3 Dimensions of Grace
NEW SERIES: THE TROUBLED TRIUMPHANT CHURCH
Sermon 2 – “Three Dimensions of Grace”
1 Cor. 1:4-9
Last week we began looking at the church of Corinth through the pen of the Apostle Paul as he writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his second letter which we know as 1 Corinthians. We talked about the many problems associated with this 1st century church:
· Body Life - how does the church relate to the world?
· Division and rebellion in the church;
· Abuse and misunderstanding of spiritual gifts and how to worship God as the gathered Body of Christ?
· The praxis of the Body…..how do we, as the Body of Christ, live or exercise our faith. The Corinthian church struggled with questions on marriage, divorce, celibacy, and living with their freedom in Christ------and how to do that in light of the affect of their actions on those around them!
And so last week, as we looked at the first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians, we saw Paul exhorting the saints (the holy, called-out ones) of the Church in Corinth to see who they are….their identity in Christ and how their church - - the local church in Corinth-----was part of the whole church; the universal, Triumphant church: Paul names them saints….but then adds that they are not called to be “stand-alone” saints, but in v.2:
“called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:"
This all points to one of the key purposes….one of the main reasons the Apostle Paul writes this letter: he is exhorting the church to godly living! Since this is key to the whole letter….we better make sure we have a strong grasp on this “church” word Exhort. To exhort people means to “incite by argument; to strongly urge; to warn and advise and to urgently appeal.” In the NT, it means all of these….but also one of its key uses is “to encourage or come along side of” another. This dual meaning – to strongly urge and warn AND to encourage and appeal is best seen in how it is used in the NT. The GK word for exhort is _______________ (parakaleo). One word often used to speak of the Holy Spirit is _______________ (paraclete). We see all the meanings of “exhort” in the work of the Holy Spirit – he warns us of wrong decisions…..of sin in our life; He convicts the non-believer of sin and bears witness…..he warns the non-believer of the truth of the gospel and of the judgment to come; BUT He also comforts us in our times of fear….He intercedes and prays for us when we cannot find the right words or even when we don’t know what to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). Paul is thus encouraging and appealing…..he is comforting and challenging the church in Corinth through this entire letter.
So, let’s read together, our text for today: Read Text: 1 Cor. 1:1-9
In these opening 10 verses (1 Cor. 1.1-9), Paul is setting the foundation for tackling the problems in church. Before correction, comes comfort! In these verses, Paul wants the church to know who they are and what they have! Paul is saying, “You are holy….so live holy!” This is the exhortation of the letter – both the comfort and the appeal!
In our text today, Paul gives thanks to God for the grace that allows us to live holy lives! God wants us to know the same….that living holy is not an impossible goal….it’s not out of our reach. Being Born-Again means we have a new nature…..the old is dead and we have been raised anew in Christ! (Rom. 6.1-4; Col. 3.1-10) Living by the Praxis of Faith – Be who you are in Christ! Paul concludes his introduction and thanksgiving to the Church in Corinth by Summarizing the Benefits of Believers in 3D! That is, what we have, given to us in 3 Dimensions!
1. Past Grace
2. Present Gifts
3. Future Guarantees
First – Past Grace:
1.) We see this in vv. 4 , “ I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus," (v.4)
We find that our grace is in Christ.
· All that we have from God…….AND
· All that we have been made and are being made into –
We have only by God’s grace and always only in Christ.
You see, the Corinthian church is focused on themselves….they believe that they have, in spiritual terms, arrived! They focus on the eloquence of speech rather than the word of God; they focus on the glamour of the gifts rather than the worship of God; they focus on the demonstration of the gifts rather than the edification of the Body! But Paul is re-directing their gaze…..from themselves to God. It is all from God alone…grounded in Christ alone - that we have salvation, the Spirit, the grace of God in our lives! As one theologian puts it….all that we have – our life, our salvation, our eternal destiny….all are found in the “sphere” of Christ![i] The “sphere” of Christ – all encompassing, perfect and balanced – this is where we find life….this is where we first encountered God’s saving grace…..in Christ! The Holy Spirit removes the veil of blindness from our eyes and allows us to see God…..we see “the light of the good news of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4.4)
Our Past grace is saving grace! Paul reminds us that our salvation is a gift from God in His Son! It is a gift of a gift! “I’m thankful to God for you because of God’s unmerited, unearned loving gift (grace) given to you in Christ” (the greatest gift).
This little phrase “in Christ” found all through the NT is powerful! It is the ground of all we have….all we ALREADY ARE! Living in the sphere of Christ means: We Trust Jesus Completely…..
· Trust His Deity
· Trust His Perfection – in living an Obedient Life to the Father
· Trust His all sufficient atoning death on the cross for our sins
· Trust the Reality of His Resurrection from the Dead
· Trust Him daily as He reigns as King!
The benefits of Believers begin in the completed act of salvation that comes freely through faith – all in Christ.
2.) V. 6 - “even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—"
We not only see Past grace in our salvation in Christ, but we also find the grace of the gospel confirmed among you…..that is – in the church! The word “testimony” (______________) can mean witness; but here in its genitive form in the Gk, it most often in the NT means “the preaching of the gospel”. Paul is saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ was confirmed in the community of Believers. Let me unpack this verse a little: In v. 4 that we just examined, Paul is speaking of the gift of salvation by grace through faith…..and now in v. 6 it is this same grace in action! As we’ll see next, part of what Paul has in mind here is the operation of the gifts of the Spirit operating in the Body – But also that the gospel is confirmed in the community. Confirmed – means “to know beyond any doubt.”[ii] God’s past grace of salvation in Christ (as preached in the gospel) is known beyond any doubt through the operative faith in the lives of the church. Do you see the community aspect to this! The gospel is known and seen beyond any doubt within the church! Application – So, we need to ask….if someone comes into our church…..is the gospel confirmed among us? Are using our gifts for the building-up of the body?
