Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 2 * BOOK 28
ETERNAL EXCELLENCE OF LOVE – PART 2
Now let’s pick up where we left off in the love chapter, at verse 10, and remember we had just looked at Hebrews 6 where Paul said, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,…” In other words, there comes a point in our Christian growth where you have to leave just spending all your time on the simplistic or the elementary, and you move on into the deeper things. Paul’s writings are a progressive revelation just like the Bible is as a whole. And so the Book of Romans and the first one of Paul’s letters in the New Testament are doctrinally elementary. I’ve said so often if people could just understand two chapters in the Bible then they’ve got the battle over half won, and those are Genesis Chapter 3 which records the fall of mankind, and his problem with sin. And then Romans Chapter 3 which gives us the remedy for it.
So Romans is elementary, but then you see as the congregation was beginning to grow problems arose, and we’ll see that in our next study after we leave II Corinthians and go to the Book of Galatians. Well, there again, problems such as legalism were creeping in and Paul had to address that. But after we leave Galatians then you see we move into what I call the higher doctrines of Grace. Then we go into those deep concepts of the prison epistles, and that of course is the Body of Christ and our position in the heavenlies. But you just can’t unload all of that at once, we have to take it progressively, and that’s why I feel the Lord has blessed our system of teaching through the scriptures, as we’ve been doing.
And so Corinthians, as we’ve been stressing, is addressing problems in a congregation that was so very carnal. They had not yet moved into the deeper spiritual things, and of course they hadn’t really been revealed except through the gifted men who could preach it. But as we move on through from Corinthians into Galatians then you will see what I’m talking about. Now let’s get back to the great love chapter, and we’ve been stressing that Paul puts this little chapter, by inspiration, between two chapters that are even controversial today. And the only way we can handle the controversy, as we’re faced with day in and day out, is on the basis of the love of I Corinthians 13. I do not condemn people for practices that I don’t agree with because that’s between them and the Lord. But it is my responsibility to teach what the Book says, and not what I think. Now verse 11:
I Corinthians 13:11
“When I was a child, (Paul uses simplistic illustrations, and I also like to use illustrations that even grade school kids can understand.) I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: (Paul was just as normal as anybody else, but here’s where a lot of people fail in the next portion.) but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Now I’m finding out that the older I get, the sharper I become at remembering things that happened when I was five years old, and I think those of you who are older than I am notice the same thing. As we become older then, yes, we no longer play with the toys of a five or six-year-old, but have we forgotten them? No! It’s still part of our make-up. We still reflect back constantly. And he says the same thing. “When I was a man, I put away childish things,” but does that mean he totally obliterated them from his thinking? Of course not. But he is now a man and is no longer on the child level of activity. Now he goes on to bring, I think, the thought that he is trying to bring through at this point of revelations. And remember, he still hasn’t had the revelations of the prison epistle.
I think he probably got those revelations while he was in prison in Caesarea. You remember, that was after all of his three missionary journeys through the Book of Acts. And then he went to Jerusalem and got in trouble with the Jews. He went under house arrest and protective custody with the Romans, and then they had him in prison in Caesarea for a year and a half while they were waiting to decide what to do with him. I think that while he was rotting away in a Roman prison for a year and a half, God was revealing the deeper revelations that would now come from the apostle’s pen when he gets under house arrest in Rome. And so this is the whole process of his revelation. He has gotten enough to bring out the doctrines of grace for salvation and so forth, but so far as that deeper doctrine of the position in the heavenlies that we now enjoy, that hadn’t been revealed to him as yet. But he evidently had an understanding, or at least the Holy Spirit knew it, so he says:
I Corinthians 13:12
“For now we see through a glass, (or we look into a mirror) darkly; but then face to face: ….”
Now the Greek implies an enigma. For years I didn’t know what that was and I don’t expect most people to know it today. But an enigma is like looking in a mirror and only getting an opaque reflection. In other words, if your mirror is covered over with steam after a hot shower, you may see the overall outlines of your face, but you do not see the little details that you’d want for putting on your make-up or shaving or whatever. Now that’s what the word “darkly” means. Paul was seeing through an opaque view. He could tell that there was more out there, but as yet he didn’t have the revelations. And so he says, “Now we see through a glass, or look into a mirror that’s clouded over, but then….” Now a lot of people think that this is referring to when Christ comes and it could be, but I prefer to think that Paul is referring to when he would have the complete revelation as we now have it. At the point he’s writing I Corinthians 13, he didn’t have it. And so he says, “We see through the glass darkly, but then….” when he has the full revelation, and the Word of God has become complete, then, he says, face to face.
