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Authentic Christianity, by Ray C.

Stedman
1
THE GREAT
IMITATION
His classmates called him "the Dumb Ox" because of he was heavyset, serious, and
usually silent. Historians, however, call him "the Angelic Doctor," and Roman Catholics
revere him as a saint. His name !homas A"uinas##the most influential theologian of the
thirteenth century.
$f the young scholar%s mother could have had her way, the world would never have
heard of !homas A"uinas. &he strongly o''osed his wishes to study theology and (oin a
'riestly order. $n fact, she even had him confined in a castle for over a year in an
attem't to )ee' him from becoming a 'riest.
!he life mission of !homas A"uinas was to reconcile the Christian faith with human
reason, and to intellectually 'rove the existence of *od. Of the many theological boo)s
A"uinas wrote, his final wor)##the Summa Theologica or Summary Treatise of Theology
+,-./#012##is considered his greatest and most im'ortant. Ama3ingly, A"uinas himself
never finished the Summa Theologica. 4o, he didn%t die before it could be com'leted.
He sim'ly lost interest and sto''ed writing5
6hat ha''ened to A"uinas that made him abru'tly abandon his lifelong 'ursuit of
theology7 6e find a clue in the fact that his great unfinished wor) was com'osed of
three 'arts "On *od," "!he 8oral 9ife of 8an," and "On Christ." He had com'leted the
first two sections and was dee' into the writing of the final section on Christ that
something ha''ened to him##a 'rofound and emotionally shattering s'iritual ex'erience.
A"uinas himself was never able to 'ut that life#changing ex'erience into words, but
many who have studied his life believe that, in the 'rocess of writing about Christ and
meditating on our 9ord%s life and words, A"uinas ex'erienced a vision in which he came
face to face with the &avior.
:ollowing his s'iritual encounter with ;esus, A"uinas said, "$ have seen that which
ma)es all $ have written and taught loo) small to me. 8y writing days are over." And with
that, he sim'ly sto''ed writing, leaving his theological master'iece on Christ unfinished.
All human 'ursuits##even the study of religion and theology##are mere 'ale imitations
once we come into the 'resence of the *reat Reality, ;esus Himself.
!he Christian life begins with an encounter with ;esus Christ. $t cannot be otherwise.
"He who has the &on has life< he who does not have the &on of *od does not have life"
+, ;ohn /,-2. 8any influences and ex'eriences may lead us to an encounter with
;esus Christ. !hose influences and ex'eriences may even be intensely religious and
theologically 'rofound##but until a 'erson res'onds to the 'romise of Christ and
receives Him as 9ord, there can be no s'iritual reality, no eternal life.
!he act of receiving Christ may be so effortless, gentle, and gradual that the 'erson
may not even be aware of the exact moment he or she 'assed from death into life. !his
is often the case with children who are raised from an early age to love *od and to
follow ;esus. $n other cases, the moment of conversion is shattering and dramatic, as in
the ex'erience of !homas A"uinas or the conversion of =aul on the road to Damascus.
$n still other cases, a s'ecific moment of decision results in the conversion ex'erience##
yet it ta)es 'lace without great drama, miracles, or visions< that is the conversion
ex'erience ;ohn 6esley describes when he says he felt "strangely warmed" when he
gave his life to Christ.
$n still other cases, conversion may actually be a tortuous, 'ainful ex'erience,
accom'anied with great resistance, almost as if the individual is "dragged )ic)ing and
screaming" into the >ingdom of *od< such was the case with &t. Augustine. He s'ent
years see)ing 'leasure and ex'loring various worldly 'hiloso'hies until one day he
heard a voice, li)e that of a child, re'eating, "!a)e u' and read." ?elieving this to be a
command from *od to read the ?ible, Augustine too) u' the boo) of Romans, o'ened it
at random, and read, "clothe yourselves with the 9ord ;esus Christ, and do not thin)
about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" +Romans ,1,@2. !hough he did not
want to give u' his sinful ways, though he resisted *od%s call u'on his life, Augustine
)new that he had at last discovered the truth##and he gave u' the struggle and acce'ted
;esus Christ as &avior and 9ord.
A 'erson%s encounter with ;esus Christ##what we call "conversion"##may ta)e 'lace in
any one of a number of ways. However the act of conversion occurs, it absolutely must
ta)e 'lace before there can be any ho'e of living the authentic Christian life.
No other way
!he ex'erience of encountering Christ rests u'on the written 'romises of the ?ible. At
least some )nowledge of the truth of *od%s 6ord is essential to believing in or receiving
Christ. $t is the biblical account of the crucifixion and resurrection of ;esus which gives
us reason to believe that ;esus is alive and available to us< that ;esus can, by the Holy
&'irit, actually come to live within a human being< and that He can so entwine His own
life with our own so that, from then out, we and Christ can be essentially regarded as
one. !he biblical account of the life and character of ;esus gives us the basis for
believing that ;esus is truly the &avior He claimed to be and that He has the 'ower to
set us free from bondage to sin. Our assurance as Christians rests u'on such 'romises
as, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and $ will give you rest"
+8atthew ,,-A2 and "$ am the light of the world. 6hoever follows me will never wal) in
dar)ness, but will have the light of life" +;ohn A ,-2.
?ut no matter how clearly we may understand who ;esus is and what He can do in our
lives, and even how He gives us eternal life +by His death and resurrection, *od%s 'lan
of salvation2, we cannot receive the gift of eternal life until we, in our human will,
res'ond to the invitation of ;esus and choose to receive Him, obey Him, and follow Him.
*od%s 'lan of salvation, as it is 'resented to us throughout the 4ew !estament, is aimed
s"uarely at our human will, our human decision#ma)ing ability. 6e must ma)e a choice
to surrender to the 9ordshi' of ;esus.
6e cannot attain eternal life through a mere intellectual exercise. 6e do not become
authentic Christians by intellectually com'rehending and acce'ting the historical facts
about ;esus. 4or do we become authentic Christians by gras'ing the theological
im'lications of his death and resurrection. 6e do not become authentic Christians by
adhering to certain moral and ethical standards which ;esus taught. 4or do we become
authentic Christians by trying to relate to *od a'art from ;esus Christ. Our lives must be
(oined to His life. 6e become authentic Christians by as)ing ;esus to come in as 9ord
and 8aster, and by trusting Him to accom'lish and fulfill His eternal life in us by means
of the Holy &'irit. 6hen that ha''ens, a miracle ta)es 'lace##even though that miracle
may be of a "uiet, almost invisible )ind. A new "uality of life##eternal life##is im'arted to
us and we are "made alive in Christ." $t is this divine action that ma)es us authentic
Christians. 4othing else can do it. "He who has the &on has life< he who does not have
the &on of *od does not have life." $t is that sim'le.
Signs of life
Conversion is (ust the beginning. A newborn baby, fresh from her mother%s womb, is a
com'lete, authentic 'erson, a genuine human being, even though she is 'hysically and
mentally undevelo'ed. $n the same way, a newborn Christian is a com'lete, authentic
Christian and truly shares the life of Christ, even though he is s'iritually undevelo'ed.
!here is much to be learned and ex'erienced before this 'erson achieves anything that
can 'ro'erly be called maturity. Ha''ily, however, certain manifestations of the new life
do "uic)ly a''ear. =erha's the easiest to recogni3e is a sense of 'eace and well#being,
es'ecially in terms of one%s feelings about *od. $t is, as =aul tells us, the result of *od%s
&'irit bearing witness with our human s'irit that we are now the children of *od +see
Romans A,.2. And that sense of 'eace is made more intense and lasting as we come
to reali3e the full im'lication of having our sin forgiven through our relationshi' with
Christ. !his release from guilt and shame is a large 'art of the 'eace Christians
ex'erience.
One of the (oys of a new Christian is a new and exciting sense of belonging to a family.
6e discover we are not alone, but have become members of a large and ever#growing
family. As members of that family, we have many brothers and sisters to relate to and
en(oy, while having continual access to our heavenly :ather through 'rayer and the
'resence of the Holy &'irit. :or many, the most (oyful as'ect of this new life is release
from the fear of death and what lies beyond. !o have the certain ho'e of heaven rather
than the fear of hell is a relief beyond our ability to ex'ress.
?ecause of these elements of the Christian life, many new Christians ex'erience
intense excitement and (oy. !he ?ible becomes a fresh and exciting boo), and meeting
with other Christians is a continual (oy. !he change that comes over the outloo) and
emotions of the new Christian is obvious to everyone. 8any new believers wonder,
"Why did I wait so long to experience something so wonderful?"
Three possible choices
!his initial state of eu'horia may continue for wee)s or even months. $nevitably, sooner
or later, the old natural life begins to reassert itself. !he glow begins to fade from
Christian worshi', and ?ible reading becomes less and less rewarding. Christian
fellowshi' in meetings and individual contact becomes dull and routine. Old 'atterns of
thin)ing and behavior begin to reassert themselves. !his is a critical time when one of
three 'ossibilities may occur.
:irst, the young Christian may continue his decline to the 'oint of dro''ing out of all
Christian relationshi's, neglecting the ?ible, abandoning 'rayer, losing interest in
s'iritual things, and falling bac) into his 're#Christian lifestyle. !his may be (ust a
tem'orary 'eriod of "bac)sliding," one of several 'eriods of remission before the 'erson
settles into a consistent Christian lifestyle. $n the ma(ority of cases, however, there is no
return +at least for many years2. !he "uestion naturally occurs 6as this 'erson ever
really a Christian at all7
&econd, the young Christian may become aware of his cold and rebellious heart,
become frightened by the thought of regressing to what he was before, and re'entantly
cast himself u'on *od%s mercy, renewing his trust in *od%s 'romises. &uch Christians
often see) the hel' of older, more ex'erienced Christians as mentors and 'rayer
'artners who encourage them and hold them accountable as they return to a state of
obedience, 'eace, and (oy. !his cycle may be re'eated many times until it becomes the
'attern of his ex'erience and he comes to thin) of it as normal Christianity. On the other
hand he may, ha''ily, learn something from each re'eated cycle, so that his eyes are
o'ened to the truth and he is able to leave his s'iritual roller#coaster existence and
become a stable, mature, &'irit#led Christian.
!he third and most li)ely 'ossibility is that the new Christian may discover what millions
of others before him have learned $t is 'ossible to avoid the 'ain and humiliation of
these cycles of re'entance and renewal by maintaining an outward facade of s'iritual
commitment, moral im'eccability, and orthodox behavior. He can sim'ly maintain an
outward re'utation for s'iritual maturity that is satisfying to the ego, even though he is
inwardly haunted by the fact that his "Christianity" is a hollow shell. &uch an outwardly
Christian life#style is so 'revalent today that a new Christian can hardly be blamed for
ado'ting it and regarding it as the ex'ected thing. He drifts into it with only an
occasional twinge of doubt or a rare, faint 'ang of conscience.
He is in denial, and would be dee'ly offended if anyone called him what he really is a
hy'ocrite. !o him, the word "hy'ocrite" suggests something nasty and sinister, li)e the
=harisees of old. He sees himself as a "real Christian," even though his faith is only an
inch dee'. $t is not the )ind of roc)#solid, dee'#rooted relationshi' with ;esus that can
carry him through any crisis. !he fact is, the "'eace" he claims to have is 'resent only
while his circumstances are untroubled< when his circumstances turn dar) and troubling,
his "'eace" eva'orates in an instant. !he "(oy" he sings about seldom shows on his
face, and the "Christian love" he is tal)s about is reserved only for those who 'lease
him and get along with him. $t is all a giant +though largely unconscious2 sham. He may
be a true Christian in whose heart Christ dwells, but he does not live the Christian life on
a consistent basis. He may be a highly moral, highly religious, even a highly generous
'erson##but the reality is that he is living 'retty much as he did before his conversion,
only now his s'eech and behavior are covered with a thin gla3e of Christianity. !hat
gla3e is the first thing to crac) and crumble when life becomes irritating, difficult, or
threatening.
The phony and the genine
Bou may thin) this is a harsh (udgment. 8any 'eo'le thin) that the mar) of an authentic
Christian is doctrinal 'urity< if a 'erson%s beliefs are biblical and doctrinally orthodox,
then he is a Christian. =eo'le who e"uate orthodoxy with authenticity find it hard to
even consider the 'ossibility that, des'ite the correctness of all their doctrinal 'ositions,
they may have missed the dee'est reality of the authentic Christian life. ?ut we must
never forget that true Christianity is more than teaching##it is a way of life. $n fact, it is
life itself. "He who has the &on has life," remember7 6hen we tal) about life, we are
tal)ing about something that is far more than mere morality, far more than doctrinal
accuracy. 9ife is a 'ositive "uality, not negative##a descri'tion of what we fundamentally
are, not what we are not. !he eternal life that ;esus brings to us is radical, not
su'erficial. $t is humble, not self#'romoting. $t is com'assionate, not indifferent. $t is
courageous, not timid or retiring. $t is a far cry indeed from the mild com'atibility,
agreeability, and affability that 'asses for Christianity in thousands of churches across
the land. $n fact, the *reat $mitation is so widely acce'ted as genuine Christianity that
the real thing is often regarded as a threat or a heresy whenever it a''ears.
Our 'ur'ose in this boo) is to trace the shar' distinctions between the 'hony and the
genuine. 6e shall be guided entirely by the revelation of &cri'ture, for the 6ord of *od
is the only sufficient guide to distinguish truth from error. 6e shall ex'lore together a
ma(or 'assage from =aul%s e'istles##- Corinthians -,@ to .,1. $n this 'assage =aul
hel's the Corinthians to distinguish between authentic Christianity, as he himself lived it,
and the 'ale imitation that many of them had mista)en for the real thing. !hen the
a'ostle ta)es them on +and us with them2, ste' by into an understanding of the
enormous enrichment that awaits those who learn to live by the 4ew Covenant, which
gives life, rather than the Old Covenant, which )ills. Our study of this 'assage will not
be "theological" +that is, lofty, com'licated, and technical2, nor will it be "devotional"
+horrible word2. Rather, it will be intensely 'ractical and straightforward. Our goal in this
boo) is to rediscover the )ind of genuine, wor)able Christianity that can be 'ut to the
test in the trenches of everyday living##that )ind of Christianity that can bring you safely
through any crisis, that will enable you to loo) bac) on your life and say, "$ have truly
)nown *od."
$f you are interested in that )ind of real, radical, authentic Christianity, read on.
!
THE REA"
THING
$t has always seemed unfair to me that many churches +and some individual Christians2
)ee' careful records on how many converts they ma)e to Christianity, but never )ee'
any record of how many they drive away from Christ5 :airness would seem to dictate
that both sides of the ledger should be maintained5 !he fact is, many churches turn far
more 'eo'le from Christ than they ever win to him##and fre"uently the most 3ealous and
orthodox Christians are the very ones who drive the most 'eo'le away5 !he reason, as
we have seen, is that while they may indeed be true Christians themselves, the life
manifest is false Christianity##as 'hony as a three#dollar bill.
!rue, there is a false Christianity which is 'racticed by those who aren%t Christians at all.
!here are many religious frauds who have never been real Christians, and there are
a'ostates who give every a''earance of being Christian for awhile, then throw the
whole thing over. ?ut surely the most subtle stratagem ever devised by &atan to
deceive and mislead 'eo'le is that of leading genuine Christians to 'ractice a sham
Christianity before the world. Bou can%t detect and guard against this )ind of sham
Christianity by ma)ing 'eo'le sign a doctrinal statement or by having them recite a
creed. !his ty'e of 'hony Christianity is always orthodox. $t is fre"uently very 3ealous
and feeds u'on consecration services and dedication meetings. $t uses all the right
terms and behaves in the 'ro'er, orthodox manner, but the net result is that it re'els
'eo'le from Christ rather than attracting 'eo'le to Christ.
$n shar' contrast to this is the Real !hing##authentic Christianity as its founder, ;esus
Christ Himself, intended it to be. Authentic Christianity never needs advertisement or
'ublicity. $t gives off a fragrance and a fascination that attracts 'eo'le li)e flies are
attracted to honey. $s everyone attracted to authentic Christianity7 Absolutely not5 8any
'eo'le are antagoni3ed and even outraged when they discover what Christianity is truly
about. ?ut in general, the initial character of authentic Christianity is one which attracts
crowds and com'els admiration.
The #hristianity of $ess and %al
!here is, of course, no clearer demonstration of real Christianity than Christ Himself.
!oday, there are many brands and varieties of Christianity, but the most attractive form
of Christianity of all is the original##the Christianity of ;esus Christ. !his was the
authentic Christian life in its 'urest, most consistent form. 8any 'eo'le have a 'roblem
understanding, a''lying, and identifying with the Christianity of ;esus because they feel
He, being the &on of *od, had an edge over the rest of us. "4ot fair, com'aring me to
;esus5" they 'rotest. "&ure, ;esus was undoubtedly human##but He was also *od. :rom
His divine side, He drew su'ernatural 'ower to resist evil and achieve great things in a
way $ could never do."
Bes, ;esus was fully *od##but we must never forget that He was also fully human, with
all the limitations that go with our humanity. 6e can live our lives as He lived His. 6e
can base our lives on the model He has set before us. !his is 'ractical, livable truth, and
the &cri'tures are very clear on this 'oint. Here are a few 'assages which commend
;esus to us as an exam'le we can and should follow on a 'ractical, daily basis
?ecause he himself suffered when he was tem'ted, he is able to hel' those who are
being tem'ted +Hebrews -,A2.
:or we do not have a high 'riest who is unable to sym'athi3e with our wea)nesses, but
we have one who has been tem'ted in every way, (ust as we are##yet was without sin
+Hebrews @,/2.
!o this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an exam'le, that
you should follow in his ste's +, =eter --,2.
How is this 'ossible7 How can we ho'e to 'attern our lives after the life of a 'erfect
=erson who was *od in the flesh7 $sn%t that li)e trying to high#(um' over the Cm'ire
&tate ?uilding or broad#(um' over the =acific Ocean7 $sn%t that as)ing the im'ossible7
6ell, yes and no. Bes, it is im'ossible for us to live 'erfect, sinless lives, but no, it is not
im'ossible for us to set a goal of Christli)eness. Cvery time we fail in our 'ursuit of that
goal, we sim'ly go bac) to *od for forgiveness and restoration, and He 'uts us bac) on
the road to our goal once again. !he )ey 'rinci'le is found in =hili''ians -/#A, which
$%ve "uoted here from the 4ew Revised &tandard Dersion +em'hasis added2
9et the same mind be in you that was in Christ ;esus, who, though he was in the form of
*od, did not regard e"uality with *od as something to be ex'loited, but emptied
himself, ta)ing the form of a slave, being born in human li)eness. And being found in
human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the 'oint of death##even
death on a cross.
4ote that )ey 'hrase Jesus emptied Himself5 He set aside the 'rerogatives and 'owers
of *odhood in order to identify fully with us. He lived the same )ind of life we live, facing
tem'tation, suffering 'ain and sorrow, enduring frustration, (ust as we do. He
a''roached life the same way you and $ must a''roach life living in de'endence on
*od the :ather, see)ing guidance and strength through continual 'rayer, trusting *od
and listening to His leading, and being humbly obedient##"4ot 8y will, but Bours." !hat is
why we are to "let the same mind be in EusF that was in Christ ;esus." !hat is authentic
Christianity, the Christianity of Christ, Christianity in its truest, 'urest, most distilled form.
