First Corinthians 13--More about patience
Jul 03, 2017
The word for patience in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is macrothumeo. The word macro means “long,” and thumeo is from thumos, which is where we get our word for the thymus gland. The word means “anger or passion.” Patience, or macrothumeo, was the ability to go a long time without reacting with anger or passion. A patient person simply did not react to outward circumstances, but to the inward motivation of the Spirit.
This Greek word was used in the Septuagint translation of Exodus 34:6 and Numbers 14:18 as the equivalent of the Hebrew, arek aph, “long-nosed.” The KJV translates it as “longsuffering,” and the NASB translates it “slow to anger.” The idea is that one’s nose, or nostrils flare when angry, and a person breathes heavily when emotions arise. But one who is “long nosed” is slow to be affected emotionally. Therefore, he is patient.
Because patience is a fruit of the Spirit, it is evident that it is not a fruit of the flesh. There is a difference in the quality of patience between one who is fleshly and one who is spiritual. The fleshly man may learn patience and endurance by self-discipline, but the spiritual man receives patience from God’s disciplines. The pattern for this is discussed in the book of Hebrews in terms of Israel’s trials in the wilderness. Most of the Israelites lacked endurance and thus failed to receive the promises.
Fleshly Impatience and Spiritual Patience
Godly patience is a quality of the holy seed that has been begotten in us by His Spirit. It is not naturally a quality of the fleshly seed by which we were begotten by our earthly parents. We read in 1 Peter 1:23-25,
23 for you have been born again [gennao, “begotten”] not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 But the word of the Lord abides forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Here Peter tells us that the word of God is the divine seed that has begotten us, and that we are therefore new creatures in Christ. The “old man,” as Paul would describe our flesh man, was begotten by corruptible seed that has little endurance, for it is like grass and flowers which wither and fall to the ground in a day. The “new man,” however, has been begotten by the Spirit through the incorruptible and imperishable seed of the word of God. Hence, it “abides forever.”
If we have been begotten by the Spirit, we are no longer the person that our parents brought into this world. Actually, there are two people instead of just one, and we then have opportunity to declare before the divine court our change of identity from the old man of flesh to the new spiritual man that has been begotten by the seed of the word. This is a legal declaration of identity, and, as Paul says in Romans 7:14, “we know that the law is spiritual.” In other words, going before the divine court is a spiritual act of law.
The spiritual man, which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, has all of the qualities of love, which he has received from his heavenly Father. This includes patience, because the spiritual man—Christ in you—has the power to endure to the end. In that sense, when we speak of learning patience, we should understand that all of the characteristics of love already reside in that holy seed that is coming to birth in every true believer.
New Identity in Christ
The problem, then, is that we seem to lose track of our new identity. Most believers have not been taught these basic principles of sonship, and so after they are begotten of God, they continue to identify with their fleshly man. In other words, they continue to allow their flesh man to rule over the spiritual man that has been begotten in them. They identify with their flesh, their earthly family, race, and culture, thinking that this old identity is now God-blessed.
But the old man was sentenced to death in the time of Adam. That will not change, for that is the divine verdict for Adam’s sin, which has been passed down to all of his generations and has also affected all of creation. But God in His mercy has prepared another way to immortality. It comes through a new beginning, a new begetting, wherein we may be begotten by another Father and thereby become sons of God. By a legal change of identity, we may become new creatures, no longer identified by fleshly parents and ancestors, but by God Himself.
This new creation man, a son of God through the seed of the word, has the same character found in Jesus Christ. It is not Jesus Himself, but “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27). It is not Jesus Christ, but Stephen Christ, or James Christ, or Ron Christ. Fill in your own name, for you were begotten according to the same pattern that Jesus was begotten of the Virgin Mary.
Our new creation man will never replace the Head, but it is certainly the Body of Christ, having the same DNA from the same Father.
Therefore, all of the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 are already within your new creation man. Our mission is first to allow the word of God to beget Christ in us, secondly, to receive this new identity, and thirdly, to walk according to that new identity. If we do this, then we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
The True Inheritor
Religious people, however, seek to train their old man of flesh to be good enough to be saved. They mistakenly think that the child of flesh can be an inheritor in the Kingdom, that it is “chosen.” They hope that the Holy Spirit can perfect the old man of flesh. It is not a bad thing to train the flesh or to restrain it from doing evil. But it is better to reckon it dead and to walk according to one’s heavenly identity, for that is the true Christian (Christ-like) way of life.
Patience, then, is the outworking of love over a period of time, beginning with a verdict from the divine court, whereby we receive a change of identity. Patience is seen in a person’s spiritual growth and advancement from immaturity to maturity. It is the path to immortality, begun by the word of truth that begat us through Passover, which now teaches us patience through Pentecost, and which culminates at the fulfillment of Tabernacles.
Tabernacles is the time when the word that is within us, having been fully developed, is brought to full birth in the world. The word is becoming flesh in us—not taking upon itself the flesh of our earthly parents, but new flesh as it ought to be, an expression of our heavenly Father.
So be patient, and run the race of life with endurance. Be slow to react to the provocations of the world. Gain strength and maturity by allowing your new creation man to be the real you. In the end, you will receive the crown of life reserved for the overcomers. Your new creation man will inherit the Kingdom.
This is part 71 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones