Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.The Great Expiation
1 Corinthians 2:2
The Corinth of St. Paul's day had inherited a revival of philosophy, and was a home of culture so much as to induce a rivalry with Athens herself. But it was not in an atmosphere of intellectual restlessness, in a society where energy was dissipated in an excessive love of dialectic, that the Apostle's ministry was carried on. It was a wisdom of the world, worldly; brilliant yet pretentious, that led men no nearer to solving the deeper problems of life. When the gifted Alexandrian, Apollos, had appeared as a preacher of Christianity, a considerable section of the Church attached itself to him. The result of an adherence that ought to have been for good was a very grave misunderstanding—many of them were men in whom the old pagan temper was by no means exterminated, and they claimed the sanction of his name, as it would seem, for a great deal that he would have been the very first to disown. The issue was the beginning of a party spirit, which has been under the most widely diverse conditions the bane and hindrance of Christendom. That there ought to have been no such divisions because the methods of two men in the interpreting of their common belief were different goes without the saying. But so it was, and this was the distressful condition of affairs with which in his first extant letter to them the founder of the Corinthian Church had to deal.
I. Here at the outset we must be on our guard as to a possible misconception of St. Paul's determination. Let it be said at once (we shall find abundant reason to justify it later on) that there is no shadow of excuse in his words for a one-sided presentation of Christ's religion. Such partial treatment, to our great injury, is common enough, but it was not his way who had 'not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God'. In the conduct of our own life's occupation we all know that limitation of thought and labour for a while is an indispensable thing. It does not mean neglect of other responsibilities. Because the Bishop of Exeter found it requisite to concentrate two years' attention on the vast expansion of Plymouth, he did not overlook the claims of Devonshire at large. And St. Paul did not determine to know anything among the Corinthians 'save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,' because he knew, not only, as few others, what human life really is, but he rightly judged that in the particular phase of it with which he had to deal a suffering Christ was the aspect under which he should preach His Lord.
II. The cross of Christ, the final act which crowned a life which was a sacrifice throughout, is the centre of the good tidings to all people. It discovered to us the inmost heart of mercy of our God. It was at once the measure of and the only remedy for sin. 'Can we make the sun go back in its course? Can we recall the tide at its ebb? No more can we do away with, and make as though it had never been done, one single sin that we have ever committed,' the condemning voice within, the plague of our own hearts, the unbearable burden of secret or open sin. This is it with which, in the end, each one of us must needs reckon, and the true meaning and value of the Sacrifice offered on Calvary is that it alone—
Can give the guilty conscience peace,
And wash away the stain.
Therefore he was more than willing to lay aside any ornament of speech and reputation for ability he might possess, so that he might recall them to the one essential point, that in the crucifixion 'God made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him'. The showy speculations of the schools might supply a passing interest; they were absolutely worthless in view of the sorrows and degradation of humanity. 'Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.' There is nothing else, we may be sure, to come between us and despair. 'Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.' There is no power so attractive as that of the cross. And yet it is no wonder, for 'God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us'. There is no other appeal like unto it. It calls out an instinctive homage which nothing else can. Two generations ago, during the terrible fire that broke out in York Minster, a line of soldiers was posted at the south-west side to keep back the multitude that thronged the streets. The flames spread toward the extreme point of the aisle, and suddenly from within lighted up the western window, revealing the figure of the crucified Christ. And the soldiers, moved by an overwhelming impulse, presented arms before the suffering King of king. A little child was present at that memorable scene who in after-life became a Canon of this Cathedral and is now the Bishop of an English See. Another incident thoroughly well attested, in a family that is still among us, will illustrate further what I say. A notorious libertine of bygone days was reading one evening, when he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the page, and looking up he saw before him a representation of our Blessed Lord on the cross surrounded by a glory. At the same instant he heard a voice saying, 'O sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these thy returns?' The vision filled him with unutterable astonishment and agony of heart, and, pierced by a sense of his ingratitude to God, he from that moment forsook his evil life. Still, it is true that, as in Corinth of old, men will avoid the teaching and the application of the cross. They will go round it, so to speak, and admire the poetry of religion while they resent the self-surrender which the Passion of the Master must ever claim. There can be no place for half-measures with the appeal of the crucified Christ. It implies the crucifixion of self, the abolition of the whole body of sin, the consecration of the personality to work in some unequivocal way for God, and for our fellowmen. It must mean this, as it means 'so great salvation,' and therefore many to their peril falter and delay.
