Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Corinthian congregation. More specifically, the passage is found in the first twelve verses of the ninth chapter. This particular passage which is found in the first twelve verses of the ninth chapter of this first epistle unto the Corinthian congregation marks yet another transition within the epistle. Thus far within the epistle the apostle has addressed fornication in the midst of the congregation, as well as divisions, strife and contention. The apostle has dealt with offenses and grudges as those within this congregation were guilty of taking their brother and/or sister to court among the Gentiles. What’s more, is how the apostle also declared unto this congregation how he could not address them as spiritual but as carnal, babes in Christ because of the divisions which were among them. I continue to be amazed by this first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation, for while it was true this congregation excelled in all spiritual gifts, they were a congregation that struggled with division, strife and contentions among them. While this congregation lacked nothing in terms of spiritual gifts, they permitted fornication among them within the body of Christ, as well as harbored grudges, offenses and bitterness toward one another. What’s more, is that within this epistle the apostle also speaks to four different categories and groups of people within the body of Christ—those who were married, those who were divorced, those who were widowed, and those who were single. Essentially that which the apostle set forth to accomplish within this epistle was to instruct them to guard covenant and intimacy, and to guard it on both sides of the altar. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—GUARDING INTIMACY ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ALTAR—for not only are we to guard covenant and intimacy on the side of the altar where and when we are single, but also on the other side of the altar when we are married and in that place of covenant before the living God.
There is within this epistle a powerful call to guard covenant and intimacy—both before (perhaps even in spite of) making it to the altar, as well as after making it to the altar. There is a clarion call within this generation to work diligently to ensure that we guard covenant and intimacy on whatever side of the altar we find ourselves on—even if we find ourselves on the opposite side of the altar with our heart broken and our soul burdened down because of the heartbreak of divorce or death. Within the seventh chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul speaks of two distinct realities that are possible when a man and a woman make it to the other side of the altar—one which involves either spouse to put away and divorce the other, and the other which involves either spouse passing away. Even now as I am writing these words I have a family member who is walking down the path of potential and possible divorce, while I have another close family friend who is dealing with the loss of his wife due to a battle with cancer. One of the greatest questions and challenges we face within this generation—this generation which covenant and intimacy are treated as a common thing among men and women—is guarding covenant and intimacy on both sides of the altar. There are those who find themselves guilty of violating covenant and intimacy on the side of the altar which lies in the realm of singleness, and there are others who find themselves violating covenant and intimacy on the other side of the altar in the realm of marriage and covenant relation before the Lord of hosts. I am utterly and completely convinced that the seventh chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation must be carefully understood as a powerful call to guard covenant and intimacy on whatever side of the altar you find yourself on, for the Lord sees on both sides of the altar, and is keenly aware of that which takes place among men within and upon the earth.
When you come to the eighth chapter of this first epistle to the Corinthian congregation you will find the apostle Paul speaking of offending the consciences of those around us and causing some to stumble because of our actions, our behaviors, our words, our speech, our lifestyle, and the like. As I read the eighth chapter of this epistle unto the Corinthians I am gripped by the powerful need within my own life to surrender my conscience to the authority of the divine word of God, as well as to the person and presence of the Spirit of the living God. There are a number of men and women who are a law to themselves, and whose consciences might not yet be seared with a hot iron, but whose consciences have led and are leading them astray because it has not been surrendered to the authority of the word and will of God. There are men and women who operate in the realm of the knowledge of good and evil, and as such, have defined and redefined their own sense of morality—that which is right and wrong, as well as that which is good and evil. There are men and women among us who operate in the knowledge of good and evil, and within and from that place of such knowledge believe themselves to be able to adequately and accurately discern that which is truly good versus that which is evil. What we must recognize and understand is that there was nothing evil about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, nor was there anything evil about the fruit which grew upon the tree. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the midst of the garden alongside the tree of life because the Lord placed man in the garden to allow him to live with free will and the ability to choose. Ever since the garden of Eden the Lord has set men in the place between two opinions and in the place between two choices, and has never forced men to do anything they have not wanted to do. It was true that Adam was placed in the garden and that the Lord formed Eve from Adam from within the garden, yet even in the garden there was both the commandment and the call to obedience. Even in paradise there existed the commandment which was given by the Lord, and the ability to freely chose life or death—eat of the tree of life and live, or else eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and die.
