Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 15 2013 - 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13 – Christ’s inlaws

What is the Christian’s relationship to the Law – to the law of God given in the Old Testament Scriptures? This is a complex and controversial question, but Paul provides us with a sketch of an answer in the well-known verses in which he speaks about being all things to all people for the sake of winning all to Christ.

“To those under the law,” says Paul, “I lived as one under the law even though I am not under the law.” In other words, when seeking to bring the message of Christ to his Jewish brothers and sisters, Paul observed the whole gamut of Jewish law (Old Testament commandments and Jewish traditions), even though he did not consider himself bound by such law any longer. When ministering to those without the law (i.e. to Gentiles who did not observe the Jewish law), Paul lived without the law (he lived as they did), in order to win them to Christ. “But,” Paul says, “I was not without any form of law, I was ‘enlawed’ to Christ.”

By this I understand him to mean that his entire life and moral conduct was shaped by the fact that he belonged to Christ. Jesus Christ is his Lord, and in all things Paul seeks to live in submission to him and to please him. This means that his life is shaped also by the gospel of Christ; “I do all things”, he says, “for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Paul follows Christ and lives by the gospel; this is what shapes his life and conduct.

Does this mean, then, that the Old Testament is irrelevant to the Christian? Not at all, says Paul. On the contrary, everything written beforehand was written for your instruction, for you “upon whom the end of the ages has come” (10:11). The whole of Scripture tells one great story, the story of God’s plan to save the world. This story finds its focus in Jesus and its conclusion in the salvation that is to be found in him, both now and at his return. We are the final chapter in this story, but that does not make earlier chapters irrelevant; they also are part of the same story – part of our story. All that was written beforehand was therefore written for our instruction, encouragement and warning.

In particular, Paul warns the Corinthians not to be like the Israelites in the wilderness who complained and rebelled against God. God had rescued them from Egypt and was leading them on to the inheritance he had promised them. He provided them with bread from heaven and water from a rock. Nevertheless they soon tired of following him – even though Christ was with them! Don’t be like them, says Paul. Like an athlete, keep your eye on the finishing tape and keep on running. Don’t baulk at the disciplines that are necessary to run well and strong in the race of your life.

The whole of Scripture tells one story – the grand drama of God’s saving purpose for the world, a purpose centred in Jesus Christ. Scripture is our story because we belong to Christ. Our life is to be shaped by this story, every part of this story. In particular, it is to be shaped by Christ; shaped not by a set of externally imposed regulations and commands but by the presence and power of the Spirit within, making us like Christ and enabling us to live to please God. It’s a life lived from the inside out. This is both truly liberating – Christ has set us free – and seriously demanding – we may no longer live to ourselves but must live to please him. This is the paradox of the Christian life – and its glory.

Lord Jesus, you have rescued me from slavery and you are bringing me into the inheritance which you are preparing for all who follow you. Keep me from murmuring and complaining.  Keep me faithful, joyful, thankful and persistently determined in following you.

Peter Misselbrook