The Table Of The Lord And The Table Of Demons
1 Corinthians 10:15-30
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? (vv. 15-30)
We have in this passage a very serious and solemn word regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper which has been maintained in the Christian church for the last nineteen hundred years. In the earlier part of the chapter we were warned against compromising with the world. Now Paul continues that warning, saying, “My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” In civilized lands we do not come in contact with idolatry in the sense that the apostle primarily means it here, but this is still a very live question in pagan lands, where it is found to be very necessary to separate the converts from absolutely everything of a heathenish or idolatrous character, because if there is any compromise, any fellowship with them, the tendency of all these things is to drag one back to the old levels. Here at home we are more concerned about the gay, godless world around us. We have heard the challenge of the Spirit of God, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17), and as wise men we will apply the principle of this passage to the conditions under which we live.
As Christians we are linked with the table of the Lord, let us see to it that we “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). We are told, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In these words he shows us that the Lord’s Supper, as we commonly call it, sets forth the very foundation principles of Christianity. It is a rallying center, as it were, where God’s people come together to openly confess their adherence to these great fundamental truths. Notice the order given: the cup first, the bread second. When our Lord instituted the Supper, and when we participate in it, thanksgiving for the bread is first, and then for the cup; but the apostle here mentions the cup first because it sets forth the precious poured-out blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and there can be no relationship with God for those who by nature and practice are lost sinners, until they have been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ. Every time the Communion feast is celebrated, the great fact is emphasized that it is the blood, the blood of Jesus alone, that cleanses from sin and gives access to the presence of God. In this we may see the reason for Satan’s antagonism against this ordinance. It suffers in two ways. On the one hand there are those that have added to it a great many unscriptural superstitious practices and have made it a strange and weird mystery, so that many Christians are almost afraid to approach the table of the Lord. On the other hand there are those who pretend to have a deeper spirituality and a greater Bible knowledge than ordinary Christians, and so put the Lord’s Supper to one side on the plea that we have no need of ordinances of any kind in the Christian, which is a spiritual, dispensation.
We need to remember that the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were given, not so much to be helpful to Christian people as such, though they are helpful to them, but to be a testimony to the world outside and to form as it were a line of demarcation between the church and the world. We have already seen how baptism does that. I trust the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart, I accept Him as my Savior, and by my baptism I am saying to the world, “I have identified myself with the Christ that you have rejected; henceforward I am
Dead to the world and all its toys,
Its idle pomp and fading joys;
Jesus, my glory be!
If baptism does not mean that to me, it is really nothing more than a mere empty form; but if I see that by my baptism I am confessing my identification with the rejected Christ, it becomes a sweet and precious ordinance and is a testimony to the world outside. The Lord’s Supper is also a testimony. Baptism speaks of my death with Christ; the Lord’s Supper speaks of Christ’s death for me as the only ground of approach to and fellowship with God. And so we read, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (11:26). The word translated “show” is exactly the same word which is used on many other occasions in the book of the Acts and in the Epistles for “preach.” “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do
proclaim] the Lord’s death till He come,” and so by participation in the Lord’s Supper today we are preaching to the world around the blessed fact that Christ has died and that His precious blood alone can cleanse from sin. Therefore the emphasis on the cup. First, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” That is the expression of fellowship which is based upon the blood of Christ. Therefore, you can readily see that no one has part nor lot in this ordinance, no one ought ever to participate in it, who does not put his or her trust in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I cannot understand how any one who denies the atoning efficacy of the blood of Jesus could even desire to take part in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and yet I am told that in places where Christ’s atoning death is scouted, in places where men ridicule the thought of salvation by His precious blood, the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is still observed in a formal way. It seems to me that is an insult to God, it is an insult to the blessed Savior whose death is commemorated in this service. Christ died for sinners, poured out His blood to redeem us to God, therefore from time to time we come together to remember Him in the drinking of the cup.
Then notice that the bread used in the Supper of the Lord has, if I may so say, a double significance. It speaks of the literal body of our Savior which was offered for us upon the cross, but there is another and wider sense in which it speaks of the mystical body of Christ to which all believers belong. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” It expresses our fellowship with the body of Christ. He said, “This is My body which is given for you.” That precious body of His came into being in a different way from any other body. It was the direct creation of the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary. Christ says, “A body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5). It was a human body, a body in every respect like ours excepting that there were in that body no sinful tendencies whatever, for our Lord Jesus Christ was, from the moment of His birth as He had been from all eternity, the Holy One of God.
In that prepared body He went to the cross and died for our sins; in fact, He assumed that body in order that He might die. Deity as such cannot die. God, no matter how much He loved us, could not die, but God becoming Man, God taking humanity into relationship with Deity could die as Christ has died on Calvary’s tree. And so, every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper we are again announcing the fact, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3). This service preaches, it preaches loudly, of salvation only through that vicarious Sacrifice offered upon the cross.
It is evident that the apostle by the Spirit of God attaches a wider meaning to the use of the bread in the Communion service. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” When he says, “we all” he means, of course, Christians. “We being many are one bread, and one body.” And again he means believers. He is not speaking of mankind in general. Let us never make the mistake of thinking that all men are included in the body of Christ, neither is it true that all believers in all ages have been included in the body of Christ. If I read my Bible correctly, the body of Christ came into existence on the day of Pentecost. There were believers in the world before that. There were one hundred and twenty of them gathered together that morning, but they were one hundred and twenty individuals, separate units, and the Holy Spirit came according to the Savior’s promise and in a moment baptized those one hundred and twenty individuals into one, and made of them one body of which the risen glorified Christ is the Head. That body exists in the world today, and includes every one who all through the years since has put his trust in Christ.
The body as presented in Ephesians takes in all saints, living and dead, from Pentecost to the Rapture. The body as presented in 1 Corinthians takes in all saints upon the earth at a given moment of time. They are all members of the body of Christ. The body of Christ on earth is in the place of responsibility; the body of Christ in heaven, of course, is in the place where praise and thanksgiving alone prevail, for there is no longer the need of prayer because saints have passed beyond the bounds of responsibility. But how blessed to realize when we take the Lord’s Supper that we are doing so as recognizing our unity with every fellow believer on the face of the earth. There is only one Lord’s table in all the world. Wherever bread and the fruit of the vine are placed on a table in commemoration of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the Lord’s table, and Christians are responsible to behave themselves accordingly. The apostle emphasizes that when he points out that there are only two other tables. One is either at the Lord’s table on earth, the table of Judaism, which is the fellowship of Israel, or the table of demons, which is the fellowship of idols.
“Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” He is referring to the peace offering. All in Israel had their title to participate when the peace offering was offered; that marked them out as a special communion. On the other hand, “The things that the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Idolatrous feasts and heathen festivals were all expressions of fellowship, just as the Lord’s table is an expression of fellowship, or as the peace offering in Israel was an expression of fellowship. But these idolatrous festivals express fellowship with demons whether people realize it or not. I wish that the members of the Laymen’s Appraisal Commission could get the meaning of this. They tell us that we make a great mistake in sending missionaries to heathen lands to draw a line of demarcation between heathenism and Christianity. They say we should go to them and get all the good we can out of their religions, and then share with them what we have. “The things that the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with [demons].” They may not realize it, but behind those idols, those images, there are demon powers controlling the hearts and minds of the people, and Christians are to be separated from everything like that.
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of [demons]: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of [demons].” And, let me say, you cannot be living for the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and be a partaker at the table of the Lord. You may sit in a church pew, and when the bread and wine are passed you may eat and drink of them, but you have not partaken of this fellowship, you cannot do it. You may in an outward sense take your place with Christians, but you know there is no real fellowship if you still belong to the world or love the world and its ways. It is the heart that is occupied with Christ that enjoys the sweetness and preciousness of fellowship at His table. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of [demons].” If we attempt to do so, it would be as though we would try to provoke the Lord to jealousy.
A young man is engaged to a beautiful young woman. She does not know that his ways are very careless, and by-and-by she learns that while he comes to visit her and treats her with kindness and affection, on other nights he is out with other young women and is just as affectionate and free with them. He comes back to her as though nothing has happened. Do you think she would accept him on the same good terms? No, she would say, “You cannot go on with others if you expect me to be devoted to you alone.” And so our Lord has called us to proclaim our wholehearted devotion to Himself and thus our separation from the world that has rejected our Savior. Looked at from this standpoint how important the frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper becomes.
