A People Called by the Grace of God - Radical

A People Called by the Grace of God

Our culture seems to be increasingly divided in terms of religious and political beliefs. Sadly, these divisions are also a reality in the church, even over issues of lesser importance. In this message from 1 Corinthians 1, David Platt points to Christ and His cross as the ground of the church’s unity and the theme of the church’s proclamation. This is the first sermon in a new series in which we will make our way through the book of 1 Corinthians. This letter from Paul to the church at Corinth covers a wide range of important issues, and as we’ll see, the message of the cross, though foolish and offensive to the world, is the very message the world and the church desperately needs to hear.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open it to 1 Corinthians chapter one. Today marks the conclusion of 40 days of prayer and fasting as a church, during which we have meditated on one Psalm a day, then another Psalm each week together in our gatherings.

If you remember, it all started with Psalm 1, where we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners.” We talked about how that word “blessing” means full and lasting happiness. So blessed is the one who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way or sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord”—the Word of God— “and on his law he meditates day and night.”

We talked about how that word “meditate” means to soak in God’s Word. So do you want to be happy? Then be in God’s Word. Soak it in to your life. We’ve spent time each week meditating on it together, trying to show that anyone can do this with the help of God’s Spirit.

These are notes that an eight-year-old boy was taking at our Prince William campus from the sermon on Psalm 23. You see where he filled in the blanks, then you can see where he’s circling and underlining the passage. Then somewhere he veered off into Star Wars and somehow Jesus went from being the Shepherd to the TIE pilot. That really wasn’t part of this sermon, but it happened at some point. Then that sermon ended with John 10:11, where Jesus said, “I’m the good Shepherd.” As long as it lands on Jesus, we’re good. His parents sent me this just saying how encouraged they were to see their eight-year-old engaging with God’s Word. Then I was at a junior high camp yesterday, out on the basketball court with several sixth-through eighth graders. I’m not as young as I once was! One of these students came up to me and pulled some notes out of his pocket that he had carried around on Psalm 23. Here’s a picture of them. How encouraging is that? Middle schoolers walking around with Psalm 23 notes in their pockets. I’ve heard stories from people of all ages and backgrounds the last few weeks who are coming here for the first time and are walking through a Psalm. They’re weeping and saying, “I need Jesus.” They’re putting on one of these shirts and are being baptized as a follower of Jesus. This Word is good. It brings happiness and I’m confident it’s going to do that today as well.

For some of you, this is your first time ever in church. Others of you may have been in church many times—maybe your whole life—but today a lightbulb is going to go off in your heart that you can’t explain. The only explanation would be you heard God’s Word and it brought you to life.

At the end of our time together, I’m going to invite some to do what people have been doing every week around here. I’ll invite you to put on one of these shirts and be baptized, to publicly say, “I have life in Jesus.” God’s Word is going to do that work, which is why I’m so excited to begin a journey through another book in the Bible—1 Corinthians. Between now and the end of May, our plan is to walk through one chapter of this book each week. We’ll look at it together on Sunday, then I want to encourage you to pick up one of these Bible Reading Plans or download it from mcleanbible.org.

Basically what we’ve done is split up each chapter in 1 Corinthians into smaller sections to read during the week. We’ll look at 1 Corinthians 1 today, then there’s a small part of 1 Corinthians 1 for tomorrow and the next day and the next day. If you want to continue reading the Psalms, they’re also in this Bible Reading Plan. So by the end of May we’ll have read through all 150 Psalms together, b the main focus is going to be on these passages in 1 Corinthians 1.

Look at it this way. Last year, we read for breadth through the whole story of Scripture together; in these coming months we’re going to read for depth through one book of the Bible. Here’s why we’re walking through this particular book. When our pastors began praying, asking God what He was saying to us right now as McLean Bible Church, this book clearly rose to the top.

