-character. "The assembly of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father," is, as we have already seen, different in its suggestion; while "the assemblies of Galatia" shows by its plural form that "the Church which is His body" is in no wise the thought, but it leaves room for question — too much in accord with the condition shown in the epistle — whether they have in fact a divine character at all. "I stand in doubt of you" is written upon the very opening of it.

Ephesians gives us most fully of all the doctrine of the Church; but it is not written to the Church, but to the saints; and so we may say of Colossians. They are for individual faith and conduct, and not directions for the regulation of the Body as such. Corinthians is, without doubt, all that is written directly for this purpose, by him who was the special minister of the Church (Col. 1:25).

To the assembly, then, he writes, characterizing it first as that of those sanctified (or set apart to God) in Christ Jesus. The place they had in Him was necessarily, as that, a place, not of negative separation merely from this evil or that, but a separation in which God was distinctly before the soul, according to the perfection of His holy nature. "In Christ" was the accomplishment of this: He being both in His atoning work our deliverance from the distance which sin had brought in, and in the power of His glory transforming to His likeness the one in faith beholding it (2 Cor. 3:18). Saints, therefore, we are by calling; for it is a "calling above, in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). We are called out of a fallen world to a portion in Christ, with Him where He is. Our faces there, our backs must be here. There is our goal, our prize, the home of the light which brightens all our journey thither.

It is to the assembly of God in Corinth that Paul specifically writes: and this gives its character to the epistle, as has been said. But he is far from desiring it to be thought that it is on that account in any way restricted to a mere local interest. On the contrary, it is most instructive to see his earnestness to have it understood that all Christians are concerned in and addressed in it. He adds, therefore, to the specifically named Corinthians, "with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, — theirs and ours." Thus there is the widest possible appeal to attention, as afterwards the strongest claim to divine authority for all that is not expressly excepted from this: "If any man be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37).

The "calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" is bowing to authority in the hands of the divinely appointed Ruler. To "call upon the name of the Lord" is the pass-word of salvation; and the apostle has no thought here of a mere lip-confession, although, of course, there may in fact be many who say, "Lord, Lord," while the heart knows Him not. But he credits all with their responsible profession, and from his inmost heart he desires for all that "grace and peace" which have but one source, one channel, — our Father God, and the Lord our Saviour.

2. He starts at once with what we have seen to be his subject here, by acknowledging what God's abundant grace had done for them, and the witness-place for which God had furnished them. They had been enriched by grace in all utterance and in all knowledge — in what was communicated to them, and in ability to communicate it to others. The testimony of Christ which had been brought to them in the gospel, had thus been confirmed in them; God was thus glorifying Him in whom He had been glorified on earth, in those endowments which we have soon to see were being perverted by the Corinthians to the glorifying of themselves — in fact to their own dishonor. As far as they were concerned, the gifts were those of grace only, — grace which had decorated the poor human clay in those who were but the "base things of the earth," and still as earthen vessels in which the treasures of heaven had been received. They lacked in no gift: God had kept back nothing that could be needed by them for the setting forth Christ, while the day of His revelation tarried, for which they were waiting; and by this would establish them also, that in His day they might be without blame. Paul assures them, therefore, of the faithfulness of God, who, having called them to the fellowship of His Son, could not repent of what He had thus done. Every one so called will, therefore, in like manner be confirmed, and so be found blameless in the day when divine grace shall have perfected its work in them, and the robes of their righteousness will be seen as washed white in the blood of the Lamb. But there is a way by which such an end is reached, as surely as there is the end also to which it leads. Both are alike ordained, and not one without the other.

With these reminders and with this encouragement, Paul appeals to them now by the name of Him whom they called their Lord against all division of spirit, and even of mind. The name of Christ is that which is named upon us all, and will have power, as the glory of it is realized, to unite us thus together. How can the servants of the same dear Lord fail to be united in a common obedience? It may be said, "They may misconceive what that obedience is." True; how much of this, in fact, there has been. And yet the correction of it is in the same spirit provided for: for the Lord Himself has guaranteed that "He that will, do His will shall know of the doctrine;" and that is a principle, surely, of the most far-reaching significance. It may be questioned or denied, except as to some things of main importance; but what does it mean, to deny it? Is it to he supposed that, in matters of practical moment, He will allow the one who with downright simplicity desires to know the path, prepared at all costs then to walk in it, yet to be without the knowledge that he seeks; and so to err in that way of holiness of which it is written that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein?"

It is quite true, again, that in all such texts mistakes may be made, and are made. The wayfaring man, so marked, is not the idler by the way, — not the one who believes that the intelligence of divine grace means taking things easily, and being as little as possible exercised about anything. He is not the man who little consults his road-map, is little interested in communications from the place to which he is going, and who, passing through an enemy's country, sees but little evidence of danger anywhere, and finds the proof of the world being improved in the monuments of the prophets built by the children of their persecutors. These are they who naturally take the distracted state of Christendom as an infallible argument of the uselessness of expecting positive certainty about anything beyond a few cardinal points of doctrine, and who yet think Scripture plain enough for all practical purposes. No! it is deep enough to exercise thoroughly every earnest student of it, and profitable for the "man of God" alone.

And how many are the men of God? How many are they who are set absolutely to follow all that Scripture sets before them, and never baulk the light because it searches them too much? The "secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him" thus, and none of these will find Scripture disappoint them. But they will find it immensely large, and ever beyond them, — leading them on, therefore, to the invisible, the heavenly, the eternal; while giving them practical wisdom without limit with regard to all that meets them by the way.

Christian reader, is this your character? and how does your experience agree with this?

It is no wonder then that what the apostle appeals to the Corinthians by, against their divisions, is the Name of a common Lord, — that name upon which they call as owning subjection to Him whose name it is. We find directly how far they had gone astray from the simplicity of this obedience; even to the ranging themselves as disciples under the various teachers which God had given them, as one of Paul, and one of Apollos, and one of Cephas, and one even — as if putting His teachings in contrast with those of His (even inspired) servants — of Christ Himself! How ninny since have sought to make such a distinction! perhaps to refer us for their creed to the "sermon on the mount"! And one whole school of recent date, among the many monstrous births with which the degenerate universities of Protestant Germany have afflicted the church, has for its cardinal principle the opposition of Paul to Peter, and Peter to Paul, from a compromise between whose followers came the Catholic church! There is no need for us at present to concern ourselves with such grotesque heresies, and it will be of more profit to think of things that more nearly touch ourselves. We no doubt believe that all the inspired writers are to be listened to as the mouthpieces of the Spirit of God alike; whatever may be the differences in their respective lines of testimony. It is to be feared, however, that for most of us some of these have written almost in vain. The want of balance of truth may thus be very great, and the result more than a defect in knowledge. Scripture is a living organism, in which each member ministers to the rest, and if one member suffer all the members suffer with it. Prophecy roots itself in history, which again is the birthplace of every great doctrine. Doctrine controls and models practice. To suppose that any part of the word of God may be slighted with impunity is to come near to accusing God of having spoken idly in it; and it is not the knowledge of it, but the want of knowledge — its power and preciousness not being realized in the soul, that makes men ready to yield it up to the unsparing hands of the (falsely called) "higher critics," whose every effort is to debase what they do not understand.

But this works also in other ways which may once more come closer home to us. What is it that makes people sit at the feet of men who can be but, at best, interpreters after an imperfect fashion of a book which is in all our hands, and the One infallible Interpreter of which is given to all Christians, with deference often abject to the authoritative exposition of those who know, or ought to know, as those occupied so much with the things of the world, and destitute of needful training, cannot be expected to do? Let it not be thought that it is meant that we can receive no help from teachers; or that there is not to be a due recognition of whatever help the Lord would give us. His way is to use us to one another, and the pride of independency is sure to reap its reward. But the opposite error is at least no less; it is a false, because extreme, confidence in any teacher, however pious, however gifted, which as little really honors the teacher as it even establishes in the teaching, or builds up the soul therefore before God. Such disciples of men are like a house upon the sand, when the storm of trial comes; while, as the Lord says, "He that heareth His words and doeth them," his house shall not fall, because it is founded upon a rock. And be it the truth one builds on, but receiving it as the word of man, without having searched out all before God, except His mercy avert, the sand that is over the rock may cause its fall as easily. Who that is a teacher indeed can be satisfied with less than divine authority for himself, or therefore allow others to be satisfied with less? The mind may wander through imaginative realms of fancy at its will, but the conscience is that which has to do with God alone, where no one of us all can answer for another. Yet how many grow up in the faith of their parents simply, without ever having examined it! or in the creed of a church certified to them by a multitude of respectable names, and thus are walking by the faith of others, and not their own! And thus we have come with the weight of centuries upon us, down to a systematized Corinthian condition, in the easiest and most natural way possible to be imagined. Alas, too natural; what more so than for Abraham to desire to carry his father with him into Canaan? Yet he only kept himself out of it till his father died. And we, what wonder that we have not much need of a text to teach us how to know of the doctrine, we who succeed to our fathers, doctrines just as to any other part of their estates, and would think it a dishonor to their memories to act as if we were wiser than they, except as perforce we are carried on with the progress of the generations, mostly scientific as it is, and thus are compelled to realize that Darwin has come, and Darwinism in religion, while they and Moses had the misfortune to live before his time.

One would think that this principle of science with its professed call for "verification," would suggest at least no less than the verification by our manual of instruction, of all that we hear from those who professedly are teaching from it; but men are men, and sinuosity still marks "the worm Jacob's" course. How many verify their scientific text-books? And in religion, how shall these hard-worked business men sit down to verify the sayings of those whose business is to give out that which by long labor they have acquired? They may change their teacher, if they are unable in the main to go with him; but the method is harder to change. Until, indeed, the invisible things become for them the deepest realities, and the spoon fashion of feeding no longer is found to meet the demands of a sturdier life.

With the Corinthians things had not gone on in any wise so far as this, but the same causes were at work, and the people of God were already becoming such or such a teacher's people. The apostle meets it with the utmost vigor, according to his wont. "Is Christ divided?" he asks: are His words in contradiction to those inspired by the Spirit since He went on high? "Was Paul crucified for you?" so that you should be the people of Paul? "Or were you baptized to the name of Paul?" — as people are baptized into this or that church now. "I thank my God," he adds, "that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius, that no one may say ye were baptized to my name. And I baptized also the house of Stephanas; for the rest, I know not if I baptized any other."

"Under the old dispensation," says Hodge, "whenever any one professed Judaism, or entered into covenant with God as one of His people, all his children and dependents, that is, all to whom he stood in a representative relation, were included in the covenant, and received its sign. In like manner, under the gospel, when a Jew or Gentile joined the Church, his children received baptism and were recognized as members of the Christian Church." I quote this because of some common but important errors in it, which need to be separated from the truth which is contained.

The "baptismal covenant" is a very common doctrine in much of Protestant theology; having its main support from its analogy with the Israelite "covenant of circumcision "by which the seed of Abraham according to the flesh" stood in acknowledged relationship to Jehovah, their covenant God. But while conceding fully the analogy, we have carefully to remember the difference between a nation in the flesh and under a covenant of law, and the Church as the Body of Christ, indwelt of the Spirit. Into this Church no ordinance can bring, but the baptism of the Spirit only (1 Cor. 12:13). The confounding of this with water-baptism, and of the Body of Christ with the Kingdom of heaven is one that has led largely to the ritualism with which the professing church is afflicted today, and from which the Reformers themselves, with but a few exceptions such as Zwingle, were by no means fully delivered. But while there was a "throne of the Lord" in Israel, where Solomon sat as the viceroy and representative of a higher power (1 Chron. 28:5; 29:23), the sign of whose Presence was the Glory over the ark of the covenant in the innermost holy place, yet the difference is even thus apparent. And if Israel were thus a kingdom of the Lord, and might have been, had they stood to the terms of their covenant, "a kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6) in nearer relationship, yet members of the Body of Christ they never were — not even that remnant according to the election of grace which has been ever among them. To urge, as so many do, that they were the "assembly," (or "church") of the Lord, as we are, is to mistake the whole matter, and substitute a false issue for the true one. The question is in no wise one of the assembly of the Lord simply, which no one could deny them to have been, but of "the assembly which is His Body" (Eph. 1:22, 23), which could not exist before there was a Head in heaven, or a baptism of the Spirit to form the Body. The Kingdom it is which, in whatever different forms, existed, and exists all through; and in Israel the house of God was its centre; in the Kingdom, but of course distinct from it. And so again, the Church is now the House of God by the indwelling of the Spirit; in the Kingdom, but distinct from the Kingdom. It is only the confusion between Israel as the assembly of the Lord, and the assembly which is Christ's Body and the House of God, that makes this other confusion between the Kingdom and the Church. And it is true that "He hath made us a Kingdom, priests to His God and Father," as the book of Revelation says (Rev. 1:6, R.V.); but this is another of the many blessings which are ours in Christ.

This distinction clear makes clear many another thing. It is on this lower ground that Israel and the Church are in some sense one. It is here that the analogy between circumcision and baptism finds its justification, and the whole ritualistic argument as to the latter is swept away. Baptism is into the Kingdom, not the Church; it is, as we have elsewhere seen, one of the keys of the Kingdom (see Matt. 16:19, notes), and one of the modes of discipling into that which is a kingdom of truth (Matt. 28:19, notes). On this ground all the blessing is governmental, conditional, and (however it may look on to eternity,) secures nothing there. It is a remission or washing away of sin which is hypothetical necessarily, as done by those who cannot know infallibly the hearts of those who come to their baptism, and cannot cleanse those whom God has not cleansed; any more than the water which they use can cleanse the soul (see Acts 2:38, notes). Nor does God work magically, as men would have Him, by means unsuitable to the nature He has given us.

If we understood that baptism is just the solemn admission to the Lord's school on earth, the difficulty as to the admission of a believer's house to this along with himself would be at an end; and the reason would be apparent for the distinction to be made between the child and the adult. God would of course have reality, and he who owns Christ Master and Lord, coming to sit at His feet and learn of Him, must come in faith or he does not come; while on the other hand the arms of divine love are ready to encircle the babes brought to Him, and His own word bids those to whose responsibility they are committed to "bring them up in the nurture and discipline of the Lord:" — that is, as disciples. Thus the assurance that "of such is the Kingdom of heaven" is as plain as need be and as encouraging as plain. There is no bringing into a place those who have no proved fitness for it; no bringing into the professing church at all; while in complete harmony with the principles announced by God in Abraham, the family ties are owned of God in blessing wherever a faith like his may lay hold of the promise, "Bring up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Here therefore, the apostle plainly distinguishes between the only two of the assembly at Corinth whom he had baptized — "none of you, except Crispus and Gaius;" while of the baptized households he had baptized but one, as far as his memory served — "the house of Stephanas." Here it was not so important to remember; for it was not the children who were distracting the church by their divisions. It was sufficient, therefore, to say here, "for the rest, I know not that I baptized any other."

{*"The household of Stephanas" of whom we read at the end of the epistle that they had "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints," seems to be the servants, the word being different, — oikia, and not oikos. "They that are of Caesar's household" — oikia, Phil. 4:22 — were not his children; while all the cases in which the children are plainly intended the word is oikos.}

Section 2. (1 Cor. 1:17-31.)

The Cross in its twofold aspect.

