1 Corinthians 4:4-16
The sign along the road said “Speed Limit 40,” but everyone knows you can go at least seven or eight miles per hour over. The blue lights flashing in your mirror suggest otherwise and you can’t argue with the person wearing the uniform. His badge reflects his authority, and the truth is you’re guilty. Thankfully, the officer is also given authority to let you off with a warning.
Churches can suffer from the same issue. Congregations imitate societal norms by making decisions through majority vote. Too often, as we mimic the worldly process, we forget we are God’s Church and subject to his authority as revealed through Holy Scripture. Pastors are called to guide congregations according to God’s truth, so that ministry is carried out in accordance with the gospel. When we try to live as the world lives and make decisions according to societal norms, what seems at first to be a good decision results in shameful and guilty finger pointing.
Paul lifts up the parameters of Christian life to the church at Corinth, pointing to his life as an example. The way Paul lives, subject to God’s mercy and grace, is his uniform; his life reflects the one who gives him authority. God calls pastors, also subject to his mercy and grace, to represent Christ, wear the vestments of faith and live a life for the sake of others. Pastors are to be living examples of faithfulness. Holding one another accountable to the gospel, the pastor leads corporate confession, or hears the private confessions of individuals. Exercising this office, the pastor is given authority to declare forgiveness. Instead of a warning, we rejoice that our guilt is removed.
Prayer: God of mercy, we thank you for your forgiveness and grace through Christ our Lord. Amen.