October 26, 2014
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Now is the Day of Salvation
The end is near! Tomorrow is Judgment Day! If you saw me on the corner of the street, wearing a sandwich board, proclaiming that tomorrow is the end of the world as we know it, most people would think I was a nut job. You probably wouldn’t listen to me and people would dismiss me. Every couple years, a person comes around and predicts the exact time of Judgement Day down to the minute. And what happens? We carry on with our lives, thinking that the predictor probably hasn’t seen the light of day or spoken to a person in 5 years. Now, the apostle Paul was no crazy person. He wasn’t wearing a sandwich board on the corner of the street. But, he was saying something that might sound crazy.
It almost doesn’t really matter what Paul was saying, though, because the Corinthians were hesitant to listen to him anyway. They almost treated him as if he was the crazy guy out on the corner shouting that the end of the world is here. What is sad, is that the Corinthians knew Paul. They knew he wasn’t crazy. Paul had spent about a year and a half with them. However now, they’re treating him cautiously, as if they couldn’t quite trust him, because there were these preachers that we sort of label as “super apostles.” Let me tell you right now, they were not super. They were trying to convince the Corinthians that grace wasn’t enough, but that they needed to add laws and restrictions to Christianity, like old Jewish laws. On top of it all, they were trying to convince the Corinthians that Paul didn’t care for them or love them because Paul didn’t come back to visit. Therefore, they were jumping to the conclusion that the gospel which Paul was sharing with them wasn’t reliable.
Paul takes these accusations and explains the matter to them in a friendly way. Originally he announced to the Corinthians that he would visit their church. But, for certain very good reasons, he changed his plans and went to Macedonia first. He didn’t haphazardly make his plans. He was serious about making them, but plans were occasionally revised by God’s will and providence. However, his personal plans had nothing to do with the message that he was proclaiming, because his message rested on the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ. It was in that foundation that they were to put their trust. So, how could these Corinthians listen to these men who didn’t preach the true doctrine nor lived lives that showed the same spirit and trust in God as Paul? And so, Paul urges the Corinthians not to receive God’s grace in vain.
Grace was the reason for everything in Paul’s ministry and ours. Grace, meaning that undeserved love, was what moved God to make Jesus, who was perfect, to take on our sin for us. It was grace that made Jesus undergo the pain and agony of death, which we deserve because of our sin, for us. Because of grace, and because of what Christ has done for us, God sees us as perfect. Grace means everything for our lives, because without it, we have no hope when we die. Grace meant the world to Paul. Of all people, Paul knew that he deserved the worst of punishments from God because he used to persecute and kill Christians in his previous life. Yet, God showed grace to Paul. And Paul just soaked it in and loved it!
Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to do the opposite. He didn’t want them to receive God’s grace in vain. In other words, he didn’t want the Corinthians to hear the gospel message and dismiss it. He also didn’t want them to believe it and become lukewarm, indifferent, or even apathetic towards God’s grace. Do we receive God’s grace in vain? Do we think of God’s Judgment Day as if it is years down the road and that we have time to work on our faith? Are we looking at Paul as if he is that crazy guy on the corner of the street?
The crazy thing is that Paul was proclaiming the thing we would have found found him crazy for. Paul reminds us that this is the day of salvation. That's crazy and also an awesome reminder that we have already been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved now. We have that knowledge and sure hope that we will be with God forever. Today is that day of salvation. Now is the time.
But Paul knows that if today is that day of salvation, tomorrow brings judgment. Look at our Old Testament lesson. Wow! We see how swift and just God was with his judgment. God is serious about sin. What if tomorrow really was the last day? Now, I don’t know when Judgment Day is, but it very well could be tomorrow for all we know. If tomorrow was the last day, I would be doing all I could to share God’s word with my family and friends. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out because when the time comes, there won’t be any second chances. If you don’t believe in Jesus as your savior, or you despised hearing God’s Word, heaven isn’t yours and you won’t be awarded heaven based on your statistically good life. It breaks my heart when people don’t want to believe or they simply put their faith on the back burner, because they think faith gets in the way of having fun. But today is the day of salvation!
