Letters to the Family of God
by Joe Franzone | June 22, 2023 | Pastor's Blog
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889. Oil on canvas.
June 22, 2023
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the year 180, Celsus, a Greek philosopher, was a fierce critic of Christianity. He would write Christians were destructive to healthy communities because they formed groups that attracted the riffraff, including women, wool workers, cobblers, laundry workers, and the most illiterate and bucolic yokels (a simple-minded person easily deceived).
He said they were people of no account, the dregs of society, with no views worth expressing or being listened to. However, the irony here is rich. Paul, might have very well replied to Celsus’s cutting words with “and”? Because, yes, many Christian converts, in the eyes of others, were not worth much. However, the Spirit’s work in the believers was not for exalted earthly status but for humble service. Whether they remained in their low station in life or not was of small account. They were God’s children now, in union with Christ. Real felt love, divine love directed in an unbreakable surge towards them, was theirs to enjoy forever and ever world without end. God promises theirs. The intercessory ministry of Christ and His righteousness theirs. Everything had changed.
Consequently, 1 Corinthians 1:26-30 makes all the sense in the world. The gospel must have been so attractive to them exactly because of their low status and not in spite of it. To hear they could never be good enough for God by their good effort, and they were God’s enemies not because of what nation they came from but their sin—and what you need God gave you freely, must have been in some sense refreshing.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
You see, even in their low station in life, even in their despised by many other people stations in life, Paul was careful to remind them, it is because of God that you are in Christ! That every good thing about them Jesus did for them.
The beauty of this is just that - beautiful. The moment those of no earthly status became Christians, the work of God in them was such that they continued to serve their masters, superiors, and commanders. There was no class warfare. No, them against us mentality. Indeed, Paul would say to the Corinthian Christians, something which might make consumer Christianity tremble. (1 Cor 7:17-24)
It was their daily service, their common life, which would give out the gospel by lip and in life. Freely giving what they had freely received.
Both Alan Kreider, the author of, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, and Michael Green, author of Evangelism in the Early Church, were keen in saying humble service and being ordinary Christians was the key on the human side to bringing many to faith.
The sin of bigotry was to be outmatched by the grace of God. Therefore, the early Christians did not take revenge. They did not organize to gather power; rather, they organized to worship. That is, to learn the Apostle's doctrine, pray, commune around the Lord’s Table, and share their lives in service to Christ with each other. (Acts 2:42)
We came into this world, fallen and sinful. Our old nature fights providence, our station in life, and the place where we are put. Too much of popular Christianity preaches sermons to feed our sinful dissatisfactions, therein feeding that beast. But we must fight that beast hard with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Think of what you were when you were called. Now think of what you are now, in Christ.
God bless you. You are all in my night and day prayers. Grace and peace to you.