Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-11
Text: 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1
1 Peter 4:1-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Keep Fervent in Your Love
4 Therefore, since Christ has [a]suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has [b]suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, [c]having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and [d]abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been [e]preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
7 The end of all things [f]is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of [g]prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so [h]as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving [i]by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
11 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Do all to the glory of God
1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1
We’ve recently commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation an event which God brought about in order to preserve and strengthen his church. God did it hence the last of the five Sola’s of the reformation Sola Dei Gloria to God be the glory alone. God is to be glorified in creation and in salvation. As His creatures and those who are saved this is why we exist. We are called to glorify God with our words and our actions. According to our text there are four ways we are to do that.
In verse 23 Paul wrote (I’m paraphrasing a bit), all things are lawful but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful but not all things edify. Paul wrote this with the discussion about food offered to idols in mind. It wasn’t unlawful to eat food which had been offered to idols and then sold cheaply in the market places, providing those who purchased the meat didn’t participate in any of the worship or practices associated with idolatry. That was of course unlawful.
We read about that earlier in the chapter where Paul warned the Corinthian church not to participate in idolatry as the Israelites had done during their desert wanderings and 23,000 fell in one day as a result of a plague.
Paul’s message was don’t do that. Flee from Idolatry. Idolatry robs God of his glory by worshipping the creature rather than the creator. And an idol can be anything. It might be the figment of someone’s imagination, a scheme devised in order to gain a following or a person whom you are willing to break the commandments of God for. It could be something or someone you love more than God. That’s idolatry and is unlawful. Paul wasn’t talking about that he was saying that some of the things we do which are lawful may not build you or others up. He was saying take care.
Take for example at the time of the 16th century reformation there was a lot of controversy over worship practices. Some of these things had to do with the elements of worship. Before the reformation worship had become a spectacle and the gospel was not clearly presented. Everything was said in Latin and the worship was a very visual and sensual experience. There were processions, statues, burning candles, images of saints and Mary. There were crosses with corpses hanging off them. The smell of fragrant incense hung in the air. Yet the gospel wasn’t preached and the Bible not clearly understood because no matter which European country you lived in Latin was the language of the church. So the reformers did the church a great service in bringing the Christ and the Bible back to the common people in their own language. They also did the church a service by simplifying worship through teaching a regulating principle of worship which states that we should only include elements in worship which have a clear Biblical warrant or which are lawful.
With respect to everything else that is the circumstances of worship such as the use of gestures such as the raising of hands kneeling on prayer standing or sitting when songs are sung, observance of certain feast days the time of worship Calvin’s advice at the time was “love will best judge what will hurt or edify, if we let love be our guide all will be safe.”
Calvin was reflecting what it says here in 1 Corinthians 10. All things are lawful but not all things are profitable. The important question is “does it edify?” In other words does it build others up? If what I do is lawful but not edifying for others then I have failed to love. For example it is not unlawful to celebrate feast days such as Christmas but some people in our churches have a problem of conscience over it and so our church order wisely leaves that matter to the freedom of the churches. Calvin’s view was that churches may do that as long as the gospel is preached and there are no innovations.
So the bottom line here is that whatever we do lawfully and in love so that our neighbour is built up in the faith through our actions; that is what glorifies God.
Rather than grumble Paul encourages the Corinthians to be thankful as verse 23 shows; thankful for everything including basic things like food and drink.
The Israelites were saved from slavery in Egypt and possibly eradication as a nation when God led them away towards their promise land. The proper response for such a powerful liberation is gratitude.
This is true for the Christian believers today. God had freed us from slavery to sin and from condemnation under the law through the cross of Christ. What can we give God in return for such a priceless gift but our humble gratitude?
There is more. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul wrote, in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ. Give thanks in everything not just somethings, not just what you might think are the good things. God loves to bless his people, he blesses parents with children we are all relatively well of in material terms. We have no problem giving thanks for a good life. God also gives us every spiritual blessing but sometimes in order to help us grow spiritually he sends us hardship. When hardship does come our way it is difficult to see how suffering, loss, sickness, financial ruin or trouble in our families can be good for us.
But look at it this way. If God were to make us wander around the desert for 40 years so that we learnt to trust him then that is a good thing for us spiritually. If the tragedies and struggle of life reduce us to tears and prayers then that is a good thing. If we cry out to the Lord, “how long O Lord will you forget me forever?” as the Psalmist did in Psalm 13, then we are drawing closer to God and growing spiritually. If we seek the Lord in the day of trouble as the Psalmist of Psalm 77 once did then that is what is needed and God will answer our prayers.
On the other hands if we grumble and complain as the Israelites did against their leader Moses then we are doing what they did, complaining against God himself. That’s what is says in Numbers 21:5. “They spoke against God and Moses”. Similarly if children were to grumble and complain against their parents then they are complaining against God himself who gave us the 5th commandment “honour your father and mother”.
You see, God is the one who orders all our circumstances. Proverbs 16:9 says. “The mind of a man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.” This is what we confess in HCLD10, “that God so rules heaven and earth and all creatures that rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, all things in fact come to us not by chance but from his Fatherly hand.”
To grumble about our circumstances be it sickness or loss of one kind or another then we are grumbling against God who orders our circumstances and gives us what is best. This was a lesson Paul learned himself and which we read about in Philippians 4 where he wrote “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means and I know how to live in prosperity in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
So Paul says give thanks in everything when we are able to do that rather than complain about things then we glorify God.
In fact imitating God is how God originally made us. He made us as image bearers, corresponding to God’s own character in holiness, justice, mercy, love, wisdom and so on.
At the time of the fall, the image of God in man was damaged by sin but is renewed by God through the covenant of grace and so the Old Testament saints were called to “be holy as I am holy” (that’s Leviticus 19:2) and that is equally true for the New Covenant believer. Peter quotes the same phrase in his letter to the churches in 1 Peter 1:16. “Be holy as I am Holy.”
Since it says in Hebrews 1 that the highest revelation of God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ we have the pattern for Christian holiness in Jesus. So let’s see how that looks in detail.
So as those who have the mind of Christ we must forgive one another for that annoying and offensive behaviour if it comes our way. We must forgive others for that lack of tact or for giving others the impression that they are somehow a cut above everyone else morally, educationally and so on. Jesus was prophet, priest and king. We are a royal priesthood a holy nation called to declare his praises. (1 Peter 2:9) Therefore we are prophets, priests and kings under Christ and it is a king’s prerogative to overlook an offence.
If you read the voice of the martyrs newsletters that are put in the foyer from time to time you’ll know that today as in every age there are those who are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ. Perhaps not suffer outright persecution here and now in New Zealand but what about the comforts of familiarity and a home church to support a church plant? What are you prepared to give up in order to serve Christ? It says in Philippians 2 That Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross for our sakes. Paul wrote in that same passage Have the same attitude.
At the end of that passage we notice that Christ’s humility results in his exaltation which in turn will result I every knee bowing before his majesty and every tongue confessing Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
As we have the mind of Christ and seek to imitate our saviour we also glorify God.
So in conclusion if we take our confession seriously especially the statement that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever then we’ll ask, “how can I best live to glorify God?” Paul’s statement here in 1 Corinthians gives clear direction . We glorify God by doing that which is lawful and in the bounds of love that applies to what we eat or drink how we worship all of life
We also glorify God by being thankful when we grumble. complain and are dissatisfied by our lot in life we are actually grumbling against God who in his providence so rules heaven and earth and all creatures that rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, all things in fact come to us not by chance but from his Fatherly hand.”
Finally we glorify God by imitating Christ. Paul wrote imitate me as I am of Christ.