Isaiah 5: 1-7 (page 569 in our pew Bible) Israel is God's vineyard but because Israel has forsaken God, God will remove his protection from his people and abandon them to their fate.
Philippians 3:4-14 (page 981 in our pew Bibles) Paul views his Jewish heritage as worthless when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ.
Matthew 21: 33-end (page 827 in our pew Bibles). Jesus prophesies in this parable that the tenants of God's vineyard (the Israelites) will be replaced by a people gathered around Himself ("the stone that the builders rejected")
I went to a conference recently called the “Glory of God in the church” and how to communicate it, and the only way it seems to me to communicate God’s glory is to embody it – to put flesh on the bones.
Paul’s enthusiasm for the gospel, his joy, where everything he had known before he counts as rubbish, in the face of the surpassing glory of Jesus Christ filled his life.
Paul says “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”
Glory is a very difficult concept to embody or explain – brightness, magnificence, splendour, majesty – but as a shorthand I use the word “worth” the worth or weight of something. What is God worth?
We give glory to God by giving adoring praise and thanksgiving. In doing so we reflect God’s glory back to him.
Without ever mentioning his conversion experience Paul nevertheless now rests fair square on that revelation where he was captured by Christ.
What is truly significant it seems to me is that Paul wasn’t in any kind of spiritual crisis or doubted what he was doing according to this passage, in persecuting the church, and he doesn’t seem to having any problems keeping the law either as he calls himself “blameless” according to righteousness.
In other words, Jesus Christ was not an answer to any kind of problem, spiritual or physical, that Paul might have been happening, and that is quite a difference to the premise underlying a lot of Christian evangelism, that Jesus is the answer to your problems.
According to the text, Paul didn’t have any particular problems. He was just blown away by the surpassing glory of God who confronted, challenged and changed him so much that everything he had known before he could dismiss as “dung”
He discovered the glory of God’s Grace and a righteousness that depended on faith.
Grace and faith are the two cornerstones of the Christian faith. It is God’s grace that saves us, that heals us, that sets us free, that bestows fullness of life.
We appropriate those glorious gifts through faith in the actions of his son Jesus who revealed God’s love on the cross by dying for us.
This reveals the multi-faceted glory of God where the ultimate symbol of Love is a man willingly dying on the cross to set us free.
The revelation of the glory of God to Paul, was not any answer to unanswered questions, it was a revelation of the glory of God through the revelation of and encounter with a raised and living man, Jesus Christ. He was blown away by the resurrection of Jesus.
Far from being an answer to anyone’s questions or offering the gospel as an answer to anyone’s problems, in fact this proved to be just the start of a whole host of new questions and set him on the road to try to comprehend the new vision which “upset” his previous answers which leads us to the next part of Paul’s writing, that he now wants to get to know this Christ and the power of his resurrection.
This is a task that will stretch to the end of our physical lives and beyond.
The Westminster catechism states “that man’s chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever”
Our scripture set for today ends with Paul saying that he is not perfect by any means and hasn’t fully grasped the glory of God but he presses on to make that his goal.
The Christian church is conjoined with this mission – so that each of us in our own way and at our own speed progressively discovers – unwraps – the gift of life bestowed on each of us as Christians. We pray that our enthusiasm for this gospel will consume us and will make it easier to communicate to others.