Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours: 3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in Him you have been enriched in every way - in all your speaking and in all your knowledge - 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Without doubt, the most dominating motive of the business world is the desire for riches, and money is how we measure success. Successful businesses make lots of money, stable businesses make enough to cover their expenses, and failed businesses close down because they don’t make enough money.
You don’t need a degree in business science to know that.
Whether we’re talking personal or corporate success, the level of that success or failure is almost always measured by money in the secular world.
As individuals, some people dedicate their total being to achieving financial riches, this despite the fact that only a very small percentage of people have more money than they know what to do with.
On the other hand, many spend their lives in despair because of their inability to become rich.
As Christians though, we base our value and our riches on something completely different.
At first glance, Paul’s opening words to the Church at Corinth sounds a bit like a letter of congratulations to a group of people who had come into a great fortune, and according to Paul they had done exactly that.
Their treasure ship had arrived. Of course, he was referring to spiritual riches that are of permanent value, rather than financial riches that are of temporary value.
In Ephesians 3:8-9 you can sense the deep awe that Paul had for Jesus when he writes, “This grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”
Paul could not be accused of not having a passion for Jesus. In the nine verses from our reading from 1 Corinthians he uses Jesus’ name no less than nine times.
As in all of Paul’s letters and preaching, the name of Jesus was central, and he lingers over the precious name of Christ.
Paul speaks about the grace of God that his readers had experienced through Jesus Christ as a treasure of incredible riches, and he was now helping them to realise the extent of their riches.
In a world where virtually everything is measured in material terms, it is so important for us to fully appreciate the nature of our riches in Jesus Christ.
In the early colonial days a missionary was visiting an African village, and he noticed the children playing with some odd looking stones. When he looked a little closer he realised they were rough alluvial diamonds they’d picked up in a nearby riverbed, and in much the same way many people who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are rich beyond their wildest dreams, yet they fail to recognise the nature of their riches.
We find ourselves so wrapped up in the here and now, and the daily grind of life (which can be really hard at times), that we lose our eternal perspective.
Christians are not citizens of earth. We are citizens of Heaven, and we are merely passing through, so yes, enjoy the material blessings God gives you in this life, but hold them loosely.
Our spiritual wealth in Jesus is something which Paul wrote of often, and the reason he did it often is simply because we are slow learners. We need to be reminded of our spiritual wealth, because we forget it too easily. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 he reminds his readers again, “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 might become rich.”
The word ‘grace’ can be used as an acronym to explain this wonderful truth: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
These immeasurable, unsearchable riches are ours through Jesus, and as believers, we need to recognise, and as far as is humanly possible, understand the wonders of our spiritual estate. When we do, it will help us to understand and appreciate even more just what God has done for us.
Do you want to love God more? One of the ways of doing this is to gain a deeper understanding of His grace.
If you have yet to trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then you need to know how much you are missing out on.
So just how are we enriched by and through Jesus?
Firstly, we are enriched by a new relationship with God.
Through faith in Christ, we become the children of God. John 1:12 says “to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God,” and in Galatians 3:26 Paul wrote, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Like most people, I’m sure there are times when you’ve wished that you might have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but we can rejoice because the blessings associated with being children of God are far greater than any legacy that can be passed on from earthly parents.
In 1877 Harriet Buell wrote a hymn that contains these words: “My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands! Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold, His coffers are full - He has riches untold. I’m a child of the King, A child of the King! With Jesus my Saviour, I’m a child of the King!”
One of the benefits of this new relationship we have with God is that through faith in Christ we become partakers of the divine nature.
2 Peter 1:3-4 says “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”
So it’s not only the promise that we will spend all of eternity with God, but He also changes our whole value system. In and of ourselves, we are selfish, and we cannot and will not do things like put others before ourselves, or forgive as we have been forgiven, but now, in Christ, we have a new heart.
The new Christian life is both qualitative as well as quantitative. In other words, this new life causes us to love the things that God loves. It causes us to want to do the things that God wants us to do. That is what Paul meant by us being partakers in the divine nature.
One of Hillsong’s best-known worship songs is entitled ‘Hosanna’, and in this song they sing these beautiful words: “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”
That’s the divine nature – the nature of God Himself – at work in your own heart.
The riches of this new relationship we have with God starts in this life, but of course it also points forward with an assurance of a far deeper and more enriching life in eternity. We now have the promise of victory over death and the promise of an eternal home above.
