Agonizomai: 1 Cor 1:30-31 - Complex Simplicity

Friday, March 07, 2008

1 Cor 1:30-31 - Complex Simplicity

30-31 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

Who is the source of my life? God. Who is the source of my life in Christ Jesus? God. He is both creator and redeemer. He did not create out of need or with any help from the as yet uncreated things of creation. Neither did He redeem out of need or with any help from the as yet unredeemed. He alone is the source.

What is this life - this redeemed life that is in Christ Jesus? It is not something we are given, but Someone imparted to us; Someone to whom we have been inseparably joined. He is not wisdom and righteousness sanctification and redemption for us to aspire and attain to. He is wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption we have received and are to abide in through faith.

Ah, but you might say that it was by your exercise of your faith that received him - and then you would be found contrary to the verse 31 which admonishes us not to boast in anything or anyone but the Lord. So to claim faith as an act arising out of our unaided fallen human nature would be to utterly contradict what Paul has just said. The whole sense of these verses is to attribute all glory and all credit for the effectual salvation of all God’s people to God alone, as the Source.

The very language "ek auto de umeis este en Christo Iesou" literally means "but of Him you are in Christ Jesus." This "of Him" carries with it all the Biblical nuance of being born from above, and of the fatherhood of God. The Source of all light and life, both physical and, now especially, spiritual life, Himself imparted this spiritual life to men who were dead in trespasses and sins. He did this in Christ Jesus to His people as a sovereign act of love.

But - and this is sometimes a hard concept to grasp - God is pleased to use means to achieve His ends. These secondary means derive their impetus from God but are expressed in providence, in nature and in the decisions, choices and actions of men. So it is possible for there to be "none that seeks after God, no not one" and yet for God to command men to seek Him while He may be found. The life is in the command for those that have been granted (spiritual) ears to hear. And who has ears but those whom God is effectually calling to His dear Son?

Why are some receptive to the Word of Life and others not? Is it due to their own smarts? Is it due to their being morally better? More sensitive? More reasonable? If you are still seeking for and (God forbid) finding in yourself (and/or attributing to others) some innate motivation that differentiates you from the unsaved and is a contributing factor to your having heard and received Christ, then you are denying the gospel as preached by Christ and the Apostles and are in danger of boasting in something (or someone, including yourself) other than the Lord.

Why go on about this? Because any departure from the truth inevitably leads to further effects in the fruit of Christian living. It is what we believe about God, His Christ and the gospel that is borne out in our fruit. If we believe wrongly then our fruit will be corrupted. We may seem pious and good and squeaky clean - but then so do the Mormons. They live what many would call "godly" lives - outwardly better than many Christians. They are religious. They are moral. They are socially responsible. They abstain from many outwardly dubious things and give themselves to many good deeds. But the Bible unequivocally describes such people as lost, under the wrath of God and on their way to hell unless they repent. Their so-called good deeds are by the grace of God and for the good of the kingdom but are not wrought in Christ, and they themselves do not acknowledge the need for it to be so.

So giving all honour and glory and attributing all goodness and restraint to God as Source is indicative of the difference between acceptability in God’s sight and continuing to abide under His wrath. Christ is the key. He is central. God’s work in and through Christ is causative. To Him must be attributed all that is good and acceptable and pure and helpful. God’s people, knowing the truth, must embrace this while still being the means by which these things are manifested in the world. And they are recreated to be willingly so. Pagans may or may not be the means of the manifestation of some of God’s grace and goodness, but they do not acknowledge God as being the One who alone is good. {Mr 10:18} The sad reality is that many professing Christians fall into the same trap.

Again, God can give the command to us to "be ye holy, for I am holy" and at the same time God the Son can say "apart from Me you can do nothing" – without it being a conundrum to the ears of faith - for faith (that gift of God to His children) knows that God alone is good, and that it is through the obedience of a right faith in the One True God and all that He has said that His will, His nature and His character is manifested in us. His nature is manifested in us. We do not become Him, but we become displays of His glory, by His grace. And if we come any other way than by His grace we cannot be displays of His glory. And this is why right doctrine is axiomatic to right belief and to right living. What moves us to act the way we do? If it is not God then our acts, however pious, are worthless. And, conversely, when our acts are moved by God, regardless of how they might look to others (including other Christians), they glorify Him and we fulfill His purposes for us from the foundation of the world - in which we are blessed.

I have heard this explanation called "complicated" - by which was meant "unnecessarily complex." Welcome to the meat! Receiving things as babes refers to trust and not to the rejection of complexity. God is both infinite in extent and infinite in complexity and He has revealed some of that to us in His Word. Our purpose is to know Him and to enjoy Him and the more we know about Him the more we enjoy Him. And it is all a gift of His grace in Jesus Christ.


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