January 19, 2020

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



First Lesson; Isaiah 49:1-6

Gospel Lesson; John 1:29-41                           

Sermon Text; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9


Grace to you and peace from God our Father through our Lord, Jesus Christ!


That is a pretty typical greeting Paul would use, when he would write a letter to congregations in The New Testament.  He would always use those two words, “grace”, and “peace”.  The Greek word for 'grace' is 'charis'.  It is a reminder to us of the grace we have received, because of what God has done for us. 

Because of God's grace, because of His undeserved love for us who are sinners, we have peace.  The Greek word for 'peace' is ' eirene'.  The Hebrew word for peace is 'shalom'. 

So, again, because of God's grace, we now have peace.  Those are two salutations, or greetings Paul would use. 

“Grace and peace to you.”

There once was a church that had a vacancy.  There was a committee that had gotten together to find out what they wanted in a pastor at their congregation.  (This is not one of the churches of our synod.  It is a different church body.) 

There was one member of the committee that was a little disturbed by the number of pastors they were just rejecting, off of the cuff.  And so, he stood up before the committee, and shared with them a letter a pastor had 'sent to him'.  That pastor really wanted to be the pastor at that congregation.  The committee member stood up, and said, “I am going to read to you this letter of qualification from a pastor who would really like to come here.  Please bare with me, as I read this.  This is written from the pastor who wants to come here.”

“I understand your pulpit is vacant.  I would like to apply for that position.  I have many qualifications.  I have been a pastor with much success, and also have had some success as a writer.  Some say I am a good organizer.  I have been a leader most places I have been.  I am over fifty years of age.  I have never preached in one place more than three years.  In all honesty, many have said my sermons are boring, but I stick to the Word of God.  I don't believe in time constraints, and some of my sermons go on for more than an hour.  In some places I have left town, after my work has caused trouble.  I have also gotten along not very well with the religious leaders in all of those towns I have been in.  I must admit I have been in jail three, or four times, but not because of any real wrong doing I have done.  My health is not very good, though I still get a great deal of work done.  The churches I have preached in are pretty small, but they are located in some large cities.  I am not too good at keeping records.  I have been known to forget whom I have baptized.  But, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you.”

And so, that board member opened it up to the committee, and said, “What do you think?  Should we call this man to be our pastor?”

The committee was aghast.  They were like, “Why would we want to call an old, unhealthy person to be our pastor at this church?” 

Then, another person asked, “Oh, by the way, who was it that was writing the letter?”

The man said, “That is the Apostle Paul.”

All of those qualifications I just shared with you, share with us who the Apostle Paul was.  He is the one who wrote this letter to the church in Corinth.  Acts, chapter eighteen tells us the Apostle Paul was in Corinth on his second missionary journey.  He had spent a year and a half there.  He had spent eighteen months there.  He had established the Christian congregation.  He had helped them to grow in their faith in Jesus, as their Savior. 

Now, he has been away from them for a number of years.  But, word has come to him of some of the struggles, troubles, and sins they had fallen in to.  And so, he wanted to pen a letter to share with them.  This letter we are going to be starting to look at today is that very letter he wrote to the Christian congregation in Corinth.

But, before he gets in to their sins, struggles, and their problems, he wants to build them up.  He wants to show the full assurance he has in them again, because of God's grace, and because of the peace they now have.

So, let's look at our text for today, which is taken from 1 Corinthians, chapter one, looking at the first nine verses.  This is God's Word, in Jesus' name.


Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the Will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God in Corinth – those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, who are called as saints – along with all in every place who 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 Always thank my God for you, because of the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus.  You were enriched in Him in every way, in all your speaking and all your knowledge, because the testimony about Christ was established in you.  As a result you do not lack any gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will also keep you strong until the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.


There are some similarities between the city of Corinth and the city of Madison, WI.  One of those correlations is that both of those cities are on an isthmus.  Please look at the map.  You will see it was pretty treacherous to ship or sail around the south coast of Greece.



So, oftentimes what people would do is they go in to the port by Corinth.  They would take these ships on big rollers, and they would carry them across the isthmus, to get to the other portion of the sea.  It was much safer that way, than going all of the way around.

We might say, in a sense, things are similar here in Madison.  When you travel around town, you need to figure out, “Am I going to go under the lakes?  Am I going to go over the lakes?  Am I going to go through the lakes?  Am I going to take the isthmus to get myself through town?”

Corinth was also known as, “The Gem of Greece”.  I think I have lived here in Madison long enough to know that maybe some Madisonians would say the same thing.  “Madison is the gem of Wisconsin”, because they just love living in this city. 

Well, you have probably heard the phrase, “When you are pointing at somebody else with your index finger, there are three fingers that are pointing back at yourself”.  In this letter, Paul is getting ready to point the finger, and to point out a number of sins, struggles, and divisions that are happening in the city of Corinth.  But, before he does that, he certainly recognizes his own sin.   He wants to build them up in their assurance they have, because of the grace and peace of God.

And so, in the second half of our text for today he says three things.  He says,

“...the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus.” 

Never forget that.  Never forget the grace you have, because of what Jesus has done for you.  We don't deserve it.  We don't earn it.  But, we receive it.  So, praise be to God for His grace!

Because you have received God's grace, that means you have been enriched in every way.  This is the second thing Paul brings out in the second portion of our text for today. 

