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Different churches bring out differing lessons in the Bible and the contrasts are informative. Paul’s Corinthian letters highlight a recurring weakness of that church: their tendency to focus on men rather than God. Paul complains that they fail to respect him as they should because they use worldly qualities to compare him to other men and then take sides according to which man they prefer.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?I Corinthians 11-13
As Paul goes on to say, they should focus on God and not men. Once more, in Second Corinthians, Paul must demolish their elevation of some men to Super-Apostle status while relegating Paul to the bottom rung. Paul may not be as attractive in human terms, in speech or appearance, but by God’s grace and Holy Spirit power he brought their church into existence. The Corinthians were not saved by a man, or by men, but by God’s grace.
The Galatian problem was legalism, and specifically their turning back to the Jewish law instead of trusting totally in God’s redemption through Jesus.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”Galatians 3:10-11
Paul goes on to teach the Galatians that they are no longer slaves to sin under the old conditional covenant, but instead are children of God receiving the grace of the new covenant as heirs of Christ. They must no longer rely on the law for righteousness.
The Ephesian church escapes the criticism Paul leveled at the Corinthians and Galatians. Paul is able to jump right to the heart of his message: the glory of living in Christ. The Ephesians are faithful in Christ (1:1), blessed in Christ (1:3), aware of the will of God in Christ (1:9), and hopeful in Christ (1:12). They are seated already in the heavenly places in Christ (2:6), guaranteed to receive eternal riches in Christ (2:7), and made for good works in Christ (2:10). In him we who were far from God are brought near to Him (2:13) and we who were separated as believers and unbelievers, no matter our background, are united (2:22).
The commonest description in the Scriptures of a follower of Jesus is that he or she is a person “in Christ.” The expressions “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in him” occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone, and are indispensable to an understanding of the New Testament. To be “in Christ” does not mean to be inside Christ, as tools are in a box or our clothes in a closet, but to be organically united to Christ, as a limb is in the body or a branch is in the tree. It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of his authentic followers.John R.W. Stott
About this blog
During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered I Corinthians 15 – Ephesians 3. Next week I will write about Ephesians 4 – II Timothy 4. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering I Corinthians 15 – Ephesians 3.
In the twinkling of an eye: I Corinthians 15
Facing death for Christ: 2 Corinthians 4
The unequal yoke: 2 Corinthians 6
Sins in the church: 2 Corinthians 12
The purpose of the Law: Galatians 3
Christian Freedom: Galatians 5