!hat is the Christianity which you and $ are to follow, the only Christianity worthy of the
name.
!he a'ostle =aul lived his life by the same 'rinci'le, 'atterning his life after the exam'le
of Christ. $n , Corinthians ,,,, he writes, ":ollow my exam'le, as I follow the example
of hrist." !hat is why the a'ostle%s ministry was so attractive to the 'eo'le around him.
!hat is why his 'reaching was so effective in changing hearts and minds. He was an
imitator of Christ. As we examine a selection from =aul%s second letter to the Christians
at Corinth##one of the most biogra'hical of all =aul%s letters##we will gain insight into
=aul%s own ex'eriences as an imitator of Christ and of His ministry. !here, =aul reveals
to us in the clearest terms the secret of his own great ministry.
!he first one and one#half cha'ters of - Corinthians indicate that =aul was being
challenged by certain Christians at Corinth. !hey had been affected by some ;ewish
Christians from ;erusalem who suggested that =aul was not a genuine a'ostle at all
because +,2 he was not one of the original twelve, and +-2 he taught certain things that
went beyond the law of 8oses. Claiming he was not a real a'ostle, they insisted his
brand of Christianity was not real Christianity. One of the Devil%s favorite tric)s is to
brand the truth as a big lie, and that%s exactly what was ha''ening at Corinth.
&i'e n(ista)able (ar)s
=aul%s res'onse to these charges is to describe for us the nature of his ministry. As we
shall see, the ministry of =aul bears five unmista)able mar)s or "ualities which cannot
be successfully imitated or counterfeited. !hese "ualities are always 'resent whenever
real Christianity is being 'racticed. 4o matter how cleverly false Christianity may try to
co'y them, it can%t be done. !hese mar)s or "ualities are inimitable. !hey have nothing
to do with 'ersonality or tem'erament, so anyone who discovers the secret of authentic
Christianity can attain them. !hey are not limited to one 'eriod of time, so they are (ust
as genuine in the twenty#first century as in the first.
6e begin our (ourney of discovery in - Corinthians -,@. $n this verse, we find the first
three mar)s of authentic Christianity embedded +the remaining two "ualities are found in
the verses that follow2 "?ut than)s be to *od, who always leads us in trium'hal
'rocession in Christ and through us s'reads everywhere the fragrance of the
)nowledge of him" +- Corinthians -,@2. 9et%s examine the mar)s of authentic
Christianity, one by one.
!ar" #o. $% &n'uencha(le optimism
!he first mar) is found in the very first 'hrase "than)s be to *od." One unmista)able
mar) of radical Christianity is a s'irit of than)fulness, even amid trial and difficulty. $t is a
)ind of un'uencha(le optimism. !he world o'erates by the gloomy 'rinci'le of 8ur'hy%s
9aw 6hatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Authentic Christians o'erate by a belief in
*od%s grace, love, and ultimate control. Bou can see the un"uenchable o'timism of
authentic Christianity clearly in the ?oo) of Acts, where a note of trium'h runs right
through from beginning to end des'ite all the dangers, hardshi's, 'ersecutions,
'ressures, and 'erils that the early Christians ex'erienced. !he same continual note of
than)sgiving is reflected in all of =aul%s letters as well as those of ;ohn, =eter, and
;ames.
!he attitude of than)sgiving dis'layed in these 'assages is genuine, heart#felt, and
sincere. !here is nothing artificial about it. $t is a far cry from the imitation than)sgiving
often seen in Christians today. &ome 'eo'le thin) they are ex'ected to re'eat 'ious
and than)ful words, even when they don%t feel than)ful. !hey assume that%s the way
Christians are su''osed to act. 8any have settled for a form of Christian stoicism, a
grin#and# bear#it attitude which even a non#Christian can ado't when there%s nothing
much he can do about a situation. ?ut that is a long way from true Christian
than)fulness. !o listen to some Christians today, you would thin) *od ex'ects us screw
on a smile and go around saying, "Hallelu(ah, $%ve got cancer5" !hat%s not what our
un"uenchable o'timism is all about.
Authentic Christianity is rooted in reality. $t feels all the hurt and 'ain of adverse
circumstances, and does not en(oy them in the least degree. ?ut authentic Christianity
does see an end result being 'roduced##not only in heaven, someday, but right now,
here on earth. !hat end result is so desirable and glorious, it is worth all the 'ain and
heartache. !hat is why it can do nothing else but re(oice5 An authentic Christian is
confident that the same 9ord who 'ermitted the 'ain to come will use it to bring about a
highly desirable end. !hat is why we can be genuinely than)ful##even in the midst of
'er'lexity and sorrow.
!here is an outstanding exam'le of the un"uenchable o'timism of authentic Christianity
in Acts ,.. !here, =aul and &ilas find themselves at midnight, thrust into an inner
dungeon in the city (ail of =hili''i. !heir bac)s are raw and bloody from a terrible
flogging received at the hands of the Roman authorities. !heir feet are fastened in
stoc)s. !he future is uncertain and frightening. Anything could ha''en to them in the
morning##even torture and death. !here is no one around to be im'ressed by a show of
courage, and no one to intervene and rescue them. Bet, des'ite all these reasons for
'essimism and ho'elessness, )aul and Silas literally (rea" into song*
4o one could accuse them of being 'hony or of 'utting u' a good front (ust to )ee' u'
their s'irits. !hey were genuinely than)ful to *od. !hey began to 'raise him at midnight
because they )new that, des'ite the a''arent rebuff and lac) of success, their ob(ective
had been accom'lished. 4ow, the church they longed to 'lant in =hili''i could not (e
stopped* !hat fact ins'ired them to brea) out in 'raise and than)sgiving. How could
they have )nown what *od had 'lanned for them##an earth"ua)e that would (ar their
chains loose, to''le their 'rison walls, and set them free7 !hey couldn%t5 !hey had no
'remonition at all of being set free. !hey were sim'ly manifesting the mar) of authentic
Christianity##un"uenchable o'timism and than)sgiving.
!ar" #o. +% &nvarying success
!he second mar) of authentic Christianity is closely lin)ed to the first. $t is found in the
next 'hrase in - Corinthians and is found in the next 'hrase, "who always leads us in
trium'hal 'rocession in Christ. 4ote how strongly =aul 'uts it ;esus "always leads us"
in trium'h. 4ot occasionally. 4ot sometimes. ,lways. !he a'ostle ma)es 'erfectly clear
that the Christianity he has ex'erienced 'resents a 'attern of unvarying success. $t
never involves failure but invariably achieves its goals. $t involves, as we have seen,
struggle and hardshi's and tears. &ometimes, as on the cross at Calvary, the moment
of trium'h may even loo) li)e com'lete failure. ?ut our trium'h is always assured.
!hough the struggle may be des'erate, it is never serious. $t issues at last in the
com'lete achievement of the ob(ectives *od has set for us. Cven the o''osition we
encounter is made to serve the 'ur'oses of victory.
6e must remember that these high#sounding words of =aul%s are not mere evangelical
'e' tal). !hey were not uttered by a well#'aid, highly res'ected 'astor to a well#dressed
suburban congregation in a modern American megachurch. !hese words were not
given to thrill and entertain the &unday morning audience, but to embolden and
encourage those who were literally ris)ing their lives and their families% lives for the
cause of Christ on a daily basis. !hese words were written by a man who bore on his
body the wounds of a servant of ;esus. He had endured much difficulty, endless
disa''ointments, and bitter 'ersecution with great 'ain. Bet he could write with rugged
truthfulness that ;esus always leads us in trium'h.
!his certainly does not mean that =aul%s 'lans and goals were always reali3ed, for they
were not. He wanted to do many things that he was never able to accom'lish. $n
Romans G1, =aul describes how he hungered to be used as a minister to $srael##"my
brothers, those of my own race." He even ex'ressed the willingness to be cut off from
Christ if only the $sraelites would be delivered. ?ut he never achieved that ob(ective. $t is
not his 'lans that are in view here, but *od%s. !he trium'h is Christ%s, not =aul%s.
!he invariable mar) of authentic Christianity is that, once we have discovered its radical
secret, there is never a failure. Our will, our dreams, our goals, our desires may be
thwarted ##but *od%s will and 'lan7 4ever5 He can even weave our seeming failures
into His overall design for ultimate trium'h. $n the life of an authentic Christian, every
obstacle becomes an o''ortunity. &uccess is inevitable.
The liberty of prison
One of the most 'owerful statements of the un"uenchable o'timism of genuine
Christianity is found in the first cha'ter of =aul%s letter to his friends at =hili''i. 6riting
as a 'risoner in the city of Rome, confined to a 'rivate, rented home but chained day
and night to a member of Caesar%s $m'erial *uard, =aul faces a very blea) future. He
must soon a''ear before 4ero Caesar to answer ;ewish charges that result in his
death. He is no longer allowed to travel freely about the em'ire, 'reaching "the
inexhaustible riches of Christ." He cannot even visit his beloved friends in the many
churches he has founded.
6hat a time for discouragement5 Bet no 4ew !estament letter reflects greater
confidence and re(oicing than the letter to the =hili''ians. !he reason for this
confidence, =aul says, is twofold. He writes, "4ow $ want you to )now, brothers, that
what has ha''ened to me has really served to advance the gos'el" +=hili''ians ,,-2.
!hen he lists two evidences to 'rove his 'oint.
:irst, he says, "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole 'alace guard and
to everyone else that $ am in chains for Christ" +=hili''ians ,,12. !he 'alace guard +or,
in some translations, the 'raetorian guard2 is the im'erial bodyguard. &ince he is a
'risoner of Caesar%s, he must be guarded by Caesar%s own hand#'ic)ed guard. !he
guard was largely made u' of sons of noble families who were commissioned to s'end
a few years in 4ero%s 'alace guard. 9ater on, this select grou' would become the
)ingma)ers of the em'ire, res'onsible for the choice of several succeeding em'erors.
!hey were im'ressive young men, the cream of the em'ire, in training for future
'ositions of 'ower and leadershi'.
Anyone who can read between the lines a bit will see what is ha''ening here. $t is clear
that the 9ord ;esus, in His role as >ing of the earth, has a''ointed 4ero to be the
chairman of the Committee for the Cvangeli3ation of the Roman Cm'ire. 4ero doesn%t
)now this##but then em'erors seldom )now what is really going on in their em'ires.
Remember that when the time came for the &on of *od to be born in ?ethlehem, his
mother and her new husband were 0H miles away, living in 4a3areth. &o *od
commissioned Cm'eror Augustus with the tas) of getting ;ose'h and 8ary down from
4a3areth to ?ethlehem. Augustus felt strangely moved to issue an $m'erial Cdict that
everyone should go to his hometown to be taxed##and that did the tric)5
&o in this case 4ero has given orders that his im'erial bodyguard should have charge
of the A'ostle =aul. Cvery six hours, one of the future leaders of the Roman Cm'ire was
brought in, chained to the A'ostle =aul, and forcibly ex'osed to the life#changing gos'el
of ;esus Christ5
$ suggest that if you want to feel sorry for anyone, don%t feel sorry for =aul. :eel sorry for
the young Roman bodyguard. Here he is, trying to live a "uiet, 'agan life and every so
often he is ordered out and chained to this disturbing man who says the most ama3ing
things about someone called ;esus of 4a3areth, who has risen from the dead. As a
result, one by one, these young men were being won to Christ. $t is what you might call
a chain reaction5
$f you doubt that this is what was ta)ing 'lace, (ust loo) at the next to the last verse of
the =hili''ian letter "All the saints send you greetings, es'ecially those who belong to
Caesar%s household" +=hili''ians @--2. Here is a band of young men, the 'olitical
center of the em'ire, being infiltrated and con"uered for Christ by an old man in chains
who is awaiting trial for his life. $t is not at all unli)ely that some of the young men who
accom'anied =aul on his later (ourneys came from this very band.
!his incident is a magnificent revelation of the strategy of *od##and, by contrast, of the
wea)ness of human strategy. 4o human mind could have conceived this uni"ue
a''roach to the very heart of the em'ire. 6e humans are forever 'lanning strategies for
fulfilling the *reat Commission, but what we come u' with is usually banal, routine,
unimaginative, and relatively ineffective. !he noteworthy thing about *od%s strategy is
that it is ingenious, sur'rising, and totally unex'ected.
Aided by opposition
!he strategies of *od are so 'owerful, com'ared with human 'lans and strategies, that
He is able to turn man%s most vicious o''osition and turn it to His own advantage. !hat
is what is recorded in the early cha'ters of Acts. !he church in ;erusalem was growing
by lea's and bounds. &ome -,HHH to /,HHH Christians were gathering together wee)ly
and en(oying the tremendous fellowshi' and excitement. Bet it was all contained within
the city walls. 6hen *od wanted to s'read these good things among the nations, he
'ermitted shar' o''osition to arise. As a result, the early Christians were driven
throughout the em'ire##all exce't the a'ostles.
&ince having learned to glim'se *od%s hand in these acts of o''osition, $ have begun to
read missionary re'orts in a different light. $n recent years, $ have seen many re'orts in
missionary maga3ines saying in one way or another, "!errible things are ha''ening to
our country. !he doors are closing to the gos'el. O''osition is rising. !he government is
trying to su''ress all Christian witness. Our missionaries must soon 'ac) u' and get
out." 6ithout "uestion, these missionaries and the national Christians in these countries
are being o''ressed and threatened, and they greatly need our 'rayers and su''ort.
Bet, when $ read such re'orts, $ have learned to say, "!han) *od. At last the
missionaries are being forced to relin"uish control of the churches and the national
church is ta)ing over."
$n Cthio'ia, before 6orld 6ar $$, the missionaries were driven out for twenty years, but
when they came bac) in they found that the gos'el had s'read li)e wildfire, and there
were far more Christians than if the missionaries had been allowed to stay. 6e have
seen similar stories in other trouble s'ots around the world, notably China.
=aul ma)es a second 'oint in his letter to the =hili''ians to su''ort his claim that the
things which ha''ened to him had only served to advance the gos'el. He says,
"-ecause of my chains, most of the brothers in the 9ord have been encouraged to
s'ea) the word of *od more courageously and fearlessly" +=hili''ians ,,@, em'hasis
added2. ?ecause =aul was a 'risoner, the Roman Christians were witnessing far more
freely throughout the city than they would have done otherwise.
$t was at this time that the first official Roman 'ersecution against the Christians was
beginning. 8any, therefore, were afraid to s'ea) of their faith. ?ut then they saw that
*od##not 4ero, not the ;ewish leaders##was in com'lete charge of matters. 6ith *od in
charge, they became emboldened to 'roclaim the gos'el. As a result, there was far
more effective outreach going on in Rome than even if =aul had been free to 'reach at
will. !his fact has always suggested to me that 'erha's the best way to evangeli3e a
community would be to start by loc)ing all the 'reachers u' in (ail5 Other Christians
might then begin to reali3e that they, too, have gifts for ministry, and would begin to
exercise them in effective ways5
"i'ing letters
9oo)ing bac) on this incident with the benefit of twenty centuries of hindsight, we see a
third 'roof of =aul%s claim##a 'roof that even he could not have seen at the time. $f we
had been with =aul in that hired house in Rome and had as)ed him, "=aul, what do you
thin) is the greatest wor) you have accom'lished in your ministry through the 'ower of
Christ7" what would have said7 $ feel sure his answer would have been, "!he 'lanting
of churches in various cities." $t was to these churches that his letters were written, and
it was for them that he 'rayed daily. He called them "my (oy and crown" and s'ent
himself without restraint for them.
?ut now, loo)ing bac) across the intervening centuries, we can see that the 'lanting of
these churches was not his greatest wor) after all. Cvery one of the churches he
'lanted ceased its testimony long ago. $n most cases, the very cities in which they
existed lie in ruins today. !he wor) of =aul which has 'ersisted to this day has been the
letters that he wrote when he was loc)ed u' and could do nothing else5 !hose letters
have changed the world. !hey are among the most 'owerful documents )nown to men.
4o wonder =aul could write, "!han)s be to *od, who in Christ always leads us in
trium'h." $t is an unmista)able mar) of authentic Christianity.
!ar" #o. .% &nforgetta(le impact
!he third unmista)able mar) follows immediately. After saying, "?ut than)s be to *od,
who always leads us in trium'hal 'rocession in Christ," =aul continues with this
beautiful statement of the im'act we have as authentic Christians "and through us
s'reads everywhere the fragrance of the "nowledge of him" +- Corinthians -,@2. *od
tells us that our lives should be s'ent giving off a fragrance, a 'erfume, a 'leasing
bou"uet##not only to other 'eo'le, but to *od. Cnlarging on this thought, =aul adds ":or
we are to *od the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who
are 'erishing. !o the one we are the smell of death< to the other, the fragrance of life.
And who is e"ual to such a tas)7" +- Corinthians -,/#,.2.
8ost men have had the ex'erience of being in a room when a stri)ingly beautiful
woman enters. ?efore she came in, she a''lied a touch here and there of 6hite
Diamonds, and as she 'asses through the room, she leaves behind a lingering
fragrance. Consciously or unconsciously, all the males in the room are affected by that
fragrance. 6ee)s or months later, they may catch a wis' of that fragrance again##and
immediately, the image of that beautiful woman flashes into their minds. !he fragrance
has made her unforgettable.
!hat is the 'icture =aul gives here. !here is something about authentic Christianity that
leaves an unforgetta(le impression when it is encountered. !he Christian who has
discovered this secret ma)es an enduring im'act< he is never ta)en for granted by
anyone. As =aul suggests, the im'act may be in one of two directions. He either
increases o''osition to Christ +death to death2 or he leads toward faith and life +life to
life2. $f your life is one that reflects radical, authentic Christianity, then you are ma)ing
'eo'le either bitter or better by contact with you. ?ut one thing cannot ha''en 'eo'le
will never remain the same. !hose who are determined to die are 'ushed on toward
death by coming into contact with authentic Christianity. !hose who are see)ing to live
are hel'ed on into life. ;esus certainly had this "uality about Him. 4o one ever came
into contact with him and went away the same.
8any commentators on this 'assage conclude that =aul had in mind here a ty'ical
Roman trium'h. 6hen a Roman general returned to the ca'ital after a successful
cam'aign, he was granted a trium'h by the senate. A great 'rocession 'assed through
the streets of Rome dis'laying the ca'tives which were ta)en in the course of the
con"uest. &ome 'eo'le went before the chariot of the con"ueror, bearing garlands of
flowers and 'ots of fragrant incense. !hey were the 'risoners who were destined to live
and return to their ca'tured country to govern it under Roman rule. Other 'risoners
followed behind the chariot dragging chains and heavy manacles. !hese were doomed
to execution, for the Romans felt they could not trust them. As the 'rocession went on
through the cheering crowds, the incense 'ots and fragrant flowers were to the first
grou' a fragrance from life unto life while the same aroma was to the second grou' a
fragrance of death to death.
!his is the effect of the gos'el as it touches the world through the life of an authentic
Christian. Authentic Christianity leaves a lingering fragrance to *od of ;esus Christ, no
matter what##but to human beings, it is either a fragrance of death to death or of life to
life.
