So I have been going through my favorite book of the Bible again, 1 Corinthians, and I am realizing so much that I never noticed before. In particular, I am noticing just how much the state of the church in Corinth resembles the American church. These people were worldly, their treasure here on Earth. They were sexually immoral and the church allowed it, even praised it. They took for granted the power of the Holy Spirit, thereby taking for granted the beautiful sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And they didn't seem to care that the way the lived their life was in complete contrast to the life that God had given them when they first believed.
Do you see how this is what the Church tends to look like in America? But I hate the way that sounds, like it is something unique to America, like something we are entitled to, almost being praised that the church is dead. But these problems have been plaguing the church since the very beginning, and they plague far too many congregations around the world. Something needs to change; this world needs to know Jesus, not the mockery of Christ that Satan has told us is Christianity. And this is exactly why the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: first to expose their detestable way of living and convict them of their sin, but then to show them what true Godly living looks like, to reveal to them the real and true Jesus Christ, the man who is fully God, who died to put to death our sin and shame, and who rose again to bridge the gap between us and God that had been created when Adam and Eve brought sin into the world.
I was reading part of chapter six today and was completely blown away by how brutal Paul is in his rebuke of the Corinthian church. He is specifically addressing the fact that those in the church bring their civil disputes to the Roman courts, rather than look to God and His Word to see how He would have such a dispute resolved. Of this, Paul writes, "I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?" "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means that you have been completely defeated already." "[Y]ou yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Those are pretty heavy statements to a church that believes it has everything figured out. And it got me wondering what would happen if one of the "mega-churches" here received the same rebuke. Would they see such as wisdom given by God? Would they search the Scriptures to find out if in fact they had fallen so far from where God wants them to be? Well I am not sure, but I would guess that the majority of churches would be offended and call out the writer, trying to justify their own way of living, maybe saying that it is just the way they do things and in the end if Christ is glorified what does it matter?
But it's funny, because this is exactly how the Corinthians reacted, given by the fact that Paul wrote to the church several times about the same issues. 1 Corinthians was probably Paul's second letter to the church, and when this was not enough, he wrote them a "severe letter" which has been lost, but which was what finally brought the church to repentance. This brought him great joy, and he wrote 2 Corinthians to the church to praise this, but to also warn them against opposition in the church and encourage them to stay strong.
But back to 1 Corinthians 6. I was just really encouraged today by how Paul dealt with the situation of believers suing one another. He never opened by saying that there was none wise enough among them to resolve disputes, but rather he opens by explaining that they are already fully equipped to handle these situations. He says, "Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" Paul is a man who knows how to work his words for great effect--he was once a Pharisee who convinced Jews that it was favorable in God's eyes to kill holy people. And here he uses that skill to greatly encourage them, just before he throws them a biting rebuke. But he also finishes the rebuke by reminding them that they are still loved by Christ, and that their sinful way of life is not enough to remove them from the grace of God: "And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Sometimes I catch myself looking at the way others live their lives and want to judge them. I see men who are believers who curse, who get drunk, who have sex, who watch porn without shame, who idolize money, who objectify women, who lie and cheat and steal, and I start to wonder about them. If they truly believe in Christ, then surely they would not be living like that. Right? I mean once you know what Jesus has done for us, that he died so that we may be freed of our sins, then those are instantly gone from our lives. Right? And I am realizing, even as I write this, just how detestable that line of thinking is. Just by me saying that, I am sinning by judging them. And to God sin is is, as anyone who breaks the law at one point is guilty of breaking all of it. I am not saying that their sinful way of living is right, but it is no more right for me to think in this way. It is not that they aren't saved, maybe it's just that they need someone to rebuke them harshly because they have lost sight of what the Gospel truly means for us. Maybe I do too. I am a sinful man, I fall short of the glory of God every day, and in my own way I do not care. I continue living sinfully because it is comfortable, but someone may look at me, see this in me, and have the same thoughts about me that I have about them.
But in the end, I know that I serve a God who loves me. He loves me enough that he sacrificed his only son to save me, and I believe that with all my heart. And Jesus tells us that anyone who believes in him will be saved, because He has chosen us, even when we were still sinners. And it is this grace that I hold onto, because I know that without it there would be no hope. So yes, I am a sinner, but even greater I am saved, and I am loved. And it is this love that God has given to me, that out of an overflow of His love in me I can show others who are lost what His love looks like. So my sin has not left me ill equipped to love the world, but rather my brokenness is being used by God to show his grace to all.