“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

[For the explanation and illustration (animated short) of “C/E Spiritual Theory”, please see here.  For the previous post in this “Scriptural Case Study”, please see Part 1.  Since this post builds on these two prior ones, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with them first before continuing here.  Thanks.]

[Listen to Part 2 here.]

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Fullness/Diminishment (Cont.)

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After Paul dealt a decisive blow to the inflated significance that some had ascribed to him in making him the “unifying identity” of their “I am of Paul” clique in Corinth, he now turns his attention to two spiritual matters, wisdom and power.  From the middle of 1 Corinthians 1 through the end of chapter 2, he circles around these two matters in order to ultimately center them fully in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)  He further seeks to emphasize that both wisdom and power are revealed and imparted to God’s people through the Holy Spirit, not by the abilities of “the natural man” nor the collective endowments of “the world.”

Although at first glance it may not seem that this 1 1/2-chapter-long focus was purposely concentrated to deal head on with the divisions that existed in Corinth, upon closer examination, it seems that Paul was actually moving below the surface of the problem and going deeper to the very root of it.

So, we may ask, why wisdom and power?  May I suggest that these two spiritual matters were the deeper “eccentricities” that those who were professing “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas” were being drawn to.  Apollos and Cephas appear to merely be the human vessels in and through which these two attributes were separately being embodied and expressed.

While Paul was very well-rounded and balanced in his person and ministry, Apollos and Cephas were more accentuated in their strengths and weaknesses.  If you were to picture a balance scale with the left side representing wisdom and the right side power, Paul would probably be perched somewhere in the middle, embodying both, while Apollos would clearly be on the left side and Cephas on the right.

What we know about Apollos was that he was a Jew from one of the leading academic centers of the ancient world (for both Jewish and Hellenistic learning), Alexandria, Egypt.  According to Luke’s account of him in the book of Acts, his strength in ministry was in the Word of God (“Scriptures”) and its eloquent exposition.  Luke says he was, “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures,” and that, “he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”  (Acts 18:24, 28)   This heavily puts him on the “wisdom” side of the scale.

Simultaneously, his weakness seems to be on the “power” side of things.  When he had come to Ephesus, Luke says that “he knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), and thus, by implication, did not know either water baptism into Christ, nor the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit, through which the power of God is imparted (Acts 1:4-5,8).  It is further noteworthy that there are no recorded miracles associated with his ministry.

In contrast, however, Cephas (Peter) was considered an “uneducated and untrained” man (Acts 4:13).   He was not known for his superior intellect, education, nor eloquence.  From the day of Pentecost onward, however, mighty miracles, signs, and wonders continually flowed from this broken fisherman!  This characteristic of the miraculous preeminently marked his ministry and, therefore, places him firmly on the “power” side of the scale.

So, whereas Apollos embodied and primarily ministered the wisdom of God through the Word of God, Peter embodied and primarily ministered the power of God through the Spirit of God.

The wisdom of the Word and the power of the Spirit are both essential and ought never to be separated, yet men tend to gravitate and orient toward one or the other.  This was even a religious/cultural tendency in the first century.  Within this section of 1 Corinthians that we are considering, Paul says : “Jews demand signs, and Greeks look for wisdom,” (1 Corinthians 1:22.)

It is reasonable to conclude, then, that some of the Greeks in Corinth were being drawn to the wisdom of God flowing through Apollos, while some of the Jews were being drawn to the power of God flowing thorough Peter, the “apostle to the circumcised.” (Galatians 2:8)

If the isolated and inordinate elevation of wisdom and power by differing groups in Corinth was indeed the underlying taproot of the “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas” sects, then Paul’s radical approach of focusing intensively on these two aspects (in order to center and sum them both up in Christ and the cross) was pure apostolic brilliance!

With that perspective in mind, let us now look at how the apostle Paul tackles these two aspects, especially in relation to spiritual fullness and diminishment.