The more I read and consider the eighth chapter of the first epistle unto the Corinthians the more I can’t help but be gripped with the thought of Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and how immediately after they partook of the fruit their eyes were opened. The very first thing Adam and Eve noticed once their eyes were opened was that they were naked, and the very first emotional response they felt was shame because of their nakedness. They would immediately seek to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together and using them to cover their nakedness or “the shame of their nakedness.” What’s more, is that once their eyes were opened and they felt the shame of their nakedness, they then transitioned to a place of fear as they attempted to hide themselves among the trees of the garden from the presence and voice of the Lord. WHEN SHAMES GIVES WAY TO FEAR! WHEN HIDING NAKEDNESS GIVES WAY TO HIDING FLESH! Adam and Eve first sought to hide their shame and the shame of their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together in order to make a covering for themselves, and when they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden, they then attempted to hide themselves. I am convinced that if and should we ever choose to operate in the place of the knowledge of good and evil separate from and outside of the Lord of hosts, it will only be a matter of time before we find ourselves needing to cover the shame of our nakedness, and perhaps even hiding from the voice and presence of the Lord. I am convinced that ever since the transgression in the garden of Eden men and women have sought to hide the shame of their nakedness when they find themselves in such a place as did Adam and Eve. What’s more, is that I am convinced that men and women have continued to hide themselves among the trees which are all around us in order that they might hide themselves from the presence of the Lord. HIDING NAKEDNESS, HIDING FROM PRESENCE! If we are to truly understand that which took place within the garden we must understand that pursuing the knowledge of good and evil can and very well may bring us to the place where we attempt to define such outside of and separate from the authority of the word of God, and even the Lord Himself.
When we seek to understand the nature and reality of conscience we must recognize that conscience speaks directly to that faculty within us that measures and evaluates that which is right and wrong in the world. Each and every one of us has been given a conscience—that faculty within our beings that directly monitors that which is right or wrong and which can in fact lead people astray if they aren’t careful. I am convinced that a conscience that is not fully surrendered to the authority of the word of God, and a conscience that is not under the influence of the person and presence of the Spirit of the living God can in fact lead men and women astray. It is possible to have a conscience and yet have a conscience that is operating outside of the authority of the written and inspired word of God. It is possible to be a low unto ourselves and to be led astray by a conscience that has at the very center of it the knowledge of good and evil. Furthermore, it is possible that our consciences can be marred, polluted and stained with the filth of this world, and that if left unchecked can even become what the apostle Paul referred to as being seared with a hot iron. The knowledge of good and evil is what lies at the very heart of every conscience within and across this nation in which we live, as well as within each and every individual who lives upon this earth. The question is not whether or not we have a conscience, but whether or not our conscience has been redeemed, sanctified and made holy by the Spirit of the living God. The question is whether or not our conscience has been brought in alignment with the divine word of God, and is able to be influenced and controlled by the Spirit of the living God. If it is true that the Spirit of the living God lives and dwells within us, then it holds true that the Spirit of the living God can completely fill our conscience and radically transform it according to the divine nature of the triune Godhead. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that conscience alone isn’t enough, for a conscience that is not and has not been brought under the authority of the word of God can in fact cause us to pursue a morality—either of our own creation, or otherwise influenced by the world around us and the generation in which we live.
When we come to the ninth chapter of this epistle which was written to the Corinthian congregation we find the apostle Paul yet again shifting gears and addressing something completely different among the Corinthians. IN the opening verse of this chapter the apostle Paul asks four distinct questions of the Corinthian congregation—questions which were undoubtedly rhetorical in nature, but required this congregation to carefully consider them. In the first verse of this chapter the apostle Paul writes and asks these four questions of the Corinthian congregation—“Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1). AM I NOT AN APOSTLE? AM I NOT FREE? HAVE I NOT SEEN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD? ARE NOT YE MY WORK IN THE LORD? I have to admit that I am captivated by the question which the apostle Paul asks the Corinthian congregation, for the apostle Paul asks them if he had not and did not see Jesus Christ our Lord. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul would write later on in this very same epistle concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. If you begin reading with the first verse of the fifteenth chapter of this epistle you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul—“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater partremain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
The words which I read in the fifteenth chapter of the second epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation remind me of words which I read in the second epistle of the apostle Peter, as well as in the first epistle of the apostle John. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the first chapter of the second epistle of Peter we find the following words—“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 2:12-21). Concerning the first epistle of the apostle John we find the following words beginning with the first verse of the first chapter—“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that our joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:1-5).
