1 Corinthians 7:31.
It is only here and in 1 Cor. 9:18 that the word translated "abuse" is found. It is one legitimate rendering of its classical use, but one which, when the Christian's relationship to the world, as well as the apostle's argument, is understood, could not possibly be accepted. It is much to be feared that a great deal of worldliness has been allowed under the cover of this mistake. Another meaning, given even in the dictionaries, is far more appropriate here; viz., "to do what one likes with" a thing, or "to exercise absolute power over." The Christian is in the world, but not of it; and, as the apostle reminds us, "The fashion of this world passeth away." We neither belong to the world, nor does it belong to us; and our time in it is short, for we are waiting for the Lord to return to take us out of it, and to have us for ever with Himself. As strangers therefore, in this transitory scene, we are not to use the world as something we possess, "disposing of it as our own" property, but only as far as it may be necessary to us while existent in the midst of it, or as it is needed by us as the Lord's servants. In chapter 9 the apostle uses the word in quite another connection. Speaking of the necessity laid upon him to preach the gospel, he says, "What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel." To give the words of another, "The apostle, as sent of the Lord, had a right to be supported; but he did not use this right. It would not have been an abuse (had he done so); but he did not use it for himself, as a thing he possessed. He weighed the effect as to Christ's glory." He did not thus use the right as belonging to himself, only as it affected his service, and for the glory of his Master. These two examples make the force of the word very plain, and entirely set aside the construction which many attempt to put upon it in chapter 7, that we may use the world as much as we will, as long as we do so in moderation.
1 Chronicles 18:1, 2.
It is in the connection, we apprehend, that the significance of this scripture lies; and the lesson taught is, that spiritual power ever follows upon communion with the mind of God. In chapter 17 David had desired to build a house for the Lord; but while the thought of his heart was acceptable to God, he was not permitted to proceed with his purpose. In the touching communication he received from the Lord, through Nathan the prophet, the future of his house, and throne, and of God's kingdom on earth (see v. 14) was unfolded. The effect was to produce in David's heart God's own thoughts and desires; and he "came and sat before the Lord," and after thanksgiving and praise he poured out the desires, thus begotten, in prayer and supplication. (vv. 23-27.) It is a striking illustration of the prayer of communion of which our Lord speaks, when He says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7.) Right with God, possessed by His thoughts, in communion with His mind, David could go forth in spiritual power for conflict. Hence it says, "Now after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them," etc. Saul, it will be remembered, while he could smite the Ammonites and the Amalekites, was ever afraid of, powerless before, the Philistines, the enemies of God's people, within their own territory. In the light of our scripture this is at once understood. Saul never had the Lord's mind, and consequently was weak and unarmed. It is the assurance of being in the Lord's mind and path that gives courage (see Joshua 1); and David, having now this assurance, went forth conquering and to conquer. No foe could stand before him as long as he was kept in this condition of soul. Surely there is most forcible instruction in all this for every servant of the Lord. Want of power in dealing with souls, in rescuing them from Satan's snares, and for their restoration, as well as lack of power in preaching the Word and in prayer, may all be traced back to being out of communion with the mind of God.