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In the remainder of chapter 1 (verses 17-31), Paul, on the one hand, exalts Jesus Christ (and Him “crucified”) as the fullness of “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (vs. 24) , and, on the other hand, shows the utter foolishness and weakness of the wisdom and power that this world has to offer (vs.19-23,25-29.)  Those who center in Jesus Christ, therefore, center in the place of all spiritual fullness, whereas those who make either wisdom or power their “main point” settle for spiritual diminishment.

Paul then continued in chapter 2 with an emphasis on how and by whom wisdom and power are manifested among and administered to God’s people.  His intent was to show, on the one hand, the utter incapacity of humanity to naturally embody and administer these divine virtues [beginning with himself (vs. 1-4a) and then the “natural man” in general (vs. 6, 8-9,14)], and, on the other hand, the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in both possessing and supplying these heavenly attributes to the people of God (vs. 4, 10-13.)

In these two sections, then, Paul exalts Jesus Christ, the cross, and the Holy Spirit to their rightful, elevated places and sets “wisdom”, “power”, “the natural man”, and “the world” in their appropriate lesser, limited places.  He further accurately frames the dependent servants of the Lord as His “foolish” and frail vessels called and equipped for displaying forth His Spirit-imparted virtues.  His ultimate intention is that of re-gathering the ekklesia of Corinth back to the Christocentric nature of the Kingdom of God that it would be re-centered in the place of all spiritual fullness and away from all spiritual diminishment.

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By way of illustration of what has been said thus far in this case study, the situation that existed in Corinth may be loosely likened to that described in the poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, by John Godfrey Saxe  (click to read if you wish.)  The poem winsomely depicts the disputings of six blind men as they each vigorously insist on what an elephant is like.  Depending on the one part of the elephant they were each touching/holding onto, their descriptions varied widely as: “a wall” (side), “a spear” (tusk), “a snake” (trunk), “a tree” (leg), “a fan” (ear), and “a rope” (tail.)  After describing each man’s settled conclusion, the poem then continues:

“And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!”

Each of these blind men had a very diminished perception of the elephant and so they “disputed loud and long” holding fast to their partial perspectives.  And so it is when we, in our lack of spiritual vision, lay hold of a part of Christ and think we have the whole of Him, or at least the most significant part.  Such diminished perceptions lead to disputations, schisms, sectarian identities, and spiritual limitation.  Only when we all come to clearly see Jesus Christ in the consummate fullness of ALL that He is, will all such “di-visions” cease to exist.  Such a unified full perception of Christ will invariably lead to agreement, harmony, a unified identity, and spiritual abundance.  To minister Christ unto this end was Paul’s unceasing burden and heavenly mandate!

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We are now approximately two-thirds of the way through Paul’s apostolic reproof and correction regarding the divisions that existed in the ekklesia of Corinth.  In my opinion, he saved his best and most compelling exhortations for last.  We will pick up in the next post with 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and the C/E Spiritual Theory aspects of Balance/Distortion.

“C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 3)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – Explained and Illustrated (with animated short)
“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 1)

“Christocentricity/Eccentricity Spiritual Theory” main page: C/EST

The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
“Christ – The Center of All Things” by Nathan Odell
“The Blind Men and the Elephant” – by John Godfrey Saxe

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
This entry was posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Christ-Centered Unity, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Holy Spirit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “C/E Spiritual Theory” – A Scriptural Case Study (Part 2)

  1. errollmulder says:

    Again so practical and helpful. Thanks David!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allan Halton says:

    Hi again, David. I’m enjoying your “case study.” I recall a book I read years ago by Watchman Nee– “Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things” It was a focusing book for me, and it’s good to see you emphasizing this once again!

    Liked by 2 people

    • David Bolton says:

      Hi Allan, thanks for your comment! I also read that book by Nee many years ago and it had a similar impact on me. Thankful for those such as Nee who had such a clear revelation of the Lord and His ways. We stand on the shoulders of giants! Glad you’re enjoying the “case study.” A bit more to come! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Lloyd says:

    Great stuff, David!

    Liked by 1 person

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