"And still I am showing you a path suited to
I. Cor. 12, 31 (C.V.)
Always are its teachings completely balanced as between doctrine and deportment. In this Word is no cold, intellectual theorising, but vivid, glowing life.
Because the professors of theology have imported their creeds and religious traditions into the realm of Divine revelation, the vitalizing reality of the Scriptures is not appreciated by the majority of would-be believers at anything like its true value, so we often hear it said that what is wanted is " practical " teaching, which will help men and women in their daily lives, and not" a lot of dry theology."
If we could only forget all the religious traditions upon which most of us were brought up, and open the Scriptures to let them speak for themselves, we should find that the "dry theology" is conspicuously absent from their pages, and we should also find, as has already been said, that the most advanced and wonderful unfoldings of the Divine Mind are inextricably interwoven with the fabric of everyday life.
There is a tendency with some who look with suspicion upon close study of the Scriptures to utter dark warnings against what they describe as "head knowledge." What is wanted, they say, is "heart knowledge." Since neither of the terms used are Scriptural they do not carry much weight, but it should be emphasised nevertheless that no one can have and hold an intelligent and real grasp of any portion of Divine truth without its having a corresponding effect upon the personal life. Paul does not say " This revelation is designed to appeal to your intelligence, whilst that is an emotional appeal to touch your heart." The Word of God is a living and life-giving power which acts upon the whole man. The Spirit of God renews the mind and at the same time strengthens the inner man.
God will not blame us if we use the minds He has given us in order to consider His Word and His ways, because by the very nature of His revelation He shows that He desires to be intelligently apprehended, rather than superstitiously and credulously feared as an Unknown Quantity.
Obviously, the more we understand and know about Him, the warmer will grow our love, and the closer will become our hearts allegiance. And so it is, as with enthralled minds and delighted understanding we follow the setting forth of His eonian purpose, climbing to the transcendent heights of revelation and of spiritual blessing, that we find within it all those words of wisdom and counsel which link together a celestial calling and destiny with an earthly walk in life. As we study His way, He points out to us our way, and shows us how both are intimately related in His great purpose.
With every revelation of His mind and will for mankind God has always indicated a way of life suited to it. And in proportion to the height and advance of His revelation so has the way become more elevated. Primitive man, before written revelation, had a way in which he should walk, illuminated by the flickerings of conscience. Israel had a way, under law, a way clearly defined and set forth and hedged by prohibitions and penalties. Those who speak disparagingly of the Hebrew Scriptures are apt to overlook their limited scope, and to forget that they do not contain a full-orbed revelation of God and His purpose. Because the Greek Scriptures are more advanced than Gods earlier revelation it does not mean that the latter was any the less Divinely inspired. It shows a way suited to Israel at that stage of her history, and in accord with the light she had upon the purpose of God for her. Her condemnation is that she did not walk in it. Our Lord himself, coming as Israels Messiah, combined in His life and teachings all the true significance of earlier revelation, adding to it all His wonderful words of wisdom and saying to them (and to us through later knowledge) "I am the Way." But hearts are stubborn and feet are slow, now as then.
Following His earthly ministry, during the period of transition recorded in the Gospels and Acts, there is revealed a way suited to the times, in which was blended together Judaism and the fuller teachings of our Lord, a way of miracle and sign, a way in which the nations might share as guests. Upon this way we see the Apostle Paul set out, and as he takes the severed path marked "To the Gentiles" as his evangel develops we see the way broadening and changing as we proceed, the things of the earlier revelations being left behind, except for those which are retained as the essential foundation stones for this vast highway of Gods grace.
To the Corinthians he speaks of a body of which Christ is the Head, and as members of that body he tells them the things which they should seek, exhorting them to "be zealous of the greater graces." The path suited to those days was one in which the gifts of prophecy and healing and languages had important places, but even as that economy has given place to one in which spirit is everything and the flesh very little, so has the path ascended to still higher altitudes.
Side by side, at that time, stretched two ways, one for the believing Jew and one for the believing Gentile. Maturity had not yet fully come; the Secret of Christ had not yet been revealed publicly--the secret that in spirit the Gentiles are to be, without any exception, joint-enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint-body-people, and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. Israels way is closed, the only approach now is that of the Gentile.
With this maturity all other paths are superseded; there is no difference between believing Jew and Gentile and all fleshly benefits cease. Among those in Corinth there seem to have been some who had reached out towards this maturity, and to them Paul says--" I show you a path suited to transcendence." When we look along it we see that it is indeed a more excellent way!
It is surely the endeavour of us all to reach a sufficiently mature understanding of Gods Word to know this path and walk in it. We enjoy the transcendent riches of Gods grace towards us in Christ Jesus; we rejoice in the marvellous panorama which is unfolded to our gaze as we stand on the highest pinnacle of truth. Transcendence indeed!
How shall we walk then; what is the path for us?
From a human standpoint it might be imagined that this revelation of mature wisdom and advanced spiritual understanding would call for a path which led still further in the way of those supernatural gifts which are commonly supposed to denote spirituality. A way of miracle and sign, a way of prophecy and tongues, might well be thought the fitting accompaniment of such transcendent revelation, but the Apostles " suitable way" contains no hint of this.
On the contrary, he says that languages may be no more than resounding copper or a clanging cymbal, prophecy and knowledge may amount to nothing, self-sacrifice may bring no benefit--indeed, all these may be no more than the indications of immaturity.
The way suited to transcendence is the way of Love, a way which, in keeping with most of the deep things of God, is as simple as it is profound.
Are we, who endeavour to present ourselves mature, not in danger of neglecting this path? Do we not tend to think that evidences of maturity are to be found in knowledge and erudition? Even earnest faith and fervent expectation are less than Love!
Because this way is so simple we find it very difficult. Like Naaman the Syrian we protest that such a path is easy--set us greater tasks, we say, and let us have the opportunity to exploit all our spiritual resources in accordance with this transcendent revelation.
But it is not easy, the way of Love ; it is a way in which we often stumble and turn aside. Are we always patient, kind, never jealous, never self-seeking, always foregoing all, believing all, expecting all, enduring all ! Our hearts condemn us
Let us remember the supreme superiority of Love, and let us mark every injunction to love in the sacred Word. This is the way which is suited to transcendence; this is the way in which, if we walk, we shall adorn the teaching which we profess.
To us has been given the highest, grandest revelation ever made to men, and to suit it, ours is the highest, loftiest path upon which man may walk. Ours it is to "follow after Love."
Let us continue to seek that we may find, knock that the door of truth may be opened unto us, and ask that we may be given, but above all, let us take heed of this injunction
"Put on, then, as Gods chosen ones, holy and beloved, pitiful compassion, kindness, humility of disposition, meekness, patience, bearing with one another and dealing graciously among yourselves, if anyone should be having a complaint against any. According as the Lord also deals graciously with you, thus you also . . . . .
NOW OVER ALL THESE IS LOVE, WHICH IS THE TIE OF MATURITY" (Col. 3, 12.14).
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