Scripture Notes


1 Corinthians 7:18-24.

The drift and meaning of this scripture are quite simple. In the confusion existing in the apostolic days springing from the conflict with Judaism, as also from the claims of Judaising teachers, and from the institution of household slaves, there was a great temptation besetting many to seek to emancipate themselves from both the one and the other. (vv. 18-21.) Nor is the temptation absent, even if it assume another form, in the present day. For example, children have sometimes thought themselves justified in leaving their homes; others, feeling the irksomeness of the duties of their temporal calling, have lightly changed their vocation to obtain, as they have thought, more liberty for the Lord's service; and others, again, have, for the same reason removed to other localities, and even to other countries. It is well, therefore, to attend to the divine wisdom embodied in the apostle's exhortations. In verse 20, then, he says absolutely, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called"; but this evidently refers to circumcision and uncircumcision, neither of which availed anything in Christianity. Keeping the commandments of God was everything. (See also Galatians 5:6, 6:15.) Then he takes up the case of slavery, and while he gives liberty to a bondsman becoming free, if the opportunity presented itself, he yet reminds such that he who is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord's freeman, and that he who is called, being free, is Christ's slave. All alike have been bought with a price, and, as belonging to Him, they serve Him rather than men. (See Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:23-25.) The conclusion is then stated: "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." If there is anything imposed upon any in their calling which could not be done without grieving the Spirit of God, displeasing the Lord, if they cannot "abide with God" in their calling, then freedom from it may be sought. But, even in such a case, the method of seeking deliverance must be regarded. To change our own circumstances is ever a dangerous thing; to wait upon the Lord, who sees everything and knows us altogether, that He may act for us and lead us into the path which is according to His own will, is, we judge, the happy attitude.


2 Corinthians 5:17.

Undoubtedly "new things have come," or taken place, is the reading preferred by many; but there is a very slight difference in the meaning between this and what we read in the A.V., "all things are become new." (Compare Rev. 21:5.) A moment's glance will perceive that everything flows from verse 15: Christ "died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again." Those who live are those who live out of death, Christ's death for them proving that they were in that state. Like those in John 5:24, all such have passed out of death into life. This being the case, they have entered upon a new sphere and a new order of things, the scene of their new and risen life, and where Christ, as risen and glorified, is the centre of all the glory, and the beginning of the creation of God. As conversant in that new circle of timings they know no man after the flesh, for if they did it would be to return to the old life and the old order; and even more, Christ would not be henceforward known in the condition of flesh and blood, but as the glorified Man of God's pleasure. The apostle then presents the blessed consequence of this marvellous change. If any man be in Christ, as all such are in Christ and not in Adam, there is a new creation - old things have passed away; behold, if we adopt the alternative reading, new things have come. This is Christianity, and it cannot be too much pressed; for it is God's thought for all His people that, risen with Christ, they should seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at God's right hand. Into the midst of these new things we shall one day, it may be very soon, be actually introduced; in the meantime, through the activity of faith, which gives reality to things hoped for, in the power of the Holy Ghost, it is our privilege to expatiate at large amid the new things which have already come.


Matthew 18:17.

The question is asked as to what should be the attitude of the assembly in the case supposed in this scripture. It might be truly replied that this is not the point of the passage, and that it is not wise to travel beyond it. There is, however, another consideration, namely, that it is very clear that the assembly must endorse, and be in fellowship with, the attitude of the one trespassed against, after he has complied with the conditions here given; and, hence, that the one who has trespassed against his brother, and has refused to listen to the three successive appeals, must be also to the assembly "as an heathen man and a publican." Otherwise, if such an offender were still recognised as entitled to the fellowship of the assembly, it would break down every moral distinction, and, at the same time, cause the one sinned against to suffer from the saints the consequences of the brother's trespass. There could not be a moment's doubt upon the question, if it were remembered that we have in this scripture the plain expression of the Lord's mind; and this is as binding upon the assembly as upon the individual.


Galatians 6:1.

"Fault" is, we judge, a most defective rendering of the original word in this scripture. It is the same word, for example, as is translated "offences" in Romans 4:25, "sins" in Ephesians 1:7, and "trespasses" in Ephesians 2:1. This last word - trespasses  - is the one which is most frequently given in our translation as the equivalent of the Greek term; but we incline to the opinion that "offences" would be more accurate. Another thing has to be borne in mind - that in the passage in Galatians, in the case supposed, it is not a state or condition described, but one who has been taken, or overtaken, with an offence, one who has been surprised by a sudden temptation, into which he has fallen. It is thus not a course of sin, but an act, a failure under some seduction or allurement of the flesh through unwatchfulness. It is concerning such a case - not an uncommon one, alas! among the saints of God - that the apostle gives directions as to treatment. First, he charges those who are spiritual with the responsibility of restoration. A spiritual man is one who is formed by the Spirit, controlled by and walking in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-26.) The spiritual, therefore, are a class, sad as it is to say it, and it is to this class the apostle here speaks, and this makes it very plain that it is nothing short of presumption for "carnal" Christians (1 Cor. 3:1-4) to meddle with discipline, or to seek to recover the erring. In the next place, the state of soul in which the spiritual are to meet their responsibility is indicated. They are to proceed in the spirit of meekness, considering themselves lest they also be tempted. (Note that in the first part of the verse it is, "you who are spiritual" - it is in the plural; but in the actual work of restoration the apostle passes over to the singular, because it is individual service.) Meekness is allied with humility almost always in the Scriptures because blended in the example of our blessed Lord. It can only be shown out in those who are in the place of nothingness before God; then meekness in the presence of others will be the consequence. It is that blessed spirit of gentleness, fed with divine love, which expresses itself in quiet unresisting patience, whatever the provocation that may be encountered. This could only be the fruit of divine power through the Holy Ghost. And, as a help to this state, such a one must consider himself lest he also be tempted; for, if he should be, he might make a worse failure. Oh for more of this blessed grace of meekness, combined with the recollection of what we are, that we are only kept moment by moment by God's omnipotent power, for He alone is able to keep us from falling! We will not add more now except to point out that, as an encouragement, the apostle directs our eyes to the example of Christ. Both in life and in death He was the great Burden-bearer; this was the law of His life when here. In like manner we are to be burden-bearers; in the power of the Spirit we are to go down under the burdens even of those who have fallen into some offence, and bear them up on our hearts before God, that, in the combination of intercession and of the ministration of grace, we may be used for their restoration.