1 Corinthians 1:17-31
AWGS What is in mind in reading these Scriptures is the cross. It is a subject which deserves considerable attention, always having in our minds what R. D. Edwards said in his hymn as to the wonderful character of the cross. There God’s heart is revealed to us:
O the cross of Christ is wondrous!
There I learn God’s heart to me
I think, beloved brethren, we need to consider what the cross means. I am looking at it not exactly from the way man approaches it, but I am looking at it from God’s point of view, because I think that is a side of the truth which we need to consider in greater depth.
In Corinthians we have “the word of the cross” (v18). It involves God’s power and God’s wisdom. Those are two matters which I think we could consider. God’s power involves His intervention. His wisdom involves His resource which He has in Christ. Further down the chapter we have what we are in Christ Jesus, and Christ is made to us wisdom from God (v30).
I think, beloved brethren, we need to look at the way that Paul is presenting the cross in 1 Corinthians, because it underlies every chapter of the First Epistle. Take chapter 13, that great love chapter; it underlies that chapter. Also chapter 15, the resurrection chapter; it underlies that chapter. I think chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians is a précis of what he was going to bring before the people of God in Corinth. We know how they were getting on, and the cross was the remedy.
If, beloved brethren, we find ourselves in the same condition (I do not think we are) the cross of Christ is the remedy. It is a good thing to consider when we go out in the morning. I picked up a little book the other day called ‘Short papers by J. B. Crosland.’ We know who he was – somebody associated with FER. In the second article, ‘Whose glory?,’ he raised the question, ‘Whose glory are we demonstrating when we go out in the morning?’ The cross has its application to that because, beloved brethren, as we go out – some of us have to go to business, the younger ones go to school – whose glory is it that we are demonstrating? The cross helps us to appreciate that interesting point – whose glory are we demonstrating as we go out for the day? That is what I am thinking of in connection with the first chapter of 1 Corinthians: it is God’s power and it is God’s wisdom. We can look at that in the section we read and consider it as relating to the whole Epistle.
In Ephesians we have reconciliation connected with the cross. It says, “Having by it slain the enmity” (v16). Now, we know that there were Jews and gentiles, two different opinions, and the basis of their coming together in reconciliation was the cross. Now, today, there is much variation, but I still think that this principle applies, that if we are looking at reconciliation, the cross is the basis for it, and it is the only basis – the cross of Christ. “And might reconcile both in one body to God by the cross.” It is by that means. It gives us a greater appreciation of what was accomplished at the cross in all its significance.
In Galatians it comes in in consideration of the legal line: legality is answered by the cross. If the truth is at stake, that is not legality. Grace and truth came to be through our Lord Jesus Christ; John tells us that (John 1:17). What I am thinking of is that to meet the legality that was seen in Galatia, the cross was presented. There is also what Paul says in verse 14, “But far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” I have often thought of those words, as to what they really mean, because, in the days in which this was written, I think the cross was still very much in the hearts and minds of the believers; whereas, for us, it is 2000 years ago, but the cross of Christ should be still as real to the Christian today as it was in those early days.
MJC I think this is really essential, because we often limit the cross of Christ, in our minds, to the forgiveness of sins. Of course, it is essential to that. But the three Scriptures we have read this afternoon are addressed to believers.
AWGS They are.
MJC I am thinking of the young here. Perhaps you could open up something of the teaching for the Christian of what the cross of Christ means.
AWGS Well, that comes into the meaning of the expression, “the word of the cross.” That is to say, the teaching of the cross, and the first thing he says about it is, “To them that perish foolishness,” but, “To us that are saved it is God’s power.” I think that when we are young, we need to understand that. The cross is God’s power. That means divine intervention. And how did He intervene? He intervened in the glory of the incarnation. That is how He came in, to deal with what lay against mankind. I am looking at it from God’s point of view: what God has to say about the cross of Calvary. Have you some more in mind yourself?
MJC Only that the word of the cross is really that the first order of man was ended at the cross. The Lord finished that order, did He not?
