The Word for today: 1 Corinthians 5, 6
1 Corinthians is absolutely loaded with spiritual answers. At the same time, it raises just as many spiritual questions!
Stand in the Rain has been waiting for 1 Corinthians, because it’s the perfect place from which to launch a series of articles that will (we hope) sort out some of the Bible’s paradoxes.
Ten years ago, I stumbled across a reprint of the original (1909) Scofield Reference Bible. (When the revised version of 1917 became the standard Scofield, the 1909 version was largely forgotten.) Printed in the back was a lengthy article called “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.”
As I read it, so many of scripture’s internal “contradictions” melted away. And so, leaning heavily on Scofield’s original, we present this abridgement to you. We hope, pray, and expect that some concepts which once seemed logically irreconcilable will start to make seamless sense!
Yesterday, we looked closely at a believer’s “standing:”
At the moment (s)he receives Christ by faith, the believer becomes a son of God, a joint-heir with Christ, a king and priest, the owner of an incorruptible, unfading inheritance. We have peace with God, eternal life, and we are accepted to the full measure of Christ’s own acceptance. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, clothed in the righteousness of God, raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenlies. That’s the position we find ourselves in!
Our standing is the result of the work of Christ, and is perfect and complete from the moment we first believe. Nothing in the believer’s subsequent life adds anything to his standing. Faith alone confers standing in God’s sight, and before Him the weakest and most fallible believer has precisely the same standing as the most illustrious saint.
Today, we focus on the believer’s current “state:”
What our actual state may be is quite another matter; certainly it is far, far below our exalted standing in the sight of God. It is not all at once that our conduct equals our standing. The following passages will indicate the way these two things are constantly contrasted throughout scripture:
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. (1 Corinthians 1:11)
You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? (1 Corinthians 6:15a)
Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? (1 Corinthians 6:15b)
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
God first gives the highest possible standing and then exhorts the believer to maintain a state in accordance with his standing. The lowly are lifted up and set on high:
Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:6)
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules. (Colossians 2:20)
You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8a)
Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8b)
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected. (Philippians 3:12)
Positionally, the believer is perfected forever (Hebrews 10:14), but looking within, at his state, we must say “not that I have already attained, or am already perfected”. (Philippians 3:12)
The work of God on the believer’s behalf–the application of His word to the believer’s walk (1); the disciplinary chastisement at His hand (2); the ministry of the Spirit (3); the difficulties and trials along the way (4); and the final transformation when He shall appear (5)–are simply intended to bring the believer’s character into conformity with the position which is his at the moment of conversion.
A king might have been a little boy when he assumed the throne. He might not have acted very kingly then, but that didn’t mean he was any less a king. A king is born a king.
In the case of every true son of the King of kings, this growth into kingliness is assured. In the end, standing and state, character and position, will be equal. But the position is not the reward for perfected character. The character develops from the position.
(1) John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26; (2) Hebrews 12:10; 1 Chronicles 11:32; (3) Ephesians 4:11-12; (4) 1 Peter 4:12-14; (5) 1 John 3:2