HAVING KNOWLEDGE AND GIFTS BUT BEING INFANTS IN CHRIST
The second principle in this book is that no matter how many gifts and how much knowledge we may have received, we are still infants and fleshly if we do not know how to experience Christ with His cross (v. 7; 3:1-3). This is a serious matter, which is made very clear in this book. This is also contrary to the concepts in Christianity today. Many in Christianity insist that what we need are gifts, knowledge, doctrines, and teaching. However, in this book the apostle Paul tells us clearly that regardless of how much knowledge and how many gifts we have, even if we do not lack in any gift and have all knowledge, we are fleshly and infants in Christ if we do not realize how to experience Christ and His cross. This principle must be impressed into us.
In recent years I have been fighting the battle for this principle. I have met many people who have doctrines and teachings in their mentality, and I have met many so-called gifted persons. I also have seen many strange things and many healings. By these I realize that what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians is one hundred percent true. People may have much knowledge and many gifts yet still not know how to experience Christ in their daily walk, apply Christ in their church life, and apply the cross in their daily affairs. Regrettably, such persons are still childish, shallow, and on many occasions fleshly.
Although knowledge and gifts help to some extent, the church life and our daily walk are not a matter of knowledge or gifts but a matter of the real and practical experience of Christ under the working of the cross. We all must learn this and pay our full attention to this. If we experience Christ under the working of the cross in such a way, we will be progressively equipped with the proper and adequate knowledge, and whatever kind of gifts we need will be measured to us by God. There is no need for us to covet knowledge and the gifts; we must simply experience Christ under the work of the cross. God, the sovereign One, knows how much knowledge we need and what kind of gifts we need. He will measure a certain amount of knowledge and certain gifts to us to meet the need. This is the proper way to have knowledge and gifts.
In the New Testament there is the record of at least one church that stressed knowledge and gifts more than the real experience of Christ and the cross. They were too much ahead in knowledge and in the gifts. This is why the second main principle is set forth in this book.
FOUR KINDS OF CHRISTIANS
Third, a regenerated person can be one of four kinds of Christians. He can be a spiritual man, a soulish or natural man, a fleshly man, or a fleshy man who is like an animal with no shame or feeling. This book gives us many illustrations to show us what a spiritual, soulish, fleshly, or fleshy man is. First Corinthians records all four kinds of people. By his writings, the apostle Paul is spontaneously manifested as a spiritual man. He did not boast in himself, but in order to know the history of this apostle, we must read 1 and 2 Corinthians. These two books may be considered Paul’s autobiography, depicting what kind of person he is. His motive, his intention, his character, his real being, his activities, and his heavenly and spiritual ambition are all portrayed here. Therefore, at least one person in this book, the apostle Paul, is a spiritual person. In this book there are also soulish people, exercising their mentality, reasonings, and knowledge to try to realize the spiritual things. In addition, there are also many fleshly believers in this book, and there are at least a few who are fleshy, as illustrated in chapters five and six.
We must keep the above three main principles in mind when we come to the cases in this book. Then we will understand this book easily and in the proper way.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)