June 11: Two In One.

1 Corinthians 6:16-17. For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

We’ve been making a big deal of this phrase in 1 Corinthians 6 – he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. If you are in Christ you share a spirit with Christ. This is the core truth of your salvation. Without union with Christ you cannot be saved and you are not saved. It distinguishes the Christian faith from all others. Yes, it’s that important.

Remember, this is the first time such a succinct and powerful statement of our union with Christ has been made. Jesus himself hinted at it in John’s gospel. He told the Twelve that when they received the Spirit they would receive him and the Father. But John’s gospel has not yet been written. So Paul’s statement, which can be applied to every believer, even very sinful and selfish believers, is quite staggering.

In 1 Corinthians 6:16-17, Paul compares your spiritual union to Christ to marriage. So before we move on from this important verse let’s take a look at some of the essential truths it declares about our union with Christ, and how the marriage metaphor conveys these truths.

Your union with Christ is the closest union you will ever experience.

Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 which begins by telling us that a man will leave his father and mother (biological connection) and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh. That is, their entire beings are joined. In Marriage you leave a very close relationship (parents) and replace it with an even closer relationship (spouse). 

You are one spirit with Christ. Your entire being is connected to Christ. This is an even greater connection than your connection to your biological family. Disconnect from them, and life goes on. Disconnect from Christ, and you eternally die.

Your union with Christ does not delete your individual identity.

When two people get married they share a whole life union, however, they do not cease to be individuals. Each with their own personality, aspirations, and gifts. Marriage should not steal these away, but rather should enhance them by focusing them on the other person and of course Christ and his church.

Union with Christ does not mean you are absorbed by God and all of your individuality is gone- that would actually be unloving. Nor are you absorbed into some sort of general humanity, like eggs in an omelette (Robert Letham, Union with Christ). The Holy Spirit enhances our humanity, it never diminishes it. The Spirit of Christ makes us more complete image bearers (humans).

Your union with Christ is much more than just communion with Christ/God.

Marriage and its sexual union is a much deeper relationship than any other. It creates a whole life union that is meant to go deeper than a business partnership, or friendship. It is capable of producing new life. This ability to create makes marriage a participation in the divine. It is much more than just a communion, it is a union.

In the Garden, before the Fall, Adam had communion with God, a friendship. But you have much more than that. Adam did not have union with God. But you do in Christ. Communion with God is the outflow, but union with God is the source. This is not merely union with the attributes of Christ. It is union with Christ. Yes we become like Christ in his attributes, but only because we are united to him in his nature.

NO, we are not being elevated to divine status. But we are created to share in God’s glory. Sin causes us to fall short of this glory. But union with Christ restores participation in the divine nature (1 Peter 1:3-4). Our nature assumes the deified humanity of Christ. Not to destroy our human characteristics but to transform them (Letham).

“To live is Christ” means that you are one spirit with Christ. And that means everything. You have received the divine nature and are progressively being transformed by it, while at the same time retaining your full and unique human person and personality. This truth is now the foundation for all you say, do, think, and believe. Like a marriage, you and Christ are now two in one.

What is there about your union with Christ that still confuses you? Scares you? What about it encourages you? Have you seen yourself growing as an individual while at the same time becoming more like Christ in his character?

June 10: One Spirit With Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:15-17.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

What you may not know is that 1 Corinthians is actually Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, and in between these letters they had written him back with all kinds of questions and problems. As we have already seen, 1 Corinthians is a letter addressing a church that sees their spiritual freedom as a license to sin and mistreat one another. Their divisions have already caused Paul to ask in 1:13, “Is Christ divided?” Chapter 6 of this letter demonstrates even more of their divisiveness played out in the courts and in the bedrooms.

But in the midst of Paul dealing with these very specific problems, we receive one of the greatest theological statements about out union with Christ in all of scripture:

he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

Wow. Let that soak in for a second.

This of course is the foundational truth of “to live is Christ” – we share a spirit with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, God. This is the climax of Paul’s whole argument in this section. We share whole life union with Christ. Paul will use this truth to explain the Christian’s new sexual ethic. But today let’s move backwards and use the ethic to understand our union with Christ.

When we have sex with a prostitute (or any other person outside marriage) we take on the character of the prostitute through the “whole life union” that sex creates- For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” The idea of one flesh carries the idea of a whole life union; body, soul, and spirit all united. Paul reaches back to Genesis 2:24 and the scripture’s teaching on the marriage union. Notice how in our passage he uses body in contrast to flesh. He is arguing that a sexual bodily union (one body with her) is much more than just a physical act, as the Corinthians would have argued. Rather, it is a “whole life” union (The two will become one flesh). By implication the two having sex become not just one body, but also one spirit.

Why is all that important? Because you are already one Spirit with Christ.

This amazing truth has implications for all of life (not just your sex life). We take on the complete character of Christ through our union with him. This is how God can now relate to humanity, through the joined spirits of Christ (the Holy Spirit) and the Church. This joining of spirits is ultimately what will purify our bodies and what is purifying our minds now. Not an external law or moral code, but an internal life force, Jesus’ own life, is what purifies us.

This will impact all you do and all your relationships. Your union spiritually to the crucified Christ will produce the cruciform life in you. That is, a life that looks like self sacrifice, love, grace, and serving one another. Not suing one another or sleeping with one another.

Also, because you share a spirit with Christ you are now free from sin and guilt. You no longer face condemnation. You have all the spiritual blessing that Christ has. This reality now empowers you to live bodily (your bodies are members of Christ) as he lived bodily from dependence upon the Spirit of God.

“To live is Christ” is the same thing as “you are one spirit with him.” Remember, this blog is not “To live AS Christ.” As if we only need to figure out how to live like Jesus. It is “To live IS Christ.” Which is far better. Why? Because we have his Spirit, and we have his life. A life that has already been lived in our place. Now living as Jesus is a matter of faith in the truth that to live is Jesus.

How would your life look different today if you really believed that you are one spirit with Christ? What prevents you from believing this?

June 9: Relating to Christ Bodily.

1 Corinthians 6:12-15. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The Corinthian Christians had a slogan- “all things are lawful for me.” Or to put it another way, “We are free in Christ to do whatever we want.” Paul’s response is “Yes, but you are not actually free when you are controlled by a behavior.” The Corinthians were not using their freedom for love, but rather for selfish gain. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 6 by their use of the law courts to gain status, and now their use of sex to simply satisfy a desire- like food for the stomach. In both cases they were using others for their own personal gain.

“To live is Christ” changes everything. It changes how we see all of life, including our bodies and our sexuality. God made everything with a purpose, including your body. Including sex. And that purpose is never to use our bodies and sexuality as a way to grasp for control or power over another person. The Christian life is lived out bodily. It is not just the private inner reflections of the heart. What we do with our bodies is the public expression of our faith. Therefore it matters very much what we do with our bodies.

The Greeks viewed the body as simply the shell of the soul. It was base, a necessary evil. This view crept into the Christian church’s thinking too. Sex was either a basic bodily function, an appetite to be fed with no impact on the soul, or it was an evil to be avoided altogether, because the body is evil. Paul will dismantle both of these views by providing an uplifted view of the body (an argument that will run all the way through chapter 15).

What is the body meant for? Is it just a temporary case for our soul? Is it bad or is it just neutral? Does it have a purpose? And Paul’s answer is profound- The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. The Christian life is not just a spiritual connection to Christ, it is also a bodily connection to Christ. How is this true?

First, we relate to Christ bodily. Our everyday physical lives are the manifestation of the life of Christ in us, and our dependency upon that life. What we do with our bodies reveals our faith in Christ.

Second, Christ lives out his life through us bodily. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Our bodies are Christ’s “members,” that is, his limbs and organs. Our bodies are his body. The Spirit that lives in us is the Spirit of Christ. Christ is alive on the earth today through our spirits and our bodies, our entire being.

Third, your body will be resurrected- And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. We will live forever in an embodied state. There will be continuity between our present bodies and our future bodies upon resurrection. In other words, your body is important because you will have it forever. You will relate to God eternally in a body. And you and Jesus will share hugs, and high fives, and great meals together forever.

We live in a culture today that has lost an understanding of the purpose of the body. We have separated the physical from the spiritual as much as the Corinthians had. A result is that my sexual behavior is reduced to a physical appetite that needs to be fed, but has no impact on my spirit or my inner man. Or my sexuality, no longer connected to my physical body, becomes my identity without consideration for the purpose or telos of my body. For example, the person experiencing same sex attraction will make this the core of their person-hood without considering the purpose of their actual physical body.

“To live is Christ” begins to open our minds and hearts to think through the connection of body, soul, and spirit, all of which are for Christ because they are connected to Christ.

Have you tended to see your body as less important than your soul or spirit? Do you see your body as belonging to Christ? Do your actions reflect that reality? What about your sexuality? How does union with Christ give purpose to your body?

June 8: Heaven. Who’s In?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

These three verses are often ones that make Christians wonder if they are even really saved. I mean what better than a list of all the types of people that will never go to Heaven to make us doubt our salvation, right?

But let’s take one step backward and remember the context of 1 Corinthians 6- grasping for power. The Corinthian Christians were using the unjust court system and judgments by the unjustified judges to gain power over their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ. But why shouldn’t I let the unjustified judge my case? Because they are never going to inherit the Kingdom of Christ. They are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers.

And you are not. You ARE in the kingdom because you are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul is teaching us once again about our new identity. He is not saying that a Christian will never steal, or commit adultery, or look at porn. He is saying this is no longer who you are. You are not unrighteous, you are righteous. Homosexual is not your identity, Christ is. Angry is not your identity, Christ is. Idolater is not your identity, Christ is. This is the heart changing promise of justification by grace alone, sola fide, and “to live is Christ” – Your actions cannot save you and they can never unsave you. Period.

There is a warning for us in this passage though. Union with Christ has placed us into Christ and Christ into us. Why? Because God is recreating humanity. He is restoring his image in humanity. He is doing this through the ultimate human- Jesus. Jesus Christ’s life in us restores humanity to God’s desired state. A humanity that lives in love for others, and holiness for the glory of God. Therefor there is no place in this new humanity, this new creation, for the sins listed in our passage above. Every single one of the people in the list above is out for themselves. They are grasping for power. They are manipulators and deceivers who have been deceived. No one who is in Christ will claim these sins as their way of life or their identity. Anyone who does is simply not in the Kingdom and never has been.

Let me share an example from my own life. I was saved and united to Christ at age 5. I was introduced to pornography around age 8. I have spent many hours of my Christian life battling between Christ and the sexual immorality [pornos] that Paul speaks of above. Although I have failed morally so many times, I have never once, since being in Christ, thought of this sin as my identity or something that I was glad I was able to do. Never once I have I not felt guilt and shame over my sin. And progress in victory did not occur until I really accepted my true identity as one who has been washed, sanctified, and justified.

“To live is Christ” means your place in the kingdom is secure, and your identity is that of Christ’s- washed, sanctified, and justified. And it also means that your life must and can reflect the new humanity- a humanity of love and holiness, never power grabs.

Are you secure in your identity in Christ? Does your life reflect this new identity? Does your sin grieve you, or do you glory in your shame? Do you spend your days looking forward to the Kingdom, or looking back to your sin? How does knowing that you are no longer outside Christ’s Kingdom give you peace and power today?

June 7: Judge Me.

1 Corinthians 6:1-3. When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 

The Christians of Corinth are grasping for power and control. They are manipulating each other to get what they want. Here in chapter 6 we can see them doing this in two ways: lawsuits and sex. First, the lawsuits.

In the Roman Empire the civil legal system favored the rich and powerful. Bribes and favors for the judge and jury were common. The courts were a place where those of status could have their way. Paul is lambasting this. Should the righteous take their cases before the unrighteous, especially in a legal system that was unjust in the first place? We can hear Paul yelling, “How dare you!”

Here again, as in chapter 5, Paul will use our identity in Christ to challenge us to be what we are.

First, because we are in Christ, and have the indwelling life of Christ in us, we are people of justice, God’s justice. We are his righteousness. His actions of justice are supposed to be performed through us, the church. We are supposed to lift up the poor and powerless. We are supposed to give strength to the weak. We are never supposed to take advantage of anyone, especially a fellow believer. So for Christians to take each other into the Roman courtrooms, places of injustice, in order to manipulate and grasp for even more power and control- How dare you!

Also, because we are in Christ and have the indwelling life of Christ in us, we are ALL JUDGES. Regardless of our status hear on earth, rich or poor, free or slave, male or female, we will judge the world and angels. Says who? Well, the prophet Daniel for one.

Daniel 7:18. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

And Jesus

Revelation 2;26. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,

Paul is not just exaggerating. The church will reign and rule alongside Christ. We will all be judges. And if this is true, then shouldn’t we be able to settle non criminal disputes from within the church? That is Paul’s question.

“To live is Christ” means that we are God’s people, and God’s people will judge the world. But until that day we must model for the world what true humanity looks like. Christ in us, makes this possible. He empowers us to love, serve, and carry out justice by loving, serving, and making us just.

By the way, this is not a passage about Christians never using the legal authorities or court system in order to gain justice, especially in criminal cases. This is a passage about Christians taking advantage of each other. It ought not to be so.

