Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 7:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Amazing Grace.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 4 (Select vv. NIV).
Servants of Christ (vv. 1-2)
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
So, what does it look like to be a servant of Christ, as one who has been entrusted with the gospel of salvation, and as one who proves faithful to that trust? It means, first of all, that we have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives. We have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
Then, it means that we walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh, we have singleness of devotion to our Lord, and we are living lives separate (different, distinct) from the world because we are being made into the likeness of Christ. We are strong in the Lord and firm in our commitments to his calling on our lives. We are steadfast in faith, and unadulterated of heart. We listen to him speak his words to our hearts, and then we follow him wherever he leads us, to do whatever it is he has called us to do and to be. This is not saying we are perfect, but that this describes our walk with our Lord, i.e. it is what we practice in the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Followers of Men (vv. 6-7)
Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
In the beginning of this letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul addressed to them a matter of concern that they were followers of men (humans), and that this was causing divisions in the church, for different groups claimed to follow a different person. Today, this might be like saying “I’m a Baptist,” or “I’m a Presbyterian,” or “I’m a Methodist.” And, yet, there is a much greater division which concerns our Lord, and that is that the church is divided by those who purely follow Christ and those who are followers of men, of human wisdom (teaching), a man-made gospel, and the institutional church, which is a corporation of men under the headship of the government.
So, the appeal that Paul was making to the church was that they not be divided, but that they be of one mind and heart, which is the mind and heart of Christ, not that of institutions of men. He said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Co. 1:17). Amen!
Yet, a large percentage of the church here in America has left her first love, Jesus Christ, to follow after men and their institutions. Instead of pure and single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ, they are buying into the philosophies and values of human beings. They have partnered the church with an unholy government, which is forbidden in scripture (2 Co. 6:14-18). And, they have made the government, by way of the 501c3, head of the church. Thus, they are living in spiritual adultery against their Lord. Not, only that, but they have incorporated the body of Christ. What? Yes! They have turned the church, the body of Christ, into a human-based business, and are marketing it just like any other business with gimmicks, seductions and entertainment.
So, God has been calling his bride, his church, which is a living organism, with him as her ONLY head, to come out from among this “Babylon,” so that she does not share in her sins and in her punishment, for her sins are piled high to heaven (Rev. 18:4-8). But, the church in America has been slow in responding to his calls. She needs to repent of her sins of spiritual adultery and idolatry, and follow her Lord in obedience, but she is dragging her feet, i.e. she doesn’t want to leave the institutional church, because she is comfortable there. Yet, the influences of the world are strong within these institutions of men, and humanistic teaching, and a false (diluted) gospel, are rampant, let alone the fact that the church is not a business or a building or an institution of men under the government’s authority, but it is Christ’s body, his bride, the heavenly Jerusalem, under the headship of Christ.
Scum of the Earth (vv. 8-13)
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
This is a fair description of the divided church in America today. There are those, as mentioned earlier, who are following their Lord in faithful obedience, who are making him their ONLY Lord. They are not perfect, but they are persistent, steadfast, and unadulterated (pure) in their walks of faith and in sharing Christ and his gospel so that others can come to know him, too. They do not compromise the truth of the gospel in order to appease the flesh of man, but they stand strong in their faith and in their commitments to Christ and to his calling on their lives. And, they are being persecuted, mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused and targeted for extinction throughout the world, including inside the United States of America.
Then, there are those who are riding the fence, who are followers of men, who are addicted to entertainment and to satisfying their fleshly desires, who know that what they are doing is wrong, and yet they are dragging their feet about turning from their sins and becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They are holding on to the world, and they don’t want to let go. They are allowing the world of sin and these institutions of men to seduce (persuade) them to disobey and to be disloyal to their Lord Jesus. And, many of these types of Christians (or professing Christians) can be found within these institutional churches, though there are certainly dedicated Christians inside these institutions, too, I would imagine.
To Warn You (vv. 14-21)
I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
As followers of Christ, we are to be imitators of Christ, not in a mocking way, but in sincerity, we are to model our lives after Christ and the life he lived when he was on the earth – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit inside us. And, we are to follow the teachings of scripture which tell us how we are to live as believers in Jesus Christ. We are to walk in the fear of the Lord, meaning we honor, value, respect, worship, and adore him as part of our everyday lives. In fact, our worship of our Lord is in giving our lives over to him as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways of this world, but transformed in the renewing of our minds. And, we are to live as though we truly are his servants by not compromising with the world, but by standing for what is right and is of God and is holy.
Yet, so many Christians (or professing Christians) in America are indistinguishable from the people of the world, because they think, act, and speak like the world does. But, they think God won’t do anything about it, because they are convinced that he will never punish them (discipline, judge) and that heaven is guaranteed them, so they have no worries.
But, the Bible says that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars. If we don’t keep Christ’s commandments, i.e. if it is not our practice to walk in obedience to our Lord, we don’t have the hope of heaven and eternal life with God. Words are cheap! True faith in Jesus Christ is a faith which lives what they say they believe. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).
Amazing Grace / John Newton
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.
And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.