« PrécédentContinuer »
in idol temples could be met and discussed. But, I ask, was not this the method of the Lord Himself in His teaching? Did He not begin with the simplest and least peremptory argument, when answering questions and matters brought to Him, and then, from thence rise to the more solemn ones? Take as an instance of this, the progress of His words in Mat. xv. 1-9, when replying to the Pharisees on the subject of traditions—and so also, as another instance, His method with them again, in Mat. xii. 24—37, when they had said that He cast out devils through Beelzebub. On each of those occasions, did He not begin to convict the gainsayers by the simplest argument, and
rise gradually to the most awful and peremptory? Does He not use the less startling or alarmins. rebuke at the beginning, and then solemn condemnation and very awful warning?
And so, the Spirit of God in the Apostle here. He begins by showing, that this eating in an idol's temple would be a breach of the law of love. But, resuming this same subject in chap. x., he does not merely repeat the
argument drawn from the breach of brotherly love, but he lets them know, that if any of them persisted in being at the idol's temples, they were provoking the Lord Himself to jealousy, and that the door of His house must shut itself against them.
This was His method in this argument. And thus we begin, in this divine discourse, contained in this portion of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, to get the House of God first presented to us. The door of that house is here commanded by the Spirit in the Apostle to be watched and guarded. The avenue to the house, as I may express it, must be kept clean. No foot is to tread it that has been inside an idol temple; the contact would defile.
Having been thus introduced to the subject in this way, we shall find that the Apostle keeps it before him to the end of chap. xiv. It is "the House of God” he is still considering.
Here, however, I will pause for a moment, to call this to mind-that under Moses, the House of God, as it was in his day, was strictly watched; the character, and order, and services of it, were all jealously guarded.
That house, under Moses, had been raised in the wilderness first, and then in Canaan as a land set apart and purified for the presence of Jehovah. Neither Egypt
, nor uncircumcised Canaan, as I may express it, was a fit place. The land must be separated or sanctified, or the house of Jehovah could not be reared. But being reared, all was ordered with great carefulness. The outer and inner courts were distinguished, the places of the Levites and of the Priests, and then the sanctuary of the Glory or the divine Presence.
Now, in these chapters which are at present before us, I mean 1 Cor. viii.- xiv., we get a very complete exhibition of the House of God as it is in this present dispensation; and it is edifying to look at it, and inspect it
. We shall observe a strict rule enjoined as to it, as we have just observed, was the case under Moses.
We have already seen the avenue to it, or the door of it (the same thing) watched by the Spirit in the Apostle. He would not allow one to enter there, who had come from an idol temple (x. 21).
We are now to look inside the door, at the interior of the house itself, and the Apostle shows us the seats of the guests, the table spread in the midst of them, and the servants and their services.
As, then, respecting the seats of the guests, we now observe that they are guarded and watched with the same jealousy that had sanctified the door. Males and females are to be seated together, but only under certain conditions, such as the character of the house demanded. No trespass on this order can be allowed, the Apostle peremptorily declares, even on a plea of ignorance." The house must maintain its order. There are mysteries, divine truths and principles, in all the parts of that order; and they cannot be sacrificed to the ignorance of foolish men (xi. 1-16.)
This is much to be observed. The jealousy that watched the door, inspects the seats of the guests; or the guests themselves as seated at the table.
The table itself, as in the midst of the guests, is next shewn us.
And here again we get the same holy watchfulness.
The Apostle rules it expressly, that if any of the
guests would defile the table by turning it to another use than that appointed by the Lord of the house, such an one must be judged. There is to be no exception as to this. The table was the Lord's—the table of His house; and they were not to dare to treat it as they might their own table in their own house. The Lord would
avenge the wrongs of His table now; for of old He had avenged the controversy of His temple (xi. 17—34).
Surely, all this is still of the same character. The door of the house, the sitting of the guests, and their partaking of the table, all were to be kept clean and well-ordered, according to the mind of the Lord of the house.
We then get the servants of the house introduced to our notice. Their worshipping service, or the house in its priestly character is, perhaps, just for a passing moment, looked at in chap. xii. 1-3; but after this, their ministering service is very fully, and indeed elaborately, detailed and presented-as from this to the end of these chapters (xii. 4-xiv.).
