True Apostolic Succession
1 Corinthians 4:6-16
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. (vv. 6-16)
Here we have the true apostolic succession. A great deal is said in certain circles about a ministry that can date back to the days of the apostles, the first followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby one clergyman after another, all down through the centuries, has received ordination first from the apostles and then their successors without a break to the present time. As though that in itself would confer any particular grace upon them! Undoubtedly Charles H. Spurgeon was right when he said, “When men count on receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and because of any fancied apostolic succession, you can depend upon it, it is just a case of empty hands laid on empty heads.” Even if we could show an uninterrupted line from apostolic days in the present time there would be no merit in anything like that. But in these eleven verses we have emphasized for us true apostolic succession.
In the earlier part of the epistle the apostle warned against making overmuch of the servants of God. He told how in Corinth they were already divided into sections in the local church, some saying, “I am of Apollos,” some, “I am of Paul,” some, “I am of Cephas,” and some even making Christ’s name the head of a party, and boasting to be of Christ to the exclusion of others. “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes.” That is, it may not actually have been his name or the name of Apollos or that of Cephas that was used in this sectarian way, but he put himself and Apollos, his fellow laborer, who was thoroughly of one mind with him, to the front and used their names as illustrations in order that he might reprove this tendency to sectarianism among the people of God. “That ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written.” You will notice that the words, “of men,” are italicized in the King James Version, which, I am sure you already know, means that there is nothing in the original that answers to those particular words. They were put there because the translators thought they were needed to help make clear the sense of the Greek text. It has been translated like this: “That you might learn in us nothing above that which is written.” That is, you are not to put men in such a place of authority that you rally to them and to their instruction, and are carried away with admiration for their abilities and forget that they as well as yourselves have to be tested by that which is written. The great question is, “What is written?” and the Bible is open to you just as it is to the learned doctors and great commentators, and you need not, in this respect, that any man teach you, for the Holy Spirit will teach you concerning all things as you ponder over the Word of God. The reason why so many are constantly referring to the thoughts of others, men like themselves, is because there is so little real familiarity with the Book. “That you might learn,” says the apostle, “in us nothing above that which is written.” God has given His written Word, and outside of that the thoughts of even the best, the greatest teachers will be mere speculation.
God has not given teachers to the church in order that they may supplant the Bible and save His people the trouble of studying the Word for themselves, but that they may spur the people of God on to more intensive searching of the Scriptures. If men get occupied with teachers, they get puffed up one against another.
In verse 7 we learn that for Christians to attach themselves to certain gifts, to the neglect of others who may also have a special ministry from God, is to become very one-sided and to be only partially developed. Take for instance a Christian who says, “I am not interested in teaching, I like the preaching of the gospel. I like to go to an evangelistic meeting, but I am not interested in teaching.” You will find that person is very easily carried away by all kinds of winds of doctrine. As long as there is plenty of emotional appeal, a great deal to enthuse and excite, they are there, but when there is something that necessitates thought and meditation, they are not interested. Such Christians lose a great deal. On the other hand, you will find other Christians who speak sneeringly and slightingly of evangelistic efforts, of gospel preaching, and say, “I like to go to a meeting where some able teacher unfolds the Word of God, for that builds me up in Christ, but I am not interested when it is only the gospel.”
Only the gospel? The gospel is the most precious thing that I know anything about. It is the glad, glorious message of God’s love to a needy world, a very rare jewel in these days. Somebody said to me recently, “How is it that one can wander about from church to church, and go Sunday after Sunday, and month after month, and never hear the gospel? It was such a refreshment to come in today and listen to the gospel.” Oh,
yes, some people who talk about, “only the gospel,” had better try tramping about a bit to find out what is being preached. After you have sampled a lot of the rubbish that is going out in place of the gospel, perhaps you will have a higher opinion of gospel preaching. Another says, “Well, there is So-and-So, I like to hear him; he is an exhorter, and he always stirs me up, but I am not interested in dry teaching.” Dry teaching! Teaching, of course, may be very dry if the power of the Holy Spirit is not manifested. But mere exhortation, if not backed up by the Book, will not accomplish very much. Yet exhortation is a gift given by the risen Christ to the church.
“Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” There is no reason for any servant of Christ to exalt himself over another. If one has a gift that God has given, he is to use that for the glory of God and not to attract attention to himself.
Then Paul turns to consider another phase of things. When people are not profiting by the ministry that God has given them, you can be sure that it is because of a low spiritual condition. We read in verse 8: “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.” What does he mean? Why, these Corinthians were settling down to enjoy the benefits of the gospel without the self-denial that should go with it, and they were making themselves comfortable in the world. They received the good things that God’s servants brought to them, they congratulated themselves upon the fact that they were saved and going to heaven, and then settled down to enjoy the world, and Paul exclaimed, “You are reigning like kings now, before the time.” “Already,” he says, “ye are full, already ye are rich, already ye reign as kings.” We shall reign by-and-by, but the reigning time has not yet come. This is the suffering time. This is the time when we are to show our loyalty to Christ by our identification with Him in His rejection.
“I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death.” In other words, we are like men who are already under sentence of death and going out to die. On another occasion he said, “We have the sentence of death in ourselves” (2 Cor. 1:9). And so he went on in his devoted service. “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle.” The word translated “spectacle” is
theatron, that is where we get our English word
theater. A theater is a show, something displayed upon the boards, and the apostle says, “We are made a spectacle, we are like performers on a stage, for others to look at and see in us something of the lowliness and gentleness and rejection of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We are made a spectacle unto the world,” and the word he uses for “world” is the word
kosmos, the entire universe. “We are made a spectacle unto the universe, both to angels, and to men.” From heaven angels are looking down on the servants of Christ: here on earth men are looking at them. If they are proud and haughty and self-indulgent and self-seeking men, the hearts of angels are grieved and the hearts of men are filled with contempt. When they see lowly, devoted, Christlike, unworldly Christians, then angels rejoice and men recognize their reality.
I remember years ago when I was a young Salvation Army officer, our old colonel had called us in for what we called an Officers’ Council, and I shall never forget his advice to us. He said, “Comrades, remember as you go about your work, men will forgive you if you are not eloquent, they will forgive you if you lack culture, if your educational privileges have been greatly curtailed, if you sometimes murder the king’s English as you try to preach the gospel, but they will never forgive you if they find that you are not sincere.” Men look for reality, and the Lord looks for reality in His servants, and so the apostle says, “We are like actors on the stage, and two worlds are looking upon us, angels and men, and we must do our part well to the glory of God.”
Then he puts the apostles and these Corinthians in vivid contrast, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ.” Notice the double contrast. Everywhere we go men brand us as fools. Why? Because we have given up earthly privileges, we have given up the opportunity of settling down comfortably here, in order that we might devote our lives to the gospel of God. And men say, “What fools they are!”
