Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth, and more specifically, is found within n the first ten verses of the third chapter. The words which we find in this particular set of verses are actually quite confrontational and challenging, for with and by them the apostle Paul proceeds to further perform surgery on the pulse and mindset of the Corinthian congregation. The Corinthian congregation—this congregation that excelled in every spiritual gift—could not be spoken unto as spiritual, but as carnal, and could not be fed with the meat of God’s word, but rather with the milk of the word. When I first began studying this first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation I was immediately gripped with the reality that this congregation—while it was certainly spiritually gifted, was not spiritual. What’s more, is that even though this congregation was spiritually gifted they could not be regarded as spiritual. The question we must ask ourselves is why. Why could this congregation that excelled in every spiritual gift not be addressed as spiritual? How is it possible that a congregation that was as spiritually gifted as the Corinthian congregation be classified as one that was spiritual. In all reality, I would dare say that this congregation viewed themselves as being rich and having absolutely no need of nothing. Oh there is a tremendous danger when we perceive ourselves as being rich and having need of absolutely nothing.
One of the questions that is usually asked around the time of birthdays and holidays is centered upon what you get that individual that has everything. Even as recently as a couple of days ago I read a post on my social media page where someone asked this precise question. The underlying issue and concern with what you get that individual that has everything is that there is nothing you can get that individual that they don’t already have. The underlying concern is that what you attempt to get that particular individual might very well be something they already have. The inherent danger with thinking and believing that you have everything and have need of nothing is that it is virtually impossible to receive anything from anyone else. When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation I can’t help but be gripped with and by the tremendous reality that this congregation excelled in every spiritual gift and not only viewed themselves as being spiritually rich, but also as having absolutely no need of anything. The words which I read in the first epistle unto the Corinthian congregation remind me of the words which Jesus spoke unto the rich man that came unto Him asking what He must do to inherit eternal life. He words which I read in the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation reminds me of the words which Jesus would speak unto one of the seven churches that were found in the province of Asia. If you read the second and third chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find that there was another congregation which viewed themselves as being rich and having need of absolutely nothing.
If we are to truly understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand this congregation as being spiritually gifted, and perhaps as viewing such a reality and manifestation among them in their midst as being the final authority of their being spiritual before and in the sight of the Lord. Furthermore, there is not a doubt in my mind that this congregation viewed themselves as being spiritually gifted and excelling in all manners of gifts, and as a result, there was absolutely nothing they had need of among themselves. One of the greatest dangers is when the eternal Father and the eternal Son look upon their churches and look upon men and women who view themselves as being spiritually rich, and as excelling in all manners of spiritual matters, for such a congregation is not eager to receive anything from the Lord. In all reality, I would dare say that one of the greatest problems which faced the Corinthian congregation that is not specifically mentioned in the epistle, but rather is implied, is that there was no longer any sense of expectation among them. I would dare say that when this congregation gathered together, there was no eager anticipation to receive anything from the Lord, for they viewed themselves as already having everything they could possibly need. What’s more, is that it might even be possible that this congregation viewed the spiritual gifts present and manifested among them as being the final and ultimate authority for their status before the Lord. I would dare say that when this congregation gathered together, they did not come expecting to receive anything from the Lord, for the gifts manifested among them was perceived as being the litmus test of having “arrived.”
I posed the question earlier that is asked at virtually every holiday and for every birthday, which is simply—“What do you get that person that has everything?” I would take this question and adapt it slightly for the purpose of this writing and present the question—“What do you give the church that purportedly has everything and has need of nothing?” In the seventh and final letter written unto the congregation of the Laodicean’s we find the following words spoken by Jesus, yet written and recorded by the apostle John. Consider if you will the incredibly harrowing words and language that are found within this particular letter which was sent unto the congregation of the Laodiceans: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that you art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in. My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22).
