- They Recognise Gifts Are Of Grace
- They Taste Of Apostolic Hardships
- They Beget Children In The Gospel
- They Portray Example Worth Following
- They Display Power Rather Than Words
- They Exercise Correction AND Compassion
First Corinthians chapter 4, and you'll remember if you were here at our last study before the Christmas break that we only got the first two points of our study accomplished that particular evening, and so we've another four to do tonight. You ought to have, if you were at that meeting, that study sheet - maybe you've got an extra one as you came in this evening - but don't worry, I'll refresh you with all the points that we've already gone over. The title that you have been given is: 'The Difference Between Those Who Think and Those Who Are' - the difference between those who think they are, and those who really are. We'll begin our reading at verse 6 where we began our last study, just to refresh your minds:
"And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 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? 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. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day". This is where we'll be taking up our study specifically tonight: "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye?" - what do you want? - "Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?".
You will remember that in our last study we found out, and it has been a common theme in the first four chapters of this first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, that there were those in Corinth who were puffed up. This word and phrase occurs right throughout both first and second Corinthians, to be puffed up - and the original Greek word has the sense of the bellows that were used to puff up or to fan the flames of a fire. Paul is saying that there were those in Corinth who were puffed up in the human pride of their worldly wisdom. They were puffed up in that pride to such an extent that they actually felt themselves superior to the great apostle Paul, the apostle God had chosen to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, and ultimately the apostle who had brought them to Christ and who had planted and founded this church in their city of Corinth.
Now we don't want, in any shape or form, to communicate to you this evening that thinking is not important, that the mind is not important and wisdom is not important - of course these things are very important. It is to the mind, first and foremost, that God communicates His truth, and hopefully it makes that 16 or 18 inch journey from your mind into your heart, and then from your heart down to your feet into your walk. So all the truth of God must start within our minds, before it can be applied and assimilated into our walk day by day as human beings, so thinking is important, but what we are stressing this evening in our study is that although thinking is important there is a great, a massive, a fundamental difference between thinking - just thinking - and being.
It's alright thinking that you're spiritual, and of course there were these patrons right throughout the whole church at Corinth who had these followings of slaves and ordinary people doing for them all sorts of favours that they wanted and demanded of them, whether they be financial and possibly even at times sexual. They were puffed up in their own humanistic pride because of their wisdom, and they thought that they were spiritual, and the church thought that they were spiritual - and the church put them on a pinnacle, and that's why Paul has had to come in chapter 4 and say: 'Look, there are men within the church of Jesus Christ that are God's gifts to the church, and you've got to recognise those gifts to the church, but don't exalt the man'. Recognise the gift, but don't exalt the man.
You know there's a great danger for all of us, no matter who we are and no matter what position we hold within the church of Jesus Christ - whether we feel it's a responsible position, or we feel that we're an ordinary Joe Bloggs 5'8" sitting in the pew that doesn't really matter much in the church. There's a great danger that no matter who we are or what we do for Christ, that we can think we are spiritual, and thinking is a million miles away from being. So we want to look again tonight at the fact that there is a difference, a great difference, between those who think and those who really are.
We learnt last week as we looked at the sufferings of the apostles and these early Christians, and those who really were spiritual, that the fact that to be spiritual in Paul's day - and I'd say to be spiritual in our own day, even in our comfortable Western society - it is a painful thing, and it's a costly thing, and it's not a thing that engenders pride within the head or within the breast. We see that as Paul makes this comparison, he says in verse 6, he compares the apostles, he talks about Apollos as well and all the faithful servants of Christ, to what these men are purporting to be a spiritual man of God, and how they are portraying themselves as the leaders within the church of Jesus Christ. Paul actually begins to demote himself before their faces, and demote Apollos and Cephas, and even our Lord Jesus Christ in humility and in the servanthood that He brought even in Himself that all His followers also must bring - he demotes himself and all the faithful servants of Christ in order to deflate the pride of the Corinthians.
Now let me say tonight, that I want to jettison any foolish, human, proud thinking that some of us may have within our minds. We need to finish this carnal perception, perhaps, that we are spiritual, or that we think we are spiritual if we're not! Now you may be spiritual, I'm not saying you aren't - but we've got to see that there's a difference in thinking a man is spiritual, or thinking that you yourself are spiritual, and being spiritual! And it's all the difference in eternity! We've got to put away our human ideologies of wisdom, and our little boxes that we have to check to tell us whether a man is spiritual or not - and we've got to come back to the word of God, and as verse 6 says: we are not to think of men above that which is written. That's our foundation, the canon of Scripture must always be our measuring stick when we weigh ourselves up and when we weigh others up. We've got to get back to that which is written.