The early Christians used to call this “The Sacrament.” Where did that term come from? The word
sacrament was used for the oath of allegiance which the soldiers of the Roman legion took to their emperor. The early Christians said, “In a similar way every time we gather at the table of the Lord we renew our allegiance to our blessed Lord, we are confessing our devotion to Him who in grace gave Himself for us.” That is what makes this so precious in His eyes as we thus remember Him.
And so the believer, remembering he is always linked with the Lord’s table, that his behavior is to be in accordance with the Communion, should be careful as to how far he participates in things that worldlings think nothing of. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” In other words, the believer is not put under rules and regulations, he is free and is at liberty to do the thing that he believes is right. Let him stop and ask the question in regard to a matter, “Will it edify, will it bless, will it help to make Christ more precious to me? Is there a possibility it may stumble any one else?” If it would not edify, it is something from which I must turn. I am not bound by these things, I am here to seek the blessing of others, not to do my own will.
The apostle says, as it were, “When you go into the market to buy, purchase what you will, take it home and eat it. If you are invited to a meal, feel perfectly free to go and eat what is placed before you. But if when you go to the market and are about to purchase your meat, the butcher should say, ‘This has been dedicated to idols,’ you say, ‘We do not want it.’ If you go out to dinner and your host should say, ‘We are eating this today as dedicated to such and such a god,’ you say, ‘I cannot eat it with you because I am a partaker at the table of the Lord.’” We are not to make difficulties unnecessarily, but to be very careful of the consciences of other people. He does not want the butcher to be able to say, “I sold that Christian meat dedicated to Apollo, or to some other god; he evidently recognizes that there are other gods.” He does not want that host to be able to say, “We thought him very narrow, we thought he recognized only Christ as God, but you see he partakes with us in the recognition of all our gods. He has so much more liberty than we thought.” No, the apostle says, “Flee all that kind of liberty, be out-and-out for Christ; do not let any one have occasion to speak ill of that which you feel perfectly free to do.”
“If I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” I am not to allow myself to partake of anything that would mislead those who are weak in the faith. Each believer is to act thus in good conscience toward God.
The conscience of a young person may be more active than some of the older folk think. Some of us get in the habit of speaking disparagingly of the young, and we would like to see them begin where we have left off. We have had to grow and they have to grow. Well, then, do not expect too much of young believers. Remember how you had to grow, you had to learn little by little what a poor, wretched thing this world is, and you had to learn how Christ could make up for everything else. They have to learn it too; give them credit for being just as honest as you were. They want to live for God, but they come to me and say, “What do you think of thus and so?” It is generally some kind of amusement. They ask, “Do you think that it is all right for a Christian?” And I always say, “My dear young brother, or my dear young sister, don’t you think that you are turning that around? Don’t ask the question, ‘Is there any harm in it?’ but, ‘Is there any profit in it? Will it really do me good? Would it be a blessing to me physically, spiritually, and in other ways? Will it help me to be a better testimony for Christ?’ If so, do not be afraid of it. But if conscience says, ‘It would not be profitable and it would not be a good testimony to others, it may mislead the weak, it will not lead me toward a deeper knowledge of Christ,’ then say, ‘I cannot, on the principle that the apostle lays down here, and I will avoid it.’” Let Christ be the one supreme Object of the devotion of your heart.
The Jew, The Gentile, And The Church Of God
1 Corinthians 10:31-33
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (vv. 31-33)
These words form a fitting conclusion to the portion which we considered in our last study. Paul has just emphasized the behavior that should characterize those who are linked with the table of the Lord. A table is the expression of fellowship, there is no place where we enjoy one another’s companionship so much as there. We sit down to partake of the good things provided, and there is a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and we find ourselves enjoying fellowship together.
In the spiritual sense there are three tables, representing three great fellowships in this world. First, there is the table of the Lord, and that represents Christian fellowship. As we have seen, the loaf and the cup upon that table speak of the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus, and we being many, all who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of our Savior, are members of one body and so partake together of that one communion feast. Then there is that which the apostle solemnly designates the table of demons. He is referring to heathen festivals, the kind of feasts held in those days, and that are still being held in pagan lands where devotees of idolatry gather together for fellowship in their abominably mysterious and unspeakably evil rites and ceremonies. Behind all this is the power of Satan. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God.” In the third place there is what might be called the table of Israel. “Are not they that eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (v. 18). That was called the table of the Lord, but when the Lord Jesus was forsaken these forms and ceremonies became empty. Yet today we recognize that there is that fellowship in the world, a fellowship which is neither Christian on the one hand nor pagan on the other, the fellowship of the house of Israel. And now the apostle shows us that as Christians we are to live in this world having due regard to these different fellowships, seeking to bless all in each of these various circles.
First, we have our individual responsibility to order our lives to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” How far-reaching is this commandment. I wonder whether we always bear it in mind as we should. I am quite certain that many of us as Christians would live very different lives if we kept this admonition in mind, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” That takes in my entire life. A great many people try to live their lives in sealed compartments; there is one compartment for the church, there is another for the family, another for business, and another for pleasure and recreation, and the same man may seem to be an altogether different person in each one of these. When he comes to church he is the essence of sanctimoniousness, he has a long face and reverent mien as he sits in his pew. You would not think an unholy thought ever passed through his mind. His eyes are either uplifted to heaven or closed as if in rapt meditation. But see that same man during the week when he goes out into the world in business. Now his eyes are never closed, they are never lifted heavenward, but he is looking about him furtively in a most anxious way, and he is always interested in how he may make a dollar honestly or dishonestly. In fact, he sometimes does not “make” the dollars at all, he simply gets them. There is a great deal of difference between making money and getting money. We
make money when we give a legitimate return for it; we
get money without giving a legitimate return for it, and even professing Christians often engage in various nefarious schemes that would not bear the test of the Word of God nor even a close application of the law of the land, in their efforts to get money. When they are questioned they say, “Well, you know what the Bible says, ‘Not slothful in business.’” That is a Scripture that has made a great impression upon many minds. And then again this same man goes to his home, and there he is an altogether different person. In business he is so affable, at church so reverent and so solemn, but in his home where he feels he is best known he is sometimes anything but affable and solemn, he shows a miserably bad temper and is a kind of boor and makes everybody around him uncomfortable. You have possibly heard the story of the wife who said of her husband who was a preacher, “When I see him in the pulpit, I think he never ought to come out of it, and when I see his behavior at home, I think he never ought to go into it.” There are many people like that, they live one way at home and altogether another outside. John Bunyan speaks of a man as a “devil at home and an angel abroad.”
These same people have another compartment in their lives, and that is the one that has to do with their leisure time, their pleasure. It is amazing to see the very person who looks so serious on a Sunday morning make his way into some ungodly movie, or some other unholy place of amusement, on a weeknight. I wonder how people can attempt to combine the two, how there can be any respect whatever for the things of God if they go on with the vile, wicked amusements that so many are running after today. We are not to live our lives in these air-tight compartments, but are to do everything to the glory of God. If we gather with the people of God in the church services, it is that He may be glorified; if we go out to take our place in the business world, it is that we may bring glory to His name. A straightforward, upright, godly-living Christian businessman may be a far greater testimony for God than a preacher. Men expect the preacher to unfold the Word of God, but it often comes to them as a wonderful surprise when they see a business man living out the Word of God, and it appeals to them, it gives them to know that what the preacher declares is the right thing.
The home is the place where perhaps above every other a man may show what a Christian really should be, as in the presence of his wife and his children he manifests the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and seeks to lead those who are young in the ways that be in Christ. And then we come to his recreation, for a Christian needs recreation, a Christian has a body and a mind to be thought of, and needs to get out in the open and give a certain amount of time to that which is not so serious. But in his recreation he will say to himself, “I am still to have this in view, that I am to live to the glory of God, and whatever I do I must be careful that I do not allow in myself anything, under the plea that it is simply pleasure or recreation, that would not have the approbation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We can easily make the test by saying, “If I do thus and so, would it disconcert me in the least if the Lord Jesus would suddenly appear, if He would look down upon me and say, ‘What are you doing?’”