?ut what about 'hony Christianity7 !hat%s another matter altogether##it (ust a bad smell5
Bou%ve certainly heard the only one#liner##"Old fishermen never die##they only smell that
way." !he same can be said for false Christianity. $t never dies< it only smells that way.
!ar" #o. /% &nimpeacha(le integrity
!he fourth mar) of genuine Christianity is found in - Corinthians -,@ "Inli)e so many,
we do not 'eddle the word of *od for 'rofit. On the contrary, in Christ we s'ea) before
*od with sincerity, li)e men sent from *od." Remember, that is not a descri'tion of
Christian 'astors but of all Christians. $t has great a''lication to 'astors and others in
the ministry, but its 'rimary reference is to common, ordinary Christians who have
learned the secret of authentic Christianity.
Christians can be described in two ways, negatively and 'ositively. 4egatively, they are
not 'eddlers. !he word means a huc)ster, a street salesman. Occasionally $ hear
Christian witnessing described as "selling the gos'el." $ cringe when $ hear that because
$ don%t believe Christians are meant to be sales'eo'le for *od. !he idea here is that of a
street haw)er who has certain wares which he feels are attractive and which he 'eddles
on the corner as 'eo'le are 'assing by. He ma)es his living by 'eddling his wares.
8uch Christian 'reaching and witnessing can be described that way. =eo'le select
certain attractive features from the &cri'tures and use these as "selling 'oints." Healing
is a case in 'oint. $t is a legitimate sub(ect for study and 'ractice, but when singled out
and har'ed on continually, es'ecially when a 'itch for large, sacrificial offerings is lin)ed
to it, healing can "uic)ly lead to huc)sterism. =ro'hecy can serve the same 'ur'ose. $f
a man is )nown only as a 'ro'hetic teacher, $ am troubled about him, for he has 'ic)ed
out something that is attractive +and even sensational2 from the 6ord. $f that is all he
ever teaches, he is not declaring the whole counsel of *od. He is a 'eddler, ma)ing a
living by haw)ing certain wares from the &cri'tures. =aul says authentic Christianity
does not haw) its truth li)e a 'eddler selling goods in the street.
&or *alities of integrity
Our integrity as authentic Christians is characteri3ed by four "ualities, according to this
'assage. :irst "uality we s'ea) "with sincerity." $n other words, we are to be honest
'eo'le. 6e must mean what we say. &incerity mar)s the highest demand of the world
u'on 'eo'le. !he world admires sincerity and feels it is the ultimate ex'ression of
character##but according to =aul, sincerity is (ust the beginning of character, *od%s bare#
minimum ex'ectation of authentic Christians. !he very least we should ex'ect from
ourselves as Christians is that we thoroughly believe and 'ractice what we say.
&econd "uality =aul says we are "sent from *od" +or, as the Revised &tandard Dersion
renders it, "commissioned by *od"2. !his s'ea)s of our purpose as authentic Christians.
6e are not to be idle dreamers with no definite ob(ective in view. 6e have been
commissioned as military officers are commissioned. 6e have been given a definite
tas) and s'ecific assignments which constitute our 'ur'ose in life and in ministry. 6e
are 'ur'oseful 'eo'le with an end in view, an ob(ect to attain, a goal to accom'lish, and
we do not merely 'reach or witness as though that were a goal in itself.
!hird "uality =aul says we do all this "before *od" +or, in the R&D, "in the sight of
*od"2. !his indicates an attitude of trans'arency, of o'enness to investigation. !o wal)
in the sight of other 'eo'le 'ermits us to hide our sins and contradictions behind a
facade. ?ut to wal) in the sight of *od re"uires total honest with Him and with
ourselves, because nothing can be hidden from *od%s sight. !his does not mean we
can live sinlessly, but rather that there must be no cover#u' or evasion of the facts of
our sin when it occurs. $t means there are no areas of denial. All is evaluated and tested
by the 'urity and )nowledge and wisdom of *od##and what is sinful, we confess and we
re'ent of before *od. A man who wal)s in the sight of *od is more interested in his
inner reality than his outer re'utation. He can be com'letely trusted. Bou can even
believe his golf score and the si3e of the trout he caught. $f you can teach your young
'eo'le to live in the sight of *od, you will even be able to trust them in the bac) seat of
a car.
:ourth and final "uality we s'ea) "in Christ." 6hat "uality does that indicate7 ,uthority*
=aul states it clearly in - Corinthians /-H##"6e are therefore Christ%s ambassadors, as
though *od were ma)ing his a''eal through us." Ambassadors are authori3ed
s'o)esmen. !hey have 'ower to act and ma)e covenants on behalf of others. Authentic
Christians are not 'owerless servants. 6e s'ea) words and deliver messages which
heaven honors.
All of these "ualities add u' to unim'eachable integrity. =eo'le of sincerity, 'ur'ose,
trans'arency, and authority are utterly trustworthy. Bou can ring a gold coin on their
conscience. !heir word is their bond, and they can be counted on to come through.
!hey are res'onsible and faithful individuals. !hat is the fourth great mar) of real
Christianity.
At this 'oint in the &cri'ture text, we come to a cha'ter division. !his is unfortunate,
because it divides two which belong together. !he a'ostle has not finished his line of
reasoning, so it%s best to ignore the cha'ter division and read right on, to find the fifth
mar) of authentic Christianity "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again7 Or do
we need, li)e some 'eo'le, letters of recommendation to you or from you7" +-
Corinthians 1,2.
!ar" #o. 0% &ndenia(le reality
=aul is aware that he is beginning to sound highly com'limentary to himself. He )nows
there are some in Corinth who will immediately ta)e these words in that way. $ndeed, it
is obvious from his words that some had even suggested in 'revious corres'ondence
that the next time he came to Corinth he bring letters of recommendation from some of
the !welve in ;erusalem5 !hey were thin)ing of =aul as though he were a man entirely
li)e themselves so continually 'raising himself that no one would believe him until he
had confirmation from more ob(ective sources. ?ut =aul says to them, "Bou yourselves
are our letter, written on our hearts, )nown and read by everybody. Bou show that you
are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with in) but with the &'irit of
the living *od, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" +- Corinthians
1-#12.
He is saying, in effect, "Bou want letters of recommendation to 'rove $ have authority as
a messenger of *od7 6hy, you yourselves are all the recommendation $ need5 9oo)
what has ha''ened to you. Are you any different7 Have there been any changes in you
since you came to Christ through my word7 Bour own hearts will bear witness to
yourselves and before the world that the message you heard from us and which has
changed your lives is from *od." $n , Corinthians ., =aul made reference to "the
sexually immoral ... idolaters ... adulterers ... male 'rostitutes ... homosexual
offenders ... thieves ... greedy ... drun)ards ... slanderers ... EandF swindlers" he had
found in Corinth. "And that is what some of you were," he added +verses G#,,2. ?ut now
they had been washed, sanctified, and (ustified by the name of the 9ord ;esus Christ.
!hese changes were 'roof of reality.
!he Corinthians had written to =aul about the (oy they now had and the ho'e and
meaning which had been brought into their lives. !hey described to him the deliverance
from shame and guilt they had ex'erienced, the freedom from fear and hostility, from
dar)ness and death, which was theirs. &o he says to them, in effect, "!his is your
confirmation. Bou yourselves are wal)ing letters from *od, )nown and read by all men,
written by the &'irit of *od in your hearts." Here is the final mar) of genuine Christianity
undeniable reality, a change which cannot be ex'lained on any other terms than *od at
wor). =aul did not need letters of recommendation when this )ind of change was
evident in the lives of his hearers.
Once $ heard of a Christian who had been an alcoholic for years and then was
converted. &omeone as)ed him, "4ow that you are a Christian, do you believe the
miracles of the 4ew !estament7" He answered, "Bes, $ do." !he other man said, "Do
you believe that story about ;esus changing water into wine7" He said, "$ sure do." !he
other said, "How can you believe such nonsense7" !he Christian re'lied, "$%ll tell you
how< because in our house ;esus changed whis)ey into furniture5" !hat is the mar) of
authenticity. &uch a mar)ed change cannot occur exce't under the im'ulse of a
'owerful relationshi' that substitutes the love of Christ for the love of drin).
!here are the five unmista)able signs of genuine Christianity un"uenchable o'timism,
unvarying success, unforgettable im'act, unim'eachable integrity, and undeniable
reality. !hey are always 'resent whenever the real thing is being manifested. 8ere
religion tries to imitate these mar)s, but is never "uite able to 'ull it off. ?y com'arison
with these mar)s, 'hony Christianity is always shown u' to be what it is##a shabby,
shoddy imitation that "uic)ly folds when the real 'ressure is on. !he remar)able thing is
not that men see) to imitate these genuine graces, for we have all been hy'ocrites of
one )ind or another since our birth. !he truly remar)able thing is that becoming a
Christian does not of itself guarantee that these Christian graces will be manifest in us.
$t is not being a Christian that 'roduces these, but living as a Christian. !here is a
)nowledge we must have and a choice we must ma)e before these virtues will be
consistently 'resent. !he secret awaits us in the next cha'ter.
+
THE SE#RET
!urn on the radio or !D, and within minutes you%ll be bombarded with messages called
"advertising." Cach of these advertising messages has a different loo), a different sound
from the next one, but all of them 'romise essentially the same thing the &ecret of
fulfillment, satisfaction, success, ha''iness. "Drin) Di'sy#Cola, and really live5" "Do your
friends ignore you7 !ry Charm deodorant, the underarm security5" "Read How !o ?e A
=henomenon, the ama3ing new success story." "&ign u' for our six#wee) course, %!he
=ower =loy%##it will change your life5" ":ind the romance you%ve always wanted, sail on
the &.&. &lo'over to the $slands of 8ystery."
!hese messages used to only inflict themselves on you for 'eriods of 1H to .H seconds
at a time. 4ow, however, if you are an insomniac with cable !D, you can watch 1H#
minute "infomercials" that will 'rove to you that the &ecret to ha''iness can be found on
an exercise machine, or through owning your own vending machine route, or by dialing
u' a 'sychic hotline. 9et%s face it 6hether the message is half a minute long or half an
hour long, it%s all a lie. Bou won%t find the &ecret by 'urchasing a 'roduct at the
de'artment store, cruising aboard the good shi' &lo'over, or calling that number at the
bottom of your !D screen.
?ut don%t des'air5 !he &ecret can be found. $t truly is available to you. =aul tal)s about it
in - Corinthians -##and we%re going to reveal it right here and now5 +&orry, no credits
acce'ted, and no C.O.D.s##the &ecret the a'ostle is tal)ing about is not for sale at any
'rice. $t is absolutely free52
The sorce of or sfficiency
Remember the five mar)s of authentic Christianity we examined in the 'revious cha'ter
un"uenchable o'timism, unvarying success, unforgettable im'act, unim'eachable
integrity, and undeniable reality. !hese five mar)s came into focus for us as we read
=aul%s descri'tion of his own ex'erience and ministry in - Corinthians -. Bet =aul also
raised an im'ortant "uestion in that cha'ter##a "uestion which $ deliberately 'assed by
in order to save it for this cha'ter. After listing those five mar)s of an authentic Christian,
=aul as)s the reader, "And who is e"ual to such a tas)7"
4ow, let%s ta)e that "uestion very seriously. !ry to answer it5 6ho, indeed, is e"ual to
such a tas)7 6ho among us demonstrates the )ind of un"uenchable o'timism,
unvarying success, unforgettable im'act, unim'eachable integrity, and undeniable
reality that is su''osed to mar) the life of an authentic Christian7 6ho is a consistent
model of these "ualities7 Am $7 Are you7
Are you e"ual to the tas) of continually, unfailingly, consistently manifesting a cheerful,
confident s'irit7 An ability always to come out on to'7 A 'owerful, 'ositive influence on
others7 Com'lete trustworthiness7 And such a reliable, realistic demonstration of these
"ualities that no one is ever in doubt about them7 6hat self#hel' course can we ta)e to
learn how to live li)e this7 6hat 'roduct can we buy, what boo) can we read to find the
&ecret7 6ho is e"ual to such a tas)7
!he "uestion hangs in the air, waiting for an answer. $mmediately a half do3en or so
'ossibilities rush into mind, for the "uestion is so im'ortant that half the world%s activity
is devoted to finding an answer. =aul, however, does not leave us gro'ing for an answer
to his searching "uestion. $n - Corinthians 1@#. he gives us his forthright answer
&uch confidence as this is ours through Christ before *od. 4ot that we are com'etent in
ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our com'etence comes from *od. He has
made us com'etent as ministers of a new covenant##not of the letter but of the &'irit< for
the letter )ills, but the &'irit gives life.
He 'uts the great secret before us in unmista)able terms "!his confidence is our
through Christ5 Our sufficiency is from *od5" 9est anyone miss the im'lications of that,
he 'uts the same truth negatively "4ot that we are com'etent or sufficient in ourselves5
4o, our sufficiency comes from *od alone." 4othing coming from us< everything coming
from *od5 !hat is the &ecret of secrets##the secret of true fulfillment, satisfaction, and
success.
"i'e it,,don-t waste it
!o live in this way, drawing our sufficiency from *od, is what it means to be "com'etent
as ministers of a new covenant." He shar'ly contrasts this way of life with the old
covenant, the dead written code, the "letter" which ")ills." !o live with nothing coming
from us and everything coming from *od is to live in the &'irit. !he &'irit continually
gives 9ife with a ca'ital 9. $t is this secret which 'roduced the confident s'irit that
characteri3ed =aul and em'owered him to s'read the fragrance of the )nowledge of
Christ everywhere he went. !he language he used reminds us immediately of the words
of ;esus to his disci'les "$ am the vine< you are the branches. ... A'art from me you can
do nothing" +;ohn ,//2. 4either ;esus nor =aul means to im'ly that there is no human
activity 'ossible without reliance u'on *od. ?oth the world and the church are full of
exam'les to the contrary.
?ut both ;esus and =aul teach that activity which de'ends u'on human resources for
its success will, in the end, accom'lish nothing. $t will have no 'ermanent value. 8en
may 'raise it and emulate it, but *od will count it for what it is##wasted effort. ;ust such
a life is described in the 'laintive "uestion of !. &. Cliot
All our )nowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
?ut nearness to death no nearer to *od.
6here is the life we have lost in living7
+from "!he Roc)"2
6here, indeed7 6e are forced to honestly admit that we deliberately waste a good deal
of our life in useless dreaming and 'rofitless activity. ?ut not all of it5 !here are times
when we give it the old college try, times when we are earnest and serious and do our
level best to act as we ought and do what we should. !he results often a''ear very
im'ressive to us, and even to others, but when we thin) of our a''roaching death, it all
seems rather vain and futile. $t is then we as), "6here is the life we have lost in living7"
!he a'ostle indicates that the secret of an effective, meaningful life lies in what he calls
"the new covenant." !his "new covenant" is that to which ;esus referred when He
'assed the cu' to His disci'les at the institution of the 9ord%s &u''er "!his cu' is the
new covenant in my blood, which is 'oured out for you" +9u)e ---H2. !his cu', ta)en
with the bread, is to remind us of the central truth of our lives ;esus died for us in order
that He may live in us. $t is His life in us that is the 'ower by which we live a true
Christian life. !hat is the new covenant.
$t is im'ortant to understand the meaning of the word covenant. !here are, according to
=aul, two covenants at wor) in human life. One is the new covenant, which =aul would
describe as "nothing coming from me, everything from *od." !his is in direct contrast to
the old covenant, which could be described as "everything coming from me and nothing
coming from *od." !he root idea of covenant, both in =aul%s day and ours, is that of an
agreement which forms the basis u'on which all further relationshi' rests.
$f two men go into business together, they form a 'artnershi'. !he terms of their
relationshi' are carefully s'elled out so they will have a framewor) within which to wor).
8arriage is also a ty'e of covenant in which a man and a woman agree together to
share all they have and to stic) together against all obstacles till death. 4ations sign
treaties with one another to determine the conditions under which they will wor)
together. All these exam'les are forms of covenants, and it is a''arent from these that a
covenant is fundamental and essential to all human endeavors.
?ut the most fundamental covenant of all is that which forms the basis of human life
itself. 6e may not often thin) of it in this way, but no activity is 'ossible to us that does
not rest u'on an underlying covenant. 6e could not tal), sing, wal), s'ea), 'ray, run,
thin), or breathe without that covenant. $t is an arrangement made by *od with the
human race, whereby we are furnished the life and energy we need to 'erform what
*od wants us to do. 6e do not 'rovide our own energy. 6e are de'endent creatures,
needing a constant su''ly from *od the Creator in order to live and breathe.
4ow the great thing that =aul declares to us in this 'assage and which is confirmed by
many &cri'tures, both in the Old and the 4ew !estaments, is that this fundamental
arrangement for living comes to us in one of two ways. !here is an "old" way which, as
we shall see in the next cha'ter, is lin)ed inextricably with the Old !estament law of
8oses##the written code, the "letter" which )ills.
?ut through ;esus Christ, there is a "new" way which gives life that is un"uenchably
o'timistic, characteri3ed by unfeigned success, ma)es unforgettable im'act, o'erates
with unim'eachable integrity, and confronts the world with a testimony of undeniable
reality. $t is through having discovered the im'lications of this new covenant that the
a'ostle finds himself "ualified to live as *od intended him to live, and it is through
discovering these same im'lications for ourselves that we shall find ourselves "ualified
by *od to live as *od intends us to live today.
How %al fond the Secret
&ince the a'ostle uses his own ex'erience as the exam'le of the )ind of life he has in
view, it will be hel'ful to trace the way and the time that he came to learn this
transforming truth for himself. $f you thin) it all came to him in that one dramatic moment
in the dust of the Damascus road when he discovered the true identity of ;esus Christ
and yielded himself to his lordly claims, then you are far from the truth. $t is true that
=aul was born again at that moment< it is true that he understood for the first time that
;esus was indeed the &on of *od< it is true that the center of this ardent young
=harisee%s life was forever changed from living for his own advancement to desiring the
eternal glory of ;esus Christ. ?ut it may be of great encouragement to many of us who
struggle in the Christian life to learn that =aul also went through a 'eriod of 'robably ten
years after his conversion before he began to live in the fullness of the new covenant.
And it was during this time that, from *od%s 'oint of view, he was an ab(ect failure in
living the Christian life5
$f we 'ic) u' 9u)e%s account of =aul%s conversion from the ninth cha'ter of Acts, we can
'iece together from several other &cri'tures the full account of what ha''ened to
'roduce the tremendous change in his life. Here is a descri'tion of what too) 'lace after
the ex'erience of the Damascus road
&aul E=aulF s'ent several days with the disci'les in Damascus. At once he began to
'reach in the synagogues that ;esus is the &on of *od. All those who heard him were
astonished and as)ed, "$sn%t he the man who raised havoc in ;erusalem among those
who call on this name7 And hasn%t he come here to ta)e them as 'risoners to the chief
'riests7" +Acts G,G#-,2.
