This morning we are going to kick off a new series in 1 Corinthians about what it means to be a healthy church because in the context of the Corinthian church they are a mess.
In chapter 5 we have a man sleeping with his step-mother. In chapter 6 we have church family members taking one another to court. In chapter 11 they are getting drunk off communion. In chapter 15 there are people denying the resurrection of Jesus.
This doesn’t even touch on the in-fighting within the local church. The arrogance of the Corinthians. The lack of love and compassion toward others and the Corinthian catch phrase, “Let us eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die!”
Could you imagine how you might respond if these types of people showed up in your newsfeed? Can you imagine the types of things we might type in the comments section? Can you imagine how we might respond to those types of people if they walked in on a Sunday morning or showed up in our community group? Yet look at how the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Corinthian church:
1 Corinthians 1:1-4, “1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.”
Isn’t that amazing? Consider how people are criticizing the local church today? Maybe for good reason, but consider how we respond to people who profess faith in Christ and then fall short of His character? You might be thinking, “Yeah but it’s the bible, you’re supposed to be nice to people in the bible.” This is how the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Galatians:
Galatians 1:1-6, “1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through human agency, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. 6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.”
Listen to me, there is a rebuke coming for the Corinthian church. We are going to be in 1 Corinthians from today till August, so we are going to get to know the Corinthian church really well. We are going to see chapters 1-6 as a REBUKE and chapters 7-16 as a REFOCUS but I want you to see the beauty of God’s Word speaking into the life of His people.
When you read 1 Corinthians you don’t see a tone of abandonment when they fall short. You don’t see a tone of mocking the Corinthian church when they neglect to reflect the glory of God. You don’t see a disgust with their sin but instead you see an attitude of coming along-side a people, getting involved in the life of the people and taking the steps you need to take so that the people of God grow and mature. You with me?
Right now, we might look at social media and see people questioning their faith in Jesus, rejecting their faith in Jesus, maybe some of us are in that place this morning but in the life of the Corinthian church we see much greater chaos and yet the Lord is eager to come along-side His people. Let’s look at those verses more closely:
1 Corinthians 1:1, “1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,”
In verse 1 we see the human author of 1 Corinthians is “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ.” You can read about Paul’s life in the book of Acts. It is in Acts 9 that we see Paul’s life is radically transformed through faith in Jesus.
Jesus is God in the flesh. You can read about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus lives a perfect life. Jesus dies for our sin at the cross. Jesus conquers our sin in the resurrection, so that people believe in Jesus and commit their lives to following Jesus.
In Acts 8 Paul doesn’t believe in Jesus. In Acts 8 Paul is hunting down people who believe in Jesus and throwing them in jail, trying to put them to death and yet in Acts 9 Paul, the one who hated people for following Jesus, become a person who believes in Jesus and commits His life to following Jesus.
Did you know the God of Scripture still works this way in the life of people today? Did you know there are people who hate Jesus, indifferent to Jesus, and by God’s grace, believe in Jesus, lives are transformed and they commit their lives to following Jesus? That’s what happened in my life. One day I was making fun of people who professed faith in Jesus and the next day I was raising my hand in worship to Jesus.
Listen to me, church family in Austin, this is our hope in humanity. Yes, we want to speak out. Yes, we want to come along side but our greatest hope is that the Spirit of God would open eyes to see our need for a Savior, so that our lives are transformed in Christ.
In addition, in verse 1 we see Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word “apostle” means literally a messenger. An “apostle” was someone who has seen the resurrected Jesus and been sent out by the resurrected Jesus. Write that in your notes.
Sometimes today people call themselves an apostle because it gives a connotation of spiritual authority but nobody alive today is an “apostle.” Any time someone introduces themselves to you as an “apostle” you need to get away from them as fast as possible.
In verse 1 Paul identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ” because this is where Paul’s authority came from to write this letter. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter in the first century, AD 50, about 2 decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul had met these people about 4 years before he wrote this letter. The Apostle Paul spent 1.5 with them and immediately people began to see the authority of Paul’s words, so that this letter began to travel outside of Corinth to other churches.
The reason for the authority wasn’t because Paul’s education. The authority wasn’t because of Paul’s good looks or Paul’s ability to wow a crowd because we will see that the Apostle Paul isn’t physically impressive in speech or appearance but the Apostle Paul’s authority to write these words is because he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ and the will of God.”
