Paul has outlined the mess we’ve got ourselves into. We’re stuck trying to establish our own righteousness. Righteousness is a status word.
The problem: we can’t achieve the righteousness we really need
We’ll never fill the holes in our lives. We don’t have the power to fulfil our own desire for righteousness. Some things get us commended but the good things we do don’t open any doors with God. Every person is going to be held accountable. Through the law we become conscious of our sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul’s not saying we’re not like God. We’re not like we should be. God’s standard is glory. Even our most perfect day can’t take us back to righteousness. We sink further and further away. We are more and more condemned. Paul wants us to feel a bit frightened so we can appreciate what follows. It’s only when we appreciate the problem that we can really embrace God’s solution.
The solution: righteousness as a gift through Christ
This is the good news. There is a way to be righteous, to be justified, despite our sin and failure because Jesus Christ gives us God’s righteousness. You don’t have to prove your worthiness to anyone because you are justified freely by his grace.
Jesus redeems us
A slave can’t but themselves out of slavery. Someone has to rescue them. We can’t just stop doing wrong. We’re incapable. We are slaves to sin. Jesus liberates us from slavery without any charge. There’s a great cost that was paid by Jesus himself.
Jesus propitiates God
At, one, make – atonement. Propitiation – make favourable towards. God is justifiably angry with us. We’ve got nothing to offer that can satisfy his anger. In the person of his son, he takes that anger upon himself. God does it for us through Christ. He takes the judgment. God has a problem. If he is completely just and is offended when people hurt one another, how can he not punish the people who do those things? Not only is he just, he is merciful and loving and kind. How can he be both? Only if someone else can pay on our behalf. Jesus took the judgment and turned aside God’s wrath. God can declare us righteous without having to punish us for our sin. Now all the sins of all God’s people are covered.
We take the gift by faith
Faith is not a character attribute. It’s not a leap in the dark. It’s a commitment to trust what Jesus has done. There’s no hope of us justifying ourselves but Jesus offers us righteousness. All we have to do is trust him. Whatever else you trust in won’t work. Jesus offers free righteousness. He’s done everything necessary. Why wouldn’t you trust him?
This series on John 1:1-18 could be described as the most extravagant invitation in the history of the earth. For our of love, God himself became flesh and died on a cross so that we might become part of his family.
To know Jesus is to know God
We come to Jesus empty handed offering nothing but Jesus comes to us with his hands full and of the many blessings he gives to us, the one he is most excited about is us being in relationship with his Father. The moment you trust in Christ you can be certain that you are carried to the centre of the Father’s heart.
What is Jesus like? Most clearly we saw his love on the cross. Jesus’ compassion led to him to take on our sin and so giving up the most precious thing he had – the hand of his Father so that we could have it. If you want to know how much God the Father loves his children, look no further than how Christ loves us.
To keep your eyes on Christ is key to living for God
The Son of God becoming a man and entering the pages of human history means that the Christian investment in the promise of heaven, and renewed minds and bodies enjoying God and his creation as we were designed, is worth it.
You need to gaze on Christ as often and deeply as you can. We do not trust in rumours but because we know Christ we are not fools to invest the maximum of ourselves in declaring the wonder of God to the world.
The God who takes us by the hand
The tension between wanting to know God but he’s too perfect was first felt by the Israelites led by Moses. They had created the tabernacle which was the physical place where Moses could talk to God. How long could this last? The Israelites were distrusting and angry. They made a statue of a calf and made it their new god. God was furious. He gave them what they wanted. Moses pleaded that God would stay and give them another chance. God longs to be close but the obstacle is always our sin. It matters to know that God isn’t just existing somewhere in the universe but is with us now.
Moses asks God if he can actually see him. The passing by of God is the OT’s ‘wow moment’. God revealing his glory to us is a reality for us today. The word ‘dwelt’ found its root in ‘tabernacle’. It’s a reference to when God was leading the Israelites through the desert. He’s doing it again. He’s taking people by the hand. Better than Moses, the glory of God was seen face to face as John walked, talked, spent time with Jesus. John was there when god became a man. He saw the closeness of God as he was a disciple of Jesus. Our hope is not a dream. This God will come close if we accept the invitation. We don’t have to go into the darkness alone. God will take us through the next year, through the rest of our lives, to the face of God the Father.
The God who is not fair
God, back in Exodus, kindly gave the Israelites the law. It showed where people had failed to meet his standards. The law gave them a way for them to not get what they deserved. They were allowed to bring a sacrifice. The law was a grace from God. It enabled an unholy people to be with God because they didn’t get what they deserved. The Son of God coming as a man means we have a greater gift. To trust the death of Jesus is to have confidence that you will never be treated as you deserve. You will always be treated infinitely better than you should be. At the cross, Jesus paid it all. His death on the cross is God’s justice enacted. We cannot do this year by ourselves. God’s grace is sufficient for our needs.