Now is the acceptable time, as Paul says. There won’t be a better time or a more convenient time or a time that fits into YOUR schedule. The time is now. How tragic it would be if Judgment Day really would come tomorrow, and you are caught unprepared, especially while living and being so close to God’s word. Martin Luther often reminded the Germans of his day to treasure the Gospel, because if they didn’t make use of it, there might be the day when it could no longer be had. He pointed to parts of Europe and Asia, where the gospel was prevalent, but were now ruled by Islam and other religions. The same can happen to the life of an individual Christian. Paul encourages us to make full use of God’s accepted time, because a time may come when it is too late.
What happens in football or in basketball or any sport when it’s late in the championship game? Tensions are running high, aren’t they? Teams are doing anything they can to score points. They are pulling crazy plays out of a hat. They are throwing hail marys if it’s a football game, or shooting as many 3s as possible, if it’s a basketball game. The players want to score. They want to win the game. Growing up playing soccer, a lot of coaches would tell our team to play with urgency. Not just at the end of the game, but the whole game. If you wait to the end of the game to start putting in some effort, you may already be down and you’ll lose.
Paul is calling for that same kind of urgency, focused on that last day. When we are urgently focused on that last day, our hearts are geared differently. They are set on Christ. When we let things get in the way of worship or personal bible study, whether it be the television or the internet or watching sports, we are essentially crowding Jesus out of our heart. Instead, when we are focused on the wonderful last day, we take time to refresh ourselves with the Word.
When we are urgently focused on that last day, the way we live is also geared differently. As Christians, we want to live a life that won’t harm the gospel. Paul proved to the Corinthians that he was a credible apostle. People might stumble over the gospel. But, Paul had made sure that this stumbling would not occur because of what he had done or failed to do. He did nothing that would discredit the gospel. That’s an important thing to remember, especially when we want to share God’s Word with someone. We wouldn’t want to live a life that makes the Gospel or the Bible say something otherwise to the people around us.
Have you ever thought, maybe my lack of biblical knowledge is my impediment in reaching out toward others? You might think, I am not the right one to speak to someone about Jesus. I barely know the bible. Maybe I can reference them to the pastor. It wasn’t that Paul was an amazing speaker or wowed the people with his knowledge of literature and politics. In fact, Paul didn’t receive any special recognition because the scholarship of the time didn’t consider Paul or the other apostles as great orators. When the world looked at Paul, they probably thought he was a nut wearing the sandwich board proclaiming the end of the world. He looked like death. He was physically beaten. He barely had any money. To Paul, the ministry didn’t mean getting rich but making others rich through the gospel. The work we do as Christians is incredibly important no matter our background! We want everyone to hear about God’s grace.
We realize that living the Christian life won’t be easy. Paul gives that long list of troubles, but the first phrase is important, “By great endurance.” All these difficulties are extremely hard to endure, especially when life keeps piling one problem on top of another. We need a lot of endurance, a lot of perseverance! But just as the sports team is getting tired as they see the final seconds tick away on the clock, they know the end is in sight. When we have our eyes fixed on that last day, we know the end is in sight. The life of a Christian isn’t necessarily glamorous in the eyes of the world. Just look at the life of Paul, who was thrown into prison, beaten, even left for dead, all for the sake of the gospel.
But God doesn’t leave us hanging alone and flustered. We have God’s help and we have weapons for the battle we face everyday as our mind would rather do anything but read God’s Word, when our friends make fun of us for going to church on Sundays, or when our society does everything in its power to bring us down because of God’s view of marriage. God has given to us his weapons. In our right hand we hold the sword, the Word of God. In our left hand we hold the shield of faith. God’s word is that source of strength and comfort as we keep our eyes focused on that last day. We need to be personally filled up with the knowledge of God’s grace so that we can take that wonderful news to people to desperately need it because the time is now. Let’s be ready! So, you probably won’t see me this afternoon on the corner of College Avenue and Morrison with a sandwich board proclaiming “the end is near.” Although it might sound crazy to us, it is actually a wonderful thing to remember every day. Today is the day of salvation! Now is the time! Let us urgently live our lives focused on that last day. Amen.
And the peace and love of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.