The apostle now enters at once upon his theme, Christ, unknown by the world, the cross His emblem, whom it was impossible to commend to the world, therefore, by any means other than the "demonstration of the Spirit" to the convicted soul. Yet this Cross is at once the inlet of all wisdom to him who understands it, — the knowledge of itself and of God; the actual meeting of the need which it has discovered. Thus it is true wisdom, — not that barren wisdom of the world which fails man just where needed most, but that which under the severest test becomes the most conspicuous.

1. The apostle's disclaiming here of being sent to baptize is in perfect harmony with what has just been said of the connection of baptism with the Kingdom rather than the Church. Certainly those who received their commission from the risen, but not yet ascended Christ, could not have spoken in this way. Sent to baptize they were, and by Him who grounds it upon all power committed to Him, that is, upon the Kingdom that is His (Matt. 28:18, 19). He who was distinctly sent from Christ in glory, and declares himself to be in an especial manner the minister of the Church (Col. 1:25), to whom was committed the administration of that till then unknown mystery (Eph. 3:6-9), expressly denies baptism to have a place in that distinct commission! And this is the more noteworthy, because with regard to the Lord's Supper, which he might have received, like baptism, from those who were apostles before him, but which is plainly connected with this administration, he says emphatically that he had "received from the Lord" that which he delivered to them: this too in this very same epistle in which he denies his having received baptism in this way from Him, and which is an epistle for the authoritative regulation of the Church on earth (1 Cor. 14:37).

But he was also minister of the completed gospel (Col. 1:23); and this is what he turns to speak of now. Christ had not sent him to baptize, but to preach the gospel — the glad tidings of a love now going out towards all, and in which his own heart went out in sympathetic gladness. Yet here it was the word of the Cross he carried, an ominous word of humiliation, suffering and penalty endured; and which, if endured for men, yet declared their condition who could be saved only by such a sacrifice. Here, therefore, no mere wisdom of words would suffice. That would be ignoring the very condition for which the Cross was alone the remedy. It was not a mere misunderstanding which wise words would remove, but a heart away from God which had declared itself in lace of the wondrous revelation of God in Christ: men have both seen and hated both Christ and His Father. And men, according to Scripture, are the same everywhere; this condition is not an exceptional one, but, "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

What use, then, of mere appeals to man, when Christ has Himself appealed, to get no answer but the Cross? The very "word of the Cross is to those that are perishing foolishness;" while indeed to those who are being saved "it is the power of God." Yes, the power of God; but then this alone can be trusted to work in it. The wisdom of the wise is brought to an end; the understanding of the man of understanding set aside: did any of them, with whatever wisdom they might have, excogitate the gospel? or produce any equivalent to the gospel? They had had ample time to do it, if they could. The nations that had once known God, had, in fact, spite of that knowledge, glorified Him not as God, nor been thankful for the knowledge, as the apostle tells the Romans; and this was the secret of the idolatry which covered the earth with hideous forms, the reflection of the lusts which warred in their members. What could be expected of those who had thus turned their backs on God, and conjured up gods not to meet the need of conscience, but to satisfy the impulses of their depravity?

God indeed, as we know, never left Himself without witness, — never meant to leave man to the mere blind gropings of a darkened intellect. Apart from the witness of external nature which is everywhere, somewhere the light was shining all the time. In the midst of the most cultivated nations of antiquity, and at the headquarters of their commercial traffic, — in close intimacy with Egypt, (upon whose bestial gods was executed once a judgment which resounded far and near,) — and in turn with Phoenicia, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, there was a people who held in their hand the revelation of God, progressing with the onward march of the generations that went by. But this was not what they craved or would receive. Thus in the self-chosen darkness their wisdom ripened till in Greece, the land of the typical Gentile, in the midst of those who professedly sought after wisdom, it produced its fairest blossoms and its ripest fruits. The wisdom of God was pleased to give ample time for the development. As in Israel under law it was to be proved that man was without strength and ungodly, so amongst the Gentiles was it to be proved that the world by wisdom knew not God. Then, when the need was fully shown, which could not else be met at all, "it pleased God by the foolishness of the preaching" — not of preaching as a method, but of the thing preached in human estimation — "it pleased God to save those that believe."

2. Not merely to Gentile philosophy, which in its very designation was a "pursuit of wisdom," but to the legal Jew no less, the cross was naturally the very opposite of what he looked for. The Jew, as we see in the Gospels, demanded signs — significant wonders. And such indeed was the Cross, the mightiest that could be; but what child of the law could accept one in which the law itself was against the sufferer, — the curse of the law upon him? Doubtless they had read of One despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, upon whom Jehovah laid the iniquity of others, and with whose stripes they are healed. Yes, but was not that Israel suffering for the sins of the world? So have they turned the edge of conviction from themselves to weave out of texts like these a subtle web of self-righteousness in their own defence. But how indeed could they think of their glorious Messiah as in the place of one made an offering for sin? How little could they imagine that in all this reasoning they were but fulfilling the prophecy they were perverting, — "He was despised, and we esteemed Him not!"

The reason why to the Greeks it was foolishness was at bottom the same — intense blindness as to man's condition and the enormity of sin before a holy God. Their gods came down to earth indeed, and in forms lower than the human; but it was in pursuit of their own lusts and passions, as vehement and unrestrained as any that could be found in man. Here was a setting forth of "new gods" indeed, which at once proclaimed a new estimate of sin, and swept aside under its condemnation all their rabble of dishonored deities. Were indeed all these to be replaced with that gaunt Figure of rejection and death, outcast by these contemptible Jews themselves?

But if such then were the message, what hope in announcing it? None but in God's new-creative call, the call of the gospel certainly, but the gospel made good in the soul by the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit. Many heard and hear the universal gospel-call, only to reject it; but to all those called according to the word of the apostle here, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is a call effectual as God can make it, — "not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thess. 1:5); the result being a veritable new birth: for we are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23, 25).

Thus the "foolishness of God" — what with men may be considered that — approves itself by its blessed fruit in those in whose hearts, opened by divine grace, it has been received effectually, an incoming of light and joy and peace which nothing else can avail to bring. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men," whatever may be the form of the philosophy he favors; and the "weakness of God," — Christ "crucified through weakness," — "is more powerful than men."

3. If such then is the true character of world-wisdom, such its contradiction to all that is genuinely this, it is but the consequence to be expected, that the calling of God will not be characteristically of those wise according to the flesh, or mighty, or noble. He has, in fact, put upon the most conspicuous developments of the world-spirit the brand of His reprobation. He chooses the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and its weak things to shame its might, and things ignoble and despised, things that are naught in men's eyes, to bring down to naught all things in the world together, that no flesh may glory in the presence of God. Alas, it is this "great Babylon that we have builded" that exalts man to his shame, and drives him out in result among the beasts that know not God, to be more bestial than they. We must accept this abasement that God may be able indeed to exalt us, and enrich us in our poverty with the riches of One self-impoverished to enrich us. In this way man is blessed indeed, and God is glorified.

We who believe are in Christ Jesus, — filled up in all His fulness; and the wisdom which here we find manifests itself as truly that by its power to meet and put away all the disastrous consequences of the fall, and bring in an overcompensation of blessing that is indeed divine. And this is what the form of the sentence here conveys; "righteousness, as well as sanctification, and redemption," being the distinguishing blessings that are found in the wisdom that is from God, and which manifest its truly divine character.*

{*So the margin of the R.V., though ungrammatically, "both."}

It will be found also upon examination that the words stand in the order needed to bring out their relation to the fall; to that, let us remember, which began man's pursuit of wisdom, away from God. Still, "vain man will be wise, though be be born a wild ass's colt." No wonder if he should sadly lose his way. Yet in all this, supreme above it all, God works out His purposes of blessing, using even the evil itself to do so. For, if wisdom were hoped for by man from the knowledge of good and evil, this (which indeed was always designed for him by God, and which he had no need to take from Satan) is in fact overruled in such a way as to give him the deepest possible apprehension of these that (one may suppose) the creature could have; and thus, in the redeemed, to bring about a fuller conformity to the mind of God, than perhaps a being unfallen could attain. No angel could in this way by reason of use have his senses exercised to discern both good and evil." And the very presence of the evil in us after new birth is a fact whose import seems to lie in the same direction.

At the best, a wisdom of this kind could not, however, by itself solve any one of the most serious questions which perplex men, and will perplex them, apart from revelation. And this is what distinctly the book of Ecclesiastes is designed to show. Wisdom there is the object of the most earnest search by one who had special human wisdom given him by God, so as to be wiser than all men beside; and with riches and power back of it all, to carry out, as far as mail might go, his experiments. But the wail goes up from this eager seeker of what he prized and longed for: "I said I will be wise, but it was far from me." Death baffles him. The seal upon a fallen condition cannot be broken by that which induced the fall. "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward? or the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? . . . As thou knowest not the way of the spirit . . . so thou knowest not the works of God that worketh all." Revelation must come in then; and here what joy to realize how it has indeed come in!

Christ is made unto us wisdom from God; and thus with Christianity, for faith, every cloud is lifted. The wisdom that is from God is a casket of priceless jewels; in which the redeemed one finds, not only liberty, but marvelous enrichment. How much is contained in just those three words, "righteousness, sanctification and redemption!" And they are in an order of progressive fulness, as we shall see, by which we enter more and more into the heart of God.

Righteousness is the first need of the sinner, and which we see symbolically met in that robe which death furnished to cover the nakedness which was the first felt need in Eden. "I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." Yet God had made him naked, not like any beast of the earth with its protective covering, but safe in the purity of his uprightness, open to the light and not ashamed. How all was altered now! The consciousness of guilt was upon him: the law of sin was already in his members; and God Himself recognizes the impossibility of restoring that lost innocence; he must have a covering, and a better one than any that he can invent with all his power of invention. Who could imagine that death, the penalty upon him, was to be that which should provide him with this? Yet we know that this is indeed the truth. The penalty must be endured, if the sinner is to be justified before God. Righteousness for him is not in any impossible work of his hands, or new life lived, but in the first place by the death of Him of whom all the sacrificial law spoke — whom it foreshadowed. The blood of the sacrifice — token of the life poured out — was that which was offered to God for the acceptance of the offerer; and we are thus "justified by His blood," every charge against us is refused, His resurrection from the dead being the assurance of the demand met, and thus the public sentence of justification of every one that believeth in Jesus.

But this is negative merely, — there is no imputation of guilt, and that is all; and it is not all that God has done for us; we have not in this yet reached the robe of righteousness, which death indeed must obtain for us, but which goes beyond the mere putting away of sin, and gives us a positive standing in the presence of God. Christ is not merely negative but positive righteousness to us. We stand in Him, in the value that He has for God, who has achieved, not merely for us but for Him also, that which has glorified Him in all His attributes. In His death all that we were by nature and practice both was branded and set aside, — "our old man crucified with Him," — and we are accepted in the Beloved, in that unchangeable perfection which is His, living because He lives. He is the Priest that offered for us, to whom belongs the skin of the burnt-offering (Lev. 7:8); and here we are brought back as it were to Eden, to see whence those skins that covered the first sinners of mankind were derived. How from the beginning did the eye of God contemplate the coming Redeemer in His sufferings and the glories that should follow!

Yet, however wonderful this righteousness, more is needed and more provided for us in Christ. God could not merely cover the nakedness of a sinner, while leaving him still the sinner that he was before. Man fallen was corrupt as well as guilty; and Christ is made unto us not only righteousness but also sanctification.

Now sanctification is spoken of in two different ways in Scripture: we are sanctified positionally, and we are sanctified practically, — by the blood and by the Spirit of Christ; as the blood with the oil upon the blood consecrated the priest of old (Ex. 29:20, 21). Positionally, as is evident, it is the blood of Christ which has set us apart to God. And this is what sanctification means, setting apart to God. The Lord thus speaks of sanctifying Himself when He is going to take a new position as Man with God: "For their sakes," He says, "I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth" (John 17:19). This was no spiritual change in the Lord, which it were blasphemy to think; it was simply a new place that He was taking for us God ward. Upon this too our sanctification, positionally and practically, depends. He is gone in to God as Man. Entitled ever to such a place by virtue of all that He was, His own personal perfection, He is now gone in for men; and therefore, "By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place. having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). Thus He enters as our Representative, and the blood that He has shed sets us apart, or sanctifies us, to God, in the power of His finished work, "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). Thus the conscience is effectually purified, the worshiper once purged having no more conscience of sins (Heb. 9:13, 14; Heb. 10:2); a thing how absolutely necessary for practical sanctification, for which we must be near to God: there is no possible place of distance from sin but in nearness to God.

Practical sanctification has its two factors in the new birth, and the operation of the Spirit through the Word upon the believer, taking of the things of Christ to show them to him. In new birth Christ is our life, and thus we have a nature capable of responding to the Word ministered to it, although still and ever the Spirit's work is necessary to make the Word good in the hearts of the children of God.

But being born again, it is Christ once more, as apprehended by the soul in what He personally is, and in the place in which He is, who is the power for sanctification. And herein is the wisdom of God in Him fully and wonderfully displayed. He who has put away our sins and set our consciences at rest in the presence of God, has thus laid hold upon our hearts, and won us for Himself and for God, revealed in Him, for ever. Christian life — what only can be called so — is thus love's free and happy offering to Him who has loved us: "He died for all, that they which live should no more live unto themselves, but unto Him that died for us, and rose again."

Let us notice that "rose again;" for if our hearts are thus Christ's, where is Christ? In heaven. And where then are our hearts? That is the power for practical holiness, an object — the Object — for our hearts outside the world, outside the whole scene of temptation and evil. We have not to look about in the world, to see what of good we can perchance find in it: Christ is in heaven. Holiness is for us by heavenliness. How simply and in what perfect wisdom has God provided for us by the power of an absorbing affection, the Object withdrawn from us, outside the world, and becoming thus the goal of a pilgrim's heart and a pilgrim's steps!

And now, finally, what is "redemption"? This is the last of the three things found, according to the apostle, in this wisdom. of God in Christ. What then is redemption? It is God's love acting from itself, and for itself, to satisfy itself at personal cost, in getting back that which has been alienated from Him, and which yet He values. It is more than purchase, or even repurchase; for this might be, not because of its value to myself, but to give it away again, or for some other reason. But redemption is for oneself, the getting back for oneself what one's own heart values, — the value of which is known by the price that one is willing to pay for it. Redemption brings out thus the heart of the redeemer.

And in Eden, amid all the goodness with which he was surrounded, man, taught of Satan, had learned to suspect the goodness of God. There and then he had lost God: for He is not God, if He is not good. Since then, naturally, "there is none that seeketh after" Him, — that believes there is anything in Him for which to seek Him. Natural religions are religions of fear and self-interest only, and men's gods are the image of their own corruptions. God must reveal Himself; and how gloriously has He done this! Not goodness merely to man innocent in Eden, but infinite love to those who in Christ could see and hate Him. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." Christ is the redemption-price that shows the heart of the Redeemer; this wondrous gift, the Father's heart told out in transcendent righteousness, and holiness, and love.

Nor can we forget that redemption has yet to show its power in the transformation of the body itself; that in the image of Christ fully we may enjoy the blessedness that is ours in Him for ever. Then indeed shall he that glorieth glory in the Lord; and the full blessing of the creature shall be found when He alone is glorified by all.