This means these words are not just Paul’s words. These words are God’s Word through Paul. Yes, the personality of Paul is layered through these words but there are no words on these pages that the God of Scripture didn’t want on these pages, so that these words aren’t just suggestions but these words are God’s Words speaking into our life today.
Listen to me, I know it makes some of us feel uncomfortable to hear that type of authority spoken into our life. If we are a people who come from the United States then we naturally have a layer of rebellion in us. It’s in our DNA to push back. It’s in our DNA to resist. It’s in our DNA to be skeptical, therefore, but let us remember the words we are reading are God’s Words pointing us to His glory. Look at verse 2:
1 Corinthians 1:2, “2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”
In verse 2 we see the original audience of 1 Corinthians is the church of Corinthians. You might want to write that down! In Acts 9 we see Paul’s life is transformed through faith in Jesus and in Acts 13 we see the local church sends Paul out to proclaim the name of Jesus around the Roman Empire, which is how the Apostle Paul comes in contact with the Corinthian people.
Corinth is an ancient city filled with Greek people who are eventually destroyed by Rome and rebuilt by Julius Caesar, so that Corinth becomes an explosive city of growth in the first century.
You can visit Corinth today and see the temple of Apollo, Aphrodite, Poseidon and in Paul’s day, 1500 feet over-looking the city, was a temple that housed 1,000’s of prostitutes that would serve sailors and business travelers in the city, so that the predominant message of the Corinthian culture was to eat, drink, and live because we have no idea what tomorrow might bring.
Sometimes followers of Jesus today will say, “It was easier to follow Jesus back in the bible because back then they didn’t have anything fun to do.” Not true! The reason we see so many challenges in the Corinthian church is because the city of Corinth would have been known for education, technology, power, influence and pleasure.
So that the Apostle Paul would go to these business districts and universities, and say, “The pleasure you are looking for, the power you’re looking for, the purpose you are looking for is here! His name is Jesus!” And as a result, these sailors and business men and women would come to faith in Jesus!
There’s a reason this letter is filled with people’s lives who are turned upside down. It’s because a year earlier these sailors, prostitutes, and business traveler’s life were completely dead in their sin and layered in darkness. Isn’t that amazing?
So that in 2023 there are still men and women in business offices and university class rooms pursuing pleasure, power, purpose that will never last. They will taste it for a second, the second will fade and they will spend their days trying to capture it again, so that today, just like the Apostle Paul, we are pointing people to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, give their lives to Jesus and follow Him.
This is why in verse 2 we see the Apostle Paul reminding the Corinthian church of who they are in Christ. In verse 2 we see the phrase “to those who have been sanctified in Christ.” The Greek word “sanctified” means to be “made clean and set apart” through faith in Jesus.
The Corinthian people are no longer of Corinth. They are a people who have been made clean through faith in Jesus. They are a people who are “in Christ.” Do you see that? They are a people who have been called by the Spirit, just as the Apostle Paul was called to be an “apostle in Jesus Christ by the will of God” they are a people who have been “called” by the Holy Spirit to be made “saints” in Christ. Do you see that in verse 2?
This is in verse 2! The Apostle Paul knows how deeply imbedded the Corinthian people were in their culture. There were no Christian bookstores. There were no Christian radio stations in Austin. There were no Christian private schools in Austin. There were men, women and children whose lives have been transformed by grace through faith in Jesus, so that with urgency he is crying out, “You’re not in Corinth, you’re in Christ!” Don’t worry. We will start moving a little faster. Look at verses 3-4:
1 Corinthians 1:3-4, “3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.”
It would be easy for the Apostle Paul to be annoyed with the Corinthian church, fatigued by their struggles, frustrated with their challenges but in verse 4 the Apostle Paul writes, “I thank my God always concerning you.” Isn’t that beautiful?
In our day we see everyone criticizing everyone. We are judging people for being too compassionate. We are judging people for holding on to the truth of God’s Word too strongly. We are judging people for asking questions about their faith. We are judging people for not asking questions about their faith.