What we read in this particular passage of Scripture is somewhat challenging when you consider it, for the apostle Paul begins by asking the Corinthian congregation whether or not he was an apostle. The apostle Paul then goes on to ask them whether or not he was free—a question which was then followed up by asking them if he had not seen Jesus Christ their Lord. The truth of the matter is that the apostle Paul did in fact see Jesus Christ, and did so while he was traveling on the road to Damascus carrying letters to arrest Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem to imprison them. It was while he was traveling on the road to Damascus with two of his companions that a bright light shone from heaven, and a great voice was heard from the midst of the light. It was while traveling along this road to Damascus the apostle Paul encountered the risen and exalted Christ in heaven, as Jesus the Christ called him by name, and then asked him why he persisted in persecuting Him. The encounter which the apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus reminds me of another encounter two men had while they too were traveling away from Jerusalem. The gospel of Luke records how there were two men who were traveling away from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus, and how while they were traveling along this road, they were met by the risen Christ. The risen Christ continued to walk with them along their path to Emmaus, and all the while He walked with them He expounded unto them the truths concerning Himself beginning with Moses and continuing through to the prophets. When these men reached their destination in Emmaus Jesus made as though He would continue going on, yet chose to remain and abide with them when they entreated Him to remain. There in that house in Emmaus Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and passed it out to those present, and was immediately removed from their sight. It was after Jesus was removed from their sight, and after the broken bread was distributed these two men spoke of how their hearts burned within them as Jesus walked with them on the road to Emmaus—on the road away from Jerusalem where He had been betrayed, beaten, crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb.
One thing I absolutely love about these two encounters is that they each represent something vastly different within our lives. When speaking of the two men who were traveling along on the road to Emmaus away from Jerusalem we must note that Jesus didn’t simply meet them on the road and reveal Himself unto them, nor did He instruct them to return unto Jerusalem. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding to read the account of these two men, for undoubtedly they found themselves in a place of despair and anguish after the death and burial of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Undoubtedly these men were making their way back to Emmaus because they felt as though that which they had hoped for was taken and removed from them. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was a tremendous amount of doubt, and perhaps even fear within their hearts—doubt in everything Jesus had spoken, and fear because the Romans might come for the followers of Jesus next. Scripture is unclear whether or not these men had any intention of returning to Jerusalem, but we must at least recognize and acknowledge the tremendous despair they must have been experiencing and carrying as they journeyed away from Jerusalem. I can’t help but wonder how long these two men had followed Jesus before He was crucified at Golgotha and then buried in the earth—only to watch as that One whom they had placed their hope and their trust in be taken away from them. There is not a doubt in my mind that these men were returning to their home and were potentially returning to their former lives just as the apostles did, for you will find that Jesus appeared to the apostles while they were fishing in the sea after His death and burial. There is not a doubt in my mind that even the apostles themselves thought about returning to the lives they lived prior to following Jesus because they felt they no longer had anything to live or hope for.
