When the Apostle Paul was being opposed in the city of Corinth, the Lord came to him in a vision and promised him two things. First, the Lord promised Paul his presence. Second, the Lord said he had many people in the city who belong to him (Acts 18:1-11).
Surely these two promises remain with us today. The Lord has his people in the city, and he will be with them.
Tucked into the account of Corinth are identifying marks of Christ’s people in a city. They believed the message Paul brought to them. Paul’s letter back to these people after his visit to Corinth tells us that the message was of Christ’s death for them on the cross. The first mark of Christ’s people is their faith in the work of Christ on the cross for their salvation.
The believers in Corinth were then baptized. Baptism is the confession of Christ’s lordship over his people. Another mark of Christ’s people is a private and public life characterized by obedience to him.
For a year and six months Paul taught the word of God to this gathered group of baptized believers. Later, when Paul wrote his letter to them, he addressed them as “the church of God that is in Corinth” (I Corinthians 1:2). A third mark of Christ’s people in a city is their gathering together for discipleship in the church.
These marks are meant to identify Christ’s people in the city, not isolate them from it. These believing, confessing, gathered people also live in the midst of the city. There they live, love, and serve.
As we think on these three marks of Christ’s people in a city, it is important that we see their connection to one another. Faith in the cross, the confession of Christ as Lord in baptism and a life of obedience, and the gathering together for discipleship around the word of God in congregations go together for the Christian.
Often, in a city like Nashville, these three markers get separated. People say they believe, but the confession and church part are missing. Or, people join a church but are not sure if they believe because they don’t know enough about the cross to believe in it. Some people have gone through a form of public profession because that is the tradition of their church, but Christ’s lordship was not their confession when they did so.
Our discipleship includes all three markers. Over and over we see this pattern in the New Testament. This pattern of faith in the cross, confession of Christ’s lordship through baptism, and continuing in congregational life marks out Christ’s people in a city, and gives testimony to his grace.
This Sunday at Grace we will take up Acts 18, and look more closely at Christ’s people in the city. I hope you will read this passage with someone this weekend.