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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[3. Isaiah's Question]
This is the 3. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."
by Frank L. Preuss
Isaiah is the great Hebrew prophet of the 8th century BC. He heralds the Messiah. Many questions the believers of the times of the Old Testament had are answered in the New Testament. One of these questions is: What is wisdom? We find many statements about wisdom in the Old Testament. But the New Testament lets us know what wisdom really is. It is actually a person. It is this Messiah the book of Isaiah announces so often. Christ has become wisdom for us from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). We receive wisdom from God. And there is only one door through which we can receive this wisdom. And this door is Christ. There is no other door. And before Christ became the man Jesus and walked on this earth, he was with God. And he was with God when God created all things. All things were created by Christ, and for Christ (Colossians 1:16). By him all things were created. Let us read an important passage from the Old Testament which describes what Jesus did before he came down to this earth. It was the time when God created this universe and when wisdom, the Christ, was with God (Proverbs 8:23-31):
I wisdom was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning,
or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths,
I was brought forth;
when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth,
nor the fields,
nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there:
when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above:
when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree,
that the waters should not pass his commandment:
when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him,
as one brought up with him:
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth;
and my delights were with the sons of men.
Christ was like a child by God's side: he was already then the son of God. God is often described as the God who created the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. We find this description of God in the Old Testament quite often, but also in the New Testament it is frequently used. It has to become a deep reality to us that this material world was created by God and is sustained by him. It was the fact that Job listened to God when God explained this to him that set Job free. When Job had been convinced that it was God that did all these things, he became a believer and believed that God could also do the one thing that he needed most: healing. Actually the book of Job is very good news. We do not have to stay sick. We can get out of suffering. The sooner we become wise and do what God recommends, the sooner we will have overcome the situation of suffering and will even be more prosperous than we have been before. The real message of the book of Job is that Job made a big step forward in his life because the Lord blessed the last part of Job's life even more than the first part (Job 42:12). And Job had become purer and therefore more useful to God. I have purified you by giving you troubles (Isaiah 48:10). Wisdom had won in his life.
God created this universe and it was good. Man spoiled this good creation when he adopted the devil as his lord and rejected God and his word and his commands and started to listen to the deceiver and follow his suggestions. But Jesus came to set us free from this curse and to bring his kingdom to us now. We can be as happy as this child, wisdom, was when it was with God. We just have to listen to Jesus and stop listening to the great deceiver.
We have to seek wisdom. And this means we have to seek Jesus. Only when we pursue this aim will we advance and have his kingdom now. Only then will we be able to be ambassadors for Christ. Only when we have the mind of Christ, only then can we tell others what Christ is all about: when we know what is on Christ's mind. Only then can we pull in the same direction as Christ does: when we are one mind.
This understanding that it is God who created all things seems to be a key to wisdom. Isaiah's question starts with exactly this subject: creation. It really brings out the greatness of God. The 40th chapter of Isaiah contains one of the many passages of the Bible that bring out the supremacy of God. This is done by asking questions (Isaiah 40:12-14):
Who has measured the oceans in the hollow of his hand?
Who has meted out the heaven with the span?
Who has comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure?
Who has weighted the mountains in a balance?
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Who has been able to give the Lord advice?
Whom did the Lord ask for counsel?
Who taught him the path of judgement?
Who taught the Lord knowledge?
Who showed him the way of discernment?
We can just read this in awe and acknowledge God's supremacy. What are we men compared to this almighty God?
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
This last paragraph is the verse that follows the 10 questions: Isaiah 40:15.
We are like a drop in a bucket. But we must not forget that we are also created in the image of God. We were created to rule. To rule over this creation of God. And this ability to rule will completely depend on our relationship with God. Only when our relationship with God is right will we have this authority. Adam lost this authority because he made somebody else his master. And we cannot serve two masters. Now we want to investigate why so many of God's children do not have this authority to rule. Why are there so many Christians who seem to be genuine but they do not really seem to live a victorious life?
We are calling this message Isaiah's question. In Isaiah 40:12-14 we have 10 questions. But one of these questions has a value all of its own. It is in verse 13:
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
It is one of the questions that demonstrate to us the supremacy of God: Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who knows the mind of God? Who knows what is on God's mind? Who has been able to give the Lord advice?
This question has a powerful demonstration value. But we can also note one fact about this Bible quotation: it is a question. May be it is not just a question to underline the greatness of God? May be it is a question to which an answer exists? May be there are such people who know the mind of the Lord?
The importance of this question in Isaiah 40:13 lies in the fact that this scripture from the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament. And it is quoted two times in the New Testament. Two times is this question used in the New Testament. And what is even more interesting is that in both cases an answer is given to the question: There are people who have the mind of Christ.
Who are these people? These are people who have renewed their minds. To renew one's mind is the first of the two conditions we are required to fulfil if we want to have the mind of Christ.
