The Light Of Calvary
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
There is little doubt that not one of us has yet been able to grasp fully the miraculous change which took place in us when we first accepted by faith the stupendous truth of 2 Corinthians 5. 15, that He (the Lord) died for all -and when we were enabled by the Holy Spirit to accept this truth as being appropriate to our own need. The writer, Paul, is saying, quite plainly that when we accepted the Lord Jesus as our Saviour we not only ceased to live for ourselves, and began to live for Him, but also that our whole relationship to others was completely changed. We now see them differently, through different eyes. We now 'know no man after the flesh' - i.e. just as a human being. It is quite certain that when the Lord was upon earth He did not only see men as 'bodies' - He saw deeper than that; He saw the real person, not merely the clothes. So now do we; we see folk who have tremendous spiritual potential.
The explanation as to how this changed attitude in us is brought about is given us in verse 17, 'if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God'. So the impossible becomes possible. The scriptures do not leave us simply to marvel at this wonderful change, it also points out the practical effect it should have in our daily lives. In this article it is desired to see it operating in us in the realms of 1. humility; 2. our relationship with one another; 3. the matter of sacrificial giving; and 4. suffering for righteousness sake. We see them now in the light of Calvary, where the Lord 'died for all'.
When we use this word our mind instinctively goes to Philippians 2. 5, 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus'. It is likely that very few verses of scripture are used more frequently than this one when we come together week by week to remember the Lord, and very rightly our minds are directed to that Blessed One who demonstrated, as none other could, a humble mind. It was His from eternity. But there is a danger of forgetting why Paul was led to write these words. This lovely letter, written by the apostle to a church which he loved reveals that the church had within it strife and contention, 1. 15-16, and in 2. 3 he finds it necessary to urge that nothing should be done 'through strife and vainglory'. These expressions indicate that some in the church were seeking to exalt themselves at the expense of others. To counteract this manifestation of the old nature he says, 'Let this mind be in you'. It is almost as though Paul would say, 'Let me show you your Lord'. He then speaks of the descent from the throne of the universe to the 'death of the cross'. He draws attention to the fact that 'He made Himself of no reputation'. He went lower than any other ever did or could. He is in effect saying, 'How can you look at the cross and the humility demonstrated there, and then assert yourself above others?'
One paraphrase of this verse expresses it as follows, 'Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be'. The Amplified Version puts it, 'Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Let Him be your example in humility'.
2 Relationships with our Brethren, 1 Cor. 8. 9-12
In this passage we see Paul speaking to some in the Corinthian church who have 'knowledge'. He was probably indicating by this word that their apprehension of the things of God and of the new liberty that has become theirs through Christ is greater than that of others within the same church, who possibly have not been saved so long, and are not so advanced spiritually as the others. They had all been brought up amidst idolatry, and knew that most of the meat sold in the marketplace had previously been offered to idols, and the recently saved were not sure what their attitude should be in relation to eating this meat as food. They still felt that in some way the meat was affected by its previous offering to their idols, and their conscience was not clear about eating it. The better taught Christian had learned that the meat in the market place was simply meat and he could with a good conscience eat it. Now, says Paul to the ones with 'knowledge', be careful how you act in this matter - your weaker brother is watching you, and if he sees you eating that about which he is uncertain, he may be inclined to do the same, although his conscience is telling him that he ought not to do so. He is thereby stumbled. Paul asks a very important question in verse 11, 'through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?'Surely he is saying, 'be very careful how you act in relation to weaker believers - they are precious to Christ - how the Lord loved them'! He stresses the same point in Romans 14. 15 and reiterates, 'Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died'. In the background the apostle sees the cross and sees the preciousness of all those who have been redeemed by blood. Surely, if I love the Lord, I shall not want to hurt others who also love Him. If I sin against them by my example, I am sinning against Christ. It may not be with us eating meat offered to idols; my example may be in relation to smoking, drinking, cinemas, gambling, etc. - how tragic if my example in relation to these things, or any other doubtful things, led a younger believer to follow me, and his spiritual life become a disaster. How can I look at Calvary and see the love of my Lord for my fellow-believer and then do that which will harm him? 'Let this mind be in you'.
