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lwpray
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 Spiritual maturity



SPIRITUAL MATURITY
by T. Austin-Sparks


Chapter One
The Foundation that is Laid

Reading: Rom. 8:19,29: 1 Cor. 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 3:26-27; 4:6,19; Eph. 1:5, 18-19; 3:18-19; 4:13; Phil. 3:12-14; Col. 1:28; Heb. 5:12-14; 6:1.

This selection of passages is quite sufficient to show that the dominating objective of the Lord for His people is full growth, the full measure of Christ. Every apostolic letter has that object in view, and every one of these apostolic letters deals with some factor related to full growth. If that is true, then surely it is incumbent upon us as the Lord’s people to have His goal before us, and to be found in the same spirit as was the apostle who said, “…that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended of Christ Jesus”. The force of that statement may not have come to our hearts. The apostle has there said in very clear and precise language that when the Lord Jesus laid hold of him, it was for something more than that he should just become a saved man. It was in relation to a goal with which there was bound up a prize, and unto that there was to be an attaining. He said that everything for him was regarded as of value only in so far as it would help him to reach that goal, and nothing was of value at all which in no way contributed to that end. So should the Lord’s people be, at all times, on full stretch for the purpose for which they have been apprehended. Everywhere in the Word of God His thought for His people is set forth as being that they should come to a full measure, to full growth, to the measure of Christ.

A Fact of Great Significance
It seems to me that the New Testament assumes that increase, along the line of expansion, that is, the adding to the church, comes by spiritual increase in the church along the line of spiritual growth amongst the Lord’s people. I say, it seems to be assumed, for it is a very impressive thing that the New Testament is so very largely occupied with this one thing. The fact that all these letters — every one of them — were addressed to believers with one object, that of their spiritual growth, and so many of them embody the actual word “full growth” (often in the Authorised Version translated “perfection” or “perfect”), does not mean that the church ceased to be an evangelising instrument. They were going on with their work in relation to the unsaved, but the fact is that very little is actually said about that, and what we have here as the record is all to do with the church’s own spiritual increase. That is tremendously significant, and its significance is of great importance to the Lord’s people. It would almost seem that the church has forgotten this. In a very considerable circle there is a great concern for the evangelism side of the church’s life and work — a concern which is right and proper, and should never be less than it is, perhaps always more — but so often and so largely the essential background of that work is overlooked, namely, an indispensable building-up and teaching ministry. The result is that the church is seeking to move out to meet the world situation with inadequate spiritual resources, and is very largely weak in face of the difficulties, and the results are of such a character as hardly to be an expression of the real power of God and fullness of Christ. That by the way, however.

It is that you and I might come to recognise this, that the Lord has set before us in His Word an overwhelming amount of evidence and proof that His dominating objective for His own is full growth, and that every child of God should have that always before him. We should be concerned about spiritual maturity, and should give it the place in our hearts, in our consideration, in our concern which it evidently occupies in the heart of the Lord Himself. We have referred to fragments in the letters of Paul, which bear directly upon this matter of spiritual full growth, showing that it is the Lord’s will for His people. We have said that each of these apostolic letters deals with some factor which is immediately related to that divine object, full growth. We are not going to attempt to go through all the letters at this time, but we are going to make a beginning as the Lord enables. We are coming to feel something of what Paul felt when he wrote those words, “…admonishing every man and warning every man, that we may present every man perfect (full grown, complete) in Christ”.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/20 14:04Profile
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 Re: Spiritual maturity