And in all those areas we are so quick to kick people out of the church in Austin, out of our lives, out of faith in Christ but in verse 4 the Apostle Paul knows there are serious challenges, those challenges will be addressed and yet at the same time he writes, “I thank my God always concerning you!”
Sit in that for a second. How is the Apostle Paul able to write those words with any sincerity? He knows the Corinthian people are struggling. How can he genuinely write those words? It’s because the praise and the confidence isn’t inherently for the conduct of the people but the praise and the confidence is “for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.”
The Apostle Paul isn’t confident in the Corinthians but the Apostle Paul is confident in God’s grace, unmerited favor from God, which was given in Christ, working in the life of the Corinthians. Does that make sense?
How many of us have seasons where we wander in darkness? How many of us have seasons where we are chasing after our own desires? How many of us have layers where we are stewing in our own filth and yet the grace of God, unmerited favor, pierced into our dark hearts, so that we are walking in Christ today! Praise God!
Every person in Christ is a walking testimony of His grace working in our life. Every person in Christ was once in darkness. Every person in Christ was once an enemy of God. Every person in Christ was once perverted in their thinking, seeking after their own desires, and yet through Christ we have been set free in Christ, so that the Apostle Paul can write with sincerity, “I am thankful for you always!” Look at verses 5-6:
1 Corinthians 1:5-7, “5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 just as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”
In verse 5-9 we see the Apostle Paul rattle of an itemization of his thankfulness. First, in verses 5-7 we see a reference to spiritual gifts. We won’t dig into spiritual gifts this morning but in the days ahead we will spend multiple weeks drawing out the definition of spiritual gifts, the purpose of spiritual gifts, how we learn our spiritual gifts and how we engage our spiritual gifts. Look at verses 7-9:
1 Corinthians 1:7-9, “7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In verses 5-7 the Apostle Paul is thankful for the spiritual gifts working in the lives of the Corinthian church. These spiritual gifts are evidence of their faith in Jesus being worked out in the life of the local church in Austin.
But in verses 7-9 the Apostle Paul is clear that his greatest gratitude for the Corinthian church comes is God’s sovereign hand to work in the lives of His people. Do you see that in verses 7-9?
In verse 7 the Corinthian church is “eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Paul uses this type of language of “eagerly awaiting” in the book of Romans when he writes that creation is “eagerly awaiting”, like standing on its tippy toes, waiting for the day for Jesus, in all His glory, to return because one day Jesus will make all things new and Jesus will finish what He started.
Did you know that Jesus is going to finish what He started? Right now, we who are in Christ are waiting but one day Jesus will return and finish what He started. It’s why the Apostle Paul writes, “who will also confirm you in the end.” Do you see that in verse 8?
The word “confirm” means to sustain, so that we who are in Christ will be sustained by Christ until He finishes His great work in the life of the Corinthians, not because the Corinthians are faithful, but because He is faithful. Do you see that in verse 9?
Is the Corinthian church faithful? Hardly! But those who are in Christ have been called into fellowship with His Son. Being called into Christ is interesting language because the “calling” isn’t so much us answering the phone but more so “it is to be summoned.”
Just as Paul was called as an apostle, just as those who are in Christ have been called saints, so too those who are in Christ have been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Lord. You’re not in Christ because you chose to be in Christ. You were summoned into Christ, so that the Corinthian church might go astray, they might get entangled in sin, they might become arrogant in their day and wander into darkness but Paul’s confidence is that they won’t stay there long, because they belong to Christ. It’s why the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, “Those He calls, He justifies, declares righteous, and those He justifies, He will also glorify.” He will finish!
In the same way, as we see roller coaster of spiritual immaturity in our life or the lives of those who are around us, might we do the same. Might we not focus on the flaws and failures as we look to jettison ourselves or others from our life but instead might we put our hope in the One who began a good work in you and others, and will complete it.
Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus lived a perfect life. Jesus laid His life down at the cross for our sin, Jesus conquered death in the resurrection, Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit is calling us, summoning us to believe in Him, enter into His Kingdom on earth today and one day He will return, He will restore all of creation rightfully to Himself, so that our eyes are lifted to that day.
If you have yet to trust in Jesus please do so today. Please don’t wait. It isn’t about avoiding hell and going to heaven, although that is part of it, but it is about the life that has been made available in Jesus today. Why would you wait?