Tag Archive: salvation


The morning of March 13, 2013 was not much different from the others.  I woke up to children running up and down the hall making every attempt to be quiet as not to wake up daddy and failing miserably.  I loosed the mask of my CPAP machine, took a deep breath, and pulled myself up from the bed.  Leah was moving from kitchen to bathroom in a repetitive pattern as she spent time with the kids while getting ready for work.  Everything was normal, almost everything.

Even though spring was little more than a week away, our area was enduring a rather nasty cold front.  Weather in the southeast is never predictable, but March displayed the type of schizophrenic behavior you only expect from relatives at a family reunion.  Temperatures dipped as low as 24 degrees to as high as 72 in that span.  The thirteenth was not a particularly memorable day.  The overnight temperature dipped below freezing causing a heavy frost to coat everything.

The rear exit from our home has a large wooden ramp.  It is a nice feature and has served us well through the years.  You appreciate it most when you are trying to make only one trip from the minivan to the house after grocery shopping.  Its one drawback is that the smallest amount of moisture can turn it into a splintery Slip-N-Slide if temperatures drop below freezing.  This day was one of those days.

If you are familiar with the Lord of the Rings, you probably know that Bilbo told his beloved nephew Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Oh, Bilbo, truer words can only be found in the Holy Bible.  I assessed the situation when I stepped out the door that morning.  The frost was visible on the wood slats, and for the briefest moment I had the clarity of mind to use the other door and avoid the ramp completely.  Sadly, the moment of clarity was just that—a moment.  I started down the ramp.

I made it halfway down the ramp when my left foot suddenly appeared in front of my face.  I thought it odd, but it was soon followed by the right foot.  My regular view of the frost covered field out behind the house was quickly replaced with the morning sky.  With a thud, I landed on my back and the air was forced from my lungs.  I was in shock for a moment, trying to catch my breath.  I did not hit my head, but it took me a few moments to gain my senses and realize what had just happened.  Pain was shooting throughout my body and I laid there gasping for breath in between the jolts of pain.

When my sense finally returned, I tried calling for Leah.  I am not exactly sure why I was calling for her.  There was nothing for her to do.  She could not pick me up, or even help me up because doing so would mean coming down the frost-covered ramp.  My calls went unheard, as I expected.  Finally, I began to press the remote door locking button on Leah’s key chain.  I did this for minute before I saw my son’s head poke out the back door.  “Get your mom please,” I forced out through gritted teeth.

Leah became frantic when she came to the door and I began to question why I had even called her to the door.  I was able, after the most excruciating ten minutes of my life to this point, work my way up with the help of the hand rail.  I could not stand up straight and walked like a slow moving treasure hunter who could not take his eyes from the ground.  I made it to my chair and remained there until forced to move.

My precious wife wanted me to go immediately to the emergency room.  I was able to deflect her because I still possessed pain medication from a shoulder surgery in October.  I assured her they would only give me pain medication and muscle relaxers.  This only gave me a brief reprieve and she was soon asking me once again to go to the ER, or if not the ER, call our physician and seek to slip into his daily schedule.  I refused.

My wife did what many wives have done through the years when dealing with an obstinate husband.  She called my mother.  I still maintain this was a dirty move, but I cannot argue with its effectiveness.  A two minute phone call from my mother got Leah what she had lobbying for most of the day.

Leah’s instinct was correct and my logic was wrong.  It happens often enough that it should not surprise me, but pride makes many of us slower learners.  When the doctors had finished their diagnosis, I walked, rather shuffled, from the ER with two fractured vertebrae and a severely bruised coccyx, which is a fancy word for tail bone.  That is right, I had broken my back in the fall.

To put our life into perspective at this point of the journey, Leah was in the midst of a high risk pregnancy and continuing to become more fatigued each day, and I broke my back.

Up until this point in my 35 years of life, I never understood how someone could be angry at God.  I saw it as a pointless venture, a road to nowhere.  When you become angry at God, I thought, what recourse do you have because God will always be right and you will always be wrong?  Even with that knowledge in my heart, I became angry with God.  It was short-lived and personal, but it was certainly anger.

The conversation in my mind went like this:

“Father, you know how much our family is struggling at the moment with Leah’s condition.  Why did you allow this to happen to me now?  Why not after Leah delivered?  Why here?  Why now?”

