Things Above

Notes of Address on 1 Corinthians 2

Some of us were speaking today about the cross. You get a good deal about the cross in the lot chapter of this epistle. You get “the preaching of the cross,” “we preach Christ crucified,” and so on. The cross is a wonderful study. From the beginning of God’s dealings in grace with man He always acted consistently with it. Even when He was dealing in a public way with man after the flesh, its strength and glory were always rejected Now that the judgment of the cross has been executed, He is consistent with it in all His acts. If it be the preaching of the cross, there is no effort to affect the emotions of the flesh. “I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto you the testimony of God.” “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom” (chap. 2:1-4). If it be the calling, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called,” “God has chosen the foolish things of the world,” “base things,” “things that are despised,” “things that are not,” “that no flesh should glory in His presence” (chap. 1:26-28). If it be the Spirit, He is “against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). If it be the things of God, the natural man has no part in them (1 Cor. 2:14). If it be the inheritance, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Gal. 4:30). If it be a question of practice, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). If it be those who are Christ’s, they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24). God is not only consistent with the cross Himself, but leads His people into the same mind as Himself, and they learn that nothing avails but new creation.

But, as it has been often pointed out, you get new creation in the 30th verse of chapter 1, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus.” This is new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Those that are “in Christ Jesus” are there apart from flesh. I can understand some one saying, “I do not understand what it is to be apart from flesh.” Well, all I would say is let us get to know. And if any one reply, how am I to get to know? my answer is, “Go to the Lord about it. Be as interested in the things of God as in your own things, and He will give you understanding.” I find if people of ordinary intelligence embark in any business they very quickly get to know all about it. Why? Because they are interested in it. It is their life. But perhaps we are not so interested in the welfare of our souls as of our bodies, so we do not get on, and like the Corinthians, we become dwarfed. No man will ever get much of the knowledge of the mind of God if he does not make it his first consideration, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” Perhaps somebody says, “If I make these things my first thought, every earthly thing will go to rack and ruin.” I do not think so, and if it did let us have our eye upon the recompense of the reward. Besides, has He not said, “All these things shall be added?” (Matt. 6:33).

In chapter 2:9, you get a wonderful characteristic of those that are of God, “in Christ Jesus;” theylove Him.” In the cross the love has been expressed, and we have known and believed it, and love Him because He first loved us. Perhaps we are rather prone to think of our love to God, and may be often lamenting that we love Him so little; but it was His love to us expressed in the death of Christ that awoke love in our hearts to Him, and it is occupation with that great and blessed love of His that strengthens our poor, feeble love to Him, for feeble it is at beet. Perhaps you say, I enjoy His love to me but little, and I greatly grieve over it. But do you know that you may enjoy it a very great deal more if you go the right way about it. Do not imagine that you can work yourself up into any state of religious fervour which will make you more sensible of His love to you. No, let me say to you what I would say to my own heart as to this, “Get to the Lord about it.” Tell Him everything. All about your coldness and hardness of heart and want of interest in His things, and tell Him you want to know the love of God better, and do not say it all as a formal prayer, but let it be the cry of a heart yearning after Himself, and I know what He will do for you; He will take you by the hand and lead you into the warm sunshine of that love till its beams shall quicken that poor dead heart of yours into life and joy unspeakable. The apostle says, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” Who else could do it? You cannot command your heart’s affection. You cannot love anyone by force of will. You have not control of your love. It is only as you enjoy the love of God that you will love Him, and no one can lead you into the enjoyment of that love but the Lord, and He has the utmost delight in doing this for His own enjoyment. You say, I have been wishing my heart were not so hard, and I have been troubled about it. My only answer is, get into the Lord’s presence. Go direct to Himself. You will find Him gracious. Get into His company, leave man, leave earthly associations, get away from the presence even of the people of God for a little; go to your own room, anywhere, so you are alone, and have all out in His presence, and He will surprise you with what He will do for you.

Now, in this 2nd chapter God has an order of things outside the range of man’s natural faculties. Man has no power to discover them, and when presented to him in testimony, he is unable to receive or understand them, and these things are prepared for them that love God. They are beyond the reach of his eye, ear, or imagination. They were made known to the apostles by the Spirit, and by them spoken in words by the Spirit’s teaching, and received by no natural power of the hearer, but by the Spirit. The Spirit is the only power by which we can apprehend these unseen spiritual things.

But let me add this, that one may have the Spirit and yet be unable to take them in. The Corinthians had the Spirit, but were incapable of hearing these things. No one can know anything about them unless he has received the Spirit, but to have the Spirit is not enough. The Spirit forms in us a capacity for knowing these things. “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect” (v. 6). A perfect man is one full grown. One who has passed out of the state of infancy. One who knows what the cross has effected, and before whose vision new creation in Christ has opened up. The Corinthians ought to have been up to this, but they had become stunted in growth; they were dwarfed. The apostle blames them for this. He had to feed them with milk.