During my unconverted days I had never been in a theater, but some seven years after my conversion I got into a low backslidden state and I said, “I am going to find out what the theater is like.” I felt like Moses before he killed that man, when he looked this way and that way to see if anybody was watching. I looked to the right and to the left, but I forgot to look up, for there was One watching me, the blessed Lord Jesus Himself. I paid for my ticket and went in and the miserable thing began. I had not been sitting there long until I seemed to hear a voice say, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” and I thought, “Where does that come from? Oh, yes, I remember, that is in the Bible.” It stirred me so I got up and ran from the place. If you cannot enjoy things with the Lord’s approbation, then you had better avoid them.
If you want to be the kind of Christian who grows in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, you must order your life according to His Word. We have a similar verse to this in the epistle to the Colossians, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him” (3:17). If you call yourself a Christian, the next time you think of going to some ungodly place of worldly amusement, get down on your knees first and say, “Blessed God, in the name of the Lord Jesus I am going down to the movie theater—or whatever it may be—to see some of those ungodly Hollywood divorcees cavorting on the stage, and I pray that it may be for my spiritual blessing and that I may be enabled to glorify God.” If you can pray that way without biting your tongue for being a hypocrite, you may go, but if you find you cannot pray like that, you had better give the place a wide berth.
I have heard Pastor D. H. Dolman tell that he was giving some addresses, before the world war, in a palace in Russia. He had been invited over from Germany by a Russian princess who was an earnest evangelical Christian. She had gathered together many of the old Russian nobility and it was to them Pastor Dolman was speaking. At one of his meetings he was talking of the Christian’s attitude toward the world. A Grand Duchess was there and she was a professed Christian. At the close of the meeting, being a strong-minded lady, she spoke up and said, “I do not at all agree with some things that Pastor Dolman has said today.”
He turned to her and said, “Your Imperial Highness, what have I said with which you disagree?”
“You said a Christian should not go to the theater, and I do not agree with you. I go to the theater, and I never go but what I get down on my knees first and say, ‘I am going to the theater today, and I want Thee to go with me and protect me from all evil,’ and He always does.”
“Your Imperial Highness, may I ask you a question? Where did you get the authority to decide what you were going to do or where you were to go, and then ask the Lord to go with you in it? Why do you not wait until the Lord says to you, ‘Grand Duchess, I am going to the theater tonight and I want you to come with Me,’ and then follow Him to the theater?”
She threw up her hands and said, “Pastor Dolman has spoiled the theater for me, for if I wait for the Lord to bid me go, that time will never come!”
That is true of a great many other worldly places. Give the Lord the opportunity to guide you and He will lead your steps in the right way. You may say, “Oh, well; whose business is it how I behave?” That is something like the question Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If you profess to be a Christian, there are a great many eyes fixed upon you, people are watching you to see what a Christian should be and they are judging your Master by your life, and if your life is worldly, mean, and ungodly, they decide that your Master is not the blessed, glorious, holy Christ that your lips tell them He is.
And so the apostle reminds us that there are three great classes of people who are looking on and he says, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” “Give none offence.” He does not mean that we are not to offend any one, for it is impossible to keep from offending somebody. For instance, if I preach the Lord Jesus Christ, I offend my unbelieving neighbor. If I try to live for God, I offend people who do not want to live for God. If I stand against the liquor traffic, I offend all those engaged in that abominable business and who are interested in it from the standpoint of revenue. It is impossible for a Christian to live as he should without offending somebody, but the old English word
an altogether different meaning. The admonition may be translated, “Give no occasion to stumble,” do not allow yourself in anything that would give another occasion to stumble because of your inconsistency.
“Neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” Here are the three classes into which the world is divided. The Jews of old, God’s covenant people, the people to whom He gave the revelation of His Word and who preserved that revelation for us down through the centuries, the people to whom the Savior came—in fact, He was one of them, “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Rom. 9:5). But that people reading their own Scriptures fulfilled the predictions of the prophets in condemning and rejecting that Savior, and because they condemned and rejected Him God has set them to one side. He went out to die, sadly saying to Israel, “Your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:38-39). And so because of their awful sin in rejecting their promised Messiah they are scattered everywhere among the Gentiles today. It may be that I am addressing sons or daughters of Israel. Let me assure such that every honest Christian heart goes out in tender sympathy toward Israel, with yearning and longing for their salvation. We realize that Israel having been set to one side, great blessing has come to the Gentiles, the nations outside to whom we belong, but we desire that God’s ancient people may share these blessings with us.
A Jewish lady once said to me, “If Jesus was the Messiah, the One predicted by our prophets, why is it that it is you Gentiles who seem to enjoy the blessings that Jesus brings while we are bereft of them?” I said, “My dear friend, the blessed Lord came and spread a table laden with all good things and said, ‘I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ and He invited the people of Israel to come and partake of these good things, but they turned away and did not come; they rejected the Savior and the blessings He brought. It was then He threw open wide the door to the Gentiles and said, ‘Come in, and take of the good things that Israel refused,’ and that is why we have come in; but we still recognize Israel as God’s ancient covenant people and know from the Word of God that the day is coming when their eyes will be opened and ‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn’ (Zech. 12:10). Meantime blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
We as Christians are to live our lives consistently, carefully, before the Jew, we are to have consideration, we are to remember that judicial blindness has come upon him and are to commend our Christ to Israel by the godly lives that we live. I am afraid that some Jews might well be excused for rejecting Christ Jesus because of the behavior of those who profess to belong to Christ. Shame that it ever should be so.
Perhaps there never was a day when it was more important that real Christians should confirm their love toward Israel than the present one. There seems to be a rising tide of anti-Semitism sweeping all over the civilized world. To follow the writings of some, one might think that the Jew is responsible for all our national and political ills. But we know who is responsible. Professing Christian people have turned away from the living God, have spurned His Word, have rejected His Son, have dishonored His Holy Spirit, and so God is giving the Christian nations of the world to feel that it is an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord their God. But Israel we know is blinded, and many of them have turned away from the God of their fathers, and instead of being a blessing to the world they are a curse. However, the great majority of them today are simple, kind, earnest people. How dare we try to blame on them the ills of the nations? We as Christians should show them that our hearts are toward them, and that we desire to have them share with us the blessings which we have found through the One who came from them, Jesus of Nazareth, the rightful King of the Jews.
But the apostle says, “Give no occasion to stumble, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles,” the Christless nations all about us. Most of us are Gentiles by birth and at one time we were outside the covenants of promise, we were aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and today the great part of the Gentile world still remains in its ignorance and darkness and sin although nineteen hundred years have elapsed since the Lord Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There are over a billion persons in this world today who are still without God and without hope. What a tremendous responsibility rests upon us as Christians to give the gospel to the Gentile world! You do not need to go across the sea to do that, you work with them day by day, these Gentiles are all about you. How careful we should be to give no occasion to stumble.
I have said to some, “Are you a Christian?” They have answered, “No.” “Wouldn’t you like to be?” I have asked. “Well, I have sometimes thought so, but I have seen so many hypocrites among people professing to be Christians that I have not much interest.” That is, of course, a very foolish excuse to make. It is as if I were to offer a man a ten-dollar bill and he said, “Thank you, but I have seen so many counterfeit bills I don’t like to touch it.” It would be a very foolish way of reasoning. I do not excuse any one for reasoning like that, for no one will talk that way in the day of judgment. When the Lord says, “Why didn’t you trust Me?” no one will dare to look up and say, “I would have, but I saw so many hypocrites among those professing to be Christians.” But on the other hand you and I are to be careful that there be no possibility of people getting a wrong conception of Christianity because our lives are not what they should be.
