All Things Are Yours!
Since we had technical difficulties in recording last Sunday's sermon, here are my sermon notes from 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5.
We are Full and Free in Christ!
New Covenant Living #8 âœœ 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5
New Covenant Bible Church âœœ June 13, 2010
I have two points this morning that I pray the Holy Spirit will firmly impress on our hearts and minds:
(1) We are full in Christ;
(2) We are free in Christ.
Now I want to be clear that when I speak of our fullness and freedom in Christ, I am speaking of privileges that belong not to everyone in the world, but only to those who have repented of their sin and realized their need to receive Christ as their Savior. If you are not a believer in Jesus this morning, I pray that this exposition of the blessings believers enjoy in Him would whet your appetite and make you hungry and thirsty to know Him. We just sang good news and we believe it: “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power.”
For believers, the truth of our fullness in Christ is liberating - the fact that we are full in Christ brings us freedom from some vexing issues that often trouble and distract our minds. And I am eager to apply the truth of our freedom in Christ in several specific ways this morning.
But first, let’s get right to the heart of the matter by going to verse 21 of chapter 3, the second part of the verse, where the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rhapsodizes on the privileges that belong to believers:
For all things are yours,
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or the world or life or death or the present or the future -
all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
We are Full in Christ
Now I’ve got to tell you, there are certain passages in the Bible that just jump off the page and grab me. And this is one of them. Whenever I read 1 Corinthians, I find myself arrested by these verses. I sense that I am gazing at something of enormous significance. But I also find myself wondering, “Do I understand what these verses are saying?”
It reminds me of a year ago in January when my son and I were coming home from Uganda. We had a layover in Amsterdam for several hours and we went into the city and toured the famous Rijksmuseum. And as I looked upon these masterpieces of art, I recognized that I was gazing at greatness - and there was one painting of Daniel in the Lion’s Den that transfixed me - but I felt that I lacked the capacity to really appreciate just how magnificent this art was.
And I feel like that when I come to verses like these. There is spiritual magnificence here, but we need the Holy Spirit to give us the capacity to appreciate it.
“All things are yours.” Dear believer, are you aware of the immensity of your wealth in Jesus Christ? All things are yours; not some things, but all things; not will be yours someday, but are yours in Christ.
In his book The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges tells a story:
There once lived a slave in the deep South, and though slavery was a wicked institution, this man had an amicable relationship with his plantation owner. When the plantation owner wrote his will, he wanted to express his appreciation for the man who had served him faithfully all his life. So after his death, he left a $50,000 inheritance for this man -- perhaps equal to half a million today. The lawyer of the estate notified the old man of his inheritance and told him that the money had been deposited for him at the local bank. Weeks went by, and the former slave never called for any of his inheritance. Finally, the banker called him and told him that he had $50,000 that he was welcome to draw on at any time. The old man replied, ‘Sir, do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?’ He had had no money all his life, so he had no comprehension of his wealth. Here he was, asking for fifty cents, when he had $50,000 at his disposal!
1. Christ’s servants are yours: “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas.”
• Problem in Corinth - lining-up behind favorite teacher to enhance my own personal reputation. You know what it can be like to try to impress people because you have a personally autographed book by a certain author, or you have a personal relationship with a well-known leader. In Corinth, factions were developing. Divisions. “I belong to Paul… Apollos…”
• Paul is saying, “Don’t you realize your wealth in Christ?” You don’t belong to a particular teacher - he belongs to you! He is Christ’s gift to you.
• And you are impoverishing yourself if you limit your allegiance to one man - they’re all yours! Christ has blessed his church with a vast array of gifted teachers and leaders - and they’re all here to serve you, to benefit you.
• Paul is yours, with all his massive intellect and spiritual depth; Apollos is yours, with his mighty knowledge of the Scriptures and eloquence to preach; Cephas is yours, with his fiery zeal for Jesus and his gospel. They’re all yours! So don’t overlook the wealth of the heritage that belongs to you in Christ.
Paul then moves beyond teachers and ministers. All things are yours - including the world, life, death, the present, the future - all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
What Paul is doing here is powerful. He’s highlighting what one writer calls “The ultimate tyrannies of human experience to which people are ordinarily held in lifelong bondage.” These are the things that enslave us.
