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The Carnal Christian
1 Corinthians 1:1-10
We will consider the opening 9 verses of the first chapter of I Corinthians. These verses give us plainly an eightfold standing which we have in Christ Jesus.
1. All Christians are sanctified Christians. Paul thus addresses the saints at Corinth: "To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus." Sanctification has a twofold setting. First of all, there is a sanctification which is ours in Christ, and secondly, there is the sanctification which is ours in practice. We are sanctified in Christ, for the simple reason that everything we have in the spiritual realm is ours in Him. In the Heavenly blessings Christ is All in all. We are justified in Christ, saved in Christ, and set apart in Christ, as those washed, cleansed, and dedicated to the service of God.
2. All Christians are called saints. Our 2d verse says, "Called to be saints." We are simply "called saints." We are saints because we are cleansed, separated, and dedicated unto God. These things may not have actually become pertinent in our lives, but they are all ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. As Charles I. Scofield used to say, "The call of God to every believer is to bring his state up to his standing in Christ."
3. All Christians may call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not ashamed to acknowledge the Lord as his Saviour. Even Jonah, the runaway, when cornered, quickly asserted, "I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven." A Christian may be carnal, and yet call upon the Name of the Lord.
4. All Christians have grace and peace. This is taught us in 1 Corinthians 1:3 . We have peace, because we have grace. We have grace because we were saved by grace. We walk in grace. These things are ours because we are saved not because of what we do as saints, or, of what we are, in ourselves.
5. All Christians are enriched in utterance and in knowledge. "That in every thing ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you." Think of it! A group of people who not only knew God, but were enriched by Him! They knew how to testify for Him, and they knew a great deal about Him, for they were enriched in knowledge, and yet they were carnal, and walked as men.
6. All Christians are urged to be waiting for the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. "So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." To the carnal, the Coming of the Lord may have much of dread in it, but nevertheless, the carnal Christian may realize the fact of the Lord's Coming, and he may be waiting for it.
7. All Christians are confirmed unto the day of Jesus Christ, and in Christ Jesus will stand blameless in that day. We must remember that when God looks at us through the Blood, He reckons us as blameless, for our sins are all upon Him.
8. All Christians are called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ, his Lord. He may not be walking in fellowship or enjoying fellowship, but he has been called unto that fellowship. Thus we have set before you the things which we have in Christ. The 1st chapter of Ephesians should be studied by way of comparison. In that chapter there are seven things outlined which belong to all saints in Christ Jesus.
I. THE CORINTHIAN CHRISTIANS WERE CARNAL BECAUSE THERE WERE SCHISMS AND CONTENTIONS IN THEIR MIDST (1 Corinthians 1:10-11 )
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 1:11 , Paul says, "I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1. They were told to speak the same things because there is but one thing to speak. There is not one Gospel or one message for a spiritual Christian, and another for a carnal. The Word is truth, and the truth should be spoken. We believe to this day that divisions in doctrine are ail due to carnalities among saints. The Holy Spirit teaches but one message concerning our Lord. He is not divided. When saints gather together under varying names, they are following carnal things.
2. They are told to be joined in the same mind, because the only mind we should have is the mind of Christ. The word, "mind," may carry with it the thought of knowledge, but it also carries with it the thought of incentives, purposes. For instance, Paul said, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Then he tells us that the mind of Christ was the mind of humiliation, and that we, too, should humble ourselves in the sight of God. Thus we need to walk in the mind of Christ, as well as in the doctrine of Christ. We need to live the same life that He lived, just as much as we need to hold the same doctrine that He taught.
3. They were told to be joined in the same judgment. In other words, this is the same basis of action. One man will judge one way, and another a different way. When, however, we come together in Christ Jesus, we will find that we will be of the same mind, and the same judgment. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said, "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." Both of them had their names in the Book of Life. Both of them were fellow laborers with Paul, and yet they needed to get together. Let us beware, lest there be divisions among us. All such things tend to the marring of our testimony.
II. THEY FOLLOWED MEN AND NOT CHRIST (1 Corinthians 1:11-17 )
The Apostle wrote to the saints at Corinth and said, "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." To follow men is to follow the persons of men, the preachings of men, the leadership of men.
Right here is where many of God's people have utterly collapsed. There were Paul-ites in those days. They liked the deep doctrinal settings of Paul's ministry. There were Apollos-ites in those days. They liked his oratorical flights, his sweeping power over an audience. There were Cephas-ites. These people liked Peter because of his impetuousness, and his indubitable force of character.