That is the way the world looks at it. The apostle says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake.” Notice the word,
for, for I want you to see the contrast in the next clause: “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” we are throwing our lives away as the world looks at it; but you who are settling down making money, getting on in the world, having a comfortable time and saying, “We would not be so foolish as those others are,” “Ye are wise in Christ.” Do you notice that it does not say, “wise for Christ,” but “wise in Christ”? They are real Christians and, as real Christians, were in Christ, and they fancied they were wise because they were holding on to a place and position in this world. He cannot say, “Ye are wise
for Christ.” The apostles who were accounted as fools for Christ were really wise
for Him. And then he says, “We are weak, but ye are strong.” Oh, the irony of all this! You fancy you are the strong ones and we are the weak because we give our lives to propagating the gospel. “Ye are honourable, but we are despised.” Men look up to you for, “Men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself” (Ps. 49:18), but we have given up everything for Christ’s sake and of course we are despised.
In verses 11-13 he gives us an outline of what true apostolic testimony and experience really are. “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands.” The apostle was not one of these men who had such regard for “the cloth” that he could not dirty his fingers to take up some temporal occupation. When there were not sufficient funds to take care of his needs, he got a job making tents. He was simply a humble servant of Christ, and was not above anything that the Lord would have him put his hand to. “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless.” It is not, “Being reviled, we give them as good as they give us,” but, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” There is apostolic example. He did not look upon the service of Christ as something that introduced one into the first place in cultured society. To be a servant of Christ was to be misunderstood, rejected, it meant a path of self-denial all along the way; but now he says so tenderly, “I write not these things to shame you.” Why, then? To exercise them, to stir them up, to get them to realize how selfish their own lives were—”But as my beloved sons I warn you.” He is saying, “You are mine, I brought you to Christ, and I grieve when I see you are forfeiting future reward for present ease.” How often the servants of Christ are burdened like that and people do not understand.
You can take your choice. If you want to get a place and a position in the world and be thought well of down here, go on with the frivolity; but if you want to be thought well of up there, and want to be a Christian who will really count for God, then make a clean break with everything that would hinder fellowship with Him. You will get far more pleasure in a prayer meeting than in a frivolous social, once you get better acquainted with the Lord Jesus.
So the apostle says, as it were, “Ye are mine, my sons in the gospel, and I love you, and it is because I love you that I warn you that you will lose out by wasting your time in things that just appeal to the flesh when you might put in that time in self-denying service for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” He did not use the word which means “teacher.” They did not have many teachers; there are not a great many real teachers of the Word of God, and he is not slurring teachers as though their gift might be a very small thing, but he used the term from which we get our word,
pedagogue, which means, “child-trainer.” There are ten thousand child-trainers but only one father. The child-trainer looked after the minor children, and he says, “You Corinthian babes, you have plenty of child-trainers, but only one father. I brought you to Christ, and I am your father in Christ.” How can you tell when people are still in spiritual babyhood? One thing is they cannot enjoy the deep things of God. “I have fed you with milk,” he says in another place, “and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:2). I have known young Christians who, after being converted a number of years, say, “I am not interested in Bible lectures, they are too dry for me, I do not understand them. I like something simple,” and you get the impression that they would like to lie down on a couch and have a nursing-bottle and a nipple on it, in order to suck down a little weak truth. Many of you ought to be teachers yourselves by this time and you are still just babies.
Another way you can tell them is by the things with which they play. Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11). Many have been converted long enough to put away all childish things and get down to real business for God, but they are still spiritual babies. Some have been saved so long they ought to have a whole host of spiritual children, but they have never yet led one soul to Christ!
And then what a wonderful climax when he says, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” A man must live for God in order to speak like that, and the apostle could do it. He stood there before them and said, “I want your life to count well.” They may have said, “But we do not know what to do.” “Well then, imitate me. As an apostle for the Lord Jesus Christ I have counted everything loss for Him. My one desire is to glorify Him.” In another place he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” That is a safe thing, that is apostolic succession, and if you will follow that line, you will find apostolic blessing in your life and God will use you to win others to Christ.
Discipline In The Church Of God
1 Corinthians 4:17—5:13
For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even 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. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (4:17-5:13)
We have already noticed that this first epistle to the Corinthians is the charter of the church and that it brings before us certain divinely-given rules and regulations for the ordering of the local churches of God here on earth. This portion deals with the question of the discipline of an open offender against holiness and righteousness. The church is the house of God. When I use that word, I do not mean a building. God had one house made of stone and mortar, the temple at Jerusalem. He has never owned another. His present house is made of living stones, men and women built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. This is the house of God, the assembly of God, which is the church of the living God in this present age of grace; and holiness becomes God’s house. He dwells in His church, that is, in the assembly of His saints, and therefore it must be a holy assembly. That is why again and again in the New Testament we are exhorted to absolute separation from the world and its ways.
Sometimes when those who watch for your souls seek to be very careful regarding worldliness and carnality and unholy things cropping out in the church of God, they are looked upon as censorious and harsh and possibly unkind, because they try to deal with matters of this character, and people fall back on a Scripture like this, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1-2). In these verses our Lord is speaking of the motives of the heart. You have no right to judge my motives; I have no right to judge your motives. If I see one put a ten-dollar bill in the offering basket and I say to myself, “Oh, yes, he is just trying to be ostentatious, he did not give that out of real love for Christ,” I am wrong, for I am judging one’s motive, and I have no right to do that. This may apply to a thousand things. But the church of God is called upon to judge concerning the unrighteous behavior of any of its members. Verse 12 of chapter 5 says, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” The world outside goes on its way and the church of God has no jurisdiction there.
The church of God is responsible as to the character of its fellowship, and it is responsible as to those who sit down together at the table of the Lord and are linked up in Christian service. Where there is failure, the individual who fails is responsible before God. It is a serious thing to profess to live the life that should characterize members of the church of God. Ours is a high and holy calling, and if we lower the standard, we are not only dishonoring Christ individually, but we are giving the wrong testimony to the world.
The story is told of a man who wanted to hire a coachman. He lived in a mountainous region and the road to his home ran along a precipice. A number of men applied for the position. He said to one of them, “Tell me, are you an adept at handling fractious horses?”
“Yes, I am,” he said.
“Can you drive a six-horse team?”
“How near can you drive to the edge of the cliff without going over?”
“I have a steady hand and my eye is pretty true; I can get within a foot of it and not go over.”
“You step outside,” said the man, and he called another and asked him the same questions.
He said, “I am an expert in handling horses; I can drive right along the edge and not go over.”