AWGS So, at the end of the chapter we are “in Christ Jesus” (v30).
MJC Yes, that is the new order, is it not?
AWGS That is what we would call, horticulturally, the new stock. When we are looking to get a plant under control, we give it a new stock. If a fruit tree is to be under control to a certain size, it needs a certain stock. That is the way, simply, I look at this. The Christian has a new stock. He has a new Source.
MJC So this was the first thing that the Corinthians had to learn: that the cross of Christ was the end of philosophy, reasoning, and everything that belongs to, and is upheld by, the first man.
AWGS Exactly, and the cross puts a line through all that you have mentioned; puts it completely aside.
BED Can you say some more about the cross being God’s power for us?
AWGS I understand that it involves God’s intervention. We can see that God intervened at the incoming of Christ. That is when He intervened. He had to take up what lay against Him, in all that man had done in the way of sin. God had to intervene Himself, in coming into manhood and taking up what lay against mankind. But you had some more in mind?
BED I was thinking it was a word to us as saved. God’s power is to affect us.
AWGS Most certainly. I have been looking at this for some while – the way God’s power is of import to the Christian today. It is all right for us to read it in the Scripture. It is all right for us to say that it is applicable to the Corinthians. But it is just as applicable to the Christian’s pathway today.
TRP Were you thinking that man faced an insoluble problem – how to resolve sin, and remove our sins? The greatest power in the world could not even touch one of our sins.
AWGS That is right, so God had to come in Himself, in His own power, to accomplish that very thing. This is a wonderful joy for our hearts.
TRP I was thinking that as you look at the insoluble problem, it just brings out the infinite greatness of the power of God in the way He acted, does it not?
AWGS Yes. It is a far greater power than what He used in creating the world. This is far greater, is it not?
TRP Yes, it is.
TJK We can see that there was power operative in the Lord: He “by the eternal Spirit offered Himself spotless to God” (Heb 9:14). That was God’s power there, in that perfect One, unjustly crucified, and offering Himself. But is there another way we see the power of God manifest at the cross?
AWGS You see it in the way that there was no deviation from the will of God in the way the Lord went: “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). The power of God shone out. ‘Obedience rare,’ the hymn writer puts it (Hymn 49), and in that obedience the power of God shone out.
SML I was just thinking of the way that what has happened at the cross has enabled God to do exactly what pleases Him. That is why His power was needed there. His power has been established so that He can do everything for His own pleasure. Of course, our blessing is very much bound up with that.
AWGS That is a valid point to make: that God did it for His own pleasure and for Himself, so that He could have a company of men in His own presence.
MJC So we see that the cross is not only the dealing of God with our sins and with sin, but the removal from His presence of the man that committed them, the first order of man.
AWGS So that He has in His presence only that which is “in Christ Jesus.”
MJC Therefore the wisdom of man seen in Corinth is totally irrelevant. God has judged that. It has gone in the death of Christ. The sooner we realise it, the better!
AWGS That would be the concern of every true lover of the Lord, to make quite sure he was there as representing what was true in relation to God’s power, and thereby representing God Himself.
DWB Is that something that enters into the glad tidings? It says here that he had not been sent to baptise, “but to preach glad tidings; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of the Christ may not be made vain” (v17). The glad tidings are not preached in man’s wisdom. Perhaps we need to think about that.
AWGS I think so, because, as you know, it is an exercise to preach the gospel and to preach it according to God’s word. That would involve His power, by the Spirit. We get in chapter 2, “I, when I came to you, brethren, came not in excellency of word, or wisdom” (v1). He wanted to preach Christ crucified. That is the only thing he would preach. And so, today, it has not altered at all.
DWB It involves the moral question being brought before the company.
TJK At the cross there were two remarkable conversions: the malefactor and the Roman centurion. Two of the most unlikely persons, you might think. If those could be converted at the cross, and how many since, as we have been saying, is that not God’s power?
