First Things

Tue, 17/05/2011 - 22:39 -- James Oakley

A number of us heard an extremely helpful talk this morning from Hugh Palmer, rector of All Souls Langham Place in London. He reminded a group of us, all in church leadership or pastoral ministry of some kind, to keep first things first.

We were looking at 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul reminds the Corinthian church of the gospel he preached. Specifically, he preached this to them "as of first importance" (verse 3). The Corinthian church had fallen into numerous errors, and yet Paul still addresses them, consistently, as "brothers" throughout the letter. He could do so because they still believed the gospel. Yet for all that they still did that, they had made many other errors.

They had not denied a single tennet of the Christian gospel; they had just treated other matters as though they were of first importance. The personality of a leader, the spiritual gifts someone had were more important than the gospel. So Paul does not write to urge them to believe the gospel because they had stopped doing so, but to bring the gospel they believe back to first place.

The reason why the gospel must take first place is because it is a message that saves people. "The gospel ... by which you are being saved."

The obvious objection someone might raise to this runs "What about ... ?" The answer is that there are lots of things that are worthwhile for a Christian to believe or for a church to do. But those other things are not to take first place.

The way Hugh put that was memorable for its clarity: We're not saying that nothing else matters, only that nothing else saves.

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