“Step outside,” and he called another and asked the questions.
“If you want a man to drive on the edge of the precipice,” said this man, “you do not want me. When I drive, I keep as far away from the edge as I can.”
“You are the man I want. I will take you.”
Christian, be careful of the edge of the precipice. Do not get near it, for the first thing you know you will go over, and this will mean not only the ruin of your own testimony, but the sad thing is, you are liable to drag others over with you. Keep away from the edge, and do not resent it if those who watch for your souls as those who must give account try to impress upon you the solemnity of these things.
The apostle Paul had heard serious things concerning certain internal conditions in the church at Corinth, but he had been hindered from getting to them, and certain persons in the church who were carnally minded themselves and who knew that the apostle’s coming would probably mean rebuking them for their worldly behavior were saying, “Paul is really afraid to come to Corinth, he knows he hasn’t the influence he once had.” But he says, “No, I am not afraid to come. Some of you are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.” In other words, when he should come (and he was speaking with apostolic authority), there were some things he was going to look into very carefully. He would find out whether the power of God was working in their lives or whether it was just bravado and conceit that led them to justify themselves. There is a tremendous lot of pretence among professing Christians: pretending to a piety that they do not possess, pretending to a devotedness that is not genuine. He would know not only the talk of their lips but would inquire into the behavior that characterized them. “For the kingdom of God is not in word,” is not merely lip profession, “but in power,” it is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life.
The apostle says, “I want to come to you, but do you want me to come with a rod”—a rod of discipline? Did they want him to come as the representative of the Lord to chastise them for their bad behavior, or to come in the spirit of meekness so that they and he might sit down together over the Word of God and enjoy the precious things of Christ? If they desired him to come in this last way, there were some things to be settled first, and he told them what they were. “In the first place, it is reported commonly”—this was not merely a matter of some individual’s gossip, it was widely known—”that you are tolerating one of the vilest forms of immorality that has ever been heard of even among the heathen Gentiles; it is known that one of your members actually has taken his father’s wife (not of course his mother, but his stepmother) as his own wife. This is an abomination in the sight of God, but you have not recognized the wickedness of it. You have rather prided yourselves on the breadth and liberality that would enable you to go on with a thing like that. You are puffed up when you ought to be brokenhearted.” “Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” Even if they felt that they did not know how to handle a thing like this, they could have been down before God with breaking hearts crying to Him to undertake for them, and He would have intervened and taken the wicked man from among them. But since he had received the evil report, as the representative of the Lord Jesus Christ he was going to tell them how to handle the situation, and in so doing he gave instruction concerning the handling of similar questions all down through the centuries.
“For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already.” In other words, because we are all one in the Lord I have looked into this matter already, I have discerned, I have investigated and have the facts concerning him that has done this deed. This is the verdict, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power [or authority] of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan.” What does that mean? John says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19), or, “in the wicked one.” This man was in the circle of those who are “of God.” Somebody might say, “The way to help him is to keep him in the circle, let him sit down with you at the Communion table; do not be hard on him, try to win him back, throw your arms of love about him and sympathize with him.” The unrepentant man will be more hardened in his iniquity if you do that. Put him outside in the Devil’s domain, let him know that he has forfeited all title to a place with the people of God—that he has been put back into the world where Satan rules. That is what he means when he says, “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” What has caused all this trouble? The activity of the flesh. Very well, put him out in that sphere where he will find out that “it is an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord his God.” When he finds himself abhorred by men and women who love Christ, when he finds his sin is a stench in the nostrils of Christian people, he may break before God. If, in spite of his sin, he has really been born again, he will break. If he has been a false professor, he will plunge deeper and deeper into evil things.
“Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” We do not like to carry out extreme commands like these, but this is the Word of God, and the greatest kindness that the people of God can do to a man who is deliberately going on in willful sin is to refuse Christian fellowship to him. As long as you treat him as a brother he will only be puffed up in his ungodly ways and it will be harder to reach him. But if you obey the Word, God will work toward his recovery and restoration.
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Housewives know that. What is the nature of leaven? You have a great pan of dough and insert a little leaven, and if you leave it all night, the whole thing runs over on the table by morning. Very well, you allow one wicked man to go unrebuked and undealt with after the wickedness has been fully manifested, and the thing will go on like an infection working, working, working to the ruin of others and to the harm of the entire testimony.
The church of God is largely afraid to exercise discipline today, but where this is carried out in obedience to the Word of God the church is kept in a condition where God can work. The apostle was not acting upon mere hearsay, there was definite evidence as to the guilt of this man. The church of God is not to jump to conclusions. We are not to believe every scandal that people try to circulate. We have a rule, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:15-17). If he will not hear the church, he has to be put under discipline. If one knows of definite wickedness, he should go first to the guilty person and try to set it right. If he does not succeed, he is then to take another witness, but if he will not hear them, they are to take it to the church of God and be prepared to back up everything.
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” Before God the whole body is looked upon as unleavened, for “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” We are men and women who began with the blood of the cross. Like Israel in Egypt, when sheltered by the Passover, they were to put all leaven away. Leaven is the type of wickedness.
Leaven is mentioned in Galatians 5:9: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” There he is speaking of evil and unsound teaching which permeates and leavens the assembly of God. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” and if we have been redeemed by the precious blood it is incumbent upon us to recognize our responsibility to keep the feast, the feast of communion and fellowship with Him, not with old leaven, that is, the corruption of the old nature, nor with malice. Is there a child of God who is still tolerating un-judged malice in the heart? “Neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Our God looks for reality. It is not enough to say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?…and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22). The great thing is for all who have been redeemed by His precious blood to manifest subjection to the Lord in the life.
In the concluding verses the apostle stresses the treatment that should be meted out to evildoers who have gotten into the church. You cannot discipline the world. He says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters.” If you should try to regulate all immorality in the world, you would have a tremendous job upon your hands, but here is the point: if a man who calls himself a brother is an immoral man or a covetous man—what is that? Does he couple covetousness with fornication? “The love of money is a root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), and covetousness, reaching out and grasping for wealth, is just as vile a thing in God’s sight as indulgence in unholy lust in other lines.
“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer.” What is a railer? It is a person who has a tongue loose at both ends and on a pivot in the middle, a vicious talker, an evil speaker, one who can destroy the reputation of another just as the murderer drives a dagger into the heart and destroys a life. A railer is a wicked person in the sight of God. “Oh,” somebody says, “I don’t mean any harm, but I am so careless with my tongue.” What would you think of one who goes around with a machine gun and keeps firing away on this side and that, and someone says, “What are you doing?” “Oh,” he replies, “I don’t mean any harm, but I am so careless with this machine gun.” A character assassin is as wicked in the sight of God as one who would take another’s life.
