Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 1: 4 - 5) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 28 September 2014.
As mentioned before in the two previous sermons, this letter is to be seen through the prism of grace and peace (verse 3).
The Corinthian church was very much like us – surrounded by a society that had no moral compass and where there was a religious maelstrom.
So, in the midst of this situation, Paul encourages and praises the church when he can, although there was much amiss as we shall discover in future weeks.
We moan whether it be about (for example) state of our nation, the service in shops, our jobs, our marriages, our family (including in-laws), the Church worldwide, our local church; and will moan to our neighbour, on Facebook, on twitter, or basically to anyone who will listen.
But Christians have more to be thankful for than anybody else because one of the purposes of being a saint (one who has been rescued from sin by the Saviour) is to be thankful to the One who gave his life for us.
There are three principle reasons for thanks:
1. God’s given grace
2. In Christ Jesus
1. God’s given grace
The source of the right relationship with God is God Himself, as there is no other way that can come to Him.
Romans 7: 18 declares ‘I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.’ Our human achievement means very little and is certainly no admission ticket to heaven.
We can often come to God with shopping list. We should not even thank for things that happened to us, but to start our conversation with Him by just being thankful for His immeasurable grace toward us.
We should be constantly thanking Him for bringing us into His family.
He had us in our hearts before creation: ‘For He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.’ (Ephesians 1: 4)
We are to remember that we are called ‘holy’ (see verses 1 - 3), that is separated from sin, i.e. all that grieves God. This is because God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Jesus covering us.
As we saw before, sanctification is work already completed if have trusted Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. However, the work is still underway for us to have our minds transformed and for our bodies to do what the Holy Spirit wants us to do as this will be achieved through the transformation of our minds.
When we are sure of our standing before God by His grace, we have everything to be thankful for. It is not a matter of feelings or emotions as these can be fickle.
As we have stated before, the purpose of the church is to call upon the Lord in adoration and praise.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ We can so often be caught up in the transient that our eyes are locked on earth.
John Mark Comer reminds us : ‘God Himself is more beautiful and satisfying than any of the things we want from Him.’
Jonathan Edwards (a pastor during a time of revival in USA) stated : ‘God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of Him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.’
We are to lift up our heads and be thankful to God.
2. In Christ Jesus
In this letter, Paul speaks of the trinity: God the Father who initiated the plan of salvation, God the Son who fulfilled that plan on Calvary, and (as we shall see later) God the Spirit who makes that plan a reality in our own lives so it is more than intellectual consent but our experience.
Salvation can only be found through the finished work of Christ on the cross. We cannot add to it as it was the evident error creeping into the Galatian church.
The Cross is at the centre of history, even Moses looking forward to that time: ‘He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward’ (Hebrews 11: 26). Moses did not know how the promise given to Abraham would be fulfilled or how the Law given to him would signpost to the Messiah, but we have no excuse as on this side of history.
As ‘in’ Christ, nothing can move us. There is the illustration of feather, which in the open hand can easily be blown away but if it is in the clenched hand, we cannot move feather unless we move the person.