Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 8 2013 - 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 – Servants of Christ

Some among the church in Corinth were boasting of their high spiritual status – that they had “arrived” (see Paul’s ironical description of them in 1 Corinthians 4:8). By way of contrast, Paul describes himself as a servant – one possessing a lowly status.

But here is the paradox; he, and Apollos, are “servants of Christ and entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed” (4:1). God is not unknown and unknowable, nor can his purposes be made the subject of spiritual debate and rivalry; he has made himself known in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has shown us his immeasurable love for us and revealed the marvels of his good purposes for us in Jesus. Paul says that he has been entrusted with these truths – with the message of the gospel. And if God has not kept these things secret, neither should he. His whole concern has been to be faithful to the calling entrusted to him, the calling of making Christ known.

And it has proved to be a costly calling. Far from giving him an exalted status in the world, it has resulted in hardship, hunger and thirst, homelessness, brutal treatment and persecution (4:11-12). Paul says these things not to make a boast of his sufferings as if he is determined to outdo the Corinthians’ boasting in spiritual riches. He is concerned to emphasise that Christian discipleship means following Christ in the way of the cross that we might enter into the glories of the resurrection life.

Paul emphasises that Christian discipleship is not about mere words and boasts, it must shape the way we live. Paul was more than a preacher of the gospel, he lived out the message he preached, and he calls on the Christians at Corinth to do the same: “I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (4:16-17).

It is not enough to talk about Jesus; we need to live as those who are his disciples – those who follow him; those who walk as he walked. Paul reminds the Corinthians, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (v. 20) – the transforming power of the Spirit of God. That power is not to be seen in spectacular signs or clever talk which draw attention to ourselves and gain us a reputation as spiritual lords. It is to be seen in a Christ-like life of faithful and sacrificial service.

Would you dare to tell someone that the way to live the Christian life is to imitate you? We cannot share what we do not possess. If we are to encourage and mentor others in Christian discipleship we must first devote ourselves to the faithful service of Christ. It’s not about words but about the power to live the life to which Christ calls us.

Lord Jesus, help me to learn of you and to fix my thoughts upon your life and character. You came into this world not to be served but to serve and to give your life as a ransom for many. Help me to have the same mind and heart. Help me not to seek glory for myself but to give myself to your service. But Lord, I do not have the power to do it. I recognise my own weakness and my self-will. Help me by your Spirit. Conquer me and direct my paths so that the gospel message which I profess may be the power that shapes every aspect of my life. Enable me to proclaim your glory not in words alone but in the reality of a transformed life. 

Aug 8 2019 - Isaiah 11:1-12 – A branch from Jesse

Isaiah 11 builds on the prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah that we read yesterday in Isaiah 9. The Messiah will spring from "the stump of Jesse" (11:1). The kingly line of David will be cut down as God brings rebellious kings and people to judgment. But from this apparently lifeless stump, God will raise up a descendant of David to rule over his people. He will be equipped with the Spirit of the Lord, filling him with wisdom, understanding and power. He will delight in the fear of the Lord and will judge the people of God with wisdom surpassing that of Solomon (11:2-3).

God had told his people that their king was not to be like the kings of the nations around them; he was not to accumulate riches and power for himself while neglecting the poor and needy. But Judah's kings, like those of Israel, had adopted patterns of kingship common to the nations around them. God's Messiah, however, will judge the needy with righteousness and give decisions for the poor of the earth with justice (11:4). God's people must have longed for such a king.

Under the Messiah's rule, God's people will be brought back from the nations where they have been scattered in judgment, such as Assyria, Egypt and Babylonia (11:10-12). They will be restored as one people under the rule of one king. More than that, all of creation will live harmoniously under his reign of peace. The beautiful picture of a world transformed (11:6-8) concludes with the promise:

the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
    as the waters cover the sea. (11:9)

This is the world as God had intended it to be – all creation filled with the glory of God's presence and blessing. Creation itself groans in pain and with longing as it looks forward to that great day.

This prophecy finds its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus who is the Christ, the promised Messiah. We see something of this in Jesus' earthly ministry with his compassion for the poor and his healing of the diseases that destroy God's creation. We see something of his character as a man filled with the Spirit of God and marked by a life of righteousness and faithfulness. But his earthly life was brought to a cruel end when he was nailed to the cross – a day when Jew and Gentile conspired together to reject God's Messiah.

But the resurrection of the Lord Jesus marks a new era in the fulfilment of these promises of Scripture. God has raised Jesus his Messiah to the highest place in all creation. By his outpoured Spirit he is now gathering to himself a people from every nation under heaven – one people living under the gracious reign of one Lord. We cannot yet say that the earth is filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, but that day is drawing closer.

And that day shall come with the return of Jesus, when every knee shall bow to him and all of creation shall be transformed at his coming. Imagine then what it will be like when:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (11:6-7)

In truth, it defies our imagination.

Father God, we praise you for these beautiful and glorious pictures of all that you purpose to do through the Lord Jesus, your Messiah. We thank you that the definitive battle against sin and death, and all that spoils your creation, has already been won through Jesus' death and resurrection. We look with longing to the day of his coming when all things shall be made new and all promises fulfilled. Help us by your Spirit to tell the world of your Salvation, and to point them to the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

Peter Misselbrook