Good Evening. The text to which I would like to turn our attention this evening is 1 Corinthians 1:6-7. Verses 6-7 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
We’re continuing our study of this letter, and so far have been impressed by Paul’s concern for the primacy of Christ. He’s writing this letter to a church that had become puffed up with knowledge and forgotten how to love. They spoke much of their faith and boasted of hteir gifts, but inside had succumbed to unbelief, to wrong thoughts and wrong beliefs about themselves and others.
And we too can succumb to this temptation. To forget our relation to Christ and to each other, and to become puffed up. Rather than having trusting confidence in Christ, we can become proud of ourselves and our gifts and knowledge, and that overconfidence in self can bear within us the fruit of doubt, as we shall see.
Let’s begin by reading the whole thanksgiving section of chapter one, verse 4-9, and then we’ll focus on verses 6 & 7:
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let’s look first at verse 6 and see the testimony of Christ. The testimony of Christ. Verse 6 again says, “6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you”
We could translate it the witness, of Christ or witness about Christ. The word for testimony is actually the Greek word from which we derive Martyr, or someone who witnesses to the value of Christ through their death.
Combined with the preceding verses, we can put Paul’s logic together in this way: I thank God that you were richly blessed in Jesus Christ as his testimony or his message was confirmed among you. As the message of witness was validated among you.
And what exactly is that testimony? It is the message of the gospel. The gospel was preached by Paul, they heard it, and the testimony was received in faith.
Further, Paul is again shifting the focus away from the Corinthian believers back to Christ. It was the testimony of Christ, not of Paul or Apollos or Peter, that was being confirmed among them. It was the witness of Christ, not the witness of anything else, that is the reason for their spiritual life and graces. It was a message from outside of themselves, and in spite of themselves, that is the reason that they have any spiritual graces at all. Christ is the reason, not the Corinthians.
This is also setting the stage for some of Paul’s coming arguments. It was a testimony of Christ that was the grace of God among them, not anything else. A message. A preached gospel. Fallen man is never satisfied with Christ’s gospel. Paul says later in the chapter that the Jews wanted signs (or miracles) and the Greeks want wisdom. Unbelievers want something impressive and something tangible. He wants hard facts and reproducible data. He wants what he calls science.
He wants to be able to point to something physical, tangible, immediate, and know that that evidence is true. He doesn’t want to trust a message about a savior whom he cannot test who redeems him from a sickness that he cannot see to an heavenly realm that he cannot know in this life.
He’s ok with religion and morality, in fact he may champion the goodness of those things. Many Pagans will affirm the goodness of “Judeo-Christian” ethics. But when it comes to believing in Christ, he cannot and will not do it because he cannot touch it and hold it and test it. In short, he wants the good things that come from faith in Jesus without actually having to believe in that Jesus. He wants religion, but not faith. He wants God’s graces without belief in the God of the graces.
How often do you find that to be the case in your life? You want the benefits of God, the fruit of wisdom, but we don’t want to believe. We don’t want to trust God.
- We want to have a mature faith, but we don’t want to go through the trials of life that actually build our faith.
- We don’t want to trust God’s providence and plan for our lives because WE cannot see how it’s going to work out; we can’t figure it out; so we’re anxious and worried.
- We’re not sure what God is asking us to do next, so we get antsy and frustrated. We want God to tear open the heavens and tell us with an audible voice what we should do next. We’re like the Jews seeking signs and wonders.
What we’re doing in that moment is doubting God and seeking a religion that doesn’t require faith, a religion that doesn’t require trust in God. We’re doubting what God has said about the sufficiency of scripture. That he has fully and completely given us everything we need in his Word. We have enough wisdom in Scripture, if we would just ask him for the eyes to see it. We have enough to walk in holiness, if we would just depend on him for the text to be opened for us. We don’t lack for spiritual insight and answers, if we would trust what God has said about his word of truth.
