Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 1: 1 - 3) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 28 September 2014.
We have read Acts 18: 1 – 22, the visit of Paul with Silas and Timothy to Corinth. Paul spent 6 months in tent making there, to subsidise his preaching and teaching. Both Jews and Greeks converted at that place.
Corinth was a dysfunctional church, but we also need to look at ourselves before pointing the finger to them. We are not exactly perfect and will not be until we go to be with the Lord.
When we look at the social and religious life in Corinth, it is not too different from our nation with its low public morals.
Whilst Paul was at Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Chloe’s family (1: 11) told him of the immorality and dissension in the church. Almost at the same time, 3 members of the church wanted advice on matters of marriage, things sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and charitable collections.
As Church, we are informed of:
1. God’s grace
2. God’s peace
3. Celebrate God’s grace and peace
Review of the last sermon:
a. Called to be holy
We are called to be separate/set apart – from sin, all that against God’s character.
The words ‘to be’ are missing in the original. Our status is that of people who are ‘called holy,' which can only be so by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, covered by His righteousness.
Sanctification is not an attainment, but what God calls people so that they can start walking with Him. It covers them with the robe of righteousness attained through finished work of Jesus (as we are reminded in Galatians chapter 2). We need to stop often to think and thank God.
It is a long process, which needs to have decisive break with unbelief and sin, and start with new way of faith and obedience – at the foot of the cross.
The most important thing is for people to be – to grow in Jesus – rather than what they do, although inevitably one will lead to the other.
b. Calling on the Lord
'Ekklesia' is the Greek word for any secular assembly for it is used of rioters in Ephesus (Acts 19). It was also used in the Septuagint for the assembly of Israelites, but also used by the New Testament writers to describe the assembly of God’s people, which is unique as God is in the centre.
Church is not social club, or where we go to enjoy services or even to perform‘Christian duties’ (whatever that might mean). The Church is the gathered people to call upon the Lord.
Grace and peace are mentioned in all letters as greetings, except in1 John.
God’s grace and peace is central to the book. We need to remember that as we go through it. The keys to the letters or books in New Testament are in the front or back doors – in this case, in the opening verses. We will develop theme of grace and peace in successive sermons, so I am not going to say everything about these two things in this sermon or I will have nothing to say in following months.
The first three verses are foundational – if we do not get them right then the rest of the book does not make sense.
Worship, marriage and spiritual gifts proceed from God’s grace and peace – indeed, we refer to ‘charismatic gifts,’ gifts arising from God’s grace.
Both grace and peace are real as linked with and proceeded from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, imparted by the Holy Spirit – the harmony seen in the Godhead.
1. God’s grace
We may have our own thoughts about the meaning of the two words ‘grace’ and ‘peace, particularly ‘grace’’.
It is not as in the following illustration: A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six year-old daughter and said, ‘Would you like to say the blessing?’ The girl replied, ‘I wouldn’t know what to say.’ ‘Just say what you hear your Mummy say,’ the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, ‘Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?’
We have been thinking much at housegroup recently on God’s grace.
· = underserved/unmerited mercy (Romans 6: 23 – ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’)
· = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – nothing we could do, God reaching down to us as we could not reach up to Him, free gift of God to people
Grace is what Jesus brought – ‘[Jesus] came…full of grace and truth’ (John 1: 14)