Skip to content
Sep 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 20, 2015 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-10

Jesus Christ:
Theological Reflection On the Person

Paul, called s an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:1-10

Intro: Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is theologically rich

Not a theology of abstract concepts, but of truth that is meant to be lived
– he gives an explanation and outline for celebrating Communion (11:20-34)
• he provides more information of the church as a living organism than anywhere else (ch. 12)
• he describes how a charismatic church is to conduct its meetings (ch. 14)
• he includes a lengthy discussion on the fact of resurrection (both Jesus’ and ours; ch. 15)
• and nothing else in any of his writings matches Paul’s lyrical exploration of love in chapter 13
– the highlighted words above indicate the way Paul filled the letter’s introduction with Jesus
• this was obviously intentional,– he could have used a pronoun more times than just in verse 5

Paul wanted to make clear that Jesus was the agent of God’s work in their lives
– in Jesus they were:

  • v. 2, made holy (“sanctified”), prepared to encounter God in worship
  • vv. 3-4, given access to grace – Jesus is the “conduit” of God’s grace (Ro. 5:1-2)
  • vv. 5-6, spiritually enriched and their Christians lives stabilized
  • vv. 7-8, equipped for service and held through life “to the end”
  • v. 9, kept in relationship with him, secured by God’s faithfulness
  • vv. 16-25, saved by the power of the cross, in which God’s wisdom and power are revealed

– verses 30-31 are a summation of this first chapter

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption . . .

• then in chapter 2, verses 1-16, we learn that Jesus opens the door to the Spirit
• this may seem like a lot, but it’s only the tip of the theological iceberg

Last week we reviewed Jesus’ role as the designer, guide and provider of our spiritual journey
– today I want to stress the necessity and value of theological reflection on Jesus 
• last week’s talk was intentionally relational; this week’s is intentionally rational

For no [one] can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)

Christian spirituality tends to stress specific theological themes

The Trinity: God reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit
– as a result, our minds conceptualize God as three, but in reality he is one
• trying to combine the two truths creates difficulties (impossibilities) for our rational minds
◦ is it possible that such problems are unavoidable? that God is beyond conceptualizing?
◦ and that He is not concerned about our being confounded by the facts of his nature?
• God’s triune nature reminds us of his essential otherness — we know of nothing like him
◦ it also protects against an overly anthropomorphic view of God
◦ it eliminates the assumption that we can package God in an intellectual box
– the Trinity is a perfect integration of diversity within unity
• Paul subtly present the diversity within the unity of God as as a model for the church (12:4-6)

Fr. Romuald, “A fundamental revelation of the Trinity is that God is relational.”

• the love within the triune Godhead existed before the universe was called into being
◦ “God is love” does not mean that a dictionary definition of love defines God
◦ rather, God redefines the words we use in reference to him

The Incarnation: Jesus is God in human flesh and blood
– this does not mean Jesus was fifty percent human and fifty percent divine
• but he one hundred percent human and one hundred percent divine
◦ early on, heresies rose over his two natures — emphasizing one to the exclusion of the other
◦ but neither nature swallows up the other
• with us as a man, Jesus is completely human
– in his diaries, Leo Tolstoy’s reported how he worked with the laborers on his estate
• when he asked them what they thought of him sharing their life, they said it was “all show”
◦ he had missed the point; namely, they knew that any time he wanted he could go home
◦ they did not have that option – or any option

Karl Rahner, “God has become human. We generally say this so casually. We imagine this incarnation as if God were dressing up in costume, so that God remains in essence still God and we cannot be sure whether God is really where we are. . . . [When we say God became human, we do not] mean that the human side in him is something that does not really affect him . . . .”

• Jesus was made of the same stuff as we are and he was affected by the same limitations

The first time I went to Russia, I met two orphan girls who I supported for several years
– now one of them is on Facebook and I correspond with the other through email
• but we use online translation sites and the messages we receive on both sides are often comical – – imagine what a perfect translation from one language to another would require
• a lot more than merely translating word for word and tense for tense
◦ a person would need to be fluent in both languages
◦ they would have to know intonation (which in sarcasm reverses the meaning of what is spoken)
▫ they would have to be familiar with figures of speech, slang, culture and so on
▫ you would have to know English really well to translate “How’d ja dodat?” into Russian
• Jesus is the perfect “translation” of God into humankind (Col. 1:15)
◦ being both God and human, he is uniquely able to communicate God to us and us to God
◦ we need Jesus exactly because God is inaccessible — completely other, terrifying
◦ “there is one mediator” who stands in threshold between above and below, human and divine
◦ God reveals himself and approaches us in the person of Jesus

