Friday, October 27, 2017

Grace to Change (1 Corinthians 1:3)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:3, NASB95)

Grace” and “peace” are incredible things. So much of the world lives without any permanent peace, both internally and externally. But there are those who have discovered how to be at peace even when the things going on around them are far from being right and when peace is hard to find. Grace is that generous kindness that is extended to another when they are in need and unable to fix things for themselves or when they have greatly failed and are in need of forgiveness, longsuffering and patience while change occurs. It is here that someone from the outside offers to those on the inside a help that lifts a burden or takes some things off their plate, so that those burdens that remain seem more manageable.

In this letter to the Corinthian believers Paul started with them using the path of encouragement before addressing their struggles, and even then, he also gave them what was needed to redirect them onto a correct path. For the believers in Corinth it could be easy to become discouraged, especially when their shortcomings were called out by someone important to them. In these moments rather than experiencing peace, it is easy to experience tension, frustration, helplessness and even anger. It is moments like this that the grace that comes from God provides the assurance of acceptance and reminds of His power for change. And, in this there is the reminder that His peace can be known in the process because of the fact that Christ has made us to be at peace with God by His blood that cleansed them and us from our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” was not only Paul’s common salutation, but it was also a way of saying, “God bless you” with a healthy reminder of just how He has done so. He reminds those who hear or read this greeting that both grace and peace are a gift to us from God our Father and His Son who He sent to save us from our sins, to draw us to Him, and to give us new life and an everlasting hope—our Lord Jesus Christ.

God loves us so much. Because of our sin we were separated from Him, and He chose not to let that stand as a barrier. He provided the only means by which we can become fully cleansed and brought back into a relationship with Him. And beyond that we know that He constantly lavishes His love on us in countless ways. It is Him who shows Himself strong when we are weak. It is Him who gives wisdom when we lack understanding. It is Him who knows us intimately and wraps His hands around us. It is Him who holds us closely when times like the one mentioned above are so very true and present. God did all of this not because He was obligated to do so, but because He wanted to out of His love and compassion. This is what grace is. It is God giving to us what we need as a gift because it is His joy to do so.

And peace, what an incredible result of knowing that we not only are fully forgiven and will not face judgment for our sins, but that He is also faithful to keep us until that very moment that He ushers us into His presence. There is nothing that comes to us that has not been through His sovereign hands. There is nothing that blindsides Him even though we may be caught by surprise. God is our constant help, and He has promised Himself to be faithful even when we struggle in response. We are at peace with the Father because we’ve been given salvation in the Son. Because Jesus paid for our sins and rose again, we are fully forgiven and forever made alive. Though we may struggle in our walk before Him, He will not forsake us. He is committed to us and His Spirit indwells us to bring about great change in our lives. What He calls upon us to do in response is to give ourselves back to Him in worshipful obedience.

This church had growth issues, and with some reproof given and correction taken they could and would change. Paul loved these believers and he was confident in God’s ability to do incredible things in their lives and with them as a church. He wrote to them for their welfare as their spiritual father, and it was his hope that they would listen. In chapter 4 he wrote, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:14–15, NASB95)

Paul knew God’s grace and saw himself as an example of God’s power to bring change when we live accordingly. “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9–10, NASB95)  

No comments: