Walking as Men
J. Foster Crane, New Zealand
Tut; Christians at Corinth ought to have been a thriving, model congregation of believers; they had been called by Cod, sanctified in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, blessed with many blessings, 1. 2, 9; 6. 17; 1. 4, 5. But there was little in the church that brought much cheer to the heart of Paul. They just hadn't grown up-they were but 'babes in Christ', 3. 1; they didn't know God, 15. 34.
With God-given wisdom Paul laid his finger on the cause of the whole childish behaviour-they were thinking, acting and walking 'as men', 3. 3-as carnal, fleshly, unconverted men of the world, apparently unaware that the basic, underlying cause of all evil in the world and the church is the persistent desire of the human heart to exalt self; to be more important than others; to have more knowledge, more power, more authority, more popularity, than those with whom we have to live. Diotrophes of 3 John 9, 10 is a good example of this; he loved to have pre-eminence and spoke against John, as the Corinthians belittled Paul. Even the disciples sought positions of prominence above their brethren, cf. Luke 22. 24.
In reply to their carnal behaviour Paul reminds the church:
(a) God Reveals Himself only to those who are Self-effacing and Seek His Glory Alone, 1. 31; 3. 19-21
God atone is the source of all wisdom, knowledge, and truth; by the senses of the body (eye, ear and mind) He cannot be known, 2. 9. At Athens Paul had disputed with the philosophers of Greece but to them God was unknown. Acts 17. 23. In calling and revealing Himself to men, God has chosen those people who in the estimation of the world are foolish, weak, base, despised, of no importance, 1. 26-28. Not that He belittles the exercise of thought and reason, but that He simply cannot get through to the natural man who relies on his own wisdom and thinks he can do away with his Maker-the final Source of all wisdom.
(b) Christ Himself had taken a Place of Human Weakness and Humility
The unsaved natural man of the world is wholly committed to the thought that he should be exalted and honoured, hence he resents the suggestion that he is, in fact, sinful and proud in heart and needs to be humbled and abased before God can speak to him or save him.
In contrast to this, Christ, the perfect Son of God, took a place of total meekness and weakness, cf. 2 Cor. 10. 1; 13. 4. He became a servant and was 'obedient unto death, even the death of the cross', Phil. 2. 7, 8.
The unbeliever will accept a powerful Christ who will pander to his pride and self-esteem, but he bitterly rejects a gospel that insists that salvation and acceptance by God can only be found in 'Christ crucified', cf. 1 Cor. 2. 2. Thus, to the Corinthians, the example of Christ their Redeemer, stood as a lasting rebuke of their carnality and self-seeking ways.
(c) The Holy Spirit Alone is the Revealer of Divine Truth
Part of the problem at Corinth was the simple fact that they were unable to distinguish between the more vocal charismatic leaders and those who were taught by the Spirit. There were some 'puffed up' speakers, 4. 19 who apparently were quite popular. On the other hand, the speech of Paul, they said, was 'contemptible', 2 Cor. 10. 11, of no account. But which of these men were taught by the Spirit?
It is right and proper that all assembly leaders should use their minds in diligent study of the scriptures (the only way that God speaks to us today), but there comes a time and place where the human mind can go no further, and one must look to the eternal Author of the scriptures to reveal the hidden wisdom that lies beyond and within the printed page. it is possible to know clearly the recorded facts of the word and yet fail to understand what we read. The man from Ethiopia was a case in point, Acts 8. 30-34. The leader we must follow may possibly be a humble, retiring, self-effacing man rather than the gifted orator who sways multitudes with his eloquence and charisma.
(d) The Example of the Apostles was a Rebuke to the Church
While the Christians at Corinth were lifted up with spiritual pride, the apostles were appointed unto death a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men, 4. 9-weak, despised, hungry, homeless, labouring, persecuted, defamed, 4. 10-13. Lest he himself should be exalted above measure God permitted Satan to afflict His servant with a 'thorn in the flesh', 2 Cor. 12. 7; it was the only way that the power of Christ could rest on him and the apostle suffered his trial gladly. In the place of weakness he was strong; 'We are weak in Him', he wrote to the church, 'but we shall live with him by the power of Cod toward you', 2 Cor. 13, 4; 'The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power', 1 Cor. 4.20. The Christians at Corinth mistook his meekness for weakness and ungraciously belittled him for the real weakness of his body, 2 Cor. 10. 10.
(e) There will be a Day of Reckoning
Paul, Apollos, Peter, Titus were only servants in the hand of their Master, 3. 5, each responsible to the Lord for his ministry and not to the unkind critics of the church.
Some day each must give account and permit his life work to be searched by the fire of God's judgement. We like to be commended by men and dislike their criticism, but in the final issue God alone is the true and just Judge. lie will openly praise and reward the faithful, but the carnal babes in Christ who 'walk as men' would do well to take stock of their lives while there is time, lest they see their works consumed for ever, cf. 3. 13, 15; 4. 5.