Background of 1 Corinthians 1:

It’s a letter that was written in the first century to the church in Corinth which was the largest, most cosmopolitan city in Greece at the time. It was a center of travel and trade that attracted all kinds of people with different occupations from different ethnicities. It was like a melting pot. Corinth was also filled with all kinds of idolatry and immorality.

All kinds of different gods were being worshiped in Corinth and all kinds of immorality was being practiced—particularly sexual immorality. So much so, they coined the term “corinthianize” to describe influencing someone to become sexually immoral. High above the city was the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and over 1,000 temple prostitutes would come down every night into the city to practice their trade in sexual sin between men and women, men and men, women and women.

Paul had gone to Corinth and shared the gospel; at first he was really discouraged, even frightened, because of threats against him. He was about to leave until Jesus came to him one night in a vision. Acts 18 tells us Jesus said to him, “Paul, don’t be afraid. Keep on speaking the gospel. Don’t be silent, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed there for about a year and a half, people came to Christ and a church was born.

We can only imagine the challenges that arose for the church in Corinth amidst the culture there. Before long, the church was being overtaken by so much of the culture. This constant desire for power and wealth in the city led to division and selfishness in the church. The sexual immorality of the culture was overtaking the church. One writer said the problem was not that the church was in Corinth, but that too much of Corinth was in the church.

What we have here is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth to remind them who they are and how God has called them to be a distinct community, displaying God’s grace and truth amidst this culture around them. You might be thinking, “Why would I get out of bed on a Sunday and come to a gathering where we’re reading a letter to people written 2,000 years ago?” Here’s the answer: These words from God don’t just apply to people 2,000 years ago; they apply directly to your life and my life and our life together today.

That’s because we live in an extremely cosmopolitan city that brings together all kinds of different people from different ethnicities—over 100 of them represented in this church today. There are so many things we love about this city, but let me ask, is there any evidence of idolatry in our city? Are there any gods being worshiped in greater Washington, DC? Money. Power. Politics. Position. Status. Sexual expression. Sports. Success. Do you ever feel any pressure in your life to work harder, smarter and better to get more position, more money, more status, more power, more influence in Washington?

Students, do you ever feel any pressure to get certain grades, achieve certain accolades, keep up with others so that you can get into a certain college or get a certain job? Do any of you as parents ever feel like you’re running back and forth across the city, from this school to that sport to this activity, to make sure your child doesn’t miss out?

We’re running after everything our culture says is important. Not all these things are bad by any means; a lot of these things are good. But none of them are God. Mark it down. Washington culture is not encouraging us to spend all of our time or our kids’ time running after God and His Word. We and our kids spend hours on screens and doing all kinds of things our culture says are important, but relative seconds with God and His Word.

In the days to come, we’re trying to see every member of this church in a smaller church group. I know a lot of people think, “I don’t have time for that.” But we all make time for what’s important. So I guess the question is this: what’s going to be more important to us—what the world says is important or what God’s Word says is important? Maybe another way to put the question is who or what are we going to worship?

Corinth did not just promote idolatry, but think about the sexual immorality and ask, “Is there any sexual confusion in our culture today? Is it possible for sexual confusion in the culture to creep into the church?” One writer talked about how Christians in Corinth—if they believed what the Bible says about sexuality—were labeled either as strange or offensive to the culture. I think we all know that in our culture today, we have experienced a rapid shift in the moral landscape, so that views followers of Jesus held ten years ago are now labeled, not just as strange or offensive, but actually as dangerous.

So what does God’s Word say in the middle of all this? This book has incredible implications for us as the church in our culture. Here’s how I would summarize all this, as we start this series through 1 Corinthians. As a relatively diverse church in a rapidly shifting culture—that’s us—I’m asking three questions that summarize what 1 Corinthians is going to answer for us.

  1. How do we unite around Jesus in the church when there’s so much division in our culture?

From the very first chapter of 1 Corinthians, there were factions in the church at Corinth. Different people were divided into different camps around different leaders which was really dangerous for the church. So let me ask this question of us. Is there any division in Washington? Just watch the State of the Union and you will see that we’re not all on the same page. So is it possible for division in our culture to creep into division in the church? I think it is.

