Summary: The Corinthians Christians had become arrogant, crowing like a rooster. To use a Texas idiom, they had become “all hat and no cattle.” In the words of Glenn Campbell, “A Rhinestone Cowboy.”
It’s a message from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and it represents a journey of sorts. A journey to an another land – and older land – where the goals of Christianity were not set by marketers in order to make it more palatable. Instead, the agenda was set by prophets who sought holy, godly people. Such a message will give us pause. When we read it, we are likely to say, “You are bringing strange things to our ears.” It’s not the kind of message we are not used to hearing today.
A hypocrite is someone who does things he claims he does not do. Marilee Jones, was dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Marilee recently resigned after admitting that her résumé she had submitted 28 years ago for an entry level position in the admissions department WAS FILLED WITH LIES. As far as the school knew, Ms. Jones had attended and graduated Albany Medical College, Union College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — three well-respected schools in New York. Yet, the former dean of admission was only a part-time student for just one school year.
A church is composed of people who believe in Jesus Christ, or Christians. We tend of such people as respectable. After all, we’re not atheists or wicked people. We attend church… avoid scandal… and lead respectable lives. And though we are made saints by the immediate supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, Christians spend their lives engaged in guerrilla warfare. Engaged in a war to behave as we believe. Fighting to rid ourselves of sinful habits. Nevertheless, hypocrisy is a real problem for churches.
Church is the place where a line in the sand is drawn. People who belong to the church advertise themselves to their community as “one of them” – a Christ follower, a disciple. Church is comprised of a people redeemed by Jesus Christ, who came to defeat sin (1 John 3:8).
It’s the family that Christ started when He was on this earth. Therefore I say again, hypocrisy is a real problem for churches. How can the one family that Jesus Christ started tolerate the very thing Jesus came to destroy? How can the lighthouse not point out to the passing ships in the harbor where real danger lies? Can you imagine a cop who works together with the district attorney to manufacture false evidence? Do you think the police would allow an officer to continue on the force? Hypocrisy has the real danger of showing Christ’s followers as imposters.
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness” (1 Corinthians 4:14-21)?
Today’s passage is predicated upon the relationship Paul had with the church in Corinth. Everything said in this passage is predicated upon the relationship describe in verse: “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15b).
Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth starting the church. Having started the church, Paul leaves to begin other churches. But as he hears reports from Corinth, the church reminds us of a bratty kid who is too arrogant to listen to their father. There is a genuine sadness mixed throughout the letter. The church had little respect for their father. They possessed little regard for his authority. This would have been debated the Corinth church as they were getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper part of their worship services. They were doing whatever they pleased and expected God to embrace their alternative lifestyles. And while the church is not a museum for saints but a school for sinners, it was needed that their father