1 Corinthians 4:4
“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.”
THERE are four courts of trial.
First: Man’s judgment—It is significantly spoken of as man’s “day.” Our conduct is narrowly scrutinized and weighed by many eyes which we know not of, but which are fixed on every act and word—the eyes of our neighbours, associates, fellow-work people, servants. They are ever reasoning about us, comparing our lives with our professions, partly with the view of excusing themselves, if there is any gross inconsistency. But, after all, their verdict need not greatly move us. It is only for a day.
Second: The judgment of fellow-Christians—We are perpetually being summoned before the court of the church circle to which we belong; not always because we are inconsistent with our professions, but whenever we overstep the pace at which the majority is slowly moving. To be too zealous, too eager, too earnest, too particular, will, in some Christian communities, expose us to a great deal of adverse criticism. But we have not to look right and left to get the sentence of our fellow-believers when we are clearly prompted by the Spirit of God.
Third: The judgment of conscience—“I judge not mine own self.” We are all apt to arraign ourselves at our own bar, and pass verdicts which are altogether favourable, because we compare ourselves with characters and standards inferior to ourselves. It is a great mistake to judge yourself, for even if you score a favourable verdict—if you know nothing against yourself—it is liable to be reversed by the decisions of the Supreme Court.
Fourth: The Lord’s judgment—The Lord will come, bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, and making manifest the counsels of the heart.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
AT the time of the first Passover, outside, as the ominous midnight hour approached, Egypt gave herself up to her usual life. “They ate and drank; they married and gave in marriage.” But within their homes, the children of Israel stood around their tables, their loins girt, their staves in their hands, with unleavened bread packed up with their kneading-troughs in their clothes, waiting for the signal to depart. The Passover Lamb had been sacrificed; its blood was on the door; whilst its flesh, roast with fire, was being eaten. For seven days, all leavened bread had been put away out of the houses of the chosen people, because leaven, in the Bible, is the symbol of the working of the corrupt principle.
The believer should look back: The Paschal Lamb was sacrificed for us on the cross. Though He had done no sin, and was without blemish, yet He was slain for us without the gates of the city. He made there a sufficient sacrifice, satisfaction, oblation, for the sins of the whole world.
The believer should look around: With lighted candle, search the heart of your house, that there may be no speck or mote of leaven.
Let us keep the perpetual feast of the Christian life, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The believer should look on: Soon we shall hear the midnight trumpet sound, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest!” and we shall go forth from Egypt, where we have suffered, and toiled, and been misunderstood; where also our Lord was crucified. It is but a little while (how little, how little!) and He that shall come will come and will not tarry.
1 Corinthians 6:19
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
THIS is a sentence which should be deeply pondered; every clause is significant. We evidently should know its deep and solemn meaning. Apparently it is one of the commonplaces of our holy religion. This knowledge, however, should not be merely that of the intellect, but born out of the deep musing of the heart.
The holy temple: Built up of the dust of the earth, our bodies are rarer than the most glorious structures that ever the sun shone on, because they are meant to be the shrine and home of God. Jesus spoke of the Temple of His Body; and if He was so zealous for His Father’s House that He drove out the unholy traffickers, and refused to allow a vessel to be carried through the courts, should we not be equally careful? We are the custodians of the Divine residence; let us be very careful that there be nothing to offend or trouble the celestial Inmate.
The Divine Inmate: Too often He is grieved, and driven to occupy the most secret shrine, concealed and hidden beneath the heavy veil of our inconsistency and unbelief. He is not driven out by our sins, but driven in. Whenever, on the contrary, we put away our sin, and walk in the light as He is in the light; whenever the veil is rent and the whole heart thrown open to Him—He comes in power to occupy every part of our being, so that there is no part dark, and the very body becomes transfigured.
The great Price: Bought as any slave standing in the marketplace for sale! Ransomed from the direst slave master to the dearest Lord! The price—not corruptible things, as silver and gold—but precious blood! Our life is henceforth not our own, but His.
1 Corinthians 7:24
“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”
STRONG temptations to restlessness beset the early Christians.
The great change through which they had passed from heathenism to Christ threatened to dissolve all the ties by which they had been held, in the home, the business, and the State. Very necessary and wholesome, therefore, was the apostle’s advice. Stay as you are, until God clearly leads you into something else—only with this difference, whatever be the vocation of your life, therein abide with God. Paul was only careful that the thought of God should penetrate their entire existence; all else would come right in time; and he was only anxious that they should be laid hold of by that central, vivifying, transmuting influence.