—Archdeacon Tetley, The Guardian, 26th August, 1910.
1 Corinthians 2:2
'I am determined,' said William Lloyd Garrison, the great abolitionist leader, 'to know nothing as a public man save Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and in this country I see Him crucified again in the person of the slave.'
References.—II. 2.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 264. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p. 191. A. L. N. Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 350. W. C. Wheeler, Sermons and Addresses, p. 44. Joseph Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 67. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1264, and vol. xlvi. No. 2673. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 67. A. Barry, The Doctrine of the Cross, p. 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Corinthians, p. 19.
Strength and Weakness
1 Corinthians 2:3
Who is it that says so? Weakness and fear and much trembling! Surely he never did any great good. Surely, when he says, 'I was with you,' he might as well, or better, have stayed away altogether. Was it so? It is none other than the Apostle St. Paul, who was in so many dangers, who underwent so many labours.
What he felt none of us must be ashamed or discouraged if we feel also.
I. To feel our weakness—that is one great way to become strong. If we feel strong of ourselves, we are apt to look to ourselves, and to think that we can manage very well, we can overcome our enemies, we can gain for ourselves a passage to the kingdom of heaven. But when we feel weak, then we are more disposed to go to Him who can give all strength, to Him who is all strength—our Lord Jesus Christ, as He said, 'The earth is weak and all the inhabitants of it; I bear up the pillars of it'.
II. 'I was with you in weakness and in fear.' There is enough to be afraid of in this world. But unfortunately we are all just like children, afraid of that which we ought not to be afraid of, and not the least afraid of what we ought to fear. A child will be afraid of a stuffed wild beast, and cry out in terror. The same child will play in a room where there is a most malignant fever, and have no sense of danger.
III. Every man is weak in that which is his besetting sin. Yet God would give us strength to overcome that completely if only we went to Him for it. 'The congregations of the ungodly have robbed me,' says David. So they have robbed us. The congregations of the ungodly are the devil and his wicked angels.
IV. 'I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.' See where all that ended. He went through fire and water, and he has long since been brought out into a wealthy place.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. II. p. 249.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5
'Treasurer Wightman, having glanced at the MS. on the Fourfold State,' says Thomas Boston in his memoirs for 1st January, 1719, 'wrote to me, that he found a vein of true Christianity in it, and therefore would contribute to the publication of it; and this requiring an answer, gave me an unlooked-for errand to the throne of grace at this time. He intimated withal, that the style would be nauseous to the polite world, and that no book had yet been written on the depraved state of man, with true spirit and elegancy of expression. This did not much move me; for I do not think that way of writing he is so fond of is the way the Lord has used much to countenance for the advancing of true Christianity.'
'I preach the Gospel not with the "enticing words of man's wisdom"—this was the way of the Apostles' discoursing of things sacred,' says South. 'Nothing here of "the fringes of the north star"; nothing of "nature's becoming unnatural"; nothing of the "down of angels' wings"; or "the beautiful lock of cherubims": no starched similitudes introduced with a "Thus have I seen a cloud rolling in its airy mansion"; and the like. No, there were sublimities above the rise of the apostolic spirit. For the Apostles, poor mortals, were content to take lower steps.... It tickled not the ear, but sunk into the heart; and when men came from such sermons, they never commended the preacher for his taking voice or gesture; for the fineness of such a simile, or the quaintness of such a sentence; but they spoke like men conquered with the overpowering force and evidence of the most concerning truths.'
We ask questions perhaps about diction, elocution, rhetorical power; but does the commander of a besieging force dream of holiday displays, reviews, mock engagements, feats of strength, or trials of skill, such as would be graceful and suitable on a parade ground when a foreigner of rank was to be received and fêted; or does he aim at one and one thing only, viz., to take the strong place? Display dissipates the energy, which for the object in view needs to be concentrated and condensed. We have no reason to suppose that the Divine blessing follows the lead of human accomplishments. Indeed, St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, who made much of such advantages of nature, contrasts the persuasive words of human wisdom 'with the showing of the Spirit,' and tells us that' the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power'.