I think it’s a reality we’re facing right now on so many different levels. There’s a potential for division among us on generational levels—between those who are older in the church and those who are younger. There’s potential for division among those who are newer to the church and those who have been around the church for a long time. There’s potential for racial division; we live in a culture where most white Christians go to white churches and most black Christians go to black churches. And it’s not just white and black. There’s potential for all kinds of division.

We have over 100 countries represented in our church and this sermon is being translated s into Chinese, Korean and Spanish, Yes, there is all kinds of potential division. There’s potential division between single and married, between those who send their kids to public school, private school or home school. Between those who wear suits and those who wear t-shirts. And we haven’t even gotten to political divisions

Whatever it might be, McLean Bible Church in Washington, DC, needs to study this book as we go into this election year. How do we unite around Jesus in the church when there’s so much division in our culture? If we don’t ask and answer that question, we will inevitably divide, split and go different ways in the church.

  1. How do we faithfully follow Jesus as the church when His Word is so counter to our culture?

In the weeks ahead, 1 Corinthians will show us what God says about sexuality, marriage, singleness, divorce, money, discipline, excommunication. I’ll go ahead and tell you that everything we see will be counter to the way our culture thinks and works. We’ll be faced with this question: are we going to trust and follow God’s Word or are we going to trust and follow the world?

How do we faithfully follow Jesus amidst running after all the idols mentioned earlier in the culture around us, from money to power to success to sports to status to position? How do we make our lives count for what matters most? How can we spend our time, money and resources on what matters most? That’s a question I think we all want to ask. We don’t want to waste our lives on that which doesn’t matter.

  1. How do we love like Jesus through the church when so many people need the gospel across our culture?

And it’s not just our lives. The third question is this: how do we love like Jesus through the church when so many people need the gospel across our culture? The answer to a rapidly shifting culture is not to isolate ourselves in hibernation from the culture. No. We live in our culture to show the love of Jesus to people all across this city. That’s what the gospel means. It means good news.

So for those of you who are here today and you’re not yet a Christian, not yet a follower of Jesus, the bad news is that we are all sinners. Every one of us has turned away from God in our lives (Isaiah 53:6). It looks different in each of our lives, but we’ve all sinned against God and we’re all separated from God by our sin. If we die in this state of separation, we will experience God’s judgment for our sin forever. That’s the bad news.

1 Corinthians 1 Reminds Us that God Loves Us 

But the good news is that God loves us. He has not left us alone but has come to us in the person of Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life with no sin, then even though He had no sin to die for, He chose to die on a cross to pay the price for your sin and my sin. Then three days later He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death, so that anyone anywhere who trusts in Jesus will be forgiven of all their sins and reconciled to a relationship with God forever.

This changes everything, because now you and I are free from looking to money, power, position, status, sports or sexual expression to satisfy us, because the God of the universe loves us and has

promised to satisfy our souls forever. We are a radically free people. That’s good news we want to spread from the church across our culture, so that people can know God when the gods and idols of this world inevitably let them down, which they always will.

So let’s start in 1 Corinthians 1 today. I went back and forth on how to approach today. One option would be just to walk through an overview of the whole chapter, which we may do in future weeks. But this Bible Reading Plan is set up to encourage you to meditate on a smaller passage each day. I want to help you know how to do that, particularly here in the start of this series.

I want to take the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 1 and lead you through what we’ve done with different Psalms over the past 40 days. I want us to meditate on these three verses. You might say, “Only three?” After reading them, you might think, “These three?” There’s not a lot here. It’s like a “hello” in the beginning of a letter. But I want to show you there is so much here. In fact, we’re not going to be able to get to everything in these three verses.