AWGS That is interesting, because I think it was FER who brought out four ‘mountains of grace’ in Luke’s Gospel; the malefactor was the last. I think those five or six verses there (Luke 23:39‑43) are the pinnacle of Luke’s Gospel. There is nothing to match it!
KHW Later on in the chapter where you have read, you have Christ as God’s power and God’s wisdom (v24). Does that not really put the cross into focus for us with Christ as the One Who is central there, the One Who has carried everything through in the ways and will of God?
AWGS He came for that very purpose. That is something that we as Christians need to lay hold of. We need to lay hold of why He came and what He came for. We know that He came in and healed man, but He came in on behalf of God to do His will and to accomplish it. Do you have anything else to say?
KHW I just thought that we see there the way in which all that God had in view in the cross was carried through to its completion. The reference to the Christ would, I think, take us right through to God’s thoughts that there should be a Man Who not only has been into death but Who has ascended to His right hand. The cross was necessary so that God’s thoughts should be accomplished.
SML It has often been said that God’s power serves the purposes of His love. I was just thinking of your reference to R. D. Edwards’s hymn at the beginning. We need to remember that God’s power and everything that God is, really, has been brought into use in bringing about the purposes of His heart. And that gives us a view of God, as Christians, that just bows our hearts in thanksgiving and love and praise.
AWGS There is a lot in relation to the cross that we as Christians need to consider and reconsider because, as was said, we may think of it only as a means of salvation. But it is far, far greater than that. As JND says, as you well know, it remains throughout the history of eternity alone (Collected Writings vol. 21 p384). It stands there.
MJC So the section ends with us boasting in the Lord. “No flesh should boast before God” (v29). Really, the cross of Christ is the end of all flesh – the end of the first man.
AWGS It removes him before the eye of God. We might say that is objective truth: it is true. It is very true that the first man has gone once somebody has committed themselves to the Lord Jesus; what you have alluded to has gone before the eye of God. We need to understand that, but it may take us a long time to arrive at that practically.
DWB The purpose of the preaching is, “We preach Christ crucified, … Christ God’s power and God’s wisdom” (vv23,24).
AWGS Say what your thought is, as to God’s power and God’s wisdom.
DWB I think what has been said is helpful. I have nothing further to say.
AWGS God has intervened, has He not? And you mention that we preach Christ “God’s wisdom.” He is that resource as well on God’s side, is He not? That is something else we need to see. As we look back through the Old Testament, we can see certain instances where that was brought in.
DWB These things are generally being set aside in Christendom. We need to keep to the preaching that is truly God’s glad tidings.
AWGS Exactly. We need to preach the whole gospel.
PJC One of the other things that took place as the Lord died on the cross was that the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. I wonder if you could say something about that, as it might relate to God’s power and God’s wisdom.
AWGS The veil was rent from the top to the bottom, as it has often been said, so that God could come out in all His love. It is a side of the truth that I do not think many of us have looked at seriously: that God now, because of the death of Christ, has the facility – if that is the right word to use – to come out in all His love and in all His glory, but based on the sacrifice at the cross. I think it is very important that we as Christians should understand how God has operated from His own side. This is not man’s side. In 1 Corinthians 1, you will not find anything of what man did in the whole chapter: it is all what God has done. You have the foolishness of man; but it is all viewed from God’s side. That is something that we as Christians need to lay hold of increasingly: what God has done for His own pleasure.
MSB Can you say something, therefore, about what it says in verse 23, “To Jews an offence, and to nations foolishness?”
AWGS Well, it is, is it not? It is an offence to the Jews. If you speak to a Jew today, he will find this is an offence. And to the nations generally: they take no notice of your preaching, do they? It is foolishness to them, as we were reminded earlier. It is the foolishness of the gospel, and yet it is the means of salvation. The cross is there established as the basis on which the message has come out about God’s glory and love. But you had something in mind yourself?
MSB Is it an offence to the Jews because a crucified Christ would have been an offence to them?
