Thursday, July 30, 2015

Right Back (to) Where We Started From

Good morning (well, afternoon now),

I had an 8:30 appointment this morning which dictated that I not eat breakfast.  Believe me, you don't want to read anything I've "digested" and blogged about on an empty stomach!  And, then, the air conditioner had to be repaired, etc.  So, I'm just now getting down to my "morning" Bible study.

There is some disagreement among Bible scholars as to when Paul did what and went where. He gave several clues in his letters by mentioning this ruler and that one.  According to Matthew McGee, Paul's first visit to the Corinthian church was in the spring of 52 A.D., during his "second missionary journey".  He stayed there about a year and a half, meeting Priscilla and Aquila, and making tents to support himself.  During this stay, Paul also preached the gospel and wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians. After leaving Corinth, he traveled across the sea to Ephesus.  Paul wrote 1 & 2 Corinthians near the end of his approximately 3-year stay in Ephesus (Acts 16:8, 19), around 57 A.D.

The reason that Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians is that the young church had become so carnal and worldly in their living that the rest of Corinthian society could tell no difference between the Christians and the non-Christians.  Corinth was a city full of every kind of vice, overrun with philosophers spouting their particular brand of virtue.  Instead of listening to and holding true to what they were taught by Paul, the Corinthian church was swayed by the worldly crowd around them, allowing themselves to become polluted, allowing their gospel message to become diluted.  This was a bunch of "take-it-easy Christians":  discipleship and holiness were sadly lacking.

In order to address the situation Paul reminded the Corinthians in 1:1-9 of "where they started from": their holy calling in Christ Jesus.  He attempted to re-frame the situation and re-focus their allegiance to their Lord.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in youso that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

I find this interesting...Despite their having become mired in the sin that surrounded them, despite their "practice" (daily walk) having become defiled, Paul talked about the Corinthian believers' position in Jesus Christ.  He did not start out by saying, "Well, Buddy, you've DONE IT NOW!  You have LOST your salvation!  Onto the trash heap of God's judgment you will forever go!"

Instead, he said, "Hey, Folks, you have been called to be saints, to live the sanctified (set apart) life, the holy walk by faith.  People!  Get right back to where you started from!"  He hearkens back to that day when "the testimony of Christ was confirmed in" (them), the day they had received the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving grace.  He pointed out that he had observed in their local church all the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work.

He further pointed out (and this really amazes me) that the Lord Jesus would continue His work of holiness (blamelessness) in them until either they died or He returned to earth, and that the Lord would do that because God is faithful to keep those who are His.  Now, keep in mind, Paul made these affirmative statements to a severely wandering church!

Be assured that by affirming these truths Paul was not condoning the rampant sin that raged through this body of believers.  Not at all!  However, Paul knew that nothing has the power to transform more than the grace of God.

You see, these believers knew, for the most part, that they had gotten off track.  They didn't need to be beat over the head with that fact.  My pastor says that there is no more miserable person on earth than the saint who knows he or she is not walking in holy obedience to the Lord.  When a Christian leaps into sin and wallows in it, the Holy Spirit will make him or her pretty miserable.  Thank God for that!

What these folks needed was to be reminded of the truth of the grace of God.  And, they were probably surprised that Paul took this approach.  Did they deserve this grace from Paul?  No.  IF grace is "deserved", then it isn't grace.  It is "merit".  Grace has everything to do with the One extending the grace, and nothing to do with the merits of the one receiving it.

Why do you think that Peter was called "the rock" by the Lord?  Because of his outstanding track record as a disciple?  Because he tried to walk on water and failed?  Because he tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross?!  Because he fell asleep 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane?  Need more examples?

Tullian Tchividjian, in his book One-Way Love, puts it like this:
"It is no coincidence that Peter was both the weakest and the one who recognized who Jesus was.  He could recognize the Savior, because he knew how much he needed one!"  
Peter knew that there was no way he could follow God on his own.  I imagine the Corinthians were discouraged, believing the same thing.  They needed a fresh infusion of God's grace, and that is what Paul gave them.  I think Paul might have liked this song:

Ok, dance session over!  :)
Look at the underlined and italicized portions of today's Scripture passage again.  Do you see how Paul reminded them of the glorious grace they had received?

So, God's grace is the antidote to all sin.  It is grace that draws the wandering Christian or the lost rebel home.  Hallelujah!

Heavenly Father, I am so grateful to be the recipient of your grace.  I need it every, single day.  Even knowing this, it is stupefying how easily I tend to deny that healing grace to others, instead responding with the hammer of the Law.  But, you are teaching me, and as painful as the lessons are, I am blessed to receive them.  They are intended to mold me more into Your image.  In Jesus' name, amen.


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