THE MAIN PRINCIPLES OF 1 CORINTHIANS
The verses that we have mentioned are the key verses of the entire book of 1 Corinthians. On the positive side, they show us how we must realize Christ as everything in our daily walk and Christian service, and on the negative side, they show us that the cross is the only way to deal with all things other than Christ Himself. Second, they reveal that we may have the so-called gifts yet still be infants in Christ, not only childish but even fleshly in our Christian life. Third, they tell us that Christians can be three kinds of persons. We can and must be spiritual persons; we can be soulish persons but should not be; and we can be fleshly, even fleshy, persons, which is the worst. These are the three main points revealed to us in this book. The remainder of the book simply deals with a number of cases that illustrate these points.
Bible students agree that it is rather difficult to divide this book into proper sections. It is not divided into sections in the same way as Romans. As we have seen, two and a half chapters of Romans deal with condemnation. Then there are another two chapters that deal with justification. Following this are a few chapters concerning sanctification, and the last five chapters deal with the Body life. However, 1 Corinthians is not composed in this way. Rather, it is composed according to principles and main points. These principles are first that in the Christian life and service we must take Christ as everything, and all things other than Christ have to be dealt with by the cross in a practical way. Second, we should not pay attention to the gifts rather than Christ Himself. We may even have all the gifts yet still be babyish and fleshly. Third, we can be a spiritual man, a soulish man, or a fleshly man. Then this book gives us a number of cases to illustrate these three main points. Therefore, it is not necessary to divide this book into sections. We should simply keep in mind that it shows us three main points concerning the Christian life, which are proved by many cases.
EXPERIENCING CHRIST AS LIFE AND EVERYTHING TO US
After the general sketch given to us in the book of Romans, the New Testament continues to show us by real cases that we as Christians must realize that Christ is everything to us in our daily life, church life, and church service. It is not a matter of gifts, doctrines, or anything other than Christ. Christ must be our power, and He must be our way. We are not called by God to share in signs, miracles, or gifts. Nor are we called by God to partake of wisdom, knowledge, doctrines, and teachings. Rather, we are called by God into the fellowship of Christ. The portion ordained and given to us by God is Christ Himself, not gifts, doctrine, knowledge, teaching, signs, miracles, or wisdom. Therefore, Paul at the very beginning of this book declares, “For indeed Jews require signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1:22-23a).
Many people think that they need power, wisdom, energy, and strength to do things. They feel that they need knowledge and the best way to do things. However, they may not know that Christ is the power, Christ is the wisdom, Christ is the energy, Christ is the strength, and Christ is the knowledge. Christ is also the way for us to do things. God has not given us anything other than Christ. Christ is the wisdom of God as righteousness for us to be justified in the past, as our sanctification in the present, and as our redemption in the future. Moreover, He is the power of God, the way, and everything. Paul even declared to the Corinthians that he determined not to give them anything but Christ and Christ crucified.
We all must be clear about this. If we look at today’s Christianity, we can see that Christ as wisdom given to us by God has been very much neglected. Rather, the formal churches pay their attention to the proper forms in their practice. The fundamental churches pay their full attention to doctrines, teachings, and theology. Sometimes they even forget about Christ, yet they insist on their doctrine. Another category is the Pentecostal churches, which pay their attention to gifts, mainly one gift—speaking in tongues. Wherever we go, if we talk with people about Christ Himself, only the hungry, thirsty, and seeking ones appreciate what we say. Many others do not appreciate it and even condemn it as wrong teaching. However, we must realize that God’s intention is not to give us forms, doctrines, or gifts. God’s intention is to give Christ Himself as life and as everything to us. We must learn how to experience Christ. Have we ever been taught that Christ is righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to us? We need much time to realize, learn, and experience these three items.
Several hymns today teach wrongly by speaking of “the righteousness of Christ.” However, there is not such a term found in the New Testament. It is not a matter of the righteousness of Christ, but Christ Himself being righteousness to us. What is the difference between the righteousness of Christ and Christ as righteousness? To receive merely the righteousness of Christ is too objective. In this case, Christ could have given us this righteousness and then departed to the heavens, leaving us only the Holy Spirit as His “representative.” This is not the proper understanding. Righteousness is Christ Himself; we can never separate it from Christ. If we have Christ, we have righteousness; if we do not have Christ, we do not have righteousness.
Consider the parable in Luke 15:11-32. The robe in verse 22 signifies that Christ is our righteousness to cover us and to justify us, thus enabling us to match the Father’s glory. However, this is not all. Christ is also the fattened calf for us to enjoy and partake of (v. 23). We put on Christ as the robe, and we take Christ in as the calf. It is not the righteousness of Christ that saves us; it is Christ Himself as righteousness that saves us.
We must learn that Christ Himself is everything to us. He Himself is righteousness, and He Himself is also sanctification. In order to realize the real meaning of sanctification, we must know Christ, and we must know how to serve Christ, how to enjoy Christ, how to apply Christ, and how to experience Christ. If we do not know how to apply and experience Christ, we simply do not know the practical meaning of sanctification. The practical meaning of sanctification is Christ Himself experienced by us. The Christ whom we experience day by day is the way, the sanctification, and the redemption.
Nearly all of the Christian hymns written about the second coming of Christ are too objective. They simply speak of this event as being glorious because the glorious One will come back. Rarely can we find one hymn that tells us something about the Lord’s second coming in the subjective way of life. The glory of the Lord’s second coming is actually Christ Himself. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Christ Himself is the glory, and this glory today is in us. He Himself is the glory, and He Himself is the hope. He is the redemption of our body.
All the forms, if they are necessary, and all the doctrines and gifts are for Christ. What God intends to work into us and to have us experience is nothing other than Christ. We have to learn how to appropriate Christ in our daily walk and in all our service.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)