Summary: We are to resist the influence of the world in the church.
Title: A Good Example of a Bad Example
Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-17
Truth: We are to resist the influence of the world in the church.
Aim: to identify and correct worldly behavior in the church.
Life ?: What’s the evidence of the world in the church?
In 1989 the unthinkable happened. After seventy years of communism and forty years of the Cold War, the Iron Curtain fell and the brutal, sadistic power of the U.S.S.R. began to disintegrate. Russia for seven decades had been repressed, murdered, and brutalized by the godless tyranny of Communism. Finally, the ancient cry of freedom from the human heart was beginning to be heard from Siberia to St. Petersburg.
But the Russians had one major disadvantage. After seventy years of enforced state sanctioned atheism, the moral compass of the nation was seriously damaged. They did not have God and His Word as a moral reference point to make wise choices. When that’s the case, people often choose poorly.
This is what Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author and Nobel Prize winner, told the graduating class of 1978 at Harvard. He was blunt and to the point when he described to the students and the ultra liberal professors America’s filthy lifestyle and the danger we faced as a nation with our fascination with pleasure. He said that our civic leaders had lost their courage. Solzenhenitsyn, over 30 years ago, said the time would come when we would be more concerned with the civil rights of terrorists than with our own national security. When you read his speech it’s as if you are hearing a prophet speak to America. Some of those students booed him as he left the stage.
He said he could not recommend Western civilization to his beloved Russia. He called America to remember Russia’s history, and to commit to memory what happens to a nation when it forgets God. The solution he offered to the West was for it to return to God and once more reclaim its spiritual vitality. He offered a good example of a bad example when a nation or church or family forgets God.
The church at Corinth is a good example of a bad example for our church. The world has influenced this church instead of the church influencing the world.
Corinth is strategically located at a narrowing of the land between two seas in Greece. Many ships would dock at Corinth and have their ship rolled over the ten miles of land rather than try to navigate the treacherous seas around southern Greece. The Romans destroyed the city in 146 B.C., but it was so strategic and prosperous a location that Julius Caesar had it rebuilt 100 years later.
The city was a major banking center and was known for its educational institutions. The Isthmian Games, second only to the Olympic Games, were held every two years. It attracted people from all over that part of the world. It was famous for its pagan temples and sexual immorality.
A young, growing metropolis like Corinth was not concerned with your family pedigree. The city hadn’t been around long enough to establish the Rockefellers and the Kennedys. They didn’t care where you got your education. They were obsessed with appearance and beauty. All they wanted to know was could you produce? Could you get results? They didn’t care if you had a Ph.D. or came from the poor side of the tracks. This made for a very competitive society. Converted Corinthians brought this spirit of competition into the church. Instead of reflecting the unity of Christ, they reflected the divisiveness of the world.
This is our struggle, too. We are immersed in the world’s mindset. It clings to us like cigarette smoke. It’s natural to transfer that worldliness into the church. We are to resist the influence of the world in the church. Instead, we are called to influence the world for Christ.
What’s the evidence of the world in the church?
I. FACTIONS—WORLDLY ATTITUDES AND ACTIONS (1 COR. 3:1-4)
Paul deals with problems in the church, and there are many. The first problem is they divided up into camps around various preachers. This revealed they were following the wisdom of the world and not the wisdom found in the message of Jesus Christ. Paul had just talked about godly-minded people at the end of chapter two. The Corinthian believers thought they were spiritual people, but they were not. Their attitudes and actions were more like non-Christians. He wants them to stop thinking and behaving that way.
By calling them “brothers” Paul admits they are Christians. They truly have the Holy Spirit living within them, but they think and live like people who do not have the Holy Spirit. This would have jarred them awake.
“What did Paul call us?” someone may have asked. “Well, Paul says he knows we are Christians, but he says we are acting like a bunch of pimps, prostitutes, and pornographers! He says we act more like people who don’t know God than people who are indwelt by God.”