Section 3. (1 Cor. 2.)

The revelation by the Spirit, of things beyond mere human knowledge.

Having thus shown Christ to be the fulness of divine wisdom, the apostle goes on to speak of the Spirit as the only revealer of Christ, and of spiritual things, as well as the only capacity for the apprehension of them. A very clear statement is given of inspiration, such as we find it in Scripture, the fullest assertion of it to be found: not even the words used are taught by human wisdom, but by the Spirit of God; an assertion, certainly, although questioned, of an inspiration that is, in some sense, "verbal."

1. The testimony of God committed to the apostle was, then, as to the whole matter of it, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He was determined to "know" nothing else: here was his sole occupation and delight. He does not say or mean that he knew nothing but the Cross. The crucified One is a theme wider than the Cross; though that indeed is to every eye divinely opened the display of an infinite glory. But Christ in His full reality is, in fact, the Centre of light, the full revelation of God, the Truth, by which every thing passing for truth is to be tested. The mind that is wholly filled with Christ is not contracted, but enlarged to its uttermost capacity. If He is the wisdom of God, it must of course be so.

Nevertheless He was the Crucified; and the apprehension of this gave peculiar character to the apostle's ministry. He had come among the Corinthians in the consciousness of his own impotence, along with the sense of the gravity and importance of such a message. He was with them, therefore, in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. Instead of trusting to persuasive words such as human wisdom would have taught him, he relied entirely upon Him who was come to glorify Christ in the world, so that his preaching was in the demonstrative power of the Holy Spirit. Thus he would have their faith to stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. How blessed a result, when this is indeed so! How impregnable must be the faith that stands in the power of God! This was no question, as is plain, of the truth itself — of their getting that; but of how they got it; whether from God Himself by having to do directly with Him about it, or from man merely, apostle though the man might be. This has been already spoken of; but how necessary that it should be insisted on! With all the care that such an one as Paul had manifested in this way, yet how much was coming in now that was swaying them from the truth! Can we wonder then at what we find to be the condition of things today? But shall we therefore hopelessly give way to it? or steadfastly resist it, as we know that he did?

2. The wisdom that was in his message was "wisdom among the perfect." He means to say that the maturest spirituality knew it as such: it stood all tests of heart and conscience with those who knew it best; while yet it was not the wisdom of this age, nor even of the highest, the rulers of this age, who pass and perish. They could not penetrate to the Source from which this emanated, which was also indeed a mystery, a secret now revealed, but hidden formerly, though predetermined by God before the ages, filled so much since with these perishing human thoughts. The thoughts perish, but the predetermination of God has appointed to us a glory which will not pass away. But the rulers of this age have demonstrated their ignorance of it all: they have crucified the Lord of it. Isaiah too has borne witness that the things which God has prepared for them that love Him are outside the knowledge of man naturally; strange as they are to eye and ear and even mental conception. Revelation alone can give them to us.

3. It is not meant by this then, as so many strangely quote it, that such things are still beyond our ken. The apostle immediately goes on to assure us of the very opposite of this, and of the perfect competency of the Teacher to whom now we are committed: "But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

It seems at first sight a singular expression to be used of a divine Person. We might ask with surprise, How can the Spirit of God need to "search" the things of God? Is He not necessarily participant with the Father and the Son in all divine knowledge? Surely, and absolutely so; but it is the Spirit in us that is spoken of in this way, in that blessed, mysterious working in the people of God which is at once so unfathomable a profundity and so clear a reality. It is He who works in the working of our minds as led of Him; and thus He brings us into ever fuller communion with the Father and the Son.

Are we conscious, every one of us, of this impulse within us, ever to reach out after that which is still before us, — things which, the more we learn of them, fill us with an unutterable longing to know more? It is strange that with even the mass of Christians, there seems to be little known of it. How often you hear the value of such things discounted just by reason of their "depth"! How often "too deep for me" is said with what one may call a kind of earnest levity which reveals the heart, or want of heart, behind it! Are not the revelations of Christ's love and glory of necessity attractive to those whom He has redeemed to Himself? Are any of the communications of God to His people dull and uninteresting to those who are thus recipients of His grace? Has He told out His heart with so profuse an expression as to be only tedious and unprofitable to those upon whom all this wealth of tenderness is lavished? Can Christians think slightly of communion proffered with Himself? What less or else than this is meant by the practical contentment to remain with but the slenderest knowledge of that which the Spirit of God is, if this scripture be true, continually leading us on after? We may have grieved Him indeed until His voice is well nigh silenced within us; but was it always so? Have we never realized such invitations to possess ourselves of what Christ has made our own? never longed to know better what, just as beyond our fullest knowledge, is ever beckoning us to enjoy it? or been aware that, if once we did so, and do so no more, this is only the unmistakable evidence of first love gone from us — of decline in our souls which it would startle us to begin to measure?

But this Spirit — indefatigable, wondrous Searcher of the deep things of God — we all of us have if Christians: for "if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." And here is indeed for us — for the feeblest babes — an unlimited capacity of acquisition which it is impossible to overrate, impossible even to estimate at its full value. Well, surely, will it be to ask ourselves how far it is realized by us in practice that we have dwelling in us a Divine Person, the perfect Judge of all doctrine, the Teacher of all teachers, whose presence with us it can never be humility to forget; whom if we listen to we shall never be deceived or go astray. In this respect it becomes no question of cleverness, or in the semi-materialistic phrase of the day, of "brains," nor of mental capacity. The question is of eagerness of desire for, and earnestness to obey without reserve the voice of the Revealer. This it is which, if fully apprehended, brings the conscience into exercise before God, and delivers at once from all indifference as to teachers, (for the Spirit uses His instruments with us as He will,) and at the same time from all exaggerated deference to them. "Let the prophets speak, and let the rest judge." The true teacher will be the first to desire to have everything searched out as before God, and judged by those Scriptures which the living Spirit has Himself indited. Thus alone will the truth taught become living truth in the soul.

"For who among men hath known the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? So also the things of God has no one known, save the Spirit of God." How worse than empty then the speculations of the wisest men as to the things of God! The spirit of man is indeed a wonderful and most important gift of the Creator, and which, therefore, God who has given it will not set aside or minimise in its own sphere. It is that by which man is distinguished from the beast, and made in the image of God. He is by it according to his creation place a son of God, as the beast is not; for God is "the Father of spirits" only (Heb. 12:9). Thus he can recognize God, and has a God, in a way wholly different from the unknowing, and therefore unmoral, and so never immoral, beast. God never dishonors or degrades the creature He has made, as some wild modern theorists do. He never speaks of the mind of man as an evolution from bestial instincts or faculties. He appeals to reason, even with the wicked: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isa. 1:18). And the unbeliever, to refuse faith, has to refuse reason also. God never advocates credulity, or applauds the man who "believes because it is impossible," and thereby puts God in contradiction to the faculties that He has made. But there are two things which reason itself should make him aware of, and which fully recognized would set him on the path of divine wisdom. Neither of these can he possibly discredit, however much he may ignore them, or evade the consequences.

First, he is a sinner; which if he denies, all his neighbors at least will acknowledge for him. Sin has morally damaged him, to an extent which it is hardly possible for him to estimate; and this must be a hindrance in the way of all right understanding, until he has found a remedy for it. The gospel is thus truly logical in treating him first of all as a sinner and inviting him to accept at the outset a remedy for this condition. This done, he will be brought into that right attitude toward God, which will alone enable him to make progress in the things of God.

The next thing is of no more difficulty than the first, that, as far as God is beyond man, so far must the things of God be, except as he is taught of God. The confused and contradictory efforts of man in this direction only illustrate and confirm the saying of Zophar, "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" (Job 11:7, 8). But though the things that are thus in the special sense God's things, need to be revealed to man, yet in the revelation of these also God is careful not to confound his faculties: the wisdom of God is ever "wisdom" to the perfect, and not something that is "impossible," but has to be revealed none the less. He does not even, as men profess for Him, use wafer in a magical way to do what water was never designed to do, or change bread into a divinity for men's adoration, or justify the fetishism of superstition in any other way. He does not baffle the common instincts, perceptions, understanding of the being He has created.

But thus how marvelous a gift is that of the Spirit who searcheth the deep things of God! What dishonor must we do to such a guest when His presence is ignored or scarcely realized! when Aristarchus is but a passenger on board the vessel, of which He is the rightful supreme Ruler! (See Acts 27:2, notes) Yet "we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are graciously given us of God."

The apostle is going on to speak of what was peculiar to the vessels of inspiration; but what he speaks of in these words is, as we know, common to us all; and by and by, he will insist upon this. But there was with such as these a special apprehension of the things of God, which the Spirit furnished. This also was for us, to whom they ministered. The apostle adds that the transmission also of what was revealed was perfectly secured: "which things also we speak, not in the words taught of man's wisdom, but in those taught of the Spirit, communicating spiritual things by spiritual means."

The latter clause is sometimes translated as "explaining spiritual things to spiritual men;" this introducing to what follows, that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; and looking back to the statement that "we speak wisdom among the perfect." But the apostle seems here rather to be speaking of the character of the communication itself; and this is supported by the primary meaning of the word for communicating or expounding, which is "mixing," combining." He seems evidently to be showing us how perfectly the revelation has been secured to us; the fallibility of the human instrument not being permitted to affect that which was conveyed. The very words were guarded, as well as the matter given. How suitable is it that this should be so, when divine love and wisdom were bent upon the effectual enlightenment and salvation of men! How could we imagine that these should after all be made dependent upon an imperfect and unstable medium! that the mind of man, feeble and limited as it is, should be left to give the best expression that it could to such amazing and transcendent thoughts as are enunciated in Scripture.

But, of course, it is answered to this that, nevertheless, we find in fact the individuality of the different writers manifesting itself in their several writings; and thus an undeniable "human element" in them which needs to be accounted for. And this is continually urged as involving their being suffered to fall into such slight mistakes — or shall we say, awkwardnesses of expression? — as would prevent our arguing from the mere words used, and shut us up to insistence only upon the general idea of the thought meant to be conveyed. It has been urged that "the term here is logos, which denotes rather propositions than mere words." But we need not contend for its applying to "mere" words. There is never absent from logos the idea of reason in the words, or, as Trench says, "The orderly linking and connecting together in connected discourse of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind." This is no loss, but gain to the apostle's statement, to find that it claims the whole rational utterance of the divine revelation by the inspired writers to be taught not of human wisdom, but of the Spirit. It should be plain that this involves no less than the choice of words, wherever the words are not most perfectly synonymous. It is as plain that we may as much insist upon the actual words as if they were given (as it is not necessary to hold) by direct dictation. God certainly used the "human element," as He used the humanity of the Lord Jesus, not to be further from us, but to be nearer to us; we need not shrink from the full acknowledgment of it in this way. He fitted for His purpose the vessel that He used, and used it frankly for all for which He had fitted it. He uses man, therefore, as man, not as a mere pen in His hand, — not as something passive as that might be, but rather quickened to fullest activity; all faculties in fullest exercise, as well as in perfect freedom, energized, not crippled, by that which lifted the Spirit-moved man beyond his common self, often without the consciousness of what was moving him, or that anything was. An apostle might even for a time "repent" of having written what was nevertheless an inspired letter (2 Cor. 7:8). Who can doubt that thus the divine Maker can use the being He has made; not to the injury or repression of any part of it but the reverse; yet so as to make it entirely His own? "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

This, then, is what is meant by an inspired utterance. We may debate with very little result the manner of God's working. The finished product is that which very much more concerns us, although that which we can learn as to His ways has unfailing interest and profit for us. But the great matter for us now is, have we in inspired Scripture, as God gave it to us, something that we can wholly trust and build upon as that which will never fail us? If the human element confessedly in it is to assume such character and proportions as to make it necessary to be constantly sifting the chaff from the wheat, — if we are to sit over it as judges before we can bow to it as judging us, — if we need specialists to point out to us how many hands were at work in every document, how much patching and revision and modification of various kinds has taken place in that which has come down to us as the work of Moses, or of Isaiah, or of Paul, — if it can be proved that the writers made mistakes upon most subjects that are not directly moral or religious in their character, — if in short they are not wholly to be trusted on any point as to which we can test their knowledge, — how can we confide our whole spiritual interests with rest and assurance of heart to those who have so failed, with all their manifest claim to more than human equipment, to establish their credibility as to what this enlightened and scientific age claims to have made common knowledge?

Thank God that our Bible is not the thing of shreds and tatters which this folly asserts; and that those who have in truth of heart listened to its lessons of holy and lofty wisdom, — who know the unique glory of the Christ that it has made their own, — know that it is not. It is not by looking deeply into it that the vulture-critics, who would rend its sacred form, have discovered the disfigurements which they so eagerly point out. It is shallowness and unspirituality only that has deceived them. Still He taketh the wise in their own craftiness;" but it will not be those who have most diligently and with heart-exercise searched the Scripture who will be persuaded that they are not, with the wisdom they have found in it, "wiser," as one of old says, "than all their teachers." The more they have examined it, the more critically they have studied even its minutiae, the more the awe of a divine Presence has been upon them, the more the sweetness of divine love has drawn and enwrapped them. And as to the mere understanding of them, the less we are content with mere generalization, the more we look with reverent care into every detail, and weigh the import of every word, the more we attain to an apprehension of a perfection everywhere which manifests in whatever human guise the glory of the divine.

4. A warning follows here which enables us to understand the mystery of much of the so-called "higher criticism," as well as other abundant forms of unbelief in every age: "Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

The word translated "natural," and for which we have, as far as I am aware, no satisfactory substitute, is psychikos, "psychical:" It is an adjective formed from psyche, "soul," and for which some would propose a word which we have not, soulual." We might render it freely as "soul-governed;" this is, at any rate, the force of it: the spirit of man (as that which truly makes him man and by which he is constituted naturally in the image of God) is of necessity that which should govern him. The spirit is the seat of the mind proper — of the mental and moral faculties; the soul is that of the emotions and instincts, which should be under the guidance and control of these. It is the sign of a fallen condition that the spirit has given way to the soul: the senses, passions, bodily appetites rule over the judgment, and darken it. The man is sensual, therefore carnal, though not necessarily in the grossest forms, the things of time and sense shut out God and all that is beyond the earth.

This is truly now the natural condition of man as fallen; and with this understanding of it, we may speak here of the natural man. As such the things of the Spirit are alien to him, the new-creative power of God must work in him before he can discern them. They are too remote, make too much demand upon him, stir too much his apathetic conscience. The light shines, but amid the darkness; men love the darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil: the darkness is real, but it is the soul's choice for itself, not God's choice for it. He cometh not to the light, because he will not submit to the condemnation of his evil deeds. The acceptance of this condemnation is the way out of his condition, through the ready grace which is at hand to meet him.

The Spirit of God is alone able to lift man out of this ruin, and restore God and the conscience to their rightful supremacy. The spiritual man is therefore in the light, and discerns all things. That does not, of course, mean that he is omniscient, or that he has not to grow in knowledge; but he has his eyes open, and is in the light. In this condition he necessarily now becomes an enigma to the natural man. He has now the mind of the Lord, — a mind all-competent; for who shall instruct Him? We are brought into fellowship with Him, though learning but gradually things which surpass all man's powers to attain full knowledge of; still it can be said already, we have the mind of Christ. But the world crucified Him.

