Paul wrote a letter to the church in the large and prosperous city of Corinth. This was a church of non-Jewish people, a church sprouting from the soil of pagan Greek culture. He intends, in his letter, to address all kinds of issues the church is having—everything from incest to divisions in the church body. A ton of problems, and most of them very messy. Paul knows these people well—he settled in and lived and worked there for more than a year.
Yet Paul begins his letter addressing these people as those “called by God to be his own holy people”! Far from perfect, burdened still by many pagan ideas and influences, selfish, argumentative—yet God has invited these people to new life through Jesus’ sacrifice. They’ve accepted the invitation, but they’re finding that living out this holiness and God’s standard of righteousness is tough. They’re stumbling, time and again.
Sound familiar? Sounds like my life. So far from the mark, it seems. Still struggling with so many things…
And then Paul writes to those so-much-less-than-perfect Corinthians,
Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:7-9 NLT).
Wow. Imagine what the people in that church must have felt as they opened Paul’s letter and began reading. They were well aware of all the bad stuff going on; probably every person was embroiled in at least one or two of the specific problems Paul will go on to discuss in the letter. Yet the first thought he brings to them is that God has invited them to a new kind of life, and He supplies everything necessary to live that life, and He intends to present everyone to Himself…blameless!
How would you feel, reading such an assurance, especially knowing the trouble that churns through your church? And knowing that you have played a part in all those problems?
How do I feel, reading this assurance, knowing too well how less-than-perfect my own life is, how often I stumble on my pilgrimage, how many times I open the door to doubt or discouragement or guilt over the unholy still in my life?
I hear Jesus’ words: I have called you to a new life, and I will supply everything you need to stand strong. Cling to Me. I am the one who will get you through. And in the end, you will stand blameless!
God will do this, Paul declares. He has invited you to be His partner in His work here on earth, and He will supply everything you need to do that. He will do it, because He keeps His promises.
And so, in those times when I am beset by discouragement or doubt or weariness, my hope can only fall on its knees and say, Spirit, help my unbelief!