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The First Day Of The Week
1 Corinthians 16:1-12
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time. (vv. 1-12)
Many have wondered why such a seemingly prosaic portion of Holy Scripture as this should be preserved for us down through the ages, and have asked what special spiritual help it gives, what lesson it has for the people of God since the days when the apostle wrote it. We can quite understand that there were certain personal things that would be of interest to the Corinthians, but what difference would it make to us whether this portion of Scripture should be lost or not? It is just these personal touches in the letters of the apostle Paul and other apostolic writers that prove that these epistles are not forgeries. Any one trying to write a forged letter to pass off upon people as the Word of God would certainly leave out just such details as we have here, but these are things that come bubbling up from the warm heart of the actual writer of the letter who was in touch with all these people to whom and of whom he speaks. I want to note briefly several things in connection with the persons mentioned, before dwelling more at length on the topic of this address.
The Christianity of Paul was a very practical thing. One occasion for the writing of the first part of this chapter was that there had been a prolonged famine in the land of Palestine and in other parts of Syria, as a result of which many of the Jewish believers were suffering greatly. The apostle, moving around among the Gentile Christians in Europe, where conditions were very different, laid the responsibility upon them of ministering to the needs of their Hebrew brethren in Christ. That is something that Christians have sought to imitate all down through the centuries since. It is a most practical way of showing the unity of the church of Christ and of manifesting the compassion of our Lord toward those in need. It is this that was pressed so earnestly upon the Corinthian church-their responsibility to help their Jewish brethren. They could not say, “Oh, well, these folks in another land are not intimately related to us. If they have not been provident enough to lay aside during the years of plenty, why should we share our possessions with them?”
Christianity demands that we recognize the fact that we are members one of another, and if one member suffers all the members suffer. In fact it is more than that: Christianity demands that we show deep interest even in men and women of the world who are not one with us in Christ, for we are told, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). And this has characterized the true church of God wherever there has been a cry of need. When nations, peoples or cities are in distress, Christian people are the first to put their hands into their pockets and share with those who are in need. I wish that those who spurn the church, those who ridicule the message of the gospel, would bear this in mind. I wonder, if it depended upon utter unbelievers, how much interest would have been taken in past years in famine refugees in India, in China, or in those who suffered as a result of the World War in Europe and elsewhere. The Red Cross is first of all a product of Christianity. That red cross is the blood-stained cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is these practical ministries that show that believers have the same love that animated our Savior when He came from heaven to give Himself for a lost world. So Christians are to look out for those in need and seek to make things easier for them.
The apostle is very careful that everything should be done in a manner that would commend itself to the consciences of others. He never went out on his own responsibility accumulating large sums of money, supposedly for the poor, without being accountable to any one, lest he might have been laid open to suspicion, and people might have said, “He uses this to feather his own nest.” No, it is as though he says, “I do not want to be responsible for your money: I want you to make your offerings in my absence.” “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” He wished nothing to do with it, but allowed them to appoint the men that they trusted to take charge of this fund and carry it to Jerusalem. He told them that, if they wished, he would go with them, but he would not take the responsibility of handling the funds. That is a very good principle. Many a professed servant of Christ has gotten into difficulty through soliciting and obtaining money for which he gave no proper accounting. We can all take a leaf out of Paul’s book when it comes to handling funds.
He was laying out his work for the coming season, for he was not one to trust to haphazard openings. He was coming to the Corinthians when he passed through Macedonia and he said that he might winter with them. First he would visit Ephesus, and then later he was going to Jerusalem, and he was anxious to be there by the Feast of Pentecost, the time when years before the Holy Spirit descended and the church was formed. He wanted to be there on that specific occasion for it would give him a remarkable opportunity of reaching the thousands of Jews who would come up from all over the world to keep the feast, and he would be enabled to meet them and to present the gospel to them. Then too, many Christians would be there with whom he could have happy fellowship.
