Summary: Corinth was a fractious church that you’d have thought God would have given up on... but He didn’t. Why?
(need yard stick & tape)
OPENING: You may remember a few years ago when Snoopy, the lovable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon, had his left leg broken. Hundreds wrote letters to Snoopy or sent sympathy cards. Snoopy himself philosophized about his plight one day while perched on top of his doghouse and looking at the huge white cast on his leg. "My body blames my foot for not being able to go places. My foot says it was my head’s fault, and my head blamed my eyes.... My eyes say my feet are clumsy, and my right foot says not to blame him for what my left foot did...." Snoopy looks out at his audience and confesses, "I don’t say anything because I don’t want to get involved."
APPLICATION: Corinth was an ideal place for a congregation: its lanes were heavily lined with merchandizing booths so that it was like one big mall. It was an old city made new (Rome had destroyed and rebuilt it), centrally located as a commercial haven by people from every nation of Rome’s Empire.
It was a big, busy city. In our society, it might be seen as the ideal place for a church.
BUT... the church at Corinth was not living up to its potential. In fact, it had some distinct, troublesome problems.
I. Ever hear the saying, "Beauty only goes skin deep, but ugly goes straight to the bone?"
The Church of Christ at Corinth was an ugly place - ugly to the bone.
I Corinthians 3:1-4 tells us of jealousy and division.
I Corinthians 4:18 talks about arrogant men
And I Corinthians 5:1-2 speaks of their sin of pride
I Corinthians 9:1-6 tells of the church’s tendency to be backbiters of Paul’s ministry
I Corinthians 11:17-22 tells of potlock suppers that turned into spiritual food fights
Chapter 12 talks about the conflict between those who had the gift of tongues vs. those with other gifts
Then of course, there was chapters 15 & 16 that talked about a bad doctrine about the resurrection that had leaked into the congregation.
If I had lived in Corinth. I’d go to another church. I’d walk several miles to go to another church. Corinth was a congregation on a downhill slide to Hell... and someone had greased the chute.
(produce yardstick) Frankly, this church didn’t measure up (break yard stick)
II. So how come...
Paul didn’t give up on Corinth? He wrote two letters to them: I & II Corinthians. That’s a total of 21 pages in my Bible. The only other church to receive that many letters was Thessalonica - and those two letters only get 5 pages in my Bible.
I & II Timothy = 7 pages
I & II Peter = 7 pages
I, II & III John = 6 pages
In other words, Paul went to great lengths to reach out to this fractious church.
And, not had not Paul not given up on Corinth, God hadn’t either.
They still had their gifts (I Corinthians 12-14). If I had been God Corinth would have experienced something like a bad Christmas. The kid’s been a brat... load up his presents, put them in the trunk and slam the lid shut!
ILLUS: (Retape yard stick) But, God is in the business of mending broken things.
III. Why didn’t Paul and God give up on Corinth? Because the church had the potential to change
One example of this is found in II Corinthians 2:5ff. Paul had rebuked the church for looking the other way when one of their members had been sleeping with his father’s wife. But by the 2nd letter, the church’s discipline of the sinner seemed to be working. The man was apparently showing signs of repentance, and Paul was telling them to now let him back in.
God is merciful, but He expects us to fix what is broken and yield to Him in obedience. He expects us to realize that this is Christ’s body - not ours (I Cor. 12:12-13)
CLOSE: "Have you ever read the Ancient Mariner?" asked Rev. Mr. Spurgeon one day of his congregation. "I dare say you thought it one of the strangest imaginations ever put together, especially that part where the mariner represents the corpses of all dead men rising up to man the ship - dead men pulling the rope; dead men steering; dead men spreading the sails. I thought what a strange idea that was.
But do you know that I have lived to see it done! I have gone into churches; I have see a dead man in the pulpit; a dead man as a deacon; a dead man handing the plate; and dead men sitting to hear... Bernard A. Weisberger has written a fascinating account of the great revivalists and their influence on American religious life. He describes the crowds of people that came to the old-time camp meetings: