Summary: Who am I? Where am I going? Paul answers those questions when he addresses the Corinthian Christians.
Have you heard of these new tech gadgets called Google Home and Amazon Echo? They are described as hands-free speakers that do your bidding. If you want some quiet music, for example, you just have to say, “Play bedtime music for an hour,” and it will do that. If you want to know who won the hockey game last night or what the weather will be like, just ask and you’ll get updated reports. It shouldn’t surprise us that there are gadgets like this. After all iPhone users have had Siri to answer their questions for a few years now.
There are of course questions that tech gadgets cannot answer—questions that have to do with the meaning of life like “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” and “Where am I going?” If you want answers to those questions, you’ll have to turn to the Bible. Today we’re starting a sermon series on the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. We’ll learn through these sermons that the congregation in the Greek city of Corinth was a church fully equipped. Today we’ll see how the Apostle Paul said that they were fully equipped to answer life’s questions. And we are too when we pay attention to what Paul had to say to these Corinthians Christians.
Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey and stayed there for a year and a half. In spite of some opposition, Paul found many converts in this city, which may have had as many as half a million inhabitants. But being a Christian in Corinth wasn’t easy. The city had many pagan temples. It was a commercial centre like New York and Hong Kong today so people were focused on making money. And it was also a seaport with a reputation for providing sailors with any kind of entertainment they wanted. So when Paul received word later that there were problems in the congregation of Corinth, he may not have been surprised, but neither was he discouraged. Listen to how Paul began his letter. “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:1-3).
Considering the many problems in the Corinthian church, which we will be looking at in the coming weeks, it would have been easy for Paul to berate his listeners. Instead he begins by answering one of life’s biggest questions: “Who am I?” Who were the Corinthian Christians? They were called to be holy people together with everyone else who acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior. In other words the Corinthian Christians were not individual pieces of flotsam floating aimlessly on the tide of current events. They had been gathered by God through Paul’s preaching, and had been sanctified, that is, washed clean in the blood of Jesus and now confessed faith together with many others around the world.
This describes us too—washed clean in the blood of Jesus and called to live holy lives together with other believers. But do you feel very clean this morning when you think back to what you said to your family members this week? The very people who should be the easiest to love, are often the most difficult. Why? Because we know them so well we also know their weaknesses. And even though we hate ourselves for it, we become irritated at them and often let that irritation show in our words and actions. But notice how Paul did not commend the Corinthians because they were wonderful people. He commended them because they called on the name of Jesus. They were making use of the grace that was theirs through Jesus, the way a mechanic will use a special soap and brush to clean the grease from underneath his fingernails. Because they had this grace and forgiveness from Jesus, these Corinthians also had peace from a guilty conscience. This peace is yours too—not by promising to be a better person, not by ignoring your weaknesses and sins, but by confessing them and handing them to Jesus for disposal.
The Corinthians were not only blessed because they knew who they were, but because they also knew where they were going. Paul went on to write: “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7).