Salvation: What's the point?
Salvation – What’s the point?
“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
1 Corinthians 1:9
It is my experience that the treasures of God’s Word are often hidden in plain sight. We read them or we hear them spoken but often we can miss them completely.
Sometimes it is the hectic pace of life today; sometimes it’s our preoccupation with other things that seem more important or more pressing; but for whatever reason the amazing treasures of God’s Word can just slip through our consciousness like sand through our fingers.
Today, I want us to look into one such a treasure. So let’s begin by asking the Holy Spirit now to open our eyes to see it clearly.
The treasure, I want us to examine this morning could be described as a jewel set in a clasp of gold and it is “hidden” in the short passage of scripture that I want to read to you now, and as I read it, I want you to listen out carefully for the word “called”. You should hear it three times in the space of these 9 verses and one of them is the jewel I want us to explore today.
I’m reading the introduction to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 1:1–9 (NIV84) 1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Did you pick them out?
i. In verse 1 Paul affirms that he himself is “CALLED to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”
ii. In verse 2 Paul addresses those in Corinth who are “sanctified in Christ Jesus and CALLED to be holy”, and then in
iii. In verse 9 Paul underlines that “God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
Did you notice the sequence or progression in those three uses of the term “called”? Really, a bit like a judge on a TV show, Paul announces them in reverse order.
First he refers to his own calling to the ministry role of apostle. Then he refers to the Christian’s call to holiness or personal sanctification and finally he refers to the foundational call that has come to all of us who sometime in the past have taken God’s amazing free grace gift of salvation and have been called into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord.
And that, incidentally, is a pattern I think we should all be following. First, as born again Christians, we begin to experience something entirely new to us; we begin to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Do you remember those brilliant first hours and days and weeks and months as a new Christian? Wonderful! We basked in that amazing warmth and assurance of the love of God for the first time in our lives and we began to see the world and our life with entirely new eyes.
Then, as time goes on, we begin to respond as the Holy Spirit in us reveals the way He wants us to step up in our life-walk to be the people He wants us to be. We begin to forsake the things we now see as unhelpful or hindrances in our relationship with God. We begin to cherish and foster those things that we now understand will develop our relationship with Jesus and we pray; we read God’s Word; and we enjoy fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. We begin to make tentative steps along the road of personal sanctification.
Then, as time goes on, we begin the process of dipping our toes into the waters of ministry - serving, sharing, showing love to others; a process that will see us move on, in God’s timing and by His leadership to take our place in specific ministry roles in service to the body of Christ and to those outside it, that the Holy Spirit leads us into, by a marvellously unique and individual path for each one of us.
This morning though I want to particularly focus on that fundamental call that we have ALL received that we read of in verse 9 where it says:” 9 God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
This is that wonderful verse of scripture, that “treasure from God’s Word”, that I want us to really see this morning. The jewel is that we, you and I, have been “CALLED . . . into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”. But the clasp of gold is that this amazing truth is actually cocooned, and held secure, in the midst of that reassuring but mind-blowing phrase “God,. . . , is faithful.” God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
”God is faithful! That, is why we can have the assurance of our salvation; that is why we can know that our calling into fellowship with Christ is absolutely secure. It is because the One who underwrites it, the One who guarantees, upholds and protects it, is absolutely and unchangeably FAITHFUL! Praise His name!
Beneath, behind and around God’s call on our individual lives – for you and I, there is the glorious truth of His faultless, unmovable, and unshakeable faithfulness.
It’s a faithfulness that assures our salvation, assures our sanctification and ASSURES our preservation and protection so that when we are TEMPTED we can find the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV84) that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And GOD IS FAITHFUL; he will NOT let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. And, when we are TESTED by the trials of life we can experience the truth of 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84) because it tells us that “. . . . the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
And when knocked down through our own miserable failures there is ALWAYS the consolation of 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV84) that “if we are faithless, HE WILL REMAIN FAITHFUL, for he cannot disown himself.” And above and beyond all that there is the glorious safety net of grace for as 1 John 1:9 (NIV84) tells us: “If we confess our sins, he is FAITHFUL and just and WILL forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God is FAITHFUL. He will never leave His promises unfulfilled or his work incomplete. So, as Hebrews 10:23 (NIV84) reinforces, we CAN “. . . hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL. And, as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28: “. . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been CALLED according to his purpose.”
But what then, about this FOUNDATIONAL CALL that we all share as Christians this morning? What about our call “into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ?” What is that all about?
In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is addressing a bunch of God’s people not unlike many of us today - Christians, who though deeply and undeservedly loved by God, are still horrendously flawed and immature in our faith. In preparation for confronting them, as he would us, he reminds them that as God’s people they already possess all they need to produce spiritual growth and personal transformation. For in Christ, we share FELLOWSHIP with Him and with the Father and so enjoy a new life of forgiveness, love, grace, peace, and the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
And because we are now cleansed from our sins through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we are become His holy people with a hope for spiritual growth and sanctification that inevitably leads to a fruitfulness based not on our own efforts or achievements, but on the FAITHFULNESS of God for as verse 8 tells us: “He WILL keep you strong to the end”.
But if you do not receive anything else from this message this morning – get this. The POINT of Christ’s sacrificial death and his glorious resurrection was not that God has saved us JUST because we desperately needed saving, though of course we did, and that was a part of it. God though, was not looking to save us so that we can become independent and self-sufficient, God-like creatures in our own right. His primary motivation was that we could enjoy FELLOWSHIP with Him, and He with us.
Fellowship is in fact the whole point of salvation. And that is why God has called each one of us into it. That was, is, and always will be God’s eternal plan for man.