Let’s do what we’ve done in previous weeks. I want us to read this passage from God’s Word together, then I want to give you a couple minutes to make some notes, some observations, right where you’re sitting. I invite everybody to do this. Even if you’re not a Christian and visiting today, I want to invite you to join us. Just observe what the Bible is saying here. Circle words that stick out; words that repeat. Underline phrases that connect thoughts together. Just look at every word, every sentence, and ask, “What is this saying?”

Let’s start by reading together 1 Corinthians 1:1-3:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

God, we pray that in the next few minutes, individually and then together, You would open our eyes to understand what Your Word is saying and that You would apply Your Word to each heart and life represented in this gathering. We pray that You would do this supernatural work among us, by Your Spirit, through Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So take just a few minutes. Make some notes on what sticks out in the passage. What is it teaching us about God, about ourselves, about Jesus, about the world? Make a few notes, then I’ll bring us back together. Go for it.

All right. Feel free to continue making notes here and there, but I want to bring us back together. Just so you know, I don’t think we’re going to have time to write out some of the things with our MAPS acronym, but let me encourage you, maybe in your time with the Lord tomorrow, to start where we leave

off today. Just write down some of these things, especially since the passage for tomorrow is these same verses.

Let’s dive in together, starting in verse one. The first word of the first verse is “Paul.” I’ve already mentioned a little bit about him, but just for context—if you have no idea who Paul is—he was a Jewish man in the first century who was persecuting Christians. Literally, he was overseeing the killing of Christians. As a Jewish man, he did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, God in the flesh, the Savior of the world. He was the last person you would expect to follow Jesus, until one day he met Jesus in a vision and his life was radically transformed.

A week and a half ago I was flying out of town and the only flight I could get was a 5:00 a.m. flight out of Baltimore, which is about an hour from my house. That meant I needed to leave in an Uber about 3:00 a.m. which I was not thrilled about.

So I groggily got into the car. After about five minutes of conversation with a driver from the Middle East, he asked me what I do. I told him I’m a pastor. He said, “I will tell you a story.” This man was a Muslim. Now Muslims believe Jesus was a good man, a prophet, but not God in the flesh. They think it’s preposterous that God would be born as a baby. But he started to tell me how he had a vision one night of a little baby who was talking as clearly as an adult. The baby said to him, “Do not question or underestimate what God can do.”

The man then asked me, “Do you know what this vision means?” I said, “Ah, yes, I do. I know exactly what that means; I don’t even have to be a vision-interpreter. God loves you and God has done the unthinkable. God has come to you and me to pay the price for our sins by Jesus dying on a cross.” Keep in mind that Muslims don’t believe Jesus died on a cross. Then I said, “Jesus is God in the flesh, He has died on the cross for you, for your sin, so that you can have a relationship with God.”

The man started to tear up as he was driving. He apologized for crying, but I said, “No apology is necessary, as long as you keep your eyes on the road.” I was crying too, as I was sharing the gospel with him. He said, “This is unreal.” I agreed. I didn’t feel like I was in an Uber anymore. I felt like I was in an Ethiopian chariot. By the time we got to the airport, I asked him, “Do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus is God in the flesh Who came to die for your sins and are you willing to follow Him starting today in your life?” He said, “Yes, I believe this and I want to follow Jesus.”

I share this story today because I believe there are some people here right now who are like Paul and this Uber driver, the last person somebody would expect to become a follower of Jesus. But today is the day. Even more than a vision, God has brought you here at this moment to hear the good news that God loves you. God has made a way for you to be reconciled to Him through what Jesus has done on the cross for you. I want to invite you today to experience radical life transformation in Jesus—just like Paul.

All right, we’ve got to move on. That’s only one word. So, “Paul, called…” Now, you might have seen this when you were reading through this passage on your own, but did you notice how this word “call” is repeated two other times in these three verses? It’s “called” here, then in verse two, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints gathered with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It seems like a pretty important word and it’s only going to get more important as you read through the rest of the chapter.