Section 4. (1 Cor. 3, 4:7.)

Corinthian failure, and the testing of human work.

Thus we have seen the full provision made for the Church in the midst of a hostile world. The wisdom and power of God are ministered to them in Christ, all that would bring a cloud over the face of God for them being removed. And the Spirit of God is in them to give the power of the revelation in their souls, and to lead them into the deep things of God.

Yet, spite of all that has been done for them, the history of the Church, as we find almost from the beginning here, has been one of saddest failure. The spirit of the world was infecting them at Corinth, and the first brightness was departing from them. They were divided into parties, headed by teachers who were building with bad material into the house of God. The apostle warns them of the testing that all their work would receive, and of the vanity of the world-wisdom with which they were adulterating the truth of God. The recompense would not fail to follow.

1. In view of their condition the apostle first of all would lift their eyes to Him who was the Giver of all gift, the only effectual Worker of all good in any. He was pleased in wisdom as in grace to work through instruments, which the carnal, with eyes only for the visible, might put into His place, and clothe with a halo of glory which was His alone. So, alas, with the Corinthians: with all the wisdom upon which they prided themselves, they could not be addressed, as spiritual, but as carnal merely, showing the inability of the flesh to receive the things of God. They were, no doubt, Christians, but so hindered in true spiritual development as to be still mere babes in Christ; Not that a real babe in Christ is carnal; but the lack with them of freshness and simplicity showed plainly what the condition was, — that it was not really the sweet child-state, but disease. Yet, let us remember, they "came behind in no gift." Gifts they had, and the Gift! there was no lack of ability in any way, had not the whole spring of true energy been kept back by the incoming of that with which it could not mingle and had no affinity. This is the one secret of all lack of growth, and the state of the Corinthians has thus a most real, if the saddest importance for us. Wherever you hear the cry, "Too deep! too deep!" as to the things of God, be sure it is not the voice of Him who in the Christian "searcheth the deep things of God." Not that there are not for all, in every stage of growth, things that may he yet too deep; but the question has to be made: does this depth yet attract and draw us on to "search" it? does it charm us with a vision of glories yet unknown, and wake us to new earnestness of purpose? or is it but the cry of spiritual sluggishness that thinks all labor in such fields mere hard-handed servitude, or perhaps, but fancy-gardening, with not enough recompense in it to invite toil like this? And these are God's things, the very Paradise of God made ours, of which our hearts may yet venture to say things like these!

It is such material as this which nevertheless furnishes apt scholars in the schools of men, as we may see again by these Corinthians. It is those with no deep earnestness in the things of God who naturally yield themselves to the guidance of others, and may even learn to debate over the respective merit of their chosen teachers. The flock is not kept together, but disperses under leaders, not hearing, or but indistinctly as afar off, the one commanding Voice of the true Shepherd. To Him, in fact, they are not near enough; and that is the meaning of all sects whatever.

Paul had to adapt himself to such indeed. He had to feed them with milk, and not with meat, though doubtless they would have desired this; but they could not assimilate it. He would fain have them grow, but they could only grow by what they could digest. He must therefore take them back to the first elements, and teach them to distinguish between the wisdom of the world and what was God's wisdom for them, between the power of the Spirit and the incapacity of the flesh, between the human instrument and the divine Accomplisher. Their moral condition showed indeed how little they could be trusted to receive any higher truth. In strife and emulation they exhibited clearly the manner of men; while their engrossing topic was Paul and Apollos, and not Christ. Who then were these? Servants, by whom God indeed had been pleased to bring them to faith — faith in them? Were not the very differences of which they made so much, differences of God's appointment, who ordered as He pleased? Paul had planted; Apollos had watered: what could have come of it, had not God given the increase? What then were these human instruments? Merely a mode of working on God's part: God was really all. And despite all differences, those who wrought thus were only fellow-workmen God's workmen, who among themselves were fellows; the husbandry was God's; the building God's. What a degradation for them to forget this, and to make themselves the work of men! Yet God would not overlook or forget to recompense these laborers of His, for whom they seemed so needlessly concerned.

2. The apostle now pursues the subject of these differences, and in view of the coming recompense. But here he takes pains to show what the most real and noteworthy differences were as before God. He could well speak, whom God had given in His grace the place of master-builder, and necessarily, therefore, the gifts for the place. This was the character of the apostolic office; which was in fact to lay the foundation upon which the whole Church was to be built. There could be but one foundation, and no one could lay another; they could only build upon that which was already laid. Here there could be therefore no strife, no variance, but entire unity of purpose, so long as the after-comer were a builder at all and not a destroyer — an open enemy. Now in building on this foundation it was not really a question of the various qualifications of the builders, so much as of the carrying on, with suitable material and workmanship, the plan and purpose of the building. It is of the Church as the temple of God that Paul is speaking here, as he says almost immediately, ordained because of the defectibility of human workmanship, to pass the test of fire — of the holiness that belongs to God necessarily — in the day of revelation, when the final results shall be revealed of all that has been wrought for Him upon the earth. What cannot stand the fire is thus unsuited to such a building, as is plain; and the difference of material from this point of view only divides it into two classes. The "gold, silver, precious stones," would abide the fire; the "wood, hay, stubble," would not. it seems evident that we have not before us in these, however, the "living stones," of which, as Peter speaks, the "spiritual house" is composed, but what we might consider more the decoration of the building. Nor is this of inferior importance when we consider that this is what, according to the figure, meets the eye of the occupant, and when we consider who this occupant is and is to be. Gold, which is the symbol of divine glory, was that which covered the whole temple that Solomon built: as "in His temple," says David, "all of it speaketh of glory" (Ps. 29:9). The gold speaks therefore of a character of things, the result of them for God, and which is fullest blessing for all His creatures; as silver speaks of redemption, the meeting of man's deepest need. The precious stones, as in the high-priest's jewelled breast-plate, or the foundations of the eternal city (Rev. 21:19), are the Urim and Thummim, the "lights and perfections" of Him, who is the "Father of lights," the various display of the divine attributes. It is plain how all this must be borne witness to in the work of every true workman, whose handiwork is to endure in the final temple to God's endless praise. The "wood, hay, and stubble" are more difficult to interpret, but seem to speak of what is in contrast with these: of what is simply human, though with what is to man noble and venerable, as the tree is (xylon is both "wood" and "tree"). Much below this is the "hay," more perishable, and the food of the beast and not of man; while the stubble is simply worthless, and fit fuel for the flame. We cannot perhaps characterize what is here more closely,* and indeed the broadest generality may be most effective for the warning which is given, — a warning deeply needed always, and now certainly as much as ever. What a reversal of much of our human judgments will be the judgment of the great day that comes!

{*There are two suggestive papers on this topic in Help and Food for 1894, pp. 18, 48, from which it will be seen I have derived help. Would that more would communicate what they have learnt individually from the precious Word.}

For the work is revealed (only then perfectly) in fire, a fire to whose power all man's work must be yielded up. How needful to anticipate that judgment, ever seeking to be and work before God now, so that the light of His Presence now may manifest us to ourselves as we are manifest to Him. Apparent success, the applause of man, the inspiration of benevolent, philanthropic motives, yet Christless or antichristian, as is so much today, — how little will such things avail to save much specious service from the condemnation that is at hand! The sanction of antiquity, of fathers, and church-fathers, of even the conscience unenlightened by the word of God, how little will all this avail to set aside the decree of absolute righteousness and holiness of truth! One might ask with consternation, what will survive the unswerving sentence of infinite perfection upon that which is so thoroughly imperfect at the best, so positively defiled often with impure intermixture! Yet the judge is He who has taught us to take forth the precious from the vile, that we may be as His mouth! How encouraging is this! for this character is what will be evidenced then in these judgments of His mouth. And how tender and reassuring the apostle's words in this connection, but a little further on, "Then shall each have his praise from God" (1 Cor. 4:5). That is what His love continually seeks; and what the blood-washed robes of the saints will attest in the day that they come forth with their Lord to take their destined place of rule with Him (Rev. 19:8, 14; comp. Rev. 7:14; Rev. 22:14, R.V.). And so here, there are those whose work shall abide, and who shall receive a reward; and even where the work is burned, yet if the soul has built upon the foundation, though he suffer loss, yet "he himself shall be saved, though so as through the fire." As a man escaping out of a burning house may be untouched by the flame, though the fire consume all that he has. We have no reason to believe either that this last will be true of any true saint — that is, that he will lose all reward. Nay, "each shall have his praise from God."

3. The apostle appeals to the Corinthians now, briefly but energetically, with regard to the character of this building, of which he has been speaking. It is not a new truth that he is announcing to them, but something very well known; which nevertheless they had, not in just appreciation. What a marvel of divine grace that they should be indwelt by the Spirit of God! We are familiar with it — as a doctrine, surely as much as they; has the wonder of it diminished with us? and do we need to be exhorted as to our responsibility in view of this relationship to the Supreme?

It is only here and in Ephesians that we have the Church spoken of as the temple of God; but in Ephesians this is not a present but a future thing: it "groweth unto a holy temple." The character of the epistle being predominatingly heavenly and so eternal, it is the eternal condition that is emphasized, while there is a present building that goes on to this. The epistles to Timothy give us more the present "house of God;" with Hebrews and Peter also in different aspects. But Corinthians (both epistles): alone speak of a present "temple." It is remarkable too, that only for the purpose of admonition is it referred to: in the second epistle to emphasize the refusal of idolatry (2 Cor. 6:16); here to warn against sacrilege. The destroyer is of course not a builder, but the opposite; yet: ostensibly he might be that: different even from those who built, with wood, hay, stubble," for these might be after all at bottom Christians, and thus building upon the foundation, whatever the incongruity of the material used. Here the very existence of, the Church is threatened; the man is an: enemy, although he may own — nay, all the more supposing that be does own — some monstrous fiction as the Christ of his allegiance. Yet even Christians may require warning against the profanation of terms and names, which is as common, today as at any time, and with the same witchery about it for too credulously confiding souls. The end is destruction none the less surely for the deception, which may have carried away the deceiver also: for "if any man destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy."

"For the temple of God is holy, and such (holy ones) are ye." It is plain that it is not of practical holiness that the apostle is speaking, but of that resulting from the Spirit dwelling in them, — which is indeed the power of practical holiness. The apostle presses the responsibility of those who act in presumptuous defiance of Him who has taken in grace this place of relationship to the redeemed people of God. And in this there is indeed a call for reverent and responsive recognition on their part of a grace so great.

4. But in fact the state of the Corinthians little answered to what this implied. Instead of the wisdom taught of the Spirit, the wisdom of the world had seduced them. No doubt they had little realized it, and taken according to human estimate what in God's account was foolishness instead of Wisdom. To be really wise they must be content to strip themselves of it all, so as to be fools in men's eyes, whose subtle cleverness was merely a craft which, according to the righteous principles of divine government, entrapped those inspired by it. Its reasonings were vain, as all must be that does not begin and end with God. How entirely beneath time divine thought for them was this glorying in men in which they were indulging! In God's intent Paul and Cephas alike were theirs, God's instruments alike for blessing to them; and why then pit them one against another as if antagonistic in their aims or interests? Nay, even the world, they did not belong to it, belonged to them in this way: for it is a very different, and even opposite thing, to belong to the world, and to have the world belong to you: in the one case it is your master; in the other, your servant. Life too, and death, belonged to them, and with such a thought we are familiar. Things present too, and things to come: anything that could happen; — a, wonderful summing up. And here is what certifies and makes all right, "ye are Christ's," to belong to Christ is more than to have all else belong to you; and that "Christ is God's" brings all the universe together into fulness of blessing. He who is Heir of all things is the Son of the Father; by whom and for whom also all things were created; and He who is above all created things has, come down to. the lowest parts of the earth to reconcile in Himself all things to God.

5. The apostle goes on to show the responsibility of the laborer to be to God, who as knowing the hearts can alone give judgment rightly, and award due praise. The differences among the workmen also were according to His good pleasure, every gift being from Him; so that there was no ground for glorying in any way.

People were to account of them as accredited servants of Christ, and stewards of time mysteries of God. This last, as we have often seen, is the peculiar character of Christianity, that it is the unfolding of things until then, hidden. There is no thought in it of things beyond comprehension, — of the "mysteries," or magic, rather, of sacramental ritualism. They are the "new things" of Christianity added to the old things revealed before. For such a stewardship faithfulness was a primary necessity; but to whom then was this faithfulness to be? They were not the stewards of men, but of God; what matter then about that judgment of them by men, so easily passed, so utterly uncalled for?

In fact, it was not in that character that they were then judging, but according to their own tastes and sympathies, which were sure to be all wrong, therefore, Would those in this Corinthian state favor most those teachers who were most faithful to them? The question answers itself, and now when the custom is for men to choose their own exclusive teachers, time same principle will necessarily work, and how complete is Satan's opportunity when men can choose those to whom they shall devote themselves as teachers, shutting out, as far as possible, all other ministry by which God might awaken their consciences! The apostle here manifests entire independence of all their judgment. There was no spirit of pride in him in this, but simply the consciousness of responsibility to God, and if God and man were measured together, of what account could man be? He was not careful, therefore, to justify himself to them, or as to what judgment they might pass upon him. It was man's day, the day in which he had the earth to himself; not indeed without the restraining hand of God upon him, but still in such:a way that, if once faith were not active, he might preach to himself the entire liberty which he loves. As a fact, man's day will end in the judgment of God. What a thing simply to think of! The day of the Lord begins in judgment and is upon everything that is high and lifted up, upon all that is exalted in man's wisdom, to cast it down. If this be the character of things completely in the world at large, yet amongst Christians also the spirit of it will invade them, as we see at Corinth here, if they are not self-judged before God.

As for the apostle, in that respect in which they were judging, he did not even judge himself; he did not consider himself to be able to give a sufficient estimate of his acts and ways, although he might be, and was, conscious of nothing. After all, that did not justify him. He who justified was the Lord alone. He is not, of course, in this thinking of salvation, nor does that question enter in at all. Every Christian is, as that, a man saved already, and will himself personally, as the Lord has assured us, never come into judgment, but his ways and acts will do so; and in this respect not even an apostle could be considered a fully competent judge of his own condition. It was not that he would not be exercised about it. On the contrary, as he has himself told us, he always exercised himself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man, but that is a very different thing from forming an estimate of one's self as a whole, which these Corinthians were doing, putting himself into a place as compared with others. How completely will that day to come in this way reverse the judgments which we may form with the greatest assurance even here on earth!

He had, as he says, transferred these things, — made application of these principles, to himself and Apollos simply, omitting all others. There were, in fact, others, and even enemies, as we know, amongst them, as he has already hinted; but if there were a Petrine party, for instance, in their midst, he says nothing about it here. Had he done so, that might well look as if, with the one opposition between himself and Peter on one important matter, he was giving judgment against Peter of the very sort he blamed; but he does not even name those who were actually moving at Corinth, teachers of quite another character from any of these. They could Hardly refuse an application to himself and to Apollos, between whom there was certainly no disagreement, and who had been, in fact, the main workers at Corinth; Paul laying the foundation and Apollos building upon it.

As to the differences between God's workers, such there really were, but not of the character to be apprehended by those in this Corinthian state; and whatever differences there were, God Himself it was who had made them. Thus they would be really judging Him. They had nothing that they had not received, and if they had received it, and thus there was a difference, how could any one glory as if he had not received it!

Section 5. (1 Cor. 4:8-21.)

Conditions of the way.

We now come to the conditions of the path, conditions which the Corinthians were violating altogether. No connection can be plainer in the word of God than that between a present suffering with Christ and reigning with Him by and by. If they suffered, they would also reign; but was this then, in fact, their condition? It was quite otherwise. They were refusing the place of suffering, and taking the greatest pains to escape that which should have been their real glory. The apostle calls them back to the ways in Christ which they might have seen in him, and of which Timothy would remind them, — ways which were altogether in accordance with the doctrine that he taught. In fact, how much the ways, the heart, therefore, which is manifested in them, tends to produce the doctrine. It is thus, in fact, that all heresies come in; and with that great truth of the coming of the Lord even, which brings us so sharply to the judgment of God which will then take place upon all our ways; and that is how, plainly, the Lord Himself has emphasized that men say first of all in their hearts, "My Lord delayeth His coming." The doctrine accordant with this is often not hard to make out, even from Scripture.

1. This, then, was the condition of the Corinthians. They were full, they were rich, they had reigned as kings, "without us," adds the apostle. It is plain that the apostles were not reigning. He would wish indeed that they did reign all together, but on the contrary, the apostles were in this respect the very last and lowest, instead of having a foremost place in the world; they were a spectacle to the world for their sufferings, nay, to angels also as well as men. How false a test, then, of a Christian's condition, is what men would call his prosperity! As to the Church in general also, how false a test would this he! The Church indeed at large has followed. as we know, the Corinthians in this way. It is reigning far more than suffering. It has exhibited in the fullest way this prudence in Christ upon which the apostle remarks here, a prudence which was employed not to avoid what would be hindrances in the way of others, but difficulties in their own way. They were full, "sated" as the word is, but of necessity they were not then in communion with the apostles in this respect, and the same test remains for us and must remain. Are we or not in communion with the apostles? They remained, as we know, until their end in martyr deaths, for the most part, just in the condition the apostle describes here. We cannot reverse that record; and if communion is something more than merely with our own time and generation, if we are to bring it up to the apostolic standard, then what a test of our life and ways does this apostolic record become! We can see also by this, that the world would remain the world until the day of Christ. Man's day would characterize it to the end. He expected no difference. He had no such doctrine as that Christianity was to be a leaven in the world, which was gradually to change the whole condition of things. On the contrary, the Christian's course would always be one necessitating suffering. As the apostle says elsewhere: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." No doubt the general character of things will affect in measure this also, but as to the principle, it remains entirely untouched; and these instructors among the Corinthians, of whom he says that they were indeed not fathers, God had not set His seal to their work as He had to those who established that church at Corinth, — these instructors might find for themselves, also, an easy path in leading men in the way of their own wills and desires. He does not, as already said, even mention their names. He will not allow himself to be exposed even to jangle with them. God, as is implied here, was not with them, and that was enough. As a father to those whom he had begotten in Christ through the gospel, he could beseech them to be imitators of him.

2. On this account, therefore, he was sending to them now Timotheus, himself fulfilling his name, one who faithfully "honored God," and who would put them in mind, as they needed, of ways which were in Christ, — of the doctrine they had received, and he was giving to them nothing more than in this way: What he said was that they should develop in practice that which they had received. His ways he could boldly profess (and indeed it was evident) were according to the teaching which he had delivered to them. He was coming also himself. His heart plainly urged him to this, but if he came, the question which made him, we may say, hesitate, was that of the manner in which be would have to come to them. Was he to come to exercise apostolic authority and to deal with them with a rod, which God after all had given him, or was he to come as he desired, in love and in the spirit of meekness? They were puffed up, some at least, as if he would not come; but when he came it would not be the speech of those that were puffed up that would be seen, but what was the power; for the "kingdom of God," he says, "is not in word, but in power." Power must of necessity characterize a rule of God wherever it existed.

Subdivision 2. (1 Cor. 5 – 7.)

The flesh's lusts: separation from, and remedies.

The apostle now turns his attention to that which necessarily went with all this world-wisdom which was manifesting itself among them. It all favored the flesh, that worst enemy of the believer, from the very fact that it is that which still dwells in him and without which no power of the enemy could prevail against him. There is another thing which increases the difficulty of dealing with it, that we have to separate between flesh in its evil sense, and the body with which it is most intimately connected, and through which it is constantly manifesting itself; and then again we have to separate it from what is proper to human nature as such, as God created it, apart from any question of the fall. This remains; and while it remains in a fallen condition, we are not by this permitted simply to ignore it. Man is still man, even though Christian, and God's appointments for man have necessarily a wise respect to his whole being as such, which it would not be safe for him to ignore. There are sins, of course, of the spirit as well as of the flesh, and we cannot identify the flesh, therefore, simply with the body; but even here, flesh, as we have seen already, characterizes the fallen condition and prompts the very sins of the spirit themselves. Thus then, while the lusts of the flesh have to be met and controlled in God's own way, we must be guided by the word of God itself, which alone can give us the true means of meeting them, the divine remedies for a fallen condition.

Section 1. (1 Cor. 5.)

Unity to be maintained in righteousness.

We have now the question of how the unity which plainly exists in the Church as the body of Christ is to be maintained in righteousness. Righteousness is, in fact, before all things necessary to be maintained. The apostle puts it first for us where he tells us that grace, if it reigns, yet itself reigns through righteousness, not setting it aside; and that we are to follow, first of all, righteousness, then "faith, love, peace, with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Righteousness is rooted, of necessity, in the very nature of God Himself, and therefore the moment it is a question of going on with what is unrighteous, we have not to think of ecclesiastical rules or of the very relationships which God has established amongst us, so far as they interfere, or may be thought to interfere with the working out of this. God must always have maintained that which suits Himself; and thus, while there are many things besides to be considered in respect to our communion with other Christians, the very fist point for us is righteousness.

1. A most solemn thing is shown us in the first place here, and that is, that if Christians fall into sin, we need not be surprised if they fall lower than the men of the world themselves. At Corinth there was already among them that which could not be found even among the Gentiles; the lawlessness was complete, unique. It was the violation of nature, and of what was God's principle as to the creation itself apart from Christianity, and yet such was the state at Corinth that they were not only going on with it, but there was no sign of mourning over it at all. "Ye are puffed up," he says, "and have not rather mourned, in order that he that hath done this deed might be taken out of your midst." They might surely, if they did not know bow to deal with it, have cried to God in their sorrow, and would have been heard by Him. We have always this resource, but;hey were puffed up instead. How soon can the Christian forget, perhaps in the very thought of that grace which breaks the dominion of sin, the very principles which nature itself should teach him!

2. But here we come to a remarkable sample of God's power over the evil, nay of His use of it to fulfil His own holy purposes. The man is to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. He is put into the hands of the adversary, who can now show himself plainly as the adversary that he always is. He can serve himself no longer by the sin of one who has been expelled from the Christian assembly. He has, therefore, nothing that he can do except to manifest his enmity against one who has borne the name of Christ, perhaps with the thought of driving him to despair by that which falls upon him, or, as in Job's case (one, of course, so different in himself from the person before us now), urge him into railing against God Himself. God uses him, on the other hand, that in the destruction of the flesh the spirit may yet be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. This is a principle which we find afterwards noted in His dealings with the Corinthians themselves, of whom, for the dishonor of the Lord's table, there were many who were weak and sickly, and many who slept. The apostle adds: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." God must manifest Himself against the sin; and if it is not to be eternally, it must be now in time; except indeed self-judgment come in, as he tells us here: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."

A solemn principle this is of divine government, and as we see, it is grounded in the divine nature. If His people will not maintain righteousness, He must maintain His own righteousness as to them, while at the same time He cannot, of course, and will not, forget the grace that He is showing in Christ. The apostle tells them, therefore, that he has already pronounced, as it were, with regard to the man in question, and bids them carry out his decision, which their own consciences must need respond to, in the name of Christ their Lord, as solemnly gathered together and himself in spirit, if not in body, with them, to deliver this man to Satan. This was apostolic power, no doubt. He speaks elsewhere of his delivering the promulgators of false doctrine to Satan without any question of the assembly at all; but although with us there may lack this element of authority, God will not fail to maintain the decisions of His people when according to truth and His own nature. Thus, while the Church may perhaps not be able formally to deliver to Satan, yet the principle remains untouched in integrity for us.

3. The apostle turns now to consider the influence of this evil, permitted among them, upon the whole assembly, and the necessity of their complete separation from it, not only for the Lord's sake and for the person's sake who had sinned, but for their own sake also. He speaks of that which characterizes the Christian's life as it were a feast upon a sacrifice. "Christ our Passover," he says, "has been sacrificed for us." We are living, so to speak, upon the fruits of that sacrifice. If God has bidden us to His feast, what must be the character of such a feast? The Old Testament has already shown us in its types that leaven was to be purged away before ever men ventured to sit down to partake of the passover.

(1) How sorrowful was their glorying then! Had they not received instruction from these types of the Old Testament, with which, as we see, they were certainly familiar, and familiar too in their application to Christianity? Did they not know that a little leaven leavened the whole lump? Little it might be in the speech of men. When the apostle speaks thus, it is evident that every atom of leaven must be purged out in order to satisfy die mind of God. Leaven is not simply evil, but evil allowed; the ferment, as the thought is, of wills that are not subject to God. If such leaven be permitted in a man's own life and ways, it will of necessity characterize him as a whole. He cannot be subject to God up to a certain limit. The moment we urge a limit to obedience, we urge what is in fact disobedience, and there is no such thing with God as the allowance of such a line as this. Unleavened bread, as the apostle says here, is that of sincerity and truth. There must be whole-hearted devotedness. If we refuse obedience anywhere, we are disobedient. If we refuse it in one thing, this will necessarily by degrees influence all other things. So it is individually, and so it is collectively. There must be hearts that can truly desire God to search them and see whether there be any way of wickedness in them; or else there is not, as is plain, sincerity and truth. The lump with leaven in it is a leavened lump, except it be as we find it in the meat-offering of the first-fruits. In this case the action of the fire has destroyed the leaven as leaven. It is there in a sense, but not there. There is no activity of it permitted or allowed. The fire necessarily stops that completely; and it cannot be too earnestly insisted upon that such a spirit of whole-hearted devotedness of which we are speaking is necessary to the true judgment of any single thing. Otherwise, first of all, the eye by which we see is obscured, or, as the Lord would say, made evil, and: "If thine eye be evil, the whole body will be full of darkness." We cannot shut out God's light without, as far as depends upon us, shutting it out altogether. If we shut our eyes, we shut ourselves into darkness; nay, the Lord has said: "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

They were, therefore, to purge out the old leaven that they might be a new lump, even as in God's sight in Christ they were in fact unleavened. Yet they would by this be a new lump. Thus they were not that, in the condition in which they stood. What they were before God was one thing. Their lives and ways did not answer to it. "Wherefore," he says, "let us celebrate the feast not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

(2) Another principle is now shown us, that in case of sin amongst the people of the Lord there is to be a more complete separation from those going on with it than there would be from the world itself, — in which, of course, this sin was everywhere. This ought not to be strange as a principle to us, for it is plain that it is the profession of the name of Christ along with it that gives the evil in this case a character all its own. Thus, he had written to them that they were not to mingle with men of this class; and yet he is not speaking of the world, whatever their various characters of sin might be, for in fact if they were to attempt this, the world was such that they would. have to go out of it altogether. There would be no possibility, even, of discerning the character of those with whom they were being brought in contact. The same difficulty of application is found today with the world, which is so largely a professing world. The principle remains untouched, but the application is more difficult. We cannot treat the professing mass according to their profession, it is so merely that; but still, when there is a manifest dishonor being done to the Lord by great opposition between profession and practice, we must, as far as lies in us, clear the Lord's name from this dishonor. In the closer circle of actual communion, of course the apostle's words have their full force. The wicked one is to be put away, not, merely from the table, but from among ourselves and this is to extend to the very matter of eating and drinking in such a case. We are not to mingle with them in any way. The more truly the heart goes after them, as it surely must, — God's own heart goes after them — the more closely will the divine rule be observed, which is that upon which alone there can be His blessing. As for discipline, it is always with the thought finally of the restoration of the offender. We see in what is before us here how thoroughly this was the case even after the extreme point had been reached and he had been put away from fellowship. God used this putting away to break him down, and thus for his restoration. It would not be to be with God at all to leave out of our thoughts or hearts those whom we may have had to put away from our fellowship. God's heart never gives up His people, and our hearts should never do so; and this will give the spirit of love in all our dealings with them, while it will not make the testimony we give against their ways less decisive, but much more.

Section 2. (1 Cor. 6:1-7.)

But with no exaction, even of one's rights.

We come, now to matters between the saints. The Corinthians were going to law with one another, bringing in the world to witness their sad condition and to set right amongst them the things which it was a shame should be wrong. He asks them if they do not know that the saints shall judge the world. That is, of course, in the coming day of the Lord's rule over it, but it is for this that we are being trained and educated now, and how could it be possible that those who were on their way to such a place as this could be unfit or unworthy to judge these small matters, matters in the apostle's estimation of such very small account? Do ye not know, he asks, that we shall judge angels, how much more then matters of this kind? Still, if judgments were needed as to the things of this life, those practically of no account in the assembly were sufficient for such things as that. He does not, of course, literally mean that they were to choose persons of that character, but that these were matters that did not require even any extraordinary spirituality and were of too little importance to require any great ability of this sort to decide them; but they were exposing their shame before the world. They had better suffer wrong; they had better suffer themselves to be defrauded. There was to be no exaction even of their rights. Grace does not exact. One may say, can we suffer the wrong to go on in the assembly? That is another matter. The question here is entirely of seeking our own things. If the matter is grave enough to touch the assembly, Matt. 18 has given us the rule with regard to it. There the first effort is that which is to be characteristic of our whole course; it is to gain one's brother. That is, as already said, that which discipline aims at. It may be, in fact, for the moment, impossible to be attained; and then we have the steps needed to place any matter that requires it in the hands of the assembly. Put in their hands, it is to be left there. It is for them, to say as to what will set things straight. Just because they are our own things, we are not to be judges of them. No man was ever thought to be a rightful judge in his own cause, or could take the law, as people say, into his own hands. These are principles which are surely as good for us as they can be in the world at large. They are the result simply of the knowledge, alas, of our poor fallen nature.

Section 3. (1 Cor. 6:8-20.)

The holiness of those whose bodies are temples of the Spirit.

The apostle proceeds now to speak of the holiness which befits those whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. They were, in fact, acting in utter forgetfulness of this. They were not only not suffering themselves to be defrauded, they were doing wrong and defrauding their own brethren. "Do ye not know," he asks, "that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" and then gives a catalogue of evil works, samples only, after all, of what was in the world at large, and which certainly God would never tolerate in His kingdom. Here it is of no use pleading grace in any wise. Grace is that which breaks the dominion of sin, sets the soul right to go on with God; and if this be not the result of it, grace has not been learned at all, nor can it be pleaded as availing in behalf of those who, whatever they may profess, show themselves uninfluenced by it. This was indeed the character of some of these Corinthian saints, in a city which was proverbial for its immorality. God had brought them out; they were "washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the. Spirit of our God." The order and connection of these things is to be noted. The washing comes first, which is, of course, but the removal of the positive evil with which they were connected. Sanctification carries this on to the full setting apart to God Himself, so that the life shall be His. Justification as it is put here is evidently that which is implied in the Spirit of God taking possession of the believer as His temple. This is indeed the most wondrous justification, and could only be the result of the Lord's work in their behalf. Thus it is said "in the name of the Lord Jesus," and this applies to the whole three things. The washing was on the authority of the name of Him who is our Saviour Lord.

