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More Than Merely Human - 1 Cor. 3:1-4

“I’m only human.” For us, that’s an excuse. We can’t be expected to avoid fights and quarrels because we have feelings, opinions, and emotions just like anybody else. Nobody could be expected to just ignore or overlook the insults and hostility we’ve faced. And so whenever we give in to some basic human desire rather than resisting it, we justify ourselves by pointing out that we are only human.

And ever since the fall of Adam, this excuse makes a lot of sense: Humans can’t overcome sin and properly reflect the image of God. Humans can’t choose to follow God and do what is right. You can’t love, can’t forgive, can’t be good. Try as hard as you like, you end up doing what you shouldn’t do, and you can’t do what you know you ought to. That’s what it means to be merely human, or as Paul puts it, being “people of the flesh.”

For us, “I’m only human” is an excuse. For Paul, it’s a problem. What happened to you when you believed in Jesus was so significant, so miraculous, so transformative that you should never again have to say, “I’m only human.” You are more than human – God Himself dwells inside you by His Holy Spirit. Jesus has redeemed you from your fallen, broken, sinful humanness and God has given you a new nature. This is incredible good news; this is the freedom that Jesus offers.

However, when Paul writes to the Corinthian church who had believed and embraced this gospel, he has to rebuke them, because there are divisions and rivalries and jealousies and controversies all over the church, which is a sure sign that they are not walking in the Spirit. Even still, Paul addresses them as brothers, because he’s not complaining about who they are. He’s complaining about how they are behaving, because their actions aren’t consistent with who they are. They’re acting as if they are still merely human, as if Jesus hadn’t redeemed them, as if the Spirit hadn’t filled them!

Here’s what the Corinthians are saying: “I can’t be reconciled with my brother, Paul! I’m only human!” “I can’t control my sexual appetite, Paul! I’m only human!” “I can’t get over my jealousy, Paul! I’m only human!” “I need to take my brother in Christ to court; I can’t just let myself be wronged! I’m only human!”

But Paul doesn’t buy it. He knows better than to fall for it. He does not allow us to use our humanity as an excuse for sin. When you are in the middle of a broken relationship, you face all sorts of struggles: it’s hard to forgive. It’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to impute good motives instead of bad motives – you just know that they were trying to hurt you! And it’s hard to make the conscious decision to let yourself be wronged rather than continuing to fight for your rights. Lose the argument, not your temper? Lose the money, not your integrity? Lose the world, not your soul? Living this way isn’t just hard; it’s superhuman.

But Paul has absolute confidence in the power of Jesus Christ to make us new after His own image, and so he calls the Corinthians to live as spiritual people. The good news of the gospel is that not only have your sins been forgiven through the cross, but because Jesus has given you His Spirit, you are not trapped by the limits of your broken humanity. The merely human you died with Christ, and now you have been raised up as more than human. The Spirit of God dwells in you, which means that you have everything you need to overcome strife and jealousy!

The reason why this is so important for mission, why this topic comes up during Epiphany season, is that nothing puts the light of Christ under a basket faster than Christians who can’t get along. Christians who are fighting with each other cannot spread the peace of Christ to the world! Mere humans cannot be the light of the world, and so you need to be more than merely human so that the gospel can shine through your life.

What the church celebrates at Epiphany is that Jesus Christ was revealed to us as more than merely human, and since He was more than human He was able to walk through life without sin. It took someone who was more than human to overcome sin, and the good news for all who believe in Jesus is that in Him, because He has given us His Spirit, we too, can overcome sin, because by God’s grace, we are more than merely human.

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 by CJ Bowen