Online Worship, Baptism of the Lord, Sunday January 10, 2021
Sermon for the Baptism of the Lord Jesus – Sunday January 10, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (NKJV)
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
In whom we are addressed as Children of God,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Most Precious Blood –
It happens from time to time at the parsonage and probably also in your homes. On your way back from the mailbox you notice that the mailman has left you someone else’s mail.
Now this may happen for a number of reasons. It may happen simply because someone else’s mail got mixed up in the junk mail meant for your address. It may also happen because someone else once lived at the address at which you currently reside (we still get junk mail addressed to one of the Reim’s or Fleischer’s).
So, instead of opening someone else’s mail (which would be a federal offense, gasp), you put it back in the mailbox. Well, this morning we are going to open the mail that was once addressed to people residing in the city of Corinth, Achaia, modern day Greece.
The Letter was written by Paul of Tarsus when he was in the ancient city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (1 Corinthians 16:8; Modern Turkey). The letter wasn’t addressed to all of the inhabitants of Corinth, but to the assembly of Christians in that city.
Now before you start to feel self-conscious about reading someone else’s mail, you should know that this letter was also meant for you. In fact, you are mentioned already on the address line of the letter. It’s important that you pay attention, because what is said of the Corinthian Christians is also true of you, here in Marquette. It’s true of every person, who in their heart trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior.
What’s more, this single verse can help us to see why it is that we confess in the Apostle’s Creed: “I Believe in the Holy Christian Church.” It actually defines what God has done for every believer through the Holy Spirit, and how to a degree they may be recognized.
May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of these words, so that we remember that we are not merely numbered amount the membership of Calvary Lutheran, but by faith part of the Holy Christian Church, the sum total of all those who believe in Jesus. Amen.
Does anyone actually sit down and write a letter anymore? We send e-mails, text messages and instant messages, but it seems that very few people take the time to write a letter and send it anymore.
Either way, when we compose a message on a keyboard or written on a piece of paper, we generally address it and sign it in some fashion. In the First Century, it was common to begin a letter by stating the writer’s name and then those to whom it was addressed.
So, when the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to write to the Corinthians, he began with his name…and the name of a man who was probably a member of the Corinthian Congregation, Sosthenes (cf. Acts 18:1-17, esp. 17). It may be that Sosthenes brought word of the goings on in Corinth.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother…
If the letter to the Corinthians had been delivered by mail today, the mailing address would have been written on the front of the envelope. This letter was originally hand written and probably hand delivered, to the church of God which is at Corinth. This wasn’t the name or title of the group, but a description of what it was:
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth,
In the New Testament, the word most often translated ‘church’ doesn’t refer to a building. In fact, the word can be used of any kind of assembly of people (it’s used of the mob in Ephesus described in Acts 19:32,41).
However, when the word is used of gatherings of Christians, it has a special meaning. The word means, ‘those called out’ and reminds us that when the Holy Spirit creates faith, he calls them out of the mass of unbelievers, and called into a new and living relationship with Jesus.
Now we might expect the Apostle to simply write, “To the church which is at Corinth.” He adds two important words, “of God.” It was God the Holy Spirit that made them an assembly of believers. It happened when the Apostle Paul came to Corinth and proclaimed the Good News that Jesus had lived and died and rose again for them.
They didn’t exist because they decided to establish a new church. They existed because the Holy Spirit had gathered them together, granting individuals faith to trust in Jesus and uniting them to one another.
It’s the same here. Calvary Lutheran doesn’t exist simply because your fathers decided incorporate as a Christian Congregation. It was God the Holy Spirit that called you to faith individually in baptism and has kept you in faith through His Word. It was God the Holy Spirit that gathered you to one another, made you a body, uniting you in teaching. This was the work of God. He will enable us to continue.
The Believers in Corinth are described further and addressed as --
those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
When the Apostle Paul came to the city of Corinth, He didn’t find an enclave of ‘super spiritual’ people. The city itself was home to rampant immorality. It was so bad that the expression ‘to corinthian-ize’ was coined to describe openly immoral behavior. It wasn’t just the community in which they lived, many of the people who became part of the congregation had formerly participated in such things.
In the sixth chapter, the Apostle would write (6:9b-11):
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Some of the Believers in Corinth had formerly led openly sinful lives…but when the Holy Spirit led them to trust in Jesus, they were forgiven. They came to be washed, to be baptized. They were sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, by the Spirit of God. The didn’t suddenly become perfect people, but forgiven people, people who came to hate their former sins and way of life. They were separated from sin and dedicated to God, sanctified.
The Devil has been successful in the minds of some in our society. They think that Christians are all self-righteous hypocrites, judgmental people who think they are themselves perfect and pure.
But we don’t gather here to pat each other on the back and imagine we are ‘good people.’ If we do…we need to look in the mirror. We gather to confess our sins, to seek confirmation that our sins are indeed forgiven in the shed blood of Jesus.