What we have to do as Christians is detailed in Ephesians 4:22-24: You were taught to leave your old self - to stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self becomes worse and worse because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do. But you were taught to be made new in your hearts. You were taught to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God - made to be truly good and holy.
When we renew our mind, when we are made new in our heart, when we are made new in the attitude of our mind, then we are made to be like God. Only when we fulfil this prerequisite can we begin to rule.
We have to stop acting and thinking the way the world acts and thinks. God's word has to become final authority in our life. We have to diligently search for the truth and apply it in our life. We have to have Bible knowledge and this knowledge has to become reality in the details of life. We have to become more and more aware of what is of this world and what man's traditions are and cast them out. We have to make a quality decision to let the Holy Spirit show us all these useless things and stop them in our life.
We simply have to reverse the process that started with Adam and Eve. They stopped to listen to God's word and started to listen to the great deceiver's word. We have to stop to be guided by this deceiver and start to let only the word of almighty God be our guide. Only then will we become overcomers. Only then will we be able to overcome the desires of our fleshly nature and the will of the devil. If we do not overcome, then the devil overcomes us. There is no third way. Let us start to rule again as Adam and Eve did before the fall.
In Romans 11:32 Paul writes that God shut up all unto disobedience, so that God may show mercy on all. Then he carries on (Romans 11:33): O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out!
The whole problem exists because all people refuse to obey. Because of their stubborn ways they cannot understand.
And now Paul quotes Isaiah's question:
As the Scripture says, "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been able to give the Lord advice?" (Romans 11:34).
And Paul continues by quoting from Job 41:11 (Romans 11:35): "Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" And then Paul completes this chapter of the Bible with verse 36: For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to God be glory for ever. Amen.
And this Amen is the end of the chapter 11.
Now we have to remember that this dividing of books of the Bible into chapters and verses is a man-made thing. Many Bible translations that are available to us were translated by people who were not spiritual Christians - by the clergy, by carnal Christians - and when we read these translations we have to remember this and make allowances for it. So these chapter divisions could have easily been made by somebody who did not really grasp the spiritual content of the passage. So this chapter division between Romans 11 and Romans 12 could lead us to think that Paul states here the Old Testament question: "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" and leaves it at this, giving the impression that this question is still just a question in the New Testament times and no answer is available to us, because Paul closes the chapter and therefore he closes the subject and he does so with an expression of praise and with an Amen. And the Amen means this is the end and the conclusion of the theme. But the next sentence, the first verse of the new chapter, starts with the word "Therefore". And this indicates that Paul actually continues with his theme. He actually comes to the revelation of this question, revealing to us who these people are who know the mind of the Lord. These people who know the mind of the Lord are people who offer their lives as a living sacrifice to him - to the Lord. And this sacrifice is not an animal or a material thing or a good work. No, it must be a sacrifice that is holy and that is pleasing to God. It must be the spiritual way we worship. And then Paul continues to explain to us what this way of worship is. Such a way of worship is nonconformity. A real Christian is a nonconformist. A real Christian is a person that completely rejects the ways of this world. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" is the command for us from the holy word of God. Worldly things have no place in our lives. We could make a long list of things that are worldly, especially things that are of religious origin and have nothing to do with the teachings from the word of God. A good way of studying the Bible is to note all the things the Bible does not teach or to note all the activities Jesus did not pursue or to list all the works Christians of today do which are not based on scripture.
The ultimate nonconformist was the man Jesus. He did not conform to the ways of this world at all. And he did not allow any compromises, especially not when he was dealing with the clergy of his day. There is an endless record of Jesus' dealings with the Pharisees and all the rest of the clergy of that time. Are we still conforming to the pattern of the clergy? Are we obeying the commands of Jesus to watch out, to beware? As long as we have still dealings with people who resemble anything like clergy we are a long way away from this position of nonconformists. Jesus had hardly any problems with the man in the street and even with worldly authorities he got along, but when he was approached by the clergy and their followers the situation changed completely. His words became a rebuke, he even insulted them (Luke 11:45). He was fighting them all the way. One of the main characteristics of Jesus is that he is a fighter. When we look at a man like Martin Luther we find the same characteristic: a fighter, especially a fighter against the clergy of his days. Jesus' fight became so intense that the clergy finally killed Jesus. Thanks be to God that it was not really the final thing. The devil used the clergy to kill God and the devil still today uses the clergy to fight the family of God, but this is not the final outcome. The final outcome was a risen Lord and will be a risen family of believers.
This command to nonconformity is the first command - a negative one, telling us what we must not do. And it is followed by a positive command. By a command what we have to do: "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). That is where it has to start: in our mind. Our thinking has to be renewed, renewed to God's way. Whenever a thought comes into our mind, we have to take it and analyse it: is it based on the principles of this world? If it is, then we reject it and find out what the principle of God is on this subject and start thinking in the way the Bible tells us to.