$t is clear from these words that it all ha''ened within a very few days after =aul%s
conversion and his ba'tism at the hands of Ananias. =aul began immediately, with
characteristic vigor, to proclaim +herald, announce2 the deity of ;esus +"He is the &on of
*od"2. !his truth he had learned in the glory of the light that flamed about him on the
road to Damascus. !hen 9u)e, without giving any indication in the text whatever, goes
on in his account to something which did not ta)e 'lace for at least several months after
the above events and which may not have occurred for as long as three years
afterward "Bet &aul grew more and more 'owerful and baffled the ;ews living in
Damascus by 'roving that ;esus is the Christ" +Acts G--2.
4ote that =aul%s +or &aul%s2 message is here said to be in the form of "'roving" that
;esus is the Christ. !here is a great difference between proclaiming ;esus as the &on of
*od and proving that He is the Christ. 9u)e only hints at what made the difference in his
'hrase, "&aul grew more and more 'owerful," but =aul himself tells us in more detail
what ha''ened in his life. 6e find his descri'tion of that time in his letter to the
*alatians.
&ro( proclai(ing to pro'ing
8any scholars consider the *alatian letter to be the earliest of =aul%s e'istles. 6hether
it is or not is uncertain, but it is clear that in it =aul defends his a'ostleshi' and
describes what ha''ened to him after his conversion. He writes
?ut when *od, who set me a'art from birth and called me by his grace, was 'leased to
reveal his &on in me so that $ might 'reach him among the *entiles, $ did not consult
any man, nor did $ go u' to ;erusalem to see those who were a'ostles before $ was, but
$ went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus +*alatians ,,/#,02.
6e learn from this account that what served to greatly strengthen young &aul at this
time was that he went away into Arabia and then returned to Damascus. 6hat did he do
in Arabia7 &cri'ture doesn%t tells us, but $ don%t thin) it is difficult to figure out. 6e need
only imagine the shoc) to this young man%s life which his conversion 'roduced to reali3e
that he des'erately needed time to go bac) through the Old !estament &cri'tures and
find how his discovery of the truth about ;esus of 4a3areth related to the revelation of
the 'ro'hets which he had trusted ever since he was a child.
As a =harisee and based on what he )new of the &cri'tures, he had been convinced
that ;esus of 4a3areth was a fraud. 4ow he )new better##yet somehow, somewhere, he
must wor) out the mental confusion this new discovery 'roduced in him. Arabia su''lied
the o''ortunity. &o into Arabia he went, the scrolls of the Old !estament tuc)ed under
his arm. As we might well surmise, he found ;esus on every 'age. How the old, familiar
'assages must have glowed with new light as beginning with 8oses and all the
'ro'hets, the &'irit of *od inter'reted to him the things that belonged to ;esus. $t was
no wonder that when he returned to Damascus he came "greatly strengthened." And no
wonder, too, that =aul went into the same synagogues, armed with his new#found
)nowledge, and began 'roclaiming for the first time ;esus is the &on of *od. $n the
;ewish houses of worshi', he turned from 'assage to 'assage of the ;ewish &cri'tures
and "'roved" +*ree) "to )nit together"2 that ;esus was the Christ, the 8essiah foretold
by the Old !estament.
A bas)et case
?ut now things too) a turn for the worse. !o young &aul%s chagrin the ;ews of
Damascus were not at all res'onsive to his 'owerful arguments. 9u)e tells us what
ha''ened
After many days had gone by, the ;ews cons'ired to )ill him, but &aul learned of their
'lan. Day and night they )e't close watch on the city gates in order to )ill him. ?ut his
followers too) him by night and lowered him in a bas)et through an o'ening in the wall
+Acts G-1#-/2.
6hat a burning humiliation to this dedicated young Christian5 =aul had become##"uite
literally5##a bas)et case5 How confused and 'u33led he must have been as all his
dreams of con"uest in the name of ;esus were brought to this sudden and degrading
halt. $t was humiliating to be let down over the wall in a bas)et li)e a common criminal
esca'ing from the reach of the law5 How shameful, how discouraging5 Once over the
wall, he sli's off into the dar)ness of the night, bewildered, humiliated, and thoroughly
discouraged. He stated later that it was both the lowest 'oint in his life and the
beginning of the greatest discovery he ever made.
6here does he go from there7 9u)e tells us immediately, "6hen he came to ;erusalem,
he tried to (oin the disci'les, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really
was a disci'le" +Acts G-.2. =aul%s own account agrees with this exactly. $n *alatians
,,A#,G he says, "!hen after three years, $ went u' to ;erusalem to get ac"uainted with
=eter and stayed with him fifteen days. $ saw none of the other a'ostles## only ;ames,
the 9ord%s brother." How he managed to brea) through the fear barrier to see these two
men is given us by 9u)e
?ut ?arnabas too) him and brought him to the a'ostles. He told them how &aul on his
(ourney had seen the 9ord and that the 9ord had s'o)en to him, and how in Damascus
he had 'reached fearlessly in the name of ;esus. &o &aul stayed with them and moved
about freely in ;erusalem, s'ea)ing boldly in the name of the 9ord. He tal)ed and
debated with the *recian ;ews, but they tried to )ill him +Acts G-0#-G2.
$t is a familiar 'attern. Once again the ardent young Christian is determined to 'ersuade
the *ree)#s'ea)ing ;ews that ;esus is the 'romised 8essiah of the Old !estament.
Once again a 'lot against his life is set in motion. $t is the Damascus story all over
again.
Get ot.
?ut at this 'oint there occurs another of those ga's in 9u)e%s account which we must fill
in from =aul%s own account elsewhere. 9u)e does not relate to us young &aul%s reaction
to the o''osition he received when he 'reached to the ;erusalem ;ews. ?ut )nowing
his ambitious and dedicated heart, it must have been one of severe discouragement. At
any rate, years later, he mentioned this event in his great defense to the ;erusalem mob
when he was arrested in the tem'le 'recincts and saved from certain death only by the
timely intervention of the Romans. $n Acts -- he tells us, "6hen $ returned to ;erusalem
and was 'raying at the tem'le, $ fell into a trance and saw the 9ord s'ea)ing. %Juic)5% he
said to me. %9eave ;erusalem immediately, because they will not acce't your testimony
about me.%" +Acts --,0#,A2.
$t is surely understandable that young &aul would see) the comfort of the tem'le at this
discouraging moment. Again his efforts to bear a convincing witness for Christ had
failed, once again men were see)ing to find an o''ortunity to )ill him, and he had no
'ositive results with which to encourage himself. 4o wonder he went into the tem'le to
'ray. And there, to this discouraged disci'le, the 9ord ;esus a''eared##yet His message
was anything but encouraging. "*et out of ;erusalem," said ;esus. "!hey will not
receive your testimony concerning me." At this 'oint &aul began to argue with ;esus
"%9ord,% $ re'lied, %these men )now that $ went from one synagogue to another to
im'rison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr &te'hen
was shed, $ stood there giving my a''roval and guarding the clothes of those who were
)illing him.%" +Acts --,G#-H2.
$n these words &aul gave himself away. 6e can now see what he was de'ending on for
success in his witnessing efforts. $t is a''arent that he saw himself as the one 'erson
eminently who was "ualified to reach the ;ews for Christ. His argument says in effect,
"9ord, you don%t understand this situation. $f you send me out of ;erusalem you are
going to miss the o''ortunity of a lifetime. $f there is anyone who understands how
these ;ews thin) and reason, it is $. $ was one of them. $ s'ea) their language. $ )now
how they react. $ understand their bac)ground. $ too am an $sraelite, a Hebrew of the
Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of ?en(amin. $ was a =harisee li)e
they are. $ wal)ed before the law blameless. $ even 'ersecuted the church, as they are
now doing. 6hy, when the martyr &te'hen was )illed, $ even )e't the garments of those
who murdered him5 9ord, don%t send me away. $ have what it ta)es to reach these men.
Don%t miss this o''ortunity5"
;esus% answer is abru't and to the 'oint. =aul tells us himself, "!hen the 9ord said to
me, %*o< $ will send you far away to the *entiles%" +Acts ---,2. 6hat a shattering blow5
How crushed young &aul must have been5 ?ut to indicate how the church agreed with
the 9ord at this 'oint, 9u)e tells us, "6hen the brothers learned of this Ethe 'lot to )ill
&aulF, they too) him down to Caesarea and sent him off to !arsus" +Acts G1H2.
!arsus was =aul%s hometown. !here is no tougher 'lace to go as a Christian than bac)
home. =aul had tried his best to serve his new#found 9ord with all the ability and energy
he could muster. ?ut it amounted to exactly nothing. $n fact, at this 'oint, 9u)e records a
rather astonishing thing after =aul%s exile to !arsus "!hen the church throughout ;udea,
*alilee and &amaria en(oyed a time of 'eace. $t was strengthened< and encouraged by
the Holy &'irit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the 9ord" +Acts G1,2.
!he record shows that the early a'ostle =aul was not so much the dynamic history#
changing missionary he later became. 4o, the early a'ostle =aul was really something
of a "consecrated blunderer"5 $n his earnest, fervent, good#hearted way, he went about,
'reaching the gos'el, and stirring u' all )inds of anger and hostility among the ;ews5
6hen this "dedicated dis'uter" was eliminated##sent away to his hometown of !arsus##
the church finally had 'eace5 $t began to grow5 $sn%t that ama3ing7
&aul goes off to !arsus to nurse his wounds, his ego shattered and his 'lans dissolved
in des'air. :or ten years he is not heard of again##not until an awa)ening brea)s out in
crushed Antioch of &yria and the church in ;erusalem sends ?arnabas down to
investigate. 6hen ?arnabas finds "a great number of 'eo'le Eare beingF brought to the
9ord" +Acts ,,-@2, he )nows hel' is needed.
$n verses -/#-., we read, "!hen ?arnabas went to !arsus to loo) for &aul, and when he
found him, he brought him to Antioch. &o for a whole year ?arnabas and &aul met with
the church and taught great numbers of 'eo'le. !he disci'les were called Christians
first at Antioch." $t was a different &aul who came to Antioch with ?arnabas. Chastened,
humbled, taught of the &'irit, he began to teach the 6ord of *od, and from there
launched into the great missionary thrust that would ta)e him eventually to the limits of
the Roman Cm'ire and s'read the gos'el with ex'losive force throughout the world.
Are yo a bas)et case/
6hat made the difference7 6riting to the Corinthians many years later =aul ma)es one
brief reference to the event that triggered a line of teaching that would culminate in a
clear understanding and acce'tance of what he came to call "the new covenant." !he
Corinthian church had written to =aul and bra3enly suggested to him that he would be
more effective if he would boast once in awhile in his accom'lishments. !o this the
a'ostle re'lied in his second letter, cha'ter ,, " $f $ must boast, $ will boast of the things
that show my wea)ness. !he *od and :ather of the 9ord ;esus, who is to be 'raised
forever, )nows that $ am not lying" +- Corinthians ,,1H#1,2.
6hat he is going to say will be such a shoc) to them that he ta)es a solemn vow that he
is telling them the truth, otherwise they may thin) he is (o)ing or 'laying with them. !hen
he tells them what his boast is " $n Damascus the governor under >ing Aretas had the
city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. ?ut $ was lowered in a bas)et
from a window in the wall and sli''ed through his hands" +- Corinthians ,,1-#112.
"!hat," says =aul, "is my boast. !hat is the greatest event of my life since my
conversion. 6hen $ became a bas)et case, then $ began to learn the truth that has
changed my life and ex'lains my 'ower." 6hat was that life#changing truth7 9et =aul
'ut it in his own words, from his letter to the =hili''ians
$f anyone else thin)s he has reasons to 'ut confidence in the flesh, $ have more
circumcised on the eighth day, of the 'eo'le of $srael, of the tribe of ?en(amin, a
Hebrew of Hebrews< in regard to the law, a =harisee< as for 3eal, 'ersecuting the
church< as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. ?ut whatever was to my 'rofit $ now
consider loss for the sa)e of Christ. 6hat is more, $ consider everything a loss
com'ared to the sur'assing greatness of )nowing Christ ;esus my 9ord, for whose
sa)e $ have lost all things. $ consider them rubbish, that $ may gain Christ" +=hili''ians
1@#A2.
!he word he uses for "consider them rubbish" refers to common, barnyard dung. 6hat
he once regarded as "ualifying him to be a success before *od and men +his ancestry,
his orthodoxy, his morality, and his activity2 he now regards as so much manure
com'ared to de'ending u'on the wor)ing of ;esus Christ within him. He has learned
how to shift from the old covenant +everything coming from me, nothing coming from
*od2 to the new covenant +nothing coming from me, everything coming from *od2,
which gives life. He is no longer highly "ualified to be utterly useless but is able to say
"8y sufficiency is from *od, who has "ualified me to be a minister of a new covenant."
Have you become a bas)et case yet7 Have you reached that 'lace which ;esus
described as "blessed"7 "?lessed are the 'oor in s'irit, for theirs is the )ingdom of
heaven." !o be "'oor in s'irit" is to be utterly ban)ru't before some demand of life, and
then discover it to be a blessing because it forced you to de'end wholly u'on the 9ord
at wor) in you. !hat is where you learn the truth of the new covenant, and nowhere
else. 6e have much to learn yet about why it wor)s, but you can only find out how it
wor)s when you discover it in your own ex'erience.
0
T1O S%"EN2ORS
*od loves visual aids. He has scattered them all over the earth and hung them in the
s)y. ;esus made rich use of *od%s visual exam'les to hel' His hearers##including you
and me##to understand s'iritual truth
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow."
"$t is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter
the )ingdom of *od."
"Cast not your 'earls before swine, lest they turn and rend you."
"Bou are the salt of the earth."
"$ am the vine and you are the branches."
$ sus'ect that the whole world of nature may have been created to illustrate, on a
'hysical and visible level, what is going on all the time in the invisible, s'iritual realm.
Cli3abeth ?arrett ?rowning 'ut it exactly,
Carth%s crammed with heaven<
And every common bush aflame with *od.
?ut only those who see ta)e off their shoes,
!he rest sit round it##and 'luc) blac)berries5
+"Aurora 9eigh," boo) vii2
Two faces of glory
!o hel' the Corinthians +and us2 understand what he meant by "the old covenant" and
"the new covenant" the A'ostle =aul used two very hel'ful visual aids. !hey are
borrowed from the story of the giving of the law from 8t. &inai and the subse"uent
conduct of 8oses with the 'eo'le of $srael. He first calls attention to the glory of 8oses%
face
4ow if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came
with glory, so that the $sraelites could not loo) steadily at the face of 8oses because of
its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the &'irit be even more glorious7
+- Corinthians 10#A2.
!he old covenant, which =aul calls "a dis'ensation of death," was a'tly symboli3ed by
the shining of 8oses% face when he came down from the mountain with the law "carved
in letters on stone." !here was a certain glory or s'lendor about the law. $t attracted
'eo'le and awa)ened their admiration and interest. !hat%s what glory always does< it is
ca'tivating and attractive. !o this day the law retains that attractiveness. All over the
world the !en Commandments are held in high regard, even by those who regularly
brea) them +which includes us all2. 8en 'ay li' service to them as the ideal of life, even
though they may say they are im'ractical and im'ossible to )ee'. Cverywhere men
dream of achieving a dedication which will enable them to fulfill these glorious ideals.
?ut the 'oint =aul see)s to ma)e is that in the new covenant there is an even greater
s'lendor. $t is far more attractive and exciting than the law. As we have (ust seen, any
reliance on the old covenant after we have ex'erienced life in the new is li)e going bac)
to dung and manure5 And (ust as the glory of the old covenant has its symbol +the
shining face of 8oses2, so the new covenant has its symbol as well. $t is given by the
a'ostle a little further on in the 'assage and is obviously intended to be set in contrast
with the face of 8oses. He says, ":or *od, who said, %9et light shine out of dar)ness,%
made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the )nowledge of the glory of
*od in the face of Christ" +- Corinthians @.2.
Here, then, are the two s'lendors##the face of 8oses and the face of ;esus Christ. ?oth
are exciting, but one much more than the other. !hey stand for the two covenants, or
arrangements, by which human life is lived. ?oth have 'ower to attract men, but one is
a fading glory and the other is eternal. !he unredeemed world lives continually by
loo)ing at the face of 8oses. !he Christian can live by either, but never both at the
same time. $t is always one or the other at any given moment of a Christian%s life. "4o
one can serve two masters," said ;esus. "Cither he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one and des'ise the other" +8atthew .-@2. &o in the true
Christian%s life, the activity of each moment derives its value from whether he is, at that
moment, symbolically loo)ing at the face of 8oses or at the face of ;esus Christ.
The troble with law
At this 'oint we must see) to understand more clearly something of great im'ortance.
&omeone may well raise the "uestion, "6hy does =aul lin) the old covenant with the
law and call it a "dis'ensation of death" when in Romans 0 he says that the law is "holy,
(ust and good"7 How could the shining face of 8oses##which came as a result of
s'ending forty days alone with *od##be a symbol of something which )ills7 As a matter
of fact, =aul himself raises the same "uestion in his discussion of the law in Romans 0
when he says, "6hat shall we say, then7 $s the law sin7" His forceful res'onse is,
"Certainly not5" +Romans 002. And after showing that it was by means of the law that he
found out the extent of his sin, he adds, "&o then, the law is holy, and the
commandment is holy, righteous and good" +Romans 0,-2.
$t is in Romans A1 that the a'ostle gives us the clue which ex'lains this enigma ":or
what the law was 'owerless to do in that it was wea"ened (y the sinful nature, *od did
by sending his own &on in the li)eness of sinful man to be a sin offering." !he 'roblem,
therefore, is not the law< it is what the law must wor) with, that is, the flesh. !he word
flesh does not refer here to the meat and bones that ma)e u' the body, but is an
e"uivalent term for fallen human nature##human nature acting a'art from Christ. !he law
was given, in any of its forms, only and solely because the flesh exists. !here is no
need for law if there is no flesh. =aul said to !imothy,
6e )now that the law is good if one uses it 'ro'erly. 6e also )now that law is made not
for the righteous but for lawbrea)ers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and
irreligious< for those who )ill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and
'erverts, for slave traders and liars and 'er(urers## and for whatever else is contrary to
the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gos'el of the blessed *od, which he
entrusted to me. +, !imothy ,A#,,2.
A wal)ing ci'il war
!hese verses shouldn%t be read as though =aul were referring only to 'agans,
heathens, criminals, and 'erverts. Christians, even the best and saintliest of them, are
sometimes "lawbrea)ers" and "rebels," guilty of ungodliness and sin, adulterous and
'erverted +in their thoughts if not their actions2, and all too fre"uently "liars" or
"'er(urers." Certainly, many "Christian sins" are caught u' in the 'hrase, "whatever else
is contrary to the sound doctrine." Certainly the sin nature is at wor) in Christians, and
whenever it is, the law is re"uired. !he law is made for our humanity, our sin nature, and
it has no reason for existence a'art from it. Human beings re"uire the law, for "by the
law is the )nowledge of sin.
&ince this is so clearly true, it hel's us to see that the essential conflict between the old
covenant +the face of 8oses2 and the new covenant +the face of ;esus Christ2 is, in
reality, the struggle between the flesh and the &'irit. Cach of us is, in effect, a wal)ing
civil war. !he flesh wars against the &'irit within us, (ust as =aul observed in his letter to
the *alatians ":or the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the &'irit, and the &'irit
what is contrary to the sinful nature. !hey are in conflict with each other, so that you do
not do what you want" +*alatians /,02. $t is because of this inevitable tie between the
flesh and the law that =aul, in - Corinthians, refers to the law as a "ministration +or
dis'ensation2 of death" and says that the "written code )ills." $n reality, it is the flesh
which 'roduces death and which )ills, but the law, though it be holy, (ust, and good
cannot be se'arated from it.