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” What is the church of God? This is a third company. There was a time when the church of God had no existence. You remember when our Lord Jesus was on earth after Peter made his confession, He said, “Upon this rock I
will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). There was no church of God existing on the earth in the four Gospels, but when you come to the book of the Acts after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, you find a new company. The apostle Paul, when speaking of what he was in his unconverted days, says, “I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.” And speaking to the Ephesian elders he says, “[Feed the flock of God], over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” and he calls it, “The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Writing to Timothy long years afterward, he tells him how he ought to behave himself in the house of God and adds, “Which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). What is the church of God? In the first place, it is not a building in which we meet. When we speak of a church in that sense, we use the word colloquially. The church is the company of people who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of His Son. At one time some of these people were Jews, in the beginning the great majority of them were Jews, and then God began to work in power among the Gentiles and the two together constituted the church of God, as it is written in Ephesians 3:6, “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” It was the Jew first and then the Gentile, and now all who believe form this wonderful company called the church of God. Let me ever remember as I walk down the street that I am a member of the church of God; as I meet with fellow Christians I am a member of the church of God; in my home life, in my business life, I am a member of the church of God. I cannot get out of the church, so I always have to behave as in church. Some people have one manner of behavior in what they call a church building and another outside. Parents will say to their children, “You must be good in church.” Let me say to every Christian, You and I must always “be good,” for we are always in church! We are members of the church of God, and we are to behave ourselves accordingly. “Giving none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”
Now see how the apostle says, as it were, “I am not asking you to do something that I do not ask myself to do.” He was not one to say, “You do as I say and not as I do.” “Even as I please all men in all things.” Of course he uses the word
please in the sense of seeking to profit all men. You cannot please them in the sense of doing that which every man wants you to do. If you did, you would not please God, but we are to behave ourselves properly toward others. “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Why is it so important that I should behave myself aright as a Christian? Because others who are not saved are watching me, and if I am not careful my behavior will perhaps be such that they will never be saved. They will say, “No, I have no use for God, for Christianity. I have no use for the Bible, for I have been watching that man who professes to love God, to love Christ, and to honor the Bible, and I do not see anything in his life to commend either God or Christ or the Bible.” We want to behave ourselves so that people looking at us will see Christ.
“That they may be saved.” Well, then, there are some people not saved. “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Scripture divides all mankind into two classes, the lost and the saved. Who are lost? Those who reject the gospel, those who live on in their sins and never come to Christ. Who are saved? Those who put their trust in Jesus, those who believe the gospel, those who come to Christ. My friend, are you lost or are you saved? Notice, it is “
are lost,” not merely in danger of being lost, but you are lost now if you have not trusted Christ. If you are lost, you may be saved, and you may be saved now.
The Veiled Woman
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. (vv. 1-16)
In our study of this epistle we have noticed that in the first six chapters the apostle brings before the Corinthian church certain matters that require correction and instruction. We can be very thankful that God providentially permitted so many things to come up in the early church in order that they might be corrected by apostolic authority during that first century of the Christian era, because similar things come up continually in the churches of God down through the years. The remarkable fact is that there are no circumstances that can arise, no sins that may cause trouble and distress, no irregularities that may appear, that are not already met and provided for right here in the epistles of the New Testament. Because these things were rife in the beginning of the church’s history they were met by the Holy Spirit through inspired man, and all we need to do today is to walk in obedience to the Word.
In those first six chapters the apostle deals with such questions as divisions among Christians, schisms of various kinds, immorality getting into the church of God, Christians going to law one with another, and other things that disturb the peace of the church.
Beginning with chapter 7 and going right on to the end of the epistle, Paul takes up certain things concerning which the church wrote for instruction and help. He says in the opening verse of chapter 7, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,” and he deals first with the question of marriage and divorce, the relationship of a Christian wife to a heathen husband or a Christian husband to a heathen wife. And then in chapters 8 and 9 he takes up the question of meats offered to idols and the Christian’s relationship to idol temples. He carries that on over into chapter 10 and shows how carefully the Christian ought to walk apart from everything that savors of idolatry.
And now in chapter 11 he touches on another problem that was disturbing the early church. In order to properly understand this portion we need to try to visualize conditions existing in those distant days. Corinth was a very loose, a very dissolute city. I question if any of the great cities in which the apostle preached the gospel were worse in character in this respect than the city of Corinth. We are rapidly getting into the same condition, for we are living in a day when everything like purity and chastity is looked upon as a joke, and people are utterly cynical and indifferent in regard to personal morality. The literature of our day reeks with filth and impurity, pictures are vile and lewd, theaters and movies, they tell me, are characterized by the same thing. Low ideas of morals and behavior are prevalent. Corinth was a city in which this could be seen at the very worst.
In that city looseness of every kind had to be faced by the early church, and the apostle was desirous that Christian women should not permit anything in their behavior that would allow the least cloud upon their purity. Loose women in those days went bareheaded, and were found in the streets unblushingly seeking those who might be companions with them in their sin and wickedness. Women who sought to live in chastity and purity were very particular never to appear in public unveiled. The unveiled woman was the careless woman, the immoral woman; the veiled woman was the careful wife or mother who was concerned about her character and her reputation. It would seem that after Christianity came to Corinth and converted women rejoiced in a liberty they had never known in the old pagan days, that some of them were inclined to be rather careless and indifferent as to the customs of the day and were saying perhaps, “We are all one in Christ; Paul himself has taught us that in the new creation there is neither male nor female, and so there is no reason now why Christian women should be subject to any of the conventionalities of the day. We can go unveiled and bareheaded in public places, and we need not be concerned about it.” The Corinthians wrote to Paul to get his judgment in this matter and this is his answer, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” In other words, I am about to give you instruction, instruction which I have a right to give as a divinely appointed apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I seek in all things to be subject to Christ. When He speaks, I endeavor to obey. Now, in what I am going to put before you I trust you will have the same spirit, that you will seek to follow me in this, to be led by me as I seek to be led by the Lord Jesus Christ. In all matters in which you have been obedient to the instructions formerly given, I praise you—”I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” He was the one who under God had founded the church at Corinth. He had given instruction ere leaving them as to how things should be carried on, and though now he had to touch on a rather delicate subject and one which some among them might resent, he first of all gave them credit for all their past obedience to the instruction they had received.
When he says, “And keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you,” he is not simply referring to the two Christian ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, though these would certainly be included. It is unthinkable that any subject Christian should ever set to one side these ordinances of the Christian church, but the word here has a much wider meaning than that. It refers to the instruction given to them regarding a great many things which have to do with the happy fellowship of saints. A little while ago these people had been idolaters, led by Satan, captive at his will; now they were redeemed and seeking to walk together in Christian fellowship. There must be subjection to the revealed will of God in order to have happy fellowship in the church.
He now takes up this question of woman’s place in nature and in the church, and I wish you would bear in mind that he is not speaking, as he does elsewhere, of woman’s place in the new creation. In the new creation, as already intimated, there are no distinctions. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). We are all one in Christ. We were all sinners alike, we have all been redeemed alike, we are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit alike, we have all been baptized into one body alike, and so all these distinctions vanish and we think of one another as members of Christ. But this does not alter the fact that we still have our place in nature and must maintain that place. The Christian is not to be careless as to his responsibilities. You will see how important this is if I illustrate in this way: According to the Word of God I am a heavenly citizen. Suppose I say, “Inasmuch as I am a heavenly citizen, I have no responsibilities to any country here on earth,” I will soon have to reckon with the income tax collector and other authorities. I will soon find out that though I may pride myself on being a citizen of heaven only and may say that I have no responsibilities here, the governors of this world are not satisfied to have it so and I shall have to learn by experience that I have responsibilities, I have earthly relationships that must be maintained. Just so, although there is neither male nor female in the new creation, yet we have our places to fill in nature and in the church.
“I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Somebody may say, “But is not Christ the head of every woman?” Yes, in the new creation Christ is the Head, and men and women are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, but this verse emphasizes the fact that it is not that of which he now speaks. In creation the Head of every man is Christ. When God made man He said, “Let us make man in our image,” and He had Christ in view, and when the first man came into the world, he came as the type of Him which was to come. And so the Head of every man is Christ, and man is to be subject to Christ and to represent Christ. But God did not leave man alone in the world; He said, “I will make him an helpmeet,” and so He created woman and said to the woman, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). He gave Eve to Adam, and she saw in Adam her head, and that relationship still exists. The head of woman is the man. I suspect there are some women in our modern day who would resent that, they would like to make the head of the man the woman. They resent the thought that God has given to woman anything that looks like a subject or inferior place. Let us put aside any thought of inferiority. The point is that it is the responsibility of the husband to care for and to protect the wife—”Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). The woman, when she agrees to take a man’s name, tacitly consents to what we have here. Some extremely modern women do refuse to take their husbands’ names. They say, “We will not subject ourselves in any way, as we would in taking a man’s name.” I would say to you, young women, if you have any thought of getting married, do not marry a man until you are willing to accept him as your head and take his name. Otherwise it is far better that you should remain single where you can run things to suit yourself!
