Trinity 9, 2016
The Epistle. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
The Gospel. St. Luke 15:11-32
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
In last Sunday’s Collect we acknowledged and prayed for God’s providence to guide and protect us and lead us into all good things.
This Sunday the theme is similar in that we ask God for Him to supply the spirit to think and do always such things as are right.
This is also a work of Providence.
In saying this prayer we acknowledge that this is something He must provide. In Regeneration at Baptism we are given such a spirit.
And yet we must ask for that spirit to continually be strengthened in our lives so that we continually think a certain way….act a certain way as our prayer says.
Furthermore, the prayer goes on to say that we cannot do anything good without God either.
This further acknowledges our need for His Providential presence in our lives every minute of the day.
This is true also because, though we are regenerated, we still have that old man, our former self, so-to-speak, that clings closely to us and causes us to desire wrong things.
Finally the last clause says that we ask these things also so that we may be enabled to live according to His will.
This too is a necessity.
The spirit given to us, frees us to do so...to live according to His will, but again, we are always shadowed and sometimes taken a hold of by our old self.
Paul calls it our old man or our old self or just “the flesh.”
He says in Romans 6, “We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6 ESV)
Paul also tells us things like this, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV)
How many of us can relate to this? I hope all of you can.
If you can, it is a clear sign that the Spirit of God is working in you and that we have received the spirit to think and do as God would have us do.
Of the two lessons that come to us today, Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians seems clearer regarding its relation to the theme of the day.
On the Gospel side, Jesus tells the third of a group of three Parables. The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Prior to this He told the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost coin….both we heard not too long ago.
And all three were told in response to what was happening at the time. The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling because Jesus received sinners and ate with them. He associated with them.
All three Parables seem to have a similar theme and that of responding to the coldness and lack of neighborly love and compassion that the Pharisees repeatedly showed to the people.
When in fact, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than 99 just persons who need no repentance.
There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
And today in the Prodigal Son, there is joy in the Father over one sinner who turns from his sin, repents and returns home.
In all three cases, it would seem that since the lessons are placed here today we are to assume that the message is a reminder that all repentance is a work of God.
God in His providence provides a new heart…a quickened spirit that turns away from sin and toward God.
Paul’s section from 1 Corinthians today is a bit more explicit regarding the theme of God’s providential giving of a spirit to think and do all such things as are right.
…enabled to do things that are good.
…enabled to live according to the will of God.
So, what does Paul say in particular today? The passage in question is all about Paul warning us about the sin of idolatry.
“For Paul everything that happened to the OT people happened as examples for the benefit of the last age of believers.
The OT is seen as the ekklēsia’s book, meant to teach Christians by analogy and example how they ought and ought not to live, with Israel providing both negative and positive examples.”
He says, I don't want you to be unaware brothers about the fact that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. And they all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
We have similar language in Jude, “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)
So even with those who lived in the Old Testament, it is Christ who was with them. Not with them in the exact same way He was with His people when He was incarnate here on earth.
And yet upon His return to Heaven, He once again is with us through the Spirit. He is still present in a similar way as He was in the Old Testament with the people of Israel. The Spirit made Him present.
And through the Spirit, Christ is guiding us, leading us, teaching us….and He is…as our prayer to God today says, preserving us, giving us the spirit to think and do what is right, and enabling us to live according to His will.
The Israelite people “…had been as highly favored as we. They had been miraculously guided by the pillar of cloud;
they had been led through the Red Sea; they had been fed with manna from heaven and with water from the rock.
And yet the great majority of them perished. This is a solemn warning to Christians not to give way to temptation as the Israelites did. That is, not to be led into idolatry, nor into fornication, nor into tempting Christ, nor into grumbling. …which we also see in the behavior of the Pharisees with Jesus. Grumbling…That is what prompted the Parables.
But Paul goes on to say today that these things happened to the people of Israel, God’s people as examples for us…that we might not desire evil as they did.
This letter of course is to the Corinthians, who were perfect candidates to receive such a letter. Apparently the Corinthian Church was still quite unsettled with regard to Christian behavior. This was still an idolatrous and sexually depraved group to some degree. Quite unruly in some ways…even in worship. Paul is tamping down this activity.
The Corinthian letters are almost the longest of Paul’s letters. That is why they are near the front of the NT. But there seemed to be so much going on that he had to cover as much as he could.
Paul says that the things we find the Israelites were doing in the OT …(and God’s response) were designed to be examples for both the Corinthians and us to learn from…so we don't go down the same path.
They were written for our instruction, says Paul. And God in His Providence uses Paul’s instruction to instruct us as well. For we too offend in many of the same ways as both the Israelites and the Corinthians.
People don't change much throughout history.
He further says, “Anyone who thinks that he stands….take heed….lest he fall.”
Charles Hodge: “Neither the members of the Church nor the elect can be saved unless they persevere in holiness; and they cannot persevere in holiness without continued watchfulness and effort.”
So in praying as we did that God would grant us the spirit to think and do always such things as are right, we are asking that we be made watchful. Temptation is all around us.
God tells Cain way back in Genesis 4, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 ESV)
No enticement to sin.
No seduction has come to any of us that has not come to other people. We are not the first to get here. We are not the first to suffer temptations of all sorts.
We are not the first in most things regarding temptations and enticements. The medium may change but the danger if it does not.
Yet in the final analysis, Paul reminds us of this. “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. With the temptation He will provide the way of escape….that you may be able to endure it.
Many times when telling someone this, they reply that they just can’t endure the situation they are in any longer. They are overwhelmed and God has not provided a way of escape. He has let them be tempted beyond what they can bear.
Yet here they are telling me this.
They have not been consumed.
They may feel as if they are on the brink. But they are still well enough to argue that God has not been faithful as He promises.
Hodge: “He has promised to preserve his people, and therefore his faithfulness is concerned in not allowing them to be unduly tempted…the security of believers is referred neither to the strength of the principle of grace infused into them by regeneration, nor to their own firmness, but to the faithfulness of God. He has promised that those given to the Son as his inheritance will never perish.
They are kept, therefore, by the power of God through faith for salvation.”
So he is saying it is not that we have something within us (infused into us as some would argue) nor is it strictly due to our own strength.
So to close we might think on what Peter wrote in his first letter.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—
-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Witherington, B., III. (1995). Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (p. 217). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Hodge, C. (1995). 1 Corinthians (p. 161). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kling, C. F., & Poor, D. W. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Corinthians (p. 200). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Hodge, C. (1995). 1 Corinthians (p. 171). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.