“Agenda” seems to be such an ugly word. I suspect few people want to be part of someone else’s agenda. Fewer still want others to set the agenda for his or her life.
But “agenda” can also be a good word. It is necessary for leadership. It suggests a plan; direction.
Paul, the Apostle, had an agenda.
He tells the Corinthians quite clearly:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
This was his predetermined set purpose and plan. It was his sole message and goal.
Reflect on his words again: I resolved to know nothing… except…
Now, when I read those words I am often struck. I have wondered many times how he stuck with his plan. After all, is there any letter Paul wrote in which he deals with a wider range of subjects?
It has been said that Paul is often treated like Dear Abby of the Bible. When we Christians have questions about how we should act in some circumstance, we ask “What does Paul say?” And that certainly seems to be the case in Corinth.
Apparently the problems of this church, and of the people in this church, had become so outrageous that someone took the initiative to contact Paul to get his input. Scholars point out that the leaders of the church had also composed an “official” letter to Paul seeking his guidance on other matters. So what we have in this letter is Paul’s composite counsel.
Some of these issue concern things that might surprise us even if we found them on a daytime soap opera!
“Dear Paul, do you think it would be OK for me to date my father’s new wife? She’s not my real mother, ya know…”
Paul also addresses drunkenness at church functions. And he writes to the people about their pride in tolerating things that even the rest of Corinth found shameful. I’m not sure what all those things were, but I know what the residents of Corinth thought was acceptable might even cause a blush on the faces of San Franciscans and the Creoles of New Orleans (before the flood). So I’m not sure I want to even think about what the people in the church were accepting that others in town found distasteful!
Paul addresses some more, comparatively, mundane social issues, like the role of women, law suites, and marriage. And he addresses Spiritual issues like love, liberty, orderly worship, and spiritual gifts.
Now, if Paul addresses all these issues, how can he say, with a straight face, that his sole message was “Jesus Christ crucified?”
The answer is this: Christ crucified is the crux of the Gospel.
In Christ’s willing substitutionary death we see the perfect demonstration of God’s love. We learn of the atonement that compensated for our debt. We see that the ransom has been paid; that those the Father has given to Jesus have been redeemed, and now belong to Him. (John 17:6-9). It is the basis of our being reconciled with God. It is the basis of living life in Christ. It is the basis of joy. (Romans 5:9-11)
And the Gospel is NOT limited in scope! The answer to every issue Paul addresses is rooted in the Gospel!
Theologian D.A. Carson writes of Paul:
“He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else without finally tying it to the Cross. Paul is Gospel-centered; he is cross-centered.”
And the answer to every issue we face in this life is also , in one way or another, rooted to that same Gospel, that was once for all entrusted to the saints – to us, when we believe it. (Jude 3)
When we begin to grasp the truths of the Gospel – or perhaps I should say when the truths of the gospel get hold of us – everything changes. It radically transforms the way we think, the way we relate to God, and the way we live.
What Paul was reminding the Corinthians was that his ambition was to teach the truths of the Gospel in all its aspects, and to see those truths worked out in every facet of life. And now, on occasion of this letter, he is reaffirming that same ambition.
If asked, I would have to confess that I have an agenda for Walnut Hill. It is to echo Paul’s words: “I am determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.”
To accomplish this agenda I must first be a continual student of the Gospel Paul holds so dearly. I must ponder the insights and implications, and I must apply them to my own life so that my life and teaching can both proclaim it.
But I cannot do it alone. Others will have to commit to studying these glorious truths, and to living in light of the accompanying promises …
Then together we can rejoice in the grace given us…
We can encourage each other with the various aspects of the gospel…
We can learn to preach it to ourselves, first, and to remind one another of it; and then we can live it and proclaim it to others.
I’m not exactly sure where that will take us, or what we’ll look like after a decade or two of living this way…
But I am quite confident it will make for an exciting & enjoyable ride!