Wednesday, November 29, 2017

believers and professors

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16
1 Corinthians is loaded.
There's only so much space in a Bible blog, and there is so much essential truth in 1 Corinthians that it leaves a Bible teacher awestruck and wondering: What to leave in, what to leave out?
The first thing we must reckon with is a subject we alluded to yesterday:
The "carnal Christian" in chapter 7 of Romans is a microcosm of the church in 1 Corinthians…
They believe in Jesus' death and resurrection and thus are "saved," but by looking at them you wouldn't know it. There is dissension in the ranks and divisiveness over doctrine: some follow this teacher while some follow that one. There is drunkenness and deviant sexual immorality. Marriages have gone asunder. There is pride (or envy) over the spiritual gifts they had (or wished they had.) Worldly philosophies are making inroads into their outlooks.
All of which begs the question: how can their lives be so disconnected from the standards of the faith they profess to believe in?
Over the next couple days we're going to answer that question as thoroughly as space allows. But first the answer in outline:
Q. How can their lives be so disconnected from the standards of the faith they profess to believe in?
A. 1. Some in the Corinthian church (and in your local church) are professors, but not believers.
2. The lives of all believers, in the Corinthian church and in your local church, exhibit a distinction between our standing (or position in Christ) and our state, or "walk."
Today, we will focus on the issue of believers and professors…
The people of God have always been vexed by those among them who professed to be, but were not, true believers. Jesus told of the wheat and the tares:
Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30)
Genesis spoke of Cain and Abel (1). Exodus tells of a mixed multitude (2). Nehemiah, typically, didn't talk about them; he threw them out (3)! The Apostle John waited them out, knowing they'd eventually 'out' themselves:
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)
It is impossible to distinguish true believers from the formalists, hypocrites, and legalists who are working for their own salvation, instead of working out a salvation already received as a free gift. (See Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:12-13; Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23.)
Any church has a mixed multitude; wheat and tares; Cains and Abels. Recall that Cain enthusiastically brought an offering! He was as outwardly "religious" as Abel.
Abels bring the offering prescribed by the LORD God: a lamb, which points to the sacrifice of Christ. Of Abels, the Bible says:
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14)
But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: "The Lord knows those who are his." (2 Timothy 2:19)
Cains bring "the fruit of the ground," trusting the works of their own hands. There is nothing outwardly wrong with their offering. But their faith is in themselves. Of Cains, the Bible says:
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:22-23)
Outwardly, apparently, Cains and Abels might as well be twins. The Corinthian church and (your church here) are stocked with "brothers" of both kinds.
Lord, Lord.
(1) Genesis 4; (2) Exodus 12:38; (3) Nehemiah 7:63-65; 13:1-3

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