—Newman, The Idea of a University, p. 407.
References.—II. 4, 5.—T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 177. J. H. Holford, Memorial Sermons, p. 24. II. 5.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 276. II. 6.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 39. II. 6, 7.—J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 373. II. 6-8.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 31. II. 6-16.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 353. II. 7.—H. Allen, Penny Pulpit, No. 1569, p. 185. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 111. W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p. 17. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 32. II. 8.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 2; ibid. vol. ix. p. 93; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 180.
Heaven Prepared for Those Prepared for Heaven
1 Corinthians 2:9
To go to heaven when they die, to gaze upon the face of Jesus Christ and so to be blessed throughout all eternity, is the one great desire of all people, believers in the Christian religion, in their more serious moments of reflection—to go to heaven. But there is a question which confronts every one who has ever so desired, a question so extremely simple and natural that one wonders that a reply is not oftener made to it, viz., What sort of place or state would one find heaven to be if he got there? Granted that earth was done with, its toils and tears for ever over, and a free and full entrance ministered abundantly into that happy realm beyond time and the gloomy grave, what sort of experience would it afford, what sort of occupation would one have assigned him, what kind of society would he find himself, mingling in?
That heaven is a kingdom of unbounded delight, that Jesus is there, and that the ransomed and redeemed of the Lord are there, every one knows who has read even ten pages of the Bible in his lifetime. But this is not the question; but would the newly arrived spirit find it a state of enjoyment if he entered it? Granted that suddenly, as men on the battlefield pass, a soul winged its way into the dread presence of God, and that in the twinkling of an eye the Spirit had sped. If the golden bowl were broken, and the silver cord loosed, and the pitcher broken at the fountain, as happens every hour somewhere in this world, suddenly, and the liberated soul appeared before his Maker, is it conceivable that merely because a man had died and the gates of heaven opened wide to welcome the newly arrived spirit that heaven would be found truly enjoyable irrespective of and wholly apart from the kind of life he had led and the tastes that deepened into habits during that life?
I. Say that a man had led a tolerably forceful and busy life, and had by his personality forged out for himself a well-recognised place in the esteem of his friends and fellow-mortals, and that he was summoned suddenly, as people are constantly, and found himself among the celestial and blessed throng on high, and that gazing round his newly attained, newly entered on surroundings, he found that the company was too good for him, that the employment assigned him was certain to eventually prove uncongenial to him—that the presence of God and the holy Jesus and the blessed companionship of the pure angels and the ransomed and the redeemed liberated from earth's defilements and no longer trammelled by earth's limitations, all conduced to make up a state for him that he was convinced he could not possibly endure or ever be truly happy in; but that, on the contrary, promised to make him miserable beyond the power of words to describe; what would that heaven be? What though its delights were pure and unbounded—its courts hallowed, its streets of gold, its citizens aglow with eagerness to serve the most High God, its infinite expanse pervaded to the remotest part by the consciousness in every heart but his own of the presence of an all-merciful, all-loving, ever-present God! And all this to go on indefinitely perpetuated, with no break, no year of respite, and with no hope of ever terminating an engagement which opened with nothing more certain than the certainty that the experience so often sighed for on earth, and over the attainment of which countless religious services had been engaged in and perhaps occasionally a few insipid tears shed, would end in misery, and this called heaven—longed for, sung of, it may be even prayed for and now at last won! Why, such a heaven would prove itself to one unprepared for it a veritable hell, the torture and horror of which would burn into a man's being like a bar of hot iron into his flesh.
II. Now in these circumstances what can be said in answer to this plain pointed question which every Bible reader finds himself face to face with, nay, which lies before every one who has even once sighed for the joy of heaven and longed to enter there. That question is, What sort of heaven am I prepared for entering here and now? To that plain and most serious question, can any reliable reply be given? Or must we shut and hasp our Bibles and go our ways into the world again, sad at heart, because we are unable to answer the question, and must we live and die unable to say what sort of heaven we are best fitted for inhabiting? Nay! There is no need for this.