“For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” God had opened a door for the testimony, and of course there were those that opposed him. No servant of God who is in the current of the divine will ever have to hunt for open doors for testimony. He simply needs to be obedient to the Lord. The trouble is we are not all willing to let the Lord guide us. He has told us that it is “He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7). The business of the servant of Christ is to be in His will and say, “Here, Lord, I am at Thy bidding. Open doors or close them as Thou wilt. If Thou wilt have me go, I will go; if Thou wilt have me refrain from going, I am under Thy command and Thy control.” If the Lord opens the door, never mind the adversary. “A great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” The adversaries did not frighten Paul. He went forward, “Strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10), knowing that, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Then in verse 10 notice his kindly interest in his younger fellow servants: “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.” This is our friend, Timothy, and I take it that he was a bit troubled with what our psychologists call an inferiority complex. He was not constantly shoving himself forward; he rather underrated than overrated his ability, and Paul realized that because he was so humble and lowly there were some who might belittle him and set him to one side. Paul says, “He is my companion in the gospel; he does the same kind of work that I am doing, so help him forward.”
And then I think there is something to be learned from the way he speaks of Apollos. “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.” Some folk have an idea that the apostles were the first bishops of the church, that they had all authority in their spheres, and that the apostle Paul was an archbishop of western Asia and eastern Europe. If that were the case, he could command the other brethren to go as he directed. He would have said to Timothy, “You go here,” and to Apollos, “You go yonder,” and they would have gone. But there is nothing like that here. Paul did not occupy any such place; he did not lord it over other servants of Christ. He was himself a servant subject to the Lord Jesus and recognized that the others were in exactly the same position. He would say a good word for Timothy, but he would not command him. Here he suggests to Apollos that it might be well to go to Corinth and minister to the brethren there; he had been there before and they had been greatly benefited by his ministry. But Apollos said, “I do not have any leading of the Lord to go there; at some later day I may.” And Paul says, “Very well, it is not for me to tell you where to go; you are the Lord’s servant.”
All these things help us to understand the conditions that prevailed in the early church. There was no great hierarchy lording it over the rest, but just the various local assemblies of believers and the servants of Christ, as gifted by the Lord, acting as subject to Him. I would not like to tear this chapter out of my Bible. It helps me to understand God’s way of guiding His servants in their ministry for Him.
We come back now to that which he especially wants to stress, “Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” I want to trace out with you the place that the first day of the week had in the early Christian church, and that which it should have in the church of God today. Let us turn back to the Old Testament to Leviticus 23:0. There we have the seven great outstanding Hebrew festivals, the feasts of the Lord, the different occasions on which the people of Israel came together in a special way, beginning with the Passover and finishing with the Feast of Tabernacles. In Leviticus 23:10-11 we read: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” When was the Sabbath? The third verse says, “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.” The Sabbath then was the seventh day. The Feast of Firstfruits took place on “the morrow after the sabbath,” which was the first day of the week. And what was this Feast of Firstfruits? It was the feast that immediately followed the Passover.
What was the Passover? We have had its typical significance in the fifth chapter of our epistle. The apostle says, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (5:7-8). The Passover was the recurring memorial feast of the death of the lamb, the shedding of the blood, and the sprinkling of the blood upon the doorposts and the lintels in Egypt, by which the people were delivered from judgment. For God had said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). The Passover speaks of the death of Christ.
Following the Passover you have the sheaf of firstfruits presented before the Lord. Of what does it speak? It tells of grain that has fallen into the ground in death, but has come forth in new life. Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). He was the corn of wheat who fell into the ground in death; He has come up in resurrection. The Feast of Firstfruits speaks of this. The apostle has already explained it for us in 15:23: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” On the first day of the week the sheaf of firstfruits was presented before the Lord, and this is a type of the resurrection of Christ. In the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel, verse 1, we read, “In the end of the Sabbath”-the word is plural and should be translated “Sabbaths”-“as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” And what had happened? The blessed Lord had risen in power on that first day of the week, that morning after the Sabbath, and from that time on the first day of the week had a very special place in the thoughts and in the hearts and minds of followers of our Lord Jesus.
