“For I am determined not to know anything among you,
save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
THE Corinthian believers, in common with believers everywhere and in every age, had come to Christ out of a completely egocentric society. It is one thing to know that we are recipients of a new life; it is another to realise all the differences of action and attitude this new life requires. The Corinthians began to find that they had to adjust their lives to a completely new set of standards.
Man’s natural life is centered in self. The new life we receive in Christ is centred in God. The gospel means a change from self-centred living to God-centred living. This change does not take place without a struggle. In fact the struggle will continue till every part of us has been brought into complete subjection to Him, and that will only be when we see Him face to face. As we remain open to the Spirit we constantly enter into a deeper realisation of how the Cross must deal with our self life.
The Corinthians, in the worldly society of their city, had lived a life of self-seeking. This was the standard on which they had been brought up. They knew no other. Their relationships, whether in society or in their homes, were used for self-gratification. Personal whims and fancies ruled their thinking, and any standard of conduct was allowable if these fancies were to be achieved.
In his letter to them, Paul shows that the very privileges God gives us can be misused to exalt self rather than Him, and this will be inevitable unless the life we receive in Christ is worked out in the spirit of the Cross. The Cross was the ultimate proof of our Lord’s subjection to the will of the Father. To us the Cross means a readiness to use all that God gives for Him alone, not for ourselves. This was the basis of the struggle in which the Corinthians were engaged. Paul looks at different aspects of their life as a church, and shows the chaos that results when the principle of the Cross is disregarded.
The Corinthians had been privileged to sit under a most competent ministry. Paul, Apollos and Peter were all outstanding servants of God. They brought a message which could have contributed much to the church’s unity and understanding of the Lord. The Corinthians, however, were interested mainly in the personal pleasure they received from their favourite minister. The result was that the ministry led to argument and dissension. Paul reminds them that the power of God is in the Cross. Only when we allow the ministry to lead us to Christ, with a concern greater for Him than for ourselves, will it bring light and life.
The section of this letter which deals with the gifts of the Spirit must be one of the most perused parts of the Bible. The two chapters 12 and 14 are, however, divided by the great passage on love in chapter 13. The supreme expression of God’s love was the Cross. Without the Cross, the inspiration received from the use of spiritual gifts is merely transitory. The Cross introduces us to an understanding of the mind of God, an understanding which comes through the Word. Without this, no subjective spiritual experience can last.
1 Corinthians ends with a great defence of the resurrection. The resurrection was the outcome of the Cross. Had our Lord not died, He could not have risen again. Paul’s concern is to show that apart from the Cross, our spiritual life is meaningless (15:17). There is no spiritual life without spiritual death.
One of the most insidious temptations we face is, as it was with the Corinthians, the temptation to remove the Cross from our faith. When the Cross is in fact removed, all becomes void of vitality. The most competent ministry of the Word becomes a dead letter. Christian fellowship is emptied of meaning. Relationships with the family or among the Lord’s people are debased. Our witness to the world becomes irrelevant. Our Scriptural order and patterns become a sham. The whole subject of the gifts of the Spirit leads to confusion.
There is a lot of seemingly orthodox but crossless Christianity in the world today. May the Lord deliver us from it! [60/ibc]