1 Corinthians 15.9,10 - Letter of Recommendation for Paul

1 Corinthians 15.9,10 - Letter of Recommendation for Paul

This older man has spent his career doing different jobs in many places, primarily teaching and tentmaking.  He rarely stays long in one place. He received high level training in strict Hebrew theology. He spent several years zealously advancing that ideology, sometimes even killing those who disagreed. He then made a complete reversal of his philosophy and has since spent a couple decades going places where he was usually not welcomed telling a message few people wanted to hear. He can be very dogmatic, especially about his unique “authority.” He was arrested and flogged several times. He has formed several groups of “believers” in different cities. Most of those groups struggle with infighting and immorality. He cannot remember the people he’s baptized. He writes impressive letters that many find hard to understand. He seems to find it hard to focus on one idea for long.

1 Corinthians 15.22,23 - Inseparably Tied

1 Corinthians 15.22,23 - Inseparably Tied

Joseph ordered his bodily deliverance be tied to the Exodus of his kinsmen to the Promised Land. When they were liberated, he would leave. For 93 years he had been estranged from the land of God’s presence. While enduring many afflictions he must have doubted whether that day would dawn. Then came a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, and the afflictions of Joseph were super-sized upon the whole nation. They cried for centuries. But, like Joseph promised, they were finally rescued together. (Exodus 13.19) The truth of God’s ancient promises outlasted their troubles. Now we are forever linked by faith to a greater Son, “in Christ shall all be made alive…Christ is the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.22,23). No sheep will stray, no stone misplaced, no child left behind - inseparable from Him who died and rose for them.

1 Corinthians 15.58 - Firm yet Flexible in the Faith

1 Corinthians 15.58 - Firm yet Flexible in the Faith

“The crystallization of doctrinal formulations and that of the canon of the New Testament are…two sides of the same coin…firming up a Christian community that was increasingly confident about its identity, vision, and place…As Christian communities came under increasing pressure, internal and external, to define themselves and to defend themselves against their alternatives, so there was a growing interest in clarifying what were acceptable and unacceptable expressions of the faith…Doctrines were like protective, enfolding intellectual cocoons spun around the larva of faith. When constructed properly, they had the potential to give added resilience and stability to Christian life and thought. Yet a defective cocoon had the potential to disfigure, distort, and damage the life of faith. Heresy can be considered….a faulty cocoon that damages rather than protects its larva.”

(‘Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth’ by Alister McGrath, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-82214-9, p. 80)

1 Corinthians 16.22 - Not Yet Home for Christmas!

1 Corinthians 16.22 - Not Yet Home for Christmas!

Our ZGC family is scattered around the globe this Christmas Sunday, but nobody is really home…yet! Yes, some lucky bugs managed to jet off to family in their earthly homelands. If you’re reading this, you might envy them. I do. We have the joy of Christmas in Beijing – where if the wind blows it is FREEZING, but we breathe easier! Wherever we are on this fallen earth we still sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Sure, we sing it with great confidence because He did come decisively in His first advent. Salvation has been accomplished by His mighty cross-work. We belong to Him forever! Yet we still wait for His final advent to this old earth. Then, like that night in Bethlehem, the skies will fill with glory; not just for surprised shepherds, but His entire waiting, faithful, Church. “Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16.22).

2 Corinthians 1.4 - Comfort in Community

2 Corinthians 1.4 - Comfort in Community

Long ago Paul plead with the church in Corinth to get and give God’s comfort. He knew - that comfort restored his troubled soul. Now he urges his children in the Father of mercies, many who were estranged from him, to drink deeply from the God of all comfort. Notice the important plurality –– “the church of God…with all the saints.” God comforts “us” in all “our” affliction. Just how will this happen? Sitting in church service? It can start there. But real comfort requires engaging in meaningful conversation, changing your schedule to spend quality time with others, remembering to pray for your brothers and sisters, striving to understand and appreciate those who are different from you, sharing insights from Scripture that will encourage, and even being willing to challenge and confront when those you love grieve Him who loves us. In short, comfort is received in community.

 

2 Corinthians 5.7 - Even Paul had to Walk by Faith!

2 Corinthians 5.7 - Even Paul had to Walk by Faith!

Divine inspiration was not a perma-seal bubble over the Apostle Paul’s life. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to pen 13 letters to churches and individuals that are foundation stones of our New Testament. Thanks be to God for these Words from God in the words of Paul!  But he did not live each day heavenly entranced, following a yellow brick road, speaking like an angel. No, he faced uncertainties and challenges like us – only super-sized! And sometimes he messed up – his thoughts, words, and decisions were fallible. (He recounts his struggles in this letter, and Romans 7, Philippians 3, 2 Timothy 4.) In our text today, the Corinthians seem to think Apostle means Angel – with an inerrant divine flight path. Paul had to get up and have his daily prayers too, walking by faith, not sight! (2 Corinthians 5.7).

2 Corinthians 5.17 - Always Reforming

2 Corinthians 5.17 - Always Reforming

As Martin Luther’s hammer struck the Wittenberg Cathedral door 497 years ago - October 31, 1517 - the sound of Reformation rang across Europe. Living faith replaced lifeless formulas. Community became more important than cathedrals. But before long, Protestant paralysis set in. Reformation traditions became as ossified as Romanism. They forgot the first of Luther’s 95 declarations: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Reformation must always remain in the present tense. Like the modern reformer Bob Dylan said, “he who is not busy bein’ born is busy dyin.” The best way to honor our Reformation heroes is to faithfully serve Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours, with living zeal. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5.17).