What the Real Church Really NeedsDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 16:23
Today we come to the end of our reflections on 1 Corinthians. During the past several months, we have seen through the eyes of the Apostle Paul a church that was in a mess of trouble. The believers in Corinth struggled with divisiveness and pride, with sexual sin and idolatry, with selfishness and erroneous doctrine. They were challenged by cultural, educational, and class differences. They struggled to be who they were meant to be in Christ.
I don't know whether the church today is better or worse than the Corinthian church, but we surely have our collection of messes. I don't need to mention them here, because you know them. Chances are you can see the struggles in your own local church, and wonder sometimes how God is going to make things better.
I want to suggest four things the real church really needs today. When I say the "real church," I mean the church that is at the same time the Spirit-filled body of Christ and a human organization with all sorts of human flaws. I mean the church that loves one day and hates the next. I mean the church that serves the needy with love and then turns around and clobbers its own members. That church!
What does the real church really need?
First, we need God's truth. In response to the mess in Corinth, Paul wrote a letter filled with truth about God, about the work of Jesus Christ and its implications, and about how Christians are to live with each other and in the world. In all that we do as God's people, we must be informed and guided by God's truth as its found in Scripture.
Second, we need grace. As Paul writes, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you" (16:23). We need the grace of God that forgives, cleanses, shows patience, and works among us in spite of our failings. We need the grace that God gives through others, even as we need to be people who show grace to them.
Third, we need love. Paul's final sentence to the Corinthians reads, "My love to all of you in Christ Jesus" (16:24). Though Paul has had many hard things to say to the Corinthians, he reaffirms his love for them . . . something he has emphasized in many places of the letter, most of all 1 Corinthians 13. As we deal with the challenges of the real church, we need to come back again and again to the call to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Finally, we need to live fully "in Christ." Notice again the last verse of 1 Corinthians: "My love to all of you in Christ Jesus" (16:24). What does this mean? For one thing, it implies that Paul loves the Corinthians, not because he's such a loving person, and not because they are particularly lovable, but because of what Christ has done for him and in him. Christ gives Paul the ability to love even those troublesome Corinthians.
Yet it's not just that Paul is able to love "in Christ." This phrase also describes the fundamental reality of the Corinthian church. Yes, they still live in Corinth. But in a profound way, they exist "in Christ," in the realm of his truth, grace, and love. They are citizens of heaven even as they are residents of earth. When we embrace the reality that we are "in Christ," everything in life takes on new meaning. We begin to live in a new way, as people of truth, grace, and love. Isn't this what the real church really needs today?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about your own church experience, what do you think the church really needs today? Would you say your own church is stronger in truth, grace, or love? Why? How can you be more truthful, more gracious, and more loving today?
PRAYER: O Lord, please give your church what we really need today!
Give us a fresh commitment to your truth. May we study it, wrestle with it, pray it, love it, teach it, and live it. May our life together be shaped by your truth as its found in Scripture.
Give us a renewing experience of your grace, so that we might be reassured of our relationship with you. Help us not only to receive grace, but also to give it away generously.
Give us a new commitment to love each other and to love our neighbors. May we learn what it means to speak the truth in love. May our love for one another and for the world be an image of your love.
Give us a new understanding of who we are in you, dear Lord Jesus. May we live "in Christ" even as we live in this world.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, Lord Jesus. Amen.