General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, by Witness Lee


A Picture of the Real Condition of the Believers

There are also some principles in 1 Corinthians which are important but secondary, comparatively speaking. First, this book gives us a picture of the real condition of the believers. It is very similar to that of the people of Israel in the Old Testament. According to the history of the Jews, they were saved by the Passover in Egypt, delivered out of Egypt, and brought into the wilderness. After wandering in the wilderness, they were commanded to press on into the good land of Canaan. The history of the people of Israel is repeated in 1 Corinthians. In chapter five the Corinthians enjoyed Christ as their Passover (v. 7). Now we, like they, are enjoying the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so we must purge out the old leaven.

Chapter ten again records that the Corinthians were the same as the people of Israel. They enjoyed the Passover, were delivered from Egypt, and were brought into the wilderness. However, almost all of them were fleshly and soulish. Very few were spiritual. The accounts in the Old and New Testaments exactly correspond to one another. Just as God told the people of Israel to press on into the good land, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians to run the race and pursue the goal. We need to read the last part of chapter nine together with the first part of chapter ten; these two portions should not be separated. The end of chapter nine tells us that there is a race to run (vv. 24-27), and chapter ten tells us that the Israelites ran their race and failed (vv. 1-13). Therefore, today we must run the race in a better way. The better way is to forget about the flesh, deny the natural, soulish life, and press on into the spirit. Then we will reach the goal, Christ.

Being Rewarded in Addition to Being Saved

In this book there is the principle that we take Christ as our Passover, our Redeemer, to be saved from God’s condemnation and from worldly occupation. To be saved from Egypt is one thing, but to press on to enter into God’s fullness, to enjoy Christ, to attain to the goal, and to receive the reward are another thing. To receive a reward at the end of the race is an additional matter. Although we may be redeemed, at the end of the race we may suffer loss.

First Corinthians 3:14-15 says, “If anyone’s work which he has built upon the foundation remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is consumed, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Here it is a matter of receiving not salvation but the reward. If our work does not remain, it will be burned. This work is in the nature of wood, grass, and stubble (v. 12). Fleshly and worldly work will be burned, and we ourselves may suffer loss. When we speak this word, some may accuse us of teaching purgatory. However, regardless of how hard this word sounds, we must receive it. We do not care about people’s accusations. We simply want to present the Lord’s word to His people. We must not be deceived by our human thought. This portion of the word clearly tells us that we can be genuinely saved yet suffer loss through fire. What fire means, only the Lord knows, but there is such a thing.

Here is the principle that to be saved is one thing, but to be rewarded or suffer loss through fire even though we are saved is another. The children of Israel were saved by the Passover lamb and delivered out of Egypt, and they enjoyed the manna and the living water from the riven rock. Chapter ten tells us that today we too enjoy Christ as manna and the riven rock from whom the living water flows for our enjoyment day by day (vv. 3-4, 11). However, we may be exactly like the Israelites and come short of God’s intention. In this case, we may not receive the reward of the fullness of the riches of the good land but may suffer a certain kind of loss.

This is what the Lord’s word presents in a very pure way. Although we are definitely saved, we must be aware that there is a race before us that we all have to run. Even the apostle Paul himself said that he had to be careful how he ran the race (9:24-27). He was concerned that while others would be helped by his teaching, he himself would lose the race. Salvation is one thing, but to run the race and receive the reward or suffer loss is absolutely another.

Being God’s Cultivated Land, God’s Building

Another principle found in this book is in chapter three. Verse 9 says that we are God’s cultivated land and God’s building. As God’s “crop” we need to grow. We have Christ as the seed of life sown into us. We also have the Holy Spirit as the living water to water us. Now we need to grow as God’s farm and be built up as God’s building.

(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)