What I so love about the account of the two men on the road to Emmaus is that rather than appearing to these two men and demanding they return to Jerusalem, Jesus chooses to walk with them along the road to Emmaus. I am convinced there is a powerful truth that is contained within this particular passage of Scripture, for instead of Jesus demanding that we return to that place which we left, He chooses to walk with us along the road and along the path to that which we knew previously. Jesus didn’t condemn the doubt and/or fear that was found within the hearts of these two men, nor did He condemn them for leaving Jerusalem and traveling back to Emmaus. Instead, what He chose to do was walk with them—walk with them in the place and along the path of despair and hopelessness, and while walking with them revealing unto them the truths concerning Himself starting with Moses and continuing through to the prophets. It is absolutely incredible that rather than condemn these men for leaving Jerusalem He chooses to embrace their doubts, He chooses to embrace their fears, He chooses to embrace their hopelessness, He chooses to embrace their confusion and perhaps even their questions. What’s more, is that not only this, but Jesus walks with them in the place of their hopelessness, despair, confusion and questions. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this, for it reveals something absolutely wonderful and amazing concerning Jesus Christ our Lord. The account of these men reveals how Jesus not only walked with them along the path of their confusion, questions, hopelessness and despair, but He also chose to abide with them after they had entreated Him to remain. What’s more, is that we find nowhere in this account anything concerning Jesus asking these two men if they minded or even wanted company as they traveled the road to Emmaus. There is absolutely no indication that Jesus asked them if they minded company, nor is there any evidence that they asked Him to walk with them. It’s worth noting that His walking with them came not by request of these two men, nor by Jesus Himself asking if they minded His walking with them. When, however, it came to Him remaining and abiding with them within the home, Jesus chose to enter in and abide with them because of their request. It was the fact that He chose to walk with them that produced the desire to request Him to remain with them in the house that evening.
IT IS WHEN JESUS DECIDES TO WALK WITH US ALONG THE PATH OF OUR CONFUSION AND QUESTIONS THAT THE DESIRE FOR HIM TO ABIDE WITH US ARISES! We learn something absolutely profound after Jesus was removed from their sight and present, and that was how their hearts burned within them while He traveled with them on the road to Emmaus. I absolutely love this, for by choosing to walk with them and speak to them of Himself Jesus was blowing upon the flaming embers that were present within their hearts and souls. As Jesus walked with these two men on the road to Emmaus, Jesus was igniting—perhaps even reigniting—a flame and a fire within them. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus’ choosing to walk with them—and not only walk with them, but also speak to them concerning Himself—was an attempt to revive and resuscitate their hearts from an almost certain death. What I so love about this is that Jesus used Scripture coupled together with His presence to restore the faith and confidence of these two men, and it wasn’t until He was removed from their sight that they recognized and understood who it was who walked with them, and who it was who abode with them and broke the bread. It’s worth noting that their hearts burned within them while Jesus walked with them along the road to Emmaus, and it was that burning sensation within them that caused them to entreat Him to remain with them. I absolutely love that not only did Jesus not demand they return to Jerusalem, not only did He condemn them for leaving Jerusalem, but He chose to walk with them as they made their way away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. What’s more is that while He chose to walk with them along this path of confusion, questions, doubt, fear and perhaps hopelessness, Jesus rekindled the flame of fire within their hearts in order that He might bring them to the place where they would request His presence to remain.
We must make not that it is only from the place of a burning heart that the desire for the presence of Jesus to remain is manifested within our lives. I am convinced that while it might not be implied within this passage of Scripture, there are men and women who right now desperately need their hearts to be revived and resuscitated. There are men and women who right now have been traveling on their own road to Emmaus—their own road away from the place of power, the place of hope, the place of fellowship, the place of intimacy, the place of purpose—and who need to experience the person and presence of Jesus coming alongside them as they walk that path, and not just coming alongside them, but choosing to walk with them as they travel along that path. Notice that not once while they were traveling this path, nor even once they had reached their destination did Jesus instruct them to or suggest that they return back to Jerusalem. Instead—what happened was that they sought that Jesus abide with them in Emmaus after their hearts were igniting into a raging inferno within them. I am convinced there are men and women who desperately need Jesus to come alongside them as they walk along this path and road of despair, confusion and questions, and for Jesus to speak to them things concerning Himself. How amazing is it that Jesus didn’t speak to or address the thoughts, questions, doubts or fears that might have been present within their hearts, but instead chose to simply speak of and reveal Himself. How absolutely amazing it is that we have a great High Priest who will not only come alongside us as we walk along our own road to Emmaus, but who will also walk with as we travel that path, and will even choose to remain and abide with us once we reach the end of the path. Oh that we would like the apostle Paul emphatically declare that we “have seen Jesus Christ our Lord” and that He met us as we traveled our own “road to Damascus” and even our own “road to Emmaus.”