Summary: Sermon 3 on 1 Corinthians. This was written and preached by Steve Higgs, Associate Minister, MCC Have you ever been to a wedding service where the unity candle would not light? It’s a little awkward isn’t it….
Have you ever been to a wedding service where the unity candle would not light? It’s a little awkward isn’t it….
Which of the following statements best describes your feelings during that moment. We’ll take a little poll at the end of this.
a. I feel an overwhelming desire to make a smart comment to my neighbors like, “oh boy, that’s not a good sign.
b. I feel embarrassed for the couple….I usually turn red myself.
c. I shrug it off as a mistake.
d. I’m too busy crying at weddings….I can’t even see the unity candle from where I sit.
e. This would never happen to me because I usually skip the ceremony and go straight to the free dinner.
Paul starts out chapter 3 of I Corinthians by addressing head on the issue he’s been eluding to the past 2 chapters….the issue of unity in the church. Paul makes some startling claims that the churches ability to shine in the community is directly linked to their ability to be unified. Here are some of the words that Paul uses to describe this church: quarreling, division, jealousy, fighting amongst you. So, this churches unity candle, the light coming from this church, is about out.
In Corinth a major pursuit of the people was wisdom (you see this a lot in the first four chapters, Paul will talk about division in the church and will follow it with a discussion on wisdom, so division and wisdom become linked in the first four chapters) The people in Corinth would study and debate who the best wisdom teachers were, and there was something in the wisdom teaching that was causing the church to fight….
A popular teaching of the day, and this day, for that matter was that some people are simply superior to other people. The wise are superior to the foolish….strong superior to the weak…..rich superior to the poor. Listen to what Plato says, “the well born have a title to rule the worse born and the stronger should rule the weaker. It is for the ignorant to follow and for the wise men to take over the lead and to rule.”
So, with this teaching it’s not difficult to see why this church became so divided. This teaching affected the church in Corinth in a couple of ways. One was that the poor were routinely neglected in the church….Paul deals with this later, but they would have church meals together and the rich were seated first and the people needed the food were given the scraps, and they were going hungry.
Let’s look at another way this affected the church. Because wisdom was such a dominant conversational pull, and because the wise were considered superior to the foolish wisdom became a major hot topic to debate, and everybody wanted to be considered the wisest person in the room. One of the ways this comes out in Corinth is this idea of I follow Paul or I follow Apollos. In arguing who was the best teacher of wisdom and who they followed they were really arguing who was the wisest person in the room, who was superior. I follow Apollos, so I must be superior or I follow Paul so I must be superior. It created in the church a sense of jealousy, and discord, and quarreling. So, you can see that this church was divided all over the place.
If Meridian is your first church experience, you may be surprised to learn that church conflict really isn’t that rare. I grew up in a church that had a lot of conflict, as a matter of fact that church is no longer in existence, partly because of that conflict. At a different church, I saw a bad church fight break out over the issue of a $250.00 printer. This issue arises in me a lot of passion (the issue of unity, not printers), because I think I’ve seen enough church conflict. I know that if we follow the ideas found in I Corinthians 3 then our church and our relationships will live in health and harmony.
Let’s jump into I Corinthians 3:1 (read)
You may remember from last week that Rick spoke to us about what it means to be a spiritual person…. what it looks like to be led by the Spirit. Look at what Paul says, “I could not address you as spiritual, but worldly.” Ouch, but one of the very first things Paul identifies is that the issue of unity is a spiritual one. So, to deal with a spiritual problem you have to deal with spiritual solutions. Paul paints a picture of unity and he uses three images.
The first imagery is that of a garden in verses 5-8. Paul says that in a garden everyone has a different job, but everyone has the same job as well. I remember helping my grandpa with his garden and it became obvious that my jobs were kind of lackluster….weeding and watering. My grandpa had some cool jobs like shooting groundhogs that were trying to get in the garden and picking the vegetables that were ripe. We had very different jobs, but the same purpose….to make sure we had a quality garden growing.