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The Grace of God

Updated: Jul 2




2 Corinthians 6:1-13

As we work together with him, we entreat you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” Look now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: in great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; in purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors and yet are true, as unknown and yet are well known, as dying and look—we are alive, as punished and yet not killed, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing everything. 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

 

Sermon:

The church in Corinth encountered significant challenges, having been established by Paul during his second missionary journey. Paul corresponded with the congregation via multiple letters, two of which are included in the Bible. It is conceivable that additional correspondence exists. Upon examining the content of the two known letters, it becomes apparent that the church was grappling with issues of unruliness, rebellion, and misguidance. Nevertheless, their struggles are not unique, resonating with the experiences of numerous other churches and individual Christians. It is this commonality that engenders relevance and relatability to Paul's epistles addressed to the Corinthians.

 

Paul's primary concern revolved around the lack of unity in the congregation's beliefs. Certain members expressed their allegiance to Paul, some to Apollos, and others to Cephas or Peter. Paul emphasized that their ultimate loyalty should be to Christ alone. In 1 Corinthians 3:23, he underscored that all of them were part of Christ and that Christ belonged to God. This message of unity in Christ holds significant relevance beyond its historical context; it serves as a timeless truth that reminds us of the importance of our shared faith, resonating with us even today.

 

Today, many congregations are experiencing division. While we all identify as Christians, we often prioritize our politics, wealth, social standing, or comfort over our faith. Unfortunately, some preachers succumb to this pressure and start propagating teachings that do not align with the message of Christ. They may preach about the prosperity gospel or spread messages of hate disguised as biblical truths. Instead of uniting people with God, they selectively choose Bible verses to create divisions between "Us" and "Them." This issue leads to another problem that Paul addresses.

 

Paul addresses the issue of immorality within the church in his letter to the Corinthians. He discusses a man involved in a relationship with his father's wife and stresses the necessity of addressing and reproving such behavior, regardless of the woman's religious affiliation and lack of accountability to the church. Paul advises the congregation to exercise discipline by withholding social fellowship and participation in the Lord’s Supper from individuals engaged in such sinful conduct. This is followed by discussions on legal matters, which some interpret as being intricately connected to issues of immorality. Furthermore, Paul underscores the sanctity of our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit and reminds believers that they have been purchased at a price; therefore, they should honor God with their bodies. These were hot-button issues in Paul’s time.

 

The concept of turning away from individuals in distress is often associated with an indifferent attitude, particularly within religious institutions. It is essential to avoid such apathy and instead demonstrate compassion, as Christ espoused. Rather than abandoning individuals, we are urged by Christ to offer empathy. Condemn the transgression, not the transgressor. Restricting someone from receiving communion can be considered severe from a theological perspective, as it symbolizes God rejecting Israel when they erred. However, God consistently welcomed Israel back. Did Israel attain perfection? No, they did not. Yet, God's love for them endures. Our duty is not to pass judgment on the transgressor; it is to extend love to them.

 

In his address to the Corinthian Congregation, Paul raised several significant concerns, encompassing their conduct during Communion, matters relating to marriage, divorce, and the consumption of food dedicated to Idols. He also discussed appropriate attire for women in the church, uncontrolled speaking in tongues, and, notably, the church's understanding of the resurrection of the body.

 

The prevalent issues Paul addressed stemmed from the leniency of civil laws. A historically valid example of such a law would be how women were regarded as the property of their fathers until they were transferred to their husbands through marriage. The customary marriage ceremony symbolizes the transfer of ownership from the father to the husband, evident in the tradition of the father "giving away" the bride. Consequently, husbands held the power to disregard their wives if they failed to meet their expectations. Although the church played a role in enabling women to surpass societal limitations, contemporary restrictions within certain church institutions prevent women from attaining certain positions, despite their nearly equal status in society. Consequently, the church, rather than society, appears to impede progress. This prompts the question of whether such behavior aligns with the principles of Christ.

 

In response to encountering opposition from the Church, Paul found it necessary to correspond with them again. Paul reassures the church that despite facing hardships, he and his colleagues have not impeded the church in any way. He emphasizes the importance of keeping one's heart open as a reflection of Christ.

 

I've often emphasized that the Word of God should bring comfort to those in need and challenge those who are at ease. As part of the Body of Christ, we should hold each other accountable and maintain high moral standards. It's important to support those who are suffering and provide comfort as needed. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we shouldn't let the distractions of the world divide us. Instead, we should keep our focus on Christ, just as Paul advised, and keep our hearts open wide.

 

The prophets of ancient times served as the voice of God, fearlessly conveying truth to those in positions of power. "Truth to Power" goes beyond being just a catchy slogan; it encapsulates the mission of figures like Amos, Isaiah, Elijah, and Nathan. These individuals spoke truth to rulers and nations that had strayed from the path of God, becoming self-absorbed and neglecting the needs of the orphan, the widow, and the impoverished. Jesus, too, followed in their footsteps, ultimately meeting a fate similar to many prophets—death as a result of speaking truth to power.

 

The church has the same crucial duty as the prophets. Yes, we must provide for orphans, widows, and the poor. But we should also stand to call out injustice, greed, and immoral behavior that places these disenfranchised in such situations. There are different perspectives on this, but the best approach is to consider how Jesus and Paul would see it. We should ask when we denounce injustice, greed, and immorality, does it lift up the poor and oppressed, or does it oppress them further? (even if unintended.) Does it just make us feel good without taking real action, or does it challenge us and inspire us to help those whom society has neglected? Remember, any theology that elevates us enough to oppress others is flawed.

 

Do not allow the opportunity for divine grace to be ineffectual. To paraphrase Paul, "Now is the opportune time; behold, now is the day of salvation! We are not causing any hindrance to anyone so that our ministry may not be discredited. Instead, as servants of God, we have proven ourselves in every way: through great perseverance..." "Our affection toward you has no restriction, but yours does toward us. In the same way, open wide your hearts as well."

 

The question we must ask ourselves is this: will we accept the grace of God and the responsibility that comes with it? Will we call out injustice when we see it?

 

How can we achieve this, you may wonder. It is crucial for Christians to gain a thorough understanding of social justice and skillfully navigate the intricacies of modern-day challenges, all while staying committed to promoting justice based on Christ-like principles – not just selectively choosing verses from the Bible. The church should condemn injustices but refrain from overly engaging in politics; this is the church's responsibility. Simultaneously, it is the civic duty of individual Christians to uphold the truth of Christ's teachings. We can do this through everyday conversations, the news we follow, the articles and books we read, and the way we vote. Christ was a radical teacher who fearlessly voiced truth to those in power, and we, too, can aspire to follow in His footsteps.

 

Let's make a conscious effort to actively seek out goodness, truth, and enlightenment, finding guidance in the teachings of the prophets. It's important to not only embody these virtues ourselves but also share them with others, following the example set by Christ. By embracing these virtues, we can tap into their transformative power to uplift those who are disadvantaged, as encouraged by Paul. It is vital to always keep in mind that living a Christian life is not without its challenges, and we must never forget to appreciate the grace of God and not accept it in vain.

 

Inspiration Cited:

Harbuck, Myke. “Church Problems in Corinth.” The Berean Blog, March 25, 2010. https://mharbuck.wordpress.com

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