Roger's Postings

Saturday, January 29, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Christ’s death our power!! 30/1/11

(18) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. {19} For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." {20} Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? {21} For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. {22} Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, {23} but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, {24} but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. {25} For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. {26} Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. {27} But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. {28} He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, {29} so that no one may boast before him. {30} It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. {31} Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

I can’t do it! I just can’t do it! This is something we hear such a lot in life, isn’t it: Especially in the life of the church? I can’t speak up and talk about my faith to others. I can’t serve on this or that committee. I can’t pray as I should. I can’t love as God would have me: like Paul, Peter and other great Christians. Yes, we Christians are often full of excuses why we can’t stand up and be the Christians that we are called to be.

On the other hand, however, we have many who would consider that they are pretty good in this area. They are full of themselves and their ability; and who find it very hard to understand why everyone else is not like them. In fact, this is becoming more and more a part of our Australian psyche, as we are being encouraged to think positively and to go and chase our dreams; and if it doesn’t come off then it is someone else’s fault. So we have those who push themselves into the limelight, and who can’t stop talking about themselves and their powers and abilities. They have the answers and are often critical of most other people. We have all seen and heard those people as well.

Now God here through Paul has a lot to say to both of these groups of people. Yes, Paul is primarily addressing those who consider themselves to be the super-Christians; the super-charismatics in the Corinthian congregation. They were the ones who considered themselves wise and powerful; the somebodies of Corinth. These people, it seems, were not afraid to let other people know how good they were, and the inference is that they even boasted about their abilities and how good a Christian they really were. And they looked down on those who were not like them. Paul here has a very telling word to give to these people. But the message from the text also goes out to those of us who like to sit back and do as little as possible because we do not feel that we can do what is expected.

The point is made that God has chosen [not we have chosen]; he has chosen the things that are weak, lowly and foolish. He works with the nobodies and the nothings of this world. Because after all there is nothing good about any one of us; no matter who we are. In God’s eyes, our very best is as a filthy, soiled pair of old underpants. The point is thereby made quite clearly that it is only because of God, and only because of Jesus death on the cross, that any one of us is in Christ; that we are Christians.

So whether we are strong or weak; foolish or wise; in the eyes of the world, we are only Christians because of the working of God in our lives. It is Christ who is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. It is Jesus’ death on the cross that has saved us, and made us somebodies. So no one can boast in themselves: in their decisions for Christ, their gifts, or whatever. It can only be in the Lord Jesus alone.

In Corinth, they needed to hear that because they were starting to see themselves as spiritually superior. They were patting themselves on the back, and were thinking that it was they themselves who had developed themselves into who they were. So they needed to hear again that it was God who had picked them up out of the gutter and made them who they were. It was God’s work and God’s work alone. He had chosen them, and it was he who was working any good in and through them.

He does this to put to shame those who seek to trust in their own wisdom, strength, standing in society, or whatever. He wants everyone to see that salvation, as well as power and wisdom for living is found nowhere else other that in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. It is not miracles that save a person; nor is it in having great wisdom and knowledge. For as Paul says, for the preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to those who are looking for miracles, and it is foolishness to those who are looking to wisdom and knowledge.

It is Jesus’ death on the cross, alone, that makes salvation and life possible for anyone and everyone. Scripture makes it quite clear that we are totally and completely unable in any way shape or form, to do anything toward gaining our salvation. We only need to look back to the Jews of Jesus’ day, to see how they had shifted the focus to all that they had to do in order to be acceptable to God; and how Jesus so strongly condemns their self-righteousness; and tells us all that we are just not able to be acceptable to God by our goodness. Yet down through the history of the church to this very day, we see this same move towards a focus on us and our self-righteousness.

The Scriptures are quite clear, that no one is righteous; not even one. We all deserve death and hell. But thanks be to God that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross: to take that punishment that we deserve, on himself; and in turn extend to us the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of life and salvation. His death on the cross was absolutely critical for our salvation. There and there alone, we are extended and given the one sure hope that we need in an otherwise hopeless world.

So it is God’s work alone through Jesus death on the cross alone that we can stand up and be counted as Christians. The extension of this is also that, it is through God’s work that we can live the Christian life. When the opportunity comes for us to speak out the faith, it is God’s Spirit that gives us the words and the ability to speak them; and the promise that he will work through those words, no matter how well or poorly we think we have done. It is he who enables us to step out and do what is necessary in living out our lives as he calls us to do, and again, to bring help and growth through that.

So even though we might know that we can’t do it on our own, we now then know that he is there and at work despite us. So we can step out in faith, despite ourselves, and know that God is faithful. He will come through, even though it might seem to us that we are struggling. There are many, many Christian who can testify to this fact. In fact, I know many times when I have struggled both in the preparation and preaching of a sermon, that despite my efforts, people have come forward and commented on how that sermon had helped them in some way. Equally, there were those time when I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it, and there was just nothing. Again, this is just another reminder that God is at work, whenever Christ and him crucified is preached.

All God calls for from us, is to trust him, and then step out in faith and allow God to do what he has promised. The problem is though that too often, we either busy ourselves with worrying about ourselves and our weaknesses, as well as what people might think, or else we are too busy working out our strategies as to how we can do this ourselves, and too often for our own glory. So we look inward rather than outward and upward.

So we need reminding again and again, that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Jesus and his death on the cross turns everything upside down.

So let us be encouraged to step out in faith and be the people that God wants us to be. Let us step into those situations of uncertainty knowing that there God is also and that he does work in seeming weak and foolish ways. Through the simple message of Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation is extended to all. Where that message is lived and shared with others by us; no matter how weakly and poorly, we have the promise that God is at work, using that for good.

So now, our complete boast can be in the power and wisdom of God who works in mighty ways through that which seems foolish; as well as being at work in us; weak and foolish though we be. We don’t need to try to find some goodness in ourselves to boast about in order to make ourselves acceptable, because we are accepted by God through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. At the same time we need not sit back for fear that we cannot do what God asks of us, because now we know that God and his message of forgiveness through Christ crucified is our strength and wisdom which God promises to work through. So let our boast be, no matter who we be, be in Jesus Christ and him crucified. To him be glory and honour now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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