Scripture Notes


2 Corinthians 9:9-10.

Two considerations will make the use of the word "righteousness" very plain to the reader. The subject the apostle is dealing with is the ministration to the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem; and it will be remembered that the. apostle John explicitly connects such a ministration with brotherly love. (See 1 John 3:16.) He, moreover, teaches that if God so loved us we ought also to love one another; and hence that it is only righteous to do so. When, therefore, the obligation to love the saints is owned and practised, meeting their need as in the case before us, it is righteousness; and thus Paul can apply the scripture - "He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever." Once more, the reader may be reminded that the "fine linen, clean and while," with which the wife of the Lamb was arrayed, is declared to be the "righteousness" of saints. (Rev. 19:8.) Already the righteousness of God in Christ, she is now adorned also with the fruits of her own righteousness, which through grace and the power of the Holy Ghost had been produced during her sojourn in the wilderness. This aspect of righteousness, practical righteousness, as it is sometimes termed, is too much lost sight of; but it occupies a large place in Scripture (see, for example, 1 Tim. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:22, etc.), and should also find a large place in the lives of God's people - and it will, if the obligation is acknowledged according to the standard the Lord Himself has set before us, of laying down our lives for the brethren.


2 Corinthians 3:6.

Together with the statement here that "the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life," we may connect the words, "that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." In neither case are we to suppose for one moment that we can dispense with the letter of Scripture, or that we can possess its spirit apart from the letter. To attempt to do so would be to forget that the words of Scripture are inspired words (we refer to the original words of Scripture), and consequently, that these alone fully express the mind of the Spirit. Another evil would be that we should be landed in mysticism of a most dangerous kind, as well as become a prey to the imaginings of the human mind, and thus the sport of Satan. (See Col. 2:4, 8, 18.) This cannot be too strenuously maintained; for the great effort of the enemy today is to destroy the confidence of God's people in the letter of the Word of God. But while steadfastly adhering to the words of Scripture, we must perseveringly seek their spiritual meaning, and thus to ascertain what is the mind of the Spirit which they contain. An illustration of this may be gathered from John 6. Our Lord had said, "Except ye eat ["shall have eaten"] the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (v. 53.) Some of His disciples, seeing nothing in these and the following striking words beyond their literal meaning, were stumbled, and they said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" The Lord's reply was, "… It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." What these stumbled disciples missed was the inner significance of these words: that the "flesh" and "blood" of the Son of man were used to represent His death, and that He was teaching the indispensable truth that the appropriation of His death was the only way of life. The same principle applies to the new covenant. The letter of it may be seen in Hebrews 8:8-12, as quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34; but the apostle, in writing to the Corinthians, blessedly unfolds what underlay the letter for them, that it contained for them a ministry of righteousness and of the Spirit, and that the Lord was the Spirit of the new covenant, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. So likewise, to "serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter," is to be emancipated from the letter of legal enactments, and to serve in the power of the Spirit, even as the apostle says, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"; and again, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom. 8:4; 13:9-10.) Love is thus the spirit of the ten commandments. Paul himself refers to the letter of the law when he says that, before his conversion, as touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless. But when his eyes had been opened, he saw that Christ was his "law" (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 9:21.), and hence that love, and love alone, was the fulfilling of the law. If, then, the letter cannot be surrendered, the letter will only kill, unless it is apprehended with its spiritual meaning and power; and for this the teaching of the Holy Ghost is requisite. (1 Cor. 2:11-12.)