– Is there such thing as a perfect church?
– Were the NT churches without challenges and conflict?
– Did the Apostle Paul’s teaching and pasturing solve every doctrinal errors and personal problems?
If you answered “yes” to these questions then you either have not read the Bible or sin has clouded your view of church life.
Today we start series in book of 1Corinthians. The church at Corinth was corrupt and in need of correction.
– They were a fractured family divided over leadership, pride and jealousy
– They were a corrupt congregation filled with cliques, conflict, sexual immorality, discord and lawsuits against each other, struggling marriages ending in divorce, materialistic and idolatrous, drunken and gluttonous, unfocused and unruly in their worship services, defective and flawed doctrine and not to mention just a lack of love for God and each other.
– They were Christ’s church. The grace of God goes to every sinner and covers every sin. Corinth was a fractured family and a corrupt congregation but that is the kind of church that Jesus died for; one filled with flaws, mistakes and messed up people who are recognizing their need for a Savior and growing in the sanctification process.
– 1st Century letter. When we read it we must remember that we are reading mail from a 1st Century context; it had a meaning then and we must understand in context to apply it today.
– Letter to a church. It was to a group of people and not just an individual. We must remember that, as Christians, our lives are not in isolation from one another. Our life and actions affect others – this can be very helpful, or it can be very hurtful.
– Letter of length.
o Paul visited Corinth, planted a church and stayed for 18 months then left for Ephesus.
o Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1Cor 5:9-11) that we do not have.
Corinth wrote Paul a letter that we do not have (cf. 1Cor 7:1)
Members of Chloe’s house reported to Paul about quarrelling (1Cor 1:11)
o Paul wrote a second letter to the Corinthians which is 1Cor. with 16 chapters.
o A third letter was written by Paul to Corinth and is missing as well (cf 2Cor 2:4; 7:8)
o Another letter Paul wrote to Corinth is 2Cor. with 13 chapters.
o 1 & 2 Corinthians combined are the longest letters in the NT.
– Letter with lessons. Corinthians is filled with both doctrinal teaching but also practical instruction for individual Christians and corporate church practice.
EXAMINE 1Corinthians 1:1-9 basic observations of church at Corinth
God’s church has a calling from God.
The church at Corinth, as every church, is summoned with a holy calling from God and for God. The Apostle Paul was likewise called of God to be a chosen voice to carry the name of Jesus far and wide (Acts 9:15). He traveled on at least 3 long missionary journeys to preach Jesus and plant churches.
– Paul went to Corinth, a strategic city for its population, prosperity, position, and pleasure-living.
o Population was likely ½ -1 million people.
o Prosperity came from the city’s bronze-making and high commercial trade development among incoming merchants and sailors through its Isthmus, and its intellectual philosophical centers.
o Position along an isthmus trade route allowed Corinth to hold a significant place of social and economic prominence.
o Pleasure-living consumed Corinth with cultural entertainment, athletic notoriety in the Isthmian Games (second only to Olympian), and sensual idolatry with over 1000 prostitutes from dozens of cult temples – most known was temple of Aphrodite. In fact, to “Corinthianize” meant to live a depraved, debauched and devilish lifestyle.
o Christians should recognize the impact and influence that emanates from strategic cities.
In fact, the term “pagan” came from Roman word “pagus” which meant village or district. To be a pagan meant you lived in a rural area and were a village person. Since early Christianity spread from city to city (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Rome), they viewed the villagers (pagans) as those who were unlike them. By 300 AD half of the Roman cities were Christians and the large % of unbelievers lived in rural villages.
• YET, today Christians have left the cities and the center of culture making influence. Our mission strategy should be to get back into the cities to impact culture – large populations, great prosperity, strategic position…
– Paul joined Aquila and Priscilla to work making tents and share ministry together.
o Christians should recognize hospitality in homes leads to gospel advance in neighborhoods.
– Paul had Silas and Timothy join them to teach and share ministry.
o Christians should recognize some are called to go in teams to help others spread the gospel.
– Paul was encouraged by God to persevere in ministry at Corinth.
o Christians should recognize that God has a special place, time and purpose for us. He is the God of every season and of every moment in your life.