!he 'receding arguments may seem a bit 'onderous, but $ urge you to thin) them
through carefully, for 'erha's nothing has contributed more to the 'resent wea)ness of
the church than a failure to understand the nature and character of the flesh. $t may
greatly hel' us to see this clearly if we go bac) to the beginning and learn how the flesh
came into existence and what its essence is.
6hen Adam came from the hand of *od, he was a 'erfect man, as *od intended man
to be. He was, therefore, acting by the 'ower of *od. Cverything he did was
accom'lished by the indwelling &'irit of 'ower. 6e )now this from the analogy to ;esus
who was the &econd Adam. ;esus tells us re'eatedly that whatever he did or said was
not done out of any energy or might of his own, but as he 'lainly 'ut it, "the :ather,
living in me, who is doing his wor)" +;ohn ,@,H2. He was living by the new covenant,
"everything coming from *od, nothing coming from me." $n fact, he said, "!he &on can
do nothing by himself" +;ohn /,G2.
!hat is how Adam lived before the :all. 6hen he tended the garden, he did so by the
energy and 'ower of *od. 6hen he named the animals, he named them by the wisdom
and 'ower of *od. Adam brought to each tas) the fullness of divine resources, available
to whatever degree was re"uired by the tas) itself. !his is, of course, what man was
and is intended to be, the bearer and dwelling 'lace of *od. Adam was the "house" of
*od, and all that he did was a manifestation of the 'ower of *od. !he choice of activity
was left u' to Adam. !hat was his 'art. He was the chooser< *od himself was the doer.
Adam could do anything he wanted, go any 'lace within the garden he chose, eat
anything he li)ed##exce't one thing. *od 'lanted a tree in the garden, and 'laced it
beyond Adam%s right to choose##but not beyond his 'ower to choose. $t was the tree of
the )nowledge of good and evil.
One day, in connivance with his wife, Adam made that fatal choice. !he instant he did
so, the new covenant ceased to be active in his life, and the old covenant s'rang into
existence. Of course, the new was not 'ro'erly called "new" then, for at the time it was
the only arrangement for living that Adam )new. And, of course, the old covenant was
not "old" to him, but something brand new which he ex'erienced only after he had
chosen to disobey *od. !he terms "new" and "old" have meaning only in relation to us,
not to Adam, but $ use them this way to show that they were the same in his ex'erience
as they are in ours.
&ince everyone who has ever lived since Adam was made in the image of fallen Adam,
we can understand something of what ha''ened when Adam ate the forbidden fruit.
!he &'irit of *od was immediately removed from his human s'irit. His s'irit retained a
memory of the relationshi' it once en(oyed, but it was left dar)ened and restless, filled
with both guilt and fear, and unable to contact the *od it )new existed. !his is why
Adam and Cve immediately hid themselves. !hey reali3ed they had no defense against
attac) and were na)ed. $t is into this same condition that every human being has been
born. !he human s'irit longs for *od but is afraid to find Him. $t is restless and unha''y
without Him, but fearful and guilty before Him. !hat is the agony of fallen humanity.
The in'ader
6hen the &'irit of *od was withdrawn, the human s'irit of Adam was left untenanted
and unlighted. $n this condition Adam would have been unable to move or even breathe,
for *od had su''lied him the 'ower to act. ?ut though s'iritually he was instantly cut off
from *od, 'hysically he did not die, but was able to go on living, breathing, thin)ing, and
wor)ing. ?y what 'ower7 !he account in *enesis does not tell us, but centuries later
=aul ma)es it clear Adam was instantly invaded by an alien 'ower which too) over the
tas) of su''lying the energy and im'etus he needed to fulfill his choices. Adam was
very li)ely only faintly aware of the change that came over him. =aul describes that alien
'ower described vividly in his letter to the C'hesians
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live
when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the )ingdom of the air, the
s'irit who is now at wor) in those who are disobedient +C'hesians -,#-2.
!hat 'ower which o'erates universally in fallen human beings originates in some
mysterious way from &atan himself. Demonic sin is intimately connected with the
'roblem of human sin. &atan, says =aul, is "the ruler of the )ingdom of the air, the s'irit
who is now at wor) in those who are disobedient." !he a'ostle goes on to describe
&atan as wor)ing out his effects through what the ?ible calls "the flesh" or the "sinful
nature." As C'hesians -1 tells us, "All of us also lived among them at one time,
gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. 1i"e
the rest2 we were (y nature o(3ects of wrath."
!he em'hasi3ed words in the above 'assage ma)e clear that this alien invasion is a
condition common to all humanity. 4o one esca'es the effects of the sin nature. &ince
all human beings are children of Adam by natural birth, it is also clear that this 'assage
describes what ha''ened to Adam in the moment of his fall. ;ames, in his general
e'istle, s'ea)s also of a wisdom which "does not come down from heaven but is
earthly, uns'iritual, of the devil" +;ames 1,/2. And ;esus himself confirmed the fact that
all men are born into an evil condition when he said to his disci'les, "$f you then, though
you are evil, )now how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your
:ather in heaven give the Holy &'irit to those who as) him5" +9u)e ,,,12.
!he s'lendor of the flesh versus the s'lendor of *od
6hen we thin) of the Devil and his relationshi' to *od, the ?ible is most careful to
ma)e clear that there are not two o''osing gods, one evil and the other good. !he
Devil, too, is a creature of *od, and must live by means of the life he receives from
*od. !here is really only one source of life in all the universe, and ultimately every living
creature or s'irit must derive its life from the one Author of 9ife, *od himself. ?ut by
some means not fully revealed, the Devil has inter'osed himself between *od and
humanity and ta)es the 'ure life +or love2 of *od and twists and distorts it so that it is no
longer outward directed, as it came from *od, but it becomes inward directed< that is,
no longer other#loving, but it becomes self#loving. :allen man thus receives the life of
*od as it has been twisted and tainted by the Devil. !hat life is called "the flesh."
!his, then, is the 'rimary characteristic of the flesh it is self#serving. $t is *od%s life,
misused. $t can have all the outward a''earance of the life of *od##loving, wor)ing,
forgiving, creating, serving##but with an inward motive that is aimed always and solely at
the advancement of self. $t thus becomes the rival of *od##another god5
!his is why fallen human beings, wor)ing in the energy of the flesh, can do many good
deeds##good in the eyes of themselves and others around them. ?ut *od does not see
them as good. He loo)s on the heart and not on the outward a''earance, therefore he
)nows they are tainted right from the start. !hus =aul can say, "!he mind of sinful man
is death, but the mind controlled by the &'irit is life and 'eace< the sinful mind is hostile
to *od. $t does not submit to *od%s law, nor can it do so. !hose controlled by the sinful
nature cannot 'lease *od." +Romans A.#A2.
&o we come out at the two s'lendors again. !here is a certain s'lendid attractiveness
about the flesh, trying to be good. $t strongly a''eals to many, but it is li)e the shine on
8oses% face##a fading s'lendor5 ?ut the s'lendor of the new covenant is far greater. $t
derives from the activity of ;esus Christ at wor) within humanity##directly, not distorted
by &atan. !hus it is 'erfectly acce'table to *od. $t is a delight to Him, for it is the activity
of His beloved &on and will ever be characteri3ed by His life##a life of genuine love,
faithful wor), and unreserved forgiveness< a life that is continually, freshly creative, and
humbly given to service to others without thought of re'ayment or recognition.
!hat is humanity as *od intended humanity to be. !hat is the humble yet beautiful
s'lendor of authentic Christianity.
3
2EATH 4ERS5S
"I&E
At the moment you read this sentence you are seeing, reading, and thin)ing either in
the energy of the flesh or by the energy of the Holy &'irit. !o use the same visual aids
em'loyed by the a'ostle =aul, you are either loo)ing at the face of 8oses or you are
loo)ing at the glory of *od reflected in the face of ;esus Christ. Bou may not be at all
conscious of this, but it is true nevertheless. :urthermore, it would be e"ually true if you
came from a remote 'art of the world and had never before heard of either 8oses or
;esus. Cvery human being on this 'lanet lives and acts according to either the old
covenant or the new covenant. !here is no middle ground. !here is no exce'tion. Cven
if you have never heard the gos'el, even if you%ve never seen a ?ible, even if you live a
thousand miles from the nearest church or even the nearest Christian, =aul argues in
Romans - that the law of *od, the law of 8oses, is written to some degree in your heart
or conscience##and everything you do relates somehow to the law of your conscience.
The frit re'eals the root
"6ell," you may say, "if one is hardly conscious of which face you are loo)ing at in any
given moment, how can you )now when you are in the flesh and when you are in the
&'irit7" !he answer ?y the "uality of "fruit" your life 'roduces5 !he flesh invariably
'roduces one )ind of life< the &'irit invariably 'roduces another )ind. ;esus has this
truth in mind when he says "?y their fruit you will recogni3e them" +8atthew 0-H2.
?efore we go on to loo) at =aul%s 'ractical descri'tion of these two )inds of living, we
should remind ourselves that until we become born again as a Christian, we have no
choice but to live by the flesh and 'roduce the life of the flesh. !he "good" which may be
in our lives is but an imitation good which comes from the flesh%s effort to fulfill the law of
*od. As hard as it may be to believe, this )ind of fleshly "good" is really no better in
*od%s sight than the evil which the flesh manifests. $t is but disguised evil.
On the other hand, to be born again only su''lies the 'ossibility of living in the &'irit< it
does not ma)e authentic s'iritual living automatic. !he true Christian can, and often
does, manifest the 'hony righteousness of the flesh, though he can also +and does, as
he learns to live by faith2 manifest the wholesome "ualities of the &'irit.
!here is a remar)able series of four contrasts in - Corinthians 10#,, which =aul draws
for us so we can distinguish the result of trusting in the flesh from the result of trusting in
the &'irit in our daily lives. 6hen we learn to recogni3e which force is at wor) within us,
then we shall be ready to change from the flesh to the &'irit.
:irst, =aul contrasts the immediate effect 'roduced by the flesh with that 'roduced by
the &'irit "4ow if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on
stone, came with glory, so that the $sraelites could not loo) steadily at the face of 8oses
because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the &'irit be even more
glorious7" +- Corinthians 10#A2.
!he flesh 'roduces death, the &'irit 'roduces life5 =aul has already 'ointed it out in
verse . "for the letter )ills, but the &'irit gives life." One is a "dis'ensation of death," the
other is a dis'ensation of "greater s'lendor," a dis'ensation of life. !he word
dispensation is hel'ful if we understand it in its original sense to dis'ense or 'roduce. $f
we thin) of a dis'ensation as a 'eriod of time, it will be confusing to use the word here.
$n fact, a much better word might be ministry. !he *ree) is dia"onia, which is usually
translated ministry or service. 6hat is being dis'ensed in the ministry of the &'irit7 $t is
life5 !o de'end on everything coming from you, in res'onse to the demand of the law,
'roduces immediate death. !o de'end on everything coming from *od 'roduces
immediate life.
!o thin) of death in terms of a funeral, as the end of existence, is to miss the 'oint of
what =aul is saying here. 6hat is death7 $t is essentially a negative term meaning the
absence of life. 6hen a doctor examines an in(ured man, he does not loo) for signs of
death< he chec)s for the signs of life. $f he does not find them, he )nows the man is
dead. 9ife 'roduces its own distinctive mar)s< death is the absence of those mar)s.
!hat being so, the "uestion we must really as) is 6hat is life7
6ell, sometimes we hear a 'erson say, "8an, $%m really living5" 6hat does that 'erson
mean7 !hat he or she is ex'eriencing great en3oyment, of course5 Cn(oyment is a 'art
of life, as *od intended it to be. =ur'ose, meaning, worth, fulfillment, these are all 'art
of life. How about other "ualities##(oy, 'eace, love, friendshi', 'ower7 Bes, that%s what
life is. !he moment we have these "ualities, we are living. &urely, this is what ;esus
meant when He said, "$ have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" +;ohn
,H,H2. !hat is 9ife with a ca'ital 9. 9ife lived to the full##full of love, (oy, 'eace, long#
suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, mee)ness, self#control##man, that%s living5
$n contrast then, what is death7 $t is the absence or o''osite of those "ualities of life.
6hat is the absence of love7 Hate, selfishness, and fear. 6hat is the absence of (oy7
8isery, weariness of s'irit, anger, ho'elessness. !hus frustration, boredom, worry,
hostility, (ealousy, malice, loneliness, de'ression, self#'ity##these are all mar)s of the
absence of life. $n short, they are forms of death. 6e do not need to wait till we die to
ex'erience these. :or all too many of us, they are a ma(or 'art of our ex'erience while
we yet live. !hey re'resent death in the midst of life.
The sorce of death
6here do these attitudes and 'assions come from7 6hat is it that suddenly brings them
into our ex'erience, often when we least ex'ect them7 ;esus hel's us answer these
"uestions. "Do 'eo'le 'ic) gra'es from thornbushes, or figs from thistles7 9i)ewise
every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear
bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" +8atthew 0,.#,A2. 6e thin) these
negative "ualities in our ex'erience come from 'assing moods or changing
circumstances. ?oth ;esus and =aul say, no5 !hey come from something dee'er,
something much more fundamental. !hey arise from a de'endence on the old
covenant, the "bad tree" which cannot 'roduce good fruit. !hey reveal that we are
unconsciously or consciously de'ending on "something coming from me" rather than
"everything coming from *od."
!hese negative feelings, then, reveal the flesh in action. 4ot the flesh in the blatant
dis'lay of evil which we usually thin) of##drun)enness, rioting, adultery, thievery, murder,
and the li)e##but the flesh in those subtler dis'lays which we often a''rove and even
see) after self#sufficiency, self#'ity, self#centeredness. !his is why every biblical
counselor learns to loo) beyond the immediate manifestation of hostility, de'ression,
boredom, and so forth, and to see) the root causes which drive these feelings.
:or instance, $ have learned in my own life +and also by observing others2 that
de'ression is usually caused by some form of self#'ity. $ become de'ressed because $
suffer some disa''ointment or re(ection and this causes me to feel sorry for myself. $
want to be made much of, $ want someone to focus attention on me, and when this
doesn%t ha''en, $ become de'ressed.
6here does loneliness come from7 8ost fre"uently from some form of self#ministry,
ta)ing care of myself only. !hat is why the cure for loneliness is ;esus% word "$ tell you
the truth, unless a )ernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single
seed." $n other words, it becomes a lonely. 9oneliness is the inevitable result of
clutching and clinging to self, and refusing to die to self. ;esus continues "?ut if it dies,
it 'roduces many seeds" +;ohn ,--@2.
!he 'resence of these mar)s of death gives us the clue as to when the old covenant is
at wor). 6henever these negative "ualities are there, the old covenant is wor)ing, for
that is what 'roduces them. On the other hand, whenever the "ualities of (oy, trust,
confidence, beauty, worth, and fulfillment are 'resent, they can only come from the new
covenant. $t is the &'irit of *od who 'roduces them.
=aul reminds us that there are two glories or s'lendors involved here. !here is a certain
glory about the "death" which the old covenant 'roduces, but there is a greater glory
about life. !here is a certain attractiveness about the mar)s of death. 6e ta)e a morbid
'leasure in them. Have you ever caught yourself wallowing in a morass of self#'ity and
resisting all attem'ts to bring you out of it7 Bou wanted to be let alone so you could
have a good time feeling sorry for yourself. $t gives a 'erverse feeling of 'leasure.
;ames says, "&uch "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly,
uns'iritual, of the devil. :or where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find
disorder and every evil 'ractice" +;ames 1,/#,.2.
!he ama3ing thing is that we 'refer these tem'orary, fleeting 'leasures to the glory
which accom'anies real life. Often, we naively assume we can en(oy both. ?ut if we
insist on having the momentary 'leasure that comes from the old covenant, then we
cannot have the lasting 'leasure that comes from the new covenant. 4o man can serve
two masters, remember7 &o the first contrast the a'ostle draws, by which we can
recogni3e the old or new covenants in action, is that of the immediate effects 'roduced
in life.
Stones or hearts/
!he second contrast is associated with the first. $t has to do with the material substance
with which each is concerned. $n - Corinthians 11 the a'ostle has already referred to
these differences. !he new covenant, he says, is "written not with in) but with the &'irit
of the living *od, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." !wice in this
'assage he stresses the medium by which the old covenant came "4ow if the ministry
that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory..." +verse
02. !he law was written on stones< the &'irit writes on human hearts. !he old covenant
is concerned with stones, with dead things< the new covenant is concerned with hearts,
with living 'eo'le.
One mar), therefore, of false Christianity is that it is always dee'ly concerned with the
im'ortance of things stones, rituals, ceremonies, buildings, stained#glass windows,
s'ires, organs, 'ro'er 'rocedures. !he em'hasis is 'ut on these at the ex'ense of
'eo'le. ?ut when the new covenant is in o'eration, it is the other way around. =eo'le
are the im'ortant matter. !hings are only useful as they hel' or do not hel' 'eo'le.
9oo) at ;esus. &ee how utterly careless he was about the 'recise regulations of the
=harisees when those regulations stood in the way of healing 'eo'le. Cven the sabbath
was set aside when it stood in the way of meeting the needs of 'eo'le. ;esus said that
his disci'les ate grain on the sabbath because the sabbath was made for man, not man
for the sabbath. !he ultimate concern of the new covenant is always for 'eo'le. !he old
covenant 'uts things first.
A number of years ago, a church in California hired a young man to "reach youth and
bring them into the church." He was so successful that soon the auditorium of the
church was filled with young 'eo'le##but in the eyes of the church elders they were the
wrong young 'eo'le, because they were for the most 'art "street 'eo'le" with bare feet,
bi3arre clothing, and untraditional ways. Cventually the youth leader was let go
because, as he was told, "Bou are bringing this trash from the streets into our nice
sanctuary." !hat is an extreme form of the old covenant in action.
!he world of business and 'olitics almost always o'erates on the basis of the old
covenant. !hat is why money is usually more im'ortant than 'eo'le. 6hen vested
interests are at sta)e, the rights of 'eo'le usually suffer. 9et a com'any face a dro' in
sales or 'roduction and what ha''ens7 8anagement ta)es u' the axe and heads begin
to roll with but little regard to whether 'eo'le are going to starve or not. =rofits come
first. And how much of this attitude is also seen in the church5 Re'utations often come
before 'eo'le. =rograms and customs are 'er'etuated, not because they meet needs,
but because status and acce'tance are at sta)e##a dead giveaway that de'endence is
on "everything coming from us" rather than "everything coming from *od."
Gilt or righteosness/
A third contrast is found in - Corinthians 1G, mar)ing the difference between freedom
and guilt "$f the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the
ministry that brings righteousness5" Here we find another mar) of the old covenant in
action. $t inevitably 'roduces a sense of condemnation##or to use a more modern term,
guilt. ?ut the new covenant 'roduces "uite the reverse !he feeling engendered is one
of righteousness.
