Saturday 6 June 2020

 2 Corinthians 13 v11-14
The Epistle for today comes from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthian Church.  This is one of two of Paul’s Letters to that Church which was situated in the heart of Corinth, a major trade centre and seaport where several cultures and religions met. 

The city had been described as the Soho of its day with all that implies, and some of the members had become attracted to the ways of the world so causing Paul distress, necessitating him to write these Letters. 

There was a certain arrogance on the part of some members and division occurred within the Church.  The social and moral attitude of the city had crept into the Church membership, which was also having a bad effect.  In his First Letter Paul gave advice and guidance mixed with rebuke on a wide range of social, ethical moral and spiritual matters.

Paul says the gospel can overcome all outside influence. As Christians we offend the God who loves us, grace of Jesus who died for us, and if we truly live by Holy Spirit, will cannot  break relationship with other Christians.

After Timothy had visited the Church on Paul’s behalf and reported back that Paul’s opponents were speaking against him and questioning his authority, Paul wrote this Letter and ends by giving them warnings regarding their future. We have today the last words where he summarises his message and speaks of the practical implications of living as God’s people.  He addresses them as brothers, which in biblical terms includes sisters, and it was an affectionate term to include the whole Church.  He never addresses those who are rebellious as brothers.

Paul is saying Christians must live life together able to relate to one another, and they should be full of joy, rather than life being like it is in some places a war zone. Paul believes that love in a church fellowship is of vital importance. Be of one mind, he says, live in peace.

Paul then speaks about the practical implication of living as God’s people, summing up what the whole Christian message is about. The Church is not a social club where we meet for an hour or so once a week.  There has to be the truth of the Bible present in our heart and mind.  We can meet as strangers and part as brothers and sisters.

Paul ends the Letter with the Trinitarian benediction. The doctrine of the Trinity is an important doctrine, although is hard to understand and even harder to explain, which is why a lot of preachers try to avoid doing so.  All our services begin with the words, ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and we often end with the same and baptise with those words.

We speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but the Bible states,’ hear O Israel the Lord our God is one God’, who is present in all three.

God was fully God when He made the universe.
God was/is fully God living in the presence of Jesus
God is fully God when He lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. These are not three different Gods but one with different persona, three different dimensions or three different qualities.

Let us look at each.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is talking about the unmerited favour, the undeserved kindness that Jesus Christ gave to us. It was while we were still unrepented sinners, that Jesus died for us on the cross.

Paul wants us to know when he speaks of the grace of Jesus,  you and I achieve salvation because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross, that gracious act of undeserved kindness of him who gave His life willingly so that we are made right with God. Great riches at Christ’s expense. 

We are spared any punishment for our sins.  This is why Jesus was sent by God for that purpose; this is the heart of the gospel message.  We become Christians only through the grace of Jesus and we keep walking by his grace. May we experience that amazing grace in our lives and be true disciples of Jesus..

The love of God the Father.
As well as the grace of the Lord Jesus, Paul speaks about “the love of God”. God the Father loved the world so much he was willing to send his one and only son into the world to die on a cross for our sin, so that we might not perish, but have eternal life. God loved us so much that he was prepared to step in and rescue us.

When people speak of love generally, it is either an emotional feeling, or even more so something sensual.  We are plagued with many songs all about love, but the deepest and truest love stories are those which are mysterious and profound.

The Bible wants people to know God the initiative of salvation to every believer, so we may know the love of God in all its fullness.
  Paul wanted us to fully appreciate the love of God which is beyond all understanding, and which cared for the world so much He sent His only Son to suffer such a cruel death on the Cross so we should not perish.  God’s love is extended to all His children, just as an earthly father loves his own.

But such love is for His own, just as an earthly father loves his own.  We are God’s children only when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  Remember the words of the Bible, Jesus said.’ no one comes to the Father except through me’.  This is why it is vitally important for us to have those we love, our family and friends, come to know the love of God by turning to Jesus; there is no other way

 God is a righteous and just God and as such, demands payment for sin, which has been met by Jesus on the Cross.

Imagine a Judge in a Court of law who has before him a woman who has stolen food to feed her child because she has no money to afford it.  He imposes a fine which the woman pleads she cannot pay, so the judge has to impose a penalty, but in pity writes a cheque and pays himself. Such is God’s action to us.

It’s about the love of God. His love empowers us day by day and growing in that love will keep us on the path of authentic Christian ministry and service.

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Paul then turns to the third person of the Trinity the Holy Spirit.   He is talking about the fellowship enjoyed by God himself between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God, three persons. But because of Jesus sacrifice for us, we can have fellowship the Christian and God himself.

Paul states that must overflow into the life of the church, which displays for the world to see. For Paul one of the most important effects of the gospel is the restoration of relationship.

Paul wants Christians to love one another. And his letter is full of appeal that they might also love him and have fellowship with him again.

Paul is saying there is a fellowship all Christians enjoy and experience through the Holy Spirit, and that that experience is what unites them. We are no longer out of relationship with God, we can think of Him as a Father.

You and I as Christians achieve salvation because of the sacrifice made on the Cross, that gracious act of Jesus enables us to know the love of God through the gift of God the Holy Spirit.  This must flow out over the whole Church, and there should never be any difficulty or hindrance in Christians being able to relate to each other, even if we have not previously met. We may not always love everybody, some members of the Church are beyond loving, especially those who deliberately flout the Word of God and want others to do the same, but we must try to convert them to be faithful to God.

At one time I lived in Mombasa Kenya, a major port on the East coast of Africa.  Regularly ships would bring missionaries from other lands, principally from the United States, and whilst Americans are generally friendly people, we were able to engage with them in  a way which we would not with other people, simply because we have the same God, same Father and the same Saviour, same Spirit within us.
We become Christians through the grace of Jesus; the love of God allows us to walk in that grace and the Holy Spirit brings us to be at one with each other, which can stop all in fighting and the rivalry which sometimes invades and infects a Church.

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is just one of the blessings of being in Christ that we can know, a bond which stretches across time and space to unite us with many we have never met and barriers are broken down in the fellowship of believers.
 The prayer with which Paul ends his letter is asking God to be evident, not only in the Corinthian church, but in every Church.
This last verse is known as ‘The Grace’ and is said almost regularly at the end of each service, in fact so often that people do not stop to think what it is they are saying or praying for.

We are meant to remember what it has meant to us when we came to Christ, and all it continues to mean to us as we enjoy the blessings of knowing the love of God towards us, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit which is one of the privileges of being in Christ that enables us to know a bond which stretches across time and space to unite us to millions we have never met.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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