“Or a drunkard.” No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. You young people in these vicious days in which we live, if you never want to be a drunkard, do not fall in with the current idea of thinking it is fashionable for everybody to drink a little bit. No man ever became a drunkard who was not first a moderate drinker. Somebody may say, “I do not believe in that; I can take a little and it does me no harm.” But it may do your brother harm, and Paul said, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth” (1 Cor. 8:13). Here is God’s standard. “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
An extortioner is one who squeezes the poor. Maybe he tries to cover up his sin in this way: he squeezes the poor and makes an extra thousand dollars, and then on Sunday comes down to the church and says, “I want to give you a hundred dollars for missions.” God says, “Keep your dirty money, you got it in the wrong way.” God wants holy money to use in holy service. An extortioner is a wicked person and God says, “With such an one no not to eat.” You are not to sit down to the table with such an one. That would cut down our dinner parties considerably, and I take it that he also includes the Lord’s table. People should be warned to stay away from the Lord’s table if living as depicted here.
“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” Outside in the world God judges, He will deal with them in due time, but He calls upon the church of God to maintain careful discipline over its members for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. His good name is at stake. People say, “What! Is that one of your Christians? Does that person belong to Christ and do thus and so?” That is one reason why the church of God is responsible to maintain holiness as it goes on through the world.
And now the concluding word: “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Of course there is a great deal of other instruction in Scripture for discipline, as in the case of a brother overtaken in a fault, and the Word says, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Every effort should first be made to restore the wanderer, but if he will not be restored, if he persists in his sin, if he goes on defying the discipline of the church of God, then the time comes when the Word has to be acted on: “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
Perhaps some of you feel like saying what one of the Hopi Indians said to me one time after I had tried to put before them the responsibility of a Christian. They had a rather peculiar name for me; it was, “The Man with the Iron Voice”; and he said, “Man with the Iron Voice, you have made the way very hard today. I thought I was saved by grace alone, but now it looks as though I have to walk to heaven on the edge of a razor.” We are saved by grace alone, but we are called to walk in holiness, and while we have no ability to do it ourselves, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in every believer and He is the power of the new life. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, and we will be enabled thus to honor the Lord Jesus Christ by holy, unworldly, devoted, godly lives.
On Going To Law
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (vv. 1-11)
We have noticed in our study of this epistle that the apostle was used of God to correct a great many erroneous thoughts, and to suggest a remedy for many wrong practices in the church of God in ancient times, also that this letter with its varied instructions was intended not only for the church of God some nineteen hundred years ago but that it is addressed “to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” If the churches of God today would be subject to the teachings of the first letter to the Corinthians, we would be delivered from a great many things that hinder the progress of the gospel and impede the working of the Spirit of God among us.
In this section Paul inveighs against a practice which was growing in Corinth, and which I am afraid has been in evidence in many other places since, of Christians quarreling with other Christians about temporal matters, and dragging one another into the world’s law courts for the adjudication of their difficulties. This is utterly abhorrent to the spirit of Christianity. It puts the Christian in a false position before the world and before his brethren. It is saying to the world, “We Christians are just as covetous and just as quarrelsome, we are just as much concerned about having our own way and about self-pleasing as you of the world are. We recognize your judges as having authority over the church of God,” and it is degrading to the Christian thus to act.
The apostle says, “Dare any of you?” He is stirred with indignation and his language is very strong, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another”—he means, of course, another brother—”go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” This chapter does not teach that a Christian should never go to law. It is quite impossible at times to avoid it, and even the writer of these words when falsely accused before a Roman governor said, “I appeal to Caesar,” and stood upon his natural rights as a Roman citizen and insisted that his case should be heard in the imperial court. I know some brethren are wiser than the apostle Paul and feel that he made a mistake. They are quite sure that if they had been in his place, they would have acted more wisely. It is a pity that the apostle could not have availed himself of their advice! He acted quite within his right as a Christian, for that was a matter not of going to law with his brethren before the unjust but of having things heard in a clear, straightforward way before the supreme tribunal of the Roman empire. When in Philippi, the judges would have dismissed him and would have him go out under cover without a clear, public justification, but he said, “No, we have been wrongfully accused and unjustly treated. You admit you have made a mistake; make the admission publicly.” That was perfectly right and proper.
But here is an entirely different case. Now we have brethren dragging each other before the world’s courts. He says, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” If Christians have disagreements which they are not able to iron out between themselves, let them consult their brethren, bring in others in whom they have confidence, and let them agree to abide by their brethren’s judgment just as truly as they would have to abide by a decision from a worldly court.
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” This refers to something that many Christians have lost sight of. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to reign for a thousand wonderful years. Then judgment shall return to righteousness, and when He reigns we shall reign with Him. It is written, “The time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22). If we are going to reign with Christ, going to sit on thrones of judgment with Him in that coming glorious kingdom age, what an absurd thing to think that we are not fit to judge matters having to do with temporalities here on earth when our brethren are in difficulty.
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” After all, these things are so trivial; matters of money, of property, matters concerning personal reputation, are such small things when viewed in the light of eternity. We may make a great deal of them, we may magnify them and give them a place of importance altogether beyond that which they deserve, but the apostle declares they are very small matters indeed, and he strengthens his position as he adds, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” What is that? Angels who are greater in power and might, are we going to sit in judgment upon them? Are angels coming into judgment? Yes, we read twice in the New Testament of angels coming into judgment. In 2 Peter 2:4 we read, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” and then certain conclusions follow. Then in the epistle of Jude, verse 6, we read, “And the angels which kept not their first estate [their own principality], but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Now it is the final judgment that is in view, and at that last great assize these fallen angels shall be all brought into judgment. And who will sit upon that throne of judgment? Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the redeemed throughout the ages will be associ- ated with Him. We will be there with our Lord as assessors, we may say, in that last great assize. If this dignity is to be ours, if we are to judge the world during the kingdom age, if we are to judge angels when eternity begins, are we then unfit to judge affairs of this life? How much more should we be able to judge between our brethren!
In verse 4 he says something that evidently was not very clear, it seems to me, to the minds of those who years ago prepared this wonderful King James Version of ours. It says, “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” The thought then would be, these matters are so trivial, they are of so little importance that even those who are least esteemed in the church ought to be fit to adjudicate in such cases. And yet I question if that is what the apostle is really saying, for in the next verse he tells us, “I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” There he implies that if the church is to take up matters of this kind, there should be wise men giving decisions, and that would hardly seem to be in harmony with the rendering that we have in verse 4. But if you put an exclamation point after that verse, it changes the entire meaning of it. “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church!” The Revised Version makes it a question, “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the church?” If you drag your Christian brother before one of the unconverted judges of this world, you are bringing him before a man who, whatever his place in the world, is of no account in the church of God unless he himself happens also to be a Christian. So I take it this is what the apostle means to say: “Don’t you see what you are doing? You are dragging your brother before men who have no place in the church of God whatever; their dignity and probity do not give them place in the church of God. Whether honorable or not, if they have not been born again, if not converted men, they are of no account in the church of God.”