Just to give you a preview, 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Later in verses 22-24, Paul starts talking about Jews and Greeks in the culture who don’t believe the gospel, so he’s contrasting them with Jews and Greeks in the church who do believe the gospel. Listen to how he describes them: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called,”—that’s how he’s talking about Christians— “both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Then we get to verse 26 where Paul writes, “Consider your calling, brothers…” Here he explains they weren’t wise according to worldly standards or powerful or of noble birth, but God called them by His grace—despite them not being any of those things.

Now come back to verse one and let’s ask what kind of calling is Paul talking about here? Paul says he was called “by the will of God.” This is not something he’s taking credit for; it’s something God did in his life. This seems to square with how Paul talks about calling later. “It’s not because you are wise or powerful or noble. You weren’t any of those things, but God called you by His will.

Paul says God called him by His will “to be an apostle.” Now, we don’t have time to camp out on this today, but we could spend a while if we wanted to. We could go to the index in the back of our Bible and look at the way the word “apostle” is used in different places. If we did that, we would find that Paul is referring to a special call of God in his life as an eyewitness of Jesus to establish the church in the first century, along with the other apostles who were discipled by Jesus when He was alive. This is something God called Paul to do and be that He didn’t call every Christian to do and be in the same way.

That’s different from how he’s about to talk about calling in verse two. But before we get to that, let me pause here and point out how encouraging I think it is to hear Paul describe his life in relation to what God has called him to do. That’s how he understands his life. I want to encourage you to look at your life in the same way. See yourself in this passage as called by God. Not necessarily in the exact same way as Paul here, but on a variety of levels God has called some of us at this moment to singleness. He’s called others of us at this moment to marriage. Regardless, these callings are not accidents. God is leading our lives.

Think about your work. It is not an accident that you are a teacher or a politician or a student or an engineer or a contractor—which I’ve learned is code around here for all kinds of secret jobs. No one else may know what your job is, but God does because He’s the one Who called you to it. So see your life in relation to God.

Put your name here in verse one. You are “Susan, called by the will of God to work in government for the glory of Jesus.” “You are Scott, called by the will of God to start a company overseas for the glory of Jesus.” “You are Doug, called by the will of God to fly planes around the world for the glory of Jesus.” “You are Tammy, called by the will of God to be a homemaker right here for the glory of Jesus.” Whoever you are, find security in the reality that God Himself is leading your life.

So Paul, called by the will of God, writes “to the church.” Let’s think about this word. It’s really interesting and you wouldn’t know this from just reading it in English, but I’ll let you in on a little inside track knowledge. If you have a good study Bible, which I would recommend, you might be alerted to this. The Greek word for “church” here literally means a company of called-out ones. Pretty cool, huh? So, the church is the “called-out ones of God.”

There’s a picture here of possession or belonging. Whose church is the church at Corinth? Is it Paul’s? He started it. Is it theirs, now that Paul is gone? Whose is it? It is God’s. And the same is true in this gathering today. McLean Bible Church is not and will never be David Platt’s church or Lon Solomon’s church or your church or anyone else’s church. Not in the ultimate sense. McLean Bible Church belongs to God.

Paul is writing “to the church of God in Corinth.” Corinth is where it’s located. We’re going to see “church” at different levels in 1 Corinthians. We see it even right here in this verse. Picture it this way. Here you have the church in a city —in the city of Corinth. Let’s picture that as a circle—church in a city. That’s who Paul is writing to.

But then when we get to the end of this letter, in 1 Corinthians 16:19, and we’re going to read about Aquila and Prisca, “together with the church in their house.” Here you have a picture, not of church in a city, but on a smaller level in a house. The likelihood is that the church in Corinth was made up of many different churches who met in houses. Now, come back to 1 Corinthians 1:2 for a minute, because here we see an even broader picture. The church is described as “all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s a picture of the church on a broader level, like “church in the world” —everywhere, in all places. The Bible refers to all of these different levels as “church.”