“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 5:51–57).
Security is a word often used when it comes to providing financially for ourselves or our families, but infinitely greater is the security of those who have placed their faith in a Saviour who conquered death and the grave and who has promised to give that same victory to those who trust and follow Him.
So the first point is that we are enriched in our new relationship with God.
Secondly, we gain new riches because we now have inexhaustible resources for living a victorious life.
As we live our lives empowered by Jesus, and as we become more Christlike in our actions and our attitudes, we will begin to discover that the victory starts here and now.
There is this mistaken idea that eternal life waits for us at the end of this life, but until then we have to kind of work it all out for ourselves.
Jesus provides guidance, strength and courage in the present, as well as promising to do so in the future.
As we all know, Christians are not exempt from hardships, but in those hardships we find it possible to make sense of them from a perspective that the world cannot give us.
This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7 when He said “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
We now have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who now takes up residence in our hearts. It’s a reassurance and a peace which money simply cannot buy.
God’s Spirit not only gives us the desire to do God’s will, but He goes even further. He enables us to do His will.
“It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
This is one of the purposes for the existence of the Church. We have been commissioned to tell the world about the hope that is now to be found in Christ.
Everyone needs a cause to live for, a cause to give to, and a cause to die for. There is no greater cause on the earth than that for which the Church came into being. And it is here, within the Church, where we are able to find the spiritual resources for the living of a triumphant life.
It is so sad to see Christians living a defeated life. Of course we have no guarantees that life will be easy, and some suffer incredibly, despite or even because of their faith, but we can still live the victorious life which Jesus promised.
God’s people have suffered for generations. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”
When trouble comes – and it will – don’t throw up your arms in despair and walk away defeated, but remember the promises of the victorious life here and now, and of course into eternity. John 16:33 concludes with these words of Jesus: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The third promise of riches we have is that we are enriched by the rewards of a loving heavenly Father.
Firstly, we have rewards in the present. Living Godly lives and living in such a way that we do the right thing is a reward in itself, because a Godly life pleases our Father.
If you live for God you will discover an inner peace and joy that comes about as a result of doing the things which please Him. Money can’t buy you things like integrity or trustworthiness. Those qualities are foreign to human nature, and they can only come from God. People who display things like trust and integrity are spiritually rich, and you can see it in them.
As we give ourselves in service to God in a ministry of mercy to a needy world, we will be able to see the fruits of our labours and the labours of others.
We will find that true joy and true happiness are by-products of giving ourselves to something that is bigger and better than ourselves.
God will bless us with victory over difficulties in our own lives.
When we live for Him and work with Him, we receive His wisdom, energy, and guidance. Can material wealth buy you those things?
The happiest people on earth today are not the wealthiest or the most highly educated or the most powerful. The happiest people are those who have a right relationship with God and who are seeking to do His will in every area of their lives.
And then secondly, our rewards in the future. Jesus taught His disciples to invest their energies and resources in treasures of eternal significance. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Here He was giving His disciples and us sound financial advice. He was pointing out the permanent value of some things in contrast to the temporary value of other things. And He encourages each of us to live our lives with the issues and values of eternity in mind.
In the very last chapter of the Bible Jesus promises, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Revelation 22:12) Each of us can have the privilege of hearing the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
Are you enjoying the rich rewards of God in the present? Are you investing your life and energy in such a manner that you will reap rich rewards in the future?
I have borrowed a statement from a colleague of mine, which I use at every wedding I conduct. It happens right at the beginning of the service, just after the bride has walked down the aisle and there are beaming smiles and even tears of joy sometimes – that moment when it seems that life and love cannot possibly get any better.
It is here where I encourage the couple to include Jesus in their marriage, and I always say to them “With Christ, you will have everything. But without Him, you will have nothing.”
Most couples will smile and nod politely, but at one wedding a few years ago, the bride looked at me with wide eyes and her reaction was almost as if I’d slapped her in the face by saying that. Whether that had any long-term effect, I don’t know because they have emigrated, but Jesus will not only enrich our marriages and other personal relationships.
He promises to enrich every aspect of our lives. The truth is that spiritually you are either a multi-billionaire, with riches you simply cannot measure, or you are bankrupt. There is no in-between. There is no spiritual comfort zone. You either have Christ, which means you have everything, or you do not have Him, which means you have nothing.
“God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)