“I speak to your shame [in doing this you are degrading yourselves and you might well bow your heads in shame]. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.” This is altogether wrong. He says, “There is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.” Even though you say, “I do not know of any Christian to whom I could submit this case,” there is another way out. “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” You do not have to stand on your own rights, it is not necessary that you should always be cleared, it is not necessary that you should always prove that you have been wronged in matters of this kind. You can, if you will, bow your head and say, “I leave all with God. I am not going to say anything about it; if they wrong me, He understands.”
Many years ago as a little fellow I attended a meeting in Toronto where some difficulty had come up between brethren and they did as the apostle suggests. My dear mother took me along. “Little pitchers have big ears,” and I well remember how horrified I was to see men I esteemed and had been taught to respect apparently so indignant with each other. I can remember one man springing to his feet and with clenched fists saying, “I will put up with a good deal, but one thing I will not put up with, I will not allow you to put anything over on me; I will have my rights!” An old Scotch brother who was rather hard of hearing leaned forward holding his ear and said, “What was that, brother? I did not get that!” “I say, I will have my rights,” said the man. “But you did not mean that, did you? Your rights? If ye had your rights, you would be in hell, wouldn’t you? And you are forgetting—aren’t you?—that Jesus did not come to get His rights, He came to get His wrongs, and He got them.” I can still see that man standing there for a moment like one transfixed, and then the tears broke from his eyes and he said, “Brethren, I have been all wrong. Handle the case as you think best,” and he sat down and put his face in his hands and sobbed before the Lord, and everything was settled in three minutes. When in this spirit it is so easy to clear things up; when we bow before the Lord, He straightens them out.
And then think of what grace has already done for you. Think how marvelously God has dealt with you in spite of all the sin and iniquity that you have been guilty of in the past. In the next verse he reminds them that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and then he sets forth a fearful catalogue of sins and transgressions against God, nature, and man, and as he repeats this awful list, he turns to that redeemed company and says, “And such were some of you.” These are the things from which you have been saved, these are the transgressions that have been forgiven you, from these unholy, wicked, impure things you have been cleansed. You were sinners’ of five hundred pence, but God has forgiven all. Shall you hold your brother accountable because he owes you a small debt when God has so graciously dealt with you?
“Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Notice the order here: “washed—sanctified—justified.” I went into a mission in San Francisco years ago and sat for perhaps half-an-hour listening to marvelous testimonies of redeeming grace. One after another rose and painted a dreadful picture of his past life and then told how God had saved him. I had come to that meeting with a little sermon all made up, but as I sat listening to these testimonies, I said, “O dear, my stupid little sermon! To think I imagined I could go into my study and develop a little discourse that would suit a congregation like this, when I had no idea of the kind of people I was going to address.” So I just “canned” my sermon; I put it out of my mind, and when I rose to speak, I took this text: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” It was easy to preach to them then without a lot of study. These sermons that you get up are so hard to preach, but those that come down are so much easier. At the close a dignified personage came to me and said, “Do you know, you got your theology terribly mixed tonight?”
“Did I?” I said. “Straighten me out.”
“You put sanctification before justification. You have to be justified and then you get the second blessing.”
“Pardon me, but you are mistaken,” I said. “I did not put sanctification before justification.”
“You most certainly did.”
“I most certainly did not; it was the apostle Paul who did.”
“Why, you cannot blame your wrong theology on him.”
“I was simply quoting Scripture.”
“You misquoted it. It reads, ‘Ye are justified, ye are sanctified.’”
“No, no,” I said; “read it.”
And he began to read, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified,” and then he said, “Why, there is a misprint there. Wait a minute; I will get a Revised Bible.”
He got it and looked at it, and read, “Washed, sanctified, justified.”
“Why,” he said, “I never saw that before; but all I have to say is the apostle Paul was not clear on the holiness question when he wrote that!”
But what does the apostle really say? “Ye are washed.” What does that mean? It is the washing of regeneration. When the Word of God is applied to the heart and conscience, when first awakened and turned to the Lord, it results in deliverance from the impurity of the old life. We are cleansed by the washing of water by the Word.
“But ye are sanctified.” What is it to be sanctified? It is to be set apart to God in Christ, and that is true of everyone who turns to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a work that begins even before a man is conscious of his justification. Were it not for that, not one of us would ever turn to Christ. The Spirit begins that work which exercises and convicts and leads us to feel our need, and through the Word we are washed and cleansed, and thus Christ is revealed to our souls, and putting our trust in Him we are justified from all things.
Washed—that has to do with the practical cleansing.
Sanctified—set apart to God in
Christ. Justified—that means we are judicially cleared before the throne of God. God has nothing against the man who stands justified before Him. These are our blessings, they are true of every believer. How our hearts ought to thrill with worship and praise as we think how God has dealt with us!
The Believer’s Body: The Temple Of The Holy Sprit
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (vv. 12-20)
Following what we have seen in the early part of this chapter as to the believer’s cleansing, sanctification, and justification in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, we are now asked to consider some of the practical results of all this. If we have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of His beloved Son, if we have been regenerated by the Word and the Holy Spirit, then we are no longer to live to please ourselves but the One who has made us His own at such a cost. And so the apostle stresses particularly the importance of recognizing our bodies as belonging to our risen Lord.
The honor of the body was never really revealed until our Lord Jesus Christ came. If you are at all familiar with the different heathen philosophies and pagan religions, you know that men as a rule distinguish between the inner man and his relation to God and the body and its relation to earth. A great many of these philosophers and teachers said, “It does not make any difference to what use you put the body. It is merely physical, and when you die it is gone. Even though your soul may persist after death the body will never rise again, and it is impossible to defile the soul by anything you may do with the body.” That was the very essence of the philosophy that was taught in Corinth where the apostle had been used of God for the calling out of this company of redeemed ones whom he addresses as “the church of God,” and therefore, there was very grave danger that they might bring over to the new Christian position some of the old pagan conceptions, and in that way fail to appreciate the holiness, the purity, that should be connected with the physical life of the believer as well as with his spiritual life.