We have only to turn our searching scrutiny within—to gaze, by the aid of memory and an awakened conscience, over the paths we have loved to tread, the secret delights that have charmed us most, the companionships we have cherished and most enjoyed, the kind of people whose society gave us the most intense and keenest enjoyment, and there, still gazing within ourselves, there rises before the mental eye a picture painted as truthfully as by the very hand of God Himself which with absolute faithfulness portrays the kind of heaven each worshipper is best fitted to inhabit and enjoy. We dare not always call it God's heaven or the Bible-lovers' heaven, but the realm or state which from that individual soul's past experience—he or she—is quite justified in believing would best secure the continuity of the kind of joy hitherto known on earth. There cannot be a moment's doubt in any one's mind that what has been so far said carries with it the emphasis of common sense and universal experience.
We must breathe heaven's atmosphere on earth. The radiance of heaven, whatever its final fulness, must fall upon the heart on earth now, and wherever there is a heart that is animated by a love of good and by the spirit of a hidden love of God, there heaven has in no dim or uncertain sense already been entered, and the land of promise, however far off at times it may seem, has actually proved to be within. The one golden word in this beautiful verse that gives the key as of heaven itself to every thoughtful inquirer after heaven is love—'things God hath prepared for them that love Him'. Where this blessed influence is unfeignedly existing, leavening the life, clarifying the spiritual vision, sorting out the soul's choicest delights, God is and Christ even now reigns, and in a certain sense heaven's atmosphere is already breathed, though its courts in the final sense are not yet fully won.
From all this there are reducible the following self-manifest deductions, which press themselves upon us all, and that in so solemn, so powerful and yet so persuasive a manner that they are unanswerable. First, although no man knows where heaven is, every man knows the kind of heaven best suited to his secret tastes. Next, the heaven a heart secretly sighs after and most enjoys the foretaste of on earth is the only state best suited for that soul in the hereafter; and finally, the state that affords most enjoyment on earth and which promises its continuity in the dread hereafter is the state that particular soul should inherit and no other. This might be cast into another set of words, viz., the sort of heaven best suited for a man is the sort of heaven he ought to have assigned him.
—D. D. F. Macdonald.
1 Corinthians 2:9
Hereafter, and up there, above the clouds, you have been taught to think; until you were informed by your land-surveyors that there was neither up nor down; but only an axis of x and an axis of y; and by aspiring aeronauts that there was nothing in the blue but damp and azote. And now you don't believe these things are prepared anywhere? They are prepared just as much as ever, when and where they used to be: just now, and here, close at your hand All things are prepared,—come ye to the marriage.
—Ruskin, Fors Clavigera (III. 72).
References.—II. 9.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. pp. 350, 403; ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 64; ibid. vol. viii. p. 454.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
'These words,' says Miss Dora Greenwell in The Covenant of Life (p. 101), 'and those which follow in the twelfth verse, "now we have received of the Spirit which is of God, to know the things which have been freely given us of Him," and, indeed, the whole tenor of the chapter, make it evident that the Apostle is not looking beyond the time that now is. The mystery with which his thoughts are occupied is the life of God within the soul—that "preparation of the heart of man," wherein He reveals Himself after a manner not to be apprehended by outward sense, or recognised by natural perception. It is the heaven within us, and not the heaven above us, that the Apostle would here unfold to us; he is concerned, not with such things of God as we have yet to wait for, but with such as we have already received.'
References.—II. 9.—C. Cuthbert Hall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. p. 12. Llewelyn Davies, The Purpose of God, p. 55.
The Things Which God Reveals to Them That Love Him
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
St. Paul claims for himself and his fellow-Christians a certain superior insight and receptiveness, an endowment peculiar and unique, an apprehension which others have not of the things which make up the higher and diviner life. 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.... But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.'
I. Now this truth has often provoked the wit of the satirist and the sneer of the infidel. They have laughed at the idea that anything could be revealed to the soul of faith which is not open to the eyes of the intellect And sometimes, alas! their sneer has been not without provocation, for the truth itself has many times suffered in the hands of those who have abused and perverted it for their own ends. The priest has claimed it to silence the laity; the bigot and the persecutor have employed it to stop inquiry and quench the highest aspirations of men. And often the vulgar and self-confident preacher, talking the grossest absurdities, has denounced those who reasonably objected to his utterances as carnal, unspiritual, and incompetent to judge. It is open to anyone who is perhaps equally devoid of modesty and grace to use this as the cover of his own ignorance and arrogance, and to say, 'We know these things, and you do not'. All this is inevitable. You have read miserable parodies of the loftiest poems, and seen wretched caricatures of the noblest faces. So the sublimest truths may be easily turned into coarseness and buffoonery; but the truths remain great and immortal, in spite of that.