Further, in that moment of doubt we’re also doubting the testimony of Christ as to the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ tells us in his word that the Holy Spirit will guide us in truth, guide us in holiness, that he will work within us to grow us into the image of Christ from one degree to the next.
We doubt this and seek quick fixes. We rely on our own strength or on the strength of others. We want to put our faith in a new book, or in a class, or in a teacher or preacher, or in a baptism, or any other man-centered effort, rather than trusting that God will use his sufficient word in the hands of his own holy spirit to grow us, guide us, and keep us until the very end. In short, we doubt the testimony of Christ.
And what we need in the midst of that doubt is to remember the testimony itself. We need to remember the message. What is the testimony about Christ? It is that Christ came and lived and died in the place of a sinful and doubtful people, a people who not only COULD not, but WOULD not believe in his testimony. He came to conquer stubborn and rebellious hearts, so that they would be remade into pliable and loving hearts. He came to subdue anxious and worrisome spirits, and remake them into quiet and trusting souls. And because he is the victorious son, he has the sent us his very own spirit to unite us to him, to illumine the pages of scripture for us, to guide us into all truth, and to grant us the wisdom we need to walk in holiness.
The cure for souls who doubt the sufficiency of the testimony of Christ, is to remember the testimony itself. The cure for those who want more than a message, is to remember the content of that message, and in remembering the content rightly, we will come to recon with the sufficiency of its message. That the son of God became man, died in the place of sinful men, to grant for those that repent and believe in his message of folly, a life of faith and growth that could never be had apart from belief in that message.
And that could be you tonight. If you have doubted God and his message, doubted the sufficiency of the cross, doubted the sufficiency of the bible, then remember again the testimony of Christ. He came to seek and save the lost, which includes doubters like you and me, and when you come to him, you’re no longer seen as a doubter. You’re seen as a son. You’re no longer separated from God, you’re part of the family. That’s the good news of the testimony of Christ.
Next, we’ve looked at the testimony of Christ and its sufficiency, now let’s look at the testimony confirmed. The testimony confirmed.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were enriched in every way as the testimony about Christ was confirmed. The language of confirmed is actually a metaphor, taken from commercial law in Greece. The language of confirmation became a technical term for the strengthening or guaranteeing of a legal contract. He does something similar in 2 Corinthians 1:21 when he speaks of the confirmation of us in Christ. He uses the same Greek technical language to say that our mutual existence in Christ is guaranteed. It’s locked in. It’s binding. It’s irrevocable. It’s without doubt.
Christ’s testimony, the fullness of the gospel message, has been guaranteed. It’s legally binding and divinely assured. The message can be trusted, and the more it is confirmed among us, the greater reason we have to trust the message of Christ. That’s the testimony of Corinth’s history, and that’s the experience of the church throughout time.
God confirms the message of his gospel through the gifts of the holy spirit and their exercise among the people of God. God gifted the Corinthians with gifts of speech and knowledge, and they used those gifts to proclaim the gospel with fruitfulness, thus confirming again the validity of the message.
The same should be true of us and our experience in the church. God pours out his holy spirit, and grants gifts and graces, and through the experience of those, the testimony should be continually confirmed among us.
Consider some of the ways that God confirms the testimony of Christ in his church though the work of the Holy Spirit:
- Every time we see someone converted and come to faith, that confirms again that the gospel actually is the power of God unto salvation
- Every time we see a baptism, that confirms again that Jesus will be with us in our great commission, even until the end of the age as he has promised.
- Of particular encouragement to me, Every time we see a saint edified through an ordinary, run of the mill sermon, the testimony of Christ is again confirmed that his word will not return void and that Christ will build his church.
- Every time we see a mourning soul comforted, that confirms again God’s promise that he has not left us alone in this life, and that he will be near to the brokenhearted.
- Every time a husband seeks to cherish and love his wife, or a wife chooses to respect and serve her husband, the message of the gospel and the goodness of God’s creation pattern is again confirmed for us.
- Every time we see a saint of God die in full faith, that confirms again God’s promise that he will keep us to the very end.