AWGS Yes, He was an offence to them, and still is. When you speak to a true Jew, it is an offence to him. But the gospel still goes out – to the Jew first; that is what it says in Romans, to the Jew first (Rom 1:16). I remember a brother going to preach at Hall Green in Birmingham. There was a Jew going to be there and the brother said, ‘To the Jew first.’
TRP It says as to Solomon that “they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice” (1 Kings 3:28). Would you say something as to justice being linked with the wisdom of God?
AWGS I think that there is, in the power of the Spirit, that character of truth available for us to understand. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). There is complete fairness from God’s point of view. The justice of this country has been found to be wanting; God’s justice is perfect. God’s justice, I think, is based upon what was secured at the cross.
DWB The “righteousness of God” (Rom 1:17;3:27). We need to commence with the righteousness of God before we move to the love of God.
AWGS That is the teaching of Romans.
DWB Yes, exactly.
AWGS I was taught that Romans 3 comes before Romans 5 (v5)!
CPB So in Romans 1, “For I am not ashamed of the glad tidings; for it is God’s power to salvation” as we have already been saying (v16), “for righteousness of God is revealed therein, on the principle of faith” (v17). Is that what you have in mind?
AWGS The righteousness of God is something which we need to appreciate. Then in the third chapter you get the righteousness of God established and He is justified in so doing. It is very interesting to notice that the righteousness of God is preached, but it is “upon all those who believe” (Rom 3:22). It is towards all, but upon those that believe. Here we get the righteousness of God, and the Christian has it, has it in heaven for himself, and it is in Christ, it is in no other person.
SML Can you say something about ‘Christ made wisdom to us’ (1 Cor 1:30)? We can perhaps think, as it says earlier, of “Christ God’s power and God’s wisdom,” but it is important to lay hold of what it is as ‘Christ made wisdom to us.’
AWGS I think you will notice that that is put first and as a separate identity from “righteousness, and holiness, and redemption.” So it underlines its importance, does it not? We have to appreciate that He is also our resource. That is what I would understand by that: that Christ becomes our resource, as well as God’s resource. I think that is a wonderful thing, that He is the resource both of us and of God.
KHW I was wondering if you could say something about the reference here to “the foolishness of God” and “the weakness of God” (v25).
AWGS Do we need to see the setting in which it is placed, as against the things of the world? “The foolishness of God” – is there foolishness with Him? Is there weakness with Him? Is it not the setting in which the apostle is writing to these Corinthian saints, and we would need to look at that ourselves, would we not? If Paul wrote to those in Defford – and I have a local brother here – would he have to say the same words?
MJC It is how man sees God, is it not?
TJK Could it also be how God sees man? In one sense it was the foolishness of God to create Adam. It was to show His glory in bringing in Christ, was it not? But in that sense, Adam was a foolishness – of course, a perfect creation in his day.
AWGS I think we need to understand that Adam was perfect until the fall came in. He is, scripturally, the first Adam; what was in mind, as the woman’s seed, was the second Adam. That is what we always need to be looking at. That is part of God’s wisdom. His resource is the second Adam, and we see it right at the beginning of God’s work in relation to man.
MJC Practically speaking, we often need wisdom. I do, at any rate! And “if any one of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). As you said earlier, Christ is our resource and we go to Him for wisdom. The apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Well, we do if we do!
AWGS I am glad you added that, because I have been told that more than once. You do have it, if you do. But we frequently need wisdom. Let us go to the Source of wisdom, because if we do not, if we try to work it out ourselves, what happens?
TJK There are two instances of wisdom in this chapter: the wisdom in verse 24, which stems from the cross – the crucifixion of Christ – and the wisdom in verse 30, which is, I take it, Christ in resurrection.
AWGS “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who has been made to us wisdom from God.” I think we need to look at the context of the wisdom which we see in verse 24, “To those that are called.” Those that are called are you and me. “Both Jews and Greeks, Christ God’s power and God’s wisdom.” That is a set fact, you cannot alter it. He is that. But when you come to verse 30, He has been made to us wisdom, and that is from God Himself. It establishes the soul.
SML Why do we find it so difficult to draw on this wisdom?
