Battleground of the Two Humanities (continued)
Corinthian Questions: The Enunciation of a Principle
Now from that point, we begin on these things about which the Corinthians wrote to Paul. At sometime they sent a letter to him with a whole list of questions, and I am not going to try to answer them all; but I want you to note one thing - how did Paul really answer all of those questions? He did answer them, and while he said some things about some of these matters, giving advice and discussing the thing with them, he did not answer them in the form of something that you could put into a book as a book of regulations, as a book of laws. He did not just write a blue print to answer, for example: "Should a woman who has become a Christian and has a non-Christian husband, leave him?" Or the other way: "Should a man who has become a Christian and his wife has not accepted the Lord, should he leave her?" "Should a slave who has become a Christian, give up his position as a slave and try to be free?" "Should we refuse to eat meat that has been sold in a market, but previously offered to an idol?"
There are a lot of questions like that in the letter, and evidently there had been one question about what is today called "Charismatic", "spiritual gifts." Paul has somethings to say about this, but do you feel that he is conclusive in the things that he says? I do not think so. Paul never intended that here, and he never intended to be another Moses writing ten commandments over against ten questions. He had a far better way of answering them than that, if only they would recognize it. In all these things, what was his real way of approach and answer? - the enunciation of a principle. If only you can get hold of the principle, you have got the answers. Please get this, whatever you forget, please get a hold of this: the answer to it all is a principle.
Now I am coming down to that question of gifts, tongues, and so on. It was a problem, a question, at Corinth. Paul had been asked something about it, and so he uses a part of his letter and says: "Now concerning the spirituals ..." He says some things about tongues, apparently quite a bit about tongues; but as far as I can see he does not finally answer the question on tongues. However, he does enunciate a principle about it and all the gifts, and he answers it in this way, this is the effect of it, this is really the answer: on the one hand, none of these things -none of the gifts of God, are ends in themselves. If you draw a circle around either one or all of them and say - this is the "know-all and the end-all," you are going to come to an impasse, sooner or later. You are going to find that you are held up, and your spiritual maturity is arrested.
Brethren, however supernatural and precious it might be, beware of an experience becoming the beginning and the end. None of these things are ends in themselves, and the apostle says about this particular thing, and about gifts as a whole as he deals with them, that is is the principle concerning them: - ARE THEY LEADING TO A GREATER MEASURE OF CHRIST?
In this letter, the apostle uses a word which I am sorry that the translators have left out and put another one in its place. The word they have used is "edification," and, of course, if you give a very strict explanation or definition of the Greek word for "edification," you will get the true meaning of the apostle's thought. What Paul did say and mean was "for building up." For building up what? - the increase of Jesus Christ. Are these things ends in themselves, wonderful as they may be? Are they leading on to a greater measure of Jesus Christ? Are they building up the Body of Christ? That is the challenge of every gift: How does it minister and effect an increase of Jesus Christ?!
Now they had every one of these things at Corinth and over against them was this low moral level: this poor spiritual standard. Here at Corinth they had the gifts and came behind in no spiritual gift, but were is Christ, where is the increase of Christ? Paul had to say: "I have to speak to you as babes." What the Lord looks for, what must be, is the increase of the measure of the fullness of Jesus Christ. The question is, after all, how much of Christ is in the individual, in the assembly? How much of Christ, and not the obsession with things even though they be the supernaturals, but the captivation of Jesus Christ - because He hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained. It must be just the Lord, the kind of Man that He is, the kind of Humanity that He is.
(continued with # 23 - (Conformity to His Son)