Sunday 27th May 2018.
GracePoint Church, Kikuyu
Series: 1 Corinthians.
Text: 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9
Theme: The Gospel Saves, Sustains and Secures.
When I was in high school I crafted a name and bestowed it on myself: Victor. A lot of the people who went to school with me still call me Vic and have no idea that it was not my official name. Nowhere in any official documents did the name Victor appear. I made it up when I entered form 1 and it stuck. When I think about it, there are a few reasons which could have led me to want a new name.
- Teenage/Adolescence Identity Crisis. I wanted people to know me by a more colourful name, one that maybe spoke more positively into my future.
- Hiding/Concealing the true me: Maybe I did not want the true ‘me’ to come out. Most likely I wanted to hide – after all I was many miles away from home (it was in the same county)
- I wanted change, to break from my past. I craved a new ‘me’. Inwardly I wanted transformation and thought changing the label would do.
Like me, you probably have multiple identities but who are you primarily? What most defines you? What identity shapes your character most. The question of who we are is deep and speak volumes about us.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul opens with a surprising identity. As we saw last Sunday, He calls them God’s holy people, those sanctified in Christ even though when we read the rest of the letter we wonder whether those terms were really descriptive of them. In the verses we are considering today we see the dynamic that qualifies the use of the terms ‘holy’ and ‘sanctified’ the Gospel.
- The Gospel Saves – mliopokea neema katika Kristo. V 4 and 9
In a very interesting way Paul, opens and closes this section by stating the most important thing that the Corinthians needed to know – That they had received grace from God through Jesus Christ and that they had been brought into fellowship with God.
Paul is about to have a hard conversation Corinthians and begins by reminding them of their identity – they had received grace from God in Christ Jesus. The gospel had given them a new identity. But the Corinthians also had other identities.
They could have taken pride in their Greek nationalism. After all the Greeks were the ‘cultured’ or ‘civilized’ people in Paul’s day. In fact, anyone who was not ‘Hellenized’ (the big word for Greek culture and way of life) was said to be ‘Barbarian’ – a rather unpleasant term that looked down upon others as unrefined in their way of life more or less like ungwana vs ubara in the coast.
They could have taken pride in their education. Greeks were at the top of learning in their day. Greek thinking and Philosophy dominated the world at the time so much so that even after the Romans conquered them in battle, Greek education and influence continued. People, including Paul and all New Testament writers spoke Greek.
In Corinth, there could have been another source of pride. Their buildings and advanced architectural forms. To this day the Corinthian column stands as a memorial of Greek influence in building and construction. People are very proud of buildings.
Corinth was also a port city. A lot of business happened there and certainly there could have been pride in business acumen. When Paul was there he did some work as a tent maker together with his Companions Aquila and Priscilla.
Those in Corinth who were feeling proud in their thinking (Chap 1 v29) are rebuked to remember that they have merely received grace from God and have nothing to boast about. They can only boast in the gospel (31). For there is nothing that they had that were not given to them (Chap 4:7).
What is it then, changes ordinary people, proud of their culture and achievements, lost in sin and self-centeredness, wallowing in rebellion and self-righteousness to be described as ‘holy’ and ‘sanctified’?
The gospel is the game changer.
In verse 4, Paul thanks God that the Corinthians had heard the gospel: ‘given grace in Christ Jesus’
Paul knew that because he had worked among them for 18 months and had seen fruit from that work. Those who had converted and become followers of Jesus now needed to know that their one, true and lasting identity was that they were recipients of Grace and their contribution to their salvation was nothing more than their dirty, sinful, rebellious souls.
Through the good news of Jesus Christ preached to them, they had received God’s unmerited favour and become Children of God. No longer were they primarily of Corinth but their citizenship was now in Heaven. Paul thanks God for the gospel as it had made them a new, holy, sanctified people of God. Now they had ‘fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ What a difference that makes!
Application1: The Gospel changes everything! Delight in it.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:1 -10 (NIV)
Surely we were those who were lost. By God’s grace we have been found in Christ and brought to peace with God so that we can serve Him. May we be challenged to know and delight in the gospel – Christ’s complete work, God’s grace revealed to us. Our only response is worship.
- The Gospel Sustains. V5 – 7
Paul reminds the church in Corinth that in Christ they have been given every spiritual gift. They are lacking in nothing. What good news to hear for every believer in Christ!
If pride was an issue among some of the Corinthians, no doubt a sense of inadequacy was also a reality. No wonder there were divisions among them as well as lawsuits. Some might have doubted their own spirituality and others about their status in life as single or married people. They sent some people from Chloe’s household (v11) to enquire from the apostle about these and other questions.
One of the greatest sources of discontent among people, even in a church family is low self-esteem. When we have a sense of inadequacy we become insecure and lack confidence. Paul remind Corinthians that in Christ they have everything they need. Nobody should intimidate them by a superior gift, by some new knowledge or wisdom because in Christ they have everything.
Today, we need to hear the same message as the Corinthian church – that we are not lacking in anything as we eagerly await the return of our Lord. We don’t need a special prophet, or some special word or experience because we have Christ as fully and sufficiently revealed in Scripture.
That grace is available to us today. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness as we wait for our Lord.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2: 11 – 14 (ESV)
Illustration – Tim’s prayer in 2006 ‘Thank you Lord that we need nothing because in you we have everything’ I found it odd at the time. The gospel affects how we pray.
- The Gospel Secures V 8, 9
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Lord will keep them firm to the end. V8 and 9a
If they had been saved by grace surely it will take the grace of God to sustain them. He says to them that God is faithful- who called them into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ
How will they stay on as God’s holy and sanctified people?
The question of assurance is big for every believer. No doubt the Corinthians wondered about their faith soon after the apostle had left. They needed clarity about a number of things and perhaps felt the need for the apostle to come back among them.
You know that feeling after a great spiritual experience may be after a challenge weekend in high school or after a conference or ‘revival meeting’. That longing to be with a mentor or a friend who has helped you though in some way. We feel needy and vulnerable. We wonder if we will survive. Will the new church hold or die off?
Confidence in our Christian walk can potentially come from many sources. It can falsely be on built around conversion experience, time (since our conversion/decision) gifts, fame (reputation) or the church we attend. Not so for Paul. Only the gospel will keep us going to the very end. Surely the way in is clearly the way on.
Sometimes we think we can ‘outgrow’ grace. Some have this false idea that we are saved by grace but sustained by good works. That is not the gospel. We will always need grace. Grace to follow, grace to serve, grace to love, grace to obey, grace to bear fruit. it is grace through and through.
What a reminder that we need to hear in these shaky times! Our God is faithful through the changing times and seasons.
The Christian journey is a walk of faith, not one of morality or religious practice, it is only by grace that the Christian will conquer his or her enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil. May we know that the Lord will sustain us to the end. The Christian hymn writer John Newton sang of the gospel in these amazing words;
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The gospel is sufficient to secure us in Christ and present us blameless on the last day. May we delight in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for it saves us, sustains us and secures us. May our identity be firm in the Lord.
Rev. Harrison Mungai Macharia