Psalms 118:0 prophetically sets forth the rejection of Christ and then His resurrection. We read there in verse 22: “The stone which the builders refused”-that is, His rejection, His crucifixion-“is become the head of the corner”-that is His resurrection. That was what made Him the Head of the corner. “This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23). Men crucified Him; God raised Him from the dead, and made Him the Head of the corner.
The psalm continues, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” What day? The day when Christ was made the Head of the corner. It was the day of His glorious resurrection, the day of the presentation of the firstfruits, the first day of the week. You see what an honored place the first day of the week has in God’s Word.
Then going back once more to Leviticus 23:0, we read in verses 15-16: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” This would be another first day of the week. What was this feast? It was Pentecost. And now, on the morrow, after the seventh sabbath following the Passover, which typified the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, while the disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).
The day of Pentecost had fully come, and the Lord received to Himself a new meal offering in those that had been redeemed by His precious blood. It was on the first day of the week that the Holy Spirit came from heaven to baptize believers into one body, and so, from this time on, the first day of the week has always had its special place in the church of God.
In Acts 20:0 we read of Paul coming to Troas and remaining there a week with the brethren. In verse 7 we read: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” It does not say that on the first day of the week the disciples came together to hear Paul preach, but it says, “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.” That is what they were accustomed to do on that day. They came together to participate in what we call the Communion service, to take part in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup which speaks of the precious body of our Lord Jesus given up to death and of His blood poured out for our redemption. And when they thus came together that night they found they had a wonderful visitor ready to minister the Word to them. Many of them were slaves and had to work during the day, and so they came together at night. Paul participated with them in the meeting and preached the Word to them, and the service went on until midnight.
When you go back to the earliest records which have come down from those whom we call “the apostolic fathers,” those who wrote shortly after the New Testament was completed, we learn it was the custom of the believers to gather together on the first day of the week for worship and for the ministry of the Word, and, above all, to partake of what they called the Eucharist, the Thanksgiving. They thought of the Lord’s Supper as the Feast of Thanksgiving, when Christians came together to give thanks to the Lord Jesus for the suffering and sorrow that He went through for our redemption. One of these early fathers has written something like this: “Upon the first day of the week, the day that we Christians call the Lord’s Day, the day after the Jewish Sabbath, we come together to break bread,” etc. There have been those who have tried to tell us that we are all wrong in recognizing the first day of the week as a special day for worship and praise, that we should Judaize and go back to the law of Moses for our special day. But all that has been set aside in the old economy, for in the new dispensation we find God gives special honor to this new day, the first day of the week. On this day they came together to break bread. The Holy Spirit descended on this day, Christ arose from the dead on this day, and on this day they made their offerings for the work of the Lord.
The apostle tells them to lay aside at home as God hath prospered them, so that when they come together they may give to the Lord. They were to go over what they had received during the week, and see how God had blessed them, and give the Lord a part. Of course I take it that no Christian would give less than a Jew did, and he gave a tenth to God. So God would have a tenth at least, and more if they could afford it. When they came together to break bread they gave their offering to meet the needs of the Lord’s work, and to care for the needy.
Yes, we can thank God for preserving to us, all down through the centuries, the privilege of gathering together on the first day of the week. How we ought to praise Him that we live in a land that, in some sense at least, recognizes the sanctity of the day so that we can come together to worship and praise Him. How much we would lose were we to be denied this privilege!