“The head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Why does he bring Christ in here? I take it that someone might say, “But I refuse to take that place of subjection,” and he would say, “Remember, the Lord Jesus took that place. He humbled Himself, but it is His glory to be in that place.” When the Son of God became Man, He took the place of subjection which He will keep for all eternity—”The Head of Christ is God.”
And then he says, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” Notice how he meets their difficulty. If a man should stand up in public to pray or to preach (the word
prophesieth really means “preach”), wearing a covering on his head, he would be dishonoring his Head. Not that which is above his neck, but dishonoring his Head which is Christ. If I stood in this pulpit preaching with my hat on, every one of you would rightfully say, “Has he no respect for the Master whom he professes to serve?” I come into the presence of God and Christ and of the angels who are learning the wisdom of God in the church, and I remove my hat. For the same reason when a woman comes into the church, she keeps her hat on. “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” Who is her head? The man. She shows by uncovering her head that she wants to be like the man; she dishonors her head when she says, “I am not going to take any subject place, I have as much right to have my hat off in a public meeting as a man.” It does not say that she dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ. She may be quite unconscious of dishonoring any one, but I am giving what the Word of God says.
Concerning this and other matters it has well been said, “Some things are commanded because they are right, other things are right because they are commanded.” “Thou shalt not steal.” The commandment did not make it wrong to steal, it was always wrong to steal. “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” This is right because it is commanded. God has spoken and it is very often in little things like this that we test our state, whether there is self-will working or whether one is ready to be subject to the Word of God.
In that pagan city it would have been a great shame and disgrace for a woman to have appeared in public with her head uncovered, it would have marked her out as an immoral person. Of course we must recognize that customs change, but nevertheless the principle of this chapter abides. God is calling Christian women to modesty of deportment, that in this way they may be distinguished from worldly women. Here he says, “If the woman be not covered” (the word is really “veiled”), if she does not have a veil covering her hair, let her come out and be just like a man. Let her go to the barber shop and have her beautiful locks all shorn, as many do today. I do not understand why women want to be so manlike. I think a womanly woman is one of the sweetest and most beautiful creatures God ever made. I like a womanly woman and a manly man, but I wonder if any one really admires a manly woman or a womanly man! Let each one hold to his proper place in creation, but if not willing to cover her head, let the woman come out and be shorn and shaven.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.” God had said, “Let us make man in our image.” “But the woman is the glory of the man.” She is of so much finer character than the man, she is so superior to the man in many ways that he feels ashamed to see her getting out of her place and lowering herself by trying to take the place of a man. I wonder sometimes whether women have any idea how even worldly men express their disgust in the days in which we live at the manlike behavior of women in public places. I have been on railroad trains, in hotels or restaurants, and when women have, for instance, taken out a cigarette and begun to smoke, I have heard even unsaved men say, “What are we coming to? I am glad I did not have a mother like that.” Even unsaved men hate to see women copying men, and Christian women should be absolutely above reproach.
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.” The woman was taken from man. An old writer says, “When God created man, He made him of the dust of the ground; when He created woman, He took her from the man. He did not take her from his head in order that she might lord it over him; He did not take her from his feet that he might trample upon her, but He took her from his side, close to his heart, in order that she might be his companion and that he might love and care for her.” And so we read, “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Passing over the tenth verse for a moment and continuing with the eleventh, we read, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man [through creation], even so is the man also by the woman [through birth]; but all things of God.” So every one has his place to fill in creation and none can take the place of the other.
What about that tenth verse which comes in parenthetically? “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” This is admittedly a somewhat difficult verse. In the margin of our Bibles we have, “power—in sign that she is under the power or authority of her husband.” I think that marginal note was probably put in by some worthy brother in years gone by who may have had a little difficulty in maintaining his position as head of the house! I question that this is what it means. You see, if a woman in a city like Corinth appeared in a public place with uncovered head, it would at once expose her to insult. Therefore, when going shopping or visiting her friends or going to the Christian services, she put the veil, the covering, over her head and walked down the street unmolested. Her covering was her power. I spent the first six years of my Christian experience as an officer in the Salvation Army. In those days I often had occasion to see how that beautiful little blue bonnet was the power of the Salvation Army lassie. I remember going into a saloon on the Barbary Coast in San Francisco seeking the lost. Two of our Salvation Army lassies appeared, and I noticed that everybody treated them respectfully and nicely excepting one man, a half-drunken sailor. When the Salvation Army girl approached him with her paper, he turned toward her and made a movement as though he would have kissed her, and in a moment as she drew back five of those ungodly men sprang to their feet, knocked him down, thrashed him within an inch of his life, and then threw him out into the gutter for the police. Her bonnet was her power on her head. There were lots of other girls there, God help them, that nobody would have fought for or protected. There they were with their brazen faces and uncovered heads, but this little lassie’s power was her bonnet, and so the apostle is saying, “Women, you are not belittling yourselves, you are not degrading yourselves when you show proper respect by appearing in public places with your heads covered. You are simply availing yourself of that which is your protection against insult.”
But what does the expression, “Because of the angels” mean? It is a little difficult to know, after nineteen centuries, just what was in the mind of the apostle. Did he mean, as many think, that whenever the Christian company are gathered together, God’s holy angels in heaven are looking down with delight upon the scene, and that they note everything that savors of subjection and obedience to the Word of God, note it with approval, but also observe with disapproval everything that savors of self-will and insubjection? We are told that angels are learning the wisdom of God in us, that is, in the church, and so the apostle may be saying, “Let the angel hosts see in Christian women a reverence, a modesty, and a respect for holy things which is not found in the women of the world.” If that is the meaning, it is very beautiful. We read of one class of those holy angels called the seraphim. Every one had six wings, “with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” Angels cover their faces in the presence of God and the angels looking down see the covered women sitting in reverence and modesty in the presence of God, and approve. That may be the meaning.
William Thomson in his volume,
The Land and the Book, points out that ever since the days of the apostle John the word
angel has been used for a minister in the church, and in some eastern churches the ministers are still called the angels of the churches. In those oriental lands even until very recent times the women and men were segregated as they gathered together that there might be nothing to disturb the equanimity of the men. But the “angel” stood on a platform and saw both groups, and Dr. Thomson points out that practically none of these angels had ever looked upon the uncovered face of a woman except his mother or sister or some other near relative, and he says that no one who has not seen for himself conditions under which they work can understand why the apostle should tell Christian women that they should keep their faces veiled because of the angels or ministers. He would be so disconcerted by looking into the unveiled faces of so many women that he might get his mind off from his message! This is at least most suggestive.
“Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?” Should she not take that reverent attitude? It is perfectly right for me to pray with my head uncovered, but a woman is to cover her head as a sign of reverent subjection.
And now he goes back to nature and says, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? but if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” Somebody says, “That settles the question. Her hair is her covering.” But the apostle says that if she is not veiled she is to let her hair be shorn. She has that natural covering which distinguishes her from man and over that she puts a veil. Why? Because her hair is her glory. Is not that most striking? In the presence of God she covers her chief beauty in order that no mind may be turned from Christ to her beautiful hair. It is precious to think of Mary of Bethany and of the poor woman in Luke 7 who washed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with their hair. They cast their glory at His feet.
In closing he says, “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God”—if people are going to make a fuss about a matter of this kind, all I have to say is we have no such custom. If women will persist in being disorderly in this way, you cannot discipline them, you cannot put them out of the church. I have laid down God’s Word, now let women settle it themselves as to how far they will subject themselves to the Word of the living God.
What is the real importance of this? It is the test of whether our wills are subject to God or whether we are going to be subject to the fashions and order of the day in which we live. The Christian is one who has forsaken the world for Christ’s sake, has turned his back on the fashion of this world that passeth away in order that he may subject himself to Another, even the Lord from heaven, and I do beg of you, my brother and sister, remember the word, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” You settle it with God as to just how far a passage like this, having to do with customs of long ago, still has authority over your conscience at the present time, but do not go beyond conscience. Seek to be obedient in all things to the Word of the living God, for this is the path of blessing.
The Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:17-26
Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. (vv. 17-26)
We have here perhaps the fullest instruction concerning the correct observance of the Lord’s Supper that is given us in Scripture. It is very evident that it was intended to occupy a very large place in the hearts and minds of Christians during the dispensation in which our blessed Lord is absent in body, sitting on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. It was intended to call Him very vividly to mind in order that His people might be so occupied with Him that, as they went forth afterward in service, Christ Himself might be the joy of their hearts. Apparently at a very early day Christians began to misunderstand the Lord’s Supper.
It is rather a sad commentary upon our fallen human nature that everything God has given us has been abused by man. No physical appetites that He has given have not been abused, and there are very few privileges we have that have not often been misused. Under law, God gave Israel the Sabbath, and you would think that men would have recognized in that a part of His gracious provision for the comfort of His creatures when He said, “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God” (Exod. 20:9-10). But the Sabbath became a loathing to many people because they connected with it all kinds of laws and prohibitions which God Himself had not put upon it, so that our Lord Jesus had to reprove the men of His day by saying, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). And so it is with other observances in Old Testament times.
The same is true in connection with the two ordinances of the Christian church, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. They were designed to continue in the church until the end of the present age, until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him. But people either go to the extreme of making these ordinances saving sacraments or are inclined to become very careless about them. The fact is that neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper has anything to do with the salvation of our souls, except that they picture the way in which we are saved—through the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet they are of great importance because they help to draw our hearts out to Him and to give us a more vivid realization of our identification with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
In the early church the Lord’s Supper was observed very frequently; for a time at least it was observed every day. In the early chapters of Acts it is set forth that they daily participated in the breaking of bread. Afterward it was observed on the first day of the week, as Acts 20:7 would seem to show. I am sure that the oftener we gather together “to show the Lord’s death until he come,” the greater blessing comes to us and the greater glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet in the early church they fell into ways in which this ordinance was abused. The apostle, for instance, writing here says he cannot praise them for the way they attempted to celebrate the Lord’s Supper—”I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.” It is possible then even to assemble to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and go away not benefited but rather harmed. How was it that they were celebrating it for the worse rather than for the better? In the first place there was a spirit of faction working among them. Instead of recognizing that the Lord’s Supper speaks of the unity of the whole church of God, and that all alike participate in that one loaf and cup which set forth the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Corinthians were grouping together, in one place, it is true, but under various heads. Some said, as it were, “I am of Paul, the teacher; I am of Apollos, the preacher; I am of Cephas, the exhorter,” and some said, “We do not recognize these gifts at all, we are only of Christ.” It is just as bad to make Christ’s name the head of a party as any other name. Christ is the Head of all believers and not merely of some little group. “When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved [of yourselves] may be made manifest among you.” You are making a great deal of leaders instead of being taken up with Jesus Christ.
Then too they were linking the
agape, the love feast of which Jude speaks, with the Lord’s Supper. Many of these early Christians were slaves and could not get away from their duties very often. Wlien they came together, they evidently put in just as many hours as they could, and so brought their food with them and between gatherings they would spread it out and partake together. They fell into the habit of linking the Lord’s Supper with this fellowship. Some had a great deal to partake of while others had nothing; some drank even to inebriation, and some were left without enough for their needs. “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. WTiat? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?” The rich spread feasts while the poor were left without anything, and so he says, “It is far better to do your eating at home.” He is not insisting that it is wrong for Christians to come together for love-feasts, for Jude speaks of these, but if it is a question of separating believer from believer, it is far better to eat at home. “What shall I say to you?” he asks; “shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.”
Having reproved them for their misbehavior at the Table, he lays down clearly the revelation that the risen Christ gave him from heaven concerning the proper observance of this service. First, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.” Paul never knew the Lord here on earth, he was not with the Twelve in the upper room when Jesus instituted this ordinance; therefore, he must have received this as a direct revelation from heaven. That is very significant, for there must be something extremely precious to our risen Savior about the frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper if He, the glorified One, gave to His apostle a special declaration from the glory regarding it. And this is what He told him: “That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.” Why does the apostle slip in the expression, “In which he was betrayed,” if not for us to realize that the Lord’s Supper was meant to appeal to the hearts of His people and so to remind them that in that very night when our blessed Savior was to know to the fullest the untrustworthiness, the wickedness, the treachery, the perfidy of the human heart, He gave this feast in order that His people might have before them the continual expression of His loving heart in giving Himself for them.
There is something very tender here. “The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.” Judas evidently was not present when He did this. There is a question as to that, but if you follow carefully through the accounts in the different Gospels, I think you will see that Judas was present at the Passover Feast, but when that was concluded, the Savior said, “That thou doest, do quickly…[And] he…went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:27, 30). Jesus had said before, “The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21). But Judas went out, and in his absence the Savior gave this memorial feast to His own. That is very suggestive, for it is only for those who have been redeemed by His precious blood that the Lord’s Supper is given. It is not for the unsaved, it is not for those who are hoping to be saved; it is for those who are in the joy of accomplished redemption, who know Christ as Savior. To them the Lord spake when He took that bread and gave thanks and said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
Some tell us that the Lord meant that the bread and the wine are changed into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ when we give thanks to God for it. Others say this is not true, but that when you receive the bread in some special sense you are actually receiving the body of Christ. I do not think it necessary to go into these various views, for the Lord sat at that table in His complete human body and did not divide that among the disciples. When He took the loaf and said, “This is my body,” His own hands held that loaf, so it seems to me the simple and clear meaning is that it in the bread on the Lord’s table we have set forth in picture the precious, holy body of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it certainly is true that as we receive that bread with honest sincere hearts, with minds occupied with Christ, we do receive our blessed Lord in faith in a sense that is not true at other times. Thus far we are willing to go with the sacramentalists. It is a memorial, and it is one that makes Christ very real to us and gives a very definite sense of His presence.
A member of a great church in Christendom said to me at one time, “We believe in the real presence of the Savior in the sacrament, and you believe in His real absence.” “Oh, no,” I said, “you are mistaken. We simply do not believe that the bread and the wine are actually changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, but we do believe in the real presence in Spirit of our blessed Lord, for He has said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’” (Matt. 18:20). And there is no time when Christ’s presence is so definitely realized and so distinctly felt as when remembering Him in the breaking of bread. He said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper is a continual reminder of the vicarious character of His death, and that is one reason why our blessed Lord is so desirous that it should be celebrated frequently.
Then we read, “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” On every table where there stands a glass of wine (I do not speak now of whether it be fermented or unfermented), the fruit of the vine, partaken of by the people of God, it is a standing testimony to the fact that redemption is alone through His precious atoning blood. If people deny the vicarious character of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, I cannot understand how with consistency they can participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper for, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do [proclaim] (the word translated ‘show,’ is elsewhere in the New Testament translated ‘preach’) the Lord’s death till he come.” Wherever Christians eat this bread and drink this cup, participating in the Lord’s Supper, they are preaching a sermon. By their very actions they are declaring that His death was not merely that of a martyr for righteousness’ sake, but that it was death as a sacrifice, that He died for sinners, that He shed His blood for sinners.
A dear Japanese man who attended some of our meetings in Sacramento, California, was troubled about his soul, but it seemed impossible to bring him to Christ because of his love for money. He would say, “If I accept this Jesus as my Savior, I do not see how I can make money.”
So we told him he would have to make the choice of being rich on earth and poor in eternity, or poor on earth and rich in eternity. When I use the pronoun “we,” I refer to a Japanese evangelist who was associated with me at the time, and through whom I met this man. A year went by, I returned to the city of Sacramento for meetings, and one night was preaching the gospel on the street corner. In the audience I saw this little Japanese man. There was an expression of concern on his face that stirred my heart. At the close of the meeting he stepped up and shook my hand and said, “I so glad to see you again.”
I said, “And so am I glad to see you. Have you accepted Christ as your Savior yet?”
