Are you anxious about something today? Perhaps finances, employment, or family matters? I never realized how much underlying anxiety I have until I adopted an anxious puppy. Perhaps you also feel stressed about something for which there is no logical explanation. “Anxiety is the normal alarm reaction (readiness response) to a perceived future threat; the function of…anxiety is to protect not to harm.” (1) I am trying to adopt this definition of anxiety for myself since it is a positive way to view the stress I feel about success (or threat of failure) in my writing, teaching, and dog training. Having turned circumstances, choices, and my preparation over to God as much as possible, they are God’s providential provision with much prayer. (See 1 Peter 5:7.) So, I have everything I need to write, teach, and train my dog for this season. What I need is to have more faith that this is true and apply it at every new opportunity. Perhaps that is a need of yours, too? Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about this amid their struggles. “You are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:7-9) Jesus Christ supplies his churches with copious gifts. Since we are the church of Christ, this means that he gives each of us these gifts, sustains us in righteousness, and communes with us while we await his return. But do we put our gifts to work as we fellowship with him or fret and become distracted by our unfounded anxieties?
“The nine verses of this introduction [in 1 Corinthians] record nine occurrences of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all Paul’s thinking, He is of cardinal importance and whether it be the problem of division, moral failure, or doctrinal error, Christ is the answer and Paul has cause to give thanks.” (2) I would add anxiety and panic to the list of problems that Bruce mentions in his commentary. The answer is “Jesus,” as our kindergarteners like to remind us. The “revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the day of the Lord Jesus Christ” are synonymous and a reminder that he will return at any moment. Bruce goes on to say that “The expectation of the coming of Christ is constantly with the apostle; it is the one hope which characterizes every local church in a persecuting pagan society…that one great cataclysmic event, the end, the second coming of Jesus Christ, until which He Himself will keep you firm, blameless…unimpeachable.” (3) I’m not sure which is better: to know that Christ may return at any time or to be assured of his righteous covering until he returns, in a world full of distractions and stress. Or is the greatest blessing the fact that we have every spiritual gift necessary for a gospel-centered life? We don’t have to choose; we have all these and many more!
One of the implications of verse 7 (“You are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ”), is that“spiritual gifts are given as temporary provisions until Christ returns.” (4) John Gill adds his admonition. When “our Lord Jesus Christ; who will appear a second time, [will] come in great glory, will raise the dead, and judge both quick and dead; when gifts will cease and be of no more use, and when they must all be accounted for; and therefore, till that time comes, should be diligently made use of, and improved to the interest and service of Christ.” (5) The New Testament gospels and letters consistently remind us that our Savior will return in glory and judgment, so there is an urgency to bear fruit now. Theologians urge us to view our temporary life here as one of usefulness to Christ. “If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us— and we cannot measure that at all… He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”— and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. Now is the time for us…to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him.” (6)
Wouldn’t you agree that one of the greatest helps with a new work project, ministry, or role is the assurance that someone will be there to help you through it until the end? A spouse who will be your parenting partner, a church family who will help you through the tough times, or a physician who knows your history and cares for your best future health? Our church is in the process of constructing a new building (yes, even now). We have a committee that began the work with prayer, did all the planning, provides oversight for the financing and fundraising, provides for architectural issues and practical needs, and works with contractors and city officials. These dedicated servants will continue their work until the paint is dry, and we are using the building. We have confidence that all aspects of the work will be handled with excellence. Paul reminds us that Jesus is going to “sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). Having “Christ their head, being justified by his righteousness, and washed in his blood; and so in the sight of God, as considered in Christ; and will appear such in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall descend from heaven, and take his saints to him, and present them to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” (7) Now, this is a great, fantastic, glorious truth that many of us have a tough time embracing. But Jesus will sustain us in righteousness and communes with us while we await his return and use our gifts; this is the truth, according to God’s Word, our authority for this life and eternity. “The Corinthians have a long way to go before their behavior matches their status before God (1 Cor. 3:2–3a), but Paul is confident that God, who is faithful, will make them what they should be.” (8)
Jesus Christ’s person, obedience and atoning work in the past, his current presence with us through the Spirit, and his future, visible appearance and reign are the sources of our faithfulness now. We can look to the past, present, and future for encouragement and strength to step out boldly in faith, expecting fruit. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9) Christ “having called them by his grace, for whom he effectually calls by his grace, he glorifies; and particularly from his having called them into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; to partake of his grace, and to be heirs of glory with him; to enjoy communion with him in private and public exercises of religion, which is an evidence of being in him, and of union to him…and such are members of Christ, of his body, of his flesh, and of his bone; and shall never be lost and perish, but shall be confirmed to the end; be preserved in him blameless, and presented to him faultless, and have everlasting life.” (9) “[Paul] gives thanks for their conversion to the faith of Christ; that grace was given them by Jesus Christ. They had been enriched by him with all spiritual gifts…And where God has given these two gifts, he has given great power for usefulness. These were gifts of the Holy Ghost, by which God bore witness to the apostles…How glorious are the hopes of such a privilege; to be kept by the power of Christ, from the power of our corruptions and Satan’s temptations!” (10)
Many of us tend to be anxious, worried, nervous, fearful, or insecure when faced with changes or prolonged trials, like a pandemic. Jesus, who is omniscient and sees our hearts, is vitally interested in our faith. God sees our faith, but we only see its effects or lack of effect. Therefore, the greatest need and the best exercise of our faith are rehearsing and verbalizing the gospel. By faith in Christ, we know that we have all gifts necessary to be God’s hands and feet until he returns, without fretting. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Related Scripture: Hosea 2:19; Luke 16:10-13; Romans 8:19; Philippians 1:6, 10-11; 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; Revelation 3:15-18
- Telch, Michael J. Ph.D., “The Nature and Causes of Anxiety and Panic,”
- “Zondervan Online Bible Commentary,” Marsh, Paul—author 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:7)
- Marsh, Paul, Zondervan, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Corinthians 1:7, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Corinthians 1:7 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1corinthians-1.html
- My Utmost, https://utmost.org/a-life-of-pure-and-holy-sacrifice/
- Gill, 1 Cor. 1:8, Ibid
- ESV Study Bible Notes, 1 Cor. 1:8, Ibid.
- Gill, 1 Cor. 1: 9, Ibid
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” 1 Corinthians 1:9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/1 corinthians.html
September 4, 2020