Quit You Like Men
1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the flrstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (vv. 13-24)
There is something delightfully personal in most of the closing messages of the apostle Paul to the various churches. He was a very human man as well as a very spiritual one. The late Dr. C. I. Scofield used to say that when we are first converted we have to be changed from natural to spiritual, but after being saved awhile we need another conversion to become natural again-in a different sense, of course. So many of us allow ourselves to become rather stilted and unnatural in our desire to be spiritual, and we lose that sweet, gracious warmth that should characterize us as Christian men and women.
Paul was a man with a tender heart. He made very real friendships and never went back on a friend. He may have grieved over some of them who forsook him, but he continued to pray for them even when they turned away from him. And those with whom he could continue to have happy fellowship were a real joy to him. I want you to notice the various personal references in this portion. For the moment we will pass over verses 13-14.
In chapter 1, when some of them were making too much of leaders and saying, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” and others again were making Christ the head of a party and saying, “I am of Christ,” he had said, “I am so glad that I did not baptize any of you lest you should say I had baptized in my own name.” He was not setting baptism at naught in the slightest degree. Sometimes we find people who make these words the basis of their notion that Paul was making light of Christian baptism. But these Corinthians were making so much of human leaders that he would not have people going about boasting that they were baptized by Paul and therefore considering that they had a different standing from others. He was very glad, under the circumstances, that as far as he could remember, he had baptized only Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas.
And now he tells us something about that household of Stephanas. They were not little infants, but he says, “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints).” The very first home to be opened up to the gospel, when he went to Corinth, was that of Stephanas. He and his family were brought to Christ and evidently were in a position to help others, for from that time on they “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” The word translated “addicted” is exactly the same word that is elsewhere translated “ordained.” So one could say that the household of Stephanas had “ordained themselves to the ministry of the saints.” What a blessed ordination! Instead of constantly looking for other people to do things for them, they said, “We are going in to do for others; we will try to be a blessing to others; we will set ourselves apart to help God’s beloved people.” And so the apostle says, “Submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.” You see, like Epaphroditus, they made themselves of no reputation that they might bless other people.
Stephanas himself had evidently launched out into evangelistic work, and he with others had come to meet Paul. Paul wrote this letter from Philippi and he says, “I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.” I take it that he means, “I knew you wanted to send me something to help me with my expenses but have not done so, but now these brethren have come and brought an offering and I appreciate it very much.” When he was in Corinth the first time, he would not take anything from them because they were all heathen, and when they were newly come out of heathenism he did not want any one to say, “Paul is just here for what he can make out of us.” He says, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service” (2 Corinthians 11:8). Others gave the money that enabled him to meet part of his expenses, and what he lacked he earned by tent-making.
He did not have such a great regard for the “cloth,” you know, that he could not soil his hands. He went into business with Priscilla and Aquila. But now that he has left Corinth, he is glad to receive from the Corinthian church a missionary offering to help him in his work. We at home are glad to send our money to those laboring in heathen lands to help make the gospel known. In return, we read, “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” Aquila and Priscilla used to live in Corinth, and Paul stayed with them when he was there, but now they are away and naturally send their greetings back to the home church.
“Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” There is such a thing as a Judas kiss, or, it might be, an insincere handshake. It means the same thing. Someone says to another, “Well, I am so glad to see you,” and then she has hardly turned her back before she says, “Hateful old cat; I wish she would stay away!” Or, another says, “Good morning, brother, so pleased to meet you,” and then he turns around and says, “I haven’t any use for him.” That is an unholy greeting. In the ancient times women kissed women and men kissed men. Women still kiss one another when they meet, but be sure it is a holy kiss. Do not profess to love her when deep in your heart there is resentment and unkindness. As brethren greet each other let it be in sincerity. Let the heart that is behind it be right. Said Jehu, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?” And when Jehonadab said, “It is,” we read that Jehu “took him up to him into the chariot” (2 Kings 10:15). We need to get rid of hypocrisy; we have a lot of pretension to fellowship that is not real. “I would have you,” says the apostle, “to be sincere,” that is, to be genuine in all things.