Others said they were of Christ. They perhaps professed higher sanctification of a deeper knowledge and a closer walk than the other saints at Corinth.
The Apostle, Paul, however, seemed to throw up his hands in horror, as he cried, "Is Christ divided?" We wonder how he would feel today? There are John Wesley-ites, and John the Baptist-ites, and Luther-ites, and many kinds of "ites." There are divisions in doctrine, and divisions in ministrations, that have cut asunder the children of God. Paul said, "Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" We should be very careful, as ministers of the Gospel, that we do not gather people around us.
III. THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS (1 Corinthians 1:18 )
Here is a great philippic: "The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1. The foolishness of preaching. The Cross is to those who perish a preaching of foolishness. There is a great deal lined up in this statement.
First of all, there is the denial of the need of a Saviour. The world goes about to establish its own righteousness. Again, there is the denial of the method of salvation. When the sinner acknowledges his sin, he begins to face a method of salvation. If he is lost, he may think that he can find himself. If he is wicked, he may think that he can renew himself.
Human salvation is builded upon one lifting himself above himself.
2. The power of God. While the Cross to the ungodly is foolishness, unto those who are saved it is the power of God. We remember how the Apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
It is in the Gospel of salvation through the Blood of Christ, that the believer beholds the righteousness of God made possible through faith. How strange it is that that which is foolishness to the one, is the power of God unto the other! There is a great denial of Calvary today; there is also a great rallying to the Cross. The one calls the Blood a butcher-house religion; he says that the Blood of Christ on the Cross is of no more value than the blood of a cock-robin; he ridicules it, denies it, defames it. On the other hand, the believer delights in singing:
"In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time;
All the rites of sacred story
Gather round its Head sublime."
IV. THE FOLLY OF HUMAN WISDOM (1 Corinthians 1:19-22 )
1. Human wisdom will come to naught. 1 Corinthians 1:19 says: "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Those men who lift themselves up against the Lord Jesus Christ, and against His Cross, do it, oftentimes, under the guise of scholarship. God says, their scholarship shall be destroyed. Such men "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." They do not want to retain God in their knowledge, and for this cause God gives them over to "a reprobate mind."
2. Human wisdom will be made foolish. Every high look and every heart that is lifted up against God will be brought low. All of the scholarship of this world which denies Christ and His Cross, God and His grace, will be brought to nothing. "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" We read in the Book of Romans, chapter 1, of certain men who professed themselves to be wise, and became fools. They "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
3. The wisdom of this world does not know God. 1 Corinthians 1:21 reads: "After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God * *." It is passingly strange, and yet true, that great men are not always wise, neither do the aged understand wisdom. In many schools and colleges, and often in the seminaries, we find a great deal of the denial of God; and, particularly, of God in the realm of redemption. The men of this world seem to know much, and yet they know but little. We will see more of this as we progress. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." The saint, however, delights to sing:
"Beneath the Cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand," etc.
V. THE GLORY OF THE CROSS (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 )
The Holy Spirit now is giving us, through Paul, a masterful statement. It is a statement that contrasts the attitudes of the believer and the unbeliever to the Cross of Christ. The Scripture reads, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
1. We see a distinction between the saved and the unsaved, whether Jew or Greek. The unregenerate have no place for the Cross. Whether Jew or Greek, the regenerate reckon the Cross as the power and wisdom of God. This shows how, through regeneration, the very thoughts of the mind are changed.
We have seen infidels and even atheists, who considered themselves absolutely impregnable to any power of the Cross. They boasted their unbelief, and prated about their denials; and yet we have seen these same men become the most ardent lovers, and faithful proclaimers of the Cross of Christ. Old things, indeed, passed away with them. When they were saved, all things became new.
2. To the believer, the Cross of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It lifts up the fallen out of the miry pit, and places his feet upon the Rock. We have seen mighty power in the wind, or the steam, or in electricity, however, that is not comparable to the power which God wrought in Christ on the Cross, and when He brought Him forth from the dead, and seated Him at His own right hand as a Saviour.
3. To the believer the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the wisdom of God. It is the wisdom of God, because therein God found the way by which He could be just, and the justifier of those who believe.
VI. THE CALLING OF SAINTS (1 Corinthians 1:25-28 )
We now come to some of the remarkable statements of our chapter.
1. When God calls servants from among saints, He calls "not many wise." This is because the foolishness of God, is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. God does not call many wise men after the flesh, for the simple reason that the worthy wise are often unwise in the things of God. They may know a great deal, but they know not yet anything concerning the Cross, as they ought to know it.