Tears filled his eyes and he said, “No, I fight against Him. I cannot give up. If I accept Him, I cannot make money. Do you have some meetings here where you are speaking?”
I said, “Yes,” and told him where the meetings were being held.
He said, “Do you have a meeting on Sunday where you eat the bread and drink the wine showing how Jesus died?”
I said, “Yes, next Sunday morning.”
“I come,” he said.
So on the Sunday morning we had gathered together to participate in the Lord’s Supper, and as the meeting commenced this Japanese man came in and sat close up in the front. I was praying that God might speak to him, and as the meeting went on it was evident that he was greatly perturbed. Finally the people of God partook of the bread and the fruit of the vine, and this heathen Japanese sat and looked on. Just as the elements were replaced on the table, he rose and said, “I like to pray.”
I thought, “My! I wish I had told him that he would not be expected to take part in the meeting!”
But he prayed like this: “O God, I all broke up. For one whole year I fight You. I fight You hard. Your Spirit break me all to pieces. O God, today I see Your people eating the bread, drinking the wine, tell how Jesus died for sinners like me. O God, You love me so You give Your Son to die for me. I cannot fight You any more. I give up, I take Him as my Savior.”
It did not spoil our meeting at all to have him take part with such a prayer. We realized that this simple ordinance had preached to him for, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do
[preach] the Lord’s death till he come.” At the close of the meeting we gathered about him to rejoice with him, and then he turned to me and said, “Jesus say before He go away, when you believe Him, you bury in water, show old life gone, new life begin. I like bury.”
“You want to be baptized?” I asked. “I will see you during the week and perhaps we can do it next Sunday.”
Referring to the Japanese evangelist, he said, “A year ago he tell me Jesus Christ coming back again, so?”
“Yes,” I said, “that is true.”
“He coming soon?”
“He not come before next Sunday?”
“Well, I couldn’t say, He might come before then.”
“Then I no like to wait till next Sunday, I like show I no fight any more, I like be buried today.”
I said, “Forgive me for trying to put it off; we will go down to the river this afternoon.”
And so in the afternoon he came dressed in his best with the Japanese mayor, as we called the richest man in the Japanese settlement, and forty other Japanese merchants behind him. We preached the Word and he gave his testimony, and then he was buried in the waters of baptism.
The Lord’s Supper, if given the place our Savior intended it to have, will constantly preach to the world, and will say more than any words of ours can say: “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do
[preach] the Lord’s death till he come.”
You may have known the Lord Jesus Christ for years, but I wonder whether this ordinance is precious to you. I am afraid to some it is just a legal thing, a feeling that one ought to come and take the Lord’s Supper because He has commanded it. Let me suggest that it is not so much a command as a request. When our Savior says, “This do in remembrance of me,” He does not mean, “You must do this,” but rather, “I would like to have you do this.” It is as though a loved one were dying and before slipping away should call the children around the bed and handing each one of them a photograph would say, “Here are pictures of myself; I am going to leave you, you won’t see me again for a little while, but I would like each of you to take one of these pictures. I wish you would cherish it and from time to time take it out and look at it, and as you do, remember me.” Would it be a task to do that in response to the request of a loving mother or a precious father or possibly a darling child? Surely not. If you loved that one, you would be delighted again and again to take down that picture and as you looked at it, you would say, “There is the one who loved me and is now gone from me, but I am so glad in this way I can call my dear one afresh to mind.” That is the place the Lord’s Supper has in the church of God. There is nothing legal about it, you do not have to participate in the Lord’s Supper if you do not want to. You can go to heaven by trusting the Savior even if you have never once partaken of the cup that speaks of His suffering and death, but if your heart is filled with love for Him, you will be glad from time to time to gather with His people to remember Him. If you are unsaved, you may have thought of the Lord’s Supper as a means whereby you might obtain salvation. Perhaps you have come to the Communion Table and hoped that thereby you might obtain the evidence that your sins were forgiven. My dear friend, the message of the Lord’s Supper is this, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and…was buried, and…rose again” (1 Cor. 15:3). What you need is not an ordinance, for the sacrament cannot save you, but you need the blessed Savior Himself; you need to trust the One whose death is pictured in the Lord’s Supper, the Savior who gave Himself for you.
The Importance Of Self-Judgment
1 Corinthians 11:27-34
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. (vv. 27-34)
We have in the two Christian ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, two witnesses to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, His vicarious atoning death, which our Lord has set in His church to be observed until the end of the age, until He shall return. In these ordinances we have constant testimony to the death that our Savior died on Calvary. Baptism is the initiatory ordinance of the Christian faith; the Lord’s Supper is to be observed frequently throughout the believer’s life until he shall see his Savior face to face.
We come now to consider the portion beginning with verse 27 which deals with the state and condition of believers as they approach the Table of the Lord. “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Very solemn words these. They should surely put a check upon the carelessness and the levity of our hearts. How often some of us have been guilty of approaching the Table of the Lord in a very careless spirit, and perhaps with considerable levity, forgetting that we have here something which in the eyes of God is most sacred, most holy.
What does it mean to eat the bread and to drink the cup unworthily? A misapprehension of this term,
“unworthily, “has kept some conscientious people from ever approaching the Table. They reason like this, “I never can be sure that I am worthy. I know my Savior is worthy, that all holiness, all purity, all goodness are His, but I am so conscious of the impurities that surge up from my own evil heart, I am so conscious of my frequent failure in thought, word, and deed, that if it is a question of worthiness I dare not come to the Table of the Lord, I dare not receive those sacred elements, for I am very far from being worthy.” Let me say to you, my conscientious friend, that the word here is not “unworthy,” but is rather “unworthily,” referring not to the person, but to the state of mind in which one comes to the Table of the Lord. Of course in ourselves we are altogether unworthy, but we have found acceptance in the worthy One, and in Christ every believer is worthy to approach the Table of the Lord. I remember reading of an aged saint oppressed by a sense of his unworthiness. He bowed weeping as the sacred emblems were going around and refused to touch the bread. When the deacon offered it, he sobbed, “I am too great a sinner to receive that which is so holy,” and the aged Highland minister exclaimed, “Take it, mon, take it; it is for sinners and for none else that Jesus died.” Oh, yes, my very acknowledgment of my sinnership is that which gives me the right to come because, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). If I truly feel my sinfulness, confess it, and put my trust in the Savior of sinners, then in Him I find my worthiness.
But here it is not an adjective, it is an adverb, “unworthily.” It refers, you see, to manner or behavior. What is the meaning? If I come to the Table of the Lord in a light, frivolous, careless way; if, as the bread and the wine are being prayed over, I am thinking of a thousand and one other things, perhaps occupied with the business of the week, or recalling the latest foolish story I have heard; if when the bread and the cup are actually passed to me, I am not thinking of the Savior of whom they speak, but perfunctorily participating in it as a religious ordinance, I am taking the loaf and the cup unworthily. Or perhaps I come altogether unprepared, I have spent no time with God in the morning thinking of the solemnity of all this, I rush into His presence bringing strange fire, as it were, and I fail to recognize that in the loaf and the cup we have set forth the precious body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. To partake in such a spirit is to do so unworthily. “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” It is as though I crucify Him afresh and put Him to an open shame in forgetting that it was my sins that caused His death upon the cross. I act as though He had never yet died. I fail to realize what these symbols set forth.
Then am I to remain away from the Table? Not if I am a Christian. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” Observe, it does not say, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him refrain from participating,” but, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.” No matter what he sees in himself of that which is evil and unholy, if he judges himself before God and confesses his own unholiness, he is in a state of soul where he is free to participate in this sacred service. In other words, he is to come into the presence of God with self-judgment. He who does not do this “eateth and drinketh damnation [or judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” He only exposes himself the more to divine judgment because of his frivolous behavior.
You say, “In what sense does he fail to discern the Lord’s body?” Let me illustrate in this way. How frequently we have gone to a funeral service and have seen before us the casket containing all that was mortal of some loved one. What a solemn time it was. What would you think of some light, flippant person coming into such a service and perhaps hardly taking his seat before he leans over to the person next to him and says, “By the way, I heard a most amusing story; let me tell it to you while we wait for the minister to begin.” Every respectable person would look upon him with indignation and say, “What is the matter with the foolish man? Does he fail to discern the body of our dear one lying there?” The bread and wine upon the Table of the Lord set forth the precious body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and any one coming into such a scene carelessly, failing to discern the Lord’s body, does not recognize that this is a memorial of death, this is a remembrance of the One who died for our sins.