I will drop the rest of the chapter for the moment and go back to verses 13-14. Here is Paul’s closing exhortation, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity,” or, “with love.” How we need to heed this. “Watch ye.” As long as we are in this world we are in the place of danger, we are surrounded by pitfalls and snares on every hand. “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38), said our Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not trust ourselves and we cannot trust the world through which we journey.
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Since I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll hear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
It is one of the first principles of soldiery to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy, and so we must be on the watch for the enemy of our souls.
“Stand fast in the faith.” There are too many people who blow hot and blow cold; they are one thing in one company and quite different in another. But the servant of Christ, the child of God, should be one who realizes that there has been committed to him the greatest of all possible responsibilities and therefore he is to “stand fast in the faith.” As the apostle elsewhere writes to Timothy, “That good [deposit] which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can keep the faith.
And then we have the words, “Quit you like men.” He reproved these Corinthians in the early part of the letter because some of them were acting like babies; some were divided into little sectarian groups, and he said, “When you talk like this, it is childishness.” “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it.” Whenever you see Christians fussing, quarreling about their own rights, complaining because they are not properly recognized, because people do not greet them as they think they should, because they do not get enough applause for what they do, put it down as the “baby” spirit coming out. They have not yet reached spiritual maturity. The man in Christ is indifferent to praise or to blame. If I belong to Christ, I am here to serve Him. If I have His approbation, that is the thing that counts. “Quit you like men.” May God deliver us from our babyishness. In some churches half the time of the minister is spent trying to keep weak Christians quiet over little slights. If you are living for God, people cannot slight you because you will not let them. It will not make any difference to you. “Quit you like men, be strong.”
Someone says, “That is just my trouble. I know I ought to be strong, but I am so weak.” Of course you cannot be strong in your own strength. We read: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). And the more you realize your own weakness, and the more you throw yourself upon Him, the more you will be able to stand in the evil day, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
And then again, you are not to be strong in your own human spirit, but to be strong by the Spirit of the Lord. Turn to Ephesians 3:16-17. The apostle prays, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and He has come to dwell in you if you are a believer. If He is controlling the life, dominating your will, it is not a question of your ability to stand, it is a question of His. You are simply yielded to Him, and as you are yielded to Him you are enabled to be strong and to stand for His glory.
But then, you need spiritual nourishment, and so you become strong through the Word. Writing to young men, the apostle John says, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong” (1 John 2:14). How did they get that strength? “And the Word of God abideth in you.” You show me a weak, wobbling believer, and I will show you a Christian not giving very much time to meditation upon the Word of God. Show me one who is a strong, devoted, earnest Christian, seeking only the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I will show you one who is living on the Book. As you eat the Word, as you feed upon the truth, you get strength that you cannot obtain in any other way. People go around lamenting their weakness and their leanness. I get so tired of people coming and saying, “Do pray for me that I may be a stronger Christian.” What is the use of praying for you? You might say, “Do pray that I may get stronger physically.” “What kind of food do you eat?” I ask. “Not any.” And I would say, “Then there is no use praying for you.” What you need as a Christian is a good meal of spiritual nourishment, and you can get it only in the Book. You may do all the praying you like to be a strong Christian, and your prayer will never be answered until you begin to answer it yourself by feeding upon the Word of God.
But do not stop there, for we also become strong through obedience. Turn back to the Old Testament to a very blessed Scripture, Joshua 1:7: “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” “To do”-notice that. That is where we lack. We know, but we do not do. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (v. 8). They had only the five books of Moses when God gave that command. You have a whole Bible with sixty-six books. Apply this to the entire Bible. “Let it not depart out of your mouth. Meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.” I suppose you want to make a success of your life, young man or young woman. Here then is the divinely-appointed way to do it.
And so, if you want strength, this is how you get it. Live in fellowship with Christ, walk in the Spirit, feed upon His Word, obey His Word, and then when the hour of trial comes, you will not be weak-kneed, you will not be vacillating, you will not be carried about like a leaf before the wind. You will have strength to stand, and you will be able to glorify God even in the fire. It is the testing that is the proof.