Practice the presence of God: A godly brother used to say that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by an act of the will, which put aside wandering, frivolous, and evil thoughts, and that we should be continually conversing with Him; that we ought to give ourselves up to God, making Him the end of all our actions, and seeking our only satisfaction in doing His will; and that even the set times of prayer should not greatly differ from other times, because all were equally filled with God.
Such a sense equalizes our lot: The slave realizes that he is God’s free man; the master that he is God’s slave. The poor are enriched, and the rich are convicted of their poverty. So this holy brother said that, in his business in the kitchen (to which naturally he had a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God and with prayer, he had found everything easy, and was very well pleased to continue in the same post so long as it was God’s will.
1 Corinthians 8:13
“Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
THERE are two principles for our guidance in doubtful and debatable questions. First, the law of conscience: The apostle does not hesitate to say that the scruples of the weaker brethren were unquestionably needless. Idols have no real existence, and the presentation of food in their presence before it is eaten is a matter of complete indifference. “If we eat, we are not the better; if we eat not, we are not the worse.” At the same time, if a man were not able to reach this high standard, and still believed that an idol had a real existence, and that it was wrong for him to partake of food which had been offered to it, he must abide by that decision, and must on no account force himself to more liberal action. His conscience might be misinformed, and he should take every means of bringing it to a more healthy condition; but if it still remained stationary, he must accept its ruling.
Secondly, the law of charity: We must consider one another. No one liveth to himself. We are members of the body of Christ, and have no right to injure any who are so closely allied with us, and on whose healthy existence our own materially depends. If, then, we see that certain other souls are constantly being caused to stumble, because of what we do; not simply surprised and startled, but actually made to sin; trying to do as we do, but as often as they attempt it, falling short; unable to take our steep path without falling; always brought into condemnation when in our company; there is no alternative—for their sakes we must forego what is innocent and pleasant to ourselves. It may be a daily glass of wine, or attendance at some form of amusement, or some evil habit—but the love of Christ forbids.
1 Corinthians 9:27
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
IS it for one moment to be supposed that Paul really feared being cast away from the love and presence of God into the outer darkness with its weeping and gnashing of teeth? Surely not! Had he not said unmistakably that nothing could avail to separate him from the love of God which was in Jesus Christ! No, it is impossible to think such a thing. He knew too well that none of Christ’s members can be amputated; none of His sheep perish.
“The soul that to Jesus has fled for repose, He will not, He cannot, desert to its foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavour to take, He’ll never—no, never—no, never forsake.”
But when the apostle speaks of being a castaway, he means that he feared lest, after having proclaimed the rules of the contest to others, he should himself fail shamefully of the prize. And what was that prize? Certainly not forgiveness, nor eternal life; because these are not procured by any efforts of our own. These are not the prizes of agility or strength, but the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. What, then, is the prize? The context reveals it. It is surely the guerdon of winning souls; the blessed joy and crown of bringing to Jesus those who had otherwise never known Him.
But we may fall short of this. We may set others to do what we fail to do. We may appear before Christ with handfuls of withered leaves. We may yet be rejected. Esau missed the crown of his birthright; Moses the Promised Land; Saul the founding of a line of kings. We may miss utterly and irretrievably. God help us to watch and pray, and bring the body into subjection!
1 Corinthians 10:33
“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
PROBABLY the world has never seen a more enthusiastic soul-winner than the great apostle. If he visits a strange town, he will cast out the demon from a possessed girl. If he takes up tent making, beside an unbelieving Jew and his wife, he will before long have won each for Christ. If he is cast into prison, he will have baptized the jailer before dawn. If he stands before a judge, he will almost persuade him to be a Christian. If he is a prisoner in a hired house, he will speak to all who come to him, and win a runaway slave like Onesimus to Christ, and make him profitable to Philemon. Always and everywhere, he sets himself to win souls.
Here, also, we see how this one passion ruled his behaviour in all things. He was willing to yield to men in matters where only his own comfort, but not his conscience, was concerned. He sought to please all men in all things; not seeking his own profit, but “the profit of the many, that they may be saved.”
Oh for more of this sacred passion!—such as inspired, for instance, the Moravians to expatriate themselves for the sake of the lepers of Table Bay!
A woman at the Presbyterian hospital at Canton, hearing of Christ, and loving Him, asked:
“How long can I live if I remain in the hospital?”
“And how long if I go home?” “Two months,” replied the doctor. “I am going home,” she said.
“But,” urged the doctor, “you will lose half your life.”
“Do you not think I would be glad to give half my life for the sake of telling my people of Jesus?”
And she went home.