Each servant is challenged by the Apostle to know his own proper service or business under the distribution or gift of the Lord of the house—and therewith to occupy himself both for the honour of the common Lord of all, and for the edification and comfort of his fellow-servants, or the guests, or household.
And then we learn, that in the exercise of these gifts or endowments, various moral qualities are to be cultivated, or characteristics cherished. Each, for instance, is to honour the others. And each and all are to be, as it were, busy with themselves, while doing the business of the house — that is, exercising themselves in all Christian virtues, judging their own ways and behaviour as saints, and nourishing the due graces of the Christian. .
All this is earnestly pressed by the Apostle in this part of his discourse, looking, as he is here doing, at the servants.
And here let me take occasion to say, there is surely danger of getting into merely gifted service, or into merely gifted knowledge. King Saul was the type of the first of these; the prophet Balaam, of the second. Saul served, delivering Israel from their enemies. But he served merely under a gift. There was no renewal of mind, or exercise of spirit, in the midst of his service. His conscience was not in action, nor was he in God's presence. Balaam prophesied, telling out wonders and secrets, divine counsels concerning Israel. He was an oracle, and his utterances are beautiful beyond the common measure. But he spoke merely under a gift. There was no subjection to the Lord, or exercise of heart in him.
Such things are solemn.
The world, in spite of his gift, was Saul's object; and the same world, in spite of his gift, Balaam's object. Saul coveted its honour; Balaam, its wealth. Gift did not renew the mind, or implant the new life. There was not even struggle with the world in these men, much less victory over it. Saul, with full deliberation, would give up his interest in God for a little present honour in the presence of his people; Balaam loved the world and sought only its good things, though he was, under the Spirit, pronouncing its judgment.
Can such service, such knowledge, as this be in estimation with the Lord ? Impossible. They may be used by Him. The gift has its value—but the vessel that carries it will be put among the vessels unto dishonour, as soon as the Lord of the house takes account of His
“We believe and therefore speak,” in a short sentence, is the due and proper thing, and the contradiction of merely gifted service. “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” says Paul of himself; and to his beloved Timothy he says, " Take heed to thyself and to the doctrine; for in doing this thou shalt save thyself and them that hear thee. He that acted and spoke in this way was neither a Saul nor a Balaam.
Now, the saints at Corinth were nearer this state of merely gifted knowledge and service, than any whom Paul addresses in those Apostolic days. Nationally, they were, as we speak, schoolmen--and such a generation have their own snares and temptations. He was some
what in alarm respecting them on this behalf. He was uneasy touching the Thessalonians, because of their sufferings, lest they should be overwhelmed—he was in great fear touching the Galatians, because of their judaizing, lest they should be bewitched from the Cross of Christ
- here he is angry and apprehensive touching the Corinthians, because of their worldly, carnal, intellectual condition, lest they should, after all, be reprobate.
He may indeed, at the beginning, express his full confidence in the Lord about them (i. 7, 8), but being gifted and yet walking in moral relaxation, as the whole of the Epistle shews us, he had his fears, he could not but sound the alarm of a watchman in Zion. He tells them, that he could not speak unto them as spiritual
, though he has to acknowledge that they came behind none in gifts. Surely this was an evil and a dangerous state. It is a warning to us. And the Apostle's words in the whole of this Epistle, the first Epistle to the Corinthians, tell us that in a holy, personal, living dispensation, like the present, such a state of things will surely not do.
Chapter xiii., part of the portion we are here considering, coming in where it does, confirms all this. There must be saintly, individual walk, as well as ecclesiastical or corporate service. Surely there must. The conscience of every Saint will tell him so, as this Epistle does. The Corinthians are taught to know, from chap. xiii., that they have a business with themselves, as chap. xii. and xiv. would teach them, that they have a business for others. Such is the cleanness or required order of the servants of the house of God, as we before learnt the required character of the door, the seats, and the table.
I may, therefore, surely say again, if the house of God under Moses was guarded with jealousy, so is it under the Apostles. The framework, the material, the furniture, the services and order of the houses themselves are different, but the jealousy that watches over each of them is the same.
And here let me say, that the first duty of the living house of God (as the house of this present time is), is obedience to the word of God.