I played through that dialogue for nearly a week.  There was no self-pity.  I did not lament my lot in life; I bristled at it.  People get angry all the time, why was this so different.  It was different because of the hypocrisy that was creeping into my life.  I was incapacitated with a broken back, my wife was deteriorating weekly under the strain of her pregnancy, and I was angry at the only One who could truly help my situation.  As mentioned, I stayed in this hypocritical state for nearly a week.

I had last preached on March 10, a mere three days before my accident.  Though heavily medicated with pain medication, I was groggy, but fundamentally aware of my fractured emotional state and declining spiritual condition.  I reached for my sermon notebook and began flipping through its pages.  I had no intention of writing, and I was not interested in reading, which made picking up the notebook all the more puzzling.  I came to the last sermon I preached, Contentment in the Christian Life from 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.

This sermon led me to the first few chapters of Job.  And like all things from God, Job led me to the Gospels and the Cross of Christ.  My anger melted away and was replaced with shame.  How could I be angry in my condition or my wife’s condition when I considered the sufferings of Christ?  I did not know why I picked up that notebook, but I knew what God was trying to tell me.  No amount of suffering I can endure will ever match the agony of Christ.

I let go of my anger and replaced it with thankfulness.  Am I saying I became thankful for a broken back?  Yes, I am.  Knowing myself as I do, I am confident I would not have come to my realization for a very long time.  I allowed my anger with the circumstances to obscure my judgment and harden my heart to that which I knew to be true.  God is good and gracious every moment of every day.  I made peace with God, asking for forgiveness for my anger.  I sought strength for the days ahead and assurances that I could share with my family for the trials that were to come.

God knew the lesson I needed to learn, He knew the perfect time to teach me that lesson, and more importantly, He knew how important that lesson would be in the days to come.  So at peace with God, I moved ahead with peace in my heart concerning God’s plan for our family.

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Paul’s teaching in the first half of the chapter dealt with marriage and divorce.  He closed out his discussion by addressing husbands and wives with unsaved spouses.  Moving on to a new thought, but with that context in mind, Paul shifts to address the idea of contentment.  There were some among the Corinthian believers who were not happy in their present state.  There were married members who wished to be single, single members who wished to be married and even slaves who longed to be freed.

This section is a pause in the overall thought of marriage and singleness, but one that addresses the root of the problem that had taken over the hearts o the believers in Corinth.  The underlying problem in Corinth was one of contentment.  People were simply unhappy with where they were in life, whether married or single, and seeking to change their circumstances.

The Corinthians failed to realize what many of us today fail to realize – our circumstances are not as important as our obedience to God.  The priority of life must be living a life of faith that trust completely in Almighty God and is obedient to His Will in all things.  Paul even tells Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).  So join this morning as we examine this passage and struggle with the idea of contentment and the struggle each of us must endure to live contented lives.

I.        Teachings Concerning Our Enjoyment in the Christian Life (v. 17)

A.       Individual Application—“But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.”

1.        Priority of Application—“But as God”—This section is the application portion of what Paul has been previously teaching as I have mentioned.  Paul can teach whole Scripture, but unless there is an application of those teachings it means very little.

Pastors can preach the truth of the Gospel and the Christian life, but unless you make it a priority to live this truth when you leave church this afternoon it accomplishes nothing.  The amazement of pastors and Christian leaders, and I speak from a decade of experience, is not that sinners do not come to church or even the various acts that sinners commit.  No, the shock comes from professed Christians who darken the doors of churches yet never change anything in their lives.

2.        Providence of Assignment—“God hath distributed” and “as the Lord hath called”—You are not in a position in your life that God has not allowed to come.  If you are in the face of trial, God has allowed it to come to you for a purpose.  In the midst of trials, God is seeking to prepare you for what lies ahead. It may be a more difficult task or it may be as a counselor to one who will be facing a similar trial.  God has a plan for your life and your priority should be discovering that plan and preparing for it each and every day.

3.        Particulars of Appointment—“as the Lord hath called, so let him walk”— This is a very important lesson for every one of us to remember.  Do not despise how God called you and when God called you.  My wife and I have very different testimonies and ways in which we came to know the Lord.  She was raised in a Christian home and came to know God at a very early age.  Many of the temptations and sins that I struggled with before becoming a Christian, my wife has never known.  Why did God place me where he placed me and why did He put my wife in her situation?  I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know now that I am a follower of Jesus Christ my command is clear—be like Jesus.

God called me early in life from a Christian home—be like Jesus.  God called me from a life of horrible sin—be like Jesus.  I came to know Christ at a very late age—be like Jesus.  However you came to know Christ, the command is still the same—be like Jesus.

