Friday, 25 January 2013

By God’s Grace

Looking at Paul’s first letter to Christians in Corinth we find the church in Corinth was a very real church that struggled with many of the same problems we can identify in most churches today. As people come to faith from all sorts of backgrounds in the world we still struggle with the same problems they faced.

  1. There is the struggle to leave behind the way the world thinks (what Paul calls “the wisdom of the world”) as we strive to grow in the wisdom of God.

  2. The temptation to declare ourselves for or against this or that party or personality in the church

  3. The challenge to see ourselves as servants faithful to the great truths and duties that have been entrusted to us.

  4. The question of how we conduct ourselves in our families, in our fellowshipping and how we engage, as we inevitably must, with the world around us while holding on to the sure hope of future resurrection to glory.

We tend to think of the church in Corinth as so very dysfunctional that any comparison with our own circumstances is insulting. But, I have found the story here very encouraging for three reasons:

Paul reminds Christians, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” (3:16)

It was Samuel Johnson who observed that, “Men need to be reminded more than they need to be informed.” As we go about kingdom business we, like the saints in Corinth, need to be reminded that we (plural) are the temple of God and that God's Spirit dwells in us. You cannot be a temple on your own and we need each other to fulfil our role as God's temple.

Paul, as he begins his letter, reminds believers, “in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (1:4-7) This, writes Paul, is “because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” (1:4)

We can never be reminded enough that whatever we are we are in him. If we are to think with God's wisdom, act as servants to each another, reach the lost we must recognise our need of heaven's equipping. If ever you have felt inadequate to the task (and who doesn't?) before you in God's service Paul assures us that we have been enriched in every way because of Jesus. We can sometimes forget to marvel that God should choose to use us at all, to remember that it is by grace alone that we are included and equipped for the work. Lets encourage one another in these things.

Finally, he promises us, “He will keep you strong to the end...” (1:8)

God, writes Paul, “who has called us into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, is faithful.” When we look at ourselves and consider each other we must remember that a great work of salvation and sanctification is going on in my life and yours every day. In his first letter John wrote:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-3)

By his grace he dwells in us, by his grace he enriches us and by his grace he promises to keep us strong to the end.

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