Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 7 2013 - 1 Corinthians 3:5-23 – Quitting the church?

Yet another celebrity has hit the headlines saying that for the sake of Christ she wants nothing more to do with the church. She writes, “Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.”

Such a description of the church seems spot on for the church in Corinth. Yet Paul does not give up on them, rather he reminds them of the true nature of the church and of all that they were called to be. Don’t you know, says Paul, that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? God’s temple is sacred. Paul reminds them that the church is not a human organisation but a divine creation. It is his construction; he is building a people for his own possession, a people among whom he has determined to live in the presence and power of his Spirit. The only foundation for this ‘temple’ is Jesus Christ. Paul therefore warns the Christians at Corinth to be careful how they build. And in this, Paul speaks also to us.

Firstly, we need to be careful to build on this one foundation and not upon another of our own making. You can see the shape of a building from the moment the foundations are set into the ground; the whole edifice is shaped by the foundation. The church of Christ is to be cruciform; the life of the people of God is to be Jesus shaped.

Secondly, we are to be careful about how we build. We are to build with materials that will last the test of time. Paul’s word’s here remind me of the story of the three little pigs. Hay and straw, stubble and sticks will not withstand the assaults of the evil one, let alone stand in the day of God’s judgment when all that is not of him is reduced to ashes. We need to build with stones that will last – living stones fashioned by the Spirit of God. How much of what you are building will stand the test of time and of eternity? Will it prove to have been a house of straw?

Lastly, we are to be careful to be building up the people of God rather than tearing down. Paul writes these sombre words of warning, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17). The work of demolition is so much easier than the painstaking work of careful construction. It’s all too easy to discourage others – and to be discouraged. We need to learn to be master builders.

Don’t quit on the church. For all its imperfections, God is building a temple from such people. He calls us not to quit this messy building site but to join him in his building project – to be fellow workers with God in building a people fit to be called his family, fit to live in his presence.

Living God, you are the master builder for you created the universe through the power of your word and declared it to be good, very good. Lord Jesus, you are the architect and finisher of our faith. Holy Spirit, you are the one who creates and provides the living stones for the temple in which you are pleased to dwell. Make us master builders. Help us to build up your people in faith and godliness upon the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ. Keep us from joining the devil’s work party in tearing down what you have built. By your grace may what we build last for eternity, bring glory to your name and astonishment to the powers in heaven and earth.

Aug 7 2019 - Isaiah 9:1-7 – Unto us a child is born

This passage is often read at the traditional Christmas services of lessons and carols. It contains one of the clearest prophecies concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The previous chapter ended with gloom. God's people have forsaken him and have turned for guidance to "mediums and spiritists" (8:19). Having turned away from God's word, they will "see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom" (8:22). The Lord, however, does not plan to leave his people in gloom and darkness. The light of God's grace and salvation shall shine upon them.

The lands mentioned in 9:1, Zebulun, Naphtali and Galilee were in the northern part of the Promised Land and were the first to suffer God's judgment under the conquering power of the Assyrians. This same region will be the first to see the light of God's salvation:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (9:2)

God's salvation will be like a great victory over their enemies. The burden that has oppressed them will be rolled away and they will be free. The nation that had been decimated by captivity will be restored and enlarged. And all of this is going to be accomplished through the birth of a child who will grow up to be a king who will reign on David's throne:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (vv.6-7)

This child born to be king is given glorious titles. He will be a "Wonderful Counsellor", possessing wisdom greater than that of Solomon. He will be called "Mighty God", for it will be evident that in him God has come in power to save his people. He will be an "Everlasting Father", caring, protecting and providing for his people not just for a few years but for all eternity. He will be the "Prince of Peace", putting an end to the warfare between a holy God and his rebellious people and founding an eternal kingdom characterised by justice, righteousness and peace.

We are in the privileged position of being able to tell the world that this promised king has come:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King

The Lord Jesus is the mighty God come in human flesh to save us. At his birth, angels declared, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth." The light of his ministry first shone in Galilee but appeared to be extinguished in Jerusalem when he was crucified. But, by his death, Jesus conquered all the powers of darkness and, by his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light. Enthroned in heaven, he is now extending his kingdom throughout the earth through the power of his outpoured Spirit. His kingdom will never end.

Father God, we thank you that these words, written several hundred years before the birth of the Lord Jesus, speak so clearly of the great salvation you were to accomplish in him and of the everlasting nature of his kingdom. Use us to tell others of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that they also may find salvation – light for their darkness and peace for their troubled hearts. May his kingdom be extended through us. 

Peter Misselbrook