AWGS Do you think we depend sufficiently on the resource that is available in the power of the Spirit of God Himself? If we did, I think we might find it always available. It is there. All we have to do is ask. Is that all right?
SML In a sense, the Spirit is here to make this power, this power that we are talking about, actually good in our hearts.
AWGS Is that not what the Lord would have at the end of His pathway in John’s Gospel, that that power would be available to you and to me? It took John to bring it out.
TRP Every believer has God’s wisdom because God, the Holy Spirit, is indwelling us. Is that right?
AWGS Yes. But do we avail ourselves of it? I ask the question – would all the confusions of the past number of years have happened if we had drawn on this resource?
TRP We do not know enough of what it is to lay hold of the fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person.
AWGS Quite right. He is there to help. I like to think of Him in His mediatorial service. He is available to all God’s people. Not just to those of us in this room, He is available to all.
KHW Solomon asked for a wise and understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9‑12). I am just thinking of the understanding – really, the cross brings us to a deeper understanding of God’s heart and of His thoughts for us. Do you think that is involved when we seek this wisdom, that God would draw us to Himself that we might come to a greater understanding of how He feels about things?
AWGS I think that is most important, because frequently, as I said earlier, we try to do these things ourselves, without reference to divine Persons. We need to be more – I use the word – subdued and careful, and enter into His presence to draw from those divine resources and to sit at the Lord’s feet. I have been very exercised about sitting at His feet to draw from what He may have to say. That is where wisdom comes from. When you read that verse as to the “anxious thoughts” (Ps 94:19) [at the burial of Gavin Simpson, 3 July; Living Water 116], that was a comfort to me in view of these meetings. Anxious thoughts do come! But we need to sit at His feet. David went in and sat before the Lord (1 Chr 17:16); we also read that he received the divine answer (e.g. 2 Sam 5:19,23; 21:1). Scripture says, “What says the divine answer?” (Rom 11:4). That was to Elijah; Elijah did not enquire of God at that point, but God still gave him an answer (1 Kgs 19:9), which shows the character, the heart of God, the love of God towards His servant, weakened at that point. We need to go in, more frequently, into the divine presence and sit there, and to learn from Him, and Him alone. We have the Scriptures, and all there is in them for us. We speak of wisdom seen in Solomon; read it. The young people need to read the first eight chapters of Proverbs, and then they will find out what wisdom is. Is that right?
SML Certainly, that is why the book was written. Everything comes back, in one way, to dependence – dependence upon the Lord, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. And we find that one of the hardest of things, as just ordinary people. We do not find dependence easy, do we?
AWGS We continually think we can go in our own strength. But the Lord in His wisdom eventually brings us to that point where we learn what dependence is. There is an example in FDW – I do not want to be always speaking about him, but he had to learn, in the last 18 months of his life, what dependence really was, very severely, and there was no objection, not one. It is a lesson to us. He had to learn, he was a very independent man, as we well know; a very valuable brother, a great teacher, apt in every way, but he had to learn what dependence was, and we all do.
PKL It should be very stabilising to realise that the means of man’s being reconciled to God was always known. I do not know whether men knew it before the cross – I do not think it is actually spoken of in that way – but the blood of Christ was foreknown (1 Pet 1:19‑20). Christ was delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). It was known, so this has not been a change of direction by God; it was the moment that God would come out to man. As we have been saying here, the spiritual, the new man, has begun from that point.
AWGS That is right, and we need to understand the way God has moved from His own side. I think the cross was always in His mind. Scripture does not tell us so, but it does tell us about the curse (Deut 21:23). The cross, I think, and I speak carefully – brethren will correct me if I am wrong – was there in the divine planning before time.
But we need to go on, as time is running away from us. In Ephesians what I was looking at was the way the cross comes in as the means by which God had reconciled two characters of people, the Jew and the gentile. I know that this was written to the Ephesian saints many years ago and there are far more than two different types of people now. But does not this principle still apply?
