The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 3, 4
1 Corinthians is absolutely loaded with spiritual answers. At the same time, it raises just as many spiritual questions!
Stand in the Rain has been waiting for 1 Corinthians, because it's the perfect place from which to launch a series of articles that will (we hope) sort out some of the Bible's paradoxes.
Ten years ago, I stumbled across a reprint of the original (1909) Scofield Reference Bible. (When the revised version of 1917 became the standard Scofield, the 1909 version was largely forgotten.) Printed in the back was a lengthy article called "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth." The article "rightly divided" these topics:
The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God
The Seven Dispensations
The Two Advents
The Two Resurrections
The Five Judgments
Law and Grace
The Believer's Two Natures
The Believer's Standing and State
Salvation and Rewards
Believers and Professors
As I read it, so many of scripture's internal "contradictions" melted away. And so, leaning heavily on Scofield's original, we present this abridgement to you. We hope, pray, and expect that some concepts which once seemed logically irreconcilable will start to make seamless sense!
We're grappling with questions about the wayward Corinthian church. There were factions, drunkenness, deviant sexuality, and fruity philosophies. Just like watching NBC!
But, then and now, the church is supposed to be different from the world in general. When we aren't, why aren't we? Here's why:
1. Some in the church, then and now, are professors, but not believers. (We focused on that situation yesterday.)
2. The lives of all believers exhibit a discrepancy between our standing (our position in Christ) and our state, or "walk."
Today, we will contrast the believer's standing with his state in order to understand both more clearly.
Until we understand the distinction between a believer's standing (or position) and his state (or "walk") the New Testament letters are impossible to comprehend.
Our standing is the result of the work of Christ, and is perfect and complete from the moment we first believe. Nothing in the believer's subsequent life adds anything to his standing. Faith alone confers standing in God's sight, and before Him the weakest and most fallible believer has precisely the same standing as the most illustrious saint.
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior but you aren't entirely sure of your standing before God, then hold on to your hat, because it's about to be blown away:
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God... (John 1:12)
And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…(Romans 8:17)
To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith. (1 Peter 1:4-5)
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father. (Revelation 1:5-6)
And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:10)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6/NKJV)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-6)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Ephesians 1:13)
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Every one of these marvelous things is true of every one who believes in Jesus. Not one item on this inventory is gained by prayer, or service, or church-going, or giving, or self-denial, or any other good work. It is all is the gift of God through faith and therefore belongs equally to all believers.
At the moment (s)he receives Christ by faith, the believer becomes a son of God, a joint-heir with Christ, a king and priest, the owner of an incorruptible, unfading inheritance. We have peace with God, eternal life, and we are accepted to the full measure of Christ's own acceptance. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, clothed in the righteousness of God, raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenlies. That's the position we find ourselves in!
What our actual state may be is quite another matter; certainly it is far, far below our exalted standing in the sight of God. It is not all at once that our conduct equals our standing.
Tomorrow, we will see how our standing and state are constantly contrasted throughout scripture.