3 Giving, 2 Cor. 8. 9
'He who was rich, for our sakes became poor'. In this profound statement the apostle is not specifically drawing attention to the life of humility our Lord lived here among men. Possibly that life could be summed up in our Lord's own words, 'the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head'. But it is well to remember that in the highest sense, amid His material poverty, He enjoyed a richness beyond all others - at all times He knew perfect communion with His Father, and one who knows that is rich indeed. No -the poverty of which Paul is speaking, and which he said was 'for your sakes', was His dread experience at Calvary, when, for the first time in His experience, even from eternity, there was a break between His God and Himself, which forced from His lips the cry 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?', Matt. 27. 46. That was the poverty - He was alone, as for our sakes He was 'made sin', 2 Cor. 5. 21. He could bear being forsaken by His friends, although it caused Him sorrow, but this was something that was utterly devastating. Was it the anticipation of this which, in Gethsemane caused Him to 'sweat . . . as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground', Luke 22. 44? What lies behind the words, He 'endured the cross', Heb. 12. 2? How great is the mystery, and the cost of our redemption 'that we should, by his poverty, become rich'.
But as we look at the context in which these tremendous words are found, from 8. 1-15, we discover that the Spirit of God is, through Paul, urging his readers, fellow-christians in the church at Corinth, to consider the needs of others, even the needy believers in Jerusalem. He speaks approvingly of the attitude of Macedonian Christians to this problem, but is not impressed with the attitude of the Corinthians, who had talked much about giving, but were slow in doing it. It is worthy of note that in verse 8 the apostle disclaims any thought of 'commanding' what they should do, or how they should give, apart from 'the sincerity of your love'. Their giving was to be spontaneous, 'not of necessity'.
He was not concerned with the amount given by individuals - that was a matter between them and their Lord; he was concerned with the spirit in which it was given. How could he drive it home? The Spirit of God said, through him, 'Look at Calvary, measure your giving by that'. The hymn writer caught the thought when he wrote words we so often sing, 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all'. How can I look at Calvary, and allow the Spirit of God to 'teach me what it meaneth', and then be niggardly, or even unmoved when considering the needs of other believers? Can we really see our Lord giving all, and then cling tightly to our all? Let this mind be in you.
4 Suffering for Righteousness Sake, 1. Pet. 2. 20-24
'Christ also suffered'. It might almost be said that 'suffering' is the keyword of this epistle, with the word occurring about 15 times, but linked with it is victory. And Peter is keen to emphasize, that in relation to the matter of suffering the Lord has been there before us, and that His attitude to suffering must be reflected in us, when we are called to suffer. In 1 Peter 2. 21 the writer says, 'Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps'. In 1 Peter 3. 17-18 he states firmly, 'it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust'. And yet again 1 Peter 4. 12-13 takes up the theme, 'Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings'.
Perhaps Peter could see the possibility of persecution which was soon to begin, but he says 'do not think it strange'. Did his mind go back to the day when, in company with his fellow disciples, he heard his Lord say, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world', John 16. 33? He knew that testing would be inevitable, but He would have them look at it from the standpoint of victory. It would prove to be a time of fellowship with His sufferings, Phil. 3. 10.
Did Peter's mind also go back to Gethsemane where, without stopping to think, he tried to prevent the arrest of his Lord, and drew his sword in retaliation? Gently the Lord rebuked him, this was not consistent with the behaviour expected of a follower of the Saviour. The Lord reminded him that more than twelve legions of angels were waiting if needed.
So the believer bears suffering for righteousness sake and such suffering is tinged with glory.
Since the Lord returned to glory His church has never been free from suffering. It has varied in nature and intensity as the years have passed, it has moved from land to land, from continent to continent, because the Founder of the church has declared through Paul, 2 Tim. 3. 12, 'all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution'. It may be only in the office, or the workshop, even in the home, but it is inevitable. Peter views it in the light of Calvary - how can I look away there and see my Lord suffering, 'the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God', and shrink from suffering for Him? Let this mind be in you.