Summary: waiting on God
The season of Advent is characterized by an air of uncertainty as it looks backward to the birth of Christ and forward to His Second Coming. The first Sunday uses apocalyptic texts with sobering images and ideas of the coming judgment. It calls into presence the importance of the Advent season. For “this is a time of preparation, a time of prayer, a time of penance, a time of making ready to celebrate Christ’s presence with us now and in the future.” We are called into sobriety and discernment as Jesus’ warning sounds in our ears, Beware, keep alert!
In Paul’s greeting, found here in Corinthians, there is a note of warmth and affection and a degree of irony and sarcasm. Paul is urging them to use this time of waiting for Christ’s return to get ready for the coming judgment. “The church was messy and divided. There were conflicting loyalties, factions, law suits, arguments, debates and division among them. They were not acting as God’s holy people and Paul was calling them to live up to their inheritance and their privilege as God’s holy people.” (intro adapted from Sermon Central)
It was true they had been “enriched” in speech and knowledge of every kind. Their witness in Christ had grown; but, Paul is reminding them, it is by His faithfulness that they, and us, will be found blameless before God. It is in His faithfulness that we are called into fellowship with Christ where we are to mature and grow in his likeness. And, it is in His faithfulness that we have been called into fellowship with the living body of Christ, the church, as we wait for His Second Coming.
Waiting is the hardest work of Christian hope. Over and over again throughout the Bible God lovingly assures us to wait. Abraham waited 24 years for the son God had promised, the Hebrew nation waited 40 years before entering the promised land, the Jews waited for the Messiah, the disciples kept waiting for Jesus to usher in his kingdom the way they expected, they waited in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, all the way through the Bible to the last words in the last chapter of Revelation God calls us to wait. Revelation 22:20, “Behold I am coming soon” – hold on and wait for me.
What God does in us while we wait, though, is as important as what we are waiting for. Biblical waiting is not passively sitting around for something or someone to come along that will allow you to escape from your trouble. People sometimes say “I’m just waiting on the Lord” as an excuse not to face up to reality, take appropriate action or own up to their responsibility. That is not what waiting on the Lord is. Biblical waiting is not passive; it is not a way to evade unpleasant realities.
Waiting on the Lord is a confident, disciplined, expectant, active and sometimes painful clinging to God. It is the daily decision to say “God I trust you and will obey you, even when things don’t seem to be going right.” It is submitting yourself to God’s introspection of your life and habits and asking him to change you while you wait for Him to come again.
There were problems in the Corinthian church divisions, immorality, pride, selfishness, and pettiness. They tolerated all kinds of sinful behavior in the church when they should have been dealing with it. They failed to reach out to those in the world they were supposed to win. They refused to be servants of God in ministry to the downtrodden and poor. They claimed superior Christian wisdom and knowledge and they used it to impress and control others for personal gain and prestige. The influence of the world took precedence over the influence and leading of the Holy Spirit.
The reports of these problems greatly distressed the apostle Paul. In fact, he mentions that he has already sent one letter previously concerning these. In this letter he is harsh as he seeks to address these issues again. His harshness, however, is rooted in his love and concern for their spiritual well being. “One commentator notes that Paul’s quarrel with the church at Corinth was a lover’s quarrel. He loved them despite their problems. It was a love that grieved because they had failed to become everything that God had intended and designed them to be while waiting His return.
A brilliant scholar, Paul could have overwhelmed his listeners with intellectual arguments. Instead he shared the simple message of Christ by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide his words. His words were and are authoritative because their source was the Holy Spirit. He is declaring that no amount of human knowledge or giftedness can replace or bypass Christ’s work on the cross. Skill and wisdom do not get a person into God’s kingdom, simple faith does. No one can boast that hs or her achievements or works helped him or her secure eternal life.