An Uncompromised Word - RR274B4b
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Let us pray. Oh Lord our God we come again into Thy presence rejoicing that Thou art on the throne. That man shall not prevail. It is Thy will that shall be done. And the ends of the earth shall know that Thou art the Lord. Teach us by thy word and by Thy spirit how to serve Thee. Make us joyful in Thy praise and in Thy service. Guide us in the way that we should go. Prosper us above all that we should ask or think for Thy name’s sake and Thy kingdom’s sake. Now bless us our Father as we give ourselves to the study of Thy word. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Our scripture is First Corinthians 2:1-5. Our subject: An Uncompromised Word. First Corinthians 2:1-5.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Paul in First Corinthians draws a sharp line between the wisdom of this world and God’s revealed truth. He very quickly rejects Jewish and Greek thought and in so doing he was rejecting humanistic thinking at its best. Paul sees clearly what Christ necessitates. As head of the new human race, as the last Adam, he requires an entirely new world of thought whose premise is the Triune God and His inscriptured word. Man is not saved by morality nor by wisdom but only by Christ’s atonement. [00:03:34]
This means that every area of life and thought, the...
This means that every area of life and thought, the justice system, marriage, and more must be seen in terms of Jesus Christ. Instead of autonomous man as the starting point we have theonomous man, man who lives by the word of God. Paul in his letter drives a wedge between man in himself and man in Christ. Autonomous man who sits in judgment over all things including God has no place in Paul’s thought. In the modern age more than any time in the past man has stressed autonomy. It is interesting because that word is very revelatory by intention. Auto= self. Nomos = law. Autonomous man says that he is his own law and that is the thesis of modernity. Paul in First Corinthians 2:1-5 as Godey remarked a long time ago applies to his ministry at Corinth the principles which he had just laid down and shows that he has been faithful to it. Paul was very well versed in [unintelligible] philosophy but he avoids it use entirely because he does not want to betray the gospel. And coming to the Corinthians Paul says ‘when I come to you I come not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring the testimony of God’. Here and again in verse four, Paul is not saying he is a poor speaker or he deliberately spoke badly to avoid wrong emphasis but he avoided the philosophical strategies of verbal persuasion. [00:06:44]
I think it’s ridiculous how scholars are ready to take...
I think it’s ridiculous how scholars are ready to take statements like that and say oh, Paul was self-conscious because he was a bad speaker. That’s nonsense. What he was simply saying: I did not use the philosophical and rhetorical devices of public orators; I simply spoke what God required of me and that plainly. The conventions of intellectual debate, of verbal persuasiveness, were set aside to speak with a simple directness that was alien to intellectualism. What Paul said was not a demonstration of human rhetorical ability but of the spirit and of peace. It’s a sad fact that even in our day too many speakers feel that they’ve got to empress people with their speaking ability, their knowledge of the world and their knowledge of literature. I was interested once in reading on twelfth century history that there was a priest in London who was very much given to quoting Greek and Roman poetry to show how learned he was. And after a while the congregation of the laymen met on him and made it very clear: no more Greek or roman poetry, we’re here to hear the Bible. Now that was in the Middle Ages. That kind of thing should be done more often. Paul does not rely on intellectual assent but on the corroboration of the Spirit of God and the minds and hearts of those that hear him. He relies on the Holy Spirit; he believes that the Holy Spirit will work in and through him to confirm his words in the hearts and minds of his listeners. Paul’s experience prior to Corinth was not an easy one. He had problems in Macedonia, Thessaloniki and in Athens. [00:10:04]
They had been discouraging experiences...