One need hardly say that the reference which some here find to baptism is a mistake as to one essential character of Christianity. No external washing can affect the soul. The "washing of water," as the apostle himself has told us, is "by the word." God never uses things out of the place which He has given them. This is magic, not mystery. It is a perversion of things, it is essentially evil and of Satan. The parent it has surely been of a multitude of evils. The washing of baptism is at the hands of disciples, and no disciples hands can cleanse the soul; but this is an error which has gone far and wide in Christendom.

Sanctification is here both positional and practical, as "in the name of the Lord Jesus" it implies, first of all, the power of His blood to set apart to God; but it is also by the Spirit, therefore practical and internal, the making good in inward reality what the blood has made positionally ours.

As to justification in the sense in which we have it here, we find it once again in the first epistle to Timothy, where it is said of Christ that He was justified in the Spirit, the Spirit of God as coming upon Him being the witness to His absolute perfection. His was an anointing without blood; ours, on the contrary, is because of the value of that precious blood with God. Thus, then, the soul is brought into freedom. The law has not accomplished this, and therefore he speaks for a moment here of the entire liberty from law which thus results. "All things are lawful to me" does not, of course, for a moment change eternal moral conditions, but has reference to restrictions which were ceremonial merely. "Meats for the belly," as he says, and "the belly for meats." As to these things, there was the fullest and most absolute freedom; and yet even here there might be things inexpedient, and the apostle refuses to be brought under the power of things that are lawful. This is an important matter for our own guidance, for it may well be that that in which we loosely allow ourselves within the range of things entirely lawful may nevertheless have a sorrowful effect upon us. We have to use everything with the wisdom of God, and in our conduct with regard to others in an especial way are not to maintain our own rights, but to seek to minister to the needs of others. These were all things, as he shows us, of a merely temporary nature. Food was necessary in the meanwhile for the life that is, but it will come to an end and that which sustains it. On the other hand, there were things, — and the Corinthians needed the warning, — things which for the heathen in his darkness had little of real evil, but which, brought once into the light of Christianity, were seen in their true character; yet, after all, the power of bad habits might revive, even in the Christian. and thus he has to warn them that the body is simply for the Lord and the Lord for the body. God has already raised up the Lord, and we are to be raised up. In the meanwhile the body will betray us, if we do not take care to govern its appetites. But how wonderful that it is in the body of the believer that the Spirit of God has His abode! "Your bodies," says the apostle, "are members of Christ." This is a different mode of speech from that which we find elsewhere. It is not that believers simply are members of Christ, members of His body, but that our bodies are His members. They belong to Him and are to be used for Him. The body is in the world, that by which we maintain our connection with external things, and in which, therefore, the mind of the human spirit is manifested. Now it is the Spirit of God that has control; the body, as we have been taught in Romans, being simply to be offered up to God as "a living sacrifice, acceptable to Him through Jesus Christ." Our members are to be His members, expressing His mind in lives devoted to Him. "Shall I then," he says, "take away," as the word is, "the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? Far be the thought!" He refers to the Lord's words in Genesis to show how really this would be taking away the body from the Lord. Every other sin, he says, that a man may practise is without the body, does not compromise it in the same way. Gluttony, for instance, or any kindred thing, evil as it is of course, yet after all does not take the body away from Him, and put it in the hands of that which is contrary to Him. With the sin in question, this was in fact what was done. The man sinned, therefore, against his own body. "Know ye not," he says, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and," as the result of it, "ye are not your own, for ye were bought with a price? Glorify God, therefore, in your body." There are readings here which evidently have come from the thought that this was, after all, altogether too meagre a statement; but if the body be indeed kept in this way for God, if He be glorified in it, if this be really carried out, the whole life must of necessity be His. Our life is in the body; and to have control of the body is to have the life governed for Him. Thus it may be that the body is spoken of as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and not the spirit as His temple, which one would rather expect. It is a triumph of divine grace indeed that here where even as yet the power of redemption is not known, for "we wait for the adoption, that is, the redemption of the body," yet, through the work of Christ, the Spirit of God can dwell in us. How thoroughly that shows He is the witness to Christ's perfection, to the perfection of His blessed work, and not to any perfection of our own; and here, where the contact with the world is seen in the fullest way, the Spirit of God is found to deliver us from the evil influences of that contact. The anointing oil, as we may say, flows from the head down to the hem of the garment. In the Lord Himself we remember; also, that it was His body of which He expressly spake as the temple which, if men destroyed, would be raised up; and it is the Church as the body of Christ in which, therefore, the Spirit dwells. Here the same thoughts are found connected, in whatever different spheres. The Church is that which is to express the mind of Christ as here in the world, the Spirit of God ruling for Him, and the absent Christ thus being, as it were, manifested before the eyes of men; as the apostle says in another place, we are "the epistle of Christ, read and known of all men." Thus we can understand, also, why it is that the Church is not looked at as people so commonly look at it, as partly now in heaven (in those who are its members there) and partly upon earth. The Spirit is in the Body and the Body is upon earth, — in our bodies, and that makes it decisive that death must of necessity for the time interfere with this. He that is joined to the Lord is indeed one Spirit. Through the body is the present expression of this in the world.

Section 4. (1 Cor. 7.)

Nature: how far to be yielded to.

We now come to a question which, as already observed, is intimately connected with that of the flesh. Fallen nature is distinctly fleshly, as the Lord says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh;" but that is the fallen condition. We are still to distinguish from that human nature as God has constituted it, and which remains therefore to be owned as such, without forgetting how the fall has affected everything now. The apostle takes up here, therefore, the question especially of marriage, but also, in connection with this, of the relationship of children to the Church of God. This is incidentally, however. He is replying to questions which have been put to him by the Corinthians, and which are of the most practical character. We find a setting forth of things very different from that which we have, for instance, in Ephesians, by the same apostle, where the higher character of marriage is shown us and God's thought in its institution. Here we have nothing but the practical question answered; — as to the expediency of it, for instance, when sin has now come in so to dislocate that which is natural, and to pervert that which is best in nature making the strongest ties oftentimes to be the most significant of evil.

1. Here the principle, which is that which we are mainly concerned with, is a very simple one; the application of it, also, as the apostle gives it, so simple as to need little more. The principle is that the institution of God is to be maintained. Sin has not altered the rightness of that which God at the beginning ordained for man. The institution of God, therefore, has to be maintained, but on the one hand we are to consider the disturbance which sin has brought in, and how that affects the conduct of a believer with regard to such things, and we have also to consider that grace has brought in with it a power which is above nature and created new interests beyond those of the individual. Christians are free, but the apostle's idea of freedom is liberty to serve. He has no thought of anything freer than the service of Christ. Thus if these higher interests are the motive, a man may walk above nature, walk of course in faith; and he must take heed that he has faith to walk in this way. If not, in the necessary testing which will come in, there will surely be a breakdown, and evil instead of good. The path must be that of faith, and it can only be, therefore, in the following the will of God that we can have faith for it. We can never have faith for paths of our own choice simply. Thus, if a man choose to walk free from all distraction to serve God, apart from all the natural ties which God has instituted, he may be proportionately free from the distraction of cares which would in measure take him off from the service that he covets. On the other hand, if he is not with God, he may place himself in circumstances where there shall be much more distraction. The apostle has no thought of asceticism in the smallest degree. Man may go outside the world, as he imagines, into a wilderness and solitude, only to find that there is an inner world from which he is not separated and cannot separate himself, and which claims him the more for the very isolation which he has chosen. The separate path is not to be sought, therefore, for its own sake. It is not to be taken as if it were in itself a higher elevation. The motive is that which governs all, and here, therefore, the will of God, which can alone give one a right motive. In general, as the apostle decides here, the rule is the natural one. He cannot perhaps exactly quote any more that it is not good for man to be alone, and that God hath made him a help meet for him. This always remains, of course, in measure true if we contemplate man as man, but ibis the first creation, not the new one; and, as already said, the interests of Christ and service to Him, in a scene which so calls for service as does the world in its fallen state, are motives which the original creation did not contemplate. The general rule, even for Christians, remains the natural one, and a path of special faith requires distinctly the special gift of God. If God brings one into circumstances of trial, He is competent for the circumstances. If we essay the trial apart from this, we shall only find the breakdown of a strength which is the strength of nature, and not spiritual strength.

On the other hand, for those who are married, the bond which God has ordained is, of course, recognized. There is no longer, in the same sense, freedom. The apostle could desire for all the very highest path, of course, but he has no commandment for any with regard to this. Wishing that all men were even as himself, he realizes, however, that every one has his own gift from God, one man after this manner and another after that. He is only expounding here what the Lord Himself more summarily declares in the nineteenth of Matthew. Thus far it is only the case of marriage among Christians themselves that he is speaking of.

2. He now takes up the question of separation and divorce; and here, as most naturally having to do with this, the case of a believer united to an unbeliever. In those days there must have been necessarily from such a cause oftentimes the greatest perplexity. He decides that in such a case the wife is not to separate herself of her own will from her husband, as in the case of Christians also be is wholly against separation; and if the wife has been separated she is to remain unmarried or to be reconciled to her husband, the husband not to leave his wife. In the case of an unbeliever there is, of course, a difference. On the side of the Christian, if the unbelieving wife be content to dwell with him, he is not to leave her; so, on the other hand, if it be the husband that is the unbeliever and not the wife. The reason of this he gives as to be found in the sanctification of the unbelieving husband in the wife, or of the unbelieving wife in the Christian to whom she is married, and he adduces as the proof of this the known position of the children of the married in such a case. The children, he says, are holy. This, of course, as it is the basis of his argument, must have been an acknowledged fact for Christians. The working of Israelitish law was quite in the other direction. If a man had married outside of Israel, the children were unclean, and were disowned as belonging to the congregation of the Lord. The holiness of the children here is not a necessarily spiritual condition, but that of external relationship, as we may say, but which of course manifests the mind of God for blessing to those who are in such a relationship.

The baptism of the household is not intimated, but it is evident that this would naturally result from the position here. The token of discipleship could hardly be denied to those who as holy were to be brought up as disciples. They are thus addressed throughout the epistles, and they could not be so addressed if outside the Kingdom of that in which the claims of Christ as Lord were owned. It has sometimes been argued that the unbelieving wife or husband is, according to this, as much holy as are the children; but this is an oversight as to what is really expressed. The unbelieving husband or wife is only sanctified in the believing partner, not otherwise: sanctified, therefore, in that relationship in which he or she stood to the other, and not in himself, so as to be himself acknowledged in any relationship to the Church of God. The relationship was clean and owned of God, so that the believer could continue in it, and is urged to do so. But, on the other hand, if, on the side of the unbeliever, he departed, then, in such cases, the brother or the sister, says the apostle, is not bound. He or she is not obliged to recognize any more the relationship as existing. Yet the apostle does not mean by this anything equivalent to divorce, or that which would set absolutely free the one separated from. The Lord Himself has decided in the plainest possible way in the Gospels that there is but one ground for divorce, and we have no right from the apostle's words here to suppose, as many do suppose now, that they declare another. Whatever trial there may be in such circumstances of separation, yet if there be no more, it is a trial to which God has called the person in question, and for which He must be counted upon; but to continue in the relationship as far as possible is that which he encourages. Christianity, with its all-embracing desire for the salvation of souls, would rather use such a relation for the salvation of the unbeliever than cast out one who might be thus rescued from his natural, lost condition.

3. The apostle here, in a parenthesis, goes aside to consider for a moment how far this principle of abiding in the position in which God's call found its objects would stand good. The general rule was, and he ordains it in all churches, to abide wherever one could abide with God. There was to be no restless spirit of change, as if circumstances were the great consideration rather than God's control of circumstances, which ought to be realized. Thus, if any one was called, being circumcised, he was not to become uncircumcised. He was not, as it were, to ape the Gentile. So, if one were called in uncircumcision, he was not to be circumcised. Circumcision and uncircumcision were alike now on the same footing; that is to say, there was nothing in them. The keeping of the commandments of God was the whole matter. If a man were called even being a bond-servant, — and we can hardly imagine, perhaps, the bitterness of such a position oftentimes in those old heathen days, and especially for a Christian in bond-service to a heathen, — yet the apostle bids such an one not to care about it. If he could become free, by all means he may do so; but on the other hand, if be were ever so much a bond-servant and called in the Lord, the Lord had set him free in such a way as no bondage on the part of man could possibly affect. He could serve Christ in that condition; and the more painful the circumstances might be, the more acceptable even, we may be sure, would be such a service. His spirit was free, nothing could touch that, and He who was his Master was Master also of all else, so that this, as all other things, should work for good to him. If he were free as to circumstances, he would still be Christ's bond-servant. Christians are those bought with a price. They were not to be indeed the bond-servants of men. They were not to allow themselves to descend to a lower sphere of service. Christ was to be served, and His people, of course, in Him, but always, therefore, in the remembrance of that love which had at the same time bound him to Christ and set him free. The general rule, therefore, is, let each abide in the calling wherein he is called, if only he can abide there with God. If; of course, his position is such that he cannot abide in it thus, he is bound to leave it; but the restless spirit of change is not that which suits Christianity. It makes too much of the world and the circumstances, which are indeed nothing, but only a condition under which God can display Himself without possibility of hindrance.

4. The apostle returns now to the matter in hand. He answers the question, then, how far, in view of actual circumstances, marriage were good or not. He tells them this is a mere question of giving advice. He has no commandment of the Lord. He distinguishes that in the most absolute way from whatever judgment he may give as one faithful, as he was known to be, through the mercy of the Lord to him, and whose spiritual judgment might therefore be of the greatest value to those who used it aright. There was that which the apostle speaks of as a "present necessity." It is to be supposed that he refers to the immense pressure of the world upon the infant Church. This would make the entanglement with unnecessary cares a thing not to be desired. Still he can do little more than reaffirm what he has already said. In view of it all, it was good for a man to remain as he was; but if he was already bound to a wife, he must not seek to be loosed. If he was loosed, then he would not have him seek a wife; but at the same time distinctly decides that there was no sin at all that was in question. He or she who married did not sin. There would be trouble naturally, as he foresees, but he is not going to make this too strong a point with them, for there might be that which more than compensated the trouble. In short, it was a matter for individual exercise and determination. No one could determine the course of another; but as to all, the time was shortened. The coming of the Lord was nigh, always nigh for the Christian; without regard to any exact knowledge, he was to be in the spirit of constant expectation. Those who had wives were to be as they who had none. If they wept, things were passing, so that it was not to be as it were in real sorrow. As to that in which they might rejoice (of course, he is speaking of circumstances, what might thus rejoice them here), still they were to be as those who rejoiced not. Whatever they acquired, they were to be as though they possessed it not, and while using the world, they were not to dispose of it as if it were their own. They had, so to speak, a certain interest in it, but the character of everything was necessarily determined by the condition of things. The world was passing away; and their possession of anything would pass away with it.

