Monday, July 12, 2010

Paul’s Counsel for Carl

Last Friday I asked how you would counsel my friend Carl.  Obviously, Carl is a made up dude.  But I used a familiar group of people to craft his portrait.  The Corinthians.  They were pretty much like Carl if not worse.  And we have the blessing of knowing how Paul addressed him (them). 

“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:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus”.  Seriously?!?  Is that how you would begin counseling someone like Carl; remind him that Jesus has already made him holy? 

Such counsel is surprisingly what Paul gives.  He unashamedly applies the gospel to the Corinthians.  Then he throws out praise to God for them in verses 4-9.  He says they have been “given grace”, they were “enriched in him”, and he even went so far as to say, “the testimony of about Christ was confirmed among you”.  Paul ends with confidence that God will sustain the Corinthians “to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Paul is teaching as he is encouraging them.  He wants them to see that God is the one that saves, and God is the one that saves all different types of people not just the Corinthians.  Their fundamental problem is that they have a tiny gospel.  In their mind the gospel is only big enough for the elite, like themselves.  But Paul shows the wideness of the gospel in calling many diverse peoples.

As Paul teaches the Corinthians he teaches me as well. 

I suppose there would be one type of person that would hear what Paul is saying and say, “Duh, once saved always saved.  They made a profession of faith it doesn’t matter how they live for the rest of their life.  God’s will hold them to their decision to accept Christ regardless of whether they endure to the end. ”  I don’t think that squares with the many passages that warn against apostasy and threaten hell if we do not endure to the end.

But Paul’s counsel here does rebuke those like me who struggle with what Richard Sibbes termed, “killing a fly with a mallet”.  I’d probably be pretty quick to dismiss Carl as an unbeliever.  I get the idea that Paul was far more patient with struggling believers.  And I get the idea that I should be too. 

There is more that could be said about this.  But, what do you think?

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