South Sydney Anglican Church

“Vision 2024: A Community overflowing with Faith, Hope and Love in JESUS” – 5th Sunday

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Big Idea:       Our Church Vision is realised in Jesus

Intro:    Well morning friends. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our study of 1 Corinthians, thinking about our vision as a church. We want to beA Community overflowing with faith, hope and love in Jesus.” And today we are thinking about the most important words in our vision statement – “IN JESUS.” So let’s pray as we begin…

PRAYER:  Well the words “IN JESUS” or “IN CHRIST” occur 98x in the New Testament. IN JESUS is the end of our vision statement and a key idea in the Bible. Jesus says – it is only as we remain in him and his words remain in us – that we will bear fruit for his glory. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn.15:5). So as a church we put IN JESUS at the end of our Vision Statement. We will only overflow with faith, hope and love insofar as we remain in Jesus. But putting Jesus’ name front and center in our Vision is in some ways counter to church growth.

Jesus’ name divides the world. You can talk about God and most people will accept that – so long as you don’t talk about God as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Most people will even delight in the church’s work of feeding the poor, caring for the sick and looking after orphans. But say your doing it for Jesus’ glory and gey teady for the venom. Immediately people will accuse you of homophobia, bigotry and sexism. JESUS’ NAME divides the world because JESUS’ WORDS divide the world into sheep and goats.

Jesus (the most influential man in world history) is clear that salvation is in him alone. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved. Those who reject Jesus are going to perish. Jesus says; he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. This is polarizing speech. In some quarters it may even be regarded as HATE SPEECH. Jesus is saying Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and the do-gooder woke, secular police are all going to hell. No exceptions.

Now as Christians we either believe Jesus’ words (and become evangelicals) or we don’t (and we become something else that is only quasi-Christian). I am an evangelical because I believe Jesus’ divisive, absolute, truth claims about salvation. Outside of Jesus – people are destined for hell. In Jesus people are destined for heaven. So in love and concern for people we share the good news of Jesus – in the hope some will be saved. But the conundrum is that A) the very thing that SAVES people is also B) the very thing that OFFENDS people.

So as Christians we are often tempted to go SOFTLY, SOFTLY with the message of Jesus. Or we come alongside people and we try to slip a little bit of Jesus into their coffee when they’re not looking. Or we just bring people into the church and hope they will somehow get the gospel via OSMOSIS OR INTUITION. But the gospel needs to be spoken.

Now in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul does say (Slide 2 – 1Cor.9:22). This means that Paul wants us to be thoughtful of others and not cause unnecessary offense in evangelism. But some churches have become so consumed with “being all things to all people” that they never mention sin, immorality or the cross. (JOEL OSTEEN who leads the largest church in America is a perfect example. He never, ever speaks about sin or repentance and I’ve never, ever heard him properly explain the cross). Why? Because Joel (AND MANY LIKE HIM) don’t want to accept the unavoidable offense of the gospel. But in 1 Corinthians 1 Paul writes; (Slide 3: 1Cor.1:18). Paul also says (Slide 4 – 1Cor.1:22-24). So the temptation for all churches is to give people the miracles and practical wisdom that Jews and Gentiles want AND downplay the things that cause offense. But that is the very thing we can’t do – because there is no salvation for anyone apart from Jesus and the cross.

Point 1:         “In Jesus” means in the GOSPEL of Jesus

Show:                        1 Cor.15:1-11 (READ)

Explain:         Well, the word GOSPEL simply means good news. THE GOSPEL is like hearing you no longer have cancer after a long battle with chemotherapy. You’d be like; “Really – I no longer have cancer. That’s amazing.” That’s the sort of good news – Christianity has at its center. We have good news that MUST be preached and Paul is about to remind us of the content of that good news.