And there was another matter also to be considered; the great and important thing in his eyes was that people should live without care, — without that weight of anxiety which would disturb them in their walk with God. As a fact, he is not speaking of what should be or what need be, but what is so often found. The unmarried would be naturally careful for the things of the Lord, to please Him — he has no one else to please. If a man is married, he has, on the other hand, plainly, another to please, and thus he is tempted at least to care for the things of the world in order to please his wife. So with a woman, in the same way. The one who is free from everything of this sort can be careful for the things of the Lord alone. She that is married is apt to be careful for the things of the world, just with the desire, and a not unreasonable desire, to please her husband. He is not saying this, as he declares again, constantly guarding it, for anything but for their profit. He does not want to lay down rules, the observation of which might only be a snare to them, but he wants them to seek, whatever their course may be, to serve the Lord without distraction. There was no sin, as he insists again, there was no kind of sin in marriage; but if a man had no need of it, if he had authority over himself and had judged in his heart to remain so, he did well. So, on the other hand, he says, the one who marries does well, although if he does not, he may do better. Once in the bond of marriage the Lord's will was already declared, wife or husband were bound unto death. if the husband were fallen asleep, the wife was still free to be married to whom she would; (thus the apostle declares positively as to the lawfulness of second marriages;) but he puts in the condition that it was to be only in the Lord, which does not mean simply that she was to be only married to a Christian, though that of course, but as seeking the Lord's guidance about it and therefore in obedience to Him, as the whole Christian life should be. The happier course, according to his judgment, was for her to remain unmarried. He thinks that he could surely speak as one having the Spirit of God, but there he leaves it.

It is plain how, all through, the apostle insists upon the difference between advice, such as one Christian may give another, (such as he above all others was competent to give,) and the command of God. All, of course, that is given here is given by inspiration, the advice as well as the command; and if, as we see in a chapter beyond this, the apostle ordained anything, it was in fact the commandment of the Lord. The advice was inspired, but it was advice. The character of it in that respect was not affected by the inspiration. It is not the lowering of the thought of inspiration, to look at it as advice simply, what he himself characterizes as that.

Subdivision 3. (1 Cor. 8 – 10.)

Encompassed by the prevalent idolatry, the manifestation of the enemy's work.

We have seen that in all this part of the epistle, it is the Church as in the world that is looked at, encompassed by influences which are adverse. The whole trinity of evil is against the Church. There are enemies without. There is, alas, an enemy within also, and this is that which needs specially to be guarded against. External enemies can never prevail against the Christian who is true to himself. The first failure, as we see in the church or Ephesus in the apocalyptic epistles, was in the maintenance of first love to Christ. That of necessity allows all other evils to come in. Christ, if He be known and walked with, is absolute sufficiency, as the apostle has shown us here, for everything that can arise. There must be, first of all, that which comes in between the soul and Him, in order to expose it to the power of evil.

We have seen the wisdom of the world as that which was in the case of the Corinthians the first element of seduction. This encouraged, as it always does, the flesh, which was manifesting itself amongst them in the grossest way.

The apostle now comes to that which was encompassing them on every side, the prevalent idolatry which was the fullest manifestation of the enemy's work, of the hold that he had got upon man. The very knowledge that Christians had with regard to it had itself its dangers, through the assumption so often accompanying knowledge, and needed to be corrected. In consequence of their apprehension of the nothingness of an idol, they might walk as little realizing the power which was actually working through it, and which had molded the whole form of things around them. In connection with this, therefore, the apostle looks at the spirit in which one must walk in order to be free from the enemy's power; and appeals to the testimony of history as to the dangers of a path which lay through such a world as this.

1. He begins, therefore, at once with that which had no doubt been made a question with him, things sacrificed to idols. They were everywhere. That which was sold in the shambles was very often what had been thus offered. What were they to do about it? Was there defilement in it? He begins by asserting, first of all, the absolute nothingness of idols according to the knowledge given to the Christian. The Hebrews had a word which expressed this. The idols were "elilim ", — "nothings"; but then, knowledge itself was not a sufficient guide in relation to these things. Knowledge (that is, the idea of knowing, not the things known, but the idea of knowing) puffed a man up. How readily this takes place, we ought surely to realize. How easy it is to value one's self upon every bit of truth attained, so as to set one's self on an elevation above others, instead of seeking to serve with that knowledge! They needed love, therefore, as the apostle says. Love is that which edifieth. It does not think of its own things, but of the things of others; and it is this only which is sale for the Christian himself. If a man rested upon his knowledge as if he knew something, he knew nothing yet aright. How small, (although there are things surely known,) but how small, after all, is all the knowledge of time compared with that which a moment's entrance into eternity, as one may say, will effect for us! The man who values himself upon his knowledge is but, as it were, a child, priding itself upon that which others recognize to be merely childish. He does not make light of it, of course, as that which has to do with God. The knowledge of God aright gives God His place in the soul and delivers from self, if it be really knowledge. Pride cannot live in such an atmosphere; and if one loves God, the blessed thing is that he is known of God. He walks in the light of that which God knows, as one who is manifested to Him. With regard, therefore to the eating of things sacrificed to idols, the first principle necessarily is that the idol is nothing in the world, for there is only one God. There are plenty that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, heavenly objects of worship or earthly ones, "gods many and lords many," according, alas, to the multiplicity of the evil principles which stir men's hearts; but to us there is but one God, the Father. This is how God is characterized for us now, the way in which Christ has revealed Him. It is not a question here of the Trinity, or the distinction of persons, but of how God has been revealed to us in relationship, first of all to Christ, and thus to all who are His. God is no more what the mere monotheist aught account Him. He is not One far off, but One come nigh. He is not One from whom, through the very dread natural to man. one might seek rather to escape, but One who is for us; One of whom it is a delight to know that all things belong, and that we also belong, to Him. How different a thing this from the mere question of one god or many. And so there is for us one Lord, he says, Jesus Christ. God hath made that same Jesus, whom men crucified, both Lord and Christ. He is, moreover, the One by whom are all things, the One who has acted for God the Father, both in creation and in the redemption of those ruined by the fall. We too are by Him. We are the fruits of His love, the work of His power. This, then, is the primary thought, and it is above all necessary that the soul should be free, not under superstitious dread of other objects, real even or unreal. There is nothing but what is under the control of Him who has loved us, who has given His Son for us, and of that Son Himself who is at the right hand of God upon the Father's throne, and living for us there.

2. But then, even among Christians this knowledge was not just as it should be in all. Some with conscience of the idol ate things sacrificed to idols. They were not free in spirit, and thus, although the idol itself was nothing, yet their conscience was defiled. It is a question which has already, in fact, come before us in Romans, but it is a question which pressed everywhere, in the condition of the world around Christians in those days. What was to be done? Should a man press his knowledge upon one who, after all, had not attained so much? It was rather a case for yielding in love to the weakness of another. The meat itself was nothing. It was no advantage eating it or abstaining from it, but the important thing, that which was needed, was that the Christian's right should not become a stumbling-block to the weak in faith. Suppose one who had not this knowledge were to see one who had it sitting at table in an idol house, might he not be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to an idol while, after all, his conscience was not good about it? He was merely imitating the faith of another; and the imitation of faith is not faith. He might thus be put into a condition in which he would be really drifting away from a right conscience toward God, and exposed, naturally, even to perish through another's knowledge. This may seem unnecessarily strong language. We might ask how is it possible that one of Christ's should perish? He is not really insisting upon any possibility of this sort, but he is insisting upon our responsibility, however this may be. If we were to put poison upon a man's plate, whether he died or not, we should be responsible for his death; and if God will not suffer His own to find all the consequences of their sin and failure, if He will necessarily, as true to His own love, come in to deliver them, this is not knowledge such as we are to act upon. It does not affect our own responsibility, who may so easily, by our own acts, really lead astray the sheep of Christ and do them spiritual damage. It is important also to realize that in ourselves there is no help or hope, if once we are adrift from our anchorage, if we have got away front Christ. And how easily is it possible to get thus away! In this case it would be simply, as we might say, the aim to be as another Christian more advanced than myself. If the conscience be taken away from the simple, individual subjection to God, the result is the same, no matter in what way readied. We have to be exercised, each one for himself, and as a matter of responsibility to God alone, as to each step in the way. We are not to follow one another, except as we are convinced, as the apostle puts it, that that other follows Christ; but then again, if that which I do is something which may make my brother stumble, whatever may be his own responsibility in the matter, mine is clear. Says the apostle, "I will eat no flesh any more if it is to make my brother to stumble." This and this alone is the right use of knowledge.

3. But at this point we have once more what seems an entire digression from the apostle's subject, yet it is not really so. He is about to set before us this spirit which he has already exemplified, and as that which is necessary to be our spirit in order to be able to go through a world like this, under the power of Satan, and where there are in every direction baits and lures, to lure the one who is capable of another object than Christ Himself. This was the apostle's object; and he shows us now how everything, — whatever it might be, (the undoubted privileges which were his as an apostle or a minister of Christ,) — was nevertheless to be used in the interests of Christ Himself. If it were claimed apart from this, it would be, for the man himself who did this, an evil and not a good.

(1) He first gives us, therefore, the claim which was rightly his as an apostle. Was he not that? Had he not seen Jesus the Lord? It was from Him, as we know, that he had got this apostleship; but were they not the seals of it also? Had not his work approved itself and been owned of God? They certainly were not the people to question this. If he were not an apostle to any others, yet surely he was to them, for they themselves were the seals of his apostleship. If, therefore, people were questioning, with regard to him, whether he had really this apostolic right, he answered at once by fully claiming it. No doubt they might take advantage of what we have read with regard to his life at Corinth, his working with his own hands there, a distinct testimony in the midst of people such as were the Corinthians, of the love which sought not theirs, but them. Was it a question, then, of right on his part? Had he not the same right as other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas, to lead about with him a sister as a wife? Or had he alone and Barnabas not the right to abstain from working? What did common reason say? Who carried on a warfare at his own charges? Who planted a vineyard without expecting to eat of the fruit of it? Who that tended a flock did not eat of the milk of the flock. The claim then was evident, and nature itself affirmed it.

(2) But not only nature, Scripture affirmed it also. This was not what he said himself simply. Did not the law, which was practically the Scripture that was in their hands (there was little as yet of the Christian Scriptures as we know) — but did not the law say these things too? He interprets it according to its typical character as at other times. In the law of Moses it was written: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn." Was it really, after all, for the oxen that God cared so much? He does not, of course, mean to deny that God has care for oxen, but was that the great thing? Was there no higher purpose of such a principle as that? Does he not, in fact, say it altogether; as the apostle puts it, on account of others, — the ministers of His grace? Yes, he says, for our sake it is written; that he that ploweth might plow in hope, and he that treadeth out corn in hope of partaking. Was it not right? If he had sown unto them spiritual things, did they think it a great matter that he should reap their carnal things? They acknowledged this right in others; could they fail to acknowledge it with regard to himself? And yet he had not used this right. That was the secret of his conduct at Corinth. He bore all things that no hindrance might be given to the gospel of Christ. Here was his motive. Here was the characteristic and principle of his life. It was Christ who governed one who was perfectly free in serving Him. But further, as to the law and in that which touched the present question more nearly, had not those who wrought about sacred things a right to eat of the things of the temple? Did not those who waited upon the altar partake with the altar of the gifts given? There is a perfect analogy in God's dealings at all times; and in this case the Lord has ordained, says the apostle, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

(3) But we now come to see how this privilege is transformed in his hands into another kind of privilege altogether; that is, the privilege of sacrificing himself for Christ and in His service. "I have used," he says, "none of these things"; an argument no doubt which they were pleading against him, and he was not going now to insist upon this claim. He did not want them to do anything with regard to this. There was a glorying which he had, and which he would rather die than have made void. It was not indeed as to preaching the gospel that he was speaking. It was not his having anything to glory in there. With regard to this, necessity was laid upon him, be could do nothing else; yea, woe would it be to him if he did not preach the gospel. Quite true that if he did it freely, of his own will, he would have a reward, but if not, still he was entrusted with a stewardship; but now then, what was the reward of which he speaks? It was this, that in preaching the gospel he could make the gospel without charge, so as not to use his own right in the gospel; and that, in order to make the gospel itself more effective. Free from all, even love made him a bond-servant to all, that he might gain the more. Thus, if he were addressing himself to Jews, he became a Jew to gain them. We have seen this principle already in the circumcision of Timothy in the Acts. To those under the law he became as if under the law, though he was not, as he carefully tells us, himself in reality under it; but he was privileged to give up his liberty, and he gave it up freely, to gain those that were under the law. He could be with theta without insisting upon his own Christian freedom; just as, on the other hand, he could be with the Gentile as without law, not as being lawless with regard to God; on the contrary, just as in lawful subjection to Christ; for it was in His interests that he was acting and seeking to win souls. Thus he wrought that he might gain those without law. If men were weak, he took the same ground; he would become weak, too, that he might gain these. As to any privilege of his own, he could give it up. He could not, of course, give up that in which he was hound in duty to God. That was another thing. He had no liberty in that which belonged to another, but with regard to anything which was simply his own right, he could give that up and did give it up, that by all means he might save men.

4. We have seen the transformation of privilege in the hands of one for whom Christ was the object of life. Privilege it remained, but how changed in its character! That which was but a matter of self-interest before, becomes now an opportunity for self-sacrifice on behalf of Christ and His gospel. This was a privilege indeed, and this is the spirit which alone can carry a man safely through Satan's world undeceived and unallured (we may add, undismayed) by all that Satan may employ against him. In this there seems to be the reference to the main subject of this part, in which it is plainly the power of the enemy which is before us. He is himself one who by seeking his own, lost all that he had, and this is still the nature of his allurement. He cannot, therefore, touch the one who seeks not his own, but the things of Christ. We go on now to see how the principle tests us, the testing being necessarily involved through the fact of going through a world like this, which is Satan's world.

