Roger's Postings

Friday, February 07, 2014

1 Corinthians. 2:1-12.      The Foundation of the faith?                                       9/2/14

 1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,  what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—  the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

 Here this morning we again have a message that really throws the cat among the pigeons - so to speak - with regard to a lot of thinking in the Church today. It has a lot to say with regard to growing the Church and church life; about how to bring people to faith and even what constitutes faith.

 Paul here makes it quite clear that much of this kind of thinking that is about today is barking up the wrong tree: leading people down the wrong track: and is ultimately destructive to the church; just as it was in Corinth in his day. He says our faith does not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power: on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

 I believe this is a message that needs to be heard loud and clear today; because the Church today is in many ways heading the down same track as the Corinthian congregation of Paul’s day. We are in danger of placing greater importance on human wisdom and understand and learning, than on Christ and the cross. And this is showing up again and again.

 Listen to what was going on in Corinth and reflect on what is happening today, even in our own lives. In Corinth Paul originally came and simply proclaimed the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ, and especially the importance of his death on the cross. Despite the ordinary way that he did this - in weakness,  and with nervous fear, a good number of people trusted in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour: they were brought to faith.

 Later as the congregation grew and listened to different views on what the Church was all about, all sorts of ideas and divisions sprang up. Many people became full of themselves and their own ideas of what was important. Many got the idea that that they knew what Christianity was all about; that they had the Spirit; and that others should listen to and follow what they were saying and doing.

 So, they had some living very immoral lives, but claiming that because they had the Spirit it was all OK. There were people claiming that they could speak in tongues more and better than others and so were better Christians. There were women wanting take over leadership in the worship services. The rich and influential felt that they could simply think of themselves, since obviously they were better Christians than others because they were healthy and wealthy. So division, strife and lawsuits were ever present.

   On top of all of that, they ran down Paul, claiming his ways as weak and lacking power; that to talk about the cross too much was offensive and not a good way to get people in: that Holy Communion was a bit of an odd thing to have and meant that the rich had to join with the poor. People were more influenced by powerful speaking and the phenomena of tongues, gifted leadership and great learning, freedom to do their own thing, tolerance and much more. Get the techniques right and all will work well  and get the people in.

 It all sounds a bit familiar doesn't it?

Well - Paul knew what it takes to making a living in life and how to get on in life. He was a maker of tents; a university student who sat under one of the great teachers of the day; he knew his Bible thoroughly, as well as the philosophies of the day. As a young man he had already worked his way up in Jewish circles. He knew everything there was in how to get on.

 But after Christ had appeared to him he knew otherwise. From that point on he now knew what making a life was all about. He knew the difference between making a living and making a life. When it comes to faith and to life in the Church, Paul made up his mind, [or more to the point, was convinced by the Holy Spirit] to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and especially the importance of his death on the cross. There was what was all important - there was a lasting message for God's people.

 All other ideas, techniques and issues are all only secondary and of no lasting value. This also applies to big words and great learning: human wisdom will let us down when we need it most of all. At the same time these things only bring division. Whereas Jesus Christ and his death on the cross  creates and sustains faith and eternal life, and so makes for real life.

 You see – Jesus Christ and the cross gives us a real revelation of God. If we want to know who God is and what he is like, and what he thinks is important, we must look to Jesus and his Word to find what we need to know. All the rest is as Paul would say, garbage – a load of rubbish.

 And that is important for us today to think about and remember, because time and again we sinful human beings keep wanting to add and change things to that which we think are important: we want to use human thinking to get things done; and we keep mucking it up.

 Yet as we listen to him and focus on the importance of the cross; and follow his approach to what is important we will not go wrong. Let us clearly get it into our heads that his way and thinking is what is good for us and which is ultimately helpful. It is not just given for some short term, feel good thing which does not last. It is the power that we need for living life here in the midst of the rough and tough of a sinful world, but also which leads us into the next as well. Sure, initially it might not seem good for us because it does not suite our human wisdom, but it truly is what will give us what we need. It is right, because after all, surely God is right.

 However, again, the most important aspect of it all is the fact that Jesus did die on the cross.  He did so because our situation in life was in dire straits, without a way out. We were all on a one way trip to hell, without wanting to acknowledge it. Jesus however comes and takes that punishment on himself so that we might be forgiven and have the assurance that in connection with him we have life and salvation in all of its fullness. Jesus death on the cross turns our life around. We are now guaranteed of eternal life in heaven with our Lord.

There is God's power at work for our good; and that is what our faith – our trust is based on. That is what truly saves us and gives us true and lasting happiness. That is what we really need.  Not human wisdom - which is fleeting and short term.

 So please heed what Paul has to say here. Take careful note of his message so that you do not get caught up in a lot of the rot that is around these days. Make up your mind also, to forget everything except Jesus Christ and the importance of his death on cross. For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always.  AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish




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