1 CORINTHIANS 4


2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

The truth cannot be frustrated in its appointed mission in our age any more than in any other age.‭ ‬If those to whom it comes prove undiscerning of their privilege,‭ ‬or loose-handed in their stewardship,‭ ‬the opportunity will pass on to others,‭ ‬as we are taught by the parables and by all God's dealings on earth.‭

It has always come in a humble and kindly agency,‭ ‬but it is none the less a thing of inexorable demands at the bottom.‭ ‬Gentle and enticing at the beginning,‭ ‬it will end with bitter mockery if it is trifled with.‭

God is love,‭ ‬but our God is a consuming fire,‭ ‬and it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands.

The Christadelphian, Apr 1886



3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

The issues were too big to permit of anxiety over man's judgment. He knew that man's

opinion mattered nothing. He fervently hoped and prayed that they would rise to justify

their early promising beginning when all was love and zeal, but if they did not, he had done his best.

There were millions who would not heed the call. His principle concern was with those

few who would. His foremost duty was to the true ecclesia of God. Christ has said that not one of such would be finally lost. Paul besought the Corinthians with tears that they should not receive the grace of God in vain, but he knew that many would. And so he early decided to "know no man after the flesh" (2 Cor. 5:16). He knew that some would come and go like ships in the night. Many brethren, too, he knew were walking as enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18).

Toward the end of his ministry, he had to write from prison with an aching heart that

"All they which are of Asia be turned away from me" (2 Tim. 1:15).

Demas, his fellow-laborer, his trusted companion, at the same time unbelievably chose the attractions of this present world to the glories of the Kingdom (2 Tim. 4:10). But still he could say, "None of these things move me." The purpose of God stood sure. Paul's duty lay clearly before him.

In the end all the elect would be gathered; not one would be missing. All the rest would be swept away with the things they had loved best.

"It is a very small thing that I should be judged of man's judgment."

"Do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ"

(Gal. 1:10).

"So we speak, not as pleasing men, but God. Neither at any time used weflattering words, nor of men sought we glory."

Men are such insignificant things-GOD is the one to please and consider. Yet he says in this epistle we are considering-

"I please all men in all things" (1 Cor. 10:33).

And to the Romans-

"Let every one please his neighbour for his good to edification" (15:2).

Is there contradiction? We know there is not, though many things recorded by the mind of the Spirit seem contradictory to the mind of the flesh. Paul was

"all things to all men" (1 Cor.9:22).

He pleased all whenever possible. In nothing would he cause offence if self-denial and self-abasement on his part could prevent it. In this sense he "pleased all men." But he sought no man's favour; he sacrificed no principles. Desertion did not move him; ingratitude did not embitter him; contempt did not trouble him. For he was confident, he said, that-

"The Lord, when he comes, will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart: and THEN shall every man have his due praise of God" {1 Cor. 4:5).

Until that time he was content to wait.

Bro Growcott - Ye are full



5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

In a case of open,‭ ‬undoubted,‭ ‬unrepented sin,‭ ‬duty would compel dis-fellowship,‭ ‬but where the sin is denied and in dispute,‭ ‬and a majority think the accused innocent,‭ ‬the only rational course is to give the accused the benefit of all doubt,‭ ‬and let fellowship take its routine way.‭

Those who fear complicity with sin in such a case have only to remember that Judas was allowed to remain in the company of the disciples until he made himself manifest‭; ‬and they must also realise this undisputable fact,‭ ‬that the present state of the ecclesia,‭ ‬is one in which good fish and bad,‭ ‬swim together in the same net,‭ ‬until the net is drawn to the shore to have its contents classified at the coming of the Lord.‭

All cases of doubt must needs be left to the unerring Judge,‭ ‬who will render to every man according to his ways.‭ ‬Many such cases there will always be in the present state,‭ ‬and if we resolve to withhold our fellowship till perfect holiness prevail in every professing saint,‭ ‬we may make up our minds for a hermit life.‭ ‬In such matters we must follow Paul's injunction.

***


The laws of England give suspected persons the benefit of all doubt. How much more the law of Christ. Remember this when you are tempted to indulge in evil surmise concerning matters of which a full knowledge is necessary for a just judgment. Discretion suspends judgment and observes silence where the full knowledge does not exist.

