1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e. “us”):
For all the things the Christian faith has been made out to be and all the ways it has been framed and conformed to fit into this project or that program, perhaps its most fundamental premise has been mostly missed. Paul will not let it go. A good summary of it comes in the last verse of today’s text.
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Here’s what Paul did not mean by this: Your fundamental problem of eternal separation from God because of sin has been solved so that when you die you will go to heaven. Now you can get on with your life and while you are at it, spread the word that other people can have their fundamental problem of eternal separation from God because of sin solved so they will go to heaven when they die.
So, is it true that every last one of us has a fundamental problem of eternal separation from God because of sin that must be solved so that when we die we will not perish but have eternal life? Yes. It’s true. So what’s my point?
For Paul, salvation by grace through faith is not primarily a present transaction that will impact a future outcome. For Paul, salvation by grace through faith is a future outcome that has become a present reality. Salvation and the entry into eternal life is not something that happens when we die. Salvation and the entry into eternal life is what happens now, when we personally own that our fundamental problem is eternal separation from God. Salvation begins when we surrender the sovereignty of our self-rule to the sovereignty of God. Salvation continues as we walk the daily journey of living into new reality brought about by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit—all of which is signed and signaled by the ultimate truth of heaven and earth: Jesus Christ is Lord.
The common thread running through all of the Apostle’s teaching is as follows: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the coming of the Holy Spirit means the coming age has already begun. Salvation by grace through faith means you now live in the realm of the Kingdom of God in the age of the Holy Spirit. What was impossible for you before is now possible. The power of the Holy Spirit is now available to deliver you from any and all sins and give you unprecedented unending life. Yes, the Kingdom will come in all its glory at the end of this present evil age, but the big news is it has now begun. As a result of this, stop wasting your life and my time. No more divisions over stupid stuff. Be done with sexual sin. Stop bringing lawsuits against one another in the courts of Babylon. You are the church. Stop parading your messed up lives before the world like a Jerry Springer rerun. You are the living, breathing temple of the presence of God on earth. He is here within and among you. Your calling is to simply reflect and share this reality with the world around you.
Too often we approach the Christian faith as a coping strategy to get through life, or as a self improvement strategy to enhance our already good life, or a life insurance policy to extend life beyond the grave or a fire insurance policy to keep life out of eternal death—all the while, the Christian faith is life itself—life at a completely different level—life at the level of eternal quality; because it is the very life of God lived at the human level—right now. It is life that shines in the darkness of the deepest pits of human despair. It is life at the moment of death and the moment after that. This is where Paul is coming from. This is his point. This is the underlying and overarching assumption beneath and above every thing he says and writes and does. When he says to “imitate me,” and to follow his “way of life in Christ Jesus,” this is what he means. This is not a behavioral management program he’s running. It’s an eternal life reality he’s proclaiming. I better stop now.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Wake me up to the depths of this prayer. Open my eyes of my heart to perceive the immensity of eternal life—right here and right now. Help me grasp how I have misunderstood and misappropriated the life of Christ in me. I don’t to waste another day. Come Holy Spirit and make this life count for all God intends. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
1. So how have you primarily understood the Christian faith and life? Fire insurance? Life insurance? Coping strategy? Self improvement? Legalistic nightmare? or the present experience of the age to come which is eternal life? How has that changed over the years?
2. Is eternal life something you are hoping for or that you have faith will one day happen or is it actually happening now in your present experience? How would you describe it? If you are not sure of this reality would you be willing to ask God to reveal it to you by the power of the Word and Holy Spirit?
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