B.        Universal Application—“And ordain I in all churches.”—Paul is not giving an isolated teaching.  He is declaring the apostle’s doctrine, therefore the Lord’s doctrine to Corinth.  This was the expectation in every church that he Apostle Paul established.  This is the expectation of every Bible-following church in existence today.

II.       Teaching Concerning Our Ethnicity in the Christian Life (vv. 18-20)

A.       Our State at Salvation (v. 18)—“Is any man called being circumcised?  Let him not become uncircumcised.  Is any called in uncircumcision?  Let him not be circumcised.”—People have a tendency to focus upon the outward, even when we know the reality of the spiritual life is on the inside.  Paul’s charge here is that it does not matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile because those outward signs mean nothing in comparison to true conversion.

B.        Our Command to Sanctification (v. 19)—“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”—This is where the rubber meets the road in this particular discussion.  Circumcision, that most sacred rite of the Jews, means nothing in the great spiritual reality of Christianity.

What is Paul truly saying here?  Was every circumcised Jew a true follower of God?  The answer is no.  Is every one that is baptized a true Christian?  The answer is no.  If these outward signs are not an indicator, how can we separate the false professors from the true possessors of the Holy Spirit. Luckily, Paul gives us the answer by saying one who keeps the commandments of God is the true follower.

It did not matter if one was Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, male or female, black or white, etc.  None of these things mattered.  All that matters is are you following the commandments of God?  Have you believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Have you repented of your sins to God and accepted His gift of eternal life through His Son?  Are you living a life

C.       Our Calling to Vocation (v. 20)—“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”—If God called you to dig ditches, be the best ditch digger you can be for the glory of Christ.  Did He call you to be a supervisor, CEO?  Be the best that you can be for the cause of Christ.

What this is NOT is a statement supporting a caste system such as some religions follow.  Paul even says, if you can improve your condition and situation by all means do so, but do if you cannot, be content with where you are and serve the Lord.

III.      Teachings Concerning Our Economics in the Christian Life (vv. 21-24)

A.       Reaction to Our Economy—“Art thou called being a servant?  Care not for it:  but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.”—The gospel is the medicine we need to make it through situations that are less than ideal.  We cannot relate to the concept of slavery in our present day United States, but it was a reality for many nearly 150 years ago and is still a reality for some around the world.

Slavery, lower class, poor, down-trodden, etc.  It does not matter what categories we use because the message of Scripture is still the same.  Our reaction in the face of such things should be obedience to Christ.  Wherever you find yourself, obey Christ.  But some will say, “Pastor, my situation isn’t the best.”  You need to obey Christ.  “Pastor, you do not know what hardships I have in my life.”  True, but you are still to obey Christ.  Our circumstances should not determine our contentment.

I know this flies in the face of what the world teaches you because worldly wisdom says your circumstances determine your happiness.  It says you cannot be poor and content.  You cannot face tragedy and have joy.  If you do not know Jesus Christ, you are correct, there is no contentment in poverty or trials, but neither will you find it in riches or success.

Sinner, you are never going to be content outside of Christ.  You will never have enough material and money.  You will never have an inherent joy of knowing your sins are forgiven and you can stand justified before the Great Judge in the last days.  Saints, your reaction to your present state is a very telling fruit of your Christian life.

B.       Reality of Our Economy—“For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman:  likewise also he that is called being free, is Christ’s servant.”— If the gospel is the dose of medicine one needs to perform menial jobs and endure bad situations, then the gospel is also the antidote needed to combat pride in highly desired jobs.  It sounds like a paradox, but Christ frees the slave and enslaves the free.  Simply put, the ground is level a the foot of the Cross.  There is neither bond nor free, male or female, Jew or Gentile.  There is only sinners saved by the wonderful grace of God.

C.       Rate of Our Economy—“Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”—Salvation is free, but it is not without cost.  A farm boy ran home one day to his father and exclaimed, “Daddy, they gave us free milk at school!”  His father patted him on the head and reminded him, “Someone had to milk the cow.”  Salvation did not cost us anything, but there is still a value attached to it.  Paul states it both positively and negatively in this verse.

1.       Bought with a Price – This statement takes the Corinthians mind back to the Cross of Jesus Christ.  Salvation is free to the world, but costly to Christ.  He gave Himself for the Church and it is through His death, burial, and resurrection that we can gather today in the power of the Spirit.

