1 Corinthians 1:1-17 The church in Corinth. Really blessed, but really messed up
The church in Corinth
Really blessed but really MESSED up
Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
Today we are going to begin a four week study in the Book of 1 Corinthians.
Some info about Corinth
-Corinth is a city in Greece (a country we have heard a lot about lately because of their debt
-In Paul's day, Corinth was a very prosperous city because it was a crossroads city for trade
-Home to the Isthmian games-- Held every 2 years. Second in stature to the Olympics
-In Paul's time the city was large (200,000) people
-Situated on a narrow isthmus (6km wide). It was 300 km to sail around the isthmus to the
other side and so sailor's would portage all but the largest ships across the isthmus, rolling
their boats on rollers across the land. A canal was built 1881 to 1893. Used today by tourists
-Corinth was home to the greek Goddess Aphrodite
-Corinth had a reputation for sexual immorality. Plato called prostitutes 'corinthian girls' 404
A.D. To 'corinthianize' came to mean 'to practice immorality'
Some info about the church in Corinth
-The book of Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul, the founder of the church at Corinth
-The Corinthian church had some serious problems! Corinthians serves as a corrective letter,
written to believers who were more than a little bit rebellious (illicit sexual practices of all
sorts, arguing, division, pride, treating the Gospel of Christ as a means to a gain in status and
financial gain, marriage problems of all sorts, wild and undignified worship services, a
disrespect of the Lord's Supper, issues as it relates to the gifting of the Holy Spirit)
-Paul's attempts to get the Corinthian Christians back on track was a difficult and painful
experience-- for when he sent Timothy to them, he was rejected
READ 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
Some thoughts on Paul's introductory words to the church in Corinth. 1 Cor. 1:1-17
-Given how messed up they were, Paul's introduction is remarkably gentle
-While positively written, almost every phrase of Paul's introduction refers to some
underlying issue that he will address in greater depth in the balance of this letter
-As messed up as they were, the believers in Corinth had a lot going for them-- For in Christ
they were incredibly blessed
Some examples of the problems in the church of Corinth-- as found in v.1-17
1. Many of the church of Corinth were rebellious against authority v.1
In v.1 Paul is more than just identifying that he is the writer of this letter, he is also
reminding the Corinthians of the authority that he has in Christ to write to them and to correct
them in the faith. Paul was an apostle-- personally called by Jesus, personally commissioned
and given authority by Christ. See for example Acts 9
Note how Paul asserts his authority in 1 Corinthians 4:14-21
A verse to think about
Hebrews 13:17 says; "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over
you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a
burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
2. The Corinthian christians were NOT living very HOLY lives v.2
"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy."
What was the practice of the Corinthians?
-sexual immorality of every sort-- and in some cases worse than non believers
-taking each other to court
-undignified worship services
-pride and arrogance
-viewing Christianity as a stepping stone to power, influence, standing, riches
-taking the Lord's supper improperly
Herein Paul reminds us that the key to our walking with Jesus and each other is "Holiness".
Holiness was something that many in the Corinthian church had abandoned-- seen in their
sexual immorality, constantly taking each other to court, and their constant quarreling.
Holiness is what you and I need to strive after. God says to us "Be holy, because I am holy."
Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16
In Hebrews 12:14 it says; "without holiness no one will see the Lord."
Holiness has everything to do with bringing our lives into conformity with the standards of
God as revealed in his Word.
Holiness is practical: Holiness means always telling the truth. Holiness has to do with having
a good attitude, with being patient, with telling others the way of salvation, with saving sex
until marriage, with staying sexually pure in marriage, with not gossiping, with using our
tongues to encourage others. Holiness is very practical.
3. They seriously misunderstood the purpose and reason for the spiritual gifts they
had received. v.4-7
The Christians in Corinth were incredibly gifted by the Holy Spirit. Pretty much every spiritual
gift was manifest in the Corinthian church. Problem: Their gifts led to conflict,
confusion,pride, and the bizarre notion that the Gospel was a new and elegant system of
wisdom that could be used to enhance ones standing in the community and culture .
Ironic: With such incredible speaking gifts-- they managed to quarrel and fight a lot
As we shall be reminded: We have been gifted that we might serve one another in love. Every
follower of Jesus has a gift that must be used to benefit the family of God.
A quick take on spiritual gifts
-we to exercise them "fan them into flame" 2 Timothy 1:6
-Every Christian has one or some
-We to use them to encourage each other and build one another up
-Given by the Holy Spirit, by His initiative
-They are discoverable through SERVICE
4. They were fighting with each other v.10-17; 3:1-4
The Corinthian church consisted of house churches. They didn't get along. They claimed
allegiance to different teachers (Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Jesus). There assertions were prideful
Paul calls them out for their quarreling and divisiveness -- ultimately calling them immature
and worldly (3:1-4)
Paul makes a very important appeal. Note v.10 "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no
divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."
We are to be united as the followers of Jesus. Jesus' prayer for us in John 17 was that we
might be one.
Some thoughts on church unity- We are to be united in "mind and thought"
-we are to have the same goals, we are to be working off the "same page", we are to think in
a like mannered way as the followers of Christ
-We are to have the same thoughts and convictions as it regards the core teachings of the
Christian faith: The Lordship of Christ, the way of salvation- being by grace and faith, service,
Note this: The things we might differ over are not to rip us apart: worship style, the Bible
translation you like best, how many spiritual gifts there are, etc
How are we to come to this perfect unity? By having our hearts and minds transformed by the
Scriptures and by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his
good, pleasing and perfect will."
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says; "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work."
The Bible is our final authority for our faith and practice. Everything we think and do needs to
be filtered through the Scriptures.
BOTTOM LINE: Quarreling and arguing and being focused on any other person except Jesus
Christ, is not acceptable
II. SOME POSITIVES FROM PAUL'S ADDRESS TO THE CORINTHIANS
As messed up as the Corinthian church was they had a lot going for them and they were
1. Note v.2 They were "sanctified in Christ Jesus"
Meaning of the word "sanctified"
To separate from profane things and dedicate to God
a) consecrate things to God
b) dedicate people to God
a) to cleanse externally
b) to purify by expiation: free from the guilt of sin
c) to purify internally by renewing of the soul
2. They had peace with God and were the recipients of His incredible grace in Christ
They had been reconciled to God. In Christ there sins were forgiven. Jesus was and remained
3. Because of their relationship with Jesus, they had been enriched in every way.
Enriched in every way is a remarkable statement
-In every way their lives were better, because they were in Jesus.
-Enriched in this life with the forgiveness of sins, faith, a spiritual family, the indwelling of
the Holy Spirit, Spiritual gifts, a change in our character (patience, self control, perseverance)
Enriched for the life to come--- for Heaven is our home.
-Because of Christ, they and we have everything we need to live the Christian life. We lack
2 Peter 1:3 says; "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness
through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."
4. They were secure in their salvation v.8-9
-Jesus will finish the work He has begun in us who believe. Philippians 1:6.
-Jesus has never lost one who has been given to Him by the Father. In John 6:37-40, Jesus
says; "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never
drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him
who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has
given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to
the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
5. They had people like Paul, Sosthenes, Apollos, Timothy, and Chloe, looking out
We need to spur each other on to good deeds and the service of Christ
Thank God for good examples in other Christians. Lord help me/us to be that kind of person.
In thinking about how messed up the church in Corinth was, I find myself encouraged.
Encouraged because if Jesus didn't give up them, He won't give up on me or anyone who calls
upon the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord. He will finish in us the work that He has started
and fit us for Heaven.