The paradox of grace


“God’s grace will find us guiltless in Christ when He returns. That grace has the power to transform us now. For that to take effect it requires great effort on our part to make some critical changes in the way we live now.”

IF THERE WERE A VOTE for the epistle in the Bible that is most full of contradictions, I would give it to 1 Corinthians.

The letter begins (1:4-9) with words we all want and like to hear. First, Paul writes “you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge” to the extent that “you are not lacking in any gift” (ESV). God is overwhelmingly generous towards His children.

Second, He will “sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV). Here the promise is that because we are in “the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ”, the verdict that God will pronounce on the Corinthian Christians is “not guilty”.

But when we read further into the epistle, we find a litany of problems that will easily increase the sale of any tabloid today (chapters 3-14). First, there are severe divisions in the church because of the celebrity status and personality cult surrounding some key leaders. This phenomenon creeps further into ministry when those with various kinds of spiritual gifts are in competition with, instead of ministry to, one another.

Then, there is the case of incest (a man in sexual relationship with his stepmother).

To add to the simmering atmosphere in church, members are suing one another in the civil courts. Also, their worship events, in particular the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, resemble orgies in the heathen festivals of their day.

Yet, at the beginning of this letter it is already made known that when Jesus returns in the future, they will be accepted as guiltless! That is the amazing grace of God!

In this paradox, it is essential to point out that the epistle is written also to instruct the Corinthians that their current state of affairs is not something that they can leave status quo.

They are severely rebuked for not addressing those issues seriously. The epistle sets down clear instructions that they must follow in order to set things right in the church. For example, one drastic step is that the incestuous son must be excommunicated as a measure of church discipline.

God’s grace will find us guiltless in Christ when He returns. That grace has the power to transform us now. For that to take effect it requires great effort on our part to make some critical changes in the way we live now.



What is Lent and why does it last 40 days?

LENT IS A SEASON of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. (Ash Wednesday this year fell on Feb 22).

Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring”. The 40 days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.

In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the 40 days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. – United Methodist News Service.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. The ash cross on the forehead is an outward sign of our sorrow and repentance for sins.

The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. Historically, ashes signifi ed purifi cation and sorrow for sins.

It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday
service to burn to produce ashes for this service. Sometimes a small card or piece of paper is distributed on which each person writes a sin or hurtful or unjust characteristic. Th e cards are then brought to the altar to be burned with the palm branches. – Adapted from the United Methodist Book of Worship.