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19)

Jesus’ Transfiguration: the glory of God shining through Jesus
– the light that both blinds and enlightens

Jesus’ Crucifixion: the ultimate statement of:
– God’s devotion to humankind
– Jesus’ self-emptying (Php. 2:7-9)

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21)

– hope for a broken person and a broken world

Jesus’ Resurrection: that the life he gives is abundant and eternal, because it overcomes death

Important qualifications regarding theological reflection

Theology does not come before faith
– we do not meet Jesus in theological concepts

Helmut Thielicke, “. . . the concepts do not define Jesus; Jesus defines the concepts.”

• we don’t learn of his two natures and then believe
◦ we meet him in lived experience
◦ first the experience of people in scripture and then in our own experience
• once we’ve met him, like the disciples we are surprised
◦ we cannot help but ask, “Who is this”
◦ we do not need to cut off a piece of ourselves–our rational minds–to know God
▫ do not have to compromise our intellectual integrity
◦ we use reason and logic wherever appropriate and within their limits

– another qualification regarding theological reflection

Fr. Romuald, again, and this time in our first conversation: “I came to the end of theology”

• he did not meant he dispensed with it – he said it was a “necessary foundation”
• be he knew it would not take him where wanted to go

Ultimately, religion does not exist to answer all our human questions, but to enable humans to live with mystery.

◦ theological reflection will not lead to a perfect understanding of God
◦ but it will likely lead to amazement, thanks and praise

Conc: One implication of Jesus’ human nature

If God was willing to enter the world of his creation in human flesh and blood,
– then everything in our everyday lives has a sacred potential
• it is not wrong to think, feel and act in this world as a human person

Karl Rahner, “God would not have been born as a human being had we been meant to experience our existence differently.”

– we were meant to experience this physical world through these physical bodies
• I know it is much easier to rest in God here Sunday mornings than in the daily routine
◦ it is easier to hold thoughts and feelings here that are naturally warmed to God
◦ but spirituality is not an attempt to duplicate a Sunday morning ease of faith every day
▫ we’re not supposed to try to work up the same thoughts and feelings the other days
• we move into a world separated from God to live out what we’ve derived from these moments
◦ God’s presence in our daily lives is reflected in the way we go about them
◦ the way we treat others, respond to upsets and so on

At the same time, we are always making spaces for Jesus
– physical spaces: a place in our homes and in time
– mental spaces: both conceptual and imaginative
– psychological spaces: in our feelings, emotions and will
• sometimes Jesus surprises us by entering, filling and taking over the space we’ve made
• Israel’s set up a tent and built a temple for God to inhabit
◦ but all the same, they were overwhelmed when he moved in (Ex. 40:34-35; 1 Ki. 8:10-11)
◦ I’ve known people, that when Jesus entered the space they imagined, they asked him to stop
▫ encountering him for real was more intense than they had anticipated

That is okay — we do not need an earth-shaking encounter to benefit from God’s nearness
– God is everywhere, but he does not manifest his presence everywhere
• like the foundation of our homes, we do not always see them or think about them
• but still, it is the foundation that holds the house up


Leave a comment
  1. Bill Livingston / Oct 2 2015

    This is a masterpiece. Exploring the meaning of the Trinity is a difficult and usually fruitless endeavor. Well, at least Chuck shows us why it is that, and gives us a hint of how God the Father who cannot be seen by us, tried to reach out to us and bridge the gap between the holy and the profane.

    And, Chuck, it was incredibly sensitive of you to realize the we cannot duplicate the Sunday morning experience of experiencing God’s presence and nearly touching his otherness, in our every day world. We can only try to love others in this world as reflected in us by the reflected glory.

  2. Michael / Oct 4 2015

    Is there a reason the videos are not current? The last one is Sept 6. Or is it just me?

  3. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Oct 5 2015

    Yeah, Michael, archived videos seemed like a good idea, but we do not yet have the technology or an effective system in place to make certain that they get posted.
    Our apologies. Those who volunteer their help to stream and shoot the video are all good people–and smart. But our whole structure is really loose. Of course, if things around here ever become well-organized, someone will figure out that I need to be replaced.

Leave a comment