Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lent 3 - 1 Corinthians 1:23

Eternal Lord, Your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son. Help us to hear Your word and obey it, so that we become instruments of Your redeeming love. So may the words that come from these lips and the meditation which take place in these hearts may they be acceptable to You our strength and our redeemer.

How is this text related to this morning’s theme of God’s law and its disobedience as found in the Gospel? The result of disobedience is judgment. Disobedience is sin, and sin means death and separation from God and from our neighbor. Sin means being found missing from the Father’s table. The good news of today’s Epistle lesson centers in the cross. God gave Christ as a sacrifice for sin that all who disobey His laws may find forgiveness and restoration. Thus, the main thing Christians do is to proclaim the good news of the cross. St. Paul would remind us, “We preach Christ and Him crucified.”

What Christians do.

1. What we do: we “preach” - for this reveals God’s wisdom.

A. To non-Christians the preaching of a crucified Christ is anything but wisdom. The Jews were offended because they expected a warrior Messiah, who would flash signs from the skies as proof of His conquering power. The Greeks thought it absurd to cal a man branded by His crucifixion as the lowest of criminals Savior and Lord. Many people today think it crude and barbarous that God would require the blood of His Son as atonement for human sin.

B. Yet, the preaching of a crucified Christ displays a wisdom far higher than human wisdom. At the cross God dealt with human sin in a way that did not abrogate the demands of His holiness. Jesus bore the punishment of sin in our place. He appeased the wrath of God, which our sin had aroused. At the cross God achieved salvation for the whole world. Says St. Paul, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Human wisdom cannot conceive how thee world’s salvation could be accomplished through a cross, an instrument of death and degradation. That it was accomplished is contrary to all human logic. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” The foolishness of preaching is not the preaching of foolishness.

2. What we preach: “we preach Christ and Him crucified” This reveals God’s power.

A. The preaching of Christ and Him crucified has power to work faith. (v. 24, “who are called.”)Faith is not produced by threats, arguments, or human striving. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the message of the Crucified One doe we now and believe that we are no longer under God’s condemnation. Again, says St. Paul, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

B. As our faith is nurtured by the preaching of Christ crucified, we are able to live as people who are no longer under sin’s control. Since we died and rose with Christ, we can crucify our sins each day and rise to a new life. Since Christ has reconciled us to God, we can be reconcilers in our relationship with others.
Christ’s crucifixion seemed to demonstrate utter weakness. But it was God’s weakness, and “the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (V.25) The message of the Crucified One has power to free us from son’s condemnation and control.

Paul’s preaching is a model for us. We don’t work miracles to satisfy sing-seekers, we don’t propound philosophy to entertain intellectuals, we don’t dispute, and we don’t argue. We preach Christ and Him crucified. Through such preaching God demonstrates His saving wisdom and works with His mighty power.
Illustration from a woodcut by Baron Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872, a distinguished German artist known especially for his book, Das Buch der B├╝cher in Bilden (The Book of Books in Pictures).

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