Rules Of The Road
The Royal Route To Heaven
At the beginning of this series of messages it was indicated that there is more than one route that a man can take to Heaven. As we pursue our way through this portion of God’s Word we have seen the awful possibility of a man being saved, but as by fire, and losing everything at the judgment seat of Christ except his salvation. Our concern, however, has been to seek to help one another together to walk on what I have called “The Royal Route,” the route that is worthy of men and women who are children of the King of kings.
This route involves a Christian in many problems, and I would not suggest that it is easy, for it certainly is not: it is like walking on a knife edge. It is sharp, dangerous, narrow, easy to slip, and easy to tumble. It is much watched by others, much observed, much criticized. The man who walks on this “Royal Route to Heaven” is often a man misunderstood by other people; a man in whose heart, however, there is a conviction that nothing on Earth can ever shake, for on that way he knows he is walking with God.
To serve the Lord as we travel, there are certain rules of the road. You cannot go along any highway without having rules, and if you break them, the outcome is disgrace to your own life, disaster in the life of others, and dishonor to the name of the Lord.
In this portion of Scripture, Paul gives us three rules. The point at issue would seem to be something very remote from us in 1959. Paul had faced the Corinthian Church with their true condition—which took him six chapters. Now he begins to answer some questions which they had asked him. The first concerned marriage; the second concerned meat offered to idols (and he is still dealing with that here); later he has a word to say about women in the church and their place of testimony and service; also, he has something to say about the Lord’s Table. Then, with a sense of relief, I think, he says, “Now touching spiritual things,” and he takes us on through great spiritual gifts: the gifts of healing, and tongues, and into the greatest of all—the gift of love, and away up to the resurrection glory. Just as we think we must have gotten there, he ends by talking about the collection! This is Paul’s thrilling “Royal Route to Heaven.”
We come in this chapter to the climax of what he has to say concerning meat offered to idols. The point at issue is found in verses 25 to 30. Here is a believer, and he has been asked out to dinner one day with non-Christian friends, and he accepts the invitation gladly. I am so glad that Paul underlines the fact that we are permitted to do so. Oh, the tragedy of so many Christian people who just dare not go into an unbeliever’s home in case they get contaminated! Now Paul says, “If you are disposed to go, all right, go and enjoy yourself.” The problem in Corinth, as indeed it is here, was that the life of those people was so mixed up with idolatry that it was difficult for a Christian to know where to draw the line. Similarly it is difficult for you and me to know exactly how to react in one situation or another. “Now,” Paul says, “you go and eat and enjoy it, and when your meat is put before you, let sleeping dogs lie!”
In other words don’t ask any questions as to where it came from, for that would be rude; enjoy it and eat it. But if your host tells you that this is meat offered to idols, then don’t touch it. For if he tells you so, quite clearly he attaches some importance to idolatry. As you must not be identified with him in idol worship, you must abstain; but if he says nothing about it, and you do not know a thing about it, don’t start trouble by asking. Is this miles away from where you live, in 1959? It is not so far as you think!
This introduces us to the first rule of the road: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth,” verse 24. In other words, the first rule of the road is: Living sacrificially for others. You are saved not only that you might serve the Lord, but that you might so live before other people that nothing you may do in your actions or reactions will cause offense. You will be able to go into the home of non-Christian people, and eat and talk with them, and move among them, but never for one moment will you lower your standard of Christian living. You will do nothing that will put any kind of hindrance in the way of another, or that will be stumbling block to him. Your first concern as you go to partake of food in the home of an unbeliever is the spiritual wealth of that person. It may be a social date or a formal occasion, but deep down in your heart, the one purpose of your going is that you might enrich that man spiritually. You are on the King’s business, and there is no vacation from that. This is the first rule of the road: I am so to live in any situation that wherever I may go I will not lower the standard of the Master.