He’s not talking about my seeing my parents face to face, or you seeing your loved ones or even seeing the Lord Jesus face to face, he’s talking about the fact that when the steam is wiped off of that bathroom mirror, he’s going to see himself as he really is. And so then, when the revelations are complete, he says it will just be like having the steam wiped off the mirror and I’ll see it all and we can see it all. And this is why I think we should be spending more time in, not just Paul’s early epistles, but in his later ones. The Church today needs to be taught what’s in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. And we’re hearing precious little of it. That’s the deep stuff. That’s what makes us grow and become mature believers. Now let’s go on.
I Corinthians 13:12b
“…now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
In other words, the revelations would be complete and there would be no more explanations necessary. It is so obvious that when you start those prison epistles, the revelations go completely beyond his earliest epistles of Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans and Galatians. Then verse 13. So after all is said and done, after all the gifts and sign gifts have come and gone, only three things abide and what are they?
I Corinthians 13:13
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
Faith, hope and charity, or love. Now it’s interesting, and I want you to watch for this as you read Paul’s epistles, that here and there sprinkled throughout all the rest of his epistles, up will come these three words. Not always three at a time. Sometimes it’s faith and hope. Sometimes it may be faith and love. But he will constantly be using these three words to the end of his writings. Why? Because they will abide. They’re not going to pass off like prophecies did, tongues did, and some of these other things. And so he says, the greatest of all three is love.
I think we have to look at the whole picture. Naturally, without faith you cannot please God. One of the other absolutes I’ve always said is that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. But you can also say that if there is no love, it’s the same thing, it’s impossible to please God. So of the three, faith, hope and love, even love is now the greatest. Now let’s back up and pick up with Chapter 12. With love as the basis, and even as I deal with people who may not agree with me, I’m not going to get upset or angry with you. I’m just going to simply say, “Look, this is the way I feel this is the way the Lord has opened the Scriptures to my understanding and it’s my responsibility to teach what the Book says and not what some group may think.” Now look at verse 1. He is again, seemingly, referring to this letter of questions. And he says the same thing like he did in Chapter 7.
I Corinthians 12:1
“Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
I know your King James says “gifts.” It’s italicized, is it not? So I think it would also be plainer if we would put an “s” on the word spiritual and leave it at that. “Now concerning spirituals, or spiritual things.” Now, here again, we have to be so careful because, you see, when we talk about the things in the realm of the spiritual, it’s just not the Holy Spirit’s power that we are confronted with, but also the adversary. He also is among the spirituals. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn to Ephesians 6, and a verse that all of you know and you’ll recognize it as soon as we look at it. This is one of those letters that I was just telling you about. Here we’re into one of the deeper aspects, the fuller and more final revelations that the apostle Paul received.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Now what do you suppose? The word “spiritual” here in Ephesians is basically the same Greek word, it’s different case, but it’s still the same Greek word as what is translated the “spirituals” in Chapter 12 of I Corinthians verse 1. Now he says:
I Corinthians 12:1
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
I’m going to have to jump across the page a minute in order to show you why I jumped over to Ephesians, because Chapter 12 here in I Corinthians verse 10, is interesting. Because here the Corinthian church is just beset with these problems, one of which was they were abusing some of the gifts.
I Corinthians 12:10a
“To another (not to all) the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits;…..”
Now what does it mean to discern something? Well, to analyze it and put it in it’s right category. You intelligently look at something and determine where this belongs and where that belongs. In other words, it had to be a gifted person even in Corinth to separate the spiritual things that were being prompted by Satan, and the spiritual things that were being prompted by the Holy Spirit. Now let me show you what I mean. Let me use Scripture. I’m not going to use my own ideas. Go all the way back to I John Chapter 4, verse 1. This is just as relevant today as it was when John wrote it, or when Paul wrote Corinthians. It is still the valid Word of God, and look what it says:
I John 4:1a
“Beloved (who is John writing to? Believers!) believe not every spirit….”