We could go on and on. But the point for us tonight is to remember that when we’re tempted to doubt the testimony of Christ, when we’re tempted to pridefully walk in our own strength and boast in our giftings like the Corinthians, we need to remember the testimony of Christ. Christ has been faithful in our lives, in the life of our church, in the life of the universal church, and he will be faithful in the future.
His testimony has been confirmed in our experience, and therefore is even further worthy of our faith. Be encouraged in your battles in this life by looking back at the faithfulness of Christ, and in seeing again his faithfulness, have his testimony confirmed in your heart.
Moving on to the next verse of our text, let’s look at my third point, lacking no gift. They lacked no gift.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift,
The “you” in verse 7 is a plural you, he is speaking to the whole church there, so if you will permit me a little artistic license, we could translate it, “6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that ya’ll ain’t lacking in any gift.”
Paul is masterfully weaving together a thanksgiving introduction to this letter that shifts the focus away from a group of believers who pridefully boasted in their gifts, and shifts the focus back instead onto Christ. But, lest we think he is denigrating or minimizing the importance of the charismata, the spiritual gifts, he confirms in THIS verse that they were indeed given to this church by Christ, and given in sufficient kind and quantity.
The spiritual gifts here ought not to be limited in our thinking to the supernatural gifts discussed in later chapters of this letter. Paul elsewhere uses the same Greek work, charismata, to refer to the gift of redemption, like in Romans 5:15 or Romans 6:23. The overall picture, I believe, is that as the testimony of Christ is confirmed among God’s people, God will supernaturally grace his people with the gift of salvation, and then secondarily grace his church with sufficient gifts to ensure the church’s proper order and function.
Those whom God saves, he will equip, and equip not for their own glory, but for the building up of others and building up of the church.
But our minds don’t always think in these terms. In fact, corporately we can often doubt the truthfulness of what is being affirmed here about the church in Corinth. We look at our church, and then look around at others, and we begin to lament.
“If we just had _________. If we just had someone like him, a pastor like him, a deacon like him, a better Sunday School teacher. If we just had a more elequoent speaker. If we just had someone a little more like (insert your favorite preacher’s name). If we just had this or that better gift among us, thenour church would really be better off, then I would really feel satisfied, then I would really get what I need.”
Without realizing it, in those statements we reveal that we have doubt. We doubt the goodness of the gifts God has sovereignly gifted to this body through the work of His holy spirit. We think we know what we need, and we know what the church needs, better that our loving and all-wise heavenly father. Rather than trusting the work of the Holy Spirit to sufficiently gift according to his good will, we can be tempted to lament and complain and shop around and compare against others.
You could almost hear the Corinthians: If only we had a preacher like the guy in Philippi. If we only had a counselor like down in Macedonia. Man I wish we still had the guy who went off to Athens.
At root of it all can be unbelief in God and a lack of trust in his Holy Spirit’s gifting and work among the body. Rather than trusting that God calls and equips us with what we need, we can be tempted to grumble and complain.
But the gospel reminds us that Christ came and died in the place of discontented and doubtful sinners like the Corinthians and like me and you. The same God who has forgiven us through the sacrifice of his son, has also planted within us a heart that responds to his word. The same God who accepts the righteousness of Christ and counts it as our own, will not also then leave us without the gifts we need to life and growth in faith. The God who grants us all things in Christ, has also promised to work for our good, which includes granting his church with the gifts needed for its proper functioning and nourishment.
Let us not think of ourselves as higher than we ought, and think that we know what the church needs better than God’s very own holy spirit. God is good to save us, and he will be good to keep us in the faith by granting the gifts needed for our continued care in this age.
Because the testimony of Christ was confirmed among the Corinthians, they were lacking in no gifts, and we too will have no lack of gifts, as long as the testimony of Christ continues to be confirmed among us. Not the testimony of any man. The testimony of Christ. Let us ever strive to confidently rest in the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and distribution of gifts among His people.
