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Union with Christ & the GospelMarch 1, 2018
The theme of our church newsletter in recent months has been ‘outreach’ and what that looks like practically for us as a church. Hopefully some of you are seeing the importance of becoming more intentional about relational evangelism that leads to discipleship. In my daily quiet time, I have been reading the four gospels and studying some of Paul’s letters including the letter to the Ephesians and 1 Corinthians. I’ve been intrigued by the themes Paul explores of our union with Christ, our participation with Christ in his death, resurrection, ascension and glorification and how we die to the world and are identified with the realm of Christ. And then how we as believers are incorporated into his body, the church. These are very profound themes.My question is how can there be union with Christ for those who do not know him. The answer is simple, there isn’t. And that’s when I started to realize that so much of what drove Paul to expound and write about these great themes began with a passion to see others made right with God. For how can there be union with Christ for those who are not in Christ. In I Corinthians Paul addressed a ton of messy issues plaguing the church in Corinth including sexual immorality, lawsuits believers were bringing against each other, marriage and the issue of food sacrificed to idols. But you can’t fully understand the issues Paul was addressing in Corinth with these struggling 1st century believers without first realizing that it all started with Paul surrendering his rights for the sake of the gospel. Paul not only surrendered the rights he had as an Apostle, he was willing to endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. In 1 Cor. 9:12 Paul even went so far as to say that preaching the good news was not something he could boast about, he was compelled to do it. In fact, Paul states Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16). Later in vs. 19 he goes on to say For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. The original expression, made myself a servant to all literally means, I have enslaved myself to all.
In the first century slaves had no rights and were at the complete mercy of their masters. And Paul, while preaching the gospel, reduced himself to the condition of a slave both by serving all men but also without requiring the God-given right that he had to be supported financially. Paul complied with the prejudices of his audience without sinning. In other words, as one commentator has said ‘he acted with as self-denying a regard to their interests, and as much caution not to offend them, as if he had been absolutely in their power, as a slave is in that of his master.’ Are we today a people of the gospel who tread in the same steps that Paul did, a slave to our audience, willing to become ‘all things to all people….all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessing’ (1 Cor. 9:22-23).
Brothers and sisters, if you have read this far these are tough words to digest. I don’t even come remotely close to being the kind of passionate ambassador for Christ that Paul was. But I do know this. We will all one day give an account of ourselves to God for how we lived (Rom. 14:12). Will any of us be judged by God for being overly zealous for the gospel? I doubt it. I do fear however there are many who will have to answer to God for failing to be obedient to the command of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. Believer, what are you driven to do in life? My prayer for you and I is that regardless of how tough our earthly journey may be that a part of us will always be driven to see people redeemed through his blood and to receive the forgiveness of their trespasses according to the riches of his grace (Ephesian 1:7).