THE BASIS FOR GODLY LIVING
1 CORINTHIANS 1:4-9
The church at Corinth was on the skids. They held the unenviable record for having more problems than any other church in the New Testament.
Paul is going to be dealing with all of these problems within this epistle. This will be a "nuts-and-bolts" approach to Christianity. It will be a shirt-sleeve Christianity.
This is what Christianity is all about. It is more than a mere series of lessons that are to be filed away in a notebook and forgotten. It is more than merely a series of doctrinal beliefs where you sign on the dotted line and join a club. Real Christianity touches every aspect of your life. It affects how you work and how you relate to your wife and kids and how you view yourself. It relates to the business world and the bus stop and the bedroom and the beach. If that is not what you have been experiencing, then maybe it is because you have swallowed a counterfeit.
God loves you just the way you are, but He also loves you too much to leave you the way you are. If you have been born into His family and have become one of His children, then your life is in for a change. He is the God who changes life and if you are one of His people, then He is out to change your life.
This is Paulís purpose as he begins this epistle to the Corinthians. They have some serious problems and he is writing to give them the solution. He is going to call them to godly living. But before he can do that, he has to give them the proper foundation. Before he can tell them to be godly, he first will show them WHY they ought to be godly.
Why should you try to live a godly life? Letís face it, it isnít always easy to try to live for God. There is often a lot of work involved. It is often inconvenient. So why should you even try?
The reason is because of what God has already done for you. This is important. The reason that your life as a Christian is to be different is because you are now different.
The story is told of the young World War One lieutenant who was called into the presence of his commanding officer and awarded a medal. "You are hereby awarded this medal for heroism," he was told. "Now go out and lead your men up that hill."
God has done the same thing with you. He says, "I have given you a new position. You have been promoted to the position of co-heir with Jesus Christ, entering into a special union with Him. Your identity is no longer rooted in who and what you are. It is now rooted in who and what Jesus is. I have set you apart as a special possession and have declared you to be holy. Now go out and live a holy life."
You have received a new position. You did not earn that position. You did not deserve that position. It has been given to you as a free gift of Godís grace. Now God commands that you should live in accordance with that new position.
God has blessed you with some wonderful blessings. These blessing call into three categories: Past, present and future.
THE PAST BLESSINGS OF GRACE
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you (1 Corinthians 1:3-6).
Paul begins by focusing on those blessings that were given to the Corinthians when they first believed. These blessings are given to all believers. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you share in these blessings.
You would not think that there would be much about the Corinthians for which Paul would be able to thank God. They were not very pleasant people. They did not present a very good testimony.
They were divided into schisms and clicks. They were proud and boastful of their knowledge of secular philosophy. They were arrogant. They rejoiced in immorality. They were out for number one. They had poor table manners at the Lordís Supper. Yet in spite of all of these negative qualities, Paul is able to thank God concerning them.
There is a tremendous truth here. Perhaps you have been feeling spiritually inferior as of late. Perhaps you are suffering from a spiritual inferiority complex. You look around the church and you see all of these smiling people who seem to have it all together and you look at your own life and you know that you do not measure up.
I have some good news for you. No matter how bad your present condition appears to be, there are some things in your life for which you can thank God. You are the possessor of some fantastic spiritual blessings.
These blessings do not depend upon how good you are. They depend upon how good God is. These blessings have been given to you on the basis of your new identification with Christ.
When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you entered into a spiritual and a mystical union with Him. You received a new identity. That new identity is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. It means that you share certain blessings that belong to Him.
Because He is the Son of God, you are also called a son of God.
Because He is holy, God has sept you apart and made you holy.
Because He is righteous, you are also declared to be righteous.
Because He has eternal life, you also have eternal life.
Because He is the heir to the Kingdom of God, you are a co-heir with Christ.
Because He is seated at the right hand of God, you can come boldly before the throne of grace.
All of these blessings come under the title of "grace." Grace is the sum total of all that God has done on your behalf. It has not been earned. It has not been deserved. It is His free gift to you.
The Corinthians had been made spiritually rich. They were wealthy with a great abundance of spiritual gifts. They possessed the riches of the Spirit. But in the midst of their riches, they failed to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
You have those same riches. If you are a Christian, then you have been blessed with great spiritual wealth. You have been given the knowledge of eternal life. You have met Jesus. You have become a partaker of His divine nature.