We want to give you an example of what it means to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. May be you are a cleric and you are reading this now. The devil comes to you and says: "This is all wrong teaching. This is not true what you read here. If it were true, than you would be out of a job and you would have no means of making a living and you will find nobody who will employ you. Therefore it must be false teaching. You better declare this writer a heretic and start persecuting him. And what about your reputation? You would basically admit that all your life up to now was wrong and you wasted all these years. No, you better start fighting this heresy right away."
You now can accept the suggestions of the devil and keep on conforming to the patterns of this world, of the world of the devil, or you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind to the word of God and change from an enemy of God into a follower of His, and start to become a person that is blessed in spirit, soul and body.
You will become a person blessed of God and even more will happen to you. You will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
And then follows an admonition to not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you (Romans 12:3). This seems to be the right scripture for a clergy and when we carry on reading we find that Paul speaks exactly of this subject. He speaks of the body of Christ, that it is one body, and that each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:5). So the first thing Paul mentions when he speaks of renewing the mind, is the subject of unity of the body of Christ, it is the first thing we have to address when we want to begin to offer our bodies as living sacrifice: we have to stop to divide the body of the Lord into different denominations and sects and we have to stop to follow the clergy and start to follow Jesus.
And then Paul lists a number of activities members of the body do. He gives us a picture of a living assembly where all members take part in the ministry and this picture is something completely different from a situation where there is clergy on one side and laity on the other. The living body of Christ is a body of believers where everybody ministers to everybody. When you meet together, one person has a song. Another has a teaching. Another has a new truth from God. Another speaks in a different language, and another person interprets that language. The purpose of all these things should be to help the assembly grow strong (1 Corinthians 14:16). This scripture speaks of participation. Participation is the key to life in the assembly. And where this participation is absent there is death present: a lack of participation helps the assembly to grow weak - to die.
But let us go back to the second part of Romans 12 verse 2: "Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will". The issue is, do we know God's will and do it or do we know God's will, but refuse to do it - do the will of the devil. The clergyman who listens to what the devil has to say and agrees with the devil is a person who "does not like to retain the knowledge of God and who God gives over to a depraved mind, to do those things that ought not to be done" (Romans 1:28).
"Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Romans 1:29-32).
If you need an illustration of such people just remember the clergy that persecuted Jesus or look at the clergy that persecuted the reformers at the time of Luther. Read about the history of the martyrs.
These persecutors of the believers were people who did not like to retain God in their knowledge, they refused, they did not approve. Their refusal was not the outcome of ignorance; they had the power to make a deliberate choice; they wilfully disapproved of having God in their knowledge.
But we do not have to go their way. We approve things that are excellent, we know God's will, and mentally approve of things in which God has instructed us out of his word. A person is blessed if he can do what he thinks is right (Romans 14:22). He approves of something and he does it after he has put the matter to the test.
Then he will be able to test and approve what God's will is.
If we do these things then we will know God's will, we will have the mind of Christ, we know the mind of the Lord. So Paul has given us here the answer to Isaiah's question: we will know the mind of the Lord when we offer our bodies as living sacrifices. And we do this by not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world, but are transformed by the renewing of our mind.
We are getting to know God and what is on his mind. And there is a straight way to come to that position of knowledge of God: to read and study and to meditate on the word of God. And to apply this knowledge in one's life.
And there are thousands and thousands of details in His word that give us information about God. But we have to believe and we have to believe that there is a real person behind all this information and we have to come to a knowledge, a personal knowledge, of that person. A knowledge that is based on the experience of giving to him and of receiving from him, of talking to him and of hearing from him. Now you might say but it is so difficult to see a real person behind all these descriptions of God in the Bible. God probably knew about this your problem and therefore he sent his son in the form of a man to us so we could see him, touch him, talk to him, listen to him and watch him operate. Jesus was God walking on this earth. There are so many details revealed to us, so many encounters with real people, that we have plenty of information to form an excellent picture of Jesus in our minds. If we start to think of it, there is actually no person, even including the people very close to us, where we have more insight into his thinking, his values, his actions, than we have about this man Jesus. So, there is not really an excuse to say we do not know God. But the real thing is to become a doer of his word, only then will we start to have a living relationship with him.