Now, you might say, “That’s nice, David, but why does that matter?” The reason I point this out is because I think we often think about church on these two broader levels. When we think about the church, sometimes we’re thinking about all Christians everywhere in the world—and it’s right to think that way. It’s also right when we think about the church to think about McLean Bible Church, for example. It’s not made up of all Christians everywhere, but it’s thousands of Christians spread out across the city of greater Washington, DC.

Obviously there are other churches in our city as well. By the way, as long as other churches are preaching the gospel, we never, ever view other churches as competition, but as partners together in the gospel. Don’t ever forget that. Whenever we start letting the culture of competition creep into our view of the church, we’re missing something very important.

1 Corinthians 1 Discusses Two Broader Understandings of “Church” 

So biblically we have these two broader circles when we think about church. But it’s this smaller circle that I’m concerned we don’t think about very much. In the days to come I really want to lead us to think more about this smaller level—this group that’s small enough to fit in a house, a group of people who don’t just sit next to each other in a large auditorium once a week, but a group that actually shares life next to each other. They care for one another, grow in Christ together and make disciples together.

These are the kinds of groups I want us to become, such that when we think about church, our first thought is actually about the smaller group, even before it’s about the larger context. More on that in the days to come, but I wanted to show you there’s a biblical basis to think about the church on these different levels, smaller and larger. They’re all important.

Let’s come back to 1 Corinthians 1:2. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to…” Now we see the word “to” used a second time. That clues us into the fact that the church is the same group of people who are about to be described. This will give us an understanding of the church from God’s perspective. What is the church? The church includes “those sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and the same people are “those called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here we’ve got three descriptions of the church from God’s perspective. What is the church? Or to put it better, who is the church? Here’s God’s answer, all revolving around the word “called.” The church is men and women who are called by the will of God. Who is getting the credit here for forming the church? God is. Is the church a group of amazing people who have risen to a certain status by their own effort? No. It is a group of undeserving people who have been called by the gracious will of God.

Let me ask every follower of Jesus in this gathering right now a question based on what Paul goes on to say in this chapter. There are a lot of people in the world who, when they hear about Jesus and they look at the cross, Paul says they see folly. There are a lot of people who say, “I don’t believe Jesus is God in the flesh. I don’t believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” There are billions of people in the world who would say that.

But you have heard about Jesus, and when you look at the cross, you don’t see folly; you see forgiveness. You have said, “I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins; I love Him and trust Him as Lord of my life.” So let me ask why do others look at the cross of Jesus and see folly, while you look at the cross of Jesus and see forgiveness? Is it because you are smarter than other people? Are you better, or superior in some way? No. The only reason you see the forgiveness of Jesus in the cross is because of the grace of God in your life. The church is not made up of people with superior merit in them. The church is made up of people who have been saved by God’s mercy. He gets all the credit for the church, as well as for your life and my life.

We are “called to be saints.” That word literally means one who is set apart. This takes us back to the first description, the word “sanctify” which also means to set apart. So the church is men and women who have been set apart in Christ Jesus. This is what meditation is. It’s soaking in the words and phrases. What does it mean to be set apart in Christ, in Jesus? What does it mean to have your life united in Jesus, with Jesus? As you soak this in, God’s Word becomes life transforming and breathtaking when you realize that your life is so united with Jesus that everything that belongs to Him is now available to you.

You ask, “What do you mean? Is that really what this is saying?” Let me give you a preview of where Paul is going to end this chapter. Listen to the language in 1 Corinthians 1:30:“Because of him…”—God and His grace which we just talked about— “you are in Christ Jesus…” That’s the same phrase we just saw in verse two. He “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” All these things belong to Jesus and because when you’re in Jesus, these things now belong to you. Verse 31 goes on to say, “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” You can now boast in Jesus.

Do you realize what this is saying? When you are in Christ, the resources of Christ are yours. I don’t think we fully realize this. I think if Christians realized this, it would totally change our lives. We would be boasting every day in Him and just living in this reality. As Hudson Taylor said, “The joy of Jesus living in you.”

