Back in the saddle today after some more time off. It has been really nice to rest and relax. I haven’t done much of that over the years. Maybe a week at most, but never a week back to back with another. I recommend it. Nothing worse than coming back from vacation and needing a vacation. Co-workers deserve us to come back revitalized, don’t you think?
Last week, I started the first of a series. I’m not sure what the series is, exactly, or how long it will be. Today may be the last installment. Who knows! If you recall, last week we spoke of different gospels, and I compared Joel Osteen to Charles Stanley. I spoke of subtle differences that make a huge difference. So much so, in fact, that Paul was forced to severely chastise the Galatian church. Here’s what he said in 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
That’s pretty tough language. Who is this Paul guy, anyway? After all, I have heard plenty of priests and pastors who have discredited Paul from the pulpit by saying he is rude, arrogant, and a bully. They imply his style of preaching causes more harm than good. But who is Paul? Well, I think we can start with the guy that gave him his job description in the first place, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry out my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Did he suffer? You bet he did! Listen to this.
2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
What was he doing all this for? He preaches Christ crucified. Let’s see what he has to say about these things, again to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
We preach Christ crucified. I heard a preacher recently say that the primary purpose of Christians was relationships. Do you think Paul was preaching so that all the people would have good relationships? Yes, it is true we have the Second Great Commandment, but what is first?
Tomorrow we’ll look at what Paul describes as “of first importance” in what we know to be the first recorded Christian creed.
Father, glorify your name through your Son. Let us lift His name high, the name that is above all names, so that those you have appointed will turn and be saved. Amen.