And when we do this, when we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we offer our body as living sacrifice. And that this kind of sacrifice was already the only sacrifice that really counted in the Old Testament is shown to us by David, who says to God: For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:16-17). All our religious activities and good works will not really help if this one thing is missing: a mind yielded to God's will. We have to give up theology, philosophy, religion and the traditions of men. All the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing, we have to give up and we have to listen to God's message of wisdom that is spoken to the mature (1 Corinthians 2:6). And this maturity will only come when we understand God's power. That is why Jesus' teachings were always undergirded by demonstrations of his power, by performing signs and miracles. And that is why Job got his healing after he had listened to God telling him about his power and accepting this truth and repenting of all his philosophy about suffering and confessing: I know that you can do all things. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:2-6). We have to come to that point in our life where we cast all that away what the world has told us over all the years and repent of these ideas and completely start to only allow God's word a place in our thinking. Job came to that point and immediately suffering had an end for him. He had been purified. He had been purified by the troubles God gave him (Isaiah 48:10). Job had offered the only acceptable sacrifice to God: he was changed within by a new way of thinking.
This renewing of the mind is not a new thing that is only taught in the New Testament. It applies right from the beginning of men's existence. God is quoted in Ezekiel 18:30-32 as saying: Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
We have to change our hearts and we do that by a new way to think.
The fall of men was caused by Eve not checking the thought the deceiver gave her and comparing it to the word of God. The word of God available to Eve was of a very small volume and the things they were not to do consisted of one item: not to eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil.
The beginning of sin will always be when we forget to check our thoughts against the words of life.
The words of life are the words that come from Jesus. And Jesus lets us know that he told us everything. "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:15). Is not this a marvellous scripture? Jesus has made known to us everything that he heard from his Father. How can we ever say that we do not know what God's will is? When we have Jesus we have it all.
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-15).
If we are led by the spirit then we will be led into all truth. All that the Father has is ours. We all belong to the same family: the Father, the Son and the rest of His children. The Father's business is our business.
And this is Jesus' prayer: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them" (John 17:8). "I showed them what you are like. And again I will show them what you are like" (John 17:26).
If we are real disciples like the Twelve were, we will be in the same position as they were: we know God, we know His Son, we know His teachings and we know what God is like.
We have the mind of Christ.
So the first answer to Isaiah's question is that we have to renew our mind if we want to know the mind of the Lord. Paul used several verses in his letter to the Romans to explain this to us. To explain to us what we have to do to know the mind of the Lord.
But there is a second passage in the Bible where Isaiah's question from Isaiah 40:13 is quoted in the New Testament. And this time Paul uses a whole book of the Bible to explain this. He uses a whole letter to show us how to know the mind of the Lord. And this is the first letter to the Corinthians. This whole letter deals with the problem of disunity, with the problem of people who cause division in the body of Christ.
When we study the first letter to the Corinthians we might ask the question why Paul is dealing with the people that cause division by following other people instead of following Jesus. Why is not Paul attacking people that misuse this desire of people wanting to follow people: by becoming clergymen? These people who like to play the role of clergy can only do so when others are prepared to play the role of laity. If the laity wakes up and stops to play the role of laity and starts to become alive to God then the clergy will be without laity and without a job and without income and they have to look for something else to do and they have to try to make a living from something else and may be they have to do an honest man's job. So it is us "laity" who decides if there is a clergy or not. If we are not prepared to accept a clergy then there will be no clergy. The wild wolves who are prophesied by Paul in Acts 20:29 can only be successful in their changing from genuine elders of the assembly in Ephesus into wild wolves when there are believers who are prepared to be lead away as followers after them. But if we know the truth these wolves will not be successful. And if these wolves are successful - and they are so since many centuries - then it is because we have allowed them to do so, because we never bothered to find out the truth.
This aspect of the letters - that the writers of the letters do not seem to address the wolves and admonish them to stop their wicked ways - can also be found in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus warns us again and again of them, but we find very little in the gospels where Jesus teaches the Pharisees to live the right way. The reason can probably be found in Romans 1:32: "Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." So there is very little use of teaching them because they have all the teaching, but they continue to do these evil things. So, Paul does not bother to teach the clergy, he rather spends time and effort to teach the laity, trying to get them out of their position of laity and become living stones in a spiritual house.
At the beginning of this study we have shown that wisdom is actually a person, it is Christ. And the scripture which points this out is found in this book of the Bible: in 1 Corinthians. Paul talks about divisions in the assembly in Corinth and then he suddenly makes a long discourse about wisdom. For one and a half chapter he writes about wisdom. And after this he is suddenly back dealing with the problem of divisions and of following people. And then later he talks about the results of these divisions: sexual immorality and lawsuits among believers.
So we get the impression that all this somehow fits together and has something to do with each other. Paul writes about wisdom from the middle of the first chapter right to the end of the second chapter. And at the end of the second chapter he comes to the grand conclusion. And for this high point of the subject wisdom he goes back to the question of Isaiah.
In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul quotes again Isaiah 40:13: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been able to teach him?"