(1) There is a prize before the apostle, but it is beyond and therefore outside of present things. He was seeking to partake with the gospel, which he personifies here — that gospel with which he was identified in its triumphs and gains. In this he was using the energy which was requisite to press through the difficulties of the way. Life was for him a race, calling on the one hand for energy, and on the other for conformity to the conditions of a race. As the apostle says, not all the runners in a race receive the prize. There must be a running after such a manner as to obtain. Every one that contendeth for a prize is temperate in all things; and this is only to receive a corruptible crown, but the Christian's crown is incorruptible. The apostle, therefore, was so running, not in any uncertainty about the end, but as taking the due means to reach the end. He was fighting, not as one beating the air. It was no needless conflict. There was his own body to be buffeted and led captive, as he expresses it; and here after all is always the great hindrance. We have seen already how the Spirit of God is in the body in order to deliver us from the power of it, and to make the very place of the conflict that in which God manifests Himself. He does this, as he says, lest having preached to others, he himself should be rejected. The word is "disapproved," but it is the ordinary word which the apostle uses again in the last chapter of the second epistle, where it is translated "reprobates." He there plainly uses it for final, absolute rejection, and here it can be really no different from that. People have sought to guard what needs no guarding, the precious doctrine of God's perfect grace, and of the believer's safety in committing himself to that grace; but there are, nevertheless, conditions of the way; and this Scripture always recognizes. There is a way the end of which is eternal life. The way of evil and unholiness does not lead to life, but the reverse; and God's grace never alters this. It would not be that which breaks the power of sin, if it were mere laxity in this respect. The apostle expresses no fear for himself, but applies the principle to himself. He could not except himself from the application. If he did so, he would be permitting any other professing Christian to follow his example in it. It is simply the professor who is contemplated in all these conditional statements, but when we say the professor; we do not mean the mere professor; for few such would own the application, and if the Christian does not own it he is a loser by that. fact. The Lord means that we should solemnly realize the connection of holiness and salvation, and we must not in any wise separate the two. On the other hand, nothing but grace can work for holiness. Nothing but grace can give us the only proper motive for a holy life, which is Christ's glory and not our personal gain; although we do gain personally by it. So with the apostle here, therefore. He speaks of himself simply as a preacher to others, and he puts himself upon the same ground as any other preacher. One may preach to others and be one's self rejected. That is, alas, clear, and that is all he says. He was entering intelligently into the conditions of the race and running it, but he had no thought that God would not preserve him to the end and enable him to persevere through all hindrances, whatever they might be.

(2) He then adduces the witness of history in which the things that happened to Israel were, as he says, things that happened to them for types. Full of admonition in themselves, full of significance for that generation in which they really happened, they nevertheless develop for us a higher meaning which God would have us read in them, the history of which is so written that it might develop for us. How important it is to realize this principle all through those histories of the Old Testament, and even of the New, in which there is much more than is upon the surface, and in which God shows us His control upon everything in connection with men, making the wrath of man to praise Him, restraining the remainder of it, and giving a meaning to things which those of whom it is the history were perfectly ignorant. Thus he tells us that all our fathers, Israel's fathers, were under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They were set apart to Moses as his disciples; which is what baptism represents for us with regard to Christ. They were set apart in the most solemn way by the cloud which covered them and protected them from their enemies, by the sea which divided to let them pass and overthrew their pursuers. In that cloud and sea they were delivered from all the condition in which they had been as slaves to the Egyptians, and were set truly free, — free to serve God their Saviour. How powerful should have been the impress of such events upon them, God Himself having become in this way their Saviour-God! We can find in all this history a deeper meaning, but there was a deep meaning in what they themselves experienced. Then in the wilderness the same love followed them. They ate of the spiritual food; they drank, he says, of spiritual drink, ("spiritual." one may say, perhaps, in its origin, and in the meaning which was more than merely to furnish sustenance for them, — that might have been done easily in another way,) but to keep them also in dependence upon God and make them realize the ministering hand of God and the tenderness of His care for them, — thus that their hearts might be brought fully to Him and made absolutely to confide in Him. This spiritual rock, as the apostle says, followed them; not, of course, that there was any literal following of a rock, as some have wildly imagined, or of even the streams from the first rock smitten. There was another rock smitten, as we know, afterwards, and the streams which first flowed from the rock were, therefore, not those that actually followed them all through the wilderness; but the same love followed them with a similar supply, so that it was one and the same thing all the way through; and the rock had a deeper meaning than any they could have realized in it. The rock for us is Christ. It is from this Rock, the riven Rock, that the streams of the Spirit flow to us; a Rock which requires no more to be smitten (Moses in that way spoiled the type, as we know) but only to be spoken to. Thus has God provided for us. The types of baptism and the Lord's supper, which some would find here, are part of that ritualistic perversion of things which lowers everything it touches. There are no types of baptism at all. The passage in the first of Peter which may seem to come nearest to this is in fact very different. There the water of the deluge and the water of baptism are spoken of in fact as alike figures. They are both figures of spiritual things, and they are like figures; but the one figure is not a figure of the other figure. So with baptism and the Lord's supper now. They are both figures, and they are in their highest, deepest, fullest reality figures for us. The very adoption by the Lord of such simple things as water, as bread and wine, admonishes us to keep to the same simplicity. Water can do only what water can do; and bread and wine can minister to the body, but not as such to the soul. The spiritual significance in them is everything for us, and the memorial character of the Lord's supper; in which we have the remembrance of a dead Christ, is an absolute protest against the thought of there being ministered to us in it a Christ who does not as such exist. It is not a dead Christ now with whom we have to do, but a living Christ; but it is not a living Christ we have to do with in the ordinance of the supper, but a dead Christ. There can be no confusion of these two things without a confusion resulting in every way; and, as has been said before, there is nothing more degrading, there is nothing that has wrought worse confusion for the Church of Christ, than forgetfulness of simple principles such as these. Here we have "the Rock was Christ." Does anybody imagine that the rock was literally Christ? Of course not; but when the Lord says: "This is My body," He uses similar language exactly. The rock was Christ in its spiritual significance, nothing else, and the supper is Christ in sweet and holy memory; and that is much more than anything that ritualism could give us.

These things, then, were types in Israelitish history; yet after all, spite of all God's dealings with them, spite of all the love which had delivered and which was continually blessing them, with most of them God was not well pleased, and they were overthrown in the wilderness, — solemn word of admonition then for us in these things which happened, as he says, as types of us, warnings of the greatest significance. As we think of how, indeed, there were but two of that whole generation brought out of Egypt, as grown men at least, who survived to enter Canaan, it is a serious admonition as to what might come of the testing of Christian profession after this manner. Warning it is for us all. We have no right to say, Well, but we are true Christians, and therefore we need not trouble about these things. These are things which as principles are of the greatest importance for us to realize. There are evil things for which we may lust as they lusted. If God prevents the extreme result for us, that is His mercy, but the effect of our disregarding the warnings may be that our lives may be, alas, bow greatly spoiled and disfigured and made quite other than He would have them, by our laxity! The people turned even from God Himself and became idolaters. As it is written: "The people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play." They turned from the very One who had manifestly led them out of Egypt and who went before them in a pillar of cloud and fire by night and by day. They turned from the One who had drawn them to Himself and made them His own peculiar people after this manner; and in the very presence of the fiery mount they said: "As for this Moses, we know not what has become of him. Up, make us gods that may go before us." They might dignify their idols with Jehovah's name. God would have none of it. He had already forbidden it and stamped it as following a false god, and so in fact it was. The god they celebrated with their heathen games and sports was not Jehovah. How important for us to realize that we also may have in measure another god than the true God, while the name remains for us the same, and another Christ, perhaps, than the true Christ, although we speak reverently of Him all the while! The lusts of the flesh broke out in what followed in Israel's case. If one departs from God, the necessary result will be that from the evil in us we shall not be able to depart. It will have full control, as with Israel. In one day there fell three and twenty thousand of them. The passage in Numbers says four and twenty thousand, and it does not seem a question of any difference of reading here; but it does not say that the four and twenty thousand fell in one day. The apostle may give the immediate result here, and the history go further.

There was another form of evil. They tempted the Lord in the wilderness. They tried His patience. How great that patience had been with them, to its full limit! They refused His gracious provision and scoffed against His care, and perished by serpents. This shows us distinctly to what the apostle refers. For us, the admonition is that we tempt not Christ. It does not seem exactly to follow that he means that they tempted Christ in the wilderness. Another reading, very well supported also, is here "the Lord," instead of "Christ," but there is no need to adopt it. Christ is for us the Lord, the one Lord, than whom there is no other, and Israel's sin can be committed, as is plain, by us in this very way. We can refuse the light food of which Israel had said: "What is it?" but which contained so much for them; food of the mighty, and which would have made them, had they truly understood it, the men of might they should have been. How great for us, alas, is the danger of turning, too, from that which alone can nourish our souls and seeking in some form or other the things upon which men feed around us! The Lord allowed the power of the enemy to manifest itself in the serpents by which they perished, and the same power of the enemy will still manifest itself upon us in turning to the world away from Christ. It is there that his power is found. He is the prince of this world. The world has been formed in its moral character by that fall to which he seduced men, and thus, if we will venture upon this ground, we shall find that he has not yet given up those as to whom he believes he has gained the perfect right of a master. They murmured in other ways. They murmured when the hand of God came upon them in judgment, in the destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. They murmured against Moses, when it was really by the judgment of God that these had fallen, so that again the hand of the destroyer was upon them and the former judgment was solemnly confirmed in the repetition of it. How easily, too, we may murmur against that which has been simply the necessary judgment of God because of the sins of His professing people, instead of humbling ourselves before Him on account of them!

"All these things," then, the apostle reminds us here, "happened to them as types." They are not merely things which may be applied in that way now, but that is the very meaning of the history for us as we read it. They are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come. It is not the ends of the "world," but the ends of the dispensations past, — those dispensations of trial which for us are closed by the death of Christ, in which the utter condemnation of man is reached, but in which, also, divine grace has reached us. We can look back now over those ages and find them all ministering to us their special lessons. How wonderful a place to be set in, to have instruction of this kind from every past generation! How important that we should heed the admonition of it, and how guilty shall we be in disregarding it! "Wherefore," says the apostle, "let hint that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." That, surely, is a great part of the admonition. Those dispensations were the trial of man as man. There can be no trial when there is no self-confidence on man's part, — when we have reached where the apostle was, and can say we have no confidence in the flesh. All self-confidence is confidence in the flesh. All true confidence is confidence in God alone. It is thus that we find ability to stand. We stand indeed, but we stand as He holds us up. If we think that we stand after any independent manner, we are on the very brink of a fall. Dependence is that which is proper to a creature; and we are not merely in a dangerous place, but we have, as one may say, already fallen, when we have lost our hold of the Hand that supports us.

How blessed to realize again that in the midst of a world full of testing, such as this is, in which the history of the Church has repeated for us in so solemn a way the history of Israel, in which man has been tested under grace (although that was not the object of grace) as he has been so thoroughly, still with the same result! When we look at ourselves, and think of how little we are able to stand against all the trials of the way, how blessed to realize the limits which the apostle sets to the trial! There is no temptation but such as belongs to man; and then, God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able. He is speaking, of course, of a soul in the true condition of conscious helplessness before Him. If we are self-confident, we shall find that the least temptation is something above what we are able; but if we are in a right condition, (which should be the normal one of the Christian,) God will not suffer temptation to he too strong for us, but will with the temptation make the outcome of it also a deliverance in due time, that we may be able to bear it. He adds, significantly, as one great lesson of it all: "Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." Idolatry was but one feature of that history of Israel, although a notorious one; but for us, is it not, in fact, in a heart that wanders from God which makes in this way, however little conscious it may be, a false god of its own, — is it not in this that all departure from Him, we may say, is found? Here is the root, the basis of it. If God Himself, the God that we know, the God that has been revealed to us, is the God of our hearts, the God whom we serve and follow, how safe and how blessed will be our condition! Christ is the manifestation of God for this, and thus we are indeed far better provided than was Israel in the knowledge of this God who claims our obedience and our affections. What is it for us to depart from One who has revealed Himself to us after this manner?

5. We return now fully to that question which has been in the apostle's mind all the way through, the results for us of this power of Satan manifest in the world, of which he is prince, and where he has so molded things according to his mind. In fact, in those days, as we know, idolatry was everywhere. The Emperor was worshiped as divine, so that not to worship him was disobedience to the law. What was a Christian to do in the midst of so great defilement? They, on their part, were identified with God, and with Him whom God has appointed to be the Lord of all, who claimed such obedience as none other ever even thought of claiming. The apostle, therefore, looks, at this question of association with God and the responsibility resulting from it.

(1) In the first place, he puts before us our identification with the Lord as in the manifest tokens of it in the cup and the loaf, which stood for a pledged communion with Himself. He bids them enter intelligently into this question. What was the cup of blessing which they blessed? Was it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread they broke, was it not the communion of the body of Christ? Were they not all by it one loaf, the manifested body, one body, as all partaking of that one loaf? It is plain that what men call the sacrament stands for something in this connection. There is an outward pledge in it. There is something which, if not real, is the fullest hypocrisy. Here is before us in this table; in all the responsibility of it, communion with the body and blood of Christ, — Christ in all that He has done for us, all that He has endeared Himself to us by. What are we going to do with it? Thus identified, must not this follow us into our common, ordinary life, into every detail of our conduct here? He puts before them Israel after the flesh. Were not those who ate the sacrifices in communion with the altar? Were they not identified, if what they did meant anything, if it were anything more than the grossest formalism, with all that that Jewish altar stood for? It was not, therefore, a question as to whether there was any reality in the idol or not. He has already decided that there was not, but the idol stood for something in men's thoughts; and not merely that, but in this idolatry the power of Satan wrought so that the things the Gentiles sacrificed they did not sacrifice, in fact, to nothing, but to demons, and not to God. Thus there was the most serious question possible. People could not escape by saying that an idol was nothing in the world, and that there was no other God but One. They could not drink the cup of the Lord, which said this, and the cup of the idol, which said another thing. They could not partake of the Lord's table aright and of the table of demons. Was it not provoking the Lord to jealousy? Were they going to be stronger than He?

(2) Once more be takes up that which might be urged, that all these things were lawful things. A man might sit in an idol's temple and get no harm. He might eat of the idol's offerings and get no harm. With his higher knowledge, these things meant nothing for him; but that was not the whole question. On one side they might mean nothing; on another side they might mean very much. In the one view, all things indeed were lawful, but here are other things to be affected by them. Could they say that all things were expedient too? If one had nobody to please but himself, then he might, of course, please himself; but all things, as he says, that are lawful do not edify, do not help another; and that is what we are bound to do, not to seek our own, but the good of others. As to the things sold in the shambles, which were in fact often things sacrificed to idols, they could eat of them if that were all, and make no inquiry for conscience' sake. They would neither be defiled spiritually nor injured in any way. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. They could eat it in that sense, and so far have no conscience about it; and, supposing one of those that believed not invited them to a feast, and they were disposed to go, they could eat of that which was set before them, making no question of anything, as far as they were concerned. But suppose some one said, This is sacrificed to an idol. Now says the apostle, that shows that here is a man to whom an idol is something, not nothing, as it is to you; and now your conscience ought. to be affected by that which affects his conscience. You are one as Christians, and you are bound to help one another as one The conscience that I am regarding, you may say, is the conscience of another, and not my own; yes, but why do I turn my liberty into something which another man's conscience judges as evil? Why do I injure him with that which I may, so far as I am concerned,, do sinlessly before God? If I partake of this meat with thanksgiving, why should I do it so as to allow myself to be evil spoken of for the very thing I am giving thanks for? Is it a right use? Whether we eat or drink, or Whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God. We are to give no occasion of stumbling, whether to Jews or Greeks or the assembly of God. With eyes watching all around, how careful should the conduct of a Christian be, and how very far from deciding a thing is the mere question of right and wrong in itself; of right and wrong, that is, in the thing of which I am thinking, leaving out altogether the judgment of others or the snares that may be for others in it! Let it he even here not simply the question of Christians, but, as he says, Jews or Greeks, who may be drawn to Christ or repelled from Him by what they see in. Christians. How common a case is this! How commonly is the conduct of Christians pleaded against the Christianity they profess! For himself it, was, as we know, the apostle's constant aim to please all men in all things, but in this spirit, which involves a necessary limitation, that he was seeking, not his own profit, but that of the many, and their truest profit, also, that they might be saved.