“You were enriched in Him in every way...” 

The Greek word, there, for 'to be enriched' is really, 'to make wealthy'.  It is not to be made wealthy from a physical perspective, but it is to be made wealthy from a spiritual perspective. 

Just this last week, I had the privilege of once again listening to my students in Catechism Class, sharing their memory work with me.  One of the passages they shared with me was taken from the book of Corinthians, that Paul wrote, that talks about our being enriched in every way.  It put a smile on my face to hear my students share this passage of scripture with me. 

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

that though He was rich,

yet for your sakes He became poor,

so that you through His poverty,

we might become rich.”

Just like the Corinthians have been enriched in every way, you and I also have been enriched in every way.

The third thing the Apostle Paul wants to share with them, near the end of our text is, because of God's grace, because you have been enriched you lack nothing.  You have everything.  You lack nothing as you await the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“ do not lack any gift

as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Well, Paul shares this with the Corinthians for this reason.  I am going to just take you back to the first time he visited the city of Corinth.  Before Paul had visited the city of Corinth, it was almost as if they had a veil covering their face.  They didn't know Jesus.  But through the preaching of The Word, that veil had been dropped.  Jesus had appeared to them in God's grace and God's mercy, through Christ Jesus.  But, they were in danger of putting that veil back up.  They were in danger of losing that appearance of Christ, which Paul did not want to have happen to them.  And so, that is why he is going to begin doing something that is very challenging, not only for him, but is challenging for all of us, whenever we need to point out sin in another person's life.

So the rest of the letter, that is what the Apostle Paul is getting ready to do. 

This past week, at Holy Cross, in our 10:00am Bible Study, we are finishing up the book of 2nd Timothy.  There is one verse in that letter that simply says this.  It is talking about the sins of a particular group of people.  It is talking about people who were living on the island of Crete.  They were known as Cretans.  The sentence simply says this.  It is well known for centuries, the sins this group on that island had fallen on.  Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons.  That was not just the Apostle Paul's words.  But, that was another person's words about his own people.  That was what the people of Crete are like. 

Well, the same thing had happened in the city of Corinth.  The word 'corinth' has now come in to our lexicon.  It has come in to our speaking, because we can still talk about somebody who has been 'corinthinized', or somebody who has become 'a Corinthian'.  It just means 'somebody who is living a promiscuous, and immoral lifestyle'.  What is happening in the city of Corinth, we would say, “There is nothing new under the sun”.  The same struggles that were happening in that city, are the same struggles that are happening in this city. 

Even in Martin Luther's day, he wrote about the struggles that were happening in the city of Corinth.  Here is what Martin Luther simply said about the Corinthian people. 

“In short, things got so wild, and disorderly that everyone wanted to be the expert, and do the teaching, and make what he pleased of the Gospel, the Sacrament, and faith.  Meanwhile, they let the main thing drop, namely that Christ is our salvation, righteousness, and redemption, as if they had long since outgrown it.  This truth can never remain in tack, when people begin to imagine they are wise, and know it all.”

Just as Paul had to write this letter to the church in Corinth, and to do something that was very challenging (to point out sin), there are times when I stand before us, and I do the same thing.  I point out our sins.  We recognize there is nothing new under the sun.  There is division in our families, and there is division in our church.  There is immaturity, and there is instability.  There are marital difficulties, and there are sexual immoralities. 

Just as Paul did that to the city of Corinth, and just as we, in worship do that here at Holy Cross, the Apostle Paul doesn't stop there.  He continues with a second fold portion of that message.  He really takes the words that John the Baptist spoke in our Gospel Lesson for today.  He applies that to the city of Corinth, as I am going to share here today.  You heard what Pastor Bartels read just moments ago.  There was a day in John the Baptist's ministry.  He was the forerunner of Christ.  Jesus was walking by, and John pointed to Jesus, and told everybody who was there (and it was like Show and Tell),

“Behold the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world.”

That is what the Apostle Paul does in our text for today.  I am going to ask you to do this, when the service is over, sometime this week.  The verses we are looking at for today are nine verses long.  In nine verses the Apostle Paul uses Jesus' name nine times.  Almost once per verse.  What is he doing?  He is wanting to make sure Jesus has appeared to that Christian congregation in Corinth, and they know who Jesus is. 

“Behold the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world.”

It is not that you earn it.  It is not that you deserve it, but you have received it.  God's grace has come to you, and you now have peace.

Today I can say the same thing to us.  Nine times, in nine verses, Jesus' name has been shared with us.  What John did in his day, what Paul did in his day, I want to do today.  I want to make sure Jesus has appeared to us.  That is what the Epiphany Season is all about.  The word 'epiphany' means 'to reveal', 'to make known', 'to manifest', 'to appear'. 

During the Epiphany Season, we look at portions of scripture that do just that.  They reveal Jesus to us.  It is like a wonderful Show and Tell in which we get to see Jesus.  We are reminded of everything Jesus, our Savior, has done for us. 

-He lived for you and me. 

-He died for you and me. 

-He rose for you and me. 

-And, through Him, God looks at you, and you will be counted blameless on the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

That message is not just to stay with you and me, and to say, “Jesus has appeared to me, again today.”  

May we also take that wonderful appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and share that wonderful appearance, and reflect Jesus' love for us to others, as well.