The apostle shows that the believer has not come into any legal relationship with God. He is not under law; he has marvelous liberty, but not liberty to do wrong. He must distinguish between license and liberty. An instructed believer will never say, “I am in Christ, and it does not make much difference what I do.” A man who talks like that shows that he has never apprehended the reality of what “in Christ” means. The very fact that I am in Christ means that God has claims upon me that He did not assert when I belonged to the world. Then I was allowed to take my own way, but now that I am in Christ I am called upon to present my body, not merely my spirit, as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). And so He tells us here, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient,” or befitting. If it is just a question of law, I am not under law but under grace. But on the other hand, there are many things that are utterly unsuited to a Christian; things that would bring my testimony into disrepute. There are a great many things about which there is no direct instruction in the Word of God, and because of this some think of them as things indifferent. But the question is, “What effect would it have on other people if I as a Christian were to indulge in them?” I belong to Christ, and men will judge of Christ as they look upon me, and my behavior therefore must be such as will commend Christ. And then again, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” It is an answer to those who say, “Well, why should not a Christian feel perfectly free to indulge himself if he wants to?” And so they excuse the use of intoxicants and tobacco. It is a bad thing to create habits that are not easily broken, and the apostle says, “I will not be brought under the power of any.” I will not allow myself to be a slave to appetite. There are things with which one cannot tamper without being brought under their power. Your liberty is gone when you say, “I have liberty to form habits like this,” for you become a slave.
You can apply this in a great many different ways. “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” I am the Lord’s free man, and I am going to preserve my liberty in Christ. I am free to please Him, not free to please myself. And then if it is a question of food, we read: “The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty” (Prov. 23:21). Notice, it is not only the drunkard but also the glutton. In their heathen festivals the people gorged themselves in the most disgusting way in honor of their heathen gods, and we as Christians need to be careful as to overeating. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats.” The two are suited the one to the other. Food is suited to the digestive tract and the digestive tract is suited to food, but you are not to live for these things, you are not to live to feed the belly. “But God shall destroy both it and them.” Do not live therefore as though your great business in life was the gratifying of your appetite. Let there be something higher before you. As Christians your business is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then he speaks of the sex instinct, for there were those who said, “God has implanted certain appetites in the very bodies of men and women, therefore it does not make any difference how people indulge these appetites in or out of the marriage relationship.” “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” It is not to be used for vile gratification, that is contrary to the holiness of God, but it is to be kept for the Lord, and as it is kept for the Lord, the Lord is for the body. What a wonderful relationship we have been brought into. It is the resurrection of the body of the Lord Jesus that has put dignity upon all our bodies. If I am going to have my body in resurrection, then I must remember it is not to be used for any degrading purpose here on earth.
“God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” You know that your spirit is a member of Christ, you know your soul belongs to Christ, but do you think as often as you should of the fact that your body is a member of Christ? We read of the church as the body of Christ. It is not merely as an aggregation of redeemed souls that the church is the body of Christ, but as men and women having physical constitutions we belong to Christ, and my body is to manifest the holiness of Christ, my body is to be used in devotion to Him. I am to present my body as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord,” as already intimated.
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” Very well, shall I take the members of Christ, this body of mine, and defile it, put it to an unholy purpose? How can I do that, I who profess to have been bought with the blood of God’s dear Son? “Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” What a mystic union this is into which we have been brought! The same Holy Spirit who dwells without measure in the Head now dwells in every member of Christ’s body here on earth. Then, the body is for the Lord. How this will solve every problem in regard to sensual pleasure and worldly folly. You are invited out somewhere where you are not quite sure you can glorify God, and you stop a moment and say, “My body is a member of Christ; is it consistent for me, as a member of Christ, to go where He will be dishonored?” You must not go where you cannot glorify Christ. That is the Christian standard.
“He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” Then I must flee everything that is of a carnal, corrupt nature. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body.” Other sins do not affect the body, but this one sin is ruinous to body and soul alike, and so, Paul says, “Flee fornication,” run from anything that would tend to stir the body to unholy lust. In his
Confessions, St. Augustine tells how in his unconverted days he had allowed himself to become the willing victim of vile and fleshly lusts. He lived his careless life as the pagans of that day, and associated with the corrupt and wicked members of society. When he got converted, the great question upon his mind was this, “Will I ever be able to live according to the Christian standard of holiness, will I ever be able to keep myself from the vile, sensuous life in which I have lived so long?” When he first yielded himself to Christ, he took as his life-text Romans 13:13-14, where the apostle exhorts the believer to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. For long after his conversion he did not dare even to go near that part of the city where his godless companions of former days lived. But one day a matter of business called him there, and as he was walking along the street he suddenly saw one of the beautiful yet wicked companions of his folly. The moment her eyes lit upon him her face was illuminated with delight, and she came running with outstretched arms and said, “Austin! where have you been for so long? We have missed you so,” and he turned and gathered up his long philosopher’s gown and started to run. It was not a very dignified proceeding for a doctor, a professor of rhetoric, to run up the street with a godless girl running after him. She called to him, “Austin, Austin, why do you run? It is only I!” He looked back and exclaimed, “I run because it is not I.” And he was off again. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). That is our standard, and so in all our behavior in the use of the body we are thus to glorify Him.
Now he comes to the crux of the whole matter. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple [the sanctuary] of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” See how the Holy Spirit links us again with Christ. When He was here on earth, He said to the Jews of His day, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), and they, misunderstanding, looked at the great temple on Mount Moriah and said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” But we are told, “He spake of the temple of his body.” He, the Holy One, had a real human body, and that body was the sanctuary of deity. Now He has gone back to heaven, He has saved our souls, and He claims our bodies and has sent His Holy Spirit down to dwell in the body of the believer. He says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.” Do we think as much of this as we should? Would you allow many things about which you are careless if that were constantly before your mind? You think of a church building as a sanctuary set apart for the work of the Lord. You step in from the outside, and immediately your hat comes off, for you realize that you are in the sanctuary. We teach our boys and girls not to be boisterous or frivolous in the church building for it is the house where we meet with God, and we realize that reverent behavior should characterize us. But think of this, your body is the sanctuary, it is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. How careful you and I ought to be that we grieve not that blessed One who dwells within, that we do not bring dishonor upon the name of the Savior who has sent His Spirit to live in our body. Say the words over and over again to yourself until they get such a grip on you that you will never forget them: “My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in me.” It will give you to realize the dignity of the body and the responsibility that attaches to it.
“Ye are not your own?” Does your heart respond to that? “Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.” And what price? The precious blood of God’s dear Son. Yonder at Calvary He purchased us to be His own. An old Puritan writer said, “Calvary was the marketplace where the Savior bought us with His blood, but He never got His money’s worth.” We have been such poor servants, we have responded so poorly to His love. We used to sing years ago:
Not my own, but saved by Jesus,
Who redeemed me by His blood,
Gladly I accept the message,
I belong to Christ the Lord.