Infortunately, "righteousness" is one of those great biblical words which is little
understood today. 8ost of us thin) of it as "doing what is right," and certainly that is 'art
of its meaning. ?ut the essence of the term goes much dee'er. $ts basic idea is "being
what is right." One does what is right, because one is right##that is the biblical idea of
righteousness. Righteousness is the "uality of being acce'table to and acce'ted by
*od##fully and without reserve.
=erha's we will get the sense of it better if we substitute the word "worth." !he
righteous man is the man who is valued. All his internal struggles are resolved. He is no
longer troubled with guilt, inade"uacy, or hostility. He does not struggle with himself to
'roduce anything, for he )nows he stands acce'ted before *od, 'leasing to *od.
!herefore he is free to act with res'ect to the situation in which he finds himself. He is
able to reach out to others who hurt or are fearful or feel condemned because he
himself is free from these things. !o de'end on "everything coming from *od, nothing
coming from me" 'roduces that sense of worth. !hat is righteousness.
On the other hand, how many Christians live continually under a sense of
condemnation7 6hen the basis for our Christian activity is de'endence on something
coming from us +our 'ersonality, our will#'ower, our gifts, our money, our courage2, there
is no esca'e from a sense of guilt, for we can never be certain when we have done
enough5 Around the world that basis of 'erformance is driving Christians into frenetic
activity that can result in nothing but sheer exhaustion.
$ was once in an American city where a woman stood u' and told how her 'erformance
was being challenged in her church, and she confessed how inade"uate and threatened
she felt. &he was almost in tears, feeling she had not done enough for *od, not
)nowing what else to do. !he des'air she exem'lified is a far cry from the (oyful word of
Romans A,#-, "!herefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
;esus, because through Christ ;esus the law of the &'irit of life set me free from the law
of sin and death." How much this woman needed to see that *od already loved her as
much as he ever will, and nothing she could ever do, or not do, would change that fact.
!o really believe that truth would ma)e her free to "do"##not in order to win acce'tance,
but because she was already 'leasing to *od.
!he fren3ied activities of Christians have become a (o)e. &omeone has revised the old
nursery rhyme to read
8ary had a little lamb,
%!was given her to )ee'<
?ut then it (oined the ?a'tist Church,
And died for lac) of slee'5
8any churches (udge their success by the number of activities they have going. :or
many, it comes as a great shoc) to learn from the &cri'tures that it is 'ossible for a
church to be an utter failure before *od and yet be occu'ied to the full every night of the
wee)##teaching the right doctrines and doing the right things. On the other hand, a
church whose 'eo'le are living by the new covenant can also be fully occu'ied with
many and varied activities. $t is not the level of activity which mar)s the success or
failure of a church. $t is what the source of that activity is. $s it the flesh, or the &'irit7 $s
it my bac)ground, my training, my education, my 'ersonality7 Or is it *od##at wor) in
me through ;esus Christ7
Srpassing glory
Remember, there is a certain glory about the activity of the flesh which is very attractive
to 'eo'le. Dedicated activity always gives one a certain sense of worth##for awhile5 $t
'roduces a )ind of self#a''roval which is very 'leasant to ex'erience##for awhile. =aul
says that "the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came
with glory" +- Corinthians 102, yet it is far sur'assed by the glory and s'lendor of the
ministry of righteousness. $n fact, the a'ostle enlarges on this. He says, "$f the ministry
that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings
righteousness5 4or what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the
surpassing glory." +- Corinthians 1G#,H, em'hasis added2.
!his is undoubtedly an obli"ue reference to =aul%s own ex'erience which we have
already traced in a 'revious cha'ter. !he 'leasure which he derived from his
de'endence u'on his ancestry, his orthodoxy, his morality, and his activity soon came to
have "no glory now in com'arison with the sur'assing glory." !o trust in ;esus Christ, at
wor) in him, as he describes it in *alatians --H, is to ex'erience a sense of fulfillment
and worth that is infinitely beyond anything he had ever ex'erienced before. $t was to be
free5 9ittle did he care what men thought of him, since he was so fully aware of what
*od thought of him##in Christ. 9ittle did he care what a''raisal men +even other
Christians2 might ma)e of his ministry, since he fully understood that whatever Christ did
through him would be a''roved in the eyes of *od. !hat is why he was able to say,
"Always give yourselves fully to the wor) of the 9ord, because you )now that your labor
in the 9ord is not in vain" +, Corinthians ,//A2.
&ading or per(anent/
!he final contrast =aul draws relates closely to the 'revious one. He says, "And if what
was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts5" +-
Corinthians 1,,2. !he contrast is clear. !he old covenant 'roduces that which fades
away, but the new 'roduces that which is 'ermanent. 6hen 8oses came down from the
mountain with his face aglow, he found that the glory faded. Relatively soon it
disa''eared com'letely, never to be recovered. ?ut the glory of the face of ;esus never
changes. !hose who are ex'ecting him to be at wor) through them in res'onse to the
demands that normal living ma)es u'on them will ex'erience eternal results. !hey will
never fade or lose their value. !hey are treasure laid u' in heaven##not u'on earth.
Once again =aul reminds us of the attractiveness that accom'anies de'endence u'on
the flesh. Challenging 'eo'le to rely u'on their natural resources and abilities can often
whi' u' a tremendous wave of excitement and enthusiasm. :rom such a meeting
everyone goes home saying, "6ow, what a tremendous meeting5 $ can%t wait to get
started on this new 'rogram. !his year we are going to ma)e it." ?ut every leader of
ex'erience )nows what will ha''en. &oon the enthusiasm will begin to ebb +it might not
last beyond the next morning52. !hose who go around later to collect on some of the
'romises made will find that 'eo'le have grown dull and a'athetic. ?y next year it must
all be done over again, with new a''roaches and more 'owerful 'resentations, in order
to stir u' the same degree of excitement and commitment. &ound familiar7
"?ut," you might say, "that%s (ust human nature. 6e humans are (ust made that way. $t is
only realism to ta)e it into consideration and ma)e 'lans to overcome such a'athy
re'eatedly." !his statement is true##it is human nature. ?ut it is fallen human nature in
other words, the flesh5
?ut have you ever met anyone who has learned to function on the basis of the new
covenant7 !hey don%t need re'eated meetings to whi' u' their enthusiasm. After
twenty#five years they%re still (ust as fresh and vital on the same (ob as they were the
day they started.
$ once met an old man who had been a missionary to the loggers in the bac) woods of
?ritish Columbia for forty years. Recently he had been retired by his mission, but his
3eal and enthusiasm for the 9ord%s wor) were unflagging. He had never grown weary of
his wor), though he was often weary in it, and if the mission would let him, he wanted to
go bac) to the woods again with confidence and courage, )nowing that the 9ord who
wor)ed through him was 'erfectly ade"uate for whatever would ha''en.
!he new covenant refreshes the s'irit continually. 6hen the human s'irit wea)ens in
the face of continued demand +as it was meant that it should2, it loo)s immediately to
the indwelling *od, to :ountain of 9iving 6ater, receiving vigor and vitality to meet the
day%s demands with eagerness and enthusiasm. =eo'le who live on that basis are a
delight to wor) with. !hey do not re"uire continual encouragement and outward
motivation +though they fully a''reciate the )ind words 'eo'le say to them2, for they
)now the secret of their activity is "nothing coming from me but everything from *od."
!hat is the 'ermanent glory which never fades. !he activity of the flesh is always a
fading glory.
The big psh
6ith these four contrasts =aul see)s to im'ress us with the total inade"uacy of the
flesh, des'ite a''earances, and the total ade"uacy of the &'irit, des'ite the evaluations
of men, whether of ourselves or others. $t is the energy of the flesh versus the 'ower of
the &'irit of life in Christ ;esus, as =aul 'uts it in Romans A. $f, as a Christian, you are
see)ing to live by your own resources rather than by the life of ;esus within you, you are
li)e a man who goes down to buy a car and doesn%t )now that it comes e"ui''ed with a
motor. 4aturally, a man buying a car on that basis would have to 'ush it home. 6hen he
gets there, he might invite his family out for a ride, so the wife gets in behind the wheel,
the )ids in the bac) seat, and he starts 'ushing from behind. At that 'oint you might
come along and as), "How do you li)e your car7"
"Oh, it is a tremendous car. 9oo) at the u'holstery, and get an eyeful of this color, and,
oh yes, listen to the horn##what a great horn this car has. ?ut, $ do find it rather
exhausting5 $t goes downhill beautifully, but if there is even the slightest rise in the
'avement, $ find myself 'anting and struggling and groaning. $t is very difficult to 'ush it
u'hill."
"6ell, my friend," you may say, "you do need hel'. Bou )now, at our church we are
having s'ecial meetings this wee). Our s'ea)er is s'ea)ing on the very sub(ect you
need to hear %How to =ush a Car &uccessfully5% On 8onday night he is going to show
us how to 'ush with the right shoulder. On !uesday night he will illustrate the techni"ues
of 'ushing with the left shoulder. On 6ednesday night he has colored slides and an
overhead 'ro(ector to show us how to really get our bac) into the wor) and 'ush. On
!hursday night he has committees and wor)sho's organi3ed that will hel' us all 'ush
more effectively, and on :riday night there will be a great dedication service where we
all come down in front to commit ourselves anew to the wor) of 'ushing cars. Come
every night next wee), and learn all there is to )now about how to 'ush a car
successfully5"
!hat is exactly where much of Christianity is being lived today. 6e s'end hours see)ing
to teach 'eo'le how to mobili3e all their human resources and try harder to get the (ob
done for *od. ?ut all we are mobili3ing is the flesh. 6e see) to build u' their confidence
in the 'ower of numbers, the hidden resources of the human s'irit, and the 'ossibilities
of a determined will.
?ut if we really wanted to hel' the man who is 'ushing his car, we would say something
li)e this. "9oo), come around here in front." 6e would lift u' the hood and say to him,
"Do you see this iron thing with all the wiggles coming out of it7 Do you )now what that
is7 $t%s a motor. A 'ower 'lant. !he ma)er of this car )new you would have the 'roblem
that you%ve been having and so he designed a 'ower 'lant that would enable you to go
u'hill as easily as downhill. 6hen you learn several sim'le things about o'erating the
motor, you will begin to ex'erience the 'ower. ;ust turn this )ey and the motor will start.
!hen you 'ull down that lever and ste' on the 'edal on the floor and away you go. Bou
do the steering, but the motor su''lies all the 'ower. Bou don%t have to 'ush at all. ;ust
sit bac) and you can go u' the highest hills with as much ease and relaxation as if you
were going downhill. Bou don%t need to worry for the motor is e"ual to whatever demand
you ma)e."
4ow that is what authentic Christianity is all about. *od )new that we human beings
aren%t ade"uate in ourselves to meet the demands life ma)es u'on us so he su''lied a
'ower 'lant##the life of ;esus himself. $t is 'erfectly ade"uate for the tas). Our 'art is to
learn to o'erate it correctly, then ma)e the choices necessary to steering. 6hen we do,
we ex'erience the restfulness of activity in the strength of Another. !hat is, indeed, a
sur'assing glory5
"et-s get going
=erha's many of you feel you would li)e to "uit reading at this 'oint. !he truth you have
already learned is so exhilarating that you%re anxious to sto' reading and start living. $
don%t blame you. !he adventure of new covenant living is wonderful to ex'erience. ?ut
the A'ostle =aul does not let us go at this 'oint. He has much more to say, and what he
says is absolutely necessary to ex'eriencing what *od would have for us.
6
THE ENEM7
1ITHIN
!homas Cranmer##archbisho' of Canterbury during the middle sixteenth century##was
noted for 'romoting the Reformation in Cngland, for disseminating the Coverdale
Cnglish ?ible, and for creating the liturgy of the Anglican Church. He re'udiated the rule
of the 'o'e in Rome and attem'ted to bring about a union between the Church of
Cngland and the 9utheran church of *ermany.
9ater, when 8ary !udor##a devout Roman Catholic##became Jueen of Cngland,
Cranmer was arrested and im'risoned in the !ower of 9ondon. He was convicted of
both treason and heresy, and was de'rived of slee' and sub(ected to almost continuous
"uestioning, brow#beating, and haranguing for several wee)s. He was often threatened
with torture and death. Inder this 'ressure, Cranmer signed a series of confessions, in
which he recanted his earlier su''ort for the Reformation, his 'roclaiming of salvation
by grace through faith, and his belief that the &cri'tures belonged to all the 'eo'le, not
(ust the Catholic clergy.
Cven though he signed the recantations that were demanded of him, and des'ite
'romises made to him that these signed documents would save him from torture and
death, the 'a'ers were 'resented as evidence against him in a final trial for treason.
!he court condemned him to death by burning at the sta)e##but told him the sentence
would not be carried out if he made a 'ublic recantation of his former beliefs. He was
ta)en before a large crowd at &t. 8ary%s Church, Oxford, to confess his former errors##
but instead of confessing, he declared, "8y conscience will not let me deny the truth any
longer, even to save my life. $ have signed seven recantations of the truth, and $ bitterly
regret each one. $ abhor my right hand for signing those recantations, and when they
ta)e me to the flames, $ shall hold my right hand steadfastly in the flames."
!he authorities sto''ed him in mid#s'eech, dragged him out of the church, and too) him
away to be executed. As the fire was being 're'ared, he trusted *od to give him the
strength to )ee' his 'romise, and he boldly thrust his right hand into the flames. !hen
he was bound to the sta)e, surrounded with wood, and 'ut to a martyr%s death.
?oldness5 !hat is the inevitable result of trust in *od, trust in the new covenant##
everything coming from *od, nothing coming from me. ?oldness, courage, and
confidence, of course, are (ust what 'eo'le everywhere are searching for. !hey
instinctively )now that effective action must issue from a courageous, confident s'irit.
!hey try in a thousand ways to summon u' that confidence from within, but they are
loo)ing in the wrong 'lace. !here is a form of boldness they can find in themselves, but
it will end as a fading glory.
?ut that is not the source of =aul%s boldness5 He has found the secret of true boldness.
His basis is different. "!herefore," says =aul in - Corinthians 1,-, "since we have such
a ho'e, we are very bold." !hat is =aul%s trium'hant conclusion to his discussion of the
two covenants at wor) in humanity. His boldness is rooted in a sure ho'e, a conviction
that *od is ready to wor) in him.
All who trust in this ho'e become noticeably bold. ?ecause they are not trusting in
themselves or in some effort they are ma)ing on behalf of *od but on *od himself, they
can be su'remely confident. And since success does not de'end any longer on their
dedication, their 3eal, their wisdom, their bac)ground or training, then they can be very
bold. $t is *od who will do it, and he can be de'ended u'on not to fail##though he very
well may ta)e some unex'ected route to accom'lish his ends.
6hen we can trust that *od is ca'able to wor) in any given situation, He delivers us
com'letely from the fear of failure. At that moment, what else can we be but invincibly
bold5
1hen Moses was afraid
=aul immediately goes on to say, "6e are not li)e 8oses, who would 'ut a veil over his
face to )ee' the $sraelites from ga3ing at it while the radiance was fading away" +-
Corinthians 1,12. On at least one occasion 8oses was not bold. He was, indeed, the
very o''osite5 He was fearful and threatened.
Here we learn something about 8oses which the Old !estament does not reveal. $n the
Old !estament account 8oses, was not aware of the shining of his face when he came
down from 8t. &inai. 4aturally it didn%t ta)e him long to learn that something unusual
was ha''ening when 'eo'le closed their eyes or shielded their faces in his 'resence. $t
actually became necessary for 8oses to cover his face with a veil when he tal)ed to
'eo'le. !here was nothing wrong with that. $t was a 'erfectly 'ro'er action in view of
the circumstances. ?ut 8oses soon )new something that the 'eo'le of $srael didn%t
)now !he glory was fading.
At first 8oses 'ut the veil on every morning because of the brightness of his face. ?ut
as time 'assed and the brightness faded to nothing more than a dim glow, he still wore
the veil each day.
4ow =aul raises the "uestion Why? 6hy did 8oses )ee' the veil on his face after the
glory had faded7 His answer 8oses was afraid. Afraid of what7 Afraid that the $sraelites
would see that the glory had faded5 He did not want them to see the end of the fading
glory. !he mar) of his 'rivilege and status before *od was disa''earing, and 8oses did
not want anyone to )now it. &o he did what millions have done ever since, he hid the
fact of his faded glory behind a facade, a veil. He did not let anyone see what was really
going on inside.
The 'eil of pride
$t is clear that =aul means this veil over the face of 8oses to be a symbol of a further
activity of the flesh, for he finds the same veil still around in his own day. !he ;ews of
his time were a continuing exam'le. He writes
?ut their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old
covenant is read. $t has not been removed, because only in Christ is it ta)en away. Cven
to this day when 8oses is read, a veil covers their hearts. ?ut whenever anyone turns to
the 9ord, the veil is ta)en away +- Corinthians 1,@#,.2.
6hen 8oses brought the !en Commandments down from the mountain, he read them
to the 'eo'le. !heir immediate res'onse was "All that *od says, we will do." !he
confidence and 'ride of the flesh rose u' to say, "6e%ve got what it ta)es to do
everything you say, *od. Don%t worry about us. 6e are your faithful 'eo'le, and
whatever you say, we will do." !he truth was, of course, that before the day was over
they had bro)en all ten of the commandments. !hey )new it, but they didn%t want
anyone else to )now. &o they 'ut u' a facade. !hey covered over their failure with
religious ritual and convinced themselves that the ritual was all *od wanted. !hat 'ride
which would not admit failure was the veil that hid the end of the fading glory. !hey
could not see the death that was waiting at the end. And they could not feel the
frustration and defeat that would be theirs when the flesh had finished its fatal wor).
:ifteen hundred years after 8oses, =aul found the same veil at wor) in $srael. !he ;ews
of his day made the same res'onse to the demands of the law as their forefathers had
made at 8t. &inai "All that you say, we will do5" 4ow, two thousand years after =aul the
same 'henomenon is occurring. 6hen some demand is made u'on the natural life, its
res'onse is, "All right, $%ll do it," or at least, "$%ll try." Cven in Christians, the confidence
that they can do something for *od blinds their eyes to the end of the fading glory. !hey
believe that something good can be accom'lished if they (ust give it the old college try.
&o today that same veil remains unlifted.
&alse fronts
Deils come in many forms today, but they are always essentially the same An image or
front we 'ro(ect to others, and behind which we hide our real selves. !hey are always,
therefore, a form of 'ride and hy'ocrisy. 6e don%t want 'eo'le to see our fading glory.
Actually, we are reluctant to admit it has ha''ened even to ourselves. And by wearing
our veils long enough there is great danger that we will actually begin to believe that we
are the )ind of 'eo'le we want everyone to believe we are. !hen our hy'ocrisy
becomes unnoticed by us and its 'er'etuation is assured. !his is that subtle
deceitfulness of the heart which ;eremiah saw so clearly and lamented "!he heart is
deceitful above all things and beyond cure. 6ho can understand it7" +;eremiah ,0G2.