And then he gives a clear cut, short and precise answer. An answer that explains what wisdom is all about. An answer that explains many of the questions the great prophets of the Old Testament had. An answer that highlights why the new covenant is a far better covenant. The answer lies in three things which are actually one. The answer is Christ in the first place. But it is also his body - the body of Christ. And that is us. And it is very much the fact that these two - Christ and his body - are one and that they think as one person - that they use the same mind. The answer is: But we have the mind of Christ.
The "we" is the body and this body - us - we have Christ's mind. Christ and we are one, there is unity. Christ's mind is our mind.
Just imagine. In the Old Testament scriptures tell us again and again how insignificant we are in the eyes of God, that we are just a drop in the bucket, that God's thoughts are high above ours. And now we read something like this, that we have the mind of Christ.
We should really start to comprehend what this statement means: we have the mind of Christ. It actually says: "But" we have the mind of Christ. Paul quotes Isaiah's question and then he says "But". The question of Isaiah has found its final answer in the profound mystery of this union between Christ and his assembly.
And this union is a spiritual union, it begins with the Spirit and it continues with the Spirit. It has nothing to do with human effort, nothing to do with human institutions, nothing with clergy and laity. The whole letter to the Galatians was written to deal with this aspect of life in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 3:3: "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Are you so foolish that after beginning with the Spirit you are you now trying to attain your goal in a carnal way? How many Christians start with the Spirit when they get born again and then get absorbed into a denomination and try to attain their goal by carnal means? They are going back to a state in which the Galatians were in, back to carnality, trying it themselves by getting circumcised, trying it themselves by becoming a member of a "church", by having "clergy", by going to a "church" building on Sunday morning. Paul has this to say to the Galatians: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). "But" we have the mind of Christ; we do it with the Spirit and not by human effort - by carnality.
We have the mind of Christ. We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (1 Corinthians 2:12). We can understand God and we can understand all what he has given us. And now we come to the definition of a carnal Christian. There are two types of Christians, the carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian, and here in these passages of the Bible we find how they are defined. In verse 14 of 1 Corinthians 2 the carnal Christian is describes: "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". A carnal Christian cannot understand, he does not have the mind of Christ.
But now let us see what a spiritual Christian is like (l Corinthians 2:15): "But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man". A spiritual Christian makes judgement about all things, he is able to judge all things, he has the mind of Christ. A spiritual man can see through all men and the motives behind their actions, while the carnal man cannot understand the things that come from the Spirit of God and he especially cannot understand a spiritual man, he cannot judge him.
Now you might ask: how do I know if somebody is carnal or spiritual. The answer follows directly after the "But we have the mind of Christ". This "But we have the mind of Christ" is again at the end of a chapter and we might again think that with a new chapter a new subject is discussed in Paul's letter. And this chapter division might cause a lot of people not to understand what this first letter to the Corinthian is all about.
And there is another reason why a lot of people do not understand this first letter to the Corinthians. The teachers and the clergy of the denominations do not teach the truth that is contained in this letter. The first reason is that they do not understand this truth because they are carnal. The second reason is that they distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30); they do not teach the truth; they do not teach what Paul is teaching in this first letter to the Corinthians: they suppress it. And the third reason is that if they would teach this truth then they would teach themselves out of their business, because the teaching of Paul attacks here exactly the very existence of these denominations and the very existence of the clergy as completely unacceptable. The whole issue in this letter is that all these sects and denominations and their leaders should not exist, because they cause all the brokenness and division of God's assembly on this earth into so many groups. They only exist because they do not recognize the body of the Lord. Would they be able to recognize the body of Christ then they would not divide it into various parts. And nearly all teaching aids you might find on a book shelve of a Christian book shop are written by people attached and supported by denominations, by the clergy, and they will not teach to have nothing to do with them. So you see that the greatest conspiracy of the devil against the family of God exist right in the very midst of Christianity. You do not have to go and study all kinds of conspiracy concepts and all kinds of literature on cults and false teachings; you can save all that effort, the real conspiracy is right in the middle of the well-established institutionalized "churches". May be that is one of the reasons why Christian book shops are full of this kind of literature on cults and sects: to keep you away from the real culprits.
But let us look at the definition of a carnal Christian (1 Corinthians 3:1-4): 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 whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions (or, factions), 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?
In these four verses the word carnal is used four times. This is the place in the Bible where we find the definition of a carnal Christian. The Christians in Corinth are described here by Paul as being carnal because they follow men; they have started to divide themselves into groups showing preference to specific people. They were acting like mere men. But we have the mind of Christ, we are not just mere men, we have the very Spirit of God in us and can judge all things and the carnal ones cannot understand us, they do not know what is going on. They have caused divisions among themselves (1 Corinthians 1:10). They have divided Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13). They have killed Christ again; have divided his body, the assembly of believers. One translation of this verse describes the present situation of Christ's body very well: The Christ has been divided into various parts, with the present result that He lies there broken up into fragments which are distributed among you. That is how Christianity looks like today: it lies there broken up into fragments. A sad picture - no power in it and nobody takes it seriously.
