The 18th Sunday After Pentecost September 22, 2013
1 Corinthians 3:21-23
16, 425, 393, 431
Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
Eve was surrounded with perfection in the Garden of Eden. Everything was hers for the taking except that one thing that was not necessary and forbidden by God. Still, Eve wanted that one thing she didn’t have and didn’t need. She didn’t think she could live as well without it, but that which she thought she needed for a better life brought about her death and ours!
So today, even we Christians, reborn to a new life in Christ, are still in danger of falling away from the faith’s life because of our desire for more money, more pleasure, and more honor among men. “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare,” Paul writes, “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith…” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). How sad is this foolish seeking of things!
What is it that you want that you don’t already have? There is no need to be anxious, or take unnecessary risks or compromise your faith, or gamble to get what you think you need or want, for Paul says: ALL THINGS ARE YOURS!
How are we to understand such a statement? At a pastoral conference in Dallas some of us attended a huge car show at the Texas State Fair. I saw several new Toyotas that I really liked. Should I have insisted that the dealer give me the keys to one of them because Paul says all things are mine? Exactly what does Paul mean when he boldly says, “All things are yours”?
Let’s follow Paul’s thinking from the words at the end of our text. He says to those who believe in Christ, “…all are yours. And you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” [v.23] Who can doubt that everything belongs to God, the Creator and Giver of all?
Paul even says that “Christ is God’s.” He uses the term Christ rather than Jesus. Christ—the “Anointed One”—is the term that refers to God the Father’s anointing of His own Son to redeem us from the guilt and punishment of our sins.
The whole world was redeemed by the blood of Christ upon the cross, but Paul doesn’t say that the whole world is Christ’s. He’s writing to the Christians in the city of Corinth and “to all who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Even though Christ has the right of purchase over all people, not everyone actually belongs to Him by faith. In John 6:37, He says: “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me.”
If you are Christ’s, then you were chosen by God already in eternity to become convicted of your sins and to be led by the Gospel to trust in what Christ did to pay for the sins of the world. In Christ’s empty tomb you find the certain hope of your own resurrection from the dead. Remember that Christ has redeemed us from our spiritual enemies in order to give us back again to
His God and our God!
As you read in the New Testament lesson, we who belong to God through faith in His Christ are called “the sons (children) of God” (John 1:12). Furthermore, we who belong to Christ by faith are called His “Church,” “The bride of Christ,” and “the body of Christ” (cf. Ephesians 5:22-30, Revelation 19:7; 21:2,9).
So, if you are a child of God by faith in Christ, then you are an heir to everything that is His! If you are Christ’s bride, then you are His exclusive possession! His love is concentrated on you. He will protect and provide for you. He will love you in sickness and in health, poverty, or wealth! Best of all: If you are Christ’s body you cannot be closer to Him! Christ is the Head of His believing Church—“which is His body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Where He goes, you go. When you hurt, Christ hurts. What Christ has, you also have!
All this is what Paul means when he writes to us Christians: “You are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” So what does it really matter if I can’t have a new Toyota? Or what does it matter if I lose all that I call “mine,” a body part, a daughter, or a wife? We are God’s sons and daughters, Christ’s bride, and Christ’s body! How can we really lack anything that He knows we need? Because He has made you His forever, all things are yours!
Therefore you are not the possessions, but the possessors of all things. “Why insist that you belong to the party of Paul, or the party of Apollos, or of Cephas,” Paul asks the Corinthians. The Corinthian Christians and all of you belong to Christ and all that Christ has belongs to you also. So don’t boast in connection with your relationship to any man.
Sometimes Christians talk like the Corinthians in following their pastor because he is a good speaker, well-liked, or whatever. But if you are a Christian, then your pastor belongs to you as your servant in Christ.
“The world is yours too,” Paul says. God created the world for man, but in his sinful state, man idolizes the world and nature. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans looked upon themselves as the slaves of the sun, the sea, and the earth. Does this sound familiar? Check out the emphasis on “Mother Earth” in today’s culture. In the books children bring home from the public schools, in magazines, cartoons, and movies of our day we are being encouraged to worship the earth!
In the June 1995 issue of “The Lutheran”—an official publication of the ELCA—there was an article titled: “How to Green Your Congregation.” The author claimed that God “loves the earth for its own sake.” He told his congregation that the words of John 3:16—God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…— could mean that God loves the earth for its own sake and that Christians might need to “reconsider how we act toward the Earth.” We were told that one young Christian in the congregation replied: “That’s foolish! Christ died for people, not for the earth!” We agree with the child!
We know by faith that Christ died for people. That’s why we are confident that the whole physical, material world really belongs to the Christian. The unbeliever thinks that he is the victim of blind, chaotic forces that threaten and deny him every day. Christ teaches us that the world-forces are all under the control of His heavenly Father who causes all things to work together for the good of His believing children who love Him (cf. Romans 8:28).
The materialistic unbeliever, the earth-worshiper, and evolutionist are all slaves to their circumstances in life. If they have great wealth or leisure, they become self-serving and proud. If they have poor health and poverty, they are full of complaining and despair; but in the knowledge of faith in Christ, Paul says, “life is yours!”
We are not the poor slaves of outside forces and circumstances. In Christ we are free to use the world and to be served by it in every way. As Christians we don’t only possess life in this world, but life in abundance and forever! We have life within us. If we can say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), then life itself is truly ours!
Death is also ours, Paul says. The unbeliever is possessed and driven in this world by the fear of death. That’s because he faces death with a sense of guilt, rather than the certain knowledge that he has been redeemed from the power of death by Jesus Christ. But even death belongs to you and me, because by faith we belong to Christ. Our Savior says, “I AM He who lives and was dead, and behold, I AM alive forevermore, Amen. and I have the keys of Hade (Hell) and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).
Finally, Paul says that the “things present and things to come” are yours as Christ-believers. The unbelieving world thinks we are fools because we look to a glorious life in Heaven instead of madly pursuing the pleasures of the present. But the Apostle claims that in Christ we already have, not only the future, but also the present! And John says in his first letter: “Now
we are the sons (children) of God” (1 John 3:2).
All things are really yours, even if you are poor and despised, because the Giver of all things has given Himself to you to be your Father, your Husband, and your Head! Ephesians 1:20-23 reminds us that when our God raised His Christ from the dead, He “…put all things under His feet and gave (appointed) Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (everything in every way).”
Your Christ is God’s Christ! He is both the Lord of the present and the future for you and for every believing member of His spiritual body. Let your life then be a thankful, hopeful, and generous celebration every day, dear Christian friends, for all things are truly yours! Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.