Summary: See some things which will help us to be more thankful for difficult people
A few weeks ago it seemed like Brock, our almost two-year-old, was part chimpanzee. Oh, we don't believe in evolution at all, but he seems to have an unusual ability to climb. One day he took the laundry basket, tipped it upside down and stood on it so he could crawl on top of the dresser. Then he stood up and reached to the highest shelf by the mirror and grabbed Nancy's lipstick. He crawled down and started drawing nice burgundy circles on our beige-colored carpet. Now thankfully, he seems to be outgrowing that stage the last couple of weeks, but some days he can be quite a handful. But, it is interesting. Even on those days when he got into all sorts of mischief (even on the day when he took all our toothbrushes and threw them into the toilet), Nancy and I were still very glad that he is a part of our family. Oh, yes, we got frustrated; we raised our voices a little a few times, but when we put him down for bed at night, we give thanks to the Lord, not because he would be confined to his crib for the next 10-11 hours, but because we feel so blessed to have him as our #3 son.
Thinking about that experience helps me understand a little better the attitude the apostle Paul has when he writes a letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth. We are beginning a journey through the Book of 1 Corinthians, which is the first of two letters we find in the Bible which Paul wrote to that church. Now, it is going to take us a few months to explore this Book, but I think it will be a very fruitful time. 1 Corinthians addresses all sorts of very practical issues with which those 1st Century Christians struggled, and they just happen to be things which continue to challenge us today. Division in the church, sexual immorality, lawsuits between Christians, questions about marriage and divorce, abuse of the Lord's Supper, the role of women in the church, spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, and questions about the resurrection are all covered in the sixteen chapters of this Book. Why does Paul write about all these different issues? Because each was a problem in the Corinthian church. I am sure that going to church in Corinth was never dull because one never knew what controversy would erupt when they gathered together. It also seems that many of the people in the church were not exactly fond of Paul. Though he had given generously of himself to them, many of the folks apparently resented his authority and disputed the instructions he had previously given them. So, what we have in Corinth is a church which has a ton of problems, full of people who really don't care much for Paul. It is a difficult church, full of difficult people. Yet, when we read our text, we find Paul expressing great thanksgiving for the Christians at Corinth. He is deeply grateful for how God has worked in their lives. Just like I am very thankful for a son who can sometimes be a bit difficult, Paul was very thankful for this difficult church. Today we are going to look at why he had this attitude, and I think we will see some things which will help us to be more thankful for difficult people as well. Let's pause and pray that God would speak to us through His Word today.
1 Corinthians... Letters in the ancient world, including those found in the New Testament, usually have an introduction which tells who the letter is from and to whom it is written. 1 Corinthians is no exception. 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,... This is a letter from Paul. Now, almost everyone here knows who Paul is, but I want to make sure we are all on the same page. When I was preaching through the Book of Galatians, one of the children thought the Paul we always talked about must be a friend of Pastor Dan's. No. The Paul who wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians is the apostle Paul who lived in 1st Century Palestine. He was known as Saul from the city of Tarsus and was a very devout Jew. As a young man he became a religious leader among the Jewish people. When Jesus' disciples began proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah Who had risen from the dead, Saul decided these folks had to be dealt with harshly. He began a campaign to have Christians arrested and executed. One day, however, as he was traveling to the city of Damascus to arrest some followers of Jesus, he was met by the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, and experienced a spectacular conversion. To symbolize his new identity, his name was changed from Saul to Paul. Soon, rather than being the chief opponent of Christianity, he became a vocal proponent of the Christian gospel. After a few years of study, he embarked on a missionary journey in 46 A.D., preaching the gospel of Jesus in cities which were in what is now modern-day turkey. In 49 A.D. he undertook another missionary expedition and after three years, the spring of 52, he arrived in the city of Corinth, located in what was then the Roman province of Achaia and is now Greece. He remained there for about eighteen months, and then went to the city of Ephesus, located in what is now Turkey. It is from there that he is writing this letter, probably in the fall of 55 A.D.