They had been discouraging experiences. Paul now does not change his strategy as some insist. He continues as ever faithful to his calling, but he is troubled at the sad results at times. Again we need to deal with the abuses of Paul by a lot of preachers and commentators. They say Paul tried in these Greek cities to impress them with his knowledge. There’s no evidence of that. He failed because the men were very, very hardened sinners and refused to hear. And it was distressing for Paul; God had called him from success in Asia Minor to troubles in Europe. And naturally Paul was disturbed. But God had more in mind than the present. He had the future in mind. But because he was distressed at failure in three places in a row when he came to Corinth he was in weakness and in much fear and trembling. The notion that he now renounced this pride of philosophy as Whedon, who should have known better said in his commentary, is nonsense. Paul never had such a fault. Paul stands always in God’s wisdom which is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the key to salvation and to the meaning of the universe. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of life and of thought. No man can point to any departure from this in Paul. His sermon on Mars Hill is clearly Christ-centered. Why else did they mock him at Athens? He was speaking against all Greek philosophy. He was not mocked for lecturing on philosophy. When Paul speaks of his weakness, fear and much trembling and going to Corinth he is not referring to any physical ailment but to the prospect before him. Again, Paul has been clobbered, he was sick, he had this or that problem and therefore he was in bad shape when he went to Corinth…no! Corinth had an earned reputation as a wild place. [00:13:45]
It was a commercial center...
It was a commercial center. The men had many prostitutes available to visiting buyers. Morality was hardly a consideration in most spheres; even Aristophanes ridiculed the idea of chastity among Corinthians. How was Paul to deal with an amoral city in confronting this problem Paul resolves more than ever to stand firmly in the spirit and His power. So that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but only the power of God. Paul does not ground his ministry in the wisdom of philosophy or science of men but in the power of God. The wisdom and philosophy of Paul’s day are now faded and obsolete. But the power of God, despised then and despised now, still shrieks and shatters men and nations. The success of the gospel then and now rests on the power of God. Not on the skill of creatures. Then as now many believe that the gospel should be made relevant by couching it in terms of the times. The Gnostics were very relevant in their day and they are now totally and absurdly irrelevant to all except fools. Paul seeks relevance to God and his word. The dying world around Paul saw the Gospel as foolishness rather than the power of God. But Paul stood firmly against this false relevance. Paul at Corinth faced not only comparison to Apollos and Sephis but also to the many orators and thinker of the city. In the twentieth century entertainment is more fully available than ever before in history. By radio, television, films, computers, by means of the printed media and more. So we forget how great the power of the spoken word was then and throughout most of history. [00:17:09]
During most of history the major attraction in any...
During most of history the major attraction in any city or any village was the preaching. Through the preaching the wisdom and the power of God were opened up to people. We live in a time now when there’s a vast world of competition, entertainment like never before in history, so that the power of the spoken word has lost its impact. As a result we are a poor people. I’ve often reminded in my reading of the Scottish church of a few centuries ago, the Scottish church or kirk had so thoroughly trained it’s people in the word of God and the confession of faith and in the catechism, every child was expected to know it, and did, that people were hungry for a very thorough and detailed preaching of the word. Sermons were very long, I don’t know if I could sit through them frankly, and they were not simple. It was not unusual for the Scottish clergy to have forty and forty five points in their sermon. Not two or three. And they go through them I’d say, first, second, fortieth, and so on. And women who would meet for quilting bee during the week could discuss the eighteenth or sixteenth point and everyone would know what point they were talking about. That was the kind of mental ability that they had. Today our minds lack that kind of training. Men in Paul’s day were remarkable speakers and they were used to them. They relished them. Preaching in the early church was readily compared therefore to preaching and teaching by many varieties of thinkers and public figures and philosophers. [00:20:38]
The power of the spoken word was immense...
The power of the spoken word was immense. And it was a temptation to use the skills of the trade for Christ. Paul however draws a clear line between Christ and the world. This does not mean the dull speaking was made an attribute of preaching but that the clear and simple presentation of the gospel meant the greatest trust in the power of God. And this is exactly Paul’s basic trust. Why go to the kingdom of men for justice when God’s realm alone provides it truly. Why must faith be so essential an aspect of marriage? Like Paul insists: in every area must be God centered, only so can we be strong and free. An uncompromised word means an uncompromising life. A few centuries later at the time of the great church councils, because of the pre aching of great men of God, we read that in the barber shops of Constantinople men as they sat waiting would have a heated discussion on the meaning of the creeds, on the difference between one word and another, not even seminary students are capable of such discussion! Why? Because their interest in the faith is not as great. Then because the faith was very important to them they understood. Now we do not understand. Now it’s commonplace for the average teenager to know the very complicated aspects of machinery, because that interests him. But yet be ignorant of the very important aspects of the faith. It’s a question of interest. Where one’s life is centered. And this is our problem today. The faith has been made peripheral to most of life. As a result people want superficialities rather than as Paul declared: the power of God. Let us pray. [00:24:39]
Our father we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word...