Fourth, and finally, we’ve looked at the testimony of Christ, it’s confirmation, at the lack of no gifts, and let’s see what we’re to do with these gifts: that is, to eagerly await. Eagerly await the revealing of Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you eagerly await for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Waiting is the disposition of a Christian in this age. Eagerly awaiting the revealing of Christ. Joyfully anticipating the unveiling of our Lord Jesus.
But waiting is hard. Nobody likes waiting. We sit at a red light and grow frustrated, we sit in the waiting room and we get annoyed, we wait for news, wait for change, wait for growth, wait for improvement, wait wait wait.
And we don’t like it. We want what we want and we want it now. How dare these fools make me wait. Don’t they know who I am? Don’t they know what kind of a rush I am in, and how important my plans are?
We can do the same thing in our spiritual life. We can get depressed and despair because we see all the sin in this world, all the brokenness, all the problems, and we subtly and slowly begin to forget that Jesus is actually coming.
Rather than eagerly awaiting, we somberly just exist. We drift. We let the cares of this world and the affairs of life distract us from the incredible news that Jesus will be coming back.
And if the testimony of Christ HAS been confirmed among us, then the return of Jesus IS actually good news for us. We’ll be thinking about his return, we’ll be diligent to prepare for his return. We’ll be like the virgins in Jesus’s parable who kept their lamps ready for the return of the Bridegroom. We’ll be ever-vigilant in our purity, ever-focused in our devotion, ever-proclaiming the gospel of Christ so that others will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ too.
The world can’t understand this future unveiling. The world thinks this is foolishness: that a previously dead Jewish guy will come back, to the sound of horns, riding a white horse, and will judge the entire world.
But to the believer, to the one who has had the testimony of Christ confirmed in his heart, this is the best news. This is the news that sustains us through the hard times. This is the news that makes us able to turn the other cheek when we’ve been sinned against. This is the news that steels our nerves when we face fearful situations. This is the news that emboldens martyrs as they proclaim the gospel even in the face of death. In short, this is the good news that will help us eagerly await, even though we so desperately want to give up.
Are you weary, dear Christian? Are you tired and ready to give up? Remember again with us the good news that Christ is coming back. And why is that good news? Let’s consider some of the promises of scripture:
- First, Christ’s return is good news because He will reward your good works. Christ has seen all of your hard work, your trials, your labors, your attempts to do what is right, and all of those works are not done in vain. He will not lose count of a single one of them. Even though no other soul may be aware of some good things you have done, God has seen them all, and he sees each one of your works through the mediation of Christ our great high priest, which means that he doesn’t see your good works as tainted with sin and therefore no good.
- He sees your works through the priestly work of Jesus Christ, which means they are pure and satisfy your Father in heaven with all righteousness. This is important, and very encouraging.
- Our confession states it this way in chapter 16, paragraph 7: “Believers are accepted through Christ, and thus their good works are also accepted in Him. This acceptance doesn’t mean our good works are completely blameless and irreproachable in God’s sight. Instead, God views them in His Son, and so He is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, even though it is accompanied by many weaknesses and imperfections.”
- God accepts our feeble good works in and through the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ in our place, and because they are accepted IN HIM, God is delighted and satisfied IN US, just as he delights and is satisfied in the work of His son.
- And just as his son earned his reward, so too will we be rewarded when Christ is revealed. Take heart, your good works are seen and they will be re-payed in due time when Christ is revealed.
- A second reason why the unveiling of Jesus is good news for the believer is that He will judge the wicked. He will judge the wicked.
- If you’ve been wronged, if you’ve been sinned against, if you’re the offended party, you know how exasperating this life can be. Your frustration at the lack of justice, and the victory that injustice always seems to have in this world can drive you almost crazy.
- You see the wicked out there seeming to get away with murder, and it just doesn’t seem fair.
- But this isn’t new. David wrote about this in the psalms in several places. We need to remember what he says though. Listen to some of what he says in Psalm 37:
- Don’t fret because of evil doers, don’t be envious of wrong doers. For they will soon fade like grass, and wither like the herb…the evil doers will soon be cut off from the land.
