True Balance

Ministers should cultivate “a mixed air of simplicity and majesty, decent neatness and elegance, without flaunting pomp and gaiety” (Foxcroft, The Gospel Ministry, p. 34).

Two Adams

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #181

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).

From the time of Adam on down, the saints of God had been gathered to their fathers. They had fallen asleep. They had returned to the dust. Christ descended to death, just as they had, but after a brief time in the grave, He returned to life again. Paul says here that He did this as the firstfruits of those slept. Those who had slept represented a huge amount of seed in the ground, and the Lord Jesus came back from the dead as the harbinger of what was to come.

It was fitting that a man would bring about the resurrection of the dead because it had been a man who had brought about the problem of death in the first place. What Paul says here makes an implicit comparison between Adam and Christ, a comparison he makes explicit in the next breath. All men die because they are in Adam, and in the same way, and on the same principles, everyone who is in Christ will be made alive.

Mission, Vocation, and Body Life

Introduction:

As you have heard here before, mission is not something the church does on the side. Mission is at the heart of what the church is. And so, outreach, mission, evangelism, church planting all amount to the same thing. In this fallen world, the church should be about two things—birth and growth, and mission encompasses both of these. This is what Christ told the church to do in the Great Commission. Mission is why we are still here. But we need to be careful with this emphasis because there are some pitfalls.

The Text:

“If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1 Cor. 12:17–20).

Summary of the Text:

The apostle Paul is discussing spiritual gifts, and in this section is describing what it means to be a member of the body. His use of member is taken as an illustration from the human body, and this means we shall have to think carefully about what it means to have something in common, including having a particular mission in common. If the entire body were an eyeball, then how could we hear (v. 17)? If the entire body were an ear, how could we smell (v. 17)? But God, instead of doing this sort of thing, has placed a number of different members into one body, according to his own good pleasure (v. 18). And, at first glance, it appears that an ear, an ankle, a liver, and a fingertip have very little in common. God did this because He has a higher unity in mind. If we had one big ear only, we would have no body (v. 19), and nothing would get done. In God’s wisdom, we can have multiple disparate parts, and yet have them all working together . . . on a mission (v. 20). But as mentioned earlier, we have to be careful because hand/eye coordination is not as easy as it looks.

Apparent Unity, Deep Unity:

A policeman’s eyes and the eyes of the criminal he is chasing can have a great deal in common. They can both be blue, for example. They can both be nearsighted to the same extent, requiring the same prescription. They might go to the same optometrist. And the policeman’s eyes and the policeman’s heart apparently don’t have anything in common—except for the fact that they share the same vocation, the same calling, the same mission, which right now is that of chasing the criminal with the blue eyes. Both the heart and the eyes are doing their part to help catch the criminal. The eyes of the policeman are not thinking about their shared solidarity with the blue eyes of the criminal. But if we were giving a test to third graders, we might have a picture of the policeman’s right eye, the criminal’s left eye, and the policeman’s heart. What would happen if we told the kids to circle the two items that had the most in common? Right. A mistake would happen.

Another Illustration:

Think of a submarine at war, with an assigned mission to seek out and sink ships in an enemy convoy. On that submarine you will find sailors who are part of the fire control team directly—the torpedo gang, say, and you will find sailors who are not a direct part of that team—the cook, say.

How does the cook advance the mission of the submarine? He does it by doing the best job that he can at his assigned post. He does it by cooking eggs. At the same time, he is not permitted to be uninterested in the mission of the submarine as a whole. He cannot detach his interests as though they were identical to his job description—as though he were somehow separate from the rest of the crew. He is part of the mission and must share an interest in that mission.

A Pitiable Lot

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #180

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:18–19).

If the dead are not raised, then those who have died in Christ are dead and gone. If the dead are not raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have simply perished. If our hope in Christ is only a “this life” thing, then Christians truly are a pitiable lot. We, of all men, are most to be pitied. We are miserable, because we are consoling ourselves in our current miseries with a future glory that will never happen.

Paul says elsewhere that our current sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. But, of course, this only makes sense if that future glory really is revealed in us. If nothing of the sort is going to happen, if the dead are not raised, then we are letting far too many opportunities for pleasure pass us by.