Not my own, to Christ my Saviour
I believing trust my soul,
Everything to Him committed,
While eternal ages roll.
Not my own, my time, my talents,
Freely all to Christ I bring,
To be used in joyful service
For the glory of my King.
Not my own, the Lord accepts me,
One among the ransomed throng
Who in heaven shall see His glory,
And to Jesus Christ belong.
It will be wonderful to be His own up there. I would not want to miss it then, but it is a greater privilege to be His own as we walk the streets of this world than it will be when we walk the streets of gold, for this is the world in which we have the privilege of glorifying Him in our bodies. And so he says, “Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” If you have the Revised Version, you will see that the text really stops here. In our King James Version it adds the words: “And in your spirit, which are God’s.” I think somebody making a copy of this in the old Greek text got down this far and had not got the thought at all, but felt that there was something left out and so added these words in the margin. That is the very thing the apostle is not saying. What he is saying is, “Keep to this thought; your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; if you glorify Him in your body, you will in your spirit.” Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.
The New Testament Teaching On Marriage And Divorce
1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. (vv. 1-17)
This seventh chapter deals with a subject that has caused a great deal of confusion down through the centuries. The marriage relationship occupies a large place in the Word of God, both in the Old Testament and in the New. The teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and the direct ministry of the Holy Spirit after our Lord’s ascension puts this whole matter on a very high plane, so that marriage for a Christian becomes God’s own wonderful picture of “the mystic union,” as we often say in the marriage ceremony, “that subsists between Christ and the church.” We can quite understand that in the early church there were a great many irregularities to be corrected in regard to this entire subject. There was a certain laxity permitted in Israel under the law which our Lord Jesus Christ forbade in the dispensation of grace. Then again in the heathen world around conditions were such that it was probably a difficult thing to find persons whose attitude in regard to marriage was at all like that of the New Testament church. Therefore, there was of necessity very plain speaking.
In the first part of this chapter the apostle is evidently dealing with questions that have been propounded to him and says, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” People have drawn from this that the apostle was an advocate of celibacy, and the Roman church is very fond of pointing to this verse as though it taught that the unmarried monk or priest or the unwedded nun is a holier person just because of their state and condition in regard to this matter than the Christian husband or wife, father or mother. The apostle does not say that; but he speaks of serving the Lord without distraction particularly in a time of persecution, and this passage does refer to such a time. Farther on he says, “It is good for the present distress.” He wrote in a day when to become a Christian, to be publicly baptized as confessing Christ, meant to put one’s very life in jeopardy. Under such conditions it might really be best that a man should not be married at all. Yet he recognized certain inherited tendencies of human nature which might make such a condition a very dangerous one and might work against purity, against the highest type of morality, instead of working for greater holiness, and so says, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” He stresses the mutual relationship of each to the other. The husband is to “render unto the wife due benevolence.” As the apostle Peter very beautifully puts it, “giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7), and the wife on her part is to see that she reverences her husband. They are to remember that having entered into this relationship neither is any longer his or her own master, but they have agreed to subject themselves one to another, and there can be no happy Christian home unless that is recognized.
“The wife,” he tells us, “hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” And so they are to be sure that they pay due regard to one another’s conjugal rights. There may be circumstances when they might draw apart from each other, they might separate the one from the other for a limited time, but let them be careful not to do so, “Except it be with consent [by mutual agreement] for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” All down through the Christian dispensation there have been sects and strange teachers who have advocated the celibate condition even for persons already entered into the marriage relationship, and have sought to inculcate the idea that in order to serve the Lord better husbands and wives should live entirely apart one from the other. The apostle says that to attempt such a life as that is only to place yourself in a position of great temptation, and therefore is not only unwise but is thoroughly opposed to the divine institution of marriage. But if husband or wife say, “We think it would be best that we dwell apart from each other for a little time that we may be more entirely devoted to the Lord, that we might wait upon Him in fasting and prayer to be more fully conformed to His image, and come together again,” very good, but let them be careful that they do not run off into some strange inconsistency if they attempt this.
“I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” Some people have pointed to this verse and said, “You see, the apostle himself does not always claim to be inspired. In this portion he declares that he is speaking only by permission and not commandment, and therefore he was not inspired of God.” Oh, no, he is just as truly inspired to give this permission as he is a little farther on to give a direct command. But what may be permitted in one family might throw another family into hopeless confusion. Here is a family with a number of little children, and the wife gets a high notion of the demands of personal holiness and comes to her husband and says, “My dear, I want to be altogether for God, and so I am going to request that I separate entirely from you for a time. I am going to some spiritual retreat. You get along with the children as best you can!” It would throw the entire family into confusion. She would glorify the Lord better by looking after the children than by spending the time on her knees in some retreat, just as many a Christian today would glorify God far better looking after the growing children at home than being at a meeting every night.
Let us not forget that God established the home before He created the church, and when people are married they have a tremendous responsibility resting upon them. No one feels that more keenly than one who, like myself, is separated to the gospel of God. I do not know how often I have felt like crying out with the bride in the Canticles, “They made me the keeper of the vineyard, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” It is one of the difficult things for a servant of Christ called to travel through the world with the gospel message to give the time he should give in training his children in the fear of God, but where people do not have such a calling they should be especially concerned about their responsibility in the home. I think God must have some special place in heaven for preachers’ wives. They have had so much more to contend with than the average woman. If the children go wrong, folks wag their heads and say, “Queer kind of a mother.” Probably the trouble was that the father was not able to cooperate with her more, and the children may have stepped to one side. And yet how God honors preachers’ wives. Somebody said that preachers’ children are always the worst. I cannot boast of my own, though I do thank God for saving them all. But you will find that some of the greatest names on the pages of history are preachers’ children. In 2 Chronicles where the kings of Israel and Judah are given, when you read of a man being especially willful or especially good, you read, “His mother’s name was so and so.” Sad indeed when a child has an evil mother! Then you can scarcely expect much good from him.
The household, you see, might be thrown into hopeless confusion if husband and wife were to separate one from the other, but in other households such times of retirement may be arranged. And so the apostle does not mean that he is not inspired when he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment,” but he does mean that the Spirit of God allowed him to give them this permission but not to command them. It is nowhere commanded that husband and wife should for any time separate from each other.
And then Paul says, “I would that all men were even as I myself.” For the gospel’s sake he chose to remain unmarried, and in circumstances such as many were passing through, the single state was to be preferred, other things being equal.