MJC It is interesting that the Lord does not disclose this in John 10. It is implied, of course, and it had to be in that way that the one flock, one Shepherd, was brought about: through the cross.
AWGS That is the way it was done. It had to be that way. He speaks of making peace, forming the two into one new man. There is only one new man! We need to lay hold of it, that there is only one new man, there are not two, there is just One and that is Christ.
MJC That is very salutary to us because in our day it is not, practically speaking, Jew and gentile, but there can be racial, social and other differences that have to go.
AWGS And the cross is the means, the way through which they have gone. But it is up to the individual person to appreciate that. If we did appreciate it, and I hope in our outlook we do appreciate it, we should be ready to see that any others come the same way.
TRP Could you say something as to “Having by it slain the enmity?” That seems to be the dividing line, or gulf, between the Jew and gentile. And that has a bearing upon us today, does it?
AWGS I think so. This is a Scripture that has a very serious bearing upon us today. I feel that some of these Scriptures we maybe just read and look at historically, objectively. We need to appreciate and examine them for ourselves today. The Scripture is written for today, not only to the Ephesian saints. So how are we looking at what this Scripture says? The enmity is slain – that is objective, it is gone. But how does it help us, how does it mark us in a practical sense?
MJC Because it is the true and only way to peace, is it not?
AWGS Absolutely. Go on.
MJC I was just thinking of verse 17, “He has preached the glad tidings of peace.” The only true way to peace is through the cross of Christ and getting rid of, and putting to death, the first man, the first order of man. This is not a question of doctrinal differences, but it is practical, is it not? It has an effect on those as well, of course; I do not want to undermine the seriousness of doctrinal differences in any way.
AWGS What has affected me about this Scripture is that the enmity is slain – it has gone. Let us avail ourselves of what God has done, as it says here, “Reconcile both in one body to God.” It was a practical matter in the Ephesians’ day, let us keep it in our hearts today; go back to what was there at the beginning. As I said earlier, the cross was very much on the hearts of the saints in the days in which this was written, and I think it is the basis of this matter here.
TRP I find great difficulty in getting out of my mind things that others have done and that I consider to have been wrong. How do we get that out of our minds?
AWGS It is a very difficult question to answer, because we are all marked by human failure. But there is only one place we can get that out of our minds and hearts, and that is in the presence of the Lord Himself.
TJK Might we get muddled as to enmity? There is enmity between the Spirit and the flesh, but there is no enmity between two Christians. If I find I have feelings in my heart against another Christian, then I am not a Christian at that point, I have departed from the true ground and am walking in the flesh, not in the Spirit. Is that how it is?
AWGS I think so. But as I said, we also need to understand that this is what is objective; it needs to be in our hearts, as you have just said, but other Scriptures need to be taken into consideration as well, such as 2 Timothy 2.
TRP Does it help if we stand before the cross and absorb something of the glory and infinite character of the love of Christ in what He did there for every blood-bought saint?
AWGS I think so. I often ask myself the question as to how frequently I go, in the Spirit, to the cross; because it is an answer to a lot of questions.
MSB This was worked out in the early Church, was it not? The division between Jew and gentile was absolutely massive, and yet it was broken down and they were brought into the one new body. Peter had to work it out, did he not, in the vision of the sheet coming down?
AWGS You will find in the Galatian epistle that Paul had to say something to them about what you have just said. And sometimes the Spirit of God may have to say something to you and to me about it.
SML This provided a completely new starting point. There was a real division and hatred between Jew and gentile; it worked both ways. And suddenly Christians would have read this and realised, if they were gentiles, that they were to look at Jews completely differently, and the same for Jews looking at gentiles. That is the whole point of it, that I see somebody as truly in Christ, and that alters my view. They may be Roman Catholics, they may be all sorts of things, they may have all sorts of different views from me. But the great new starting point is that I see someone, if they are truly a believer at all, as in Christ. That is the beginning of this, is it not?