Now last week, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul was clear that in the Christian church 1) PROPHECY is more important than 2) praying in tongues. Paul kept saying I want you prophesy and speak Gods Word (revealed in the Bible) into one another’s lives. But Paul now reminds us that there is a Word, within Gods Word – and that is the gospel. There is Gods Word in the Bible and there is Gods Word incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s Word (Bible) must be at the center of the church, AND Jesus MUST remain the center of the Bible. Mature Christians know everything in Scripture must be understood through the lens of Jesus and him crucified – otherwise it will be applied incorrectly.

You can be an expert in the 10 Commandments and you can prophesy the 10 Commandments into people’s lives. But if you do not explain that A) Jesus perfectly fulfilled the 10 Commandments for us and B) then Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our disobedience to the 10 Commandments – you actually prophesying heresy. You might be a die in the wool 7 day creationist and totally committed to the plain meaning of Genesis 1 & 2. (I get it) But if you ONLY ever prophesy the first creation and you never speak of the new creation that is in Jesus – your words are not really edifying. In many ways – to prophesy without Jesus at the center of your words is to become a legalistic Pharisee. To be an expert in the Bible without speaking of Jesus’ death and resurrection is to become a prophet of doom, not a prophet of resurrection life.

Apply:            So Paul finishes 1 Corinthians (as he began 1 Corinthians) with a focus on the gospel. This is what Paul said in chapter 2 (Slide 6 – 1Cor.2:2). And Paul now finishes in much the same way – saying in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 let me remind you again of THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL which you RECEIVED AND which you have taken your STAND AND by which you are SAVED – IF YOU HOLD ON TO THIS TRUTH. Otherwise you have believed in VAIN. (Letting go of the gospel or moving it from its rightful center is just vanity of vanities).

Apply:            So while God’s Word must be at the center of the church, the center of Gods Word is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The ONLY way anyone can be saved is by accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. AND CHURCH GROWTH that happens apart from the gospel is NOT really church growth.  So Paul is about to become EXPLICIT about the content of the Christian gospel.

Point 2:         “In Jesus” means in Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Show:                        1Cor.15:3-5 (READ; Slide 7-8)

Explain:         Please notice the words of “FIRST IMPORTANCE”. Paul has been telling us what IS and ISN’T important in the church. But now we kind of get to the crescendo. Of FIRST IMPORTANCE in the church is the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But please notice Paul does not use Jesus personal name. In verse 3 Paul uses Jesus title of “CHRIST”. CHRIST is our gospel.

Now Paul doesn’t really need to say Jesus Christ because we know who he’s talking about. Its like me saying the RABBITOH’S. I don’t need to say South Sydney Rabbitohs – because while there are many rabbits. There is only one Rabbitoh’s. And in similar fashion – Paul only needs to say “CHRIST” and we all know that he is talking about Jesus because only Jesus fulfills the prophecies about the Christ.

 But in defining the gospel – I think it is significant that Paul uses the word CHRIST, not Jesus. The word CHRIST is MESSIAH. Messiah is the Jewish word. Christ is the Gentile word. They both mean promised one or anointed one. The gospel is about Gods promised Messiah or Christ.  Unlike any other religious leader Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. 1) God promised that He would one day send a descendant of King David to save the world from sin. 2) God promised this Messiah – would be born in Bethlehem (Mic.5:2). 3) God promised this Christ would be born in the fourth world empire after the Babylonians (Dan.2). 4) And God promised that this Messiah would save the world by being our Passover Lamb (Isa.53). 1) Just as the Passover Lamb died in the days of Moses and the blood spread over the doorframes saved the Jews from the angel of death and liberated them from slavery in Egypt; so the Messiah’s blood will cover our sin – so the angel of death will pass over us (on judgment day) and so we can be liberated from slavery in Satan’s kingdom.

Paul is telling us in verses 3 & 4 that Jesus’ whole life (including his death and resurrection) was foretold in Scripture before it happened. This brings POWER to our gospel. Only God can give true prophecy about the future, so God must be endorsing Jesus. That’s why Revelation 19 says (Slide 9; Rev.19:10). The heart of all true prophecy is that it points to Jesus and gives testimony about Jesus.

