Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 Grace and Truth

KEY TEXT: 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

KEY THOT: God's word gives us only one foundation to build our faith, and that is Jesus Christ. But what does it mean that Jesus Christ is our only foundation? There are two important related aspects: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Unlike Moses who came who gave the law, Jesus Christ came to give us grace and  truth. Grace is the revelation that God has done everything at the Cross to make salvation as a free gift available to all who receive and believe in Him: "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Anyone who teaches that we must do something more to get saved other than faith in Christ is undermining Christ as the only foundation. 

The second aspect of Jesus Christ as foundation is truth. Jesus came to reveal truth by living it out and teaching it to his disciples: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-33). So, Jesus Christ did not just come to bring grace (salvation is a free gift to be received by faith), but also truth (his teaching as contained in the Gospels). To reject His teaching in the Gospel as "law" because it is "pre-Cross" is to replace Jesus Christ as the foundation for someone else, viz., Paul because his teaching is "post-Cross". But preachers who teach this idea often ignore the post-Cross Jesus' teaching in his letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3), which sounds exactly like his teaching as contained in the Gospels! So, as far as Jesus Christ is concerned, He is "the same, yesterday and today and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ is our sure foundation--whether pre-Cross or post-Cross.

We have to remember that Paul's ministry is to the Gentiles who didn't have the Law of Moses. So he magnifies his ministry of grace for the Gentiles: "Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry" (Romans 11:13). On the other hand, Jesus' ministry was primarily to the Jews, so he magnifies the Law by his obedience to the spirit of the law, not its letter: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17). He meant that he has obeyed the law in terms of inward attitudes and motivations, unlike the scribes and Pharisees who focused on the 3-R externalities of religious piety: regulations, rules and rituals.

As Gentile believers, we start with grace because we do not have the Law. But once we have understood grace (that salvation is a free gift), we must go on to be transformed by truth--Jesus' teaching based on God's law (Mt 5:21-48). Grace without truth leads to licentiousness.  But truth without grace produces legalism. Only grace and truth gives true liberty, for "the truth will set you free." Though we are saved by grace through faith, many of us are still living in bondage to the flesh that has been defiled by sin, sickness, and unclean spirits. We need to be transformed by the truth so that we are totally set free from the defilement: "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.(John 15:3).

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) exposes the inward defilement caused by our sinful flesh. Just because we are saved does not automatically mean we are free from lusts of our flesh: only Jesus' truth can set us completely free from the power of the sinful flesh because his teaching deals with inward attitudes: e.g. anger is murder; mental lust is adultery. Some preachers try to avoid the personal implication of Jesus' teaching by saying that His teaching is meant to expose our weaknesses so that we will fall back on grace, not self-efforts. But Jesus' teaching is not given to make us feel guilty but to transform us from inside out by cleaning the inside of our cups: "You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean" (Matthew 23:26)

If we have come to know the Father through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have received the free gift of salvation to become God's children, then it is incumbent upon us as God's children to now live as Christ lived in the days of his flesh. Jesus'  life and ministry was a demonstration to us what true sonship looks like. If we have come to faith through Paul's gospel of grace, we must now complete our discipleship foundation by allowing the Spirit to transform us inwardly through Jesus' example of living by the truth.

Lord, thank You that You have given us the Spirit because we are God's children through faith in order that we may obey the law of God in our inward being. Amen.

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