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Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 2:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Full Release.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 1:1-18 (NASB).

Called into Fellowship (vv. 1-9)

Paul, called as 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.

We who are in Christ by God’s grace, through faith in his Son, have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. We have been purified of our sins. Jesus - having put our sins to death on a cross, and having risen from the dead victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death - opened the way for us to be crucified with him in death to sin and to be resurrected with him in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6). We have been made holy, separate from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are becoming like Christ, set apart to him and to his service as his special people.

We are also called into fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord (owner-master). When we are in fellowship with someone, it means we have commonality with that individual, and that there is unity of spirit, and a partnership (alliance, cooperation, agreement) together, i.e. that we are fellow participants with that person toward a common objective or goal, “being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil. 2:2). So, to be called into fellowship with Christ means that we, as his people, are called into oneness of spirit and purpose with Christ. What grieves him should grieve us. What moves him to compassion should move us to compassion. His desires should be our desires. We should think his thoughts and feel what he feels, and we should set our minds and our hearts toward doing what he has called us to do and to be who he has called us to be as his holy people.

In other words, if we have truly been sanctified in Christ, and if rightly we are his by faith, and we are among the called of God into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, then we should be living lives separate from this sinful world, and set apart to God and to his service, being conformed into the image of Christ. Daily we should die to sin and self, and by the Spirit we should be putting to death the deeds of our sinful flesh, and we should be walking in the Spirit and not according to our flesh. Our desire should be to please our Lord in all that we do, and to follow him in obedience wherever he leads us. As well, we should be sharing his gospel of salvation so that many more can come to know Christ before he returns. Basically, we should be carrying on the ministry of Christ which he began on this earth in ministering his love and grace to others, and by walking in his holiness.

No Divisions (vv. 10-16)

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. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

As his holy people, we should also be followers of God and not followers of man. We shouldn’t identify ourselves as Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatics, and the like, but we should call ourselves Christians, i.e. followers of Christ. We should also not take pride in one church fellowship over another, but should regard ourselves all as participants in the body of Christ, one with another, regardless of location or local affiliations with other believers in Christ. As well, we should not idolize any pastor or preacher or base our faith and practice on the teachings and/or ministry of one man, for not one of us is infallible. But, we should test everything we hear, read or see against the teachings of Christ and those of his NT apostles to see if what we are receiving from any minister of the gospel lines up with the Word of Truth. And, we should follow the Word of Truth over the teachings of man, even if the Word contradicts our human traditions.

Baptism (v. 17)

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

Paul distinguished water baptism here from the preaching of the gospel. There are many who teach that water baptism is required for salvation, but I don’t believe scripture bears that out. For one, as a minister of the gospel, it would seem that Paul would find it necessary to baptize people who confessed faith in Christ since he was called of God to turn people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so that they would receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Also, requiring water baptism for salvation seems so contradictory to the teachings of the apostles who taught that our salvation is not brought about by external religious ceremonies, but by transformation of the inner man. Why exclude circumcision and ceremonial laws, stating they are unnecessary for salvation based on the fact that we are saved by grace - and that it is circumcision of the heart (Ro. 2:28-29), not of the flesh, which constitutes regeneration - and then include water baptism as a necessary element of believing faith? (See: Gal. 5:11; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:2-3; Col. 2:11).

Also, we see in scripture where there were many who believed in Jesus, who were saved by grace, through faith, and filled with the Spirit prior to water baptism, so obviously water baptism is not what saves us, nor is it necessary to be saved. Yet, it is commanded by God that we should be baptized as part of the discipleship process, not to insure our salvation, I don’t believe, but as a public witness and identification with Christ in his death to sin, and in his resurrection to life, and symbolizing our dying with him in death to sin and our being resurrected with him to newness of life, which is to be lived to him and to his righteousness.

There is a baptism which does save us, though, but it is of the Spirit in the putting to death our old lives of sin, and in resurrecting us to new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord, which is what water baptism thus symbolizes (See: Ac. 11:16; Ro. 6:3-7; 1 Co. 12:13; Gal. 3:27).

Preaching the Gospel (v. 18)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul said that Christ sent him to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void, or so it would not be emptied of its power.

In other words, when we present the gospel of salvation to people, our presentation should be Biblical, unadulterated, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, and who convicts people’s hearts of sin. We should not compromise the gospel to make it more tolerable to the people of this world, or in order to give license for people to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. We should preach the whole counsel of God, not a half-truth gospel which transforms no one, but only appeases them in their sin. The true gospel of salvation turns people from darkness (sin) to light (Jesus, truth, righteousness), and from the power (control) of Satan to God (in submission to his Lordship). For Jesus died, not just so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die, but so we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The power of the gospel is that it transforms human lives away from sin and self to God – to now come under the control of his righteousness.

Yet, the world finds the true gospel to be foolish, for it preaches death to sin and self and living to Christ and his righteousness. People who truly believe the gospel and who live the gospel as Jesus and as his apostles taught it may even be called “crazy,” “radical,” or “extremists,” because they hold to the belief that faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to new lives to be lived in his holiness. This type of teaching just does not fit with the world or with the worldly church which has compromised the gospel message in order to “make nice” with the world. Yet, to us who know its power in our lives, it brings us great joy and peace, for it delivers us out of bondage to sin and it frees us to now become servants of Christ and his righteousness, and there is no better place on earth to be than walking in the Spirit in Jesus’ holiness.

Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012

Walking daily with my Savior
brings me joy.
Loving Father; precious Jesus;
He’s my Savior and my Lord.
Gently leads me; follow Him.
I’ve invited Him within.
Now abiding in His presence,
oh, what peace.
From my self-life
He has brought me,
By His mercy, full release.

Hope and comfort,
peace and safety Jesus brings
When I daily bow before Him;
Obey freely; do His will.
Follow Him where’er He leads.
Listen to Him; His words heed.
Now obeying his words fully,
oh, what love
That He gives me
through salvation,
By His Spirit, from above.

Loving Father; precious Jesus,
He’s my friend.
With my Savior, by His Spirit,
I will endure to the end.
Share the gospel, tell what’s true.
Witness daily; His will do.
Tell the world of how their Savior
bled and died.
On a cruel cross He suffered
So that we might be alive.