...You cannot do better than act on Paul's advice-

"Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor. iv: 5). 

It is true that some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment. In such cases there is no difficulty as to how we are to act, but where there is one case of this sort there are hundreds where evil surmise may inflict great injustice, and may be sinful. It is best to be quiet and wait.

The Christadelphian, Jan 1887



The book of remembrance


But the restoration of identity with Deity is neither impossible nor difficult. The dead are historical characters, who lived and moved and had being in Deity (Acts xvii.28). Hence, all their thoughts and actions, constituting their characters, are recorded in Him as in " a book of remembrance " (Mai. iii. 16).

Therein is written their history ; and, with the exception of their incorporeal dust in sheol, their characters inscribed upon the divine page, are the all that remains of them in the universe.

This scroll of record is the broad sheet of spirit, styled by philosophers, ether and electricity, which, filling the universe, enwraps the world. All thoughts and actions are vibrations excited

in this spirit of the Creator, by corporeal agents. These subtle vibratory impressions are never obliterated, unless He wills never to revive them.

Many such impressions He has willed to blot out; as in the case of those who are consigned to " a perpetual sleep " ; and of sins that have been forgiven. But there are impressions, at present latent, that are to be intensified and made manifest; and "whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (Eph. v. 13).

The electrical, and electrically recorded, thoughts and actions to be manifested, are " the hidden things of darkness, and the counsels of the hearts " of the just, who have accepted, and of the unjust, who have rejected or extinguished, the light. These two classes, evolved from the dust of sheol, in the first stage of their raising, are " earthward and speechless." They may be said to be like a man newly aroused from deep and heavy sleep, who fails to realise his exact condition ; and is in doubt where, what, and how, he is, being in a state not inaptly termed quandary.

A recent evolution from dust, what can he know, or what language can he speak ? He is like

a babe, without speech or knowledge, and, therefore, without identity ; so that with Daniel, when he acquires speech, he can say, " I set my face toward the earth, and I was dumb."

What then remains for the establishment in these resurrected men and women of a consciousness of having existed as members of human society three thousand years, more or less, before ? All that remains is that, like Daniel, their lips be touched with the lightning

of divine power-" He touched my lips : then I opened my mouth, and spake."

This magic and enlightening touch restored to him the consciousness he had lost on falling into the deep sleep, in which all his vigour was turned in him into corruption, and he retained no strength. The electrical vibrations of his former self, by that potent touch upon his lips, were flashed upon his brain ; and he was enabled to give an account of himself as affected by the vision before he slept. And so with the just and the unjust in general. Their histories will be flashed upon their brains, being transferred thitherby Almighty power from the divine and electrical page upon which they are all inscribed. So that truly of the dead it may be said,

" they all live to Him " (Luke xx. 38).

Anastasis



7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Humble service one of another is the characteristic of all who conform to the mind of Christ. It will be found on closest reflection to be the most reasonable and the most beautiful deportment on the part of a human being. A man appears at his best when sincerely and unaffectedly humble.

The greatness of any gift he may have will only add to the beauty of modesty, and will certainly not detract from the reasonableness of it, for what can a man have that he has not received? Even the power of application and perseverance by which he may attain results is a gift: he did not create it.

Nazareth Revisited Ch 38



Why dost thou glory?

How much easier and more natural it is to take pride in our privileges and abilities than to faithfully realize and discharge the obligations they impose upon us! Paul reverses the world's judgment.

Ability is not an asset-it is a liability. It has been given to us. It is charged to our account, and it must be accounted for. Favour is never divorced from justice. If we seem highly favoured, correspondingly more is required of us. God has no idle favourites.

"Men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself " (Psa. 49:18).

The natural man is so incredibly warped in his outlook. In the sight of God such a man is a common thief, abusing a sacred trust and using his Lord's goods to his own ends. The mind of the flesh is a treacherous guide. There is little said about the personal circumstances of the Apostle in the New Testament records, but Paul here, because οf the Corinthians' attitude, is moved to mention his own position briefly.