Because these Corinthians had allowed themselves to become very careless in this matter the apostle says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” Just what does he mean? What does the word
sleep mean? If you go through the Epistles of Paul carefully, you will see that it is a term used over and over again for the death of the believer. It is not the sleep of the soul, but the sleep of the body. When the believer dies, the spirit is absent from the body and present with the Lord. Let me direct your attention to that lovely word in the third chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians where it says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named.” Notice this, “the whole family.” By this he means all of God’s children, the entire redeemed family. And where does he locate the family? Part of it in heaven and part on earth. If Saint Paul were a “soul sleeper,” he would have said, “Of whom the whole family in the grave and on earth is named.” But he did not think of our departed loved ones in Christ as being in the grave, but in heaven. Elsewhere in Scripture we find that death for the believer is “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better,” and yet the word “sleep” is used many times, but only in reference to the body. The tired, weary bodies of believers are put to sleep to rest until awakened on the resurrection morning.
It is a blessed thing to sleep in Christ, and yet there is such a thing as a believer being put to sleep before his due time. We read, “The ungodly shall not live out half their days,” and it is quite true that even godly persons may so fail, so fall into sin, that God may not permit them to live on to a green old age, but may take them home in youth or in middle life. I would not say that when a young believer dies it is always an act of discipline, for many a young saint has been taken away from the evil to come, in grace rather than in judgment. Some ripen earlier than others, some of us develop so slowly it will take fifty or sixty or seventy years to bring us to spiritual maturity, but there are others like Borden of Yale who ripen so young that the Lord can say, “I am going to pluck that fruit and take it home to heaven, it is ready early.” On the other hand, very frequently early death is an evidence of the Lord’s discipline. That is what Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “You have been dishonoring me at the Table of the Lord, approaching it in a light frivolous manner; you have been given to levity and have misused this sacred ordinance and mingled it with a feast for yourselves. Therefore, many of you are weak, many of you are sickly, and many of you sleep.” Sickness is one way by which the Lord often chastens His people. Chastening is not necessarily punishment, but it is educational, and the Lord uses sickness in order to bring us to realize our littleness, our insufficiency, and the importance of living only for eternity. Many a young or middle-aged Christian has gone on perhaps for years without much recognition of the Lord’s authority over his life, and then sickness has come, and for long weary weeks or months and sometimes years that dear one has been laid aside. At first very restlessly he has asked, “O God, why do I have to suffer? Why cannot I go out to enjoy things with others?” But little by little there comes a change, and by-and-by there is a chastened spirit, and the sick one says, “Lord, perhaps Thou hast lessons to teach me which I would not learn while in health and strength; make me a ready pupil in Thy school,” and God uses the chastening to lead that believer into deeper fellowship with Himself. It is a very serious thing to be under the hand of God in chastening. I am afraid that some of us are more or less under it almost all our days because we are so slow to learn our lessons, so self-willed; it takes us so long to get to the place where we judge ourselves in the presence of God so that His hand may be lifted.
“If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” This is a call to self-judgment. But how am I to judge myself? By bringing my inmost thoughts, my ways, my outward behavior into the light of the Word of God and asking myself, “Are these thoughts of mine, is this behavior of mine, in accordance with what is here written?” And if I find that there is something in which I am continuing, certain ambitions I am cherishing that are contrary to the Word, if I find that this Word has something to say to me personally about my thoughts and ways, then I am to turn to God and confess my failure, acknowledge my sin, and seek by His grace to walk in obedience to His Word. And as I thus judge myself I come out from under the place of discipline, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
In regard to this matter of self-judgment, God’s Word should always be the standard of judgment. He says something in His Word and I say, “Oh, yes, I see it there on the page of the Bible, but certainly it has no application to me.” Yet it is God’s direct Word to my soul, and I am putting away a good conscience, and so I need not expect to hear Him speak to me again until I am ready to listen to Him in this matter. Why should He reveal other things to me when I refuse to bow to Him in this? When you read the Bible, do you read it to become acquainted with it as literature, to become familiar with its history, its philosophy, to derive help from its comforting passages, or do you read it in order that you may obey it, make it the Man of your Counsel?
Let me give you a word of personal testimony. For the first six years of my Christian life I was largely dependent upon what I called the Spirit’s guidance. I knew very little of the guidance of the Word. When perplexed, I would say, “I will ask the Lord what His will is,” and as I felt impressed I would act. But I found as I read my Bible that I was often going contrary to the written Word. I shall never forget the night I knelt before God, and opened my Bible to a passage of Scripture on the subject of baptism, which I had been avoiding for years. I would say, “I am going to ask the Lord about it,” and then I thought I had an inward feeling that baptism of the Holy Spirit was all I needed, and every time I read a Scripture and saw baptism before me I dodged it. I had a lot of dodging to do, for there were a great many Scriptures that had to do with that subject, but finally before the open Word I said, “Blessed God, by Thy grace from today on I will never try to dodge one thing that is written in Thy Word for Thy people in this age. If Thou wilt make it clear to me, by Thy grace I will walk in obedience to it,” and from that time I had blessing I had never experienced before. Two weeks after that I went down to the seaside and was buried with Him in baptism, and a week later I sat at the Table of the Lord. I had said, “All you need is to feed mentally upon the body and blood of Christ, you do not need the outward symbols.” One by one many things came before me that I had tried to make myself believe were all right, but I found they were contrary to His Word. I have sought conscientiously now for many years to yield obedience when God speaks. I do not always understand why He tells me to do certain things, but it is not necessary for me to understand, the thing for me is to obey, to do what God has asked me to do, and it is as we obey the Word that we are kept clean. “Christ…loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). And so, as we judge ourselves, as we obey the Word and confess our failures, we come out from under the judgment of the Lord.
“But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” When we are judged, when we become the objects of divine discipline, when God has to deal with us because we will not judge ourselves, it is in order that we may not be condemned with the world. The unsaved man is going to be dealt with in the day of judgment, the child of God is judged by the Father in this life. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). Every bit of pleasure and enjoyment that the worldling is going to know he has in this life. Sometimes people say, “I do not understand it, I am a Christian, and yet it seems to me I have nothing but trouble. I look at the people of the world and they seem to take things so easily.” You do not need to be surprised at that, the worldling gets all his heaven right here.
The Christian gets all the sorrow, all the trouble, all the tears he will ever have right here. When he is chastened of the Lord, and comes under the rod and is beaten for his naughtiness, when God has to deal with him here, that is in order that he “should not be condemned with the world.” And when he gets to heaven there will be no more punishment. Yonder, “God shall wipe away all tears from their
and they will be “forever with the Lord.” But until we get home, let us remember we are here to glorify our Lord. That is the only thing worth living for, there is nothing else that matters, just to live for Jesus, to glorify Him. We have only a little while to do it and I do not want any thought of ease or pleasure or having a good time in this world to keep me from being one whom God can use until called to Himself.
The apostle closes this portion by saying, “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” That is very sweet, for the Lord’s Supper is a matter of fellowship, that is why we observe it together, that is why we read, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). And so we tarry and together show the Lord’s death until He comes. This is not something to gratify appetite. “If any man hunger, let him eat at home.” Just a morsel of bread, just a sip of wine will do. It is only a reminder. We are to come together, not to condemnation but in a serious manner, so truly occupied with Christ that we will have the Lord’s approval.
We come now to the last words of the chapter. I like to think of them as not merely the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians but as the words of our blessed Master to the whole church. “And the rest will I set in order when I come.” There is so much that we can never regulate, so much that will never be right down here, so many things that are out of gear in our individual lives, in our families, and in the church of God. We may try to set them in order, but we readily blunder. He says, “Walk in obedience to My Word, and the rest will I set in order when I come. I will be back soon, and what a day it will be!”
I have searched this old Book for a great many years and have never found in it one Scripture that would intimate that I must put one moment between this present hour and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He may come today, but I rejoice to know that all who have put their trust in Him are ready to meet Him when He returns.