It’s actually quite interesting to read the words which Jesus spoke unto and concerning this congregation of the Laodiceans, for there was a very specific mindset that was found present among this congregation. As if it weren’t enough that they were lukewarm and were neither hot nor cold, they also viewed themselves as being spiritually rich, and increased with goods, and having absolutely no need for anything. I am thoroughly convinced, and will continue to be convinced that one of the greatest and most dangerous places to be in within our spiritual journeys with the Lord is finding ourselves in the place where we view ourselves as having everything and needing absolutely nothing. There is an inherent danger that looms within each and every one of our hearts that causes us to think more highly than we ought, and as a result, we view ourselves as being rich, as being increased with goods, and having need of nothing. Perhaps the question that must be asked is based upon your own life and whether or not you view yourself as being rich and increased with goods. What goods do you view yourself as being increased with in your life and within your spiritual journey? How do you view yourself before the throne of the living God, and how do you view your place before the living God? The congregation of the Laodiceans viewed themselves as being rich and being increased with goods, and as a result, they had absolutely no need of anything. This is such an incredibly dangerous place to be in, for those who view themselves as being rich, and increased with goods, and having need of nothing can never receive anything from the Lord—or anyone else for that matter. I have to admit that I am incredibly challenged with and by the reality that we play a very dangerous game when we view ourselves as having absolutely no need of anything, for it is from that place we can no longer receive anything from the Lord. Heaven help that individual, or that congregation that neither expects anything from the Lord, or expects to receive anything from Him.
Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when you enter into the house of the Lord, do you enter into His courts with an eager and anxious expectation that you can and will receive something from Him? When you enter into the sanctuary of the Lord of hosts, do you enter with open hands turned upward in order that the Lord might fill them? The congregation of the Laodiceans were completely unable to receive anything from the Lord, and it’s worth noting that Jesus would go on to speak of this congregation as not knowing that they were wretched, that they were miserable, that they were poor, that they were blind, and that they were naked. The Laodicean congregation viewed themselves as being rich, as being increased with goods, and as having need of nothing, and yet when Jesus spoke unto and addressed them He declared unto them they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. What’s more, is that in addition to declaring unto this congregation that they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, Jesus gave them very specific counsel. If you go on to read this specific letter written unto this congregation you will find that Jesus first counsels this congregation to but of Him gold tried in the fire, in order that they might be rich. Jesus didn’t merely stop with counseling them to buy of Him gold tried in the fire so they could be rich, but He would go on to counsel them to buy of Him white raiment, that they might be clothed, that they same of thy nakedness not appear unto others. Jesus would also go on to counsel of them to anoint thine eyes with eye salve, in order that they might see. RICH, CLOTHED, SEEING! I have to admit that I am incredibly challenged by the words which Jesus wrote unto the saints which were at Laodicea, for Jesus was in essence indicting them for being poor, for being blind, for being naked, and for not recognizing or understand that they were wretched and miserable. I can’t help but wonder how these words were received by the congregation of the Laodiceans when they received the letter, for the letter was written unto them by and from the apostle John, but from Jesus who is both Christ and Lord.