Now remember the word there isn’t capitalized. It’s the small case “s” and so it’s not talking about the Holy Spirit, but it’s talking about a spirit that is involved with the very mind and mental attributes of man, as well as Satan. You know the spirit of Satan is never capitalized either. And so here he says;
I John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (or test) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Now John wrote around 80 or 90 A.D., just before the turn of the first century, and if the Holy Spirit inspired him to write that there were many false spirits then, what do you think it is now? It’s far, far greater and so we have to be all the more aware of the gift of discerning these spirits. And I maintain that every believer has the wherewithal to do that if you’ll line it up with the Word of God. That’s your only criteria. You don’t go by what some preacher says or what I say, or what some seminary says, you line it up with the Word of God. And now come back to I Corinthians Chapter 12 and I think I can show you one area that Paul, as well as John, was talking about.
I Corinthians 12:1
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
God does not want the most uneducated believer to be ignorant. There’s absolutely no excuse for it. There are Bibles in every book store and commentaries galore. But the Word of God can be understood by the lowliest, the most uneducated in the world. God has promised it. He may lead someone to help you understand it, but it is not beyond the comprehension of any believer. Now verse 2.
I Corinthians 12:2
“You know that ye were (in the past) Gentiles (we know it was primarily a Gentile congregation) carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.”
The word “dumb” there merely means that they couldn’t speak. It didn’t mean they had no intelligence, it just meant they couldn’t speak. And he says, “You were led to those.” Naturally, that’s all the world knew at that time, except for Judaism and Israel. Now verse 3.
I Corinthians 12:3a
“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit (capital “S.” That’s the Holy Spirit. Do you see the difference? Small case “s” is not the Holy Spirit. It’s the spirit of man or spirit of evil, but it is not the Holy Spirit.) calleth Jesus accursed:…”
Now we think, how could anybody ever do that? Listen, what do you suppose the Jews did then and probably a lot of them do today? What do they call Jesus? Accursed! What do you think Saul of Tarsus called Him in his days of intense persecution? That accursed Person? How could you believe like that? You may say, “Les, how can you be so blasphemous?” I’m not, I’m reading Scripture. And I’ll tell you why the Jews would say something like that. Turn with me now to Acts Chapter 5. This is interesting and this is why I like to teach. This is Bible study. I’m not going to roll out a sermon at you, we’re going to search the scriptures. And here Peter is still holding forth with the 11 and they are still primarily dealing with the Jewish people, still confronting them with the fact that the One that was crucified was their Messiah.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, `We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.'”
Now let’s go back to Matthew 27 and verse 5. Judas has just gone to the chief priests and in verse 4 he has admitted he has betrayed innocent blood. And now verse 5
“And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
Now come all the way back to Deuteronomy and you’ll see what I’m driving at. Deuteronomy 21 and here is why Jews, with a straight face and conscious, would accuse or curse Jesus because He had been hanged on a Cross.
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (does that ring a bell? Why were the Jews in such a hurry to get Jesus off the Cross? They knew this verse!) (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)…”
Did you know that was in your Bible? Now let’s go back to I Corinthians and that will probably make more sense. Paul is admonishing, especially in the direction of Jewish unbelievers who were giving Christianity such a bad time, and reflecting, I think, in his own pre-salvation experience. He was literally telling Israel that this Man, Jesus of Nazareth, was accursed because he was hanged on the Cross, on the tree. Paul is making it so plain here in I Corinthians 12 that no man who is now a believer and under the control of the Holy Spirit would ever call Jesus accursed simply because He’d been crucified. We know better than that, but you see the Jews were leaning on Deuteronomy, and what Judas had done, and so they were calling Jesus accursed. But they were not doing it in the power of the Holy Spirit, they were doing it in their unbelief. The reason I’m making a point of this is because years ago this verse bugged me. I thought how in the world could anybody curse Jesus? But this was their reasoning. Now let’s go on and look at the last part of verse 3.
I Corinthians 12:3b
“…and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, (and really mean it) but by the Holy Ghost.”
Now that’s the other side of the coin. No unbeliever can ever claim that Christ is His Lord, it’s impossible. Christ can never be the Lord and Master of an unbelieving person.