Just think about that for a moment26 “. . . think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:26–30
Now it is interesting that in the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he refers to his readers as “the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful”. And that, believe it or not, is a suitable description for all Christians. For the word “saint” means “holy one”, and we have been sanctified, or set apart for God. We are “saints” NOT because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done so perfectly and so completely for us. He has made us clean from our sins and so has made us holy.
But also, like our Ephesian brothers and sisters, we are “faithful” which in this context is not referring to our being reliable or dependable, because for many of us that is close to being an impossibility. But we ARE those who are “full of faith” (faith-ful) because as Ephesians 2:8 tells us “. . . it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” The faith we Christians are filled with is not our own, it is faith that God Himself GIVES us.
And that purple passage that begins Paul’s letter to the Ephesians distils something of the essence and wonder of the fellowship we have been called into. For it tells us God has:
• “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing;
• made us “holy and blameless before him.”;
• that He “predestined us for adoption”;
• provided “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,”;
• “lavished” His grace upon us;
• made “known to us the mystery of his will”;
• and has done all of this “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3–10, ESV)
In fact, throughout the whole letter to the Ephesians Paul uses the phrases, “in Christ”, “in Him”, or “in the Lord Jesus” multiple times to describe the wealth of this totally undeserved FELLOWSHIP that we have been brought into by His wonderful grace. This was always God’s eternal plan for you and I. And the whole of God’s amazing plan of salvation is focused on bringing this about for all of us.
Our fellowship and union with God, made possible because of the perfect sacrifice of Christ, is at the heart of God’s plan for all of his people. As it says in Ephesians 2:12-13 (NIV) “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, . . . without hope and without God in the world. But NOW in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
This fellowship that you and I have been called into; this union with Christ is not a one-off, time-limited blessing from an austere, reluctant and distant creator God. Rather it is a cornucopia of blessings that our loving Heavenly Father has chosen to pour out eternally upon us, not on the basis of our merit, but on the basis of his amazing grace and favour.
We have a totally unconditional election and calling into Christ and as we read in our 1 Corinthians text passage we “have been enriched in every way” we “do not lack any spiritual gift” and we “will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
And here’s a spectacular aspect of this great blessing. The staggering truth that we were singled out for this amazing privilege, not just before we were born but in the words of Ephesians 1:4 (ESV) “. . . he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” and Ephesians 1:11 (ESV) tells us: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been PREDESTINED according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” So, like the younger twin of Rebecca and Isaac, of whom Paul speaks in Romans 9:11 (ESV) we “though . . . not yet born” and having “done nothing either good or bad” were CHOSEN “not because of works but because of him who CALLS”
If we just let this sink in a little, we begin to sense and see the inestimable blessing of this fellowship that we have been CALLED into as Christians. As 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) puts it “. . . no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
And remember, we KNOW that this extraordinary and absolutely unaccountable blessing bestowed on each one of us, is absolutely guaranteed, NOT because we are in any way special or worthy of it, but solely because God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, IS FAITHFUL. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
Now there are no doubt many, many implications of this precious truth from God’s Word that we are “called into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord” held firm by the truth that “God . . . is faithful”, but this morning I just want to raise one critical and life-transforming implication.
Speaking to the woman that he met at the well in Samaria, Jesus said these important words: 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in SPIRIT and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him MUST worship in SPIRIT and truth.” John 4:23–24 (ESV)
We need to recognise then that our connection with God, our FELLOWSHIP with Him, is essentially a spirit to Spirit relationship and FELLOWSHIP.
So here is the crux of my message this morning. If we are to grow and develop in this fellowship and relationship that God has called us into through Christ, then we MUST listen to, learn from and live in, the experience of that “live connection” that is now available to us between our newly created spirit and God the HOLY SPIRIT.
In that precious and intimate time when Jesus was talking with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion John 16:13 (ESV) tells us He said:”When the Spirit of truth comes, he will GUIDE YOU into all the truth” It is the Holy Spirit who is to be our guide, our teacher, and our personal mentor as we learn to experience, enjoy, benefit from, and critically, bear, as John 15:16 puts it, “fruit that will last” and that brings glory to our Heavenly Father whose amazing plan this all is.
This is the challenge before us this morning as we pick up on this treasure of a truth that” God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, IS FAITHFUL.“
So here, to finish this morning is a simple but practical STARTING POINT for applying this message to our lives. A starter strategy that should help us develop this key relationship with the Holy Spirit that is the basis of walking in the fellowship with God that you and I have been called into.
1. Firstly, cultivate the truth that the Holy Spirit is a person and not an entity. Make it an absolute principle from now on to root out of your thinking and your speaking any use of the term “Holy Spirit” which implies that He is a thing, an influence or a power. He is a PERSON so always address him and speak of Him as a person.
2. Secondly, just as you pray to the Father or pray to Jesus, make a point of praying to the Holy Spirit. Speak to Him as you would to a friend. Invite him to help you, speak to you, guide and direct you, and give you wisdom. Especially when you need understanding about God’s Word or practical direction – get into the habit of asking the Holy Spirit to help you.
3. Finally, and you probably know what I’m going to say next, pray in tongues. If it was prized by the Apostle Paul, it should be prized by us too. If there is one certain way to ensure spirit to Spirit communication, it is by praying in tongues, because it provides an instant and intimate connection between our spirit and God the Holy Spirit.
“God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, IS FAITHFUL.“ So, let’s make a point now and always to develop and enjoy the vast riches of this unique and brilliant fellowship that God by His unfathomable grace is calling us all to share.