Now if you look again – at verse 3 – you’ll see that Paul says (Slide 10 – 1Cor.15:3). Paul is now explaining that the Christian gospel is not just vaguely about Jesus, but explicitly about Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel is not vague. It is specific.

So first, 1A) Paul says Christ died for our sins and 1B) he was buried. These two statements are really saying the same thing. Jesus died and the apostles know he really died because they saw him buried. But the reason Jesus’ death is good news is that he died for OUR SINS. The good news is NOT that Jesus died. The good news is that Jesus died for OUR SINS. (GOSPEL) The Old Testament is clear sin MUST be punished. If a person broke any of Gods Commandments the penalty was usually DEATH. If you sin – you MUST DIE or something MUST DIE in your place – in terms of a sacrifice. Now that’s the BAD NEWS. ALL HUMANITY has A DEATH SENTENCE hanging over them because of sin and the seconds are ticking down on death row. Tick. Tick. Tick. That’s the bad news. But you can’t really understand the good news, until you understand the bad news.

 (GOSPEL) But the good news is that in love God sent the Messiah into the world to die in our place, for our sins, so that we can leave death row. If you BELIEVE Jesus died for your sins and you try to REPENT of your sins – God will forgive you, save you and give you a resurrection body in heaven. Now this is GOOD NEWS and it does NOT need to be embellished or dressed up in sparkles. There is no need to PIMP Gods gospel.

 God is NOT promising MONEY AND PROSPERITY. NOR is God promising HEALING from every sickness right now. Yes, God can heal. But many of us will need to wait until heaven to get full physical healing. FULL PHYSICAL HEALING is our resurrection body and anyone who tells you – you can have your resurrection body now is lying to you. Nor is God promising us a PICTURE PERFECT life now. A PICTURE PERFECT life is heaven and anyone who tells you, you can have heaven now is also lying to you. The way some TV evangelists preach it sounds like God is a genie in a bottle who gives you every fleshly desire you want. THAT IS ALSO A LIE. But you can be saved from Gods coming wrath; you can have a resurrection body and you can have a picture-perfect life when Jesus returns. This is still great news and better than any of the lies of this world…

But not only has Jesus died for our sins, Jesus has also RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. The good news of Jesus is that there is life beyond the grave for those who believe IN JESUS. The good news of Jesus is that no matter HOW DEEP A HOLE you’ve dug for yourself – God has the power to get you out. If God has the power to bring Jesus up from Hades, then God has the power to help you – no matter how deep the hole you dug. AGAIN THIS IS PART OF THE GOSPEL. OUR FAITH; OUR HOPE AND OUR LOVE as Christians is entirely based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is our gospel and this is what we MUST prophesy and speak to unbelievers.

Now there are THREE WAYS churches usually explain this gospel. The first is called (Slide 11; READ) CHRISTUS EXEMPLAR (READ). Now this presentation of the gospel is partially true because it calls us to follow Jesus’ example of putting other people before ourselves. The Bible does call us to do this. But following Jesus’ example can never really save us, because none of us follow Jesus’ example perfectly. So this is really a version of salvation by good works. THE GOOD WORK you MUST do is follow Jesus’ example. But then you can’t be sure of your salvation because you can’t be sure, you’ve followed Jesus’ example well enough.

The second way of explaining the gospel is called “CHRISTUS VICTOR.” (Slide 12; READ). Now again, there is a truth to Christus Victor because Jesus is the one who helps us triumph over the forces of evil. But with its emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection and power – very often this presentation of the gospel simply glosses over Jesus death for our sins – like it’s an afterthought or not really that important.

Finally there is what is called PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT (slide 13; READ). This is what I would call the traditional gospel that used to be preached in all churches. It contains the best of Christus Exemplar and Christus Victor – but it does NOT shy away from the reality that Jesus took the punishment for our sins – as he died on the cross. It also gives real assurance of salvation. Salvation is not based 1) on following Jesus example or 2) living the victorious Christian life. Salvation is solely based on Gods grace and forgiveness given to everyone who believes in Jesus. I believe the Penal Substitutionary Atonement explanation of the gospel is the ONLY presentation of the gospel that truly humbles sinners and brings about a heart change – as we comprehend Gods love for us.

