- 18 January 2023
- Stuart Robinson
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
I don’t think I’ve been to a play or a theatre production where the person operating the spotlight is given star-billing.
That person’s task, generally speaking, is to remain relatively unseen, and ensure the main character is properly illuminated and in centre focus.
John the Baptist’s ministry, in some ways, is like the person behind the spotlight.
John keeps the focus on Jesus – all the time.
His task, he says, in verse 31 – is to reveal Jesus to the people of God.
I’ve noticed that in this social media saturated world – where it’s all about us: our blog, our tweet, our text, our every unfiltered thought, emotion, and activity on view for the world to see, that to deflect attention away from ourselves – is something of a novelty.
And yet John does it so beautifully, don’t you think?
Knowing that God has set him apart as the forerunner to the Messiah (John 1:23) – he diligently exercises his ministry; that of pointing people to Jesus.
John was baptising people in the river Jordan and was assisted by a group of loyal disciples…all of whom he now directs towards Jesus.
- Because the wait is over – v.30
- Because the Spirit of God has identified Jesus as the ‘Chosen One of God’ – v.34
- Because – unlike John who baptised people with water – a symbol of washing and cleansing; this ‘Chosen One’ will baptise in the Holy Spirit; yes through Jesus – people will be filled, and transformed, and renewed, and re-animated…spiritually reborn John 3.
- Because no other person is qualified or able to ‘take away the sins of the world’ – v29; Jesus alone is the sacrificial lamb – as it were – v.29.
That is why John points people to Jesus.
And he (John) summarises it this way, “I have seen, and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One (v.34).
John simply reports his encounter with Jesus.
A Samaritan woman did a similar thing (in John 4).
Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah – even though some considered this woman to be unworthy and unclean, and so she tells her friends.
Here’s what happens – John 4:39
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony….so when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they urged him to stay with them and he stayed two days and because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.
Like John – she pointed people to Jesus – and then she got out of the way.
John does it so simply – v.35: to his friends and followers he says, there he is…there’s the One you’ve been searching for all your life – the Lamb of God.
John introduces people who are ‘seeking’ – for that is a sharper translation of v.38, ‘what are you seeking?’, to the One who has come into the world to slake their spiritual thirst, and to provide rest and peace for their souls.
And a great and an enduring revival begins:
It starts when John points his friend Andrew in Jesus’ direction – and because the news is so very good Andrew immediately points his brother Simon-Peter to Jesus (and let me quote from v.41),
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah – that, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, you are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas – which, when translated, is Peter.
So, John pointed people to Jesus – one of whom was Andrew.
Andrew heard and believed, and he pointed his brother Peter to Jesus.
Peter – who in God’s grace was set apart one of the founding fathers of the church then said this to us concerning pointing people to Jesus. – 1 Peter 3:13-18
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats do not be frightened.15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Rosie Clapham took that injunction seriously.
In the early months of 1878, this young, poorly educated, working class woman from South London – a factory worker, barely 18 years of age, Rosie Clapham and her colleague, Jenny Smith, arrived at the train station in Barnsley, Yorkshire.
They’d been sent by the founder of the Salvation Army (William Booth) to break new ground in the north of England.
Rosie’s task was straightforward enough: point and lead coalminers to faith in Jesus.
In Yorkshire at that time, work was tough—when it was available, and people were accustomed to the frequent changes of fortune that industrialisation had brought.
Rosie reported what happened in the September 1878 edition of Christian Mission magazine:
“On the Monday I went into the open air with my colleague, Jenny Smith, and when they saw us two little things stand there, hundreds of coal miners gathered ‘round us at once”.
Rosie proceeded to courageously point miners to Jesus in her open-air sermon.
She continues, “after we had held our meeting, we walked off to our hall … the colliers came after us, and God touched their hearts: 700 gave their lives to Christ.
Rosie says of her with Jenny, “we have [now started a church] and we have 140 [formal] members, and they can all preach better than I can.
Lest we fall into the devil’s trap of thinking, ‘God could never use me’ as he did Andrew, and the Samaritan woman, and Rosie and Jenny, we come briefly to our epistle, I Corinthians 1:1-9, where St Paul reminds that church that they have been called and set apart by God (‘sanctified’ is the word used in v.2) to live as his holy people.
- First, God gave them – as a church – every spiritual gift necessary to advance the cause of Christ until he returns (v.7)
- Second, Jesus is actively working in and through them so that they might stand before him at journey’s end blameless and whole (vv.2, 8)
- Third, it is all God’s initiative – he will faithfully bring to completion all that he has begun in our lives (v.9).
Our task (and we learn this from v6) is to live in such a way that our testimony to Christ is confirmed in our words and our lives (as it was with Paul and the church in Corinth).
And what good news we have to share:
-The wait is over – John 1:30.
-The Spirit of God has identified Jesus as the ‘Chosen One of God’ – John 1:34.
-Jesus baptises in the Holy Spirit; yes, through Jesus – people will be filled, and transformed, and renewed, and re-animated…spiritually reborn – John 3.
-No one else, apart from Jesus, is qualified or able to ‘take away the sins of the world’ John 1:2. He becomes sins’ punishment; he is the sacrificial lamb – as it were (John 1:29).
That is the Jesus on whom we are to shine the spotlight in 2023.
In the name of Christ.