Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Accepted... Chastened

(A bit longer than usual.  Thanks for your patience)

   Every time I read the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, I am amazed by the fact that perhaps the strongest affirmation directed toward any first century fellowship of believers (I Corinthians 1:4-9), was accompanied by the strongest rebuke (for numerous reasons of carnality, including division, arrogance, perversion, tolerance of perversion, selfishness, doubt regarding Paul's apostleship, disrespect of the Lord's supper, etc.).
    "Our Lord Jesus Christ... will confirm you to the end so that ye may be blameless... ye are yet carnal" (I Corinthians 1:7-8; 3:3).
     Some of the errors were so severe that believers were being chastened by God to the point of death (I Corinthians 11:30).  Nevertheless, Paul assures that the "carnal" Corinthians would be confirmed "blameless" to the end.  How do we reconcile this seeming enigma in light of the continual New Testament theme that salvation in Christ involves not only forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life, but also the holiness of a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness?" (Ephesians 4:24). 
    The answer lies in an amazing aspect of God's grace in the Lord Jesus whereby the believer's relationship with God is not jeopardized by wayward behavior.
     "Blessed is the man unto whom God will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).
    Faith in Christ unites us with our Lord to the degree that our Heavenly Father will never again, for any reason, place sin on our account.  The basis of "so great salvation" lies in the somber reality that our sins, all of them, were accounted to the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary (Hebrews 2:3).  "Christ died for our sins" declared Paul (I Corinthians 15:3).  No exclusions are mentioned, and thus God the Father deems that perfectly complete atonement for our sins was made by His Son who became for us the sacrificial "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
     God's view of the effect of Calvary is far clearer and greater than that of our limited vision.  He knows how greatly the Lord Jesus suffered when He was "made to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).  All "blame" descended upon the smitten Subject of God's wrath on the cross in order that the redeemed might be irrevocably and eternally declared "blameless."  In our Heavenly Father's sight, accounting sin to us would involve a terrible and immoral ignoring of His Son's perfect work of justification made possible by His life, death, resurrection, ascension and ongoing work whereby "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).  Accordingly, He "will not" place sin on our account.
    No blame will ever be directed toward us, just as the Apostle assured the Corinthians.  Much blame, however, may be directed toward our doings.  Indeed, in the mind of God, there is a fundamental difference between who believers are, and what we do.  We "live in the Spirit."  But we do not always "walk in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:25).  Who we are and what we do conflict at times, but the former is never altered by the latter.  As Paul told the carnal Corinthians, "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11).  Such affirmation of the relationship with God and personhood of the Corinthians did not, however, preclude strong rebuke by the Apostle, and strong chastening by the Father in Heaven.  Yes, "washed... sanctified... justified" believers were being disciplined to the point of death, and "delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh" by the God who loves His children enough to chasten and scourge us, if necessary (I Corinthians 5:5).  "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Revelation 3:19).
    There are few more important Biblical truths to know and embrace.  The New Testament continually delineates between the being and the doing of born again believers.  Failure to recognize the delineation leads to both doctrinal and behavioral weakness.  Paul commanded, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).  Such a mandate reveals the difference in our life and our walk.  The believer is always spiritually alive in his Christ-infused being and personhood.  However, he does not always walk accordingly.  Sometimes we act in contradiction to who we are because we do not know who we are, or because we choose to ignore or disbelieve the blessed truth of grace that made us a "new creature" when we believed.  In this light, sin becomes even more inexcusable, egregious and unnecessary, and a far more serious matter than we likely realize.  Little wonder then that the Heavenly Father who refuses to account blame to us nevertheless severely chastens wayward attitudes and actions when warranted.
    The New Testament becomes a brighter and more blessed place when the delineation of our personhood and our doings is kept in mind.  This always reminds me of something my mother used to say to me when I was a child.  "Glen, I always love you.  But I don't always like you!"  She meant by this, of course, that she didn't always like my attitudes, words, and deeds.  Sometimes she, uh, shall we say, added a bit of amplification to the dislike!  Ouch!  Similarly, nothing changes, or can change, the loving acceptance and favor of God toward His trusting children.  We are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1: 3).  However, our Father loves us enough to reject attitudes, words, and actions that would grievously harm us if left unchastened.  "Washed... sanctified... justified" in our personhood, relationship and standing with God - but also disciplined and chastened regarding our works when necessary.  This is the present experience of the beloved sons and daughters of God in Christ.  Fewer truths are more vital to know, understand, and embrace as we walk with God.
"Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."
(Ephesians 5:8)

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