AWGS It is, and we have to understand that, do we not – that a Christian, whoever they may be, is in Christ Jesus? And it is according to the divine mind, according to God’s mind – look at it from God’s point of view – it is only one body. There is only one way. If we say there are others we are on sectarian ground immediately. Let us understand that. But I go back to my point; we have to work it out here, and sometimes it is not easy.
BED Did it work in the early Church when the gentiles sent to the Jews a gift (Acts 11:29)? The expression of their love broke down the enmity, did it not? I was thinking, too, of the one body: this thrilled the Lord, did it not? He endured the cross, despising the shame, because of the joy set before Him, having this answer for Himself!
AWGS That is what Sir Edward Denny wrote in our first hymn: the ‘cherished bride’ (Hymn 215).
DWB Would you say what reconciliation is?
AWGS Go on.
DWB Well, where there was distance, there is complacency.
AWGS Exactly. And where was the distance removed?
DWB At the cross. There is an end in view here, seen in the verses you did not read (18‑22). It is all in view of the service of God.
AWGS We see in those verses that God’s service is enriched by this reconciliation. Reconciliation is always from God’s side. That is another thing which we need to understand.
MJC Do we see a practical example of this in Acts 13 in Antioch? I think there is a good bit of enmity there that must have been slain.
AWGS You are thinking of all those brethren there: Barnabas, Simeon – he was a black man – Lucius, and also you have the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. A good mixture of different characters, of brethren you might say. But what were they doing?
MJC Ministering to the Lord and fasting.
AWGS Exactly. They were together. That was seen there at the beginning. The question is whether it will be there at the end, before the Lord comes.
MJC I think we should be exercised that it may be so in our gatherings. I would love to see it so in a greater way. Our first responsibility is our local meeting.
AWGS It always is that your local company is your first responsibility. That is where God has set you. All that we have been speaking about needs to be worked out, in a practical sense, amongst the brethren with whom you are local.
PJC I was just going to say more about reconciliation, that it is to God. It is not exactly reconciliation to one another, but that flows out of it. Each person is reconciled to God in exactly the same way. It does not make the Jew closer to God than the gentile is, or vice versa. It is one body, the members equally reconciled to God. And that is objectively true of all Christians.
AWGS That is something which we maybe forget from time to time. But we do need to lay hold of what I call primary truths. Go back to the foundation. If we do not go back to the foundation, we shall be like ships without a rudder, going all over the place, which has happened! If you get back to the foundation, back to the beginning, you will find there how God desired the whole Church, or the assembly, to work. That is where we have to go back to. FER said time and time again, ‘Go back to the beginning.’
AND I was just thinking about the great gulf that was fixed, the great chasm that was fixed, in Luke 16 (v26). Does that bring us to an understanding of how great the reconciliation has been? The great gulf existed between lost, sinful man and God. Does that bring out the greatness of what has been done at the cross?
AWGS Exactly, and I think that gulf has been removed, not bridged – it has been removed. Where? At the cross. That is what God fully intended. Some say it has been bridged. I say it has been removed, it has gone.
MJC If it were only bridged, the distance would still be there!
AWGS I read in Galatians, because we have had the weakness and the looseness of the Corinthian saints and the cross being the answer to it. The Galatians were, I think, in a more serious condition than the Corinthian saints. In Ephesians we have more the perfection of what God had in mind, but here I think we see the way in which the cross comes in, in relation to the legal element. It is exactly the same way, but it covers the legal application of the truth. It is specifically circumcision which Paul speaks about. Go back to chapter 5, “If I yet preach circumcision, why am I yet persecuted? Then the scandal of the cross has been done away” (v11). I think we also need to be very careful, when we speak of ‘legality,’ that it is not a word used to oppose the maintenance of the truth given in Scripture, because Scripture has the final word. Is that right?
MJC What Paul is dealing with really is the reintroduction of external religion.
TJK It seems the reason for this being needed is that there are believers who do not wish to be persecuted because of the cross of Christ, and they are going through all sorts of hoops of legality in order to avoid that. It is not nice to be persecuted, but Peter says, “If as a Christian” (1 Pet 4:16). The cross of Christ is the reason Christians are persecuted, is it not?
