Scripture Notes


1 Corinthians 13:11.

It is asked whether the contrast in this scripture between the child and the man refers to the difference between the condition of the believer now and when perfected in glory. We judge that it is rather an allusion to the infantile way in which the Corinthians were priding themselves upon the spiritual manifestations in their midst, and upon the exercise of those gifts, such as that of tongues, which tended to exalt those who had them in the eyes of others. All these things (for at this time they did not possess the New Testament scriptures - with the exception perhaps of the epistles to the Thessalonians) marked the commencement of the assembly, and were transitory in their character. The apostle therefore sought to lead them onward to what was abiding, and to what was connected with maturity in the divine life. He thus says, "Charity [love] never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away," etc. (vv. 8 - 10.) Thereupon he points out that beyond all this, the more excellent way is to seek to be established, to be built up, in the divine nature, and that this is greater than faith or hope. Entering into this, the connection between chaps. 12, 13, and 14 is very plain. In chap. 12 the relation of the various gifts to the Spirit, to the Lord, and to God is given, with the object of the bestowment of the gifts in the sovereignty of divine grace, and also the unity and the interdependence of all the saints; then in chap. 13 we have the supreme necessity of being formed in the divine nature (love), and especially as a qualification for service; and then in chap. 14 the assembly is seen as gathered, with the gifts in exercise. We have much need to pay attention to the instruction that we also may put away childish things.


Romans 14:22.

While possessing the fullest liberty in regard to what may be eaten, the apostle yet enjoins two things: first, tender consideration for the conscientious scruples of one who is "weak in the faith"; and, secondly, that we should follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. In the firmest way possible he lays down - he knows and is persuaded by the Lord Jesus - that there is nothing unclean of itself. As he says in another epistle, "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer." (1 Tim. 4:4-5.) Still, "to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, it is unclean"; and, consequently, if such a brother ate what he deemed to be unclean, he would have a bad conscience before God. This has to be borne in mind; and hence for those who are "strong" to eat before the weak brother that which he regarded as unclean would be to put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his way. (v. 13.) It would also be a failure in love, as it would show an utter disregard for his spiritual welfare. For these reasons it is never according to God to assert our liberty where its exercise might produce a bad impression or effect upon our fellow-believers who may have less light, or not be so well instructed as ourselves. "It is good," Paul says, "neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." (v. 21.) Must we, then, altogether surrender our liberty because of the scruples of others? By no means; and on this account the apostle proceeds, "Hast thou faith?" Do you believe that it is according to the mind of God, as expressed in His Word, that you may eat or drink that which might be a stumbling-block to others? If you are fully persuaded of this, exercise your liberty in private, but not before others. This we judge to be the meaning of the words - "Have it [faith] to thyself before God." But it must be a matter of faith, and hence the added warnings, lest the liberty claimed should degenerate into licence: "Happy is he that condemneth [judgeth] not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned [condemned] if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (vv. 22, 23.) What a perfect rule of conduct! We are set down, on the one hand, in the presence of God, where we are to act in faith, as having His mind; and, on the other, we are to be governed, in our relationships with our brethren, by love, and love will ever lead us to avoid doing anything which might be a snare or an offence to them, and also always to seek their welfare and edification.


James 2:8-12.

In this scripture there are three designations of the law - the law simply, the royal law, and the law of liberty. The apostle points out with great solemnity that if (he is writing, it will be remembered, to the twelve tribes) "ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced ['convicted'] of the law as transgressors." And the example he gives of this sin is giving the best seats, in the place of assembly, to the rich and the worst to the poor - a custom not unknown in the present day! "The law" of which he speaks as thus transgressed is really the decalogue. In the previous verse, giving the spiritual significance of the law (" for he that loveth another has fulfilled the law") in the well-known words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," he terms it the "royal" law. The question is - Why is it thus described? Various answers have been given to this question: one is, that it is the law of the supreme King; another, that it is "the law which is the king of all laws"; and yet another, that it points to the supremacy of love, governing all, as it does, in some form or other. But it would be simpler, we judge, to interpret the expression of the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as this royal law will be in it the standard for all, under His blessed reign, to regulate their mutual relationships. (Compare Matthew 5:43-48.) The remaining term, "the law of liberty," may be explained in the words of another: "The will of God was for Jesus a law of liberty. He came to do His Father's will, He desired nothing else. Blessed state! It was perfection in Him, a blessed example for us. The law is a law of liberty when the will, the heart of man coincides perfectly in desire with the law imposed upon him - imposed in our case by God - the law written in the heart. It is thus with the new man as with the heart of Christ. He loves obedience, and loves the will of God because it is His will, and as having a nature which answers to what His will expresses, since we partake of the divine nature; in fact, it loves that which God wills." This being the case, the law, as the expression of God's will, would of necessity be a law of liberty, and thus in entire contrast with what it was for men in the flesh, viz., a law of restraint. This accounts for its form as given to Israel, being mainly prohibitive; but, contemplating a people with the law written in their hearts, it becomes preceptive, because it would be then a law of liberty.