As I become quiet, I see a marvellous sight – a glorious, majestic Figure filling the sky – with His light and glory. The King of the universe.
“I use the title of king to denote my rule over every part of the kingdom, My full authority over all My subjects and every part of this vast Kingdom. Yet it is an unseen rule at the moment. I rule by ruling in the hearts of those who have subjected themselves to Me and have received Me and acknowledge Me as their King. I also have authority and rule over the rest even though it is unseen, it is real. The picture painted of Me in Revelation of being seated on a throne, high and lifted up, with My train filling the temple is a symbolic picture. In the new heavens and the new earth just as now, I will not be confined to one place seated on a throne, no matter how beautiful. My glory will be everywhere – everyone will enjoy it just as you to will be glorified in My presence. The pain of this world is passing away and soon you will enter The Glory – My glorious Presence, in the New Heavens and the New Earth.”
As I promised last time, I am embarking on reading through the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians. In my early days as a Christian, involved heavily with the “Charismatic Movement” at the time, I was steeped in the teaching in the center parts of this letter. Because of this I think I have subconsciously avoided going back there again since then. So I need a fresh start and view of the WHOLE letter, not just selected parts. Without being too technical, it is wise to remember that the church to which Paul was writing had several problems which will explain the course of His discussion, as he addressed them.
Dealing with Chapter 1 up to 2:5, here are a few observations that struck me: Paul immediately brings into focus two of the main problems this church had. In 1:7 he brings up the matter of Spiritual gifts about which he will have a lot to say later, which was the focus of the Charismatic Movement. The other problem he raises is the problem of divisions in the church 1:10 ff.
Setting aside the story of the gifts, I sat up when Paul started speaking about divisions in the church. Now I have seen several churches broken up and their effectiveness destroyed by divisions which arose. So I think this is still a very real problem today. A problem which I believe is one of Satan’s great weapons to decrease the effectiveness of the gospel.
So what was the problem here? Paul raises the point that the people were following various “leaders” or teachers in the congregation. Not only were they following them, they were boasting about them 1:5 ff. The focus also seems to have been baptism. 1:14 -17. They were focusing on the physical rather than the spiritual reality which baptism represents. Now, I need not tell you how this subject has divided the church over the years. Underlying this problem seems to be pride, note the word “boasting” which Paul uses several times. Pride, and self-centredness are qualities which represent immaturity. So I don’t suppose one should be surprised that those qualities lead to divisions.
So what is Paul’s initial solution, which I take it will be developed as we proceed? Well it lies in what Paul’s message is. The gospel, just as in the book of Romans, Paul raises the reality that the Gospel is the power of God for us who are being saved (1:16b cf Romans 1:16). He expands this by explaining that his preaching was in God’s power, not with fine sounding words etc. Furthermore he says: “Christ did not send me to baptize but to evangelize”. (1:17).
It struck me that the way to avoid divisions in the church is to focus on the central message of Jesus and His cross. In that message lies a power which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. (Ephes 1:19ff). An iresistable power.
Something else struck me. Something we maybe take for granted but worth mentioning. While the saints to whom Paul is writing are described as those called by Jesus 1:2,9, The are also called those “who call on the Name of the Lord” 1:2. So although salvation is entirely a work of God through Jesus, there is nevertheless a responsibility from our side that we are to call on God for salvation. This is a mystery which I do not want to demystify, simply showing how simple yet how complex salvation can be.
Next time we will look at the different types of reaction Paul experienced with His preaching and place it in our context.
As I continue into the New Year, I am encouraged and motivated to pray for the lost and share the gospel and watch God’s power at work. yet with an attitude of absolute humility and dependence.