1 Corinthians 1:26 says, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, * * are called." They are wise after the Spirit, but not after the flesh. We believe that many an uncouth, unlettered, and untaught saint has more Divine wisdom, more insight into the deeper meaning of Calvary, of the Resurrection, of the Ascension, and of the Return of Christ, than many of the best scholars of the country.
2. When God calls servants among saints, He calls not many noble, and not many mighty. If God called the nobility, He would call them down on their knees. They would have to acknowledge themselves as nothing but sinners saved by grace.
Everything that seems to tend toward human nobility, self-worship, and self-honor, has to go when we are born again. Those things which Paul saw were to his benefit, in the days of his reaching out after a place in the Sanhedrin, he reckoned but loss when he knew Christ. Those things which were his assets, became his liabilities. He counted everything in which he once gloried, as but refuse.
God does not call many mighty after the flesh, because they would be trusting in their own skill and power. "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
On the other hand, God does call foolish things, as the world reckons foolishness, to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world, as men speak of weakness, to confound the mighty; and the base things of the world, as men reckon baseness, and the things despised, yea, and the things which are not, hath God chosen to bring to nought the things that are.
VII. WHEREIN WE SHOULD GLORY (1 Corinthians 1:29-31 )
There are three statements:
1. Let no man glory in the flesh. This is suggested in 1 Corinthians 1:29 : "That no flesh should glory in His presence." Why should we glory in the flesh? We "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." We know, that in ourselves, there dwelleth no good thing. The flesh "is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be." If we walk after the flesh, we shall die.
The flesh could not save us, because the flesh was corrupt, and it is too impotent to accomplish any good thing. Why, then, should we glory in that which is our downfall, and our shame?
2. "Let no man glory in men." This is in chapter 3, 1 Corinthians 3:21 : "Therefore let no man glory in men." Why should we glory in men? Men may do much in the realm of the natural, but when they come into the spiritual, they are helpless.
Jesus Christ spoke of the new birth, and said, "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
3. Let no man glory, save in the Lord. Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we should do it all to the glory of God. All things which are done in the spiritual realm, are done of God, and therefore the glory belongs to God. When we get to Heaven, there will be no glorying in the flesh and no glorying in men. The message of the redeemed is, "Thou art worthy * *, for Thou * * hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood." Therefore, it is to the Lamb who was slain that all power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing are to be ascribed.
In the Church of the Capuchins in Rome is Guido Reni's "Archangel and the Devil," a painting symbolic of the triumph of right over wrong. The attitude of the conqueror is studied and correct. Not a fold of his garment is disturbed, not a lock of his flowing hair is astray. He is trampling upon his terrible enemy as he would pose at a social function. And so says Hawthorne's Miriam, who herself knew the awful meaning of wrong; "The archangel, how fine he looks, with his unruffled wings and his unhacked sword. No, no, I could have told Guido better. The battle was never such child's play as this dapper archangel seems to have found it."
Miriam is right. Guido is wrong. The picture does not stir. It is intended for my lady's bower only, to be festooned with honeysuckles and forget-me-nots. A recent picture by Riviere of Saint George and the Dragon contains a truer Gospel. The scaly coils of the monster are wound tight about the dying horse. The hero himself has fallen faint and breathless, while the anxious-faced princess bends over his postrate form. This tells the story of struggle, of sacrifice as the price of salvation, of remission by the shedding of blood.
The Church of God at Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:1-30
We propose taking several studies from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. There will be much to consider here which should help in the time of need. The introductory words of the First Epistle to the Corinthians are most suggestive. We cull certain things for your concentration,
1. "Paul" here is a word that, in itself, means much. Paul was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. After he led one, Paulus, to Christ he seems to have been named for his convert. Paul then was none other than Saul of Tarsus, a sinner saved by grace.
2. Paul, an Apostle. Paul was more than a sinner saved. He was also a sinner sent. The very word "Apostle" means "one sent of God." He was not one sent out by the Sanhedrin, although he once held such a commission, when he traveled on the Damascus road to bring the saints bound to Jerusalem. That commission, however, was lost when he became saved. Now he is Paul, an Apostle, called of God, sent of God, and blessed of God.
3. He was Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. His whole life centered in the Lord Jesus. He could say "For to me to live is Christ." He lived Christ; he preached Christ; he glorified Christ.