It’s worth noting that while there are essentially twenty-one epistles found within the New Testament which are actually books within the New Testament, there are actually seven more epistles found and recorded within Scripture. When I decided to spend a year in the epistles this year I have to admit that I didn’t even think to include—much less consider the seven letters which Jesus dictated unto the apostle John unto the seven churches of Asia. It would be very easy to focus solely on the twenty-one epistles written by various apostles such as Peter, Paul and John, and even the other epistles which were written by James, Jude and the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews, and to leave it at those epistles, yet there are seven more letters which are found within the New Testament. It is one thing to receive an epistle and letter from the apostle Peter, or from the apostle John, or even from the apostle Paul, yet it is something else altogether to receive an epistle and letter from Jesus Himself. There were seven churches within the province of Asia that each received a letter from Jesus, and Ephesus was a congregation which received a single letter from the apostle Paul, received three letters and epistles from the apostle John, was most likely the intended recipient of the gospel of the apostle John, and finally received a letter from Jesus Himself. It’s worth noting the final epistle and letter written into the congregation of Ephesus came not from man, but came from Jesus Christ Himself, and was a letter that spoke unto them as having left their first love. This church and congregation which had been founded by the apostle Paul, and which had continued to receive the ministry of the apostle John, had ultimately and inevitably reached the place where they had left their first love. When we read each of the seven letters which are found within he second and third chapters of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we tend to think of them in the context of this prophetic book, and don’t consider how these letters were received by the actual churches themselves. I would absolutely love to know how the epistle and letter written unto the Laodiceans was received, and what they thought when Jesus corrected their thinking, and would go on to address them as being wretched and miserable, as being poor, as being blind, and as being naked. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how this particular letter was received by the church of the Laodiceans, and whether or not they did indeed by gold tried in the fire, and obtained white raiment, and anointed their eyes with salve.
There is a particular passage of Scripture that is found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Mark regarding a certain man who came running, and kneeled before Jesus and asked Him a very specific question. If you begin reading with and from the seventeenth verse of this particular chapter you will find the following account of this man in the presence of Jesus: “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto Him, master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto His disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to e niter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:17-27).
In the letter which was written unto the congregation of the Laodiceans we find an entire congregation of men and women who viewed themselves as being rich, and being increased with goods, and having need of nothing. Within this letter we find an entire congregation made up of members who viewed themselves as being rich and being increased with goods and having need of nothing, yet Jesus actually went on to reveal that they had need of gold tried in the fire, of white raiment, and of eye salve. This congregation perceived themselves as having need of nothing, and perhaps had absolutely no desire and/or expectation to receive anything from the Lord. What is so incredibly telling and interesting about this passage of Scripture within the gospel according to Mark is that this certain man who came running unto Jesus, and knelt before Him was indeed rich and had great possessions. THE RICH CONGREGATION! THE RICH INDIVIDUAL! Within the epistle written unto the congregation of the Laodiceans, and within the account of this certain man we find one who was rich and had great material possessions. When this man who was rich and had great possessions came unto Jesus, it is true he came running unto him and knelt before Him, but he would go on to ask what he needed to do in order that he might inherit eternal life. Jesus would go on to speak of certain commandments which were given unto Moses while atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. Jesus included the commandments regarding adultery, regarding killing, regarding stealing, regarding bearing false witness, regarding not defrauding others, and regarding honoring father and mother. Essentially, the commandments Jesus mentioned unto this man were those commandments which dealt with this man’s relationship to others—to those which were around him. It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t include the first set of commandments which dealt with this man’s relationship with the Lord. When this man heard the final six commandments listed by Jesus he proceeded to state how he had kept all these commandments from his youth. Jesus, however, cut straight through the heart of the matter and went on to declare unto him that there was one thing which he still lacked—namely, that he had need to go his way, sell whatever he had, give to the poor, and as a result, he would have treasure in heaven. Once this certain man had sold all he had and given to the poor, he was then invited to come, to take up his cross, and to follow Jesus. IN other words, this man was not only invited to have treasure in heaven, but this man was also invited to follow Jesus. What an absolutely incredible invitation it is—not only to be invited to have treasure in heaven, but to also come and follow Jesus.
In the opening chapter of the epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation the apostle Paul writes concerning this congregation that in every thing they were enriched by the Lord, in all utterance, and in all knowledge. Furthermore, the apostle Paul would go on to write that they came behind in no gift, while they waited for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would confirm them unto the end, that they might be blameless. It is true that this congregation came behind in no spiritual gift, and that they appeared to excel and exceed in spiritual matters, yet within the second and third chapters of this epistle we find the apostle Paul laying some serious concerns—perhaps even serious charges to their account. Towards the end of the second chapter we find the apostle Paul writing the following words unto the Corinthian congregation—“But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). We must understand what is written in the final verses of the second chapter, for these words set the stage and foundation for that which the apostle Paul would write in the third chapter. It is in the final verses of the second chapter we find the apostle Paul speaking of comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and going on to declare that the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Furthermore, the natural man can know the things of the Spirit of God because such things are spiritual discerned.