Now what is this spiritual reality, not the thinking about it but the reality of being spiritual. Well, our last study - and I'll refresh your memory, and if you want to take these down feel free to do so - the first thing that we noted from this portion of Scripture was that spiritual men don't get puffed up because of the gifts that God's Holy Spirit has given them, but in fact they are the opposite: they recognise that these gifts are of grace. Verse 6 and 7: 'For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?' - that's grace, receiving something from God that you haven't earned and that you're not deserving of - 'now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?'. They're walking around the church like proud peacocks because they can preach, or because they're an evangelist, or because they're good at this, that and the other, and they're not recognising that it is given to them by the hand of God, and it's of grace - and if God wants to, He can take it away!
We saw that the root of all the Corinthian's sins through the first and second epistle is this pride, the pride of human gift that they attribute to human wisdom and not the hand of God. What has Paul told them to do, and what has he been exhorting us in the Spirit to do? It's to lift our eyes off men and to get our eyes on God who gives the gifts to the church! A hymn I love and have often quoted puts it well, and I don't apologise for quoting it again:
'Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought the healing, now Himself alone.
All in all forever, Jesus will I sing,
Everything in Jesus, and Jesus everything!'.
That's Paul's theme: get your eyes off men - not the gifts but the Giver. You see how he does this in sarcasm - G Campbell Morgan called it matchless satire. He says: 'Ye are rich, but we are poor'. He's prompting them to think: 'Why do you think you're so rich, and we the apostles are so poor?'. He's being sarcastic to try and awaken them to the reality that they only think, it's only in their mind, it's only the conjecture of their own proud puffed up heart that concludes that they are spiritual! We've seen already Paul lambast them for being the opposite: carnal, worldly, fleshly. If you're going to be spiritual - this is hard, now - you have to be a man or a woman that recognises that the gifts that you have are from God, and they're by grace, and they've got nothing whatsoever to do with you in your attainment of them.
Then the second thing that we learnt is in verses 9 to 13, and we're not going to take time to go through these verses one by one; but a spiritual man, as opposed to one who thinks he's spiritual, actually tastes of the apostolic hardships that the original apostles tasted of. Verse 9 says that they were appointed unto death, that literally, we saw, meant 'doomed men' - they were on death row because they were the apostles of God. In fact, I would almost say that it was a qualification by default of being an apostle that you were martyred for Christ. We read on and it says in verse 9 that they were made a spectacle onto the world, and that Greek word was 'theatron', which is the word we get 'theatre' from. It was as if the whole world of humanistic men and spiritual angels were all gathered around to an amphitheatre, and after all the entertainment, all the criminals, the vagabonds, the off-scourings of this world were brought out without any weapons or armoury and fed to the lions and made a laughing stock - and these apostles and early Christians were made a spectacle just like that, that's what Paul's saying. They are made fools, verse 10, 'moros', the word that we get 'morons' from, fools, defamed, the filth of the earth, the off-scouring of all things - if you can paraphrase it today: the scum of the earth. That's what you're looking for if you want to be spiritual. I wonder would all the hands raise this evening to claim it by faith?
Well, you can read it for yourself in Hebrews 11, and all that it is - I want you to really grasp this this evening - all that this spiritual road is, is conformation to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and His sufferings. We will come to it in our studies in Philippians, Paul cries: 'That I might know Him' - oh, we all want that! - 'and the power of His resurrection' - oh, give me that! - 'and the fellowship of His sufferings' - oh, not that! That's part of the package, it's part of the discipleship, and the trouble with these Corinthians that they wanted a thorn-less road to heaven, and there wasn't one, and Paul was trying to bring them into this reality by his sarcasm! I was reading today William Law's great Christian classic from hundreds of years ago 'A Serious Call To A Devout And A Holy Life', and John Wesley read this on one occasion before he joined the Moravian group and founded Methodism, and he was greatly impressed. He actually became a sort of disciple of William Law, if you like, and followed some of his teaching and got spiritual guidance from him. But after he read this great book and treatise, 'A Serious Call To A Devout And Holy Life', he stated that he was convinced at the end of reading it, and assimilating it, and inwardly digesting it, more than ever, of the impossibility of being half a Christian - the impossibility of being half a Christian! That's what we're talking about here, the difference between those who think and those who are.
