We might admire truth, but we will not make spiritual progress till we know establishment in liberty. The Corinthians and Galatians had fallen from liberty. It was the natural mind in Corinthians and religiousness in Galatians.
The Natural Mind – Corinthians
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord
The Corinthians were led away by their natural minds, they gloried in their own wisdom, were not beholding the glory and were not in liberty.
Our Saviour is in glory, and we are drawn out of the ruin here to Christ where He is. That is the gospel of the glory. It is a ministration of righteousness from the glory. The glory of God is the expression of all His attributes. In much of Christendom the gospel does not go beyond the Passover – pardon for sins – Christ’s death on the cross. But being in the food resurrection is a step further. When I see Christ risen, I am justified and have peace with God. In Romans, the apostle brings me to the Person – that is deliverance:
As I look on the Lord’s glory we are transformed (2 Cor 3:18). Now, seeing Christ in glory, we brought into moral correspondence with Him. I cannot enjoy the gospel of the glory unless I am in liberty. The word transformed (μεταμορφούμεθα/metamorphoumetha/Strong 3339) – changed into another form or metamorphosised[i]. When I behold Him in the assembly, His things totally absorb me. It is like the queen of Sheba: when she came to Solomon and saw his glory, she was so entranced that there was no spirit left in her. So it is in beholding the Lord’s glory, self is displaced.
Merely reading the Bible will not conform me to be like Him. The two disciples going to Emmaus had a wonderful exposition of Scripture, but it was not which changed their course. Everything changed when the Lord made Himself known to them. Scripture corroborates our enjoyment.
Religiousness – Galatians
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
In Galatians it was religiousness. They had put themselves back under the law. They had begun in the Spirit, but were now seeking to be made perfect in the flesh. That is religiousness.
When Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a feast: all in the house were doing honour to Isaac – that is all except Ishmael, a youth of fourteen, who mocked. Sarah says he must be cast out. The first great thing in is that If Christ is to have an acknowledged right to everything that I have, I have to get rid of the religious man. Nobody has liberty till he has parted with one man (Adam), and is in another (Christ). Then he is able to say, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:20). Nothing is more difficult than to say honestly that I have done with the old man – he is eclipsed. Man tries to improve himself, he does not like to be eclipsed.
Traditional doctrine says in effect, ‘Get Isaac to improve Ishmael’. There are beautiful traits in man but none of them acknowledge Christ. Ishmael was Abraham’s son, brought up in Abraham’s house, but he persecuted the heir of promise. Finding hat the best quality in my nature does not like Christ, is an even more painful experience than that of Romans 7,. Flesh will always be flesh: I cannot improve it . As J.G. Bellett said, ‘You may sublimate the flesh as much as you like, it will never yield spirit.’[i]
There are two things:
1. I acknowledge Christ – the true Isaac – in His place.
2. I do not tolerate Ishmael.
A person in liberty rejoices in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh; he shrinks from the flesh. Everything must come divinely. The more effective a man is, the more correctly will he quote Scripture.
I might say, If I put Ishmael out of the door he will come in at the window. However, I have the Holy Spirit within me, resisting the flesh, so as not to do fleshly things. I have a power in me that keeps the door like a policeman. It is more than self-control. It is positive: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14). There is not a word about sins in this passage, it is pure liberty – a new creation.
Now I can say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me“. And now comes the practical course – “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God“, etc. It is transcendent!
[i] I cannot find the citation of this from Bellett. According to Stem Publishing, the expression was used by Charles Mackintosh and Walter Woolston . Both must have been quotes but this was not acknowledged. John Gifford Bellett predated both of the above by 25 and 50 years respectively.
[i] Strong’s note to this word: STRONGS NT 3339: μεταμορφόω
μεταμορφόω, μεταμόρφω: passive, present μεταμορφοῦμαι; 1 aorist μετεμορφώθη; to change into another form (cf. μετά, III. 2), to transfigure, transform: μετεμορφώθη, of Christ, his appearance was changed (A. V. he was transfigured), i. e. was resplendent with a divine brightness, Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2 (for which Luke 9:29 gives ἐγένετο τόεἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον); of Christians: τήν αὐτήν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα, we are transformed into the same image (of consummate excellence that shines in Christ), reproduce the same image, 2 Corinthians 3:18;