Bes, the veils we em'loy are unbelievably varied. =ride has a thousand faces. $t is a
master of disguise. C. &. 9ewis has rightly said,
!here is one vice of which no man in the world is free< which everyone in the world
loathes when he sees it in someone else< and of which hardly any 'eo'le, exce't
Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. . . . !here is no fault which
ma)es a man more un'o'ular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in
ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves+ cuanto mas lo tenemos2, the more we
disli)e it in others. !he vice $ am tal)ing of is =ride or &elf#Conceit< and the virtue
o''osite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility +!ere hristianity, '. ,H.2.
Bet des'ite the un'o'ularity which 'ride creates for us, these innocent#seeming veils
are so necessary to our ego su''ort that we invent many clever ways to 'reserve them.
One is to have a "double entry" system of names. 6hen a form of 'ride a''ears in
others, we have one name for it< when the same thing a''ears in us, we have a nicer
name for it. Others have 're(udices< we have convictions. Others are conceited< we
have self#res'ect. Others garishly )ee' u' with the ;oneses< we sim'ly try to get ahead.
Others blow u', or lose their tem'ers< we are sei3ed with righteous indignation.
C. &. 9ewis suggests that only Christians become aware of 'ride in themselves.
Certainly it is true that most non#Christians, if they see 'ride in themselves at all, regard
it as a virtue rather than a vice. ?ut unfortunately, being a Christian does not guarantee
easy recognition of all forms of 'ride. Christians are 'articularly susce'tible to donning
certain veils, es'ecially those which a''ear to be forms of Christian virtue.
!a)e false modesty, for exam'le. $ have long ago learned that when $ hear some
Christian say, "$%m only trying to serve the 9ord in my own humble way," $%m 'robably
tal)ing to the 'roudest 'erson in six counties5 &t. ;erome warned "?eware of the 'ride
of humility." $ once heard of a congregation that gave its 'astor a medal for humility##
then too) it away because he wore it5 !rue humility, of course, is never aware of itself. $t
is most noteworthy that the greatest saints have been most aware of their 'ride. And the
truly humble 'erson would never see this virtue in himself. Any degree of 'ious cant is a
dead giveaway of the 'resence of towering 'ride.
4eils #hristians wear
!hen there is self#righteousness. !his is a 'articularly noxious form of Christian 'ride. $t
sei3es u'on some biblical standard of conduct and ta)es 'ride in its own ability to
measure u' outwardly while conveniently overloo)ing any failure of the inner or thought
life to conform. !he end result is a smug, 'atroni3ing, and even nasty attitude toward
anyone who does not meet the standard. !his is the sin ;esus struc) at most forcibly.
He ex'osed it in the =harisees and said that even the adulterers and the extortioners
would enter the )ingdom of heaven before them. $t is the sin of the crusader who
habitually mounts a white horse and rides out to combat any form of evil which he
considers re'rehensible.
&elf#righteousness is also the sin of the 'erson who nags another, for the nagger is
focusing u'on a single 'oint of conduct and ignores the areas in his or her own life
where a similar failure is occurring. $nstinctively, we retreat behind this veil whenever
failure or wea)ness is ex'osed in us. +"$ may be wea) there, but at least $ don%t do such#
and#such."2 6e )ee' self#righteous veils always close at hand so they can be 'ut on
"uic)ly to )ee' others from seeing the end of the fading glory.
Another common Christian veil is sensitivity or touchiness. =ersons who are touchy or
excessively sensitive are easily hurt by the words or actions of others. !hey must be
handled with )id gloves lest they ta)e offense. And when offended, they suffer agonies
of s'irit and tend to wallow in a morass of self#'ity for hours, or even days, on end.
!heir ex'lanation of such agony is always the "thoughtlessness" or "rudeness" of
others, but in reality it is their own 'rotest at not being given the attention or 'rominence
which they%re sure they deserve. Bears ago a wise Christian woman summed it u' for
me in a brief statement $%ll never forget. "$%ve learned," she said, "that sensitivity is
nothing but selfishness." !hat hel'ed greatly to free me from a struggle $ was having
with touchiness at the time.
An im'atient s'irit can be a veil to hide the reality of what we are. $t is often manifested
to indicate im'ortance or busyness. $t fre"uently a''ears as a mar) of 3eal or
dedication. ?ut to be easily irritated, to frown readily, or re'ly shar'ly is a form of 'ride
usually used to cover insecurity or a dee' sense of inferiority. A self#(ustifying habit
reveals something similar. !hose 'eo'le who can%t stand to be misunderstood but are
forever ex'laining their actions are really saying, "$ want you to thin) $%m 'erfect. Of
course, $ )now that the 'resent situation does not let me a''ear so, but if you will (ust let
me ex'lain..." $t is no wonder this habit is fre"uently associated with what is called
'erfectionism,
?ut 'erha's the most common veil em'loyed by Christians is remoteness the 'ractice
of )ee'ing feelings and attitudes com'letely to oneself, even with friends or close
relatives. Remoteness arises 'rimarily from fear##the fear of being )nown for what one
is. Often, though, it is described defensively as "reserve," "'rivacy," or "reticence." $t is
clearly a veil to )ee' others from seeing a fading glory and is a direct violation of such
biblical commands as "confess your sins to each other and 'ray for each other so that
you may be healed" +;ames /,.2 and "carry each other%s burdens, and in this way you
will fulfill the law of Christ" +*alatians .-2. After all, how can another bear your burden if
you don%t share it7
All of these commands are summed u' in the direct and re'eated command of ;esus, "
9ove each other" +;ohn ,/,-2, which he goes on to define as including, among other
elements, the sharing of secrets +see ;ohn ,/,/2. =aul tells the Corinthian believers +in
- Corinthians .,,2 that he has o'ened his heart fully to them and exhorts them "As a
fair exchange## $ s'ea) as to my children##o'en wide your hearts also." +- Corinthians
.,12.
The big lie
$t is a''arent from the above exam'les that the flesh, or natural life, li)es nothing better
than to hide or disguise itself. 6e all tend to fear re(ection if we are seen for what we
are. !he satanic lie is that in order to be li)ed or acce'ted we must a''ear ca'able or
successful. !herefore we either 'ro(ect ca'ability +the extrovert2 or we see) to hide our
failure +the introvert2. !he new covenant offers the o''osite. $f we will admit our
inade"uacy, we can have *od%s ade"uacy, and all we have sought vainly to 'roduce
+confidence, success, im'act, integrity, and reality2 is given to us at the 'oint of our
inability. !he )ey is to ta)e away the veil.
A modern songwriter, ;ohn :ischer, has ca'tured, with delicious humor, the tendency of
evangelical Christians to wear veils. Cn(oy a good laugh at your own ex'ense.
E'angelical 4eil %rodctions
Cvangelical Deil =roductions5
=ic) one u' at "uite a reduction<
*ot all )inds of sha'es and si3es<
$ntroductory bonus 'ri3es5
&'ecial "uality, one#way see through<
Bou can see them but they can%t see you.
4ever have to show yourself again5
;ust released##A 8oses model<
Comes with shine in a 'lastic bottle,
$t ma)es you loo) li)e you%ve (ust seen the 9ord5
;ust one daily a''lication
And you%ll fool the congregation,
*uaranteed to last a whole wee) through.
*ot a ?ac)#from#the#&ummer#Cam' veil,
6ith a 8ountain#to' loo) that%ll never fail,
As long as you renew it every year.
9ots of s'ecial ;esus frea) files,
every one comes with a 'ermanent smile,
One#way button, and a stic)er for your car.
56epeat first verse77then shout%8
BOI%RC =RO!CC!CD5
+Ised by 'ermission of author2
The great n'eiling
How can these veils be removed7 !he answer is clearly stated by =aul in the &cri'ture
'assage we are considering
?ut their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old
covenant is read. $t has not been removed, because only in hrist is it ta"en away. Cven
to this day when 8oses is read, a veil covers their hearts. ?ut whenever anyone turns to
the 9ord, the veil is ta"en away +- Corinthians 1,@#,.2.
Only in Christ is the veil ta)en away5 And as the a'ostle goes on to tell us, "4ow the
9ord is the &'irit, and where the &'irit of the 9ord is, there is freedom" +v. ,02. Here is
our first real )ey in moving from the old covenant to the new. !he )ey is the &'irit. &ome
may be confused by =aul%s word that only through Christ can the veil be ta)en away.
!hey may wonder, "Are we to turn to the &'irit or to Christ to have the veil removed7"
!he answer, of course, is that it ma)es no difference.
$n &cri'ture, the Holy &'irit is fre"uently called the &'irit of Christ. $t is His divine tas)
and (oy to enter the life of those who believe in ;esus and continually unleash in them
the very life of ;esus himself. !hus, to turn to the &'irit is also to turn to Christ. $t is by
means of the &'irit that we turn to Christ.
6e must further see that in 'ractical terms "to turn to the &'irit" means to have faith in
the 'romise of the &'irit, to trust the word of *od. $t is to ex'ect the &'irit to act in line
with what he has said he will do. &'ecifically, the 'romise is to a''ly to our 'ractical,
daily lives the full value of both the death and the resurrection of ;esus. His death has
cut us off from our old, natural life, as =aul tells us in Romans ..##":or we )now that
our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that
we should no longer be slaves to sin."
6hen we agree with this word concerning the s'ecific form of 'ride we are at the
moment ex'eriencing +that is, the 'articular veil we are hiding behind2, we are
immediately freed by the &'irit from its control. 6e have called the veil what *od calls
it, which is usually also what we call it when we find it in someone else. $t can no longer
be excused or (ustified##we re'udiate it, and the fleeting 'leasure it offers us. !hat is
what it means to turn to the &'irit. As =aul describes it,". . . if (y the Spirit you 'ut to
death the misdeeds of the body, you will live +Romans A,1, em'hasis added2.
Remember, we turn to the 9ord, the veil is removed##and the 9ord is the &'irit.
&ree to li'e
!he second function of the &'irit is to ma)e real to us in 'ractical terms the resurrection
of ;esus, as well as His death. !his is the second 'art of "turning to the 9ord." !he first
act of the &'irit ends the reign of the old life over us. !he second act releases to us the
resurrected life of ;esus. !hat is what the &cri'ture calls freedom. "4ow the 9ord is the
&'irit," says verse ,0, "and where the &'irit of the 9ord is, there is freedom."
6hen by faith in that 'romise we have turned from the flesh with its lying 'romise of
success and have trusted in the 9ord ;esus, dwelling within us by His &'irit, to be ready
to wor) the moment we choose to act, we have in very 'ractical terms 'assed from the
old covenant to the new. 4othing coming from us, everything coming from *od5 !hat is
freedom5
!he a'ostle goes on to describe this freedom in glorious terms "And we, who with
unveiled faces all reflect the 9ord%s glory, are being transformed into his li)eness with
ever#increasing glory, which comes from the 9ord, who is the &'irit" +- Corinthians
-,A2. 4ote the term unveiled faces. ?y faith in the 'romise of *od +that is, by the &'irit2
we have ceased to loo) at the face of 8oses and are now beholding with full vision "the
glory of *od in the face of ;esus Christ." !he veil is removed. 8oses and the law are
gone< only ;esus Christ fills the hori3on of our life##for that 'recise moment. $t is
altogether 'ossible that a minute or two later we may, li)e =eter wal)ing on the water,
ta)e our eyes off the face of ;esus and begin to loo) once again at our circumstances
and our limited resources. At that moment, of course, 8oses and the law return. !he
tem'tation to do this is not the act, and we can find our faith sorely tested while still
having it fixed u'on the face of ;esus. ?ut when we succumb to these 'ressures and
begin to trust ourselves or others, we are bac) in the old covenant, wearing a veil over
our faces, and must re'eat the whole 'rocess for deliverance.
God is not angry
?ut let us not des'air or feel condemned when this ha''ens. Remember that *od has
already made full 'rovision for failure in learning to live by the &'irit. He antici'ates our
struggles and our defeats and only ex'ects us to recogni3e them as well and return
immediately to the 'rinci'le of the new covenant. *od is not angry with us or u'set
because we have fallen. 6e are angry at ourselves, 'erha's, but that only shows us
more fully how much we were ex'ecting something to come from us. 6e need but to
than) *od for letting us see what we were unwittingly trusting in and then resume our
confidence that ;esus is at wor) in us as we ta)e u' the tas) at hand again.
!his continual return to beholding the glory of the 9ord is doing something to us, says
=aul. 8ore and more areas of our conscious ex'erience +our soul2 are coming under
the full control of the &'irit, and we are therefore reflecting an increasing li)eness to
;esus< we are being changed into his li)eness from one degree of glory to another. !his
is what we often call "Christian growth" or "growing in grace." ?ecause of constant
'ractice of the 'rinci'le of the new covenant, it is increasingly easy to )ee' the eyes of
the heart fixed on the face of ;esus. *radually it feels more and more "natural" to wal)
in the &'irit and not in the flesh. !he writer of Hebrews s'ea)s of those "who by
constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" +Hebrews /,@2. $t
is still 'ossible, under sufficient 'rovocation or allurement, to act in the flesh in any
given relationshi' of life, but it is increasingly unli)ely, for the heart is being
"strengthened by grace" +Hebrews ,1G2.
!hough this gracious effect is occurring in certain areas of the conscious life, it has not
yet con"uered all the areas in which we live. "*lory," the glory of the life of ;esus, is
becoming dominant in some areas, but in others the flesh still reigns trium'hant and
must be attac)ed and subdued by the &'irit so that another degree of glory may
become evident. 6hat is ha''ening has often been 'ictured as a throne room in the
heart, where at first Cgo +symboli3ed by the letter C2 is seated u'on the throne, and
Christ +symboli3ed by the cross2 is waiting to be given his rightful 'lace of rule, as in the
illustration below.
6hen the human will +the throne2 is submitted to the authority of Christ, the Cgo is cast
off the throne and Christ rules as 9ord in the heart, as illustrated below
Growth is a process
!hese diagrams have been hel'ful to many, but are inade"uate, for they re'resents the
human heart as a single entity and the will as a single factor governing the whole of the
inner life at one time. $ believe it is more accurate to recogni3e the word heart,
commonly em'loyed in &cri'ture, as referring to the soul and s'irit combined, as below
!HC &=$R$! O: *OD =C4C!RA!C&
!HC HI8A4 &=$R$! C*O $& DC!HRH4CD
4ote in this illustration that at the conversion of the individual, the &'irit of *od
'enetrates the human s'irit, dethrones the Cgo +or the flesh2, and re'laces it with the
Cross, de'icting the life of ;esus. ?ut that is only within the human spirit. !he soul is still
under the control of the flesh and remains so until the &'irit successively invades each
area or relationshi' and establishes the 9ordshi' of ;esus within. !his is im'ortant to
understand There is a throne in every area of the human soul* !he "uestion of 9ordshi'
is fought out anew in each area, as indicated in the illustration below
!HC HO9B &=$R$! $4DADC& ARCA& O: !HC &OI9
K L !HC 9ORD&H$= O: CHR$&!
C L C*O, OR :9C&H, $4 CO4!RO9
The p,and,down life
!his would ex'lain why it is 'ossible for an individual Christian to be in the &'irit one
moment and in the flesh the next. A good biblical exam'le of this is in 8atthew ,.,.
where =eter confesses to ;esus, "Bou are the Christ, the &on of the living *od." !o this,
;esus re'lies, "?lessed are you, &imon son of ;onah, for this was not revealed to you
by man, but by my :ather in heaven." $t is clear here that =eter s'o)e in the &'irit when
he made his confession of the identity of ;esus.
However, in verse -- of the same account, =eter actually rebu)es ;esus for suggesting
that he will be crucified and resurrected again. !o this rebu)e ;esus says, "*et behind
me, &atan5 Bou are a stumbling bloc) to me< you do not have in mind the things of *od,
but the things of men." Here =eter s'ea)s from the flesh in ignorant o''osition to the
will and 'ur'ose of *od.
$t is evident that when it was a "uestion of =eter%s rational acce'tance or re(ection of the
identity of ;esus, the &'irit had already successfully enthroned ;esus as 9ord in that
area of =eter%s life. ?ut when it came to the matter of =eter%s involvement with the
'rogram of crucifixion and resurrection which that identity made necessary, the flesh
was still very much on the throne and ;esus was not yet 9ord of that area. ?ut that was
all in the realm of =eter%s soul +his conscious ex'erience2. $n his human s'irit, ;esus
was 9ord and had been ever since =eter res'onded to ;esus% call and entered into life.
$t is "uite 'ossible then for you habitually to wal) in the &'irit in one area of life##say,
your relations with Christian brothers and sisters##but 'erha's the moment you are
involved with a member of your immediate family, you enter an area where the flesh is
still uncon"uered and s'eech and attitudes are fleshly instead of &'irit#governed. !his
fre"uently ha''ens with young Christians. :rom his vantage 'oint in your human s'irit
the &'irit of *od exerts steady and unyielding 'ressure u'on the area of family
relationshi's, often 'reci'itating several crises, until the will submits in that area and
;esus is enthroned as 9ord there too. !hus another degree of li)eness to Christ is
achieved and another degree of glory manifested.
=erha's it is the sex life which holds out against the control of the &'irit. Or it may be
the vocational life. 8any a businessman has learned to live in the &'irit on &undays, but
on 8onday morning when he ste's across the threshold of his office, he says, in effect,
"Here $ am in control. $ have been trained to handle affairs here, and $ don%t need *od%s
hel'. $ )now what is ex'ected of me and $ can handle things on my own." !hat, of
course, is the old covenant in its 'urest form, and such a 'rocedure will guarantee the
'resence in that businessman of many forms of death de'ression, boredom,
resentment, anxiety, tension, and so on.
&ighting a battle already won
&ince we can live only in one area of relationshi's of our life at any given moment, it is
evident that we can be in a &'irit#controlled area one moment and in a flesh#dominated
area the next. !his is why we can be a great 'erson to live with one minute +delightful,
because we are in the &'irit2 and then a moment later some old habit 'attern of the
flesh reasserts itself and we are right bac) in our old covenant behavior##harsh, nasty,
or cruel. 6hen we become aware of those feelings within, we )now we will lose our
Christian re'utation if they are allowed to show, so we snatch an evangelical veil and
hide the fading glory.
?ut how encouraging to )now that the &'irit will never give u' the battle. He see)s in a
thousand ways to invade each se'arate relationshi' of the soul, and gradually He is
doing so##sometimes faster, as we yield to him< sometimes very slowly, as we resist and
cling to our veils. !he more we wor) and live with the face of ;esus clearly in view, the
more "uic)ly we find each area of our life being changed into His li)eness. 6e cannot
do that wor). $t is, as =aul says, all "from the 9ord who is the &'irit." He will never cease
the wor) he has begun.
8
THE ENEM7
1ITHO5T
$f you loo) u' the biogra'hy of *eneral ;ohn &edgwic) in an encyclo'edia, it will tell you
he is a Inion officer who was )illed in action at the ?attle of the 6ilderness in the Civil
6ar. ?ut it 'robably won%t tell you how he died. Here is the story
!he general was wal)ing along the wall of a fortification, ins'ecting his troo's. He came
to a notch in the 'rotective 'ara'et of the fort, where he 'aused for a moment to loo)
out across the battlefield toward the enemy lines.
One of &edgwic)%s officer%s cleared his throat nervously. "*eneral," he said, "$ don%t thin)
it%s safe to stand there. Bou are ex'osed to the enemy%s mu33le."
