“Enriched in All Speech and Knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 15, 2023

“Enriched in All Speech and Knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42a)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s how I start every sermon I preach, with those words. Where did I get that idea? From St. Paul. That’s how he starts his epistles, with those same words: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” For example, that’s how Paul begins his epistle to the Corinthians, as you heard. With those words, the apostle Paul is conferring a blessing on his hearers as he begins to speak to them. That’s what I do here with you. I’m reminding you that you have God’s grace and his peace in Christ, and it’s on that basis that I now will speak to you. God’s grace and his peace are the great riches that God has made known to me, so that now I can speak a grace-and-peace-filled word to you.

Now notice what Paul tells the Corinthians right after those opening words. He says: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.” Enriched in Christ in all speech and knowledge: God had gifted the Corinthians in that way. And this was so, even though Corinth was a pretty messed-up congregation. Still, they were a Christian congregation, they had had the gospel in their midst, and Paul is reminding them of this fact right from the get-go. And what Paul is saying of them is true for us also: We too have been “Enriched in All Speech and Knowledge.”

So, what are we doing with what we have been given? How are we putting these riches to use? God has given us his grace and his peace. He has enriched us in Christ in all speech and knowledge. How does this affect the way we speak? The words we speak to others?

Today we’ll look at a couple examples from our Gospel reading to give us ideas of how we can use our enriched speech and knowledge to speak to others. The first example is John the Baptist. He sees Jesus coming toward him, and he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Then the next day, John is with a couple of his disciples, and he sees Jesus again and says the same thing, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

What does John mean by that expression, “the Lamb of God”? Why does he use that phrase? You know, we hear “Lamb of God,” and it sounds very familiar. We sing these words of John in the Agnus Dei every Sunday. And John’s disciples, as Jews, would likewise have had some idea of what John was getting at by calling Jesus “the Lamb of God.” But imagine you’re speaking of Jesus to someone who has no clue as to what “the Lamb of God” means. After all, why would you refer to a man as a “lamb”? What is there about him that is like a lamb? So how would you explain “Lamb of God”?

John gives us a clue when he adds some words: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Now we’re getting somewhere! As I say, John is speaking to people who would have known their Bible. So his hearers had a frame of reference to work with. They could think back to all the lambs mentioned in the Old Testament.

They may have thought of the Passover lamb. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt, the angel of death was about to go across the land and strike down all the firstborn. But the Lord told Moses to have the Israelites take a lamb without spot or blemish and spread its blood on the doorposts of their house. That would be a sign for the angel of death to pass over, sparing their lives. Well, Jesus is like that Passover lamb, because his holy blood shed on the cross is the sign by which death passes over us.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John’s disciples would also have thought of the lambs sacrificed for sins at the temple. Of course, those lambs by themselves could not take away any sins. But they were “types” pointing ahead to Christ. He, Christ, is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices. He really does take away the sin of the world! That’s what Jesus was setting out to do, setting out on the way of the cross, when John saw him and called him the Lamb of God.

That takes us to a third lamb that John’s disciples may have thought of. That’s the lamb mentioned in Isaiah 53. There Isaiah prophesies of the Suffering Servant who will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, who will be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. And the prophet compares this servant to a lamb: “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” So John’s use of “Lamb of God” recalls the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

The Passover lamb, the temple sacrifices, the Suffering Servant–all of these come to mind for a person well-versed in the Bible, when John points to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Now this shorthand will work when you’re talking to someone who knows the Bible. But these days, that would be hardly anybody. Almost no one knows the Bible anymore. The rate of biblical illiteracy in our culture is shocking. If you start talking about Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” you’ll get a lot of blank stares. So what do you do? You explain the terms. You do the longhand version, not just the shorthand. In fact, you may not even use the phrase “Lamb of God” at all, at least not to start with. But you certainly can get at what the term means. That Jesus is the sacrifice for sin. He is the one who takes away the sin of the world. He takes away my sin and yours. People can understand that. Of course, you still have to get at the whole matter of sin, what it is, and who has it, which is everyone.

And there’s the rub! It won’t be so much in understanding the concept as in resisting the application. See, people don’t want to admit that they are in need of a Savior to take away their sin. They will debate over what qualifies as sin, and our current culture has certainly screwed up people’s thinking on that. People think, “Hey, I’m not so bad!” Or “How dare God punish people for their sin! Who does he think he is, God?” Well, yeah. And you are not God. No, you are that sinner who needs your sin taken away and atoned for.

So say you get a chance to talk to a friend or neighbor or family member about Jesus. Unless that person senses their need, your words are pretty much going to fall on deaf ears. If people don’t think they have sin that needs to be taken away, they won’t care about the Lamb of God who does just that. But you may just run across someone who does recognize his need. Then your words about Jesus as the “sin-taker-away” will be music to their ears. It’s just what they need to hear! But here’s the thing: You may not know ahead of time who are the “resisters” and who are the “receivers.” So don’t be afraid to just go ahead and speak of your Savior, and let the chips fall where they may.

So John the Baptist is the first person in our text who speaks of Jesus. The other one who does this is Andrew. He’s one of the two disciples who hear John call Jesus the Lamb of God. So Andrew and the other disciple go and follow Jesus. Jesus asks them, “What are you seeking?” They say, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He says, “Come and you will see.” “So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”

Well, staying with Jesus is always time well spent. And it’s enough to send Andrew on a mission. He’s so pumped, he’s so excited, that he goes and finds his brother, Simon, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” And “he brought him to Jesus,” it says.

Again, this is instructive for us. No one had to put pressure on Andrew to get him to “evangelize.” No, he just did it spontaneously. Why? Because he had spent time with Jesus. This was so important to him, so life-changing, that he had to go and tell somebody. It wasn’t a program. It wasn’t a campaign. It just happened as a result of spending time with Jesus. Andrew was beginning to know who Jesus is and why that’s so wonderful.

And notice what else Andrew does when he tells Simon about Jesus. He then brings him to Jesus. He invites him to come with him to the place where Jesus is staying. And you can do the same thing. Do you have a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, someone you know that you could speak to and share your excitement with?

That’s assuming you yourself are excited about knowing Jesus. If not, if you’ve grown lukewarm about being a Christian, then take time to reflect on all that Christ has done for you. He has taken away your sin. He has saved you from death and hell. He has brought you into a new life in the Spirit. Christ has given you a hope and a future. He will come again and take you to be with him forever, in a raised and glorified body, in a perfectly restored creation. I’d say that’s something to get excited about! And it’s something worth telling others about, too, so that they too can get in on the action.

So do what Andrew did. Speak to someone you know about Jesus. Invite him or her to come with you to where Jesus is staying. And that would be here, in church. This is where Jesus is staying, speaking his words of grace and peace to hungry sinners like you and me. This is where Jesus is staying, giving out his gifts of salvation. Come and you will see!

Dear friends, you and I are like the Corinthians. We have been enriched in Christ in all speech and knowledge. You know Jesus and the riches he freely gives. This gives you something to speak about! So be the John or Andrew you already are, one sinner telling another what you know to be true. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” “We have found the Messiah!” You may need to explain those terms, but remember: You have been enriched in Christ in all speech and knowledge.

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Published in: on January 14, 2023 at 12:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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