Christ Our Righteousness
Let us look for a moment at the letter to the Romans in this very connection. We remind ourselves of the words which are in chapter 8 verses 19 and 29. This letter to the Romans lays the foundation for all the Lord’s work in His own people and in relation to this end which He has in view, and which is governing all that He has to say to them, and to do with them. This letter provides the ground upon which the Lord can go forward with His work in perfecting the saints. We ask, What is that ground? We know what the theme of the letter to the Romans is, the object for which the apostle wrote it. We know that its great outstanding truth is that of righteousness by faith, or, as it is sometimes called, justification by faith. What, then, is the issue of such faith? In this letter faith is set forth as that through which we are brought to the ground of what Christ is in resurrection. He “rose again for our justification”.
Christ in resurrection provides the ground of our justification and our righteousness. In death He has dealt with all unrighteousness, and therefore with all that alienated and separated from God and meant condemnation, judgment and death. Having dealt with that in death, in resurrection the ground is clear of all that. Sin has been met and dealt with and all its consequences, right to the end, and in resurrection God’s way is open, and there is righteousness where there was unrighteousness, communion where there was alienation, fellowship where there was distance. Christ in resurrection is the ground of our righteousness, and faith in the Lord Jesus is here shown to be that by which we are brought on to the ground of what Christ is in resurrection, and so the relationship with God is established in Christ risen, and is established unshakeably. That is the glorious issue of this chapter, as you observe.

We want to get the full force of the words at the end of chapter 8. Verses 35 to 39 must be taken in conjunction with verses 31 to 34. Now you see this unshakeable ground, this inseparable union, this indestructible life is because of what the Lord Jesus has done in His death and resurrection, and of what He is in His Person at God’s right hand. I think there may have been times when we have been rather hesitant in quoting these words at the end of Romans 8. We have had a little tremor within as we have essayed to say those words and follow up: “…neither death nor life…” wondering whether we were being a little over-bold, a little over­confident; whether at some time we might not be put to the test and find that, after all, our use of the words was not unlike Peter’s self-confident assertion — “I will follow thee even unto death” — we have had a catch in the declaration. I confess that has been true of me, but now I am glad to say that there is no need for hesitation. There is a ground that is settled and fixed, unshakeable in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That ground is the expression of the love of God in Christ Jesus for me; not my love for Him, not anything that I have done or can do, not anything that is in me or that I can produce, but it is all what He is, what He has done, what He has given, and what He has established in His own Person at the right hand of God. That is divine love, and that has been made to rest upon you and upon me “whom he foreknew…”.
He has done it all in relation to us, the thing is finished, and there is not a power in God’s universe that can alter it, that can change it, that can shake it. It is something which God has done. It is a manifestation of His own love in Christ, which nothing in the creation can touch, and it is bound up with God’s elect. Therefore: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” This chapter reaches the point where we have put faith in God on that ground. That faith brings us onto the ground of what Christ is as risen, and that means that there is not a being that can lay anything to our charge. What a position! You can find many faults in me. I may find some faults in you. We may see much that is yet of the imperfections that are ours, but you cannot bring me under condemnation and separate me from the ground of my justification. You can find all the faults that there are to be found, and can go on doing that for the rest of your life, but you cannot upset the ground of my justification before God, you cannot touch that position of my experience with Him. The blood of Jesus Christ has settled and ratified that forever. If you can tear Jesus Christ from His place at God’s right hand, then you can destroy my ground of salvation, of justification, but you cannot do that. It is fixed in heaven in Him.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



To be Firmly Rooted in the Foundation Essential to Full Growth
The Lord lays that as our foundation. It is a security which is ours through faith by the grace of God. That is the message of the letter to the Romans. The grace of God to us in Jesus Christ provides such a ground that no part of the creation can lay anything to our charge, can bring us under condemnation. There is no power in this universe that can disturb what God has done for us in Christ. The Word tells us to take our place in faith upon that. Do not say, Oh the trials, the difficulties, the adversities, the sufferings; life, death, principalities, and all these things! They do make such a difference to us. They come upon us. They affect us, and upset us, and we come to feel that we do not love the Lord as much as we did the other day, that we are not so much in fellowship with the Lord as we were once, and we feel that is the upsetting of things. It is nothing of the kind. You and I must come finally to the place where we recognise that God is unchangeable, without variation, and that in the work of His cross our salvation will not move one hair’s breadth; it is as surely established as His throne. On that ground our salvation rests, and faith must take hold of that. Then we are able to say, “If God be for us…” and He is for us like that. Oh, the wonder of that word, “… God… for us”! He delivered up His Son for us, and with Him gave us all things. Through His cross He has justified us from all our sins, our iniquities, and in His Son there sees us as without sin, perfected!
He says, Now, if only you will let your faith come and rest upon that, and will not move away from your faith onto your own ground of what you are in yourself, but will stay there, Satan’s power is destroyed over your life, and there is nothing whatever in this universe that can prevent your reaching My end. Nothing that arises, be it life, or death, or things present, or things to come, or height, or depth, or principality, or any other creation — nothing in this universe can prevent you reaching My end if you will keep your feet there in faith. That is the foundation for God, and He can never get us anywhere until we have come to that position. You know how true that is, that if there is any question, any uncertainty, any variation in any one of us at any time, we stop dead, and God is arrested, the Spirit of the Lord can go no further. While we believe God He goes on, no matter what He has to deal with. It amounts to this: Are we going to believe God or not? If we are not, then we may as well abandon everything, for everything depends upon that, upon whether we are going to believe God.

Now here is the foundation for faith. Full growth rests upon that foundation. You never make one bit of progress toward God’s end until that foundation is settled. It is important that we stand upon the firm foundation of God. Do let us seek to get to this position. It is a word for believers, and more than ever perhaps a word for today, that we should come to the place where we recognise how altogether apart from variation God is. Of course, there are some people who do not vary a great deal, but there are others who know all the variations of this natural life; the variations of feelings, the variations of thoughts, the variations which come about by the circumstances around them. We find ourselves very largely influenced by how we are physically, or how circumstances are, or for some other reason; in different moods, in different states, as we think spiritually.
We vary, sometimes from day to day if not from hour to hour. God is not like that. God’s work is not like that. What God has accomplished in His Son by the cross and resurrection is not subject to influences of change; it stands, it is fixed. God has taken that attitude. He is not variable. If only we would come back and recognise that God is a God of infinite grace, that grace has been demonstrated to the uttermost, and it is unchanging! If we go from it, that makes no difference to it. It is the same. We come back and find God just there where we left Him. He has not moved a little bit.
This is not said to justify weakness, but to bring to a certain settled position as to the grace of God. Everything is by His grace, because of His grace, the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If we get settled there, God can go on with His work. Full growth? Yes, when you believe God fundamentally, when you trust God, and when your trust in God is on the ground of that perfect justification which He has granted, the removal of every obstacle in the way of His full purpose. The letter to the Romans tells of that. The foundation is laid in faith for all God’s purpose, and after that you move on to the superstructure. The other letters have to do with factors in full growth when the foundation is laid.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



Chapter Two
Spirituality

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2
We now pass to the first letter to the Corinthians, and you will notice that the point in the letter marked by chapter 3 begins with the definite statement that the trouble at Corinth, the inclusive trouble, was spiritual immaturity. They were babes, when it was time they had passed out of babyhood. That was the trouble at Corinth.

The Spiritual Man Constituted of God
So the whole letter deals with the causes of too long delayed maturity, and with that which is the basic factor for such people with regard to spiritual growth. We can at once state what this factor is. It is the key to this whole letter, and is “spirituality”. Being the key to this letter, it is, therefore, in all these circumstances, the key to full growth. Spirituality is, of course, set over against carnality. Spirituality is essential to full growth. The second chapter is full both of the fact and of the necessity. If we ask what spirituality is, that chapter will answer the question by telling us that it is a life wholly governed, taught, illumined and led by the Holy Spirit; but not as from without. This is just where we need to recognise a difference. Here it is not a matter of the Holy Spirit as an objective person or power coming along and, so to speak, putting His hand upon us and telling us things and turning us about, and giving us direction of that kind. What the apostle clearly shows in this part of his letter is that it is the kind of person we are. He speaks in this chapter of two kinds of beings, the one whom he calls the natural, or the soulical man, the other the spiritual man; one, the man who is governed by his own soul in every way, the other who is governed by the Holy Spirit through his spirit, and thereby becomes a spiritual man as over against the soulical man. So that the spiritual man here is a kind of person, and that kind of person has particular and peculiar kinds of capacities, powers, abilities. He has faculties which are not possessed by the other kind of man, the soulical man, the natural man, and he is, therefore, endowed with capacities which take you far beyond the highest range of the natural man in apprehension, in knowledge, in understanding, as well as in accomplishment.

That point must be made perfectly clear, because some people have a kind of mentality that to be wholly Spirit-governed means that the Holy Spirit in some way does all the turning about and governing, and directing, almost objectively, as from the outside. The spiritual man is not here represented as being in that position at all, but rather as having been constituted a kind of being in whom the Holy Spirit is. He is constituted a spiritual man of spiritual intelligence, who is able, by spiritual faculties and endowments, to come into a wonderful knowledge of, and fellowship with, God Himself. That is spirituality, and that is the very heart of full growth.

It is wonderful how the chronological order of these letters is entirely upset in favour of a spiritual order. In Romans you have the foundation of righteousness by faith; then comes 1 Corinthians, and it is as though you got right to the heart of the Person concerned, and having set Him in a position, you begin to constitute something in Him, to build up in Him. So that you find that it is a matter now of having been placed in Christ by faith; Christ is in you, and that is the beginning of everything, if Christ is to be fully formed. And that is the meaning of spirituality.

It is seen in this letter, on the contrary, that carnality is a mark of immaturity, and, more than that, it is a positive hindrance to spiritual progress. With that you move through the letter and you see the many marks of carnality which are marks of immaturity. We might note some of them, and this will help us to come to an understanding of what spirituality really is.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



Six Marks of Carnality as Seen in 1 Corinthians

1) Leaning to natural wisdom
Here in chapters 1 and 2 especially you see that carnality is a leaning towards, and being governed by, what is natural, what is of account according to man’s own natural estimate. These Corinthians evidently had a great admiration for human wisdom. They were in a centre of human wisdom, and their national life was marked with much of this admiration for the wisdom of men. They were much occupied naturally in philosophical pursuits and speculations, and so it was a part of their very nature. It was Corinthian to be always leaning toward the superiority of human wisdom, and the Corinthian believers were evidently indulging in that kind of thing. We are still very greatly influenced by the strength, the power of human wisdom — and, of course, that carries power with it! With the Corinthians knowledge was power. That was their philosophy of life. The more human knowledge you have, the more you come into a place of ascendency in this world. It is a thing which puts you in a position of advantage. Human knowledge is a real vantage ground for success in this world.

The apostle strikes some very hard blows at that natural and, at the same time, carnal thing. It is natural, but when it comes into the life of a believer it is a carnal thing. The carnal is something more positive than the natural. We are what we are by nature, but when you begin to take up what we are by nature in the realm of what we are by grace, and make something of nature in the realm of grace, then you have become carnal: and that is evil. So these two chapters are very largely occupied with a tremendous unveiling of the utter foolishness of the very thing in which these believers were glorying, and the utter weakness of it all. Knowledge? Power? Getting an advantage in this world? Very well! The world in its wisdom, and in the wisdom which it called its power, crucified the Lord of glory. What do you think of that? They did it blindly. That is ignorance!

We are not going to pursue that line further. We indicate it, because it shows us a state of mind. It was the apprizing of values according to natural and worldly standards, and they were influenced by that, and that for them was carnality, and therefore immaturity. That very thing was the hindrance to their spiritual growth. Now, apart from the thing itself, the principle is this, that a leaning toward that which is natural, and, in so leaning toward it, making it a factor in our lives as the children of God, is a mark of spiritual infancy, babyhood, immaturity; but moreover, it is a positive hindrance to anything else. You may say it is hardly necessary to stress that amongst the people of God today, but I am not so sure. You know, as well as I do, that this is one of the failings of the human heart in principle. We may be perfectly convinced that the Corinthians were all wrong and that Paul was perfectly right, that it was utter foolishness in this wise world to crucify the Lord Jesus, an altogether false idea of wisdom, of knowledge, and of strength: well, we may be quite convinced of that, and it may be that we might not fall quite in that way, but in principle this thing is found in all of us.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



