The local church is an embassy of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that exists here now in part and one day in full. The church is the place on earth where the citizens of Heaven live under Christ’s rule and the citizens of God’s Kingdom are affirmed and protected. And the church is endowed with authority, authority to represent God on earth and proclaim the gospel of Christ. And since we represent God to the world, we have an obligation to pursue holiness both individually and corporately. We do this in many ways, but specifically by watching over those who have made a credible profession of faith and are members of the church. We are to examine their life and doctrine and do whatever you can to keep them on the path to eternal life. Guarding them and correcting them when they err or misstep so that they will enter into eternal glory. As members of the church, we are responsible, for maintaining the purity of the church by making sure our confession and our conduct align. That we walk the walk and talk the talk collectively. Together we preserve the holy witness of the church, such that the character of the church, of the members of the church matches the character and commands of Jesus.
Some truths more important than others. Paul writes to the Corinthian Church with urgency about the truths that are “of first importance.” Indeed, all revealed truth is invaluable, but certain truths are of highest importance, and that's the language Paul uses. And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith and therefore, Christ’s resurrection is central to everything in the Christian life. It is the ultimate eschatological event. By raising Jesus from the dead, God set in motion the final overthrow of death itself. Think clock ticking. Hour glass sands falling, and its just a matter of time. The resurrection of Jesus is the promise of our resurrection from the dead. Because He lives, we shall also live.
Each of us, whether we realize it or not, long for a king. Like the Israelites before us, our hearts cry out for a king, for someone to lead us, for someone to provide and protect us, for someone to entrust ourselves to who is fully trustworthy and capable. Jesus is that King. Prior to his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus' teaching, authority and power have revealed his true identity. He is the Messiah, God's anointed One. And He has come to rescue sinners by becoming a crucified King.
Paul has a tender affection for the Corinthians. They hold a special place in his heart. And although he has rebuked them for their sinful, shameful behavior, he also wants to see them flourish in their faith. So as their spiritual father, he uses all of the resources at his disposal to set them on the right track. He urges the Corinthians to follow his example in living out the Christian life.
In the presence of growing divisiveness and factionalism within the church at Corinth, Paul addresses the issue fueling it all- the Corinthians' pride. Using sound reasoning and at times biting sarcasm, Paul equips the Corinthians with the tools and resources necessary to kill their pride.
In the latter half of 1 Corinthians chapter 3, the Apostle Paul seeks to simultaneously warn the Corinthians about their destructive divisions but also encourage them to use their lives for the Kingdom of God. No one who lives for Christ and his glory, seeking to edify the church and spread the Kingdom of God wastes their life. On the contrary, each one shall be rewarded by God. As Christians, we should live with an eternal perspective, using our lives to store up treasure in Heaven and frequently remind ourselves of the incomparable glories yet to be revealed to us and experienced for all eternity. Let none of us waste our lives.
In 1st Corinthians 3, Paul, like a master physician, properly diagnoses the spiritual condition of the believers in Corinth. Although they were converted years ago, they remain 'infants in Christ' because they are filled with pride and jealousy and have absorbed the values and priorities of the culture around them. They are largely, immature disciples of Christ. So Paul rebukes them, addresses the root of their pride and calls them to maturity. Through Paul, we are challenged to shed our worldly ways and press on to maturity in Christ.
The cross of Christ turns the wisdom of man upside down. Victory is won by giving up life, not taking it. Shame is removed by God identifying with the shamed and dying a shameful death. God leads through shame to glory and honor. And to some this is pure folly. But to those who believe, it is the power of God. The message of the cross is indiscriminate. It is offered to all, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or pedigree. Therefore, the gospel creates a new diverse people, united by the gospel. And everyone who responds to the gospel with belief, does so because of the sheer mercy and grace of God. Therefore, there is no room for boasting in ourselves. All our boasting must be in the kindness of God.
This week we begin a new sermon series in the book of First Corinthians. The letter to the church at Corinth is an appeal to a divided church to return to unity in and around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like in so many churches today, factions and divisions arose which set parts of the body against other parts. Paul uses his apostolic authority and wisdom to restore them to being of one mind and one accord. Paul teaches that when the church looks to its author and Savior, Jesus and unites themselves in the message and work of the cross, they will experience sweet harmony and like-mindedness, making them even more fruitful in God's Kingdom.
This morning is Sanctity of Life Sunday. A Sunday in which we recognize the innate dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is utterly unique, set apart and resplendent with glory and dignity because of whose image we bear. And horrifically, never before has our humanity been attacked, assaulted and denied in so many ways. There is an arsenal of weapons unleashed to attack human dignity at every stage of life, from the moment of conception to the moment we take our last breath. And God's people, the church is called and equipped to be a redemptive community that works to establish the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the gospel AND actively working to overthrow injustice and stop oppression wherever it is found.