4. He was Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God. When Ananias spoke to him, God announced to Ananias that he was a vessel chosen of God, chosen to preach the Gospel far hence unto kings and unto the Gentiles. There is a Scripture which gives an inside view of Paul's conversion (Acts 26:15-16 ).
Here is the way it reads: "And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."
Here is the added line. The Lord said unto him, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee."
5. Paul, an Apostle and Sosthenes, our brother. This expression shows that Paul did not separate himself from the saints. He loved comradeship in the Gospel. The Lord sent out His disciples two by two, and this method was still followed in the life and ministry of Paul.
6. Paul, unto the Church of God at Corinth. The Bible speaks of that Church which is the body of Christ. It speaks of the Church of the firstborn in Heaven. Here, however, is a localized church. It is not the church of the Apostle Paul, but it is the Church of God.
7. To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus. The Corinthians, themselves, were not a separated nor a Spirit-filled people. We will discover later on that they were carnal, and they walked as men. However, they were sanctified in Christ Jesus. They had not yet brought their state up to their standing in Christ.
8. Called saints. They were saints because they were sanctified in Christ Jesus, separated from the world, cleansed by the Blood, and dedicated to Christ.
9. With all in every place. The message to the Church at Corinth and the greetings of the Apostles were not alone for Corinthian Christians, but for Christians in every place who called upon the Name of Jesus Christ. Here is told the fellowship of saints. Christ is our Lord but He is also theirs. There is but one Lord, one Spirit, one God, but there are many of us who have been baptized into that one Lord.
10. Grace and peace. The order of the words is correct. It is not "peace" and then "grace," but it is the grace which bringeth salvation followed by peace. This is even as we read in the Book of Romans, "Being justified by faith, we have peace."
The grace and the peace, however, are from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. We must not think that grace belongs exclusively to Christ, for grace is of God the Father. It was God who sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. It was God who commended His love toward us. God is a lover, sending His Son in order that through Him we might be saved.
I. PAUL'S REASONS FOR THANKSGIVING (1 Corinthians 1:4-6 )
1. Paul thanked God in behalf of the Corinthian believers because of the grace of God toward them. That grace, he said, was given unto them of the Father, by Jesus Christ. God was in the world reconciling us unto Himself, but the reconciliation was wrought out by Jesus Christ. For this, Paul gave thanks, and for this we are giving thanks as well as the Corinthian saints throughout all eternity.
2. Paul thanked God that in everything the Corinthians were enriched. This enrichment was also by Jesus Christ. How rich are the saints! The Laodiceans thought they were rich but the Lord said they were poor and miserable, and blind and naked.
Those are rich who have the gold that has been purified in the fire. Poor in this world's goods, rich in faith; because, it is when we are poor, that we are rich. Christ became poor in order that we through His poverty might be made rich.
3. Paul thanked God that the Corinthians were enriched in utterance and knowledge. Had we ever thought of ourselves as being rich because of our power to speak His Name? to proclaim His testimony and utter words of wisdom and knowledge? Thank God for such a vision!
4. Paul thanked God for their testimony of Christ. They were enriched in utterance concerning Jesus Christ. Beloved, if the Holy Ghost was sent forth from the Father to partake of the things of Christ, so may that blessed testimony be confirmed in us. When we preach, let us preach Christ. In our private conversations, let us speak of Christ. May He be our constant theme.
The Lord Jesus is the central message of the Bible. Let our testimony of Him be the central message of our lips.
II. WAITING FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 1:7-8 )
1. A specified gift. "So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Book of Corinthians has much to say of gifts. Here, however, is the climax of every spiritual gift, waiting for the Lord's Return. Some people imagine that the doctrine of the Blessed Hope, the Second Coming of Christ, is for matured saints. Here the babes of the church of Corinth are urged to wait for His Coming.
They were not to wait for the coming of the antichrist. They were not to wait for the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to every creature. They were not to wait for wars and rumors of wars. They were not to wait for the apostasy of the Church. They were to wait for the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Second Coming of Christ is the Blessed Hope of saints. We are to live looking for Him to come. We are to be watching and waiting for Him as one who waits for the morning. We are to pray, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." We are to be robed and ready for His Return. We are to expectantly abide the day of His Coming.
We wonder, as we pen these words, just how much the blessed, the comforting, the pacifying, the inspiring hope of the Coming of Christ means to the people who peruse these pages?
God forbid that that hour should take us unaware! God forbid that at His Coming any of us should seem to draw back from Him!