Let me try to illustrate this. Have you ever heard the term “BIRGing”? I’m guessing you haven’t. It’s a psychological term that stands for Basking In Reflected Glory. Here’s how it’s defined. “BIRGing is a self-serving cognition whereby someone associates themselves with another person’s success, such that the other person’s success feels like their own accomplishment.” Basically, you so identify with somebody else who’s done something awesome that you feel like you did that awesome thing. You actually had nothing to do with it, but you feel like you did. We do this all the time, particularly when it comes to something like sports.

I’ve told you before about my high school baseball career. It was not good. You might say, “Well, you made the team,” but that’s because my team wasn’t great. My main weakness as a baseball player was I couldn’t hit the ball, which is a pretty significant weakness in baseball. If you’re going to be a baseball player, you need to be able to hit the ball. But I couldn’t hit.

I’ll tell you how bad I was, just to make sure this is no exaggeration. There was one season in high school when I was replaced by a designated hitter for every single game. Usually the pitcher can’t hit, so they’ll put a DH, a designated hitter, in for him. Well, my coach put in a designated hitter for me and I was the second baseman. Every single game, somebody else batted instead of me. So I played every single game of the season, but my coach never let me bat until the last game of the season. This was my chance. I went up there and swung the bat with everything in me. And that ball went about two feet. A swinging bunt. It’s the only time my bat hit the ball the entire season.

Now keep that skill level in mind, because I loved watching baseball with my dad. Although I grew up in Atlanta, my dad was a Dodgers fan from his past. I can remember watching with him one of the greatest moments in major league baseball history, at least if your dad was a Dodgers fan. It was game one of the 188 World Series against the A’s. The Dodgers had a guy named Kirk Gibson, who was their best hitter, but he was injured really bad. He could hardly walk, so he wasn’t able to start this first game in the World Series.

It was a close game. It got to the bottom of the ninth inning. The Dodgers were down by one run; there was one man on base and there were two outs. It looked like all hope was lost for the Dodgers. Until guess who stepped out of the dugout to bat? Kirk Gibson. Everybody was shocked. He’s grimacing with every step, limping out to the plate. He stands in as the Dodger’s only hope. He’s facing Dennis Eckersley, one of the greatest closing pitchers in baseball history. The count came to three balls and two strikes, with two outs. The next pitch would decide the game and obviously the World Series that year. I want you to watch this brief video with me.

Announcer: “The game right now is at the plate. High fly ball into right field. She is gone! In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

I showed the clip to you because I remember jumping up and down in my living room when that happened. I can remember running and doing that arm pump like I was Kirk Gibson myself. I was basking in reflected glory. I had nothing to do with Kirk Gibson. He had no idea who I was then and still has no idea who I was am now. I had never met him. I certainly couldn’t hit like him. But in that moment, it was like I was right there with him. It was like his home run was my home run, even though I couldn’t get the ball more than two feet in front of the plate.

You say, “What does this have to do with 1 Corinthians 1?” Here’s what it has to do with it. Listen closely. To every follower of Jesus in this gathering, I want to call you—based on 1 Corinthians 1 today—to live your life basking in reflected glory. Here’s what I mean by that. I know that right now some of you feel pretty defeated. Some of you are walking through pretty difficult days. You’re worried. You’re anxious. Or maybe you’re just tired. You’re overwhelmed. Maybe you’re struggling with a sin that just won’t seem to go away. Maybe you’re walking through suffering that is weighing you down and you don’t know what to do next. You’re doing everything you can, but some days—maybe most days—it feels like a swinging bunt at best.

I want to encourage you today, straight from God’s Word, to lift your eyes to the One Who is far greater than any injured sports player who took a victory lap around some bases. I want to encourage you to lift your eyes to Jesus. If you want to talk about injured, how about crucified on a cross for your sins? It sure looked like He was defeated; He was dead for three days.