I would underline this, and make it clear from the teaching of the Apostle Paul that the Christian, as an individual (or the Christian fellowship as a group), is not called upon to live within a little watertight compartment, wrapped up and inoculated against any possible contamination through contact with unconverted people. Rather, he is to move among them—talk with them, live with them, go with them, and meet with them—but always maintaining the standard of the Christian life. It is never to lower his principles, or put a stumbling block in the way. He is to remember that his one objective on every occasion is not the social occasion, but rather that he should enrich his friend’s spiritual wealth. We are not primarily seeking smugly to make ourselves more holy but through contact with an unbelieving world to do everything in our power to get that person to see his wealth in Jesus Christ.
Now of course, if I accept this as the rule of the road, it is going to break through many barriers; it is going to go over many walls; it is going to mean many associations and many circles, and there is danger all around. That is true. But the Christian is called upon to live dangerously and adventurously; he is called upon to launch out into uncharted areas among ungodly people and never to fear. He is to go there because God sends him that he might reach others for Christ. Now this, of course, is a situation which is going to be fraught with great peril. How is he going to do this and not lower his principles and standards? How is he going to mix with unconverted people, and yet himself stand true to his spiritual principles?
The second rule of the road: Live in separation to God. We find further back in the chapter, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread,” verse 16. If you apply the first rule of the road, and the Christian begins to break through into the circles of ungodly people and comes into contact with them, immediately he is going to face the problem that I have stated: how can I do this, and how am I to react in these situations so that I do not lower my principles? What is to be the guiding factor? Time and time again Paul takes his readers back to the Cross, and he does it here in verse 16.
To observe the first rule of the road would be disastrous unless the Christian does it with the recognition that he starts out from Calvary. He must begin by recognizing that his fellowship is not with the world nor with ungodly people, but it is fellowship with the Lord Jesus in His death and His resurrection. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (fellowship) of the blood of Christ? “The bread which we break, is it not fellowship in the body of Christ?” Here, says Paul, is the place of your fellowship.
As we read verses 18 through 20 we might think they contradict what Paul has already said, but they do not, for they draw an important distinction which the church today often fails to observe, and to which Christian people have apparently shut their eyes. Fellowship is with Calvary, but contact must be with the world; fellowship is with the Lord Jesus, and friendship with those who do not know the Saviour. My fellowship is with blood that was shed at the Cross and with the body of Jesus that was broken for me, but my contract in His Name must be to be “all things to all men, that by all means I might win some.” My fellowship is with a broken body and with shed blood, but because my fellowship is there, the love of Christ constrains and I will go anywhere into any company, no matter how dangerous, it only in so doing I might win a soul for Jesus.
In other words, Paul distinguishes between our associations and our fellowship, our contacts and our communion. The Word of God clearly distinguishes between fellowship and contact. Now, of course, this is something that some people neither understand nor see, and immediately when some Christians move in ungodly circles to have a meal with an unconverted person, or go to an unconverted person’s house, or have contact with them, immediately the world says, (or perhaps worse still, his Christian friends say), “He is lowering his standard! He is having fellowship with unbelievers!” Nothing of the kind! His fellowship is in heaven—it is at Calvary—his heart is in tune with God, but for the sake of the Lord Jesus he is moving in contact with ungodly people that he might win them to Christ.
If the early disciples thought as some Christians do today, there would have been no spread of the Gospel. The church would have been bottled up in Jerusalem in an upper room, awaiting liquidation.
If John Wesley had reasoned like that he might have been spared many broken and bruised bones, but England would have been engulfed in a revolution equal to the one raging in France.
If William Booth had feared criticism from onlookers and contamination from the outcasts, the Salvation Army would never have been founded, with its fearless entry into the more sordid haunts of vice and crime.
Above all, the Lord Jesus was not ashamed to be called the friend of publicans and sinners, despite the withering condemnation of the Pharisees, who scorned to let so much as their shadow fall upon the downtrodden and the outcast.
Today we are more fearful and apprehensive of the reaction and criticism of others than we are obedient to the command of the Master to, “Go…preach.”
