Perhaps you have heard stories of authority figures such as parents or teachers or police officers and judges saying of certain youth that they will not amount to anything and that they are bad to the bone. Sometimes, their projections become self-fulfilling prophecies.
I am glad that Paul does not view the Corinthian Christians that way, though one might think he had reason to do so. After all, they were a very carnal church--given to factions centering on alignment with various Christian celebrity figures (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), celebration of licentious freedom (1 Corinthians 5), and fixation with spiritual fruits cut off from their spiritual roots (1 Corinthians 12-14). If Paul does not view the Corinthian Christians that way, then there is hope for you and me.
Paul refers to the Corinthian Christians as sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). From my vantage point, the Christian call to holy living based on Paul's teaching is to be who we are, not what we once were.
The basis for our confidence is not to be rooted in ourselves, but in God in Christ, for we stand based on God's grace given to us in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). It is he who has enriched us in every way (1 Corinthians 1:5). He who has given us every spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7) will keep us firm until the end, for he is faithful ( 1 Corinthians 1:8-9). One should by no means take such grace as an opportunity to coast or to take for granted God's commitment to us. There is no room for cheap grace, for it has cost God dearly, as well as his servant Paul who gives himself sacrificially on the Corinthians' behalf. The more we take to heart God's grace the more we will give ourselves to pleasing him out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude, not cheap grace or guilt trips, frames and forms authentic Christian living. Where are we today--somewhere between cheap grace and guilt trips, or are we on another plane--that of gratitude?
Paul hoped and prayed and believed and loved the Corinthians to be who they were called to be. Even the immoral brother (1 Corinthians 5) returned to the faith in a pure manner (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). How do we who claim Christ approach one another--in hope and prayer and faith and love that we would live into the fullness of Christ, or do we approach one another as if we are bad to the bone?
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.