2.       Be not ye the servants of men—This is a spiritual charge for the Corinthians not to be under the subjection.  MacArthur says Paul is warning us against becoming slaves to the ways of the man, the world, and the flesh.

John MacArthur—“That is the slavery into which many of the Corinthian believers had fallen, the slavery that caused their divisions and strife and their immaturity and immorality. . . God allows us to be where we are and to stay where we are for a purpose. Conversion is not the signal for a person to leave his social condition, his marriage or his singleness, his human master, or his other circumstances. We are to leave sin and anything that encourages sin; but otherwise we are to stay where we are until God moves us.”

D.     Rejoinder to Our Economy—“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”—This final phrase is a reminder that Paul has given twice before.  If God will move you, trust in Him and move.  However, if God has called you to stay, be content where He has placed you and seek to serve God to the best of your ability.

There are some very exclusive clubs around the world if you take the time to look for them.  I found a few clubs with some very odd entry requirements.  Here are a few of them:

  • Goldfish Club – Group started in 1942 for servicemen that have crashed landed into water and survived.
  • The Silky Club – For membership, one must catch a bonefish using a fly reel, take a 30 meter (98.4 feet) dive from a cliff, and then kiss a silky shark in its natural habitat.
  • Cordon Rouge Club – Members must be invited and also have accomplished a great exploratory feat such as climbing Mt. Everest, reaching the South Pole, or sailing solo around the globe.

These groups may sound silly or adventurous, perhaps even dangerous, but they highlight a very important aspect of many groups—qualifications for admission.  There are certainly other groups, honors, and institutions that come to mind when we think of qualifications for admissions.  Young people often think of colleges when you speak of admissions, while adults tend to think of organizations, usually job related to which they do or should belong.

I remember a few years ago when I was preparing for college that I had made a list of things I needed to complete.  I had to go through the whole admissions process—submitting test scores, transcripts, and all the paper work that goes along with the application process.  I had to endure interviews.  I had to write essays.  There was so much to do that I had to make lists of documents, requirements, and tests that I needed because each college admissions requirements were different.

In this particular portion of 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a problem in the Corinthian church that follows along this line of reasoning.  The Corinthians had lists of things they believed to be important such as wisdom, wealth, and influence.  They foolishly thought God had a list as well and it looked strikingly similar to their list!  As we explored their foolishness previously, we discovered they were wrong.  They didn’t grasp the purpose, the person, or the power of the Cross!

  • They replaced Christ with human wisdom
  • They replaced the Cross with their own ability
  • They replace Grace with worldly status

It is a very prideful statement for us to say we know the mind of God.  We know nothing more about God than He reveals to us in His Word.  All the knowledge we have of God has come from God.  In the verses before us this morning, God shows the Corinthians just how wrong they were in that line of thinking.  He wants us to know that human pride has no place in His plans.  So this morning, we are going to look at how God destroys human pride.  How does God insure that there is never a question of His greatness and work in the lives of men?

I.             The Fact is Stated (v. 26)

A.            Their Position “For you see your calling, brethren,” – Paul is using the Corinthians as the perfect example of what he is saying.  He reminds them to think of themselves when God called them.  The “calling” here refers to this position in the world when they heard the Gospel.  There were not that many educated among them or noble.  If you remember, Corinth did not have nobility as some of the other cities because it had been destroyed and resettled by Romans.  The Apostle is in effect holding up a mirror to the believers and asking, “What do you see?”  If they were honest, the majority of them were ordinary men and women saved by the grace of God.  They were ordinary, but made extraordinary by the saving power of Jesus Christ.

B.            God’s Preference “not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” – I know many people would look at such a statement and not find it very flattering.  God takes the weak over the strong, the forgotten over the famous, and the nobodies over the some bodies.  There are no exclusions in the kingdom of God, the Gospel is to “whosoever.”  Yet, it tells us here that human pride keeps many from responding to those sweet words of life, but God is not discouraged.  God’s purposes are not prevented because the prideful reject His precious gift of eternal life.  No!  God takes those the world chooses last and saves them to the uttermost.  God takes those that the world deems as useless and makes them useful.  God takes the broken, the addicted, the dirty, and immoral and He remakes them into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

II.            The Reason Given (vv. 26-29)

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

A.            God’s Illumination – The Countess of Huntingdon said that she thanked God for the letter M in the word many.  If God has said “not any” instead of “not many” it would have excluded her.  There will always be those of wealth and power that will come to know Jesus Christ as Savior.  The early church had its Joseph of Arimethea, Nicodemus, and Erastus, and through the ages there have been many others; however, as John Philips points out, the rank and file of the church through the ages has been made of fishermen, slaves, freedmen, and artisans.  The Sanhedrin mocked the apostles because they thought them to be “unlearned and ignorant” (Acts 4:13).  Though the ages, God has delighted in using the nobodies to accomplish great things.

