Second Sunday after the Epiphany (January 15, 2017)
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 | New Living Translation (NLT)
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are now in the season that follows Epiphany. On Epiphany we celebrated that Jesus was made manifest to the whole world. The following Sunday we looked at the beginning of Jesus ministry as he was baptized. As I wrote last week, this season, between Epiphany and Lent is when we look at the mission of Jesus and subsequently the mission of the church. During this season, I am taking our church through a membership class of sorts. It will be a series on the history of the Wesleyan Church and what we believe. I am looking forward to it.
Today we have in front of us, the words of Paul – written in the first of his published letters to the church in Corinth. I like to say it that way because sometimes we forget that Paul was writing to real people – he was writing to real churches – from a pastor’s heart. The passage that is in front of us is part of an introduction. Remember that when Paul wrote these words they didn’t have chapter and verse headings – those were added much later on.
“I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”
Ecclesia is a Greek word, meaning assembly. It is an assembly of the ones called by God – an assembly of the ones made holy by Jesus Christ. We are reminded that Christ has done this for all people who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we look at the mission of Jesus, we find that the mission of the church is linked and cannot be separated from the mission of Christ.
I love this introduction in this letter. The church in Corinth was not without its problems, however Paul takes these opening moments and gives thanks to God for the work that is going on there. I think it is important for us to remember that we are Christ’s church – that we are his body – that we are doing his work. Way too many times it comes down to thinking that it is our work – whether that be the layperson or the pastor – it is not our work, it is Christ’s work. Christ is working in us and in his church. As a pastor I can be confident in the fact that Christ is doing the work – that does not give me an excuse to be lazy, but I do know that Christ and I and the congregation must be working toward the same goal.
As you have seen in my writings – and I can see in my preaching – that goal is seeing people come to a saving knowledge of Christ and then discipling them so that they can do the same thing. It is a multiplication thing. “Through Christ,” Paul writes, “God has enriched your church in every way – with all the eloquent words and all of your knowledge.” Paul encourages the church to use every spiritual gift that God has given to do the work of Christ – even as they wait for the return of Christ. We often see waiting as a passive thing – or something that we do nervously. This is not what Paul means. This waiting is much more active – we need to be about the work of the Father – just as the angels commanded the disciples to do following Jesus’ ascension.
We don’t have to worry, because Paul reminds us that “Christ will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.”
We are reminded that Christ is with us – Christ is above us – Christ is below us – Christ is to the left – Christ is to the right – Christ is in front of us – Christ is behind us – to paraphrase a prayer from St. Patrick. We are in a partnership – I say we meaning the church – the church (the assembly of those called by God through Christ’s work on the cross. We have been invited into this partnership with Christ to do His work – and he will be faithful to do what he says.
I think that is some great encouragement on this Friday morning as we get ready to worship with our churches on Sunday.