Day after day our consciences should still work! When we do wrong, we should feel guilt, sorrow over sin. We should regret it. We shouldn’t make excuses or minimize it, but bring our guilt and sorrow to Christ, because He has made atonement for it. The fact that we strive NOT to continue in sin, but to seek God’s forgiveness and serve Christ, is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Don’t expect perfection in this life…our sinful nature is always self-centered…while our new man, our faith in Christ is Christ centered. While we do still fall into sin, we are in a state of forgiveness, we stand forgiven (1 John 1:7) We are also:
called to be saints,
The concept of a ‘saint’ has become confused and convoluted thanks to the legends created Roman Catholic Church. When many people think of ‘saints’ they think of legendary Christians who are said to have done miraculous things and who are said to protect other Christians through their intercession.
Saint Christopher is the ‘patron saint of travelers’ and some carry a small image of him in their vehicles for good luck.
Saint Patrick is one of the ‘patron saints of Ireland’ whose day is still on our calendars.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors (among other things).
In many cases there are actually real people behind these so called ‘saints’ who would likely be horrified if they knew what they are credited with in legend. Nicolas, for example, was an actual Christian who believed in Jesus and lived in a town called Myra in Asia Minor. He was a real person, unlike the pretend Saint Nicholas or ‘Santa Clause.’
The Apostle Paul described the Believers in Corinth as ‘saints’ – but not because they were legendary or had accomplished miracles – but because of the miracle of faith had been worked in their hearts.
The word translated ‘saints’ means literally ‘holy ones’ and refers to believers who are holy before God, their sins (by faith) having been forgiven. They were also striving to live holy lives to glorify God who saved them by His grace.
The same is true of you. In calling you to faith in Jesus, God has forgiven all your sins. When God looks upon you, He doesn’t see a sinner because your sins are covered in the blood of Jesus. When God looks upon you, He sees Jesus’ perfect life credited to your account. He sees Jesus, whom He declared to be His beloved son in whom he was well pleased (Matthew 3:17, 17:5, Luke 3:22, 2 Peter 1:17).
You aren’t a saint because of what you’ve done. It’s because of what Christ did for you.
Now, these descriptions ‘the church of God’ and ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus’ and ‘called to be saints’ are not meant to glorify the Corinthians (or us). In fact, neither they nor we are the only ones for whom this has been done.
The Apostle Paul said as much when he wrote (as directed by the Holy Spirit):
with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
The Corinthians…and you and I are part of a larger group. Ever since the Holy Spirit first equipped the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel of Christ on Pentecost, the message of what Jesus has done has gone out and worked faith to believe in Jesus. In the book of Acts when people came to believe in Jesus, they were said to be ‘added to the church’ to the sum total of all who believe.
All of those who believe in Jesus share a common faith in Jesus, trusting in Him for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
We call this group, the sum total of all who truly believe in Jesus – The Holy Christian Church. While the Lord Jesus knows who believes in Him (2 Timothy 2:19), we can’t see faith in the heart. We know what’s in our own hearts, but we don’t know with complete certainty what is in the hearts of others. We can only go by what people say they believe.
It’s because we can’t see faith itself, we say that the Holy Christian Church is invisible. Since we can’t see it, its existence is a matter of faith, and that’s why we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I Believe in the Holy Christian Church.” Some of the earliest versions of the Apostles’ Creed called in the ‘Holy Catholic Church’ -- catholic meaning universal.
When we confess our faith we say, “I Believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.” It’s said that the expression ‘the communion of saints’ refers to the fact that all believers share the same faith in Jesus. It’s true that all those who believe in Jesus share one faith in one Savior, Jesus.
There is also evidence that the expression ‘communion of saints’ may have referred to something else we share in common as believers. Rather than refer to ‘holy ones’ the expression may once have referred to ‘the communion of holy things.’
Holy Things? What Holy Things to we share in common? Well, two things called sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It may be that this expression refers to the Sacraments, which is why some don’t run the two phrases together as if they were one.
Either way, when we confess, “I Believe in the Holy Christian Church” we aren’t just saying that we believe it’s real and it’s out there. We are saying that we believe we are individual members of that body, the body of Christ. We believe that by faith in Jesus, we are part of a much bigger thing, the family of God.
We share the same faith as the Apostles and all those who have died believing in Jesus. While we still struggle here on earth, doing battle with the forces of evil; they have departed this life and having been completely separated from sins, have triumphed, receiving the crown of life.
When we depart this life, we will join them in the Church Triumphant. Until then, we will gather to be strengthened in faith’s fight and look forward to joining the rest of the family in heaven, who sing His Praises forever and ever.
Therefore, let us boldly confess, “I Believe in the Holy Christian Church!”
For by faith in Jesus…I’m part of it.
Blessed are the sons of God, They are bought with Christ's own blood;
They are ransomed from the grave, Life eternal they shall have:
They are justified by grace, They enjoy the Savior's peace; All their sins are washed away, They shall stand in God's great Day: With them numbered may we be Here and in eternity! (TLH 391:1-2)