There’s a strange curiosity in our culture of returning to Jesus again and again. The representations of Jesus are often negative. We can’t seem to let Jesus go. Why is it that Jesus still has this power to both repel people and attract them?
The true light is seen but the world continues to look away
It’s as if our darkened souls turn away from him. We try to turn down the light. If we can make the light seem weak, we can ignore it. Everyone who sees Jesus glimpses something true about God and something true about ourselves. There’s a tone of sadness about the line, ‘the world did not recognise him’. We may be selectively blind but God isn’t. Our culture can’t let him go. We see but we look away. We exchange the idea of a relationship with God for a debt we can never pay back.
The true light invites you to join God’s family
We discover a promise that is so compelling that we struggle to get our heads around it. God calls you to be spiritually reborn. He won’t allow you to drown in your own darkness. He is a perfectly thorough and a perfectly loving parent. When John describes the rejection, it’s a reference to Jesus on the cross.
God sent his son Jesus Christ into the darkness of our world to find us and bring us home. He sent his son into the darkness so that we can be forgiven and made family.
John is a wanderer. Jesus describes him as the greatest of all the prophets. We learn two things about God through his messenger John the Baptist.
If you’re looking for hope, look to God
Despite everything you know about the darkness of the world we hold on to that Yuletide belief. It’s the belief that ‘everyone is basically good but bad stuff happens to us that makes us bad’. Each one of us is a darkness creator. There is no inner goodness that is buried within the heart.
The light we need is a light that comes from outside of us. John wants us to know that this true light is waiting for you to accept him. We get to enjoy the true light of the world by accepting a relationship with Jesus. It transforms all of our other relationships. We can bring our burdens and anxieties to him so that in time they can be healed by the one who truly understands us.
If you want to see God, look at the messenger
God has always used people to reveal himself to others. If you want to see what God is like look at the person next to you. When you are compassionate in your treatment of others you are being God-like. None of us were there 2,000 years ago. The only evidence we have of this being true are the eyewitness accounts in the Bible and testimonies of Christians today. The message of this passage is that the testimony of a normal guy is enough. You can trust this invitation.
Our rejection of God distorts us. We’re all signposts designed to point to God but our rejection of him defaces us. If you find someone who has accepted the invitation to follow Jesus then you have found a signpost who is being untwisted to point in the right direction. As a signpost it’s not about you.
In the church leadership, people think different things about spiritual gifts. We need to learn to disagree and love each other at the same time. Paul doesn’t say what he means by a ‘message of knowledge’.
The church is described as Jesus’ wife. If you love Jesus, you love the people he died for. The gift of tongues seemed significant to the Corinthians.
The Spirit acts on us to bring Jesus’ Lordship (v1-3)
Paul says everyone can know about this. He says we were totally ignorant. They had a history of pagan worship that seemed real. The Spirit’s work can be seen in what people say and do if they are proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. That is incompatible with the self focus of the Corinthians. If we’re interested in looking after ourselves, it isn’t spiritual. It’s about our attitude to Jesus.
The Spirit acts in the church to bring variety (v4-11)
Anything being done with Jesus being proclaimed is the Spirit working. Paul gives a list of different types of gifts that might be used. We don’t know exactly what the messages of knowledge and wisdom actually are. The point is the repeated use of variety through one Spirit. It doesn’t matter what we can do, it’s that we can do something.
How does it apply to us as a church?
It’s the same thing as every week – trust in Jesus. Can we say and mean that Jesus is Lord?
Be inspired by the church. It’s amazing because of Jesus. Everybody who knows Jesus is Lord has his Spirit and everyone has something to give. All united but totally different. No one can be devalued if they appear to not pull their weight.
The corresponding negative. If we think that we have a gift that comes from an ability that we would’ve had regardless of whether we’re Christians or not, that isn’t the Spirit as we’re trying to promote ourselves.
Paul gives us a way out of individualism into this community that he describes. No one is allowed to be excluded as a result of what we don’t know or what we can’t do. There are people who think they’re superior or inferior.
The body is Jesus (v12-13)
Paul knew this from his experience. We are all one in him.
The inferior – ‘You’re in whether you like it or not’ (v14-20)
A common feeling in church life is that you want to be with people who are like you. Church is about diversity. We have to realise that it’s the sinful nature that says we want people like us around us. It’s proof that the spirit is working if there’s diversity. Everyone is different on purpose. It’s because we’re different that we do belong. God has made us this way for a reason. The glorious truth is that we’re not the same as everyone else.
The superior – ‘You have forgotten the gospel’ (v21-26)
Knowledge was a problem in Corinth. Some knew more than others. Ability was also an issue. There’s a risk that we’ll begin to treat people unkindly if we think we’re better than them. The point of having parts that seem weak is so that they can be cared for. Paul says weakness is good.
God has put the body together to model the great truth of the gospel. Paul finishes the passage by listing gifts. We cannot all do the same but because Jesus is in all of us, we can still be as one.