AWGS Absolutely. The Lord has a word for us in Luke 9. He is speaking to some there and he says to them that they need to take up their cross daily (v23). Not weekly, but daily. And He adds something else, “Follow me.” That is the answer to what we have here. It is not the Lord’s cross, they are to take up their cross daily. I think that is an exercise which all of us, as Christians, need to consider before the Lord.
TJK Would you be able to distinguish, then, between the cross of Christ and the individual Christian’s cross?
AWGS The cross of Christ remains alone in all its – I was going to use the word ‘beauty’ – there is a beauty, and a glory, about it. When we think of God looking at the cross of Christ, He found infinite pleasure and fragrance there. But we each individually know what our cross might be. We have to go to the Lord and take it up with Him as to what that might be. Yours might be different from mine, but we are to take up the cross daily.
DWB It underlies the end of verse 14, does it not? “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.”
AWGS Absolutely. I expect you have often pondered that verse, as to what that really means. Because, as you look around, you wonder sometimes if that is – I was going to use the word very carefully – our practice.
DWB It is our preservation from the influence of the world on the believer, and on Christian companies, of which we are very much in danger.
AWGS Paul speaks of it here regarding himself personally. If it is taken on personally, it will influence the local company. We know that truth has to be taken on individually before it can be known collectively.
CPB There seem to be two things here in verse 14, “The world is crucified to me,” and then, “I to the world.” Could you say something about those two sides?
AWGS It is in that order. “Far be it from me to boast.” That is the first thing we have to take account of. “Save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You boast in that cross and then, “The world is crucified to me.” What do you know about that? What do I know about that?
CPB I was wondering whether in the first section we see how we keep the world crucified to us, if we do. The second seems to be a far harder thing. It is one thing for us to reject the world, but does the world reject us because we are faithful to Christ?
AWGS Absolutely. So Paul portrayed Christ crucified. I do not say that we as Christians can attain to that, but that is always the objective in mind, “And I to the world,” and it is the world in all its characteristics. Do not forget that it is the world that crucified Christ. It is the same world, is it not?
KHW I was wondering whether you could say a little more about boasting in the cross. At the end of that section that you read in Corinthians, you get a reference to boasting in the Lord, but here you get boasting in the cross. Is there something special about that for us?
AWGS I think so. Boasting is not generally applied to the Christian faith. Here it is boasting in relation to something that was a scandal to the eyes of many. It is boasting in relation to something that was done to One for Whom the Christian has great affection, but yet Who was nailed to a cross. “Despised and left alone of men” (Isa 53:3). It is boasting, really, in the character of what we see in Isaiah 53. I know that is the atoning sufferings, but it is boasting in that character, is it not?
KEGB I wondered if you could say something about boasting. It is more than ‘relying on,’ is it not? Does it challenge some of us as to how much or how often or whether at all we speak out in, firstly, boasting in the Lord and, secondly, boasting in the cross?
AWGS That is a very interesting way of putting it. We need, in testimony – what you are speaking about is the testimonial scene – to boast in the Lord because of what He has accomplished for us. But to boast in the cross is a far harder thing, as has been said. It is to boast in the way that He was despised and left alone of men. That is the point which I find, and I expect you find, more difficult.
BED Paul says, “I am not ashamed.” Is there a boast in that? “I am not ashamed of the glad tidings.”
AWGS That is Romans 1 (v16).
BED We do not need to be ashamed of the glad tidings. You can speak to a person about Jesus anywhere!
AWGS Somebody went into the City of London and wound a window down – there were a lot of people around – and said, ‘Jesus saves!’ There you are!
BED Nothing to be ashamed of!
AWGS Nothing at all. It is boasting!
TJK So by ‘boasting’ we mean finding strength and stability, a firm ground? A way to go on and a way to look up. And it is not anything for me, it is all for God.
AWGS And that is a good point to finish on; it is God’s glory, it is Christ’s glory, and it is for the blessing of you and me!
7 July 2012