2. The World
• With all it’s anxieties and cares: food, clothing, health money.
• Do you feel tied down by the world? Pressured to squeeze into its mold?
• It’s yours! You do not belong to the world - the world belongs to you - with all it’s panoramic views, the seas, the mountains, the canyons, the vast immensities - it’s mine! It’s yours!
• Why? Because we belong to the One who will one day create a new heaven and a new earth and who will enable us to delight in it fully. We are heirs with God, joint heirs with Christ - of the world and all it’s fullness!
This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!
3. Life and Death
• This life is but a shadow - but a brief spot of time in between two eternities - but it is extremely consequential.
• Life is mine to live. It’s the “seed plot of heaven.” It’s a great opportunity to serve Christ in a world in which his reign is contested. It’s a time to do good, to grow in grace, and to freely enjoy the pleasures of this good world that God created. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:5).
• But then there’s death, the grim reaper, the terrible tyrant, the ultimate specter - looming just over the horizon, casting its sinister shadow backward and taunting us all our lives.
• DEATH IS YOURS!
• For everyone else, death is the end of joy, the end of love, the end of life. For a Christian, death is harmless.
• The sting is pulled out.
• It has lost all its venom in Christ. Because the sting of death is sin - now sin is forgiven in Christ. All that is poisonous, malignant and harmful in death is taken away.
• But it’s more than just neutralized - death actually benefits believers! How? Richard Sibbes:
• It unclothes us of these rags, these sick, weak bodies of ours and puts on a new robe of immortality, the garments of glory.
• It ends all that is ill. It puts an end to all our toilsome labors, to all our troubles and sorrows.
• It puts an end to all our sins - death is the triumph of our mortification.
• Death is ours because it is our resting place. It frees us from wicked men and sets us clear out of Satan’s reach, to no more be annoyed with his temptations and accusations.
• It is a passage to another world. It is the gate of glory and everlasting happiness. It is the beginning of all that is everlastingly and eternally good.
• Our death is our birthday. For when we die, we begin to live, and we never live indeed until we die. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “This is the end. For me the beginning of life!”
• Here on earth, the more we have lived, the less of our life we have to live. Death is the birthday of that life of immortality, the life that can only be called truly life.
• Death is our greatest friend under the mast of an enemy. Death used to be an executioner - but the gospel makes him only a Gardener.
• Death is ours. It is a good messenger; it brings good tidings when it comes. As Solomon says, “The day of death is better than the day of birth” (Eccl. 7:1).
• When we are born, we come into misery; when we die, we go out of misery into happiness. There is nothing in all the world that does believers so much good as death. It ends all that is ill both of body and soul, and it begins that happiness that never shall have an end.
• Isaiah 57:1-2, a glimpse into how God views the death of his saints: “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”
• Therefore, “Blessed are they that die in the Lord, says the Spirit; they rest from their labors and their reward follows them.”
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears
It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore
Original words by Henri Malan (1787-1864)
Death is crushed to death! Life is mine to live.
Won through your selfless love.
4. The present and the future
Edwards, 18 years old, “On Christian Happiness” - there’s three reasons Christians should be happy all the time: (1) Bad things will turn out for your good. (2) Your good things that you have in Christ can never be taken away. (3) The best is yet to come!
“All are yours.” WHY?
Because you are Christ’s. And Christ is God’s.
Alexander Maclaren: “To the degree you are completely a servant of him, all things will be a servant of you. They will not tyrannize you - the more I am a servant of Jesus Christ, the less any of these things scare me anymore.”
So this is our FULLNESS in Christ. We are FULL in Christ. All things in the universe are under his dominion - and all that belongs to him belongs to us. This is “the charter of a Christian,” “the dowry that the church has by her marriage with Christ. He is the greatest king that ever was, and we are the greatest queen; for Christ is Lord of heaven and earth and all things; and our estate is as large as his” (Sibbes).
And now the second main point: We are FREE in Christ.