Let's move on to our final four points. The third thing that is the great difference that qualifies anyone to be spiritual is that they beget children in the Gospel. Verses 14 and 15, look at these verses: 'I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel'. Now I want you to note in verse 14 how tenderly the apostle Paul comes to them, it's a bit reminiscent of chapter 1 - you remember - with all their catalogue of sins, and qualifications for the judgement of God upon them, remember that he came to them in tender grace and showed them the forgiveness of God. Now he comes tenderly to them in verse 14, he says: 'I'm not coming to shame you, I'm not coming to show you up' - and let me say tonight, in what I have to bring to you from the word of God, I'm not here to hammer you, or to make you feel more guilty, or make you feel you're not up to it. It's not my achievement in any shape or form, it's not my endeavour or goal to ever do that. I come to you as Paul did, not to shame you, but as beloved sons tenderly, but yet pointedly - notice the two-edged sword of Paul, tenderness on one hand and pointedness on the other - and he says: 'Although I'm coming to you not to shame you, beloved sons I warn you!'.
You see, warning is needed - why? Because in verse 15 he says, and if I can translate it like this for you: 'Even though you may end up having countless thousands of guardians in Christ, at least you do not have many fathers'. You see, all these teachers were coming in and flooding the church of Corinth, telling these people what was right and what was wrong, and what they should do and what they shouldn't do. These men and women, simple as they were, were putting these people up higher than the apostle Paul, and putting the apostle Paul down. These people were guardians to them, instructors for them, and teachers among them, yet it was Paul who had brought them to Christ - that's his point! 'Though you have thousands upon thousands of instructors, you've only got one father in Christ - and that's me, because I was the one that came to you and brought the Gospel to you first, not them! I was the one who brought you to faith in Jesus Christ. I was the one who nursed you upon my breast and give you that milk as babes, and set you on your way and encouraged you'.
But you see, they had esteemed these instructors in Christ greater than the apostle Paul, and the word 'instructors' simply means 'a child trainer'. Of course it implies that these Corinthians were still children, and they still needed a child trainer, but the word in the original Greek is 'padagogos' (sp?) which means 'a guide or a guardian of boys'. Literally it's two words put together, the word for a boy and the word for a head, and it means 'a child leader' - and the Revised Version translates it 'tutors'. 'You have many tutors', it's the same word as you get in Galatians 3 where the law of God in the Old Testament is described as 'a schoolmaster', some translations have it 'a tutor to bring us to Christ'. These instructors were like tutors. Now think about a tutor for a moment: a tutor has a duty to instruct, and direct and to guard children - if you like, it's their job. The tutor profits from it, a tutor maybe even gets wages off it. In these days, sometimes these guardians were slaves, and they would have got their keep from this, and been able to live among the family and been given lodgings and food and clothing by looking after these children. But you can see right away, can't you, in this illustration of Paul that there is all the world of difference between a man who has to look after children for a duty and a man who has borne children and who is their father!
Of course there's a difference, Paul didn't just look after these people, Paul had had these people - he had given birth to these men and women in Corinth. He had a right to do what he's just about to do and instruct them. You know the difference between a parent and a teacher - sometimes, I would have to say today, some of the teachers are better to the children than the parents are - but in an ideal world you know that there's all the difference: you can have the best teacher ever, but they will never know the love in their heart and the commitment that the parent of the child has. It's a different relationship totally, but do you see what Paul is saying? It's the same difference between those who think they're spiritual and those who really are! That's the point he's making.
You see these Corinthians behaved so often like children, and as we come sometime in the future to 1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter of love, what does Paul say himself, trying to exhort these Christians on to spiritual maturity? 'When I was a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child, I spake as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things' - I grew up! - 'You Corinthians need to grow up!'. The trouble is bringing up children - and I still have it ahead of me - is difficult, and those who have gone through it know how difficult it is, but you in the spiritual realm can identify with Paul - because sometimes when you're bringing children up they get to know a little, and they think they know a little bit more than you know, and they begin to tell you what they want rather than what they really need. You see what's happening in this church, it's exactly the same, Paul has given birth, led these people to Christ, and they've come to faith in Christ and all of a sudden they know everything that they need! You get this even here, people come to faith in Christ and they know right away the type of church that they want, and all that they need, and the meetings that they need to go to, and the meetings that they don't need to go to, and the fact they don't maybe need to be baptised or go to the Lord's Table - and they're able to cherry-pick it all! You're behaving like children if that's the way that you take the Scriptures into your heart and into your mind, and the attitude that you have to the holy ordinances of God, and you need to grow up!