B. Present Gifts – The first benefits of Believers is established and given in the past…..the first dimension is Past….look at vv. 5 & 7 -
But the second Dimension is the Present: look at vv. 5 and 7a: "that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—" "so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Paul continues his thanksgiving to God who has enriched the saints in every way….in Him (Christ). Again, in the past we received grace in the sphere of Christ….and it is also our present riches….all of the benefits of Christianity are found in the sphere of Christ!
In v.5, Paul specifies two areas of enrichment: all speech (__________) and all knowledge (________________). Logos here most certainly refers to the witness of the gospel…..preaching, teaching, and witnessing. Paul is also probably leading the Corinthians, again, away from a self-centered focus and lifting their gaze heavenward toward God. They were enamored with eloquent orators….and perhaps focused more upon the speaker than the speech! Just as the church prayed in Acts 4 (v.29) to speak with boldness….Paul here states that, “all manner of speech has been granted to the church in Christ.” All sufficient Gnosis or knowledge has also been given to the church in Christ. The Believer has been given all the knowledge necessary to understand the “mysteries of God” as revealed in His Word…..yet Paul prays often for the churches to grow in their understanding of Christ.
Eph 1:1717 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (italics added)
He prayed for the Colossian church – that they would “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,….. bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10)
The point here is that God has supplied by His grace to all who are in Christ, all of the speech and knowledge we need – BUT we must open our mouths to speak it….AND we must appropriate the knowledge to use it!
Paul then states in v. 7 – “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift,…” and so he moves from the specific areas of Logos and Gnosis to saying that the church is not lacking any spiritual gift. This may seem like an odd thing for Paul to say, given the many problems of immorality and the lack of any spiritual maturity in the Corinthian church…..BUT again we come to the same sort of distinction Paul made in calling them saints! As Christians, they are holy but their praxis of faith is wanting! Here, God’s provision in the present is complete – Paul is saying that God has gifted each Believer….and the church with all the spiritual provisions they need! Even though they are not faithfully employing the provisions He has given! It’s not the provision that is lacking….it’s the praxis! Illustration – We are born-again spiritually just as we are born physically – with everything we need to grow into maturity (adulthood). We do not add arms or legs or organs as we mature….we are not born undeveloped but whole! It is the same spiritually! We do not have holiness added to us as we grow in Christ….we already have it!
If a Christian falls into sin, laziness, ineffective service or impurity - it’s not because he lacks spiritual provision - - but because he is not appropriating what he already has! It’s not the supply…it’s the praxis! The same holds for the church as a whole. If the Body is not growing – if the fruit of the Spirit is not evident in the life of the Body – it is NOT because the provision isn’t there…it’s because the praxis is not there!
In the Present Dimension – we have been enriched with all that we need, in Christ, to be the spotless Bride of Christ! We must live what we are and exercise (praxis) what we have!
C. Future Guarantees – The final dimension…the future benefit of Believers is seen in v.7b-9:
7 ……. as you [eagerly] wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [“eagerly”added]
God has saved us (past) by his grace; He presently empowers us with all the gifts of His grace; and He guarantees the final fulfillment of His grace! Again, Paul forces the Corinthians (and us) to lift our eyes from ourselves to God! First, Paul states a fact for every Believer….but especially as we grow in spiritual maturity – we are longing for the Return of our Savior! The word (__________________) translated “eagerly await” means to wait with longing….with great anticipation! It’s not idle, passive waiting - - it pictures working and serving as we wait and watch and hope! Hoping for “the revealing” or our Lord Jesus Christ where we will see Him as He is!
And on that Day…..when our Lord Returns….we will not stand before God in sin….for Jesus will sustain or confirm us guiltless! The word “sustain” here is the same exact word used in v.6 – saying the gospel is “confirmed” among you! All of our Benefits are in Christ and it is Christ who will present His unblemished Bride to His Heavenly Father!
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Listen church……All of our inheritance…..all of the Benefits of being Christian…..Past salvation and forgiveness + Present equipping and provision + Future perfection ALL are guaranteed because GOD IS FAITHFUL! All that we have is by the grace of God and all that we are is found in Jesus Christ! God is calling each of us to right living….to live who we are in Jesus Christ! To be the Body of Christ that we already are…..He’s getting us to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes on the One who loves us and owns us….the One who has called us into the fellowship of His Son!
We are so thankful for your grace! It is by your grace that you have called us your Son; it is by grace that you have enriched us with every spiritual blessing and you have gifted Cragfont Baptist Church with all that we need; and it is by your grace that will keep us in Christ until He returns!
Holy Father…..we long to live our lives holy before you. By the power of your Spirit, help us to bear witness of Jesus boldly and to increasingly appropriate the knowledge of Christ in our lives!
Lord Jesus, help us as your church….to serve your Kingdom…to realize our connection in You with everyone, everyplace who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Help us with the praxis – Help us to exercise our faith – to live who we are. Your holy people!
[i] Mark Seifred, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, under section ‘in Christ’.