So what is this message all about? The purpose of this message is to wake you up and to make you realize that you are may be on the wrong way all along. That you may be following a "church" and that you are not really a follower of Christ. May be God loves you so that he brought this message into your hands so that you can as from this moment on become a spiritual person and can become one of those for whom the prophet Isaiah was looking. Those who know the mind of the Lord.
May God fill you with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that your heart might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom (or, wherein) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 1:9 and Colossians 2:2-3).
But we have to be united. As long as we are divided we will be carnal. We simply have to get out of any denomination or grouping. This simple step brings us back to the position of a full member - a spiritual member - of God's family. Only when we come out of this position of disunity will we become spiritual believers - wise.
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When we are listening to Christ then we are listening to that person in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden and he, Christ, tells us about these treasures and we get to know them. The more we listen to him the more we will know about them. The more we listen to him the more we will know what is on his mind. The more we listen to him the more will our mind be filled with the things that are on his mind, the more will we have the mind of Christ. But we have the mind of Christ.
Let us look at people who had the mind of Christ and therefore were spiritual. There are the men who wrote the books of the New Testament and women and men about whom we have been told in the New Testament. They achieved great things and spread the good news about Jesus Christ and changed the hearts of many: in many parts of the world the body of believers was established. But then the desire to follow people rather than the Lord came up, like in Corinth, and people stood up and got others to follow after them, like Diotrephes, who is described in 3 John 9-10. The ugly face of religion started to appear, especially something like clergy. And soon this clergy and laity business was the accepted thing of the time. But all this time the truth could not be removed completely and there were always people who followed rather God than men. But the man-made churches had become so powerful that it was a highly dangerous thing to stand up against them and many a man had to pay with great suffering and death. Many centuries after the beginning of this of God's new covenant and of the suppressing of the truth that followed soon, a man stood up and boldly declared the truth again and was able to break this all powerful might of the established Christian religion. This man Martin Luther was able to deliver such a blow to the great harlot religion that from that time on Christians in many parts of the world were able to again worship in spirit and in truth.
But what was it that made this man Martin Luther such a strong person? Two things: he renewed his mind and he completely broke all ties between him and his denomination. The beginning was the renewing of the mind of this man Martin Luther. He came to a point in his life where he did mainly one thing: he studied the word of God. This occupation become so one sided that he even stopped to read commentaries on the Bible. There was only one thing good enough for him and that was the word of God himself: Jesus Christ. Not even the opinions of other studied men counted too much; he was only interested in the true thing.
Martin Luther renewed his mind and that caused a revolution. One man dared to make the word of God his final authority in his life and was also prepared to stand up and fight for it. And when the truth spread around him his denomination reacted and the real colours appeared. And soon it was obvious that the truth and the man-made church of his had nothing in common.
The truth came to Luther through the insights which he won in the struggle to understand scripture. He came to a point where he realized that the norm of the life of believers could be taken only from scripture. "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the scripture" and "I am bound by the scriptures" and "my conscience is captive to the word of God" were statements of his. "Scripture alone" was a slogan very much associated with the reformation. He had renewed his mind to the word of God and had made scripture the final authority in his life.
One of the outcomes of this renewal was an understanding of the community of believers - of the priesthood of all believers.
Luther had read and taught the scriptures for years and he wrote that he knew them nearly all by memory. He had acquired the beginning of the knowledge of Christ and faith in him. And he had realized that what is not of God must of necessity be of the devil. Only when we come to this stage of knowledge will we comprehend why it is so important to renew the mind, because only then will we see that we have only two choices of thinking, either on the things of the devil or on the things of the Lord. So whenever we do not think on the things of the Lord we are actually thinking on the things of the great deceiver.
Luther did an important thing and encouraged others to do the same: to meditate on God's word day by day, because it is the soul's daily bread. And we have to believe this word of God, because the root and the very source of all sin is unbelief - unbelief in the depth of our heart. Unbelief is the sole cause of sin.
Luther had the mind of Christ. He had what Christ had because he sought and found this precious pearl. He had offered his life as a living sacrifice; had left the worldly things behind him and had placed his body at the disposal of God. He had left behind him a carnal way of worship and had come to worship in a spiritual way: he was changed within by a new way of thinking. And because of this he was able to decide what God wanted for him.
He was able to judge all things. Yet no one could judge him. He could see right through the whole institution of religion he was surrounded by.
And because of his position of having renewed his mind he was able to do the second important step. And this step was to break completely and utterly his relation with the denomination he was until then attached to and part of. Only then the real breakthrough came in his life. Only then: at the point when he burned his bridges behind him by burning the very paper that declared him excommunicated. With this act he declared that this religious institution had ceased to have authority over him. Luther wrote; "And as they excommunicated me for the sacrilege of heresy, so I excommunicate them in the name of the sacred truth of God." If we want to become spiritual Christians, if we want to cease to be carnal Christians, we have to excommunicate the religious institution out of our life.
