Date: February 20, 2005
Theme: Christ Alone!
– 1 Corinthians 2:2
– Ude, John
The Order of Worship:
Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.
Theme: Christ Alone!
1 Corinthians 2:2
2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (ESV)
Sermon: 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
In the name of Jesus February 20, 2005
I don’t know you’d rate it today but at Paul’s time Athens was considered the most glamorous city in the world. Paul had landed in Athen’s port and seen how all the world bowed a knee to Athene. He’d walked in her streets and beheld the unsurpassed beauty of her architecture. He’d listened to her philosophers propound the newest and best wisdom of the ages. When Athen’s spoke, the world listened. In this most respected court in the world, Paul had a chance to present Christ crucified and arisen. But Paul had been mocked as a seed picker, someone who pretended to be a great teacher but was only picking at empty husks. Did Paul need to reevaluate his message and improve it with man’s philosophies, what about us? And now Paul was entering Corinth, renowned through the world for the newest and best pleasures, gross immorality and wicked perversions. Did Paul need to reevaluate the gospel to improve it with some sex appeal, do we? Our text reveals that these newest and best philosophies and pleasures of men did indeed lead Paul to reevaluate his message and determine to never change. The ever changing, ever failing philosophies of men cannot hold a candle to Christ. The ever changing, ever self-destroying pleasures of man cannot offer anything like the eternal joy in Christ. Paul determined forever to preach CHRIST ALONE.
Did that mean that Paul had nothing to say about philosophy and wisdom, nothing about pleasure and immorality, nothing about law and sanctification? Sure he did. The Spirit revealed that God wants our whole faith and life to have one focus, Christ alone. It’s like a flower that has one sturdy center. Many petals grow out of that stem making a beautiful flower but they are all held together in that one focal point of Christ alone. Any petal that is not attached to focus, no matter how brilliant or appealing it may look, is no longer part of the flower. It will fade and rot. So Paul demonstrates that the preaching of Christ reaches into all areas but it must all remain tied to Christ. He showed the Athenians that all their gods on every corner of the city could not help them at all for they are nothing but dead wood and stone. There is only one living God, who will judge this world in connection with the righteousness of Jesus, whom He raised from the dead. In His resurrection you have been declared righteous, live tied to that center or you are dead, rotting in sin. He told the Corinthians that those living in sin whether the sexual immorality of their pagan temples or today’s porno and live in relationships, whether the thievery and coveting of the burglar or the five finger discount, whether the exaltation of self in divisive strife or selfish laziness sets that person outside the Kingdom of God. Christ has given you the Kingdom in the forgiveness of all your sins which He bought for you with His own blood. Live tied to that center or you are dead, rotting in sin. Paul carefully weighed all the things of this world and discovered there is only one focus that holds our whole faith and life together as a flower, beautiful, eternal, and well pleasing to the LORD, Christ alone.
Paul also carefully weighed the wisdom of men that could produce the Doric column and the Parthenon, Aristotle’s scientific method and Archimede’s principle, that could record history and create verse that shed some light, grasp the physics of space travel and tap the energy of the atom. Yet all this wisdom of man is by itself only foolishness. It led the Stoics to conclude the mastery of evil, pain and death is finally only achieved by dying so kill yourself. It led the Epicurean to conclude fulfilling my every desire is the only path to happiness so be your own god. The newest and best philosophy of man, then as now, is as old as sin. It still preaches that better education and laws, improved environment and opportunities will allow man to lift himself out of drugs, unemployment and crime. But the very ones who preach that man’s goodness can triumph over evil are exposed, lying, stealing and cheating on their wives. Man’s sinful depravity is even more evident now then in Athens. Satan’s lie, “You are god, fulfill your self,” is fashionable, even as our society is suffocating on the results of such selfishness in pollution, exploding debt, crime, and collapse of the family. Those given eyes to see through the fog of man’s self love recognize that the newest and best philosophies and pleasures of man are just Satan’s ancient lie: “Eat whatever you like, you won’t die, you’ll be like God. Sin won’t hurt but supply your happiness.” Yet for 6,000 years it has only added more misery, darkness, and death. Man’s wisdom can discover great things but cannot solve the problem of sin. But Paul did not adapt his message with the philosophy of men for he recognized that the wisdom of God’s grace giving Christ into sin and death in our place is such profound love that it remains inconceivable foolishness to the wisdom of men. No, Paul would not “improve” the gospel with sex appeal to compete with sensual pleasures for sin brings forth death but Christ brings forth divine peace, eternal hope, and unending joy. Paul carefully weighed all the things of this world and discovered there is only one wisdom that holds our whole faith and life together as a flower, beautiful, eternal, and well pleasing to the LORD, Christ alone.
Through the ages Christians and churches have often lost this one central focus. Reformation is the continual need to stay focused in Christ alone. In Luther’s day weeds had grown up covering the flower of Christ and secondary matters had replaced the central focus of Christ. We are only heirs of the Lutheran Reformation if we are daily turning our life back to the central focus of Christ alone. Institutional amnesia is the sad state of most of Christianity and most of Lutheranism. It does not know it’s past, its source or its focus and so it cannot know its present, its future or its life. Denying the centrality of sin and grace in Christ most Lutheran churches have adopted a therapy model of helping people resolve their earthly problems. They view the world as a friend, the devil as a myth and sin as the result of poor toilet training. But our problem is not primarily the difficulties of life in this world. Our great problem is our self, me, the sinful wretch that I am. That problem is only solved in the Father’s redemption model of washing me clean in Christ’s blood and righteousness. Yet following the therapy model of man churches have become social clubs where people gather for companionship and entertainment. They have become charity groups caring for the poor and downtrodden. They have become political groups to fight injustice. But Christ alone is the way to God, the truth of God, and the life with God. Christ alone washes and cleanses us in His holy blood to make us kings and priest unto His God and Father. He is our past revealed in His Word of truth. He is our present giving us peace with God and meaning in life. He is our future of everlasting life. Paul carefully weighed all the things of this world and discovered we are only a flower, beautiful, eternal, and well pleasing to the LORD, when daily reforming all to keep our focus on Christ alone. Amen.