2. An assured confirmation. Our 8th verse tells us that Christ will also confirm us unto the end, "That ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
He who has saved us will also confirm us unto the end. He who has redeemed us, is able to present us blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. If it were not for His Blood, what blame would be ours?
On the Cross, however, our Lord took the shame and in Christ we stand without blame, accepted in the beloved.
This day in which we are now living is the day of the grace of God. In another place it is called "man's day." The next age will be "the day of our Lord." That part of it which marks our Lord's Return and the inauguration of His Kingdom is the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
John said he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. Our Lord is now rejected and by the world disowned, but, thank God, He that wore the crown of thorns will soon bear the coronation of King of kings and Lord of lords. His day is even now hastening on apace.
III. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD (1 Corinthians 1:9 .)
1. God is faithful. The Corinthians were not faithful to God but God was faithful to them. We need to get away from the thought that our faithfulness is the basis of our acceptance. Even though we may wander, He remaineth faithful. What God hath said, He will do. Our faithfulness may obtain rewards. His faithfulness brings to us everything included in His grace, and the gift of His grace.
(1) God was faithful in calling us. Had God not been faithful to us, we had never been saved. Had He not called us, we had never come. We need a renewed vision of God and of grace. We need this in every redemptive realm.
When we give the record of our salvation in Heaven there will be no emphasis placed upon what we were, nor upon what we did. There was nothing in us that merited redemption. We are saved because of God's mercy, His love, His grace; and because in all of these He was faithful toward us.
(2) God was faithful in calling us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. First He called us to salvation. In answer to this call we come to the Cross as a suppliant for grace. Being saved He called us into the fellowship of His Son. The word "fellowship" in this verse carries with it the thought of partnership. Later it is explained as, "labourers together." Thus it is that we walk together, we talk together, we work together.
We of ourselves can do nothing. We can have no victories when we are tempted. We can have no power when we pray. We can have no success when we labor. Our victory is in our comradeship.
God is faithful in that He did not leave us to "paddle our own canoe," to "hoe our own row," to complete our own task. He called us into fellowship, co-partnership with the Son of God. Thus we can write over every phase of the Christian life, "We two." It is not "we" apart from Him nor Him apart from us.
The keynote of the Christians' experience is summed up in the word "together" even "together with God." The saints of old who were persecuted delighted in the expression, "My Lord and I."
Jesus said to the disciples, "For Me and thee," and His words to us at least carry the thought of "Me and thee for it." Everything that He has is "for Me and for thee." Everything which we attempt and every conflict which we meet is "Me and thee for it."
IV. THE DANGERS OF DIVISION (1 Corinthians 1:10-11 )
There was a great difficulty which had come among the brethren in Corinth. They were in danger of being torn asunder by "schisms" and differences among themselves.
1. What had been declared unto Paul. Paul plainly wrote the saints at Corinth, "It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you."
When Satan can cause contentions and differences among the saints, he has wrought havoc in the House of God. The differences in Corinth centered around certain groups among the saints. One group said, "I am of Paul," another said, "I of Apollos," another, "I of Cephas," and yet another, "I of Christ."
This was a matter which caused great distress to the Apostle. In the anguish of his heart he cried. "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
Beloved, let us watch those who cause differences. Saints should meet in the Name of Christ.
2. What Paul declared unto them. Paul's declaration was a plea. He said, "I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, * * that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
As the spokes of the wheel get close to the hub, they get closer to each other. The basis of unison must ever center in Christ. We are one only when we recognize one Lord, one God and Father of all, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism.
We must all come into the unity of the faith, not in the faith as set forth by some human finger, but the faith as set forth in the Word of God. How beautiful it is for saints to dwell together in unity. "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."
V. PREACHING THE CROSS (1 Corinthians 1:17-19 )
1. The central note of the Gospel. Paul said that he was sent to preach the Gospel. That Gospel was, "Christ Crucified, Christ Risen, and Christ Coming Again." Anything short of this is an emasculated Gospel, part of it and not the whole. However, in the three statements, the preaching of the Cross takes the final position. It is at the Cross that faith first sees Christ.
Paul sought to preach the Gospel in such a way that the Cross of Christ might be effective. He did not preach it from the viewpoint of human wisdom with words of carnal argumentation. He sought rather to preach it in simplicity lest he had run in vain.
2. Why the Cross was rejected by the Gentiles. It was rejected for the simple reason that it could not be grasped through human scholarship. Salvation lies in the realm of faith. There is nothing about it to be reached by philosophical dissertations. The preaching of the Cross was, in Paul's day, and it is in our day to them that perish, foolishness. Unto us, however, who believe, it is the power of God.
It was for this reason that the Holy Spirit wrote, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nought the understanding of the prudent."
David admitted, in the Spirit, that great men are not always wise, that is, they are not wise with the wisdom which is from above. In the Book of Romans, we read, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." How strange it is that human scholarship collapses before things Divine.
3. We preach Christ crucified. The fact that the world did not accept the Cross, and that it was foolishness to them that perish, did not in the least hinder the Apostle in the proclamation of Christ crucified. He admitted that Christ crucified was a stumblingblock unto the Jews, and that unto the Greeks it was foolishness, and yet he never preached any other message for redemption. It was the Cross, or else it was nothing.
"In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers 'round its head sublime."
VI. THE FOLLY OF HUMAN SCHOLARSHIP (1 Corinthians 1:20-22 )
1. God's contention against human wisdom. The twentieth verse opens with the question, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?"
The Lord is asking these questions as much as to say that the world has collapsed because of its wisdom. It is altogether incapacitated to reach God, or, to find Him. It is for this cause that God has proclaimed the wisdom of this world as foolish.
2. God's positive statement concerning wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 1:21 , we read, "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God."
The difficulty is not with wisdom, or with scholarship, but it is with the quality of wisdom which the world possesses. How can the scholarship of man, attain unto the scholarship of God? It is impossible for its to reason out regeneration, or the Christian's hope, or his relationship with God.
Human wisdom delights in giving names to things which it cannot explain. It will call the attraction of the earth gravity, but just how that attraction got there, and on what basis it operates, it cannot tell.
The teacher in a certain class said, "Children, what is electricity?" One little lad snapped his fingers and the teacher said, "All right, George, you tell us."
He stammered out, "Teacher, I did know, but I forgot."
The teacher replied, "It's too bad you forgot, George, because you must have forgotten more than anybody else in the world ever knew,"
"We know how electricity operates but we cannot tell what it is.
When we come into the spiritual realm, human wisdom is even more ignorant. If all the wisdom of all the ages has utterly failed to explain the life of a flower, and the life of a babe, how can it explain the new life which is in Christ Jesus? Thus it is that the world by wisdom lost God, being unwilling to walk by faith. What, therefore, was foolishness to the world, became the power of salvation unto those who believe.
VII. THE CALLINGS OF GOD (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 )
1. God does not call many wise men after the flesh. It is not difficult for us to understand this Scripture when we remember how easy it is for the earthly wise to trust their own wisdom. Not only do they trust their own wisdom, but they circumscribe their vision to their understanding. Men delight in calling themselves agnostics when they reach the unknowable. Where the agnostic ceases to tread, the Christian revels in walking.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:27 , people who are foolish in the things of this world, are able to confound the wise. The ignorant washerwoman, the untutored and uneducated plebeian, may know more about the power of prayer and of walking with God than the highest of the worldly wise.
2. God does not call many mighty men after the flesh. The reason for this is quite the same as that just noted, relative to the wise. If God called the mighty, they would be trusting in their own might. It matters but little how strong any of us are, how mighty in word or in deed, we cannot cope with the Christian's warfare. The truth is, ("The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds").
Goliath was a man of might, and his boast made the Children of Israel to tremble. They had no man who could meet him on an equality basis so far as human power is concerned. David, however, did meet him; met him although he was but a lad; met him unarmed and unarmored, humanly unpanoplied for battle. However, we all know the result, Samson, shorn of his long hair, was as weak as other men; and David shorn of his faith could never have conquered Goliath. Peter said, "Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?"
The Christian wars in the realm of faith, by Divine power, the same as he operates in the realm of faith, by Divine wisdom.
3. God does not call many noble. The difficulty with the noble lies in this, they glory in the flesh, instead of in God. Whenever a person thinks that he belongs to the nobility, he is in danger of seeking to make himself of reputation, to clothe himself with honor, God says, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."
God says that no flesh should glory in His presence. Accordingly, it is written, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
King Louis XIV, who had as court-preacher Archbishop Fenelon, found one Sunday, that, instead of the usual crowd, there was no one in church beside himself, his retinue and the preacher "What does this mean?" he asked the clergyman. "Your majesty," answered Fenelon, "I today had published, that you would not come to church today, in order that your majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king."
We wonder, if the custom of going to church in order to flatter the preacher has not many devotees in our day and if many do not go to church merely as a matter of custom? When we go to church, may it be with us as with those Greeks: "We would see Jesus!"
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17