Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Tension in the Church

1 Corinthians 1.1-9
The words of thanksgiving with which Paul, and his administrative assistant Sosthenes, open their letter present an idealised picture of how the church in Corinth might be if it were truly faithful to its Lord. As the letter unfolds, however, we shall learn that Paul's description of sanctified people filled with the grace of God, not lacking in any spiritual gift, and enriched in faith and knowledge of every kind as they give strong witness to the good news about Jesus, is sadly far from the truth. If the Christians at Corinth are indeed to be blameless on the day of judgement, they will need a great deal of strengthening first.

But isn't the same tension, between what ought to be and could be, and how things actually are in reality, found in every church? And isn't that sorry state of affairs almost inevitable? Because the Church is, after all, meant to be a haven for people who are still on a spiritual journey, who are seeking sanctification, or holiness; it's not a final resting place for people who have already arrived. What we need, therefore, is a proper humility about ourselves and our churches. We are not perfect - yet. We are being made perfect, but some of us still have a long way to go.

We may be saints, (Paul's term for anyone who has put their trust in Jesus), but we are not yet saintly. Even John Wesley, who believed in the possibilty - on rare occasions - of Christians being made perfect on this side of eternity, also acknowledged that anyone can slide back into the old ways of faction fighting, feuding, backbiting and misbehaving which seem to have dogged the life of the church in Corinth.

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