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Friday, October 9, 2015

The Gospel According to Paul # 9

In His Letters to the Corinthians (continued)

"The Grace of the Lord Jesus" (continued)

Now, you see, you have here in the Lord Jesus a Person and a nature wholly and utterly, fully and finally, different from any other human being; a nature completely contrary to the nature of man, as we know it. Human nature as we know it is being rich, doing anything to become rich, and anybody else can be robbed to make us rich. That does not necessitate taking a pistol and putting it at people's heads. There are other ways of getting advantages to ourselves, at other people's expense or otherwise. There is really no "grace" about man, as we know him. But the Lord Jesus is so different from this! Christ is altogether different - an altogether other nature.

Now the whole of the First Letter to the Corinthians is crammed full of the self-principle. I am assuming that you are more or less familiar with these letters. I cannot take you through page after page, verse after verse; but I am giving the result of close reading, and you can verify it if you care to. I repeat: the whole of the First Letter to the Corinthians is just full of the self-principle - self-vindication, going to law to get their own rights, self-seeking, self-importance, self-indulgence - even at the Lord's Table - self- confidence, self-complacency, self-glory, self-love, self-assertiveness, and everything else. You find all these things in that first letter, and more. "I" - a great, an immense "I" - stands inscribed over the First Letter to the Corinthians. This is the nature, the old nature, showing itself in Christians. Everything that is contrary to "the grace of the Lord Jesus" comes to light in that letter, and the Lord Jesus stands in such strong, clear, terrible contrast to what we find there.

In our last chapter we sought to show that, in order to reveal the glory of the good tidings as the good tidings of the God of hope, the Divine method was to paint the hopelessness of the picture as it really was and is for human nature. Now, in order to reach the Divine end, the Holy Spirit does not cover up the faults, the weakness - even the sins, the awful sins - of Christians. The grace of God is enhanced by the background against which it stands. And so, while we might feel, 'Oh, what a pity that this letter was ever written! What an exposure, what an uncovering, of Christians! What a pity ever to speak about it - why not hide it?' - ah, that is just where the good tidings find their real occasion and value.

You see, they are the good tidings of the benediction. The good tidings here are found right at the very beginning of the letter. God knows all about these folk. He is not just finding out - He knows the worst. Dear friends, the Lord knows the worst about you and about me, and He knows it all; and it is a poor kind of all! Now, He knew all about these Corinthians, and yet, under His hand, this Apostle took pen and began his letter with - what? "To the church in Corinth", and then: "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints". Now, is that pretending? Is that make-believe? Is that putting on blinkers and saying nice things about people? Not a bit! I repeat: God knew it all, and yet said, "sanctified in Christ Jesus ... saints".

Do you say, "Oh, I cannot understand that at all!?" Ah, but that is just the glory of His grace, because the grace of the Lord Jesus comes out here in calling such people saints. Now, you do not call such people saints; you reserve that word for people of a very different kind. We say, "Oh, he is a saint" - distinguishing him, not from people who are unsaved, but amongst good people. Now, God came right to these  people, knowing this whole black, dark story, and said: "saints"; and that other word, "sanctified in Christ Jesus", is only another form of the same word "saints." It means "separated" - separated in Christ Jesus. You see, the very first thing is the position into which the grace of the Lord Jesus puts us. It is positional grace. If we are in Christ Jesus, all these lamentable things may be true about us, but God sees us in Christ Jesus and not in ourselves. That is the good tidings, that is the gospel. The wonder of the grace of the Lord Jesus! We are looked at by God as separated, sanctified in Christ Jesus. That is where God begins His work with us, putting us in a position in His Son where He attributes to us all that the Lord Jesus is.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10)

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