“No more or less about it”
1st Corinthians 1:3-9
Mahammad Ali is well known as an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history and a noted activist for racial justice. He was also dyslexic and had trouble reading long words and in 1975 before 2,000 Harvard graduates gave a speech referencing the advantages they had been given in education up and against the same that he had not been given and urged them to use that knowledge to change the world for the better.
Seemingly polar opposites in upbringing and opportunity and at the end someone from the crowd yelled, “give us a poem” to which he replied and gestured: “Me, we.”
Sometimes more is less, and less is more and in my first reading of today scripture from 1st Corinthians 1:3-9, I was not overwhelmed as to any great theological insight from the Apostle Paul.
How wrong I was.
Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and tells the story of an 18th-centuryAfrican, captured as an adolescent and sold into Slavery in the United States of America and follows his life and the hardships and injustices he and others like him suffered and to which this book went onto be considered one of the most important U.S. works of the twentieth century.
That author, Alex Haley went onto say:
Never read a Jonah Lehrer book, peeped a James Frey lie, or knowingly bookmarked a Jayson Blair article. While fraud soaks the roots of some great literature, the truth is always better, even if or when it shakes our realities.
1st Corinthians 1:3-9: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge. God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Those words from Paul are placed directly before he addresses some serious issues within the congregation of the Corinthians such as divisions in the church, members exerting their foolish human wisdom over others together with the occurrence of sexual immorality, idolatry, pride, abuse of the Lord’s Supper and even doubts as to authenticity of the bodily resurrection of those in Christ.
Big ticket items and Paul seems to address these issues in what we would call the sandwich effect with something less important said both before and after the meat of the message. Like on a talent show where the judge would start with “Your hair looks nice”, then ultimately the meat “that the problem is you can’t sing” and then concluding with something positive to take away with such as: “have you tried juggling?”
Paul is doing no such thing in his address to the Corinthians and in those opening seemingly fluffy opening statements he is offering the meat of the truth in which only then, can anything else ever be addressed.
Less is more:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Less is more:
Luke 23: 42-43: (Then the thief on the cross) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (and) Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
In the English language we have words like know and no that we can tell apart by how they are spelt and in their context: “I know what you mean” or “Cathy can I have some money, No to cannot.”
Less is more and so today, I am not intending to shake any realities but confirm them for you by simply letting Paul tell you of the truth that he was chosen by Christ to do. Verse by verse as it was given to him and in the unadulterated form, meaning and not subjective, but actual meaning with all its dots and dashes as written in the Greek language that would be translated no differently by an unbelieving scholar, to that of a believing one.
Verse 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is concise, sweet Gospel that sets up this text to in which every verse does Paul make mention to Jesus with each repetition bringing out another nuance of the pairing of both grace and peace together as one. Being the source of our salvation is always and only in the grace of God in Christ which then and only then do we have the peace of God in Christ. Paul here to you makes an implicit reference to Christ’s divine nature in that the grace you have received, is from the unmerited kindness of God which caused him to elect you in eternity, call you by the Gospel, redeem you and preserve you in the faith.
Verse 4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
Paul lists grace as the first and essential gift, to which many gifts have been added. Over your life, this grace has been preached to you and by that grace, you have believed the message. By grace you have been kept in the faith and equipped for the life of faith, and Paul here, is giving you his upmost confidence that God will preserve you and this congregation in spite of your weaknesses.
Verse 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge.
Enriched in every way. Not enriched by yourself nor in your own right, but enriched in Christ. Not enriched as others who speak eloquently but without knowledge and therefore blessing. Not being blessed with the knowledge, but do not speak either because are not able to or do not care. But enriched in Christ, you are equipped with both the knowledge of Him and the will to speak of in your testimony.
Verse 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.
Your testimony of which Christ is both object and author, and in this word play gives imagery of Christ as a strong root or a secure anchor to which your testimony concerning Christ has taken firm hold.
Verse 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
This statement and its contrast to charismatic teaching is striking and emphatically in the highest order, that no Christian congregation is lacking any spiritual gift, together with emphasizing, that one true mark of your Christian faith to you individually and our whole congregation collectively, is that of waiting expectantly and not dreading the Second coming and of been given the spiritual gift of equipping you for that wait.
Verse 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You here today, just as you have come to faith in Christ, so too He will root and anchor you securely to the end, and having been given the gift of perseverance, you will stand before God the Father not sinless in this world, but blameless and not liable to either charge or accusation because of the grace you have given through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ his Son for you.
Verse 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the original Greek, faithful is the first word in the sentence, making it especially emphatic and giving unending assurance that God keeps his promises and is faithful to the end as seem in the bond between Jesus Christ and you. A bond from eternity, brought to pass in our time that will forever last in eternity.
There you have it and if you believe that the word of God, the bible is his true and inspired word. you can have no debate as to truth of Christ and the riches he has showered on you.
And if not, your debate is not with me, Paul or a Greek language translation expert but with God himself.
I know that was more like a bible study and a bit long winded, but bear in mind that these are the first two text books I received when studying to understand the word of God when training to be a pastor. 869 pages of biblical commentary on the words alone in the 50 chapters in the book of Genesis, and as much as I would like to get that started, I think we’ve all had enough for today because though there are those that seek to fraudulently soak the root of the Gospel with false or fanciful misinterpretations or outright lies, the truth is always better. And that truth is Christ who stands unseen before you today when you come to the alter in Holy Communion. Unseen by you, but not by His Father and ours-God the Father.
God the Father who promised us a Saviour, and delivered. God the Father who has promised to all those that believe in His Son to have eternal life, and delivered. Delivered not tomorrow, but today, because his promise is to you from eternity, brought to pass in your time, too forever last in eternity.
Today, not I, but the Lord has spoken and pray that we all have ears to hear, minds to remember and hearts to be uplifted that when we see our sins before us and the rocky road ahead, we hear His sweet voice come to us and see our path cleared and our soul restored and know truly that in these days before, that He is with us. Just as in that day to come, when truly, we will be with Him in paradise.” Amen.