1.            He does not call many sophisticated people – “not many wise after the flesh” – Sir Isaac Newton rocked the world in which he lived with his works, founding mathematical schools still used today and scientific theories that are the foundations of modern physics.  Newton was also a devout follower of Jesus Christ.  Yet, not many such as Newton answer God’s call to salvation.

2.            He does not call many self-sufficient people – Perhaps the greatest illustration of self-sufficient is David of the OT.  He was a mighty man of warrior, a proficient leader, and yet one who trusted in God’s direction for his life.  From the time he faced Goliath until he drew his final breath – David’s self-sufficiency paled in comparison to God’s amazing grace.

3.            He does not call many society people – There are few Queen Victorias and Count Zinzendorfs in the church’s history, but they do exist.

B.            God’s Illustration

1.            He does call the foolish to confound the wise – The wisest counselor David had was a man by the name of Ahithophel.  Unfortunately, Ahithophel was also a vengeful man and when Absalom rebelled, he turned his back upon David.  While fleeing from the Jerusalem, David prayed for God to make the “counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”  God answered that prayer by using the foolishness of Absalom.

2.            He does call the feeble – Read Exodus 2:1-6, with a special emphasis upon 2:6.  All it took for God to overthrow the power of Egypt and free His people from bondage was the cry from a baby.

3.            He does call the failures – Our text says God takes the “base things” of this world.  This literally means without family or descent.  He has chosen those with no family or friends, no illustrious lineage, no powerful kinsmen.  He has chosen those things which are despised, literally things “counted as nothing.”  He takes those with no fame or fortune.  He has chosen the things which are not to bring to nought the things that are.”  The phrase here is in the Greek subjective.  It signifies things that men regard as nothing, non-existent, non-entities.  God has chosen things with no face and no form.

        • Left-handed man (Judges 3:21)
        • Ox-goad (Judges 3:310
        • Feeble woman (Judges 4:4)
        • Nail (Judges 4:21)
        • Millstone (Judges 9:53)
        • Pitcher, Lamp, and Trumpet (Judges 7:20)
        • Jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:16)
        • Sling and Stone (1 Samuel 17:49)
        • Little maid (2 Kings 5:1-3)
        • Insomnia (Esther 6:1)

He used snowflakes to halt the armies of Napolean and Hitler, altering the history of Europe.  He used a miner’s son in Martin Luther, a shepherd’s son in Ulrich Zwingli to change the world during the Reformation.  D.L. Moody was an uneducated shoe salesman and William Carey the missionary was a cobbler.  God can take the base and make it great.  God can take nothing and make it something.

III.        The Purpose Explained (vv. 30-31)

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

A.            Relationship to Christ – “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus”

B.            Resources in Christ – “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”

1.            Wisdom Transforms Our Minds – Instead of relying upon our own minds, we can draw upon the infinite wisdom made available to us in Jesus Christ.  He is the embodiment of True Wisdom.  All others, even the wise Solomon, pale in comparison to Christ’s omniscient wisdom.

2.            Righteousness Transforms Our Morals – The world’s standards of right and wrong are relative, cultural, and accommodating.  The world calls wrong right and right wrong.  God’s standards are absolute, universal, and inflexible—based upon His absolute holiness.

3.            Sanctification Transforms Our Motives – The Greek word for “holiness” means to set apart for God.  It stands for the kind of life that belongs to those who are separated from the world around it.  Righteousness has to do with our standing, while sanctification has to do with our state.  Righteousness meets the demands of the Law; sanctification meets the demands of the Lord.  Righteousness is imputed by Christ; sanctification is implemented by the Holy Spirit.

4.            Redemption Transforms Our Members – While we have redeemed souls, we do not yet have our redemption bodies.  Our present bodies remain susceptible to disease, death, and decay and, all too often, are the instruments for carrying out our sinful desires, just as they are the instruments for carrying out the will of God.  However, there will be a final redemption that will transform us wholly into the image of Christ and eradicate the sin stain that is now upon us.  The Apostle John put it the most eloquently when he said, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1Jo 3:2 KJV).