“A Grace-Based Identity” (Series: Grace for the Weak)
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:1-2
All of Paul’s letters to New Testament churches begin with a similar greeting. But knowing the complicated and intense relationship between Paul and the church in Corinth helps us see the uniqueness of 2 Corinthians 1:1-2. In this greeting, Paul focuses on two identities: himself and his recipients. First, some in the church rejected Paul and his apostolic ministry because it wasn’t impressive enough. Paul reminds them that he is an apostle not by his greatness but by God’s grace. His apostleship came from “the will of God.” Despite his weaknesses, they should treat him according to his grace-based, God-given identity. Second, believers in Corinth attacked, assaulted, accused and afflicted Paul in many ways. Their sins and shortcomings are glaring and great. But Paul addresses them as saints (literally “holy ones”) because that’s what God has made them in Christ. It wasn’t a result of their morality or merit but God’s mercy. Despite their wickedness, he will treat them according their grace-based, God-given identity.
Doing this was not only a matter of obedience but an outflow of Paul’s own experience with God’s transforming grace. He was a persecutor of the church but God met him and made him an apostle of Christ. If God could do that with Paul, he can with anybody. How? The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come not just to cover iniquity but to change identity. He who knew no sin took on our sin so that we who had no righteousness can be declared righteousness before God (2 Cor. 5:21). In Christ we are made holy. Receiving this gospel changes two things. First, our view of ourselves. We are not the worst parts about us (we’re not so sinful we’re unloved) and we are not the best parts about us (we’re not so good we deserve to be loved). We are loved despite anything we are or bring to God because of Christ. Second, our view of others. We can see and embrace others not according to their worst parts or best parts but as God has seen and embraced them. Christians become a people who choose to respond and receive others regardless of their weaknesses or wickedness but because of who they are in Christ.
Suggested Group Discussion Questions
- What, if anything, was particularly clarifying, convicting, or confusing about the passage and/or the sermon? Share insights, reflections, and questions.
- What are the challenges to receiving and resting in a grace-based, God-given identity (living as God says who you are)? If it’s not a challenge, what is liberating about living this way? If it is a challenge, where/what is is easier to find your identity in?
- What are the challenges to seeing and embracing others according to their grace-based, God-given identities? If you did this starting today, what would be some immediate tangible differences in how you treat others?
- Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon?
- Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.