The Corinthians, we have observed, were apparently well-to-do. Verses 8 and 10 of this fourth chapter support this observation. This led unconsciously to a false and superficial viewpoint regarding Paul. Of himself he says-

"We both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; we are reviled, persecuted, defamed, made as the filth of the world and the off scouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:11-15).

For Christ, he told the Philippians, he had suffered the loss of all things, even to the barest amenities of life, and the ordinary respect of his fellowman. In poverty, despised, and

unattractive in appearance, he was everywhere the object of amused contempt; a common vagabond; the filth and oflscouring of the world; a spectacle to angels and to men.

How many today, punctilious about the washing of cups and the dictates of fashion, would recognize the messenger of life and hope in such a disguise? Little wonder the prosperous and worldly-wise Corinthians had outgrown his crude and embarrassing plainness. God's ways truly are not man's. God chooses those things that are weak and base and despised.

"I write not these things to shame you,"

Paul assures them,

"but as my beloved sons I warn you,"

-I warn you to judge carefully and wisely according to spirit and truth. Give less thought to outward appearance and material possession. What consideration would the blind and empty-minded world give to this homeless and ill-clad outcast?

Bro Growcott - Ye are full



8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.


At the time the Apostle labored, Corinth was a thriving metropolis of wealth, luxury, commerce and corruption. This is the background of the Corinthian ecclesia, and it is to some extent reflected in the epistle. Paul gives indications that the ecclesia there was well-to-do, and in good standing with the world. Ύe are full," he says, contrasting them with himself,

"Ye are rich, ye are honourable."

And as is almost inevitable in such circumstances, they gave too much thought to worldly wisdom, to imposing appearance, to polished eloquence, to the meaningless husks of worldly convention. Because of this they did not grow inthe Truth, they remained vacant-minded babes when they should have been growing into men. They lost their hold on spiritual values, with sad results to their conduct and course of life.

Envy and contention sprang up; immorality was being tolerated; greediness and revelling disgraced their solemn assemblies; spiritual gifts were prostituted to a confused babble of vain glory and pride; elements of the Truth were in danger, and the Apostle who had begotten them in the faith was openly despised for his poverty, his rude speech and his unpretentious simplicity.


Bro Growcott



21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

If the Lord will


To love God was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. This was the sentiment of one of the Scribes, the expression of which elicited from Christ the remark that he was not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). So, to love God is more than all money-spending, meeting-holding, and doctrine-defining that men may engage in, without a sanctifying recognition of the Creator of heaven and earth.

These things have their place, but if they are without Paul's love of God, they are as salt without savour. It was the first of the great commandments-that men should love God with all their strength and soul and mind. This is the "first commandment" both of the law and the gospel. It is one exemplified in the case of Paul, who, even before his enlightenment, worshipped the God of his fathers, and was zealous towards Him (Acts 22:3), and afterwards was a living embodiment of it in all its manifold relations.

In our day, men are ashamed to acknowledge God. Even when there is a professional recognition of Him in a ceremonial way, it is obscured in Latin words (Deo Volente) and these are pared down to their smallest form-their first letters. Men, who think they ought at all events to appear pious, propose to do so and so, "D.V."

This is very different from Paul's straightforward, sincere and manly -"if the Lord will." "D.V." is reducing the recognition of God to its smallest dimensions. It is not in reality a recognition and confession of God, but a compliance with the conventionalism of the Gentile apostasy from apostolic truth and simplicity - a respectable system which overshadows the world with the shadow of death and from which every earnest man will seek to deliver himself by a return to the clear and healthy and saving example of Paul.

His recognition of God even in common things, is constant and natural. He is, in fact, a good example of what James means when he refers deprecatingly to those who say,

"Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain."

Says James (4:14),

"Ye know not what shall be on the morrow . . . Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that."

This was the habit of Paul, our example from Christ. Parting with the brethren at Ephesus, he said,

"I will return again unto you, if God will" (Acts 18:21).

Writing to the Corinthians as to the prospect of a visit, he says (1 Cor. 4:19),

"I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will."

So to the Romans, he says he had "made request in prayer that he might have a prosperous journey to them by the will of God" (1:10); and he asks them to pray that "he might come to them with joy by the will of God" (15:32). The brethren following his example when they could not dissuade Paul from running into danger at Jerusalem, said,

"The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14).

Seasons 1.70.