"4onsense," the general re'lied confidently. "!hey couldn%t hit an ele'hant at this dist##"
And those were his last words. $t doesn%t 'ay to underestimate your enemy. $n the
s'iritual realm, our enemy is &atan, and many Christians have made the fatal mista)e of
underestimating his deadly 'ower. $n this cha'ter, we ta)e a closer loo) at our enemy so
that we can better understand##and defend ourselves against##his strategy.
Or (inistry
As we have already seen, on the basis of the new covenant, inner 'roblems##fear,
tension, hostility, inade"uacy, or shame##can be "uic)ly handled as we enthrone ;esus
Christ in our lives and trust His love and care for us. $n this way, we are left free to
concentrate on the ministry before us##a ministry =aul refers to +with that eternal
o'timism that mar)ed his a'ostolic career2, when he says, "!herefore, since through
*od%s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart" +- Corinthians @,2. $n the
original *ree) the word translated "this" is very definitive< "this )ind of a ministry" is the
thought. !he )ind he refers to is that which he has (ust described a ministry in the new
covenant where all veils are removed by a re'eated turning to the 9ord, and where the
&'irit within reveals the character of Christ in ever#increasing areas of life.
How can there be room for discouragement in that )ind of a ministry7 !here will be
failures, for the flesh is wily and elusive, but they need only be momentary setbac)s. $n
any case, *od never intended that our mista)es should 'roduce condemnation in our
lives. Rather, each mista)e we ma)e is to be a learning ex'erience which leads to our
growth, restoration, and renewed activity in the strength of the 9ord. ?ecause we have
been given this ministry by a merciful *od, we do not lose heart##even when we ma)e
mista)es. ?y *od%s mercy, we 'ic) ourselves u' and )ee' moving forward.
6hatever form our ministry ta)es, it will bear the characteristic mar)s of the new
covenant##sim'licity, liberty, and effectiveness. =aul describes it in these terms "Rather,
we have renounced secret and shameful ways< we do not use dece'tion, nor do we
distort the word of *od. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth 'lainly we commend
ourselves to every man%s conscience in the sight of *od" +- Corinthians @-2.
$n line with the two#ste' wal) in the &'irit which we discussed in the 'revious cha'ter,
we have here also a negative and 'ositive descri'tion of a new covenant ministry. :irst,
the negative "6e have renounced secret and shameful ways< we do not use dece'tion,
nor do we distort the word of *od." Once again the first century sounds strangely li)e
our own. $n =aul%s time there were men +and surely, women too2 who felt it necessary to
'roduce instant and visible results in order to a''ear successful in their ministry. $t didn%t
matter whether the ministry was a 'ublic or 'rivate one, success rested u'on obtaining
some visible sign of achievement. Conse"uently, they turned to what =aul calls "secret
and shameful ways" to 'roduce the desired results.
$t is only necessary to note the similar activities of our own day to )now s'ecifically what
these disgraceful tactics were. Indoubtedly they consisted of 'sychological gimmic)s,
'ressure tactics, emotional 'leas, heavy#handed demands, (ust as we see all too
fre"uently today. !hey would also include high#'owered 'romotional cam'aigns, self#
advertising 'osters and handouts, and the continual em'hasis u'on numbers as an
indicator of success. !here is, of course, a legitimate use of 'ublicity for informational
'ur'oses, but 'romotion is something else again. $t was ;esus who warned, ":or
whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted"
+8atthew -1,-2.
$n straightforward fashion, =aul renounced all these 'sychological tric)s to gain
im'ressive results. =erha's he had even 'racticed them himself in the days of his
'hariseeism, and even, for awhile, after he became a Christian. ?ut no more. !hey were
not needed for a "ualified minister of the new covenant. :urthermore, he refused to
'ractice dece'tion +or, as the R&D has it, "cunning"2, as evidently many others were
doing in his day. !he thought behind "cunning" is a readiness to try anything. $t conveys
the idea of being un'rinci'led, without morals or scru'les. $n these days of religious
rac)eteers, it hardly re"uires any enlarging u'on. $t is sim'le ex'ediency, (ustifying the
means by the a''arently good ends achieved.
A final state of dishonesty was reached by those who descended to actually tam'ering
with the 6ord of *od to obtain the a''earance of success they desired. !his was not,
as we might thin) today, an altering of the text of the ?ible. !here were very few co'ies
of the &cri'tures available in the first century. $t meant, rather, a twisting of the meaning
of &cri'ture or a misa''lication of truth##a 'ressing of it to unwarranted extremes. A
case in 'oint is that of Hymeneas and =hiletus who taught that the resurrection was
already 'ast +- !imothy -,0#,A2. 6hile they didn%t deny the resurrection, they tam'ered
with the 6ord of *od by relegating the resurrection to the 'ast. $t was 'robably a result
of teaching 'artial truth instead of the entire sco'e of revelation. 8any of the newer
cults emerging today are em'loying this tactic to the confusion and hurt of many. !rue,
this all sounds biblical, but it is actually tam'ering with the 6ord of *od by subtle and
devious means.
No boasting needed
4one of these a''roaches is needed in a new covenant ministry, =aul declares. !hey
mar) the very antithesis of it, and the a''earance of any of them in a ministry would
indicate the indulgence of the flesh. !here are a thousand or more ways by which the
flesh can see) to counterfeit the wor) of the &'irit, and they are all aimed at one 'oint
the achieving of an a''earance of "success," which can then be used to MMenhance the
'restige or status of the 'ersons concerned. ?ecause these 'ractices are so 'revalent
in our day +as they evidently were in the first century, too2 many young, relatively
immature Christians are caught u' in them without reali3ing it. &ince few voices are
raised to challenge them, such 'ractices are easily acce'ted as 'ro'er. ?ut it is at this
'oint that the 6ord of *od must (udge us all. As =aul says a little later in this same
letter, "?ut, %9et him who boasts boast in the 9ord.% :or it is not the one who commends
himself who is a''roved, but the one whom the 9ord commends" +- Corinthians ,H,0#
,A2.
$n star) contrast to the multi'licity of evil is the sim'licity of truth. $n a great 'ositive
declaration, the a'ostle describes his own 'ractice and the 'ractice of all who labor in
the liberty and sweetness of the new covenant "...by setting forth the truth 'lainly we
commend ourselves to every man%s conscience in the sight of *od" +- Corinthians
@-b2.
!here is a 'recise and clear definition of a new covenant ministry as it would a''ear in
any 'ublic manifestation. !he method is single and invariable "by the o'en statement of
the truth." 4othing more is ever needed. !he truth as it is in ;esus is so radical, so
startling in its breadth of dimension, so universal, so relevant to human life everywhere
that no 'sychological tric)s are needed to 'ro' it u' and ma)e it effective or interesting.
$t is the most ca'tivating sub(ect )nown, for it concerns man himself, and at his dee'est
levels.
Right before God
!he goal of =aul%s 'roclamation is e"ually clear "we commend ourselves to every
man%s conscience." !he conscience, as used here, is the will of the human s'irit as
contrasted to that more fluctuating and flexible entity, the will of the soul. $t is what a
man )nows he "ought" to do, whether he always does it or not. $t is the dee' awareness
within every 'erson of what it ta)es to be the )ind of 'erson he or she admires and
basically wants to be.
!o a''eal to the conscience, therefore, is to see) to ca'ture the whole man body, soul,
and s'irit##mentally, emotionally, and volitionally. $t does not aim at mere intellectual
agreement and certainly not at a shallow emotional commitment. Rather, it see)s to
im'ress the conscience that commitment to ;esus is right< that is, in line with reality, and
the only way to true fulfillment. $t does not, therefore, demand immediate and visible
results, though it will welcome any that may come< it is content to allow time for the
growth of the seed that is 'lanted and recogni3es that individuals can only 'ro'erly
res'ond to what they clearly 'erceive and understand.
:inally, this is to be done "in the sight of *od." As we have seen, this means an
awareness that *od is watching all that is done, a''raising it and see)ing to correct it
where needed. ?ut the 'hrase suggests even more. &ince the new covenant is
"everything coming from *od," it means also that the inner eye of the soul is loo)ing to
*od for the su''ly of 'ower and resource to ma)e the ministry effective. !he
res'onsibility for results is 'laced s"uarely on *od alone. !his is what gives the s'irit of
the wor)er a sense of serenity and 'eace. He or she is free to be an instrument in *od%s
hands. !hat is the new covenant ministry in its outreach to the world.
That 'eil again
At this 'oint in =aul%s letter the un'leasant realities of life intrude again. !hat is the glory
of the gos'el< it never deals merely with the ideal but with life as it is, "warts and all."
$deally, if *od is res'onsible for results and is desirous that all men be saved, then
whenever the gos'el is 'reached or taught there should be many res'onses. ?ut in
actual 'ractice, this is not always true. 6hat about those times7 !o this im'lied "uestion
the a'ostle res'onds "And even if our gos'el is veiled, it is veiled to those who are
'erishing. !he god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot
see the light of the gos'el of the glory of Christ, who is the image of *od" +- Corinthians
@1#@2.
Once again the veil of 'ride a''ears in this discussion. !he reference this time is not to
the veils which evangelicals em'loy but to those used by worldly men and women when
they are confronted with the good news about ;esus. =aul referred earlier to the
'henomenon of being at the same time "life unto life" to some who hear his 'reaching
and "death unto death" to others. !he latter fail to see anything good in the "good news"
because there is a veil over their minds, obscuring their ability to 'erceive the truth. !o
them the gos'el a''ears unrealistic, remote from real life, ma)ing its a''eal only to
those who have a strea) of "religion" in them. ?ut it is their outloo) which is the illusion.
And here is where we glim'se the enemy without. As =aul 'uts it, "!he god of this age
E&atanF has blinded the minds of unbelievers." As always, &atan uses 'ride to blind their
eyes. !hey are so confident of their own ability to handle life, so sure that they have
what it ta)es to solve their 'roblems. !o them, therefore, ;esus a''ears to be
dis'ensable, hardly worth considering. !hey fail to see that He stands at the center of
life and that all reality derives its content from him. !o argue against Him is to argue with
the very 'ower that ma)es it 'ossible to ta)e the breath which voices the argument5
;esus is 9ord, whether men )now it or not, and ultimately "at the name of ;esus every
)nee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue
confess that ;esus Christ is 9ord, to the glory of *od the :ather" +=hili''ians -,H#,,2.
2on-t dodge life,,or death
$t is hel'ful to )now (ust when this satanic blinding ta)es 'lace. A su'erficial reading of
the 'assage leaves the im'ression that the minds are blinded or veiled after they hear
the gos'el 'reached. !hey hear it and re(ect it and, as a conse"uence, their minds are
blinded. !hat is the common way of understanding this 'assage. ?ut =aul declares that
the blinding is to )ee' 'eo'le from seeing the light of the gos'el, therefore it must occur
(efore the gos'el is heard. !hey are called "unbelievers," not because they don%t
believe the gos'el, but because there is something else they have not believed in even
before the gos'el was heard. 6hat is that7 $t is reality, the way things really are. !he
god of this world, the enemy without, has successfully accustomed them to live by
illusions which they ta)e to be reality. !hey are not willing to face life as it is. 8en are
turned away from truth long before they hear the gos'el because they refuse to
examine life realistically.
A common exam'le of this is the way many 'eo'le avoid the word death. Death is an
un'leasant sub(ect, yet it is a star) reality with which every one of us must ultimately
wrestle. 6atch how uncomfortable many 'eo'le are at funerals and how they want the
service to be as short as 'ossible in order to return to the familiar illusions they regard
as real. $nstead of gra''ling with the fact of death and facing its im'lications in life right
now +which might very well 're'are them to believe the gos'el when they hear it2, they
choose to run away and hide their heads in the sand until the inevitable encounter with
death leaves them no way of esca'e.
Csca'ism can be seen in many other ways, as well. 8ost 'eo'le do not li)e to see
themselves as they really are. !hey choose to believe a more acce'table image of
themselves, even though there may come moments of truth when they suddenly see
themselves unveiled. &ome 'eo'le train themselves to avoid anything un'leasant or
difficult, and so they find themselves unwittingly tra''ed by the god of this world into
believing fantasies and treating illusions as though they were real. &uch 'eo'le are very
difficult to reach with the gos'el. !o them it is often a fragrance of death unto death.
Bet, occasionally, one meets non#Christians who have been trained to face life
realistically and not to run from difficult things. !hey are usually those who have had a
considerable amount of self#disci'line and are accustomed to ta)ing orders from
someone else. :or exam'le, soldiers fre"uently fit this descri'tion. I'on hearing the
gos'el these )ind of individuals often acce't it immediately. !o them ;esus "fits." !hey
sense immediately that he is that missing center they have long been see)ing. !here is
no veil over their eyes.
The secret of being li)e God
$t is tragic, though, that those who fail to see the gos'el as reality are turning away from
the very thing they most des'erately want to find. !he center of the gos'el is Christ, and
Christ, as =aul tells us here, is the li)eness of *od. !herefore, what is lost to these
'eo'le is the secret of godli)eness##and that is what men long for more than anything
else. *od is a totally inde'endent being, having no need within himself for anyone or
anything else, and yet, in love, giving himself freely to all his creatures. $t is that same
)ind of inde'endence which humanity craves. !o most 'eo'le, that is the essence of
godli)eness, and that is why 'eo'le are clamoring, "9et me be myself5 $%ve gotta be me5"
6hat 'eo'le fail to understand, in this veiled view of reality, is that such inde'endence
for human beings must arise out of de'endence. $t is *od%s desire that 'eo'le be
godli)e. He wants us to be inde'endent of all other creatures or things in the universe
'recisely because we are totally de'endent on him.
$t was no lie for &atan to say to Cve in the garden, "$f you eat of this fruit you will
become li)e *od." $t was very difficult for Cve to see anything wrong with that because,
after all, that was what *od wanted. He desires godli)e 'eo'le. !his is a''arent
throughout &cri'ture. "6hat is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you
care for him7 Bou made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him
with glory and honor" +=salm A@#/2. 6hat Cve did not understand was that only through
Christ is godli)eness 'ossible. =aul ex'resses his own ama3ement over the conce't in
, !imothy 1,., "?eyond all "uestion, the mystery of godliness is great He a''eared in
a body..." *odli)eness is, of course, the new covenant in action##"everything coming
from *od, nothing coming from me.
The light dawns
6ell, what about these 'eo'le whose minds are blinded7 Are they without ho'e7 $s
there no way to reach them in their dar)ness7 =aul%s answer to that is magnificent ":or
we do not 'reach ourselves, but ;esus Christ as 9ord, and ourselves as your servants
for ;esus% sa)e. :or *od, who said, "9et light shine out of dar)ness," made his light
shine in our hearts to give us the light of the )nowledge of the glory of *od in the face of
Christ" +- Corinthians @/,.2.
=aul%s argument is that the 'reaching of ;esus as 9ord +the center and heart of all
reality, the One in control of all events2 is a message that is honored by *od, and *od is
a being of incredible 'ower and authority. $n fact, He is the one who at creation
commanded the light to shine out of dar)ness. 4otice, he did not command the light to
shine into the dar)ness##He literally commanded the dar)ness to 'roduce light5
4ow why are these 'eo'le 'erishing7 !heir minds, =aul said, are blinded< that is, they
live in dar)ness. !hey have already turned from the normal way by which *od 'ro'oses
to save men##that is, by an honest res'onse to reality +see Hebrews ,,.2. ?ut their
case is not ho'eless, for the *od whom =aul 'reaches is able to call light out of
dar)ness. 9ight they must have, but if they re(ect the light of nature and life, there is still
the 'ossibility that when they hear the good news that ;esus is 9ord, *od will do a
creative act and call light out of their &tygian dar)ness. :or this reason the Christian can
always witness in ho'e, )nowing that a sovereign *od will wor) in resurrection 'ower to
call light out of dar)ness in many hearts. ;esus )new this "All that the :ather gives me
will come to me, and whoever comes to me $ will never drive away" +;ohn .102.
=aul sees himself as one of these men. ?efore his conversion ex'erience he had been
intent on 'leasing *od, committed to this great ob(ective and doing his dedicated best
to fulfill it, yet the dar)ness in which he lived was so dee' that when he saw and heard
;esus, he could not recogni3e him as the &on of *od but thought him to be a usur'er
and a vagabond. ?ut on the road to Damascus he was suddenly overwhelmed with
light. Out of the dar)ness of his brilliant mind the light shone and illuminated the
dar)ness of his dedicated heart. !here he ex'erienced what he had long sought##the
)nowledge of the glory of *od. !o his utter ama3ement he found it where he least
ex'ected in the face of ;esus Christ.
*od set aside young &aul%s brilliance, his dedication, and his blameless morality as
having done nothing to advance him on his search for reality. &uddenly it was all made
clear##;esus is 9ord5 Ising that )ey, everything began to fall into 'lace< the universe and
life itself began to ma)e sense. And best of all, =aul found himself fulfilled as a man.
;esus was real and was with him night and day. Courage and 'eace and 'ower were
his as a daily inheritance, enriching his life beyond all ex'ectation. He had found the
secret of godli)eness##of (eing li"e 9od*
?ecause of his own ex'erience the a'ostle is careful now to )ee' his 'reaching shar'ly
focused on the only sub(ect *od will honor by calling light out of dar)ness##that is, %%:or
we do not 'reach ourselves, but ;esus Christ as 9ord, and ourselves as your servants
for ;esus% sa)e" +- Corinthians @/2. !he danger in 'reaching is that all too often we
offer ourselves as the remedy for man%s need. 6e s'ea) about the church or Christian
education or the Christian way of life, when all the time what 'eo'le need is ;esus. !he
church cannot save, a )nowledge of Christian 'hiloso'hy does not heal, doctrine
without love 'uffs u'. Only ;esus is 9ord, only He is absolutely essential to life. 6hen
He is encountered, all the other things will fall into their 'ro'er 'laces.
A ser'ant heart
$n view of this, the role of the Christian is that of a servant. He is there to discover the
needs of others and to do whatever his master tells him to do to meet those needs. He
is, therefore, a servant "for ;esus% sa)e." He is never the servant of men, but he is
;esus% servant and therefore serves men. !hat is an im'ortant distinction. A friend of
mine said, "!he tragic error $ made was that $ became a servant of 'eo'le. $ felt
obligated to res'ond favorably when anyone called and as)ed me to do something.
&omeone would say, %$ thin) you ought to do such and such,% and $ would say, %Right, $%d
better do it.% !hen five other 'eo'le would tell me what they thought $ should do.
&uddenly $ found myself in trouble because $ couldn%t do everything. ?ut when $ chec)ed
the life of ;esus, $ found that He was a servant of the :ather, not a servant of 'eo'le. He
submitted himself to the 'eo'le whom the :ather 'ic)ed out. !hat set me free."
*od always honors a message centered on the 9ordshi' of ;esus, and which manifests
a servant%s heart to those whom he sets in your 'ath. !he god of this world, the enemy
without, is clever and subtle. He )nows how to lead men into dar)ness without their
being aware of what is ha''ening. ?ut the *od of resurrection is more than his e"ual.
He will honor the o'en statement of the truth with the light of the glory of *od, 'ouring
from the face of ;esus Christ.