Sermon Notes – Called to Be Guiltless Saints

January 19, 2020 – 1 Corinthians 1:8

 

   In First Corinthians, Paul addresses his letter to “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [holy ones] together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Does he call them “saints” because the Corinthian Christians were particularly holy in their manner of life? Was it because they were exceptionally faithful in their teachings? Could it be because of a high standard of loving their fellow believers in their church? No, it wasn’t because of their manner of living, perfection in teaching, or being an extra-ordinarily loving community.

   In fact, Paul would, in the body of his letter, scold them for being contentious, immature, arrogant, litigious, undisciplined, disorderly in their worship and false in their teachings. “I could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?” (3:1-3) To their shame he would challenge them for suing each other, trying to outdo each other, and bending Christ’s teachings to suit their own tastes and thoughts. If Paul were to write a letter to the contemporary churches of Elgin he would have to do little more than cut and paste from his letter to Corinth.

   And yet, with all their issues, he calls them “saints.” Yet, with all of our issues, he would call us “saints.” Why? How? Because we Christians are “sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus.” Paul gives thanks to God “because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him with all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by Whom you were called into the fellowship [communion] of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (verses 4-9) God makes us righteous. God declares us holy. God calls us to be saints. May we be holier day by day! May we be faithful in our teaching every day! May we be strong in our love and compassion and empathy for each other! But we are called saints solely because God sustains us as guiltless through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

   When we realistically analyze ourselves we have to confess that it is only the Holy Spirit, calling us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who makes us guilt-less saints. William Congreve died on this day in 1729. He was a British playwright and poet. “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast,” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” are two of his famous lines. When he died, his mistress, the Duchess of Marlborough, attached his death mask to a life-size dummy and treated the dummy as though it was alive. Weird, right? It is no less weird, however, when we act though we were not dead in our trespasses and only made alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

   Our hymn of the day (LSB 606) was written for Sunday School children. A commentator suggests that if we “will consider an inquisitive child’s question, ‘Why?’ at the end of each first line, the true force of the hymn will be apparent.”[1] For example, “I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God…” Why? Because “He bears them all and frees us from the accursed load.” “I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens and my care…” Why? Because “He from them all releases; He all my sorrows shares.”

   When Bonar first published the hymn in a collection of Hymns of Faith and Hope in 1857, he printed an ancient Latin hymn stanza by way of introduction. “Jesus, full of love, let Your pierced hands release my sins; Your lanced side, Your head crowned with thorns—let these be remedies.” Why? Because we look at Jesus, as John the Baptist taught us, as “the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

   It is, you see, what the people of God, ancient and modern have been taught to be the truth. God calls us to be guiltless saints “together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Why? Because, in Christ, we are sustained to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.



[1] Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, ©2019, page 703.

© 2020 St Johns Evangelical Elgin
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