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Can You Dig It?

By Phillip Ross

Paul previously made the case that God’s wisdom is not like human wisdom, that the best wisdom, intelligence and scholarship that man has to offer is foolishness compared to God’s wisdom, the wisdom of Scripture. Paul made the case for the necessity of regeneration and/or conversion from the mindset of the world to the mindset of Christ. To become a Christian is to undergo a complete change of heart and of mind.

That change has a definite beginning, and then grows in fits and starts. This change is always personal — it always effects personal values, beliefs and behavior. And a personal relationship with Jesus Christ necessarily means a covenantal relationship because God always relates to His people covenantally. So, the change that allows one to profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior comes about as a realization that God’s saving grace applies to the professor personally, that the professor of Christianity has changed from being a covenant breaker to being a covenant keeper, albeit by the grace of God.

Christians understand that there are two aspects of covenant keeping. First and foremost, they understand that God alone has kept His covenant through the faithfulness and righteousness of Jesus Christ — and that Christ has applied His covenant faithfulness to His people. Christians, then, having received Christ’s applied covenant faithfulness then apply themselves toward the manifestation of Christ’s righteousness in their own lives, knowing that Christ will provide guidance and strength toward that end. All of this is to say that there is such a thing as Christian maturity and that maturity is different than immaturity.

Addressing this issue, Paul said that he could not address the Corinthians as “spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). Think about that for a moment. These First Century Christians were not paragons of faithfulness, as we like to consider them. Rather, they were babes in Christ. They were so immature in their faith that Paul had to alter his ordinary way of speaking about God because they failed to understand the most basic concerns of faithfulness.

Was he saying that they were not saved? Yes and no. Some were and some weren’t. He was saying that the Corinthian church was a mixed bag, that it contained people who were saved and people who were not saved. Churches, according to the Westminster Confession are always “more or less pure”, so that the “purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error” (WCF, 25:4-5). However, this does not mean that every church member who errs is unsaved. Rather, it means that sometimes those who are actually saved behave like the unsaved. It means that it is possible, even likely, that those who call themselves Christians but do not work at spiritual maturity, who do not make an effort to grow in faithfulness may find themselves excluded from the kingdom. Yes, we are saved by faith. Yes, Christ alone provides salvation and sanctification. And yet, all Christians are commanded to engage in works, to grow in faithfulness. We are not exempt from works, but are called to works, called to maturity and faithfulness.

Those who call themselves Christians but don’t grow in the faith are dead, not alive in Christ. Such people will find themselves on “rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:5-6). These words are from Jesus, which were given for the encouragement of God’s people, to encourage us forward in faithfulness, to give us the courage to persevere in faithfulness. We are encouraged to dig down deep into the soil of Christianity. And what is that soil? It is what provides nourishment for spiritual growth — Scripture, history, and fellowship. The soil in this parable is the backdrop, background, context, medium, milieu, setting, and/or surroundings in which Christianity will flourish.

The Christians at Corinth to whom Paul was speaking had an excuse for their immaturity. There wasn’t much Christian Scripture (New Testament), or Christian history (the church was young), or fellowship (Christians were few in number). We don’t have such excuses today, and God will judge us all the more severely for our Christian immaturity.

This whole chapter is a call to Christian maturity, which begins with the realization of our immaturity. Paul was disappointed in the level of Christian maturity he found in Corinth. Would he be more or less pleased if he came to minister with us today? I don’t just mean with the people at this or that particular church. I mean, how would Paul respond to the churches across the globe — and particularly the American church today? George Barna has documented that Christians today are not much different than non-Christians in any measure. According to Barna, there is no significant difference between the lifestyles of the saved and the unsaved in today’s social landscape.

It appears that the church at Corinth to which Paul was speaking was very much like the church today. Thus, we need to listen carefully to what Paul says to them because he would likely say similar things to us. Paul found much of the same immaturity in the church at Galatia. There he delineated the works of the flesh, identified the things that bring trouble to the church. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). And those who will not inherit the kingdom of God are not Christians. However, this does not mean that all those who were guilty of these things were not Christians, but that those who did not grow out of these things would find themselves excluded from the kingdom. All sinners are not banned from the kingdom, only unrepentant sinners, only those who continue in their sin, who sin willfully.

Phillip A. Ross ( http://www.Pilgrim-Platform.org), author of many Christian books and pastor, has shown how Paul turned the world upside down in his book, Arsy Varsy — Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthians, 2008. It is both refreshing and interesting.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com <a href=”http://www.faithwriters.com”>CHRISTIAN WRITERS</a>

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