II. There is a spiritual faculty given to men which makes them wiser in the things of the spirit than all which the wisdom of this world knows, and the merest child in faith may feel and know what the intellectual giant has no perception of. There are simple things in everyday life which are close akin to this. You know people who are clever enough in their own department, and yet blind, deaf, unfeeling, and unappreciative concerning the things which are profoundly interesting to you; men who know fifty times more than you know about the world of books, yet have no more sensitiveness than a stone to the music which sets your heart beating with inexpressible raptures; men who could run up a column of figures whilst you are stumbling over the first of them, and who are no more affected by the most exquisite poetry than your favourite dog might be.
These differences run all through life. They determine whether a life shall be coarse and empty or refined and abounding with joy. There are perceptions which no training can give, which no schools can create: they are the endowment of nature, or rather the gift of God, and they are often in the possession of the child, or the untutored woman, and even of the unlearned preacher, whilst the most omnivorous reader and bookworm may be destitute of them.
And if you think of this you may well allow, if you do not understand, that the same truth holds in the life of faith and religious emotion.
III. It is simply impossible for the secrets of the Christian life to be revealed to those who have no Christian beliefs and sentiments. Plato draws a picture of the worshippers in the old pagan Mysteries. They are going through the sacred dance to the sound of sweet music which is being played in the midst of them. But there are spectators watching them from the hillside afar off who say these dancers are mad. The spectators can see the movements of joy, but they cannot hear the music. And people outside the Christian life are like these spectators. They cannot hear the music, and all the rest is strange and inexplicable. They do not know the raptures which are felt when the load of sin is removed; when God, who has seemed far off, comes as near as a familiar friend; when life moves in heavenly places, overshadowed by the love of Jesus, and there is a singing in the heart sweeter than all earthly music. They cannot know. They must taste before they can experience the things which God hath revealed to them that love Him.
—J. G. Greenhough, The Mind of Christ in St. Paul, p. 77.
References.—II. 9, 10.—J. W. Houchin, The Vision of God, p. 132. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 101. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 56. W. R. Inge, All Saints' Sermons, 1905-7, p. 92.
The Depths of God
1 Corinthians 2:10
I. The first suggestion of the passage is that as a man's own spirit alone knows the depths of his own nature, so the Spirit of God alone can know the depths of God, the mysteries of the Divine nature. A man also has depths within him; within him deep cries unto deep. The growth of a child is a series of revelations, but the development of life after childhood is hardly less surprising. Sir Walter Scott was a dull and wandering mind at school. It is no uncommon thing to find an unsuspected faculty emerging even late in life. The only personal knowledge of me that is in any sense full and inclusive is the knowledge acquired by my own spirit. In the same way the being of the Infinite is known only by the Spirit of God. The self-consciousness of the Being who made the universe, even as we know it, is as far beyond our thought as our human self-consciousness must be beyond the thought of the indistinguishable amoeba, which floats in the ooze of the sea.
II. But now it is implied that the Spirit which is the self-consciousness of God can be and is imparted to the Christian, so that in some limited degree that self-consciousness of God, to which His own vast and unfathomable being lies revealed, produces, or reveals, in us a knowledge of His being. We must be careful here not to lapse into the vagueness and unrealities of Pantheism. And we can avoid the danger only by clinging close to the experience of the spiritual life. St. Paul is particular to say that this wisdom is only intelligible to the wise, or the full-grown, i.e. to those in whom the Spirit has been at work. What is it that occurs when by faith in Christ Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit? We can only say that we are introduced into the being and the life of God.