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows on like a song,
But the man worthwhile is the man with a smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
The Christian who is really worthwhile is the man who can be bereft of everything-he can lose his good clothes, his money, his home, his health-and after everything is gone he can say, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). That is the kind of Christian God would have me be, strong in the hour of trial and strong, too, in the hour of temptation. I am afraid a good many of us keep from falling into various sins because they never come very close to us, and then we look with contempt upon people who go down when stress comes. If you had been exposed to the same temptation that that poor failing brother or sister was exposed to, you might have gone down just as he or she did. You would have, if not kept by the mighty power of God. It is only by living in fellowship with God that you will be kept from yielding. The brother said, “It is an odd thing about me, I can resist everything but temptation.” A good many of us are like that. Go through the Book of God and you will find that the men who could resist in the hour of temptation were the men who knew God before the test came. David was not in fellowship with God when that awful temptation came or he never would have gone down. Joseph was tempted under far more adverse circumstances and he stood fast, exclaiming, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Our blessed Lord could say, “I have set [Jehovah] always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8). The man who resists temptation is the man strong in the Lord before temptation comes. But there is always danger that the strong will be contemptuous of the weak. So he adds, “Let all your things be done with charity.” Be very exact with yourself, but very generous in your judgment of other people; be very, very strict with yourself, but very gracious in dealing with those who are weak. Remember what they have to contend with. Perhaps they do not know the Lord as well as you do, so seek by grace to manifest the love of Christ to them.
We now come to the end of the chapter. In verse 22 we have a very solemn word before the apostle closes this letter. I wonder whether there are those listening to me who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ. May I just ask you to pause and face this question, Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? What is your heart’s answer? Can you say, “I do”? Or to be perfectly honest, do you have to say, “No, I do not love Him.” May the Spirit of God give you to realize the solemnity of the warning, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” What strange expressions! I think the Holy Spirit of God providentially allowed our translators to leave those two peculiar words untranslated. One of them is a Greek word, Anathema, and it means “accursed, devoted to judgment.” The other word, Maranatha, is a Syriac word and means “the Lord cometh.” If you translated the entire passage, it would read like this, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be devoted to judgment at the coming of the Lord.” What a solemn word that is! O unsaved one, may God give you to realize the dangerous position in which you stand. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be devoted to judgment at the coming of the Lord.”
The Lord has not yet returned, and though you do not love Him, you may love Him. You cannot stir up any love in your own heart, but you may trust Him, the One who loves you, the One who gave Himself for you, the One who died on the cross for your sins. Open your heart to Him, receive Him, bow at His feet in repentance, hide nothing, confess your sins, your sins of hypocrisy, of dishonesty, of immorality, of selfishness, of covetousness, whatever wickedness it my be. Tell Him all about it. Do not say, “O Lord, I am not much of a sinner; I never did many things that are wrong; I pray Thee forgive me,” but get into the company of David who when his conscience was awakened said, “O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great” (Psalms 25:11). You would almost have expected him to say, “It isn’t very great, so pardon it.” No, he says, “It is great.” It is such great iniquity that only a great God can pardon and a great Savior can deliver. “If with all your heart ye truly seek Him, He will be found of you.” If you will turn to Him honestly facing your sin, acknowledging your guilt, trusting Him as your Savior, and then confess Him before men, He will put love in your heart and you will be able to say, “I love Him, my Savior, my Redeemer,” and you will not be devoted to judgment, you will be saved from judgment, and so will be able to enter into the blessedness of this closing benediction:
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” And then the apostle adds so humanly, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” Thank you, Paul; we are glad to get this message from you, and when we get home to heaven, we will look you up and will talk it over together. Until then we will seek to carry out the truth we have found in this epistle.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29