Year B - Trinity 1/Proper 7 and B.C.P. Lent 1 : 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
A club called the Infidel Club was started in Glasgow, the word Infidel means 'unbeliever', so we can deduce what this was like. Some men were standing at the corner of a street when a very prosperous looking man went past. One of the men said, "That is the founder of the Infidel Club in Glasgow." "What do you mean by that, he is an elder of the church." said another of the men. " "Elder or no elder," replied the man, "he is the founder of Glasgow's Infidel Club." Then he told how the man's inconsistent life had been bearing for years a false witness to Christ. So false, in fact, that it had undermined the faith of several young men who joined together to form the Infidel Club.
Before today's reading Paul had written to the Corinthian church that a Christian is a new person ( 5:17 ) and that Paul and his co-workers were ambassadors for Jesus ( 5:20 ). He implores them to be reconciled to God through Jesus who is the perfect sacrifice for sin, giving righteousness to believers.
This is the background to verse 1, we also call on you not to receive the grace of God in vain. This could have two meanings. It could be referring to someone who claim to have received Jesus as Lord and Saviour, yet it has made no difference to the way that they live their life. It could also refer to someone who had not yet placed their lives under the control of Jesus. Perhaps there were two groups in Corinth, perhaps there were some who thought they had responded to Jesus in faith, but this was not genuine. They had not become the 'new creation' mentioned in 5:17, as evidenced by their lives.
In the recent census 72% said that they were 'Christian', yet I would imagine that the vast majority of those people who have a flawed idea of what constitutes a Christian. Many would say things such as believing in a moral code, or being a good person who would help anyone or saying their prayers every night. Only 7.5% of these people attend church regularly so it is no wonder that the remaining 64.5% would say that they didn't need to go to church to be a Christian. Something that goes against Jesus' plan to save people.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 49:8, written over 700 years before, pointing out that now is the time of salvation, demanding an immediate response.
The Corinthian church had been infiltrated by false teachers who challenged Paul's personal integrity and his authority as an apostle. Because he had announced a change in his itinerary, with the result that he would now pay the Corinthians one (long) visit instead of two (short) visits, these adversaries asserted that his word was not to be trusted. They also said that he was not a genuine apostle and that he was putting into his own pocket the money they had collected for the poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem. Paul asked the Corinthians to consider that his personal life in their midst was always honourable and that his life-transforming message of salvation was true. This is what he was doing when he referred to his difficulties and suffering( verses 4-10 ).
The motivation for Paul's way of life and ministry is 3 We are in nothing giving cause of stumbling, in no way, so that the ministry may not be blamed,
In a sense the issue is the same one that concerned some of the Corinthians. The need to live a life worthy of Jesus. The motivation for this is firstly to please God, and to show Him by our actions that our trust in Him is genuine. Secondly, we are to follow God's ways to show to other people that we are his followers. To give God the glory for this and to inspire others to want to follow Him. Of course, this will threaten some people who will take every opportunity to criticize Christians, but even this should inspire us to even greater devotion to God.
"There is no corruption, no evil propensity, no temptation to sin, which the Christian cannot overcome."- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
In our gospel reading Jesus withstood the temptation of the devil as he fasted for 40 days. Something that coincides with the period of Lent when Christian prepare themselves for Easter. Not merely by giving up something, but by reviewing where they are spiritually and renewing their trust in God.
Jesus obedience led to our salvation because he was sinless and able to offer himself for our sins on the cross, something that we focus on in our Holy Communion Service this morning.
Jesus can also sympathise with our temptations, because he has been tempted himself.
Herb Miller, ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN VERBS (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989.) "A trial was beginning many years ago at the courthouse in a small county town in the U.S.A. When officials prepared to swear in the first witness, they could not find the old Bible they had used for years. A quick search of the courthouse revealed nothing. Finally, the judge called the bailiff forward and whispered in his ear. "Go down to the county clerk's office and get Ed," he said.
Ed had been an elder in a local church longer than anyone could remember. He was a shining example of what the Christian faith is all about. In a few minutes, the bailiff approached the bench with Ed in tow. The judge said, "Ed, you have communicated more of the Bible to more people than most of the Bibles in this town. You will make a good substitute for the one we can't find." And so the first witness placed his hand on Ed's head, swore the oath, and the trial began.
We are not to receive the grace of God in vain. We are to live in it. So that His grace, His undeserved favour increasingly permeates every moment of our days to the praise and glory of His name.