This was Paul's predicament, he had to listen to their childish talk - and it's not young people I'm talking about alone here, sometimes leaders in the church have to listen to mature men, so-called, and the childish talk that comes out of their lips because they've never grown up! This was a plague in Corinth, and it has always been a plague within the church, but Paul says: 'Now, you're going to listen to me now, not these tutors that are only doing it out of duty and profit, what they can get out of you - but I have begotten you, I've begotten you!'. That's a powerful word 'begotten', of course it's used through the Scriptures in a natural sense of babies that are being born from their mother, but when we go into the spiritual it's used in John 3 and verse 3 where Jesus said to Nicodemus: 'Except a man be born again, begotten of heaven, he cannot see the kingdom of God' - spiritual birth. You go into the books of Peter and Jude and it talks about false prophets and false teachers, and one of the illustrations that these apostles give of these wicked men of the devil is that they're like natural brute beasts, natural brute beasts, as if they're begotten from the beastly kingdom of nature. The description of them in 2 Timothy 2 and 23 says that people like this, and other people that follow them, gender strife - strife-genderers - in other words begetting strife. You know these people that sow the seeds of discord and division within the assembly, they beget trouble.
The other use of this word in the New Testament is exactly the way that Paul is using it here: an instrument of salvation through the Gospel, someone who comes along and tells a person that they're a sinner, and tells them that there is a sinner's Saviour that has been provided in the Lord Jesus at Calvary through His death and resurrection, and lets them know that by faith He is there for the taking for salvation, and they give birth to that person through the Gospel!
Now my question to you, very soberly this evening, is: which are you? First of all: have you ever been begotten of heaven, have you ever been born again by the Spirit of God? There could be someone in this meeting tonight and you're religious, and you've been brought up in a Christian home, and you go to all the meetings that you can - but you've never known the experience. I'm not talking about praying a prayer, I'm not talking about believing a certain amount of theological principles, I'm talking about an experience with God in your heart! That's what this is. Or maybe you're one of these people that's a natural brute beast, and still following after the lusts and inclinations of your wicked fallen nature, and maybe you're trying to bring other people astray. Or you could be one of these people that genders strife, and you've got nothing positive to reproduce, but all the fruit that comes from your lips and hands and life is unprofitable and causes division in the assembly. Or are you a man or a woman, a young person, that begets other people in the Gospel?
We can do without the others very easily, but we could do with a few of these fishers of men about the place. Paul talks about it in Galatians chapter 4 and verse 19, to the Galatians he says: 'My little children, of whom I travail in birth pangs for you again until Christ be formed in you'. Paul is taking upon himself the figure of a mother who is laden with child, and the birth pangs come upon her and she begins to know the travail of bringing a child into the world. He takes that whole illustration in the physical, and those who are spiritual beget children in the Gospel. It's in the Old Testament too, it says in Isaiah: 'As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children'. I do not say this in judgement, I hope you understand it, one time I was taking a visiting preacher home on one occasion - he was in the passenger seat and we were discussing various spiritual things. During the conversation he just happened to remark to me that he used to belong to a church who over emphasised the need for soul winning. My heart dropped when I heard that, and I'm not judging the brother's motives because maybe he meant something that I did not understand, but I know this: there is a certain teaching that goes about of the providence and sovereignty of God that makes people come to the false conclusion that we are not to win souls, and we are not to go out and find people for Jesus - and it's a lie from the pit of hell! I believe in the sovereignty of God as much, and more than, anybody - but I'll tell you this: you have it in black and white here. We are to beget other men for Jesus Christ, we are the channels through which they are to come to faith. Oh, I know they're born of God, but does Paul not say: 'How shall they hear if there is no preacher?', and I'm asking you this evening: are you a soul winner?
Now let's get this, this is what I'm talking about: this facade in our minds of what is spiritual, and you can pick and choose what you want - this soul winning club is not an exclusive one, it's for every child of God! It's not just the apostles, it's for every person that's been brought to faith. As in the physical we've been told: 'Go forth, Adam, and multiply', God says the same to us as spiritual children. I hate this nonsense people say: 'Oh, that's for the evangelists and the pastors, that's for the people that can do that sort of thing' - no it's not, it's for every single believer that has ever been born to God to win others to Christ. They're not all evangelists, they're not all pastors, they're not all teachers, but they're all to be soul winners! All of them!