Are there any ways that you are grasping for power or control, even within your Christian community? Do you see yourself as having the wisdom to judge other believers? Why or why not? How does the “foolishness” of the cross give you the wisdom to judge others in humility, sacrifice, and equity?

June 6: What About Morality?

1 Corinthians 5:6-8. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul moves from the Corinthian’s sin of divisiveness on to their sin of apathy over a case of sexual sin within their church (5:1-5). Again, this “super-spiritual” church failed to see that a truly Spirit controlled person will love others enough to seek their freedom from the bondage of sin, especially sexual sin.

For us today 1 Corinthians 5 serves the church in many ways, not the least of which is by answering the question, “Where does our morality come from?” Or maybe a more basic question, “If we are free in Christ is their even a moral standard for us?”

The answer: Yes.

Paul tells the church to cleanse out the old leaven. That is, remove the unrepentant man from your church.

Why such a harsh decree? Because Paul wants them to live out their identity as the new creation, the unleavened batch of dough (v.7). Notice how he says as you really are unleavened. This is a statement of their identity. Paul is saying “be what you are.” “You are pure, so act like it!” Our moral standard does not create our identity, it flows from it.

A little history: You can’t celebrate the Passover with the old leavened bread. The Israelites had to make unleavened bread on the night they left Egypt. So before baking, they had to sweep out all of the old leaven from the house, just so that none would get into their dough before baking.

This is the imagery Paul is using for the church- clean your house! How can you celebrate new life in Christ, through the indwelling Spirit of Christ, while flaunting your evil, malicious, sin? You can’t. Jesus’ Passover sacrifice did not free us to sin, it freed us from sin.

How do we, as a community, overcome this sin daily? We embrace the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (v.8). We must fight for a sincere, non hypocritical, belief in the gospel and the change it has brought to our lives. But sincerity alone is not enough. Sincerely believing a lie will still destroy you. We also need the truth. And Jesus is that Truth. His life is true. And our union with him is true. It is real. It is real power from real forgiveness.

“To live is Christ” is not the absence of morality, it is morality from the power of the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. It is the power of sincerity and truth. It is never complacency. It is never looking the other way as those we are called to love drive off the cliff of sin. It is a deep desire for love and holiness that drives us to even remove the unrepentant sinning saint if need be, trusting that such a separation allows the community to uphold their identity in Christ, while seeing that identity restored in our brother or sister.

Have you tried being moral in order to earn your identity, or are you letting your identity define your morality? How does our identity in Christ or “Christ in us” empower a morality that flows from love?

June 5: Less Talk More Power.

1 Corinthians 4:19-20. I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 

The Kingdom of God is not talk, it’s power.

“To live is Christ” is not just a catchy slogan or blog title. It is power. The transforming power of the Spirit. The power of the cross.

There were those in Corinth trying to convince the church that there is a higher wisdom or a higher power beyond the cross, and our union with the crucified Christ. But they were all talk and no true power. They could talk about the gospel and the things of “wisdom”, but they also got drunk at communion, allowed a member to commit incest with his mother, were suing each other, and every worship service was out of control.

That’s all talk, but not the power of the gospel. They were missing the real power of the cross. The power of the crucified, humble life. The power to truly love each other sacrificially. The power to live holy lives that glorify God. This is the power that Paul is looking for in the Corinthians. And it is the power that we should be looking for in our own lives too.

There is an application here for our personal salvation. You are not a Christian simply because you say you are a Christian. There has to be a new birth, a new power source for your life. A power source beyond your own strength, wisdom, and righteousness. This new power is gifted to you by the Spirit. It is the power of Christ’s life in you, which gives you a new desire, dependency, and destination. A new trust alone in the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The church will never find it’s power in songs, speeches, books, movies, surveys, discussions, or even preaching. Yes there is no shortage of words in the church today. But the Kingdom does not rest in talk. It rests in power. And this power is Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24. we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

The gospel is the power of God. And this power WILL change your life. “To live is Christ” is a power that will make you different than you were before. You will see your sinfulness deeply, and the pointlessness of your own righteousness. You will see grace as your greatest need, and the shared sufferings of Christ as your greatest good. You will trust in Christ alone each and every day to be your Savior. And you will find a deep seeded joy in your soul that comes from the power of peace which Christ provides.

Are you all talk when it comes to the gospel? Or is it a real life changing power in your soul? Can you see the power of Christ at work in your life? In the work of other believers? Have you relied on power from songs and sermons over the power of your union with Christ? How does union with Christ empower us?