Our father we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word. We thank Thee for Paul’s uncompromising stand and we thank Thee that men after one another over the centuries have with Paul, stood for the uncompromised word. We pray our Father that Thou woulds’t recall our generation unto Thee. That Thou woulds’t make unto Thee a righteous people. That Thou woulds’t establish the sovereignty of Thy law-word over men and nations. Grant us this we beseech Thee, in Christ’s name, Amen.
Are there any questions now about our lesson?
One of the things we need to recognize is that Paul in this letter to the Corinthians established a dividing line, a very sharp dividing line between the world and the faith. And this is why First Corinthians is so important a letter or document. The line he draws is as I said at the beginning a very sharp line. And it is interesting that he drew this sharp line in a place like Corinth. Not in some of the communities that were not as far out nor as evil as Corinth, not that he didn’t draw it everywhere, but never as clearly and unequivocally as Corinth. Well we live in a time when the lines are blurred on all sides, within the church and outside the church. We saw it very clearly recently when the media made it a battle between itself and the military in defending a woman who was kicked out because of adultery. Nothing said about the several hundred men who had been kicked out recently because the same reason. Now the point that was made in more than one editorial cartoon or comment was that immorality or morality was not public concerns. [00:28:15]
Well this is a view that is increasingly gaining currency...
Well this is a view that is increasingly gaining currency. If a few of the things the present administration has committed had been committed fifty and seventy five years ago there would have been a hue and cry and trials galore. But now we are told such questions are irrelevant, moral questions should not intrude in the political sphere. So we are steadily separating religious and morality from all of life. How could we today condemn Hitler? Well maybe for his racism he would be condemned but not for making abortion a policy of state or euthanasia or the destruction of private property with his green laws, his environmentalism, and so on and on. His whole program has been adopted. It’s not supposed to be of any moral concern to anyone because moral concerns are private matters not public affairs. So we are moving very steadily, very militantly, in the same direction as the tyrannies of World War Two. This is why Paul’s emphasis is so relevant. What he is saying emphatically is that faith and morality are relevant and the dividing line is the cross of Christ. [00:30:43]
Because there is no reforming of society if there is...
Because there is no reforming of society if there is no atonement for sin and no regeneration of men to be a new creation. Apart from that history goes down the tubes into the cess pool. Yes?
[Woman speaking] If God’s law isn’t compromising, then our lives as Christians should be uncompromising in how we live them, in every aspect. But yet I frequently hear from Christians that I know, people that call themselves Christians, that there are many shades of grey. And I think that’s really what you’re talking about, and I was speaking with someone and I said name me a shade of grey. Name me something that really isn’t black or white in the way we should live our Christian life and they actually couldn’t. But is that what you’re speaking to? They want everything to be a shade of grey.
[Rushdoony] Yes! Exactly. I heard once of a man and I don’t remember the context but it was in the course of his work, he raised a point objecting to something which they were about to do which was clearly immoral. Now it wasn’t that it was a million dollar thing or a ten thousand dollar thing, it was over relatively small thing but the issue was very clear, it was wrong. And he said we shouldn’t do that. And the other men turned to him and said what are you trying to do, wanting to be a saint? Now that attitude is prevalent. Okay, so I’m not about to rob a bank or rape somebody so why get so hard on my case? This is the kind of thing that a great deal of people today are encountering. And it’s a sign of a radical moral breakdown. Well if there are no further questions now, let us conclude with prayer. [00:33:22]
Our father we thank Thee that because Thou art on the...
Our father we thank Thee that because Thou art on the throne it is Thy will that shall prevail. And the men and nations of our day like those of old will be brought to account. They shall be shaken until that which is unshakeable shall remain. Make us strong in Thy word and spirit that we may be Thine unshakeable people. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.