What's also in this thought is that so often new converts don't really ever know the pain, the turmoil, the anguish, the agony that goes in - now mark what I'm saying - on the human side to their conversion experience. They never know - Paul says: 'You've forgotten, you're oblivious to it, I begot you in the Gospel! I was the one who spent the nights in prayer, the nights in fasting, the nights before ravenous beasts going towards you - I was the one! The half hasn't been told you Corinthians what I went through to bear you'. That's the way, isn't it? I often think of the story of the Lord Jesus going across Galilee towards the land of the Gadarenes where there is that madman, that demoniac, and he's possessed. Everybody loves the story, don't they, of how the Lord went and delivered him - nobody could tame him, and the madman fell at the Lord Jesus' feet and worshipped Him, and before he knew it he was right and sitting clothed in his right mind delivered from all the devil and all the evil and sin. All the people heard about it, didn't they, and they saw the man, and it was miraculous, it was fabulous! It was probably talked about for the next hundred years or more, and we're still talking about it - but none of those people saw the storm that was in Galilee as Jesus was going there! They didn't see the storm.
So often there's a storm and there's a wrestling on the human side, and was that not the case in Gethsemane? Was it not the case at Calvary? This is right throughout the whole Scriptures that there's never the crown until there's the cross! Let me read you some of what these old men of God said about soul travail, and begetting souls for Christ, and what it really means. This is Charles Grandison Finney, and you mightn't agree with all his theology, in fact you probably don't agree with all my theology, but nevertheless he got it right on this one. Listen, he said: 'I once knew a minister who had a revival fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it', maybe that's what you've just thought, 'till I saw one of his members get up in a prayer meeting and make a confession. 'Brethren', said he, 'I have been long in the habit of praying every Saturday night till after midnight for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us, and now brethren', and he began to weep, 'I confess that I have neglected it for two or three weeks'' - two or three weeks! 'The secret was out', Finney says, 'that minister had a praying church'.
Listen on, it says in the life story of John Smith: 'I have often seen him come downstairs in the morning, after spending several hours in prayer, with his eyes swollen with weeping. He would soon introduce the subject of his anxiety by saying: 'I am a brokenhearted man. Yes, indeed, I am an unhappy man - not for myself, but on account of others. God has given me such a sight of the value of precious souls that I cannot live if souls are not saved - oh, give me souls or else I die!''. That's a spiritual man. The spirit of the age, sadly, has invaded the church - what is that? Men are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. There was a book written, I think by a Christian sociologist, not so long ago, and it was all about the infiltration of materialism and lukewarmness from the world into the church - and do you know what he called the book? 'Amusing Ourselves to Death', I'll preach a sermon, I hope, one day on that - but do we beget children in the Gospel? Are we willing to pay the price of that travail, that anguish, that tribulation to see them won? That's the difference between those who think and those who are.
Then the fourth thing is that they portray an example worth following. Paul said: 'Look, follow me, follow me'. Now you might say: 'Well, is this a contradiction of what he said? He's telling these people not to be following men, and now he tells them to follow him'. Well, the point of this is that he is their only father who has begotten them in Christ, and they're to follow him in that capacity, and also if you were to turn to chapter 11 and verse 1 he says, qualifying it: 'Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ'. 'So as long as I follow Christ, you follow me'. The word 'follow' is the Greek word 'mimetes' (sp?) which is the word that we get our English word 'mimic' from - some translations say 'imitators', 'be imitators of me'. We're all good at saying 'do what I say', but how many of us - and let's be honest here tonight - how many of us could stand up truthfully and say: 'Look, you do as I do'?
To prove this he sent Timothy, verse 17, and if there was ever a man that was doing what Paul was doing it was Timothy. You can see that in Philippians 2, we'll come to it in our study, but he was the epitome and example of a faithful servant and steward of Christ that Paul was talking about - and when Paul wanted to show them what he was like, so that they could follow him, and he couldn't get there, he sent Timothy because Timothy was the epitome of Paul's life. Who have we to point to today and say: 'There is a man, there is a woman, who's like Christ'? Could somebody level that against you? Are you someone that others could look up to? Sometimes I feel like Psalm 12 verse 1 when the Psalmist said: 'Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, and the faithful fail from among the children of men'. There is a need today, if there was ever a need, for godly men who are like Christ, and godly women who are like Christ. Make sure, friends that if you're ever going to take anybody as an example, that you take people who are and not people that think, not just people that think but people who are - because there's a grave difference, and I'm telling you there's some people who can tell the difference.