This is an important step. When we study the lives of Christians who suffered because they were persecuted by denominations and sects then we will see that much of this suffering could have been prevented. Much suffering occurred because saints of the past kept on acknowledging the authority of their denomination over them. They did not make a clear break between themselves and these religious institutions. They tried to serve two masters: the Lord and also the man-made church. And we cannot do that. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). This is one of the reasons why we will remain carnal as long as we serve the master religion. Our salvation does not depend on us being a member of such an organization; such a membership will rather cause us not to reach salvation. If we follow the clergy, they will make us more fit for hell than they are (Matthew 23:15).
Luther became a spiritual person the moment he stopped following men, the moment he stopped having any other master than the Master. And there was quite a dramatic change in his life. Luther was more pleased with this one act in his life than he was with any other thing he did. He was pleased because it had made him free and it made him a spiritual person. It is quite an experience to undertake this step and see the results. A person will never look back.
There was an immediate result of this change into a spiritual person. He became a much bolder ambassador for Christ. He stood before the highest worldly authority, the emperor, and despite great pressure did not draw back. But the most dramatic event was his translation of the New Testament into German and making the word of God available to the German people. And this translation of the Bible was one of the few translations that was made by a spiritual person. We must not forget that most of our translations of today have been prepared by people who are attached to denominations and are paid by them: by carnal Christians.
The years after Luther's transformation from a carnal Christian into a spiritual Christian were years of productivity from a literary standpoint. Not only did he translate the Bible but most of the important writings from Luther come from these years when he was not attached and affiliated to a denomination or movement or sect.
We will only be able to understand the spiritual development of a man like Luther when we see the scriptural reasons for this. He only had the mind of Christ because he firstly renewed his mind to the word of God and secondly he ceased to be a partaker of a denomination. He fulfilled the two criteria of Isaiah's question: Who has known the mind of the Lord?
And this time after his break with the harlot was the time in Luther's life where he had quite a comprehensive understanding of the life of the assembly. In those early years of the reformation he saw the true assembly as being despised and rejected of men and lying hidden in the midst of the world, a remnant because the elect are few. This must be so, he held, because the word of God goes counter to all the desires of the natural man, abasing pride, crushing arrogance, and leaving all human pretensions in dust and ashes. Such a work is unpalatable, and few will receive it. Those who do will be stones rejected by the builders. Derision and persecution will be their lot.
Luther had already a clear understanding of the importance of locality when it comes to understand the life of the assembly. The fact that the only permissible grouping of believers can take place because different believers live in different localities was especially emphasized by Watchman Nee. As Watchman Nee so also Luther saw that there could be only one assembly in a given locality. There can be no other reason than locality alone to divide believers. The only ground of division contemplated in the New Testament is geographical.
Luther's personal reformation, the fact that he renewed his mind and that he became a spiritual Christian, had an impact on the world of his time second to none. If we take Watchman Nee as another example we might discover what impact that this man had had last century and still has.
Watchman Nee was a man who must have spent much time with the Lord. Reading his books and the books published from his teachings one gets the conviction that he was a man who was close to the Lord and had great insights into the mind of the Lord. He must have been a man that spent a considerable amount of time studying the word of God and meditating on it. Renewing his mind was a major part of his life. He seemed to very much have given his life as a living sacrifice.
But the outstanding thing in his life was the fact that he saw how the true assembly of believers transpires from the descriptions of the early church and that he was able to lead the believers around him to have such assemblies becoming alive to them. In China the man-made churches were destroyed by the worldly powers and by the clergy that co-operated with them. Actually all the man-made churches were forced to become one great church under the control of the government. But many years before this happened, believers in China had practised a New Testament way of gathering together. They also had learned to stay away from the destructive ways of denominations and from the clergy-laity principle.
As early as 1938 the most important book from the teachings of Watchman Nee was published. The equivalent in English of the title of the original Chinese work was "Rethinking the Work". 1939 this work was published in English under the title "Concerning Our Mission". Later it was published under the more popular known title of "The Normal Christian Church Life".
The understanding of this book will allow observers to also understand the things that happened in China. The great revival that has taken place in China was a result of people applying again the methods of the spirit as they were applied in the book of Acts of Luke. A body of believers completely free from all the trimmings of man-made churches was able to achieve a work that the man-made churches could not do in all the time they had and under circumstances that were very much more favourable than the times of the great tyrannies and the times of the cultural revolution.
These terrible times for the people of China, times of great persecution and suffering, were also times of great victories for the kingdom of God. One of the reasons for these great victories was that all man-made methods had to be abolished and the methods of the Holy Spirit had to be adopted. And another reason that this revival was so powerful was that there was a large number of believers who had been practising an assembly life that was in line with scripture.