These things are prepared for them that love God, and it is only as we grow in divine love that we can understand them. And it is only as our hearts are in the sunshine of the love of God that we will grow, but His love has been manifested that we might walk in the light of it continually.

But it may be said that every Christian loves God. There is love to God at the bottom of every believer’s heart, but there may be a great deal of love to the world heaped upon the top; and where this is the case, there can be no growth. Then again, there is such a thing as being asleep. I fear this is often the case with us. We fall under the influence of the night. We are not dead God-ward, but we may be lying asleep among the dead; and if we are to receive any divine light, we need to be awakened. Do you say what is it to be asleep? It is to have the affections inactive. There is a great distinction to be made between a dead man and a man asleep, yet both are insensible to things around them. A man that loves God lives to God, and no one else; but this is the world’s night, and any one who tries to keep awake the whole night through, knows how difficult it is. One so readily gets drowsy under the influence of the darkness. And it is dark enough spiritually today, and we need to watch that we fall not asleep like the virgins.

As long as a man is asleep he can receive no communications. He may have the greatest capacity of any man upon earth, but if he is to receive instruction he must first be awakened; “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). To be awake spiritually is to have the affections in healthy activity, and in this state we will get plenty of light. It is true He has given us the Spirit, that we may know what He has for us, but let us not think that it is sufficient to have the Spirit. If we had not the Spirit we would be utterly unable to touch the unseen things, but we have received the Spirit that we might be in the blessed sense of the love of God, apart from the activity of the will of the flesh, and thus be made fit to receive the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. He has not given to us the Spirit of the world. We do not need to know so much about it. What we really need to know is the Father’s world, so as to be able to set our minds on things above. We readily enough get acquainted with the things of this world, but heavenly things seem difficult for us to grasp. This, my friends, should not be. God never intended the things He has prepared for us to be hidden from us, or difficult for us to understand. I believe He meant them to be very simple to us. But no one but the spiritual man knows anything about them. I do not say this to discourage the feeblest saint, but to point out in what power the things of God are apprehended, and also to try and set forth how we may be in that power. The way is open. I believe everything heavenly is known by love, and I believe also that every service for Christ done upon earth must, to be of value, be done in the power of love, and if you and I will only go to Him, who alone can make the love of God a great reality to us, we will greatly please Him, and give unspeakable joy to our own hearts.

The apostle writes to the Colossians, “Seek those things which are above.” But how can we do this, if we do not know them? What idea does the heavenly Jerusalem present to most people? Pearl gates, jasper wall, and street of gold; but it is all taken up in a literal, carnal way. What about the body of Christ, the bride, the temple? These are the figures by which God presents them to us; but if we are to get the light and glory of these things into our souls, we must go to the Lord, who will give us understanding in all things. I say He delights to do it, and I am sure one of His ways of doing it will be that He will bring your heart and mine into the clear light of the love of God.

I desire to leave these few thoughts with you. The first is, that upon earth there are those that love God; second, for them God has prepared wonderful things; third, they are beyond the reach of the natural man; fourth, God has given as the Spirit, that we might know them, fifth, the Spirit forms in us a capacity to understand and enjoy them; sixth, that capacity lies in divine love; seventh, we must not go to sleep, we must not be carnal, but draw near to the Lord, and keep near to Him, that we may be kept in the enjoyment of the love of God, and consequently in the exercise of divine affections, and thus be enabled to receive and understand the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. They are great things, and they are eternal.

Are we going in for the things of this world? They are perishing. They are not our own, even when we possess them. They are “another man’s” (Luke 16:12), and one of these days you will have to leave them for the other man. The true riches are heavenly, eternal, and our own. The fashion of this world passeth away. Our portion is not here among things visible, and we do not wish it to be. We have something infinitely better.

Let us not fall under the influence of the night. It is night all around us, but our souls are in the light of the coming day. Let us not sleep as do others. If you feel yourself getting drowsy, get near to the Lord, away from your cares, and worries, and carnal desires. Get away from your friends, and apart even from the saints, and tell Him all your leanness, and all your deep desires after Himself, and how little you feel these desires satisfied, how little you know that world of glory to which you are called, and how easily you are ensnared by this one, and you will find yourself drawn away from all that seemed to detain you, and the light of the love of God and the glory of heavenly things will be more real to you; and in the presence of that radiant scene this world will lose its lustre, and you will become sensibly disentangled from all here, and more entirely absorbed with what is unseen and eternal.

I am sure I need the word as much as any, perhaps more than any to whom I speak, but we are here to encourage one another, and help one another into better acquaintance with those things which are our common inheritance.

The Lord add His blessing.