Packing for a journey
What kind of a traveller are you? When heading off on a journey, who throws everything in the car at the last minute? Who just sets off thinking “it’ll all work out somehow?” On the other hand, “who is planning and checking to the last minute -double check the suitcase, making sure doors and windows are locked.”
“Will I have everything I need?” This is a big question not just for our travel plans
Christian life – high expectations for church and individuals – growing in godliness, faithful witness etc.
Am I equipped? Do I/we have everything we need?
-God has equipped us to fulfil everything that he has called us to be and to do.
- Know what God has called us to be (v1-3)
Here in the letter’s opening greeting we have vital clues about how God has equipped us. It starts with knowing God’s calling for us individually and as a church.
Paul’s calling (v1) was to be an apostle. This was God’s will. By the way, this was not normally something he emphasised at the start of letters and he often was happy to refer to himself as a servant but in Corinth his role has been challenged. He needs to remind them that he does have a genuine authority and calling, vital for their won spiritual health.
On a side point, there is a right place for authority and leadership within the church that does not need to be about hierarchies, control or power. So, elders have a vital place. Their authority is not about their own charisma or special talents, it derived. It’s the authority to teach and proclaim God’s word.
Apostolic authority is about the foundation of the Church by eyewitness ambassadors. So this is why his authority is key. It’s about the ability to lay solid foundations. In other words, it’s about revelation. This means we have apostolic authority. By this, I don’t mean specific leaders are apostles today. I know some churches use that tite really to mean missionary church planters with oversight of a number of churches. I don’t want to get into a debate about church structures and titles here but my personal preference is against using that title for people, as much as we respect them, because it muddies the water. We have apostolic authority because we have the very words of the apostles in Scripture. Who we are and what our calling is starts with being rooted in God’s Word and specifically in the Gospel. We are gospel people
Note the Sosthenes mentioned here is probably the former Synagogue leader who we saw beaten up on Acts 18.
The Church’s calling (v2)
We are called, or designated as, saints -God’s holy people and called to be holy. In other words, God has set you apart and you need to live in keeping with this. He declares you holy – his special chosen, loved people and he says that you are to live together in a way that reflects your identity
This means first of all that we are justified. We are declared right with God. It’s also about being sanctified – growing in holiness. There’s a sense of being given Christ’s clothes of righteousness and growing into them or “growing into Christ”
Believers are meant to grow. There should be evidence of change. Growth is not just about filling our heads with Bible knowledge but becoming more Christ like. Learning to fight temptation, being witnesses by what we say and by how we live. We learn best together by encouraging one another.
Paul wishes the church Grace and Peace, a modification of traditional salutations to a reminder of God’s grace which brings peace. Jewish and Greek greeting words charis and shalom
- Know that God has equipped you (v4-7)
Paul’s habit was to pray for the churches he wrote to -starts with thanksgiving.
There are two surprises here
- That he finds anything to give thanks for at all!
- That he actually gives thanks for the very things that seem to be causing a lot of trouble! -the knowledge and revelation gifts
Why is Paul thankful?
- There’s a sense here of the mess and problems that come with life – church is messy. So we shouldn’t be surprised when there are challenges -people get things wrong, fail, even clash as they learn to get along in the family
- That these gifts are good gifts from Christ -useful for the Gospel even if they are misused at the moment
- That the gifts -because there’s life point back to a greater gift -salvation (v6)
This is important. We we think about our calling, we face two challenges.
a. we can think we are not up to the job
b. Or we can become proud and complacent
Often these come with comparisons to how others are doing Often they go with the temptation to look for something more, something better (we either try to find it in others – or we offer it ourselves). We look for the secret ingredient – or we claim to have found it.
The celebrity speaker/leader/singer
The blessed tithe
The best seller book with it’s guaranteed six step process for success in life, Christian growth, ministry etc. But no, all we need is in Christ and so that means we have everything we need already! We are fully equipped to grow in godliness, to speak for Christ, to serve him. He gives us exactly what we need.
So the challenge is
How can I do that?
Maybe you already know where your gifts/skills/talents are – are you willing to put them to use? Don’t assume that all roles are filled (they never are) don’t assume there isn’t a place for yours.
Maybe you really aren’t sure what it is you are called to do -well don’t let that be an excuse let’s find out together -and don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes -we all have and will.
And what about witnessing. Well that can sound scary -does it mean knocking doors, giving out leaflets, preaching, giving my testimony -well it could be that you find some of those things are up your street. But actually witnessing just starts with natural conversations -what about starting with an invite – it doesn’t need to be big -could evens tart with “our church has a little community café -would you like to meet me there for coffee on Saturday morning.” Or an offer to pray for someone who is going through a tough time at work. Just little steps that build. Do you know that most people who get invited to something say that even if they say no they appreciate being asked (ven to church!)
Know the purpose/goal for which God has called you (v8-9)
Why do these things matter? Out of all the priorities in my life -why these things. And why does this church make a big deal of things like spiritual growth, evangelism etc. Can’t we just go along at a gentler pace – fear of legalism (and yes this is always a risk)
Well context helps! And there’s a context to the gifts Christ gives to the Corinthian church. God is at work in their lives with an end goal in mind.
Jesus is coming back. This is the promise he made before he died, rose and ascended. A day will come when he will return as King to put everything right and make all things new. There will be a judgement day.
Now Paul is confident that on that day, the Corinthian church will be declared blameless and faultless before God. Wow! This group of proud, competitive, sexually immoral, argumentative hypocrites. We find ourselves asking “Are you for real Paul?” “Yes” he answers!
What makes Paul think this? Well the secret lies not with them but with God. It’s down to him. He is faithful He keeps his promises (remember our Covenants series) We are back to:
a. Justification -dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne
b. Sanctification -his commitment to work in our lives to make us like Christ.
So the context is
- The urgency of the Gospel -our desire to see friends, neighbours, relatives put their trust in Christ
- The great hope we have that God who has started this work in our lives and in our church will complete it.
We’ve got some big things to explore -what are my gifts, am I using them? Am I using them rightly? How are we doing as a church -are we healthy? Etc
But the starting point is our relationship with Christ? Are you right with him? If you are thn you have everything you need!