And it all started with a man like Watchman Nee who got for himself a new way to think and who kept his life free from any ties to denominations. Only when we understand the spiritual condition of Watchman Nee will we understand the spiritual condition of China. One man became spiritual and many others stopped being carnal and also became spiritual and this again affected the whole nation and many millions became living stones in a spiritual house.
In order to get an impression of Watchman Nee's book "The Normal Christian Church Life" let us look at some of his statements he makes in that book:
"Denominations are not scriptural and we ought to have no part in them."
"Their denominationalism or sectarianism will mean that severe limitations are imposed upon the Lord as to His purpose and mind for them, and this will mean that they will never go beyond a certain measure of spiritual growth and fullness. Blessing there may be, but fullness of divine purpose never."
"If believers can be led to see what a local church is - the expression of the Body of Christ in a locality - they will certainly not remain in any sect. On the other hand it is possible for them to see all the evils of sectarianism, and leave them, without knowing what a local church is."
"God does not wish the power of organization to take the place of the power of the Holy Spirit. A good organization often serves as a poor substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit, by holding a work together even after all its vitality is gone. When life has departed from the work and the scaffolding of organization still supports it, its collapse is prevented; but that is doubtful gain, for a splendid outward organization may be blinding God's servants to a deep inward need. God would rather His work be discontinued than that it go on with such a counterfeit for spiritual power. When the glory of God had departed from the temple He Himself left it to utter ruin. Central control has many evils. It makes it easy for God's servants to disregard the leading of the Spirit, and readily develops into a Popish system, becoming a great worldly power."
"The unrelated, scattered, disrupted and conflicting organizations in Christendom, which do not recognize the principle of the Body and do not come under the sovereignty and headship of Christ, are never according to the mind of the Lord."
"If we are in a place where there are missions, or churches, standing on sectarian or denominational ground, but no church standing on the ground of the Body and the locality, then our duty is just the same, namely, to found and build a local church."
"We can only co-operate with those who are building up the Body of Christ as expressed in local churches, and not with those who are building up something else."
So what do we have to do? Two things. The first is to get ourselves a new way to think. Let me suggest a practical way. Start keeping a diary. Start to keep a diary of the things the Lord tells you. Get a Bible and start to read it and before you start reading write the date of today next to the place where you are starting to read. And this Bible with all the dates in it will be your diary. And then mark red the places that stick out to you, the places where the Lord really speaks to you and tells you something. And this will be places where there is change required in your life and where you want more understanding of God's thinking. Mark them read and keep on reading. And when you come again to a place where you are personally spoken to, then underline that again in red. And then carry on reading. And then go back again and again to these places where God spoke to you and meditate on them and decide to put these things into practice: start applying them in your life and start watching out for practical examples. Get for yourself a new way to think.
So this was step one. And now we come to step two. Get spiritual by breaking all ties to denominations, sects and religious organisations. Have nothing to do with them. Become a free person with only one master, the Master. Now beware of the devil. The devil will come to you with all kinds of reasons not to do it. We will give you some examples: "If you are looking for a job and they will ask you to provide a reference from a priest of your church, which is essential, what will you then do?" Tell the devil that you do not depend on such a job; God will give you a much better one.
May be the devil comes to you with this one: "When your daughter gets married there will be no church wedding." Tell the deceiver that you don't need a church wedding for your daughter and that no Christian in the Bible got married in a "church" and that you do not depend on what other people think of you and your daughter and their wedding and their wedding ceremony and under what circumstances they got married. You are free from the fear of men, you only fear God.
Then may be the devil comes with this one: "You will be without fellowship". May be that is exactly what you need. You have to get completely away from all the religious people you have been associated with up to now. You have to get away from all the bondage you were shackled to: from tithing, from carnality, from women's meetings, and from a long list of other "things" you do. And why do you do all these "things"? You do them because you want to avoid the one thing you really should do: spend time with the Lord and His word.
May be this is the only way to get you into real relationship with the Lord: That for a time, may be even for a long time, you completely forget about fellowship with other Christians and have fellowship with the Lord alone. May be this is the only way for you to really establish this relationship with the Lord.
And then, only then, when this is really established and working, then the Lord will lead you to other believers with whom you should practise the life of the body.
Make the probably most important step in your new life: step out of religion and step into life abundantly. Become a free person. Gain liberty and power.
Make a decision to stay away from religious meetings and churches now and stick to it. If you have a formal commitment or membership then sit down and write them a letter resigning from it. Be like Luther: he was more pleased with this one act in his life than he was with any other thing he did.
Get religion out of your life and become a believer that can say: But I have the mind of Christ.
This is the end of "Isaiah's Question."
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