Summary: How Paul dealt with the arrogant yet ignorant members of the Corinthian congregation.
January 20, 2002 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way -- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge -- 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (NIV)
Dear friends in Christ,
During our Every Member Visitations the elders and I have been asking you about what we are going to do for the future of our congregation. How are we going to let the light of Christ shine more brightly to the people of Topeka? Pre-school or teaching English to Hispanics or something else? We are planning for the future.
This is going to be an important decision for us to make. Because if we want to go forward as a congregation - if we want to reach out to the community with MINISTRY - ways to SERVE them and then to EVANGELIZE to them - it is going to take time and commitment and effort and ability! It’s going to take gifted people using their gifts. We don’t want to try something that is beyond our ability. But we don’t want to let our abilities go unused as well. So we have to ask ourselves, what do we have the time and ability to achieve?
The Corinthians had many abilities. They had great potential to do great things, as I believe we do too. Paul didn’t overlook those many gifts that the Corinthians had. He didn’t want them to be under confident, but he didn’t want them to be over confident as well. They needed to get the light of Christ out! And so do we! And so let us consider the theme for today -
Are You Arrogant or Ignorant? God Has the Cure!
When we talk about potential for the future - the Corinthians had all kinds of it. Paul said that they had been - enriched in every way -- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge. They had a plethora of gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul mentioned some of them - To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge - faith - gifts of healing - miraculous powers - prophecy - distinguishing between spirits - speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. They had great potential.
The problem was that they were like raw and hungry athletes without much training or discipline. They were divided over who their leader was. They were arrogantly bragging and divided over who had the greater gifts. They also had no sense of right and wrong. Sexual immorality was running rampant throughout the congregation. So Paul had already written one letter, trying to straighten out the problems that had occurred. But the people didn’t listen. Instead, they challenged Paul’s authority. They questioned whether Paul had any “right” to tell them what to do. They thought they could make their own decisions and lead their own lives without his help.
Could you imagine telling your child to go wash the dishes, and having him or her say to you, “who are you to tell me what to do? You can’t tell me to do that.” Paul’s godly advice was rejected, and they even ridiculed him. When somebody says something bad about you, what is the first thing you want to do? Ridicule them back, right? Yet look at what Paul did. He complimented them! He said, “you don’t lack any gifts.”
But there’s a difference in the way that Paul complimented the Corinthians and the way he complimented the Romans, Philippians, Ephesians, and other congregations. Instead of praising them, look at who Paul gave credit for all of the gifts of the Corinthians. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. In a subtle way, Paul wanted the Corinthians to realize that all of their gifts were only a gift of God through faith in Christ. He was in fact saying to them, “if you didn’t have faith in Christ, you and your gifts would be absolutely worthless.”
That’s good for us to remember as well. In Romans 3:12, Paul describes our worth like this, All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." We would be worthless in God’s eyes, if it weren’t for Christ. That’s hard for us to understand. Especially for those who are very talented with special gifts. We like to think that God needs our gifts and our abilities - that our family needs us because of our great and many gifts - that the church’s ministry just couldn’t survive without us. Insurance agents try to convince us that we are worth at least 100,000 or 200,000 dollars. But do you know how much you are worth without Christ? Zero. That’s right. God said you are worthless, worth nothing without Christ. It’s kind of humbling, isn’t it? In and of our sinful selves, we aren’t worth anything, not even a used Kleenex, in God’s sight.