“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils, you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.” Now this is something which only you and I as individual Christians can know and discern if we are right before God. If you move in ungodly circles and discover that your heart is going out to the thing which they enjoy, and if you discover you are losing your attachment and devotion to the Lord Jesus and are becoming slack in your relationship there and are becoming involved in a kind of liking and hankering after the things of the world, then this rule of the road comes with shattering authority that you cannot do it. You cannot say you belong to Jesus and live with the devil, for it does not work. There is to be absolute separation to God, but I beg of you: separation is not isolation.
Separation is the greatest open-hearted outreach in the name of a crucified, risen Saviour that a child of God can ever have. The principle of it is that he moves among and speaks to others who do not think as he does. He is in that circle, but deep down in his heart his fellowship is with Jesus; he is being kept in that situation by the power of God, and nobody but he and his Lord know. Of course, everybody else gets on his neck and says, “lowering the standards,” “compromise,” “breaking the rules,” “yielding to principle,” “moving with idolators and unbelievers.” Nonsense! If he does not do it, how in the name of Heaven are such people ever to be won for Jesus?
Christian friend, apply that rule to your own heart today in both directions. I told you that this life is dangerous—like being on a knife edge. Oh, but thank Heaven it is; just to live dangerously for the Lord Jesus! Apply it on the one extreme: watch—in your contacts with the world, with the outsider, and with the unbeliever—that your fellowship and communion with the Lord are being kept, and that your heart is right with God. Be clear and transparent in your relationship with Him, and in all your contacts you will be conscious of His everlasting arms around you and of His keeping power. But if that is not happening, retrace your steps. Get back to Calvary and break any possibility of fellowship with others. Be alert for that danger.
On the other hand, watch the other danger of being so wrapped up in “the cup of blessing which we bless, and the body and bread that we break,” and so wrapped up in the Lord Jesus that you never dare venture out of your reserved compartment that takes you to Heaven in order to launch out for souls in His name. Live dangerously! But live in separation to God.
The third rule of the road is to be found in the closing part of the chapter, which is really the climax of the whole argument that Paul is bringing to us here: Single-minded purpose for the glory of the Saviour. Do all things (not some things), not for the glory of self nor to make a name or a reputation, but for the glory of the Lord. So you see, dear traveler in the convoy to Heaven, the child of God who is observing these three rules will face hundreds of questions every day of his life and because of these rules, before he makes a decision he will ask himself three things about any situation in which he finds himself.
1. I must live sacrificially for others. Therefore in any situation, is what I do a stumbling block to other people? If it is, I will cut it out, for my concern is for their welfare.
2. I must live in separation to God, therefore, can I ask the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ on this action that I take? If I cannot expect Him to bless me in it, then I will cut it out. For “the blessing of the Lord maketh rich and addeth no sorrow,” and I dare not live for a moment without the sense of His fellowship. I cannot grieve Him.
3. I must do all things for the glory of God. Therefore: can I do this thing for the glory of God? If I cannot, then it must go. In other words, all this talk today about participating in everything, “just taking it a little gently,” “just having a share in all things,” does not hold water whatsoever. Here a Christian is to live boldly, but with a life that is absolutely clear cut.
I would give you, then, these three rules of the road as you walk the “Royal Route to Heaven,” and three questions that you apply as you seek to follow the rules.
Live sacrificially for other people. If any action or decision will prove to be a stumbling block to another Christian, do not do it.
Live in separation unto God. You cannot drink of the Lord’s cup and of the cup of the enemy. There may be contact but no fellowship, for our fellowship must be with the Lord Jesus, therefore ask yourself, “Can I ask the blessing of God upon this action?”
Whatsoever you do, do it to the glory of God. Therefore, when you take a step or make a decision, is it for the glory of God? It not, omit it.
Simple rules. Break them—disaster to yourself, disgrace to your testimony, dishonor to the Lord. Keep them, and experience the liberty of the child of God who is free from the condemnation of the Lord but who, as Paul says in chapter 9 ,verse 21, “is under the law to Christ.” Oh, the blessedness of submission to His Sovereignty! May that be your portion, for Jesus’ sake.