The word which the apostle Paul write in the second chapter set the stage for what he would go on to write in the third chapter, for within the third chapter the apostle Paul would go on to speak—not of spiritual versus natural, but spiritual versus carnal. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul actually writes in the third chapter of this particular epistle unto the saints of God which were at Corinth: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for where’s there is among you e vying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). It’s worth noting that within this particular set of verses—not only did the apostle Paul address the Corinthian congregation as being carnal, but he also addressed this congregation as being babes in Christ, thus speaking directly to the reality of growth and maturity among them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that three distinct realities found within this passage of Scripture—both the final part of the second chapter, as well as the first part of the third chapter—is that the apostle compares that which is spiritual with that which is natural and that which is carnal. What’s more, is that this congregation—despite the fact that they were spiritually gifted and excelled in all spiritual gifts, were spiritually immature in Christ and could not handle the meat of the word of God. Isn’t it absolutely interesting that a congregation could exceed and excel in every spiritual gift, and yet be spiritually immature? What’s more, is that not only was this congregation spiritually immature, but this congregation was undoubtedly spiritually poor as well, for I would dare say that this congregation viewed themselves as having everything and needing absolutely nothing. There is not a doubt in my mind that this congregation viewed themselves as having absolutely nothing because of the manifestation of spiritual gifts among them within heir midst. I am convinced we must carefully consider the words and language that are found in the letter unto the Laodicean congregation, as well as the encounter between Jesus and this certain rich man, for there is a tremendous danger when we believe ourselves to be rich and increased with all manner of goods—even spiritual goods—for as a result, we have very little expectation to receive anything from the Lord.
I have to admit that I am challenged within my own faith and regarding my own spiritual journey with the Lord, and whether or not I have thought more highly of myself than I ought. I can’t help but wonder within myself whether or not I have viewed myself as being riches and increased with goods and having absolutely no need of anything from the Lord. The epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth reveals the tremendous truth that it is possible to be spiritually gifted and yet be spiritually immature. What’s more, is that the epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation reveals the possibility that we can be spiritually gifted and yet be spiritually poor. I am absolutely and incredibly challenged with and by the words that are found and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find that church which was spiritually gifted being unable to handle the meat of the word of God, and only able to handle milk because they were babes in Christ. Within this epistle there is not only an incredible need for spiritual maturity, but also a tremendous need for spiritual wealth and spiritual riches in Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the same apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus in the first chapter of the epistle written and addressed unto them. Consider if you will the words which the apostle wrote unto this congregation which would later receive a letter from Jesus Christ Himself:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation fo the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance unto the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14). I am convinced it is not enough to be spiritually gifted with all gifts according to and from the Spirit of God, and yet be spiritually bankrupt and not spiritually rich in Jesus. Christ. Moreover, I am convinced it is not enough to be spiritual gifted and yet be spiritually destitute when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, for gifts absent fruit is utterly useless and worthless among us within the body of Christ and church of God. Oh that we would be spiritually gifted, yes, but that we would also be spiritually rich with all spiritual blessings, and that we would have within us the fruit of the Spirit which we must remember confirms that we are indeed disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t declare that it is by our gifts men will know that we are His disciples, but rather, they would know we are His disciples by the fruit we bear. The gifts of the Spirit are great, and they serve their purpose within and among the body of Christ, yet gifts without fruit is only half of that which is truly necessary among us within the body of Christ. How many of us view ourselves as being spiritually rich, and increased with spiritual goods, and having need of nothing, and yet we have absolutely no clue that there might not only be one thing we lack, but nine things we lack—namely, the fruit of the Spirit?