When Paul sits down to write a letter to his friends at the church in Corinth, a church he himself started, here is how he begins:
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-9, ESV)
If you are wondering what the theme of his letter will be, his introduction leaves little doubt. In the words of author N.T. Wright,
“If we had any doubts about what Paul was excited about, what was at the centre of his thoughts and intentions, this first paragraph…would soon put us straight. One name keeps coming up over and over again…[and] it’s good to remind ourselves where Paul’s heart lay, because we can easily read this whole letter, [and all his letters], merely as an argumentative tract, almost bossy sometimes, setting the Corinthians [and us] right about this and that, as though his only concern is to lick them into shape.
It wasn’t. His central concern, here and throughout his life and work, was quite simply, Jesus. The name occurs nine times in nine verses. Paul couldn’t stop talking about Jesus, because without Jesus nothing else he said or did made any sense. And what he wants the Corinthians [and us] to get hold of most of all is what it means to have Jesus at the middle of your story, your life, your thoughts, your imagination…to have Jesus at the centre of their understanding of the world and of history…If they can do that, all the other issues that rush to and fro through the letter will sort themselves out.” (N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 2.)
And here’s the thing: the solution to all the issues that rush to and fro throughout our lives is the same solution Paul offered to the Corinthians. Namely, the person of Jesus, and the body of his teaching known as the Good News. It is all we need, and all we will ever need, for each and every situation we face, and every issue we address.
I invite you now to watch or listen to my second sermon on 1 Corinthians, where we will sit at the feet of Paul as he applies the reality of Jesus and the Good News to two significant issues in the lives of the Corinthian Christians. It will allow us the opportunity to watch and learn how we can do the same thing in our own lives, for we will never get beyond Jesus and the Good News as the very practical solution to how we may live a life of flourishing.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
This last Sunday, we made our way into Paul’s second letter to some very dear friends who made up the church he and Silas had planted in Thessalonica, a city in Greece.
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I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.