1 Corinthians 2: 1-5 (Reformation 2016)
“What Does This Mean?”
What does this mean? For 5 centuries students and parents in the Lutheran Church have been taught to ask that question. In Martin Luther’s small catechism readers are invited on every page to ask many questions. Page by page passages of the Bible remain the answers to those questions. Page by page these passages lead us to Jesus who gave his life on a cross for our sins.
What does it mean to be Lutheran? Lutheran’s know the Bible is clear. Its clarity leads us to Jesus Christ who was born for us, lived for us, was crucified for our sins, and rose to life give us life in heaven. Luther saw that in his studies, especially of Paul’s letters. Paul had much to say in those letters. But at the center of it all was “Christ and him crucified.” What does Paul mean? “Jesus died” is not the only thing to know. Christ crucified is the thing to know that is key to opening all of the Spirit’s power and wisdom for us.
Preach Christ Crucified Clearly
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul had even confessed that he did not come with eloquence in words. His gifts or lack of them could not make that message better or more appealing. It wasn’t his clever persuasions that convinced people to run to Jesus. It wasn’t in masterful evangelism skills. In fact, if the Gospel and its work depended on Paul he would have ruined everything. He confessed to Timothy: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Paul was keenly aware that he was reaching out to people who knew about his persecution of Christians. They knew about his worst.
Of whom I am the worst. One clear identity Confessional Lutherans have always taken is this “I am a sinner.” I hold on to the natural condition of my human birth. I harbor rotten sinful thoughts. I act on those thoughts with actions that go against God’s holy laws. I speak and do things that give offense to others and the Word. Pastors realize that when they stand and speak they are often speaking to people who have seen them at their worst. We are all together sinners, who rightfully find ourselves clearly to say: “of whom I am the worst.”
Jesus loves sinners. His was nailed to the cursed tree of the cross to prove it. He was nailed to that tree to take away the sins of the whole world. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification!” (Romans 4:25). Justification gives you a clearly new identity. “If anyone is in Christ is they a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are sinners, whom Jesus has saved. Justified, means not guilty before God. Every sin is washed from his sight in Christ. That is what Paul meant when he “resolved to know nothing … except Christ and him crucified.” And, yes, very Lutheran:
He has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature; purchased and won me from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil. Not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood.
Express Faith in Christ Fearlessly
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” What does this mean? Why so much fear and trembling? Christ and his Church have enemies. The stronger the “old evil foe” perceives the Church’s presence to be, the harder he works at destroying it. History has shown that. It is one of the great paradoxes of the Church: preach the Gospel clearly and you will soon make enemies and friends. The world perceives Grace in Christ as an enemy. The child of God sees his grace and the only rest for a troubled conscience. Unbelief wants happiness by its own way. Faith expresses: “What God ordains is always good!”
Where the Lord plants his churches, the devil sows his chapels. Paul had his enemies. The reformers had enemies. By faith in Christ you have enemies. The one that troubles us most is the evil within our own sinful hearts. But the one who had enemies more is the very Son of God our Savior. He overpowered the devil and all his angels. He over powered the enemies of the early church. He overpowered the enemies of the Reformation. He overpowers your foes day by day. “He made public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross!” (Colossians 2:15)
What does this mean? In your God-given roles in family home life, express faith in Christ with gentleness and great patience. Teach and learn about Jesus in your homes. In your vocations learn that living according to the ways of Christ will overcome the world’s ways. Use your freedom in Christ to love and support the Word and the work of the Church. The Church will always have enemies. God gives courage where there is timidity by thwarting the plans of those who hate his Son. Trembling Paul encouraged the younger Timothy: “He has not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1: 7).This, too, is very Lutheran as we sing:
“Lord keep us steadfast in your word curb those by deceit and sword
Would seek to over throw your Son and to destroy all he has done!
And, as we pray: Let your holy angels be with me, that the wicked foe have no power over me!
Know the Spirit’s Power Clearly
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Sprit’s power.” The sword yielding power of Spirit is the Word of God. “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit; joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) What does this mean?
It means that Paul the man did not win souls for Christ. The message Paul preached was the power the Spirit used to change hearts from unbelief to faith in Christ. “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10: 17) Paul wanted his listeners to know that their faith was the result of the Spirit working through the Gospel.
The Spirit uses the mouths of faithful teachers and preachers to teach Christ clearly that the work of the ministry does not rest on the wisdom and cunning of men. Human beings are just not clever or wise enough to come up with something that is the Gospel of Jesus; nor can we come up with something different that would be better; or can we make the message of Christ better. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us it is the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
That is why Lutheran’s have pulpits, Baptism fonts and tables for the Lord’s Supper. Paul taught the life of the Church is fed though the Word of Christ: the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Paul in the Scriptures taught the “all of you have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”(Romans 6: 3) Paul taught “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11: 24). The clear message of Christ is clearly a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. This, too, is very Lutheran. Paul taught it. Luther took it seriously:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, nor come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.
When fire fighters go to a fire, they not only go to put out the flames, the go to save lives. The very water that destroys the flames is the water that helps save lives. The fire dreads the water as it seeks to consume all in its path. In a similar way, the clear proclamation of Christ crucified is the one thing needful. The message that destroys the flaming arrows of the evil one is the same message that saves lives for eternity in heaven.
What does this mean?
“I resolve to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and him crucified, so that your faith might not rest and man’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” Preach Christ Crucified Clearly! Express your Faith in Christ Clearly! Know the Spirit’s Power clearly, now and for eternity. Amen!