With those riches come great responsibility. The greatness of your responsibility is in direct proportion to the greatness of your spiritual wealth.
THE PRESENT BLESSINGS OF GRACE
...so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7).
As a result of Godís grace toward the Corinthians, they now possess everything that they need in their Christian life. If they have a problem, it is not because they lack the resources.
There is a story of an Indian who lived on a reservation in the area of Oklahoma. One day, he received a letter from the United States government. Because he valued the letter from the Great White Father, he kept it in a pouch that he wore around his neck. Times grew bad for the Indian and he died of malnutrition. Those who found him opened the pouch and read the letter. It informed him that the land that had been parceled to him had been found to contain oil and he was a rich man. He had lived in poverty when great wealth was his for the taking.
There are many Christians who seem to go through life like that Indian. They have been blessed with great things, yet they live as though they were spiritual paupers.
You are wealthy beyond measure. You have been chosen by God to be one of His special people. You have a wealth that money cannot buy, that thieves cannot steal and that time cannot fade.
Everything that Paul is going to say to the Corinthians is based upon this truth. They are already rich. Now they need to live a lifestyle that is consistent with their position.
THE FUTURE BLESSINGS OF GRACE
...so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9).
Paul gives a promise to the Corinthians for the future. It is a promise that God will find them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8).
This is a fantastic promise, especially when we consider the fact that it is given to the Corinthians. These people did not look blameless. In fact, as we read through this epistle, we shall see that they are full of blame. If you look at these Corinthian Christians right now, they appear to be anything but blameless. That is because God isnít finished with them yet.
This is a great truth. There is coming a day when we shall stand before the Lord and we shall be judged and we shall be found blameless because Jesus took our blame upon Himself and credited us with His righteousness in return.
That is what happened on the cross. God looked down from heaven to where Jesus hung on the cross and God reckoned you to be on that cross. The penalty for your sins was paid in full. In the same way, you are going to stand before God to be judged and He will look at you and He will see Jesus.
This is the doctrine that we know as the perseverance of the saints. Notice that it is not ultimately the perseverance of the saints. It is really the perseverance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The saints do not persevere because of the strength of their own will or because they grit their teeth and struggle over every obstacle. They persevere because God is faithful.
The reason we know that we shall be blameless is because God is faithful. He has promised that He will bring us to perfection and He can be trusted to accomplish His promise.
A promise is no stronger than the character of the one who makes the promise. If I promise you something, it might not come to pass because I might fail to make good on my promise. But God never fails. He never changes His mind. If He has promised you something, then you can bank on it.
None of those who have been saved will ever be lost. You have Godís work on that. If you belong to Him, then you are eternally secure.
It was this very faithfulness of God that brought us to His Son. It was at a time when we were at enmity with God that He called us to Himself. It was when we were dead in our sins that He made us alive. It was when we were children of wrath that He gave us a new birth and made us children of the light. As a result, we have come into fellowship with Jesus.
What does this mean? To have fellowship with someone means to share things in common with that person. We share things in common with Jesus. We share His righteousness. We share His holiness. We share His eternal life. We share His sonship. We share His kingdom.
Now that we share all these things with Jesus, we are called upon to live like Jesus lived. Our calling in Christ and our conduct in Christ are closely bound together. The cannot be separated.
A teenager was out in the country driving his first car. He had worked on the engine until it was fine-tuned and now he was out for a ride. He was driving down the road at a high rate of speed when he saw an intersection up ahead. As he looked, he saw two cars approaching the intersection on the crossroad and he adjusted his speed so that he would pass between the two cars. It would take great skill and exact timing, for they were also moved at a good speed, but he felt confident of his ability. He only made one miscalculation. The first car was towing the second car. That young man learned the results of trying to separate two things that are bound together.
The Corinthians were much like that young man. They were attempting to separate that which was bound together. They were trying to enjoy a calling in Christ while demonstrating a conduct that was devilish. The results were tragic.
God has bound our position in Christ with our practical day-by-day living. They two cannot be separated. Any attempt to do so will result in a collision with Godís natural laws.
How about you? Have you been trying to separate that which was not meant to be separated? Have you been running head on against Godís laws lately?
Maybe it is time for you to make a course correction. Maybe it is time for you to recognize that God knows what He is talking about when He tells you the best way to run your life. It is not too late. God is still faithful and He is patiently waiting for you to come back to Him.
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