Summary: There are behaviors and qualities that many Christians believe are hallmarks of a truly spiritual Christian. But Paul tells us that those qualities mean nothing if we don’t love others. Why? Why are our best Christian behaviors empty without that single a
OPEN: Jesse James was one of the most famous men of the West.
For a period of about 15 years, Jesse James and his gang committed 26 holdups where they made off with approximately $200,000 and killed at least 17 men (many by Jesse’s own hand). Jesse James was one of the West’s most notorious outlaws.
And yet, very few people know that Jesse James was a very devout churchgoer. Why, shortly after he killed one man in a bank robbery James was baptized in the Kearney Baptist Church in Kearney, Missouri. Then he killed another man, a bank cashier, and joined the church choir and taught hymn-singing.
He loved to go to church but he couldn’t always show up on Sundays. On 2 Sundays he had to work.
He had a couple of trains to catch.
APPLY: If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Jesse James was a very good church member. I mean – he was baptized, sang in the choir, taught hymn-singing and was fairly regular in church attendance.
But, of course, he was also a thief and a murderer.
He had all the right moves… but all the wrong motives.
That happens a lot in church.
Usually it’s not quite that obvious as it was in Jesse James’ life but there are many church goers who say one thing and do another. What does the world call folks like that?
(those who say they’re Christians but don’t act like it).
* A recent survey listed the top 10 reasons why people didn’t go to church.
Can you guess what the top reason was?
(ON Mission, July/Aug 2001, p. 46-48)
* One of the top 5 topics Jesus addressed in His ministry was hypocrisy (73 vss).
* And in a survey taken several years ago where people “ranked” the seriousness of sins, hypocrisy was in the top 20. It was regarded as more “serious” than homosexuality, living together, and abortion. (“People” Magazine as a result of a lengthy questionnaire on Jan. 13, 1986).
When it comes to sin… hypocrisy is hated by just about everybody.
But now, the thing about hypocrisy is that most hypocrites don’t know they’re hypocrites.
If you’d have asked Jesse James, he would have had explanations for why he behaved as he did. He probably wouldn’t think of himself as a hypocrite
And in the days of Jesus, the Pharisees were condemned by both John the Baptist and Jesus, but if you’d asked them, they would deny that they were hypocrites.
And in the church at Corinth that we’re reading about this morning, there were hypocrites who didn’t think they were.
So why wouldn’t a hypocrite think they were a hypocrite?
Well… hypocrites often do all the right things.
They tithe. They go to church regularly. They may even teach Sunday school.
They have all the right moves.
Corinth had all the makings of a great church.
The church began with powerful Revival meetings held by Paul that led to many conversions. And Paul stayed with them longer than any church plant he’d ever began… nearly a year. Then he left the church in the capable hands of Aquila and Priscilla. And Aquila and Priscilla stayed and helped build up that congregation and were so successful, they won over a powerful speaker named Apollos who became a force for the cause of Jesus in that area.
Also, when Paul wrote his first letter to this church we find they are very anxious to know God’s will for their lives, because part of Paul’s letter is concerned with answering questions they had about what God wanted from them.
AND Corinth was a very spiritual gifted congregation (prophecy, healing, tongues, etc.) and they apparently used their gifts to worship and serve their God.
Corinth was a church that had all the right moves.
But they also are a church that apparently had many wrong motives.
1. They had potluck dinners where they didn’t share food with each other.
2. They took each other to court over trivial matters.
3. They had allowed sexual immorality to go unpunished in the church.
4. And they argued a lot.
They argued over who was baptized by whom
And they quarreled over who had the best spiritual gifts (prophecy or tongues)
Now, to be fair, this was a very young church and they were still experiencing growing pains. But already they were in danger of having all the right moves… but all the wrong motives. They were on the verge of being nothing but a congregation of hypocrites… and they didn’t even know it.
So, Paul addresses one of the major conflicts in the church and he gives them the cure to their growing hypocrisy. From chapters 12 thru 14 (nearly 20% of the book) Paul focuses on the principal argument the Christians had in this church: