Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the first message of this Life-study we pointed out that, after presenting a wonderful sketch of the Christian life, the church life, and the Body life in Romans, Paul gives us an illustration in 1 Corinthians of the actual Christian life, church life, and Body life. However, we should not understand this to mean that what we have in 1 Corinthians is an illustration of the proper or normal Christian life, church life, and Body life. Concerning these three kinds of lives, this Epistle illustrates what is actual or typical, not what is normal or proper. Thus, we should never make the mistake of saying that in 1 Corinthians we have the proper church life. What we see concerning the practice of the church life in this Epistle is neither proper nor normal. Rather, it is usual or typical.
In 1:1-9 Paul impresses us with the fact that in God’s economy Christ is the unique center. God’s intention is to make Christ His Son the center of His economy and also to make Him everything to all the believers. This is why Paul tells us in verse 9 that we have been called into the fellowship of the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is also the reason he points out in verse 2 that Christ is both theirs and ours. In His economy God’s intention is to make Christ everything, to give Christ to us as our portion, and also to work Christ into us.
In verse 10 Paul begins to deal with the divisions among the Corinthians. First, he beseeches them through the name of our Lord, which is the name above all names (Phil. 2:9) and should be the unique name among all His believers. However, by ranking the names of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas with the name of Christ, the divisive Corinthians made the same kind of mistake Peter did on the mount of transfiguration when he ranked Moses and Elijah with Christ (Matt. 17:1-8). To keep the oneness in the Lord and to avoid divisions, we need to uplift and exalt the unique name of our Lord by dropping all names other than this highest name.
When the Corinthians believed in Christ, they did not receive anything from Paul, Apollos, or any other servant of God. No doubt, Paul and Apollos were a great help to the believers in Corinth. But the One received by them was Christ. In 1:13 Paul asks them, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” No, Paul was not crucified for them, and they were not baptized into Paul’s name. Christ was the One who was crucified for them, and the believers were baptized into the name of Christ. Here Paul seems to be saying, “Actually, you did not receive anything from Paul, Apollos, or Cephas. You should not even be limited to a narrow Christ. You must pay your full attention to the unique Christ. This Christ is not only yours and ours—He belongs to everyone. He is theirs and ours, for He is the portion of the saints in every place. God has given this Christ to us, and He has called us into His fellowship.”
It is not easy to give an adequate definition of the fellowship of the Son of God. This matter is altogether wonderful. This fellowship involves not only the oneness between us and the Triune God, but also the oneness among all the believers. Furthermore, it implies enjoyment—our enjoyment of the Triune God, the Triune God’s enjoyment of us, and also the enjoyment which the believers have with one another. In this fellowship we enjoy the Triune God, and the Triune God enjoys us. Moreover, we enjoy all the believers, and all the believers enjoy us. What a wonderful, universal, mutual enjoyment! We have been called into something which is termed the fellowship of God’s Son. This fellowship is universal and mutual. The mutuality of this fellowship is not only between the believers and the Triune God, but also among the believers themselves.
Because we have been called into such a fellowship, we should not say that we are of Paul, of Cephas, of Apollos, or of any other person. Neither should we say that we are of a certain doctrine or of a particular practice. God has not called us into the fellowship of persons, doctrines, and practices. We have not been called into the fellowship of Paul or of anyone else; neither have we been called into a fellowship related to a doctrine or practice. We have been called uniquely into the fellowship of God’s Son. This means that we have been called into the reality, the embodiment, of the Triune God. In this fellowship we enjoy the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In this fellowship we also enjoy all the believers, and the believers enjoy us. Furthermore, the Triune God enjoys us and all the other believers in every place.
Would it not be marvelous if all of today’s Christians realized that they had been called into this fellowship? If this were the situation, the world would become like the garden of Eden. There would be no need for the millennium, for the millennium would already be here. However, the actual situation among Christians today is altogether different. Many things have come in to replace Christ as the unique portion of the believers. Even demonic and satanic things have come in. Nevertheless, God has determined that in His economy one Person—His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—must be everything. He is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and He must be constituted into us to become you and me. As we pointed out in the Life-study of Colossians, in the church as the new man, Christ must be everything and everyone. Christ must be the reality of the church. He must also be the reality of every doctrine and practice. The reality of our baptism is Christ, and the substance of our communion is also Christ. If this were the experience of Christians today, how excellent would be the situation among us all!
The actual situation among believers is very sad, even tragic. Christians may have many things, but lack the reality of Christ, the living Person. In today’s Christianity there are thousands, even millions, of items and things. But where can you find the reality of Christ, the living Person? The situation among the believers in Corinth was an example of this terrible shortage. For this reason, in 1 Corinthians Paul points out to them that it is wrong to say that they are of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or even of a narrow Christ. That is altogether contrary to God’s economy. In God’s economy there is room only for Christ.
I appreciate Paul’s word in verse 2: “With all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, theirs and ours.” Here Paul speaks of all those who call upon the name of the Lord and of every place. Then he says that Christ is both theirs and ours. Concerning believers and places, there is no difference. No matter where you may be when you call on the name of the Lord Jesus, Christ is both yours and also the portion of all the saints. In every place, Christ is theirs and ours.
God does not pay attention to anything other than Christ. Why then do we pay attention to so many other things, even other persons, in place of Christ? Certain of the believers in Corinth devoted their attention to Paul. To them Paul would say, “Why do you pay attention to me? I am not worthy of your attention. And why do some of you prefer Cephas or Apollos? They should not be the objects of your attention either. Neither should you concentrate on practices or doctrines. No person, practice, or doctrine is worthy of your attention. Your attention must be focused solely, wholly, and absolutely on Christ, the One into whose fellowship we have been called by God.”
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