There is a tremendous amount of trying to win a way for the Gospel, for Christ, for the Christian life by being even with the world in some way. A young man, for example, thinks that if he has something of a sportsman’s training, and his achievements in the sporting world are known, that he can use that as an advantage to win men for Christ. So he does it, and he plays that off to try and win the respect, the esteem, the hearing, the ear of men, and in a way he is all the time going onto their ground and thinking that he is going to win converts in that way. It is this same thing in principle. If men can only be won along such lines they are not worth winning; you will not get the right thing. The only ground upon which a man may be really saved is upon the ground of such a need in his own heart, and recognised by him, that he will come to Christ as a matter of life and death. If he has to be won by your putting up something which appeals to him on his own ground, there will be a permanent weakness in his Christian life. Let us be careful that even in our eagerness we do not compromise a little, do not step over onto natural ground, which for us would be sheer carnality. That is Corinthian ground; it does not get beyond babyhood, the standards of men, the world’s values of things; wisdom, and power, and such like.

That was the first thing in this whole matter of spirituality. Spirituality has nothing to do with that. What does Paul really mean? What does he say, in effect? He says: After all, you may go down to men, with all your worldly wisdom, and try to win them for Christ, but the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God; he is labouring under an absolute ban. Before a man can understand the things of the Spirit of God he has to be born again, and be a spiritual man in the very beginnings of his new life. He must have something that no man outside of Christ has. You are in a hopeless position if you try to get down there onto his ground: “…we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). These Corinthians had the spirit of the world, and were trying to be Christians with the spirit of the world; therefore they were limited in their knowledge, their understanding, their apprehension, and remained like little babes who had never yet come to any kind of personal knowledge. All that they had was what they had been told.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



2) Selectiveness on natural grounds
The next phase of this carnality is seen in chapter 3 and chapter 4. There you have selectiveness on natural grounds. It is another phase or form of the leaning toward what is natural. One says, I am of Paul; and another says, I am of Apollos; and another says, I am of Peter; and another says, I am of Christ. The apostle deals drastically with it in these two chapters. Carnality is set forth as that kind of thing where you lean toward your own natural likes and dislikes amongst men, amongst teachings. I like Paul as a man! I like Apollos as a man! I like Paul’s line of teaching! I like Apollos’s wonderful eloquence! I like Peter’s line! They were, according to their natural likes, selective on natural grounds, dividing up the Lord’s servants and the Lord’s Body. Who will be bold enough to say that he himself has never fallen into that failure? It is quite natural to have such likes and dislikes. It very often means that we have to put something to death in us to listen to some people, to have anything to do with them. We have to take ourselves in hand, and say: I must seek if there is not something there that is of the Lord, and for the time being shut my eyes to the other that offends. It is quite natural to say: I like so-and-so, and I would go anywhere to hear so-and-so, but as for the other man I cannot get on with him at all.
That is carnality. “For whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men? For when one saith, I…” — Oh, we need not go further! That is the heart of the matter, “I”. It ought to be “Not I, but Christ”. Is there anything of Christ here in these men? That is what we should be after. The vessel may trouble me, may sometimes give me bad times, but my natural inclinations are not the point in question at all in such a matter; that is carnality for me. It is all right for some people who do not profess to be the Lord’s, but for me it is carnality, a bringing of the natural into the realm of the spiritual, and making it a governing thing. Spirituality means that I am after whatever is of Christ, no matter in what vessel it is brought to me. Again and again it is clearly to be seen in the Word of God that, had men taken account of the means by which God came to them, they would have lost the blessing, and some were dangerously near that, and some did lose it.
Israel lost the blessing for that very reason. They were offended with the Man Christ Jesus. “Is not this the carpenter?…” Had He been some glorious potentate from heaven they would have received the message! Let us be careful. God tests us very often as to the reality of our hearts, as to whether they are set upon Himself, by bringing us a great blessing wrapped up in a very unacceptable wrapping.
Spirituality is the opposite of leaning toward natural selectiveness, likes and dislikes. If you and I desire to go on to full growth, this is one of the things that has to be recognised and dealt with. It is a case of just setting aside our natural life in the interests of the spiritual. Such an opportunity is with us every day. Spirituality is determined by how far we are ready to be led.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity


3) Lack of moral sensibility
We pass on to chapter 5. It is a terrible chapter. Carnality is here shown to us in a defectiveness of moral sensibility. We are not going to stay with it, and yet we should not just ignore it. Spirituality must work out in real moral sensibility, sensitiveness, in such a way that there is a mighty reaction in us from those tendencies of nature that are downward in the moral sense. We are not talking about not being tempted. Everyone is tempted.
The very fact that we carry with us a nature which is not wholly purged from the roots and fibres of sin and the fall, constitutes a ground upon which temptation comes to us. There is no sin in temptation. At times there may be some weakening; we may be more open for various reasons to weakness than at other times, but the point is this, that spirituality represents in us a revolt and a reaction that in the presence of moral weakness turns round, reacts against that. That is the work of the Spirit of God in us, making us spiritual.
At Corinth there was not only the one who defaulted (we are not going to judge that one), but what the apostle was troubled about was that the assembly had not sufficient moral sensitiveness to deal with that thing, and he had to write them a strong letter to pull them up sharply upon moral grounds, to cleanse the assembly. They did not do it until Paul practically made them do it. There was a low and inadequate moral sensitiveness about the assembly; there was not a sufficient measure of spirituality to react violently to that thing, and say: We are defiled, we must put this away; we must purge ourselves; we must stand before God without judgment in this matter. They did not do it; they tolerated it, they let it go.
We are not applying this in any assembly way just now, but are just saying that spirituality means a strong reaction to the encouragement of anything unclean. I do not know how necessary it might be to say a thing like that. There are various forms of low moral sense, but in a spiritual person, and in a spiritual assembly there will be something which reacts against that, in conversation, in talk, in looseness of any kind. Spirituality lifts onto a much higher level. That again, then, is carnality, and no individual life and no assembly of the Lord’s people can grow to the fullness of Christ without that spiritual sensitiveness which feels bad in the presence of anything morally loose.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



4) A spirit of variance
We are not going to take up this next point at length, but we notice that Paul in chapter 6 comes to that kind of carnality which shows itself in wronging one another, and then trying to obtain one’s rights by lawsuits. He commences by speaking of the lawsuits in verse 1, but he gets behind that as he goes on and says that they are robbing one another. Any kind of suit before the world, or in the church, ought to be rendered unnecessary by the getting rid of this wronging of one another. What a low level amongst the Lord’s people is revealed when they rob one another.

There are more ways than one of robbing the Lord’s people, but it is the principle that is in view, the failing to recognise the rights of the Lord’s children. If it is wrong for a child of God to stand up for his rights, and to fight for them, it is equally wrong that the rights of the Lord’s people should be ignored or set at naught. There is an honouring of one another, and that of which Paul speaks elsewhere, a looking of everyone, not upon his own things, but upon the things of others; that is, taking into account that others also have a right to be honoured, to be respected, to be given a place. It seems that the spirit here at Corinth was that of the individual seeking to have the advantage, even at the expense of another believer. It is the spirit of the thing that is the trouble behind it all. Spirituality would be just the opposite of this, that even if one were wronged one would not fight for one’s rights, especially before the world. Spirituality would mean, in an assembly and amongst the Lord’s people, and on the part of each individual, a mutual recognition and holding in honour because — as Paul leads this whole thing out, as we shall see in a moment — we are members one of another, members of the Body.

I like the wisdom of the Holy Spirit through His servant Paul, as this whole matter is headed up to chapter 12. Just imagine one member of the Body going to law against another member of the same Body! What sense would there be in one hand fighting the other hand, or in my fist assailing any other part of my body? That is perhaps a crude way of putting it, but Paul now applies the point in that way and says: You are all members of one Body, and you are all interdependent, you cannot do without another, and that member that will go to law with another is but robbing himself. It is so foolish, so senseless, so weak! All such things are evidence of a poor level of spiritual life. Spirituality will show itself in recognising the value of every member, and, rather than in doing a member harm, in respecting and honouring that member, because of the necessity for that one. We need one another, and therefore it is the utmost childishness in a spiritual sense to be at variance with one another. Spiritual maturity will never condone that course. If we did but know it, our attitude towards another child of God comes back upon ourselves, and becomes our attitude towards ourselves. That is how God orders it, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit who governs and balances the whole Body.

I think there is no realm in which the laws of God operate more immediately and directly than in the Body of Christ. “He that soweth unto his… flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life”. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. Within the church of God those laws operate in a very immediate and direct way. Spirituality takes all that into account and says: I am not going to injure my own spiritual growth by doing harm to another member of Christ; I am not going to be robbed of God’s end for me by failure to recognise that another also should be helped towards that end.


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 Re: Spiritual maturity



5) Failure to discern the Body
In chapters 10 and 11 we come to the failure to discriminate (discern) the Lord’s Body. It is all wrapped up in the long discussion of things offered to idols, and that point where one thing ends and another thing begins. The Lord’s Table in the apostolic days was not like our Table of the Lord. We gather to the Lord’s Table and there is something quite distinct, quite by itself; there is no mistaking what that represents. In apostolic times they took their meal together, and at a certain point in their meal time they stopped and worshipped, and for the purpose took of the same food as they had been eating and drinking; they turned their ordinary meal into a corporate worshipping of the Lord. The apostle here says, You may come in hungry to your meal, and sit down and eat heartily, and just overstep the line, and in so doing confuse the two things and make that which represents the Lord’s Body and the Lord’s Blood a part of your feasting to the gratification of your own appetite. We are not in the same position to fall quite into the same snare, but there is a principle bound up with it upon which the Lord through His apostle puts His finger.

Terrible things resulted from that in the Corinthian church: for this cause many were sick, and not a few died. There was this other element, as we have noted, that a good deal of what they were eating and drinking in the ordinary way had already been offered in the shambles, and had already been offered to heathen gods, and they were not discriminating. But the principle underlying is this, that this loaf, this cup speak of two things. Firstly, they speak of the covenant relationship with the Lord, in which everything in our lives is for the Lord, and in which the Lord is everything to us; we have gone out, and Christ has come in, and for us Christ is the centre and the sphere, the sole object of our lives. They also speak of this, that Christ’s Body, the church, has taken its place in our interest as that upon which the love of Christ is set, even unto death. “Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it.” It is “the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood”. Again, it is written, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing…” The attitude of the believers toward the church is to be the attitude of Christ toward the church. Spirituality is that which, on the one hand, gives Christ His place over all that is personal, and enables us to subordinate everything to His interests. There was a failure in this respect at Corinth, and a yielding to personal gratification, instead of glorying in the Lord. Spirituality is just the opposite of that, and so spirituality is a mark of growth. We shall never come to full growth spiritually if we are just going to be governed by our natural appetites.

Then, on the other hand, spirituality is marked by love of all the Lord’s people. At Corinth, again, there was failure to recognise Christ’s love for His church. Their attitude one toward another was therefore anything but that of Christ for His own, and so they did not discern the one Body as represented at the Table. Paul says, “The loaf which we break, is it not our common participation in the body of Christ? Seeing that we, who are many, are one loaf, one body: for we all partake of the one loaf.” The Lord’s Table is the Body in representation. We must recognise that Christ’s object of love and devotion is His church, and have the same love and devotion to His people and for His people as He had. Let us put that quite simply. A truly large spiritual life is marked by a great devotion to the Lord’s people, to the Body of Christ, as over against an undue measure of individualism.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/10/23 4:08Profile





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