Having once entered into the marriage relationship he says in verse 10: “Unto the married I command [now we have not merely permission but commandment], yet not I, but the Lord.” What does he mean by that? Simply this, he was just repeating something that the Lord has already said unto the married. He was reminding them of what the Lord has already said in Matthew 5:31-32: “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Those are the solemn words of the Lord Jesus. In the nineteenth chapter of the same gospel, he gives just one change which permits the innocent party in a divorce to marry again according to Scripture. There we read: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:5-6). I have heard people try to get around that by subterfuge and say, “I don’t believe the Lord joined us together; I think the Devil did it; and therefore, I think we are free to get a divorce and marry somebody else.”
God pronounced the words in the garden of Eden, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). It is He who joins people together in the marriage relationship, and once joined in that relationship they should never break it.
“They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matt. 19:7). In the law of Moses this was permitted. In a hard, rough age when men were often very uncouth and cruel, God commanded that instead of holding a wife who was disliked and hated as a kind of slave or chattel, she should be given a writing of divorce and permitted to go home to her people. But now under the dispensation of grace when men are born again and transformed by the Spirit of God, no such thing is tolerated. “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife [now observe],
except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (vv. 8-9). Notice, there is a sin which dissolves the marriage relationship and if one partner is guilty of that sin, he may be put away and the other party is free, and if married again, the new marriage is not called adultery. There are those who are so legal that they refuse to take note of that “except,” but the Son of God has put it there in order that the innocent party may not have the onus of immorality on him or her. There you have the New Testament standard given by the Lord Himself.
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.” But he immediately adds, “But and if she depart.” What is implied there? There may be circumstances where no self-respecting woman could continue in the marriage relationship with some man, there may be circumstances where a man is so absolutely brutal or so vile and filthy and perverted in his whole character, that no decent, good woman could live with him, and in that case it is evident from this that she is free to leave him but not to be divorced and remarried unless she has definite New Testament ground for it. “If she depart, let her remain unmarried.” Circumstances may make it necessary for her to leave, but if so, let her remain unmarried. “And let not the husband put away his wife.” If she is obliged thus to leave a brutal man, she can at least continue to remember him before God in prayer and it may be that through her prayers the day will come when he will be broken down by divine grace and saved. If that day comes, and he beseeches her now to return to him, she can go back to find him a new man, and make a home for him once more, but if she has already entered into another relationship, think of the pitiable condition she would be in.
“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” Is he not speaking by inspiration? Keep in mind the whole argument. “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord.” The Lord has already spoken in this matter. Then he says, “To the rest speak I, not the Lord.” The Lord has not already spoken, but Paul speaks now by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and he is laying down a divine principle in regard to a matter on which the Lord had not already legislated. “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.” This did not come up in the Lord’s time on earth for He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Now Paul is speaking to Gentiles, and it was a common thing for one member of the family to be converted and the others not. Think of a case where a man in Corinth has been saved but his wife is a devotee of the heathen cults and is indignant that he no longer burns incense to these idols, and yet she is willing to live with him. “Let him not put her away.” He is not to assume self-righteous ground and say, “I am a Christian and cannot acknowledge you as my wife any longer.”
In Israel if a Jew were married to a pagan, he had to put her away, she was unclean in the sight of God. But under grace if a pagan wife is pleased to dwell with her Christian husband, let him show her all due kindness and consideration and seek to be a blessing to her. And if it is the case of a woman who has been converted, we read, “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” If you turn to the last chapter of Ezra, you will find that in Israel many Jews had entered into alliances with women from among the heathen, and there were many children speaking half in the language of Ashdod and the other half in the language of Israel. When the husband is a Christian and the wife is not, the children will generally speak half in the language of heaven and half in the language of earth. It is a difficult thing to bring them up for God in a mixed home like that. He said, “You will have to put all these wives and children away as unclean.” But notice the difference in grace. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife.” He may be hard, he may be wicked, he may hate the very name of Jesus, but he has been brought outwardly into a new relationship with God through the conversion of his wife. There is now somebody in that home to pray, somebody who loves the Word of God, somebody to live the Christian life, and let the others see what it means to be regenerated. I may be addressing wives who are breaking their hearts over unsaved husbands. Will you not take comfort from this, “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife”? Or I may be addressing husbands who are grieved because the wives that they love are still out of Christ. You too may be comforted, for “the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.” Keep on praying, keep on bearing them up before God, believing that if He has saved you out of an unconverted family, it is because He wants the whole household for Himself. That is what is indicated when the pagan jailer cried, “What must I do to be saved?” and the answer came ringing and clear, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,
and thy house” (Acts 16:31). In other words, God is saying, “Jailer, I not only want you, I not only want to cleanse your heart, but I want to make your household a Christian one, a testimony to My grace right there in Philippi,” and so it came to pass. So keep on praying. And your children are sanctified because they have a father or a mother, as the case may be, to take them to God in prayer and to teach them the Word of God, and you can count on Him to bless that ministry to them by bringing them eventually to Christ.
But, next, we may suppose a case where the unsaved one will not remain. Very well, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart.” You cannot do anything about it. “A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” But then, you see, you live your own life in widowhood to the glory of the Lord Jesus. Do not look around for another mate. If the unbelieving depart, then you devote yourself to Christ and His glory and keep on praying for the wandering one, for “God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?” Even though he is gone, even though he has left the home, keep on praying for him, for how do you know when God may intervene and bring him back penitent and brokenhearted to try to make up for the willfulness of the past by living a kindly devoted life with you. Farther on we read, “How knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” She has gone because you love Jesus and she does not. Do not be too hard in your thoughts, pray and ask yourself, “Was there something in me that should have been different that turned her away? If I had a little more grace and Christlikeness, might she have remained?” Bear her up before God, and if the day comes that she is ready to return, receive her as God receives His erring ones when they come back to Him.
“But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” These are not just matters with which we may play fast and loose. If you are a Christian and a member of a Christian church, these are divine requirements concerning the marriage relationship ordained for all the churches.
Why is God so insistent about this? Because from the beginning it was His thought that the marriage relationship should set forth the union between Christ and His redeemed, and when people are married they take each other for life. Many of you remember when you stood before the minister and he said, “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Will you love, honor, and cherish her so long as you both shall live?” and you said, “I will.” Have you lived up to it? And you remember when he said to the woman, “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? Will you love, honor, and obey him so long as you both shall live?” and you answered, “I will.” Does your conscience tell you that you have been true to that vow? You entered into a relationship that day that pictures the relationship between the soul and the Savior. Away back in the Old Testament when Rebecca had become the affianced wife of Isaac, they thought she should not leave her home immediately and so decided to call her and see what she had to say about it. They put the question, “Wilt thou go with this man?” and without a moment’s hesitation she answered, “I will go,” and she went across the desert to be united to Isaac.
Unsaved one, my blessed Lord has sent me to you with a message of His love and kindness. He wants you to enter into an eternal union with Himself. Wilt thou go with this Man, the Man Christ Jesus?