Just when it looked like all hope was lost, guess who stepped out from the grave? Jesus did. He rose from the dead! He took the victory lap of all victory laps. And here’s the difference for you. This

Jesus is not far off from you. This Jesus is with you. He’s not unfamiliar with you. He knows your name. Not only does He know your name, He knows your needs—every single one of them. And He loves you. He loves you so much.

Here’s the even bigger difference. Jesus has said to everyone who trusts in Him, “My victory is your victory.” You don’t have to pretend like it’s yours in your living room. It is yours, wherever you are. When you are weak, Jesus says, “My strength is your strength.” When you’re confused, Jesus says, “My wisdom is your wisdom.” When you feel guilt, Jesus says, “My righteousness is your righteousness.” When you feel shame, Jesus says, “My honor is your honor.” When you feel hurt, Jesus says, “I give you My healing.” When you are distressed, when you are depressed, Jesus says, “My hope is your hope.”

One day, when you face life’s final moment for you, when all your strength, all your energy and ultimately your breath will fail you, in that moment, Jesus says, “My life is your life.” Christian, bask in the reflected glory of Jesus. Boast in this. Wake up every morning, walk through every moment, cognitive of the reality that you are in Jesus Christ and have no reason to fear forever.

If you’re not a Christian and you’re wondering, “How do I get in on this?” the answer is right there in the text. Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. Just call upon His name and you will have all that He offers. So will you bow your heads and close your eyes? I just want to ask every person in this gathering right now—point blank, right where you’re sitting—do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? That’s what His name means. He’s the One Who saves us from our sins.

For some of you, your heart does not resound to that question with “Yes!” If that’s the case, just see. God has brought you here to this moment right now to be forgiven of all your sins and to be reconciled into a relationship with God, to have your soul satisfied in God forever. If you want that, if you want Jesus, then I invite you right now to call on His name. In your heart, just pray, “God, I know I’ve sinned against You. I know I’m separated from You. But today I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead to give me life. Today I call on His name to save me from my sins and to lead me as Lord of my life.” When you call on His name, God says you will be saved (Romans 10:8-13). You don’t have to do a list of things; just call on His name and trust in Him.

With our heads still bowed and our eyes closed, I want to invite you to just lift up your hand if you’ve said, “Yes, today I am calling on the name of Jesus to save me from my sins. I’m calling on Jesus as Lord of my life.” Amen. Amen.

God, we praise You for Your gracious calling and for bringing people here today to call on Your name to experience salvation and satisfaction in You. God, I pray that You would give them courage even today to do what many people have done over these days—to put on one of these shirts, saying, “I have put my faith in Jesus.”

I pray that for every single person who is in Christ Jesus right now within the sound of my voice, that they would know the resources that are available to them in You, that they would know Your forgiveness, hope, strength, wisdom, righteousness and Your redemption. We pray that You would grant everything they need in struggles with sin and struggles through suffering. God, I pray that You would show the glory of Jesus in every single one of our lives and help us live in this reality as the church in our culture. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1

What is the danger of unity in things that are not the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Question 2

How are Christians sanctified in Christ Jesus?

Question 3

What does it mean for Christians to be called saints? How is this status achieved?

Question 4

How do we faithfully follow Jesus as the church when His Word is so counter to our culture?

Question 5

According to 1 Corinthians, why must the church be united by the cross of Christ?

As a relatively diverse church in a rapidly shifting culture…

  • How do we unite around Jesus in the church when there’s so much division in our culture?
  • How do we faithfully follow Jesus as the church when His Word is so counter to our culture?
  • How do we love like Jesus from the church when so many people need the gospel across our culture?

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Meditate & Memorize

Write down the point of the passage in one sentence, and circle one verse that you might want to memorize:


Write down at least one way you can apply this passage to your life (think head/heart/hands – how does this passage transform the way you think, desire, or act):


Write down a prayer based on this passage (think PRAY – how does this passage lead you to praise, repent, ask, or yield):


Write down one specific way you can share any of the above with someone else:

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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