- In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
- The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
- The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
- There are many other verses, but I will stop there. The unveiling of Jesus Christ is good news to the believer because he knows that the wicked will be finally and completely stopped. Injustice will be put to an end and justice will be perfectly served.
- We can eagerly await Christ’s unveiling, even through terrible suffering in this life, because we know what Paul says in Romans 12:19, “vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”
- If you haven’t yet come to Jesus, then you need to know that this is your fate. He will see the sins of your heart and the sins of your hands, and he will swiftly and justly strike you from the land. He will drive you from this life and this world and plant you forever in the place of eternal torment and suffering that the bible calls Hell.
- Don’t live the rest of your life in fear of that coming judgment. Have your fear and hatred replaced with eager anticipation of Christ’s return. All you need to do is hear of the Jesus of the bible, see his love for his people, turn from your sins and turn to Jesus, the only one who can save you from the wrath to come.
- Jesus’s return is good news for the believer, because he will judge the wicked, and it is terrifying news for the unbeliever, because he will be the focus of Christ’s judgment sword.
- A third reason why Christ’s unveiling is good news is that he will rule with equity. He will rule with equity.
- Similar to the previous point, living under fallen authority in this life can be wearisome. We have leaders in every level of government and all sides of the political spectrum that are sinful. They fail us. They make promises, but fail to come through. They guarantee but they don’t deliver. They rule either in a domineering way, or they cower from fear. The rulers of this age not only don’t rule with perfect equity; they can’t. They’re fallen and sinful creatures like you and me.
- The same is true with all human authorities: Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, pastors. We’re all flawed and the exercise of our authority will always be tainted by that sin in some measure.
- But Jesus is not so. Jesus’s return will consummate a kingdom of equity and justice. He will rule with perfect love and compassion, rule according to perfect truth and knowledge, and he will rule with perfect equity. No unfairness will be found in him. No untimely delays, no rescheduling, no delayed court proceedings, no procrastination. Nothing can impede his justice, nothing can delay his verdicts, and nothing can challenge his authority.
- The unveiling of Jesus Christ will be a blessed occasion for joy for all believers, because for the first time in their existence they will experience what it will be like to live under the authority of a perfectly just and equitable ruler.
- A fourth and final reason why Christ’s unveiling is good news for the believer and worthy of our eager awaiting is that Christ will create for us a world of peace and love. Christ will create for us a world of peace and love. If you’ve never read it, Jonathan Edward’s sermon Heaven is a world of Love is a wonderful sermon that I re-read recently. It’s well worth your time, and he says way more than I have space to say here.
- This world is decidedly not full of peace. It is full of unrest. It’s dominated by chaos and enmity. Nations and neighbors war and rage. Kings and peoples posture and battle.
- But the unrest is not merely external. It’s internal to. Our hearts are conflicted, muddled by sin, and unable to have perfect allegiance to their creator. Even for believers, we still experience the Christian life as a war. We war with the flesh, war with our remaining sinful nature, war with the spiritual realm.
- But a day is coming when Christ will be unveiled, and a new heavens and new earth will be created for us to enjoy forever. We’ll no longer have a world torn apart by strife. No longer experience life fearful of the next attack, of the next storm, or of the next election.
- What’s more, we’ll have hearts that are finally and perfectly at peace. We’ll be able to completely and joyfully love the father, without any impediments of remaining sin. No more corruption of the flesh. No more will our bodies fail and decay. No more will our affections be split between what we do and what we don’t want to do.
- This is the world that awaits us. A world of peace, both inside and out, and a world of love, between neighbors, between nations, and between us and God.
Doesn’t that sound glorious? Doesn’t that encourage your soul to wait eagerly, expectantly for the revealing of Jesus Christ? Believer, when you are weary of this world, remember the coming revealing of Jesus Christ, our faithful witness, who will grant us these glorious graces in due time.