By Dan King
In the opening chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the writer encourages these brethren to “wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7). All of us understand this notion of “waiting.” Often we must wait in line at the check-out counter to buy groceries. We wait in line to buy tickets at the movies. We wait at the doctor’s office to be called in to our appointment (which was usually a half-hour to an hour earlier than when we are called!).
Sometimes when we wait it is not a problem of patience or understanding. The line is short, or the check-out per- son is efficient, or everyone in line has just a few things, etc. Whatever the case may be, we are not forced to wait long.
But then at other times we have to wait for a long time. Then we grow impatient, we get nervous and “antsy.” I have seen people lay the merchandise down and walk out of the store. Sometimes they even get nasty. I have also seen impatient people in the doctor’s office leave and tell the nurse at the desk that they would never be back!
Waiting takes patience. Yet, if we are busy while we wait, then the time goes by quickly and we do not notice. Some restaurants have games for the kids on the placemats; others have little game-boards right on the table. Pediatricians’ offices sometimes have a huge assortment of toys to entertain the children while they wait. Most outer offices have magazines aplenty for us to read while we wait.
Paul recognizes this idea in the text of the Christian’s wait. Idle waiting leads to impatience and frustration, and sometimes causes people to quit altogether. Here are the things that the apostle lists as important for us to do while we wait on Jesus:
1. Be enriched in utterance. In v. 5 he writes: “. . . that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge.” As children of God, we have been enriched in utterance in several ways. First, our language ought to be more pure and enriching to those around us. Christians should never use profanity or vulgarity, cursing or swearing, for it is not appropriate to our calling: “Now do ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8). Second, our speech should be happy and pleasant to those about us. We are saved from our sins! We have heaven as our hope! God loves us and is caring for us! Certainly we should talk like people for whom these things are true. None of us likes to be around people who are morose and unpleasant, negative and critical, why would we think others would want to be around us if we are this way? Our speech should be a blessing to those who hear us: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).
2. Be enriched in knowledge. Paul also states that we ought to be “enriched in him, in . . . all knowledge” (v. 5). While we await the return of our Lord, we need to be grow- ing in knowledge. Peter wrote: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever” (2 Pet. 3:18). This is, in itself, a life-long enterprise which, sad to say, some of us have never yet begun. The key to our desire for growth is an appreciation of the word “enriched” used in this phrase. We are “enriched” by our gain in knowledge. We are “enriched” by our growth in spiritual wisdom. Some people are enriched by an inheritance of wealth; others are enriched by working hard and saving; still others are enriched by successful business enterprises. But we are never more enriched than when we grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ! The problem is, however, that the riches of Christ are unsearchable (Eph. 3:8) to the untrained eye, and completely hidden from the fleshly man (Col. 2:2-3). Yet they are the only true riches (Matt. 6:19-20)!
3. Live blamelessly. Paul continues in v. 8: “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a tremendous challenge! To attempt to live before God blameless in Christ! Now, admittedly, we are all going to have need of God’s “confirmation” described in the first part of the verse. At times we will err and commit sin, and thus have need of the cleansing blood of the Savior to complete the work. Yet we should see it as a “race set before us” which we run “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Or, as Paul put it elsewhere: “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forget- ting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before. I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded . . .” (Phil. 3:12-15).
4. Live in fellowship. In v. 9 Paul further admonishes the Christians at Corinth to abide in the fellowship into which they were called. Our fellowship in Christ is both with God and with one another in the body of Christ, the church: “If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).
The sweet fellowship of the church is a blessing which the negligent and unfaithful miss in this world. But ultimately they miss the greatest blessing of all: fellowship with God. Perhaps they never miss it because they have not truly enjoyed it. But, just consider the fellowship which you have had with your best friend in this world, and imagine for a moment that you had never known them. You would never have missed them had you never known them, it is true, but surely you can realize that you would have missed out, knowing them now as you do! So it is with fellowship with God and the church. You may never miss it if you have never had this sweet friendship, but you have certainly missed out! Every faithful child of God will continue steadfastly in fellowship: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).5. Remain united in Christ. At v. 10 the apostle presents the church with a great challenge as she “waits for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the challenge of unity within the fellowship of which he has just spoken: “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment”. Here he makes three demands: (1) Speak the same thing; (2) No divisions; (3) Be perfected together in mind and judgment. This is no small order! Certainly it will keep us all busy as we “wait for the Lord”!