While the other two presentations of the gospel are not entirely wrong, they are deficient because they don’t say enough. MEANWHILE, the prosperity gospel and the name it and claim gospel are just pure, false gospels. But there is a true gospel and that is Jesus died as your substitute to take the penalty for your sin and this is what atones God’s wrath and makes you at one with God.

Point 3:         “In Jesus” means in God’s Grace to Sinners

Show:                        1Cor.15:9-11 (READ)

Explain:         Now please notice Paul’s humility. I am the least of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle – for I persecuted Gods church. This is what THE TRUE GOSPEL does to people. It doesn’t make them proud. It makes them humble. Paul knows he is totally unworthy of salvation because he was 1) a self-righteous twat, 2) who rejected Jesus and 3) persecuted Christians. He even oversaw the stoning of Stephen an innocent Christian. So he was in the category of a MURDERER. But the true gospel of Christ crucified revealed to Paul that he was a sinner. He was not good enough to go to heaven. But God forgave Paul and made him an apostle in the Christian church entirely by His grace – in Jesus.

Now sadly, I recently had an argument with a Bishop who told me that the Apostle Paul was not worthy or fit to be an Anglican minister in Sydney Diocese. I couldn’t believe my ears. What happened to Gods grace. What happened to the Christian gospel? My heart sank and I lament. The Christian gospel is that God saves even the very worst of sinners by His grace and then transforms them by His grace for His service – in Jesus. And in the history of the church – God has regularly taken the very worst of sinners and turned them into church leaders like1) the Apostle Paul, 2) like Saint Augustine, 3) John Newtown (who wrote Amazing Grace); 4) Nicki Cruz – a New York mobster and to a lesser extent – yours truly. This is Gods grace. God’s grace saves sinners and then God’s grace changes us into saints.

Now as a church in Redfern we are committed to showing God’s grace to the very worst of sinners. We’ve had bank robbers, drug dealers, prostitutes, homosexuals, people accused of rape and adulterers all become Christians in our church. Now the man accused of rape turned out to be innocent and the woman who accused him was found by the judge to be telling blatant lies in court. But we believe Gods gospel is for everyone, even the worst of sinners.

Now please be assured the elders and I work very hard to always make sure the church is safe, people are truly penitent and proper child protection is in place. But I understand that some Christians may prefer a nicer church, where people only struggle with respectable, middle-class sins. Or you may prefer a church where the very worst of society is precluded from your holy club. I get this and many churches effectively do this. Some Christians in the early church did not want to accept Paul as a true brother in Christ. (I mean he had participated in the death of their friend. So they wanted to keep him out). But Barnabas brought Paul into the church (despite his despicable past) because God is in the business of saving bad people. And sometimes bad people have a fuller appreciation of Gods grace than “quasi” good people. But notice I said “quasi”-good people. There are no truly good people…

And the good thing about the PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT explanation of the gospel is that it 1) forces us to face our sin, 2) recognize Gods wrath against us and be 3) humbled by this. We are all sinners with whom God is rightly angry. But Jesus took all Gods anger at our sin, upon himself, as he died upon the cross. He did this because he loves us and he did this so we could be saved. This is HUMBLING. This is GRACE and all we can really do is say “thank you!”

BUT THIS IS WHERE GOD MEETS US – at the foot of the cross – as we recognize that every drop of Jesus’ blood, every lash of the whip, the nails in his hands and the spear in his side – is to save us. And this is humbling. But again the goos news is that God gives grace to the humble. When we admit to God; “I have nothing to offer you except a lot of sin and bad choices”; God then respondsI forgive you and I have everything you need in Jesus to get to heaven.” This is grace. This is true Christianity. And it is only with this gospel and by God’s amazing GRACE that we have any chance of being “A community overflowing with the real faith, hope and love – in Jesus”. Let me pray…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *