Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – This Table is for Sinners (1 Co.1)

Following a remarkable morning in church, fellowshipping around the Lord’s Table, I find myself coming back time and again today to the simple but shocking words of the man who officiated there: “This table is for sinners!”

These words are simple enough but at the same time incomprehensible to many who find themselves shocked at the suggestion that “sinners are welcome here.”

In today’s verses we first learn two things:

1. There is power in the Cross (1 Co.1:17) and the power of the Cross can be lost if the gospel is reduced to man’s wisdom. When men and women try to pin down the gospel and conform it to their humanly devised systems and cleverly constructed arguments they are frustrated as the power of the Cross eludes them.

2. While there is power in the Cross nevertheless, to those who are dying, those who are impressed by human wisdom and sophistication, the Cross seems foolish (1 Co.1:18) because it comes with power and not nice arguments.

Nowhere has this been better demonstrated for me than in the unhappy verdict of one man who declared that he didn’t go to church because he is “not worthy” right now. As we read on in Paul’s letter to Corinth we find a disparity between the way man sees things and the way God sees things. Man, we are told demands evidences piled up one on another and wisdom told in familiar human terms. Such men would indeed concur with my friend that he is not worthy and needs to straighten himself out. God, on the other hand, offers his own power and wisdom through the Cross which, “to those who are being saved is the power of God and the wisdom of God”

Paul’s following illustration is surely unsettling to those who insist on applying the world’s standards to kingdom life. These are standards that demand the top table belongs to the wise, the noble and the powerful.

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in God’s presence.”

We sing in the hymn, “To God be the glory, great things he has done”. Here we see that the glory is due his name because of the Cross.

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written,

‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’”

At the Lord’s Table the only way to “qualify” is to approach weak, low, despised and empty handed. “This table is for sinners!”

It is for sinners because only sinners who confess their sin and surrender to Jesus, seeking to add nothing to his finished work and looking to him alone for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption are acceptable to God. Anyone who seeks to add to this will subtract from it.

If this seems madness, foolishness, unreasonable and wrong then you should stop looking at it through the world’s eyes. To the world it will always seem naive, simplistic and incredible. If your worldview right now does not allow for it you need to trade it in for God’s view. Isaac Watts sums up well the way the Christian approaches the High Table of Communion with Christ through the wisdom of God in the Cross:

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“This table is for sinners!”

Are you a sinner? Then come!

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