Fifthly, the difference is that the people who really are display power rather than just words. Paul said: 'I'll come to you', and in verse 20, the end of verse 19 he said, 'I'll not just come in speech like those who are puffed up, but the power', verse 20, 'For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power'. Here is the supreme test: where is the power? Is it in the mind? Is it in a man's ability to teach? Paul is saying: 'No, it's not just an argument, but it's an unction. It's not just in the faith that you espouse, but it is in the force that you experience in a life of holiness'. 'The Word' in scripture, 'logos', communicates the expression of the thought of God, that's what it means 'In the beginning was the Word'. Christ was the expression of the thought of God, He declared and revealed God to us. I'm not demeaning Christ, because He filled in all the capacity both the word and the power, but if we come alone with an expression of thought - whether it's human thought or divine thought given from a carnal vessel and instrument, we leave people - the church and sinners - short. Paul is saying: 'It's more than this, the kingdom of God is not just an expression of human thought, but it's power, it's the manifestation of the power in Christ' - isn't that what he said? The Gospel is found in the power of Christ; the Gospel, as he said already in Romans 1:16, is the power of God unto salvation. When you bring Christ in the fullness of the Spirit of Christ in your soul, and you take the Gospel of Christ in that capacity, you know the power of Christ!
Now here's the difference: there's a lot of men who can talk and women who can talk, and I wonder at times do those who talk the most pray the least? Many a man will sit for hours and talk with you about this that and the other, and debate in committees and on boards, and you name it about everything under the sun; but there are few men and women who will take time to pray for the power of God. These men and women of spirituality display power rather than just words - what am I saying? I'm saying that you need to be a follower of Christ as the apostles were in Acts chapter 6, who gave themselves continually to the word of God and prayer. You need to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, who went out on a regular basis into the night, a great while before day, and prostrated Himself before God and prayed - that's why, in a human sense, He knew the power of God in His ministry. 'Men ought always to pray', He said, 'and not to faint' - always means always! The crux of Paul's message and my message to you this evening is this: you can't have apostolic power without apostolic practice, it's all about being not about knowing!
Then, we'll see next week the exercise, correction, and compassion - when it was a hard thing that needed to be done, they did it. They weren't these soft people that just like to be loved by everyone, but if there was a hard thing that needed to be done in the assembly Paul was going to do it. That's the mark of a spiritual man. Before I finish I just want to say this to you so that you don't miss anything that I'm saying: all that Paul has said the spiritual man ought to be is seen in our Lord Jesus Christ - everything! In John chapter 13, if you want to turn to it you can, John chapter 13, and we're finishing with these couple of thoughts, you have it here. Verse 13: 'Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you'. He's given us an example: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them'!
Now don't go away from this meeting this evening and say: 'I'm going to try to be better, I'm going to try to be spiritual, I'm going to try to do all these things that Paul has told us to do', because you'll fail! It's only through the power of God and the Spirit of God that Peter, the great failure, could say: 'Whereby are given unto us exceedingly great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature'. The way that we live the spiritual life is through the divine nature of Christ that is imparted to us by faith and by faith alone! The head begins to swell and the heart stops growing, and I want to tell you this evening that those who think they are are in the majority, and those who really are are in the minority. When you get to the top of the mountain, and I'm not speaking from experience, there'll never be a big crowd waiting there to greet you, but it's the only road that really counts. As Joan of Arc said, abandoned by those who should have stood by her: 'It is better to be alone with God, His friendship will not fail me, nor His counsel, nor His love. In His strength I will dare, and dare, and dare, until I die'. There's a great difference between thinking and being, and I hope both you and I will learn to be.
Our Father, we don't want to be like men, and follow men, and become the partisans of men. But, oh God, we want to follow Christ, but we cannot see Him - Him having not seen, we love - but we can't see Him to follow Him, we see Him in the Spirit and the Scriptures, but we know that Thy truth also testifies that we ought to be able to see Him in each other, we ought to be able to follow the example of each other as we follow Christ. Lord, make us godly men and women who are able to stand for truth, but also to beget souls in the Gospel. Lord, that we would see souls saved through our individual witness and through the testimony of the Gospel even in this place. Lord, we pray that we'll be worth imitating as we imitate Christ and mimic Him. Oh God, we pray that we will fulfil all that we are to be through the Spirit. We thank Thee for our Saviour, and we would not ask to be anything that He was not; and therefore we pray that we will be able to take the suffering as well as the glory. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "The Difference Between Those Who Think And Those Who Are Part 2" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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