Summary: Despite their sin, moral deficiency and division Paul is able to describe the church is Corinth as a group of people in fellowship together for which thankfulness can be offered. Such an outcome is possible because, in Christ, we are enriched and kept blameless as we live in fellowship with Jesus.
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What happens when a church isn’t working as well as it should?
Well, in the case of the church in Corinth they receive a letter – inspired by the Holy Spirit – written by Paul.
Here are some observations which are made about the church.
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
The church is full of divisions and schisms and egos.
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.
There is spiritually immaturity and ignorance.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud.
Moral corruption is not being dealt with.
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
There is a lack of care for each other, and no respect for the Lord’s Supper or community events.
We could keep going but I think you get the point.
Now, don’t say it out loud, but what words or phrases would you use to describe Corinth?
I suspect some of the descriptions we would use are not too flattering.
Ok, now let’s read the Scriptures.
You are a church … sanctified … made holy … by Christ Jesus and that description
… being sanctified and called to be Christ’s holy people
… that description applies to those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
So that includes us … doesn’t it.
Us who are in fellowship together … an ekklesia … just as the Corinthians are in fellowship together.
… with our spiritual immaturity.
… with our moral deficiencies.
… with our different views.
… with our sin and brokenness and shame and messed up lives.
… with our lives that do need more biblical discipline.
The sanctified and called to be holy – with their issues – but in fellowship together.
And what does Paul say about such fellowships?
verse 4 I always thank God for you.
Isn’t that incredible!
For all your crazy mixed up ways Corinthian ways ... Paul says ... I still keep thanking God.
That’s not really an emotional response we might have been expecting.
But isn’t it an emotional response that brings a sense of relief.
There can be thankfulness even in brokenness.
There can be thankfulness even when sin needs confronting.
There can be thankfulness even in the face of spiritual immaturity.
A thankfulness that exists because Jesus Christ is in the middle of all of this extending his grace. Having Christ in the middle makes such thankfulness possible.’
For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—
Paul is giving us a subtle reminder that once we were very poor. Not poor as in having no money … but poor spiritually.
We have nothing which God could possibly need or use.
We are a pretty pathetic bunch.
In fact we were so pathetic that the Bible describes us as enemies of God. But then an amazing transformation occurs – Christ enriches us and all of the sudden the picture changes. Jesus takes us
... we who have nothing to offer
... we who are in poverty
and He makes us rich.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Thankfulness happens when we remember our greatest riches are given graciously by Jesus.
And this richness changes us in so many ways. Paul specifically tells us that we have been enriched in all our speaking and all our knowledge. In other words
Even though we start off “poor” we are given a rich ability to serve God.
God will give us His Word in our hearts and in our mouth.
As we listen to Him He will give us direction in speech
– speech which builds up and encourages and edifies.
– speech which is well-considered.
– being quick to listen and slow to speak
As we see the impact of the riches we have our knowledge
– knowing what it takes to have a biblical character.
– knowing where the Bible is speaking to our sin and failings.