The church’s calling is significant
1Cor 1:1 “called by the will of God”
1Cor 1:2 “called to be saints”
1Cor 1:9 “called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ”
Romans 8:28 Christians are “called according to God’s purposes”
Ephesians 1:18 “called…to a glorious inheritance in the saints”
2Timothy 1:9 “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”
1Peter 2:9 “called out of darkness into his marvelous light”
1Peter 5:10 “called to his eternal glory in Christ”
As believers, the reality that you are called of God should
Remind you that God’s grace is a precious gift. Don’t lose sight of praising and thanking God.
Remind you that all earthly hardships are preparing you for an eternal heaven. Your worse days on earth are still far better than any possible good day in hell.
Remind you & us to keep spreading the gospel because God has “many in this city who are my people”. This should fuel our evangelism.
God’s church is filled with flaws.
The opening of this letter appears fairly ordinary but once you know that background of Corinth it is actually quite startling. As mentioned previously, the Corinthian church was corrupt and in need of correction. It had major flaws.
– The founder of the church was a former religious zealot and murderer. Yet in the grace of God, Paul the “chief of sinners” had become a recipient of forgiveness and life transformation.
“Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus”
– The Corinthian church lacked leadership. They were divided over whom to follow. In the introduction of this letter Paul wanted to set the tone for his credibility and his charge as an apostle.
o An apostle was a significant and limited role to those who encountered the resurrected Christ and received Jesus’ commission to build His church (cf. 1Cor 9:1-3; Eph 2:20).
“To the church of God that is in Corinth… called to be saints”
– The fact that a church existed in Corinth at all was ironic due to its high immorality. The problem was not that Corinth was in the midst of the world but that the world was in the midst of the church.
– The Corinthians needed to be reminded that the church was not up for buffet style theology or consumer Christianity. It was God’s church and God’s people were called to be holy.
“the Lord Jesus Christ”
– The name of Jesus is mentioned 9x in these first nine verses. As stated, the Corinthians had misplaced their focus on themselves and their own preferences rather than on Jesus and His purposes.
The Corinthian church needed correction and change. And so does every Christian and every church today. We must be people who not just see grace but swim in grace. The grace of God is not just the starting point of the Christian life but is what sustains and completes it.
God’s church is growing in grace.
The entire letter is Paul seeing to correct & change the untrue beliefs and unholy behavior of the Corinthians. And yet, even with all the flaws and failures of Corinth, Paul wrote to those who were sanctified in Christ Jesus and alled to be saints. 1:2 Sanctified [past tense] yet called to be saints [present tense]. They are set apart and declared holy but yet they are still in process of being holy.
The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said it like this: Simul Justus et Peccator (simultaneously just/righteous and sinner. Jesus Christ gave us His perfect righteousness and in exchange took our unrighteous sinfulness.
Paul wanted to remind these Corinthian believers that the one who saved them will be the one to sustain them. A Christian cannot out-sin the grace of God, nor can they unsave themselves. God is faithful. Our “fellowship” (v.9) unites us to Jesus
Growing in grace exalts Jesus with our testimony (1:4-6)
To be sure, this does not imply a cheap grace. Those who are saved will be sanctifying and growing in grace. A Christian is one who hates sin and loves God. A Christian does not make God and His grace into a mockery. We cannot use grace as an excuse to satisfy our selfish desires. Christianity is not a label to wear but a Lord to worship. There should be a difference in your life with your thoughts, behavior and lifestyle; turning away from the worldly culture and turning toward the godly path. I’m not saying Christians are perfect but I am saying there should be a pattern of life that experiences God’s pardon from sin and power toward sanctification.
Growing in grace employs God-given gifts into faithful service until He returns (1:6-8).
The Corinthian church was not lacking in any gift. God supplied the body everything that it needed for its purpose.
God has gifted Christians and churches today with all the resources – gifts, talents, resources – to be already present. They simply have to be defined, developed and then deployed into action.
You are not a Christian if you are not growing in grace, which is defined by a faithful testimony of your lifestyle and faithful service among His body.
Pete Carroll & John Fox are two coaches of separate Super Bowl football teams. They are doing everything possible to remove distractions & disturbances and remain focused on a football game. Christians must do the same for something of greater significance. What does that look like for you/us?