III. These depths of God are searched for us by the Spirit much as Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise were searched for Dante by Virgil and Beatrice. That is, we are taken into abysses, and round the spiral ledges of a mountain, and into the circles of heaven. No poet, not even Dante, could describe the experience. We shall not venture now to do more than enumerate a few of these unfathomable depths of God, and even in our fullest investigations later we shall not flatter ourselves that we have fathomed them. (1) There is, to begin with, the depth of the Divine nature, which is revealed by the Incarnation of the eternal Son, and the deep beyond the deep which is revealed by His suffering on the cross for us men and for our redemption. (2) Guided by the Spirit, we discover that the Incarnation implies the eternal being of God as Love; a relation between Father and Son which was before the world began and will be when the world has ended. The cross implies that the Love which is God is the love which goes out beyond, creating and redeeming; a love which makes men in His image, a love which will save them even by suffering and death. (3) In Romans 11:33 Paul breaks into an exclamation as the great deeps become for a moment clear to him: 'O the depth of wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God!' It is by this initiation into the depths of the infinite God, and surely by this alone, that we can escape the terror of the infinite universe.
—R. F. Horton, The Trinity, p. 21.
The Deep Things of God
1 Corinthians 2:10
What do we understand by 'the deep things of God'? There are the depths of Godhead, but that is not what is intended in the text. It is not the depths of Godhead, but the deep things of God which the Holy Ghost wishes us to have and enjoy.
I. First of all, there is God's deep love. 'God so loved.' No plummet has ever been found capable of sounding the depths of that 'so'. We cannot learn God's love from Nature. Some people say that the Holy Ghost reveals God's love by the Incarnation of Christ. True, in the Lord Jesus we do see God's love, but we do not see its depths in the Incarnation. When the Holy Ghost wants us to know the great depth of God's love, He points us to Calvary.
II. Another deep thing that the Holy Ghost reveals is God's deep wisdom.
III. The Holy Ghost also reveals God's deep mercy.
IV. The Holy Ghost also reveals God's deep righteousness. 'Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep.' The deep things of God cannot be seen by the natural man—they can only be spiritually discerned.
—A. G. Brown, The Baptist, vol. LXIX. p. 812.
References.—II. 10.—Bishop Bickersteth, Sermons, p. 77. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 286; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 416. II. 10-12.—Ibid. vol. iv. p. 187. II. 11.—J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passiontide, p. 183. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 248. II. 12.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 125. J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 209. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2087. W. T. Davison, The Indwelling Spirit, p. 59.
The Natural Man
1 Corinthians 2:14
'The natural man.' The Greek is the 'psychical' man, the man in whom the soul is all, and the spirit is like a dark untenanted chamber. The natural man is the man whose spirit is empty of God. In the third chapter of the same Epistle, Paul says: 'And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ'. Now the 'carnal' man is a Christian, a babe in Christ He is regenerate, he is in Christ, and Christ is in him; but instead of Christ being predominant, the carnal element is predominant.
I. There are Four Characteristics of the Carnal Life.—(1) The carnal life is a babe life. What is sweeter than a babe? But what is tender and beautiful in a babe for a few months is terrible at the end of twelve months, or ten years. And what is lovely in a young convert is terrible in a man of ten or twenty years of Christian life (2) And then the carnal man lives on milk. (3) A carnal Christian is also sectarian. 'I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas.' (4) 'Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil' (Hebrews 5:14). Here we have a fourth characteristic of the carnal Christian; such an one is unable to exercise his senses to discern good and evil.
II. How to get Rid of the Self-Life?—There are three steps: (1) The cross. Whenever the self-life obtrudes, reckon yourself dead to it; reckon that the cross stands between you and it. (2) The Holy Spirit 'If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' And again: 'The Spirit lusteth against the flesh'. It was by the Eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself without spot to God, and it is by the Eternal Spirit that the cursed spirit of self is going to be antagonised in your life and mine. (3) This leads me to my third point, that whilst the Spirit of God in the depth of your heart is antagonising the self-life, He does it by making Jesus Christ a living bright reality. He fixes your thoughts upon Jesus.
—F. B. Meyer, The Soul's Ascent, p. 75.
References.—II. 14.—Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. i. p. 286. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 407. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 43; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 164; ibid. vol. ix. p. 456.
1 Corinthians 2:15
'He that is spiritual judgeth all things'—if cleaned from fanaticism and presumption, and taken in connection with 'But yet I show unto you a more excellent way'—is at once, I think, our privilege and our duty.
—Dr. Arnold of Rugby.
References.—II. 15.—Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 294. II. 16.—J. Clifford, The Christian Certainties, p. 87. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 404. II. 31, 32.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 197. III. 1.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 198.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.