We are Free in Christ
Paul has a design in speaking of our fullness in Christ - his design is that we believers be liberated from bondage. And he has a very specific type of bondage in mind as he is writing these words. He wants us to be free from a peril that is all too characteristic of human thinking. What is it?
How much time did you spend this week thinking about other people, evaluating them, judging them, ranking one over another; and how much time did you spend thinking about what people think about you? What do I think about other people? What do other people think about me? Sometimes these thoughts preoccupy our minds more than Christ. And God’s design in this passage is to free us from this worldly way of thinking.
You see how he begins the passage in vv. 18-20?
There is a “wisdom of this age” that is folly with God. It is a trap. It is futile. It causes factions and divisions in the church.
And what is the characteristic of the wisdom of this age? Verse 21. Boasting in men. What does this look like?
Application #1: Our fullness in Christ frees us from the perils of idolizing men.
• They are all yours. They belong to you. You do not belong to them. You belong to Christ. The only One worthy of your complete allegiance and adoration is the Lord Jesus Christ.
• How should you view them? A: 4:1-2.
• They are but servants of Him, stewards of the gospel mysteries He has entrusted to them for your benefit.
• You don’t come to church to support me in my ministry; I come to church to support you in your ministry.
• Eph. 4:11ff, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”
• So the Lord has been gracious to bless his church with a whole variety of ministers - shepherds & teachers - and they’re all there to point you to Christ - to be instruments in the Redeemer’s hands - to share with you the mysteries that God has revealed for those who love Him.
• Test: Can you learn from and rejoice in the contributions of Christians who are not in your camp? You love Calvin - great! Can you learn from Wesley? Or Aquinas? Or Irenaeus? You benefit from Piper! Wonderful. Can you also learn from Swindoll? You value a particular pastor’s preaching. Terrific! But are you just as eager, just as hungry for the Word, when another pastor preaches?
Application #2: Our fullness in Christ frees us from bondage to human approval.
• 4:3 - it is a very small thing.
• Paul is not saying, “I don’t give a rip what you think.” This isn’t arrogance. He’s not saying that we cannot benefit from the evaluations and constructive criticisms of one another.
• But he is teaching us a vital lesson about the relative insignificance of human approval. Ultimately, what other people think of me has no authority.
• I appreciated this post from Ray Ortlund a while back. He said:
1. Human approval is divided. Some like you, others dislike you. A split vote. Who can you believe?
2. Human approval is shallow. None of them know your deepest heart. What if they did?
3. Human approval is distorted. Your friends overlook — hopefully — some failings. Your enemies are blind to your merits. How do you sort it all out?
4. Human approval is unsatisfying. The need of your heart for belovedness goes far beyond anything another sinner can say or do.
5. Human approval is a blessing. The loving favor of true friends is a gift from God. Receive it cheerfully, with thanks to Him. And be sure to give it out to others in generous supplies every day.
Application #3: Our fullness in Christ frees us from morbid introspection.
• v. 3b, an amazing statement: “In fact, I do not even judge myself.”
• Paul does not spend an inordinate amount of time trying to discern the deceitfulness or the virtues of his own heart.
• He is not overly preoccupied with self-examination and self-evaluation. He does examine himself. He evaluates himself. And he endeavors to keep a clear conscience before the Lord, which is a precious thing.
• But he doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in his own self-examination and self-evaluation. He doesn’t get preoccupied with it.
• We are not called to probe and analyze our hearts endlessly. We are to pull up the weeds when they appear, but we are not called to dig beneath the soil and do spade work.
• Your conscience is not the final authority, v. 4.
• It is the Lord who judges me - presently and in the future.
• Moltmann: Christians should avoid the despair of assuming failure in advance of the day of the Lord or the presumption of assuming total success in advance of it.”
Application #4: Our fullness in Christ frees us to focus on one thing.
Who is the only one worthy of your allegiance? Who is the only one whose opinion really matters? The Lord, who judges me. That’s what Paul is focused on.
Christ is ALL to him. And he is fixated on that DAY when he shall stand in the presence of his Savior
Now I want to hone in on one word: commendation. Praise from God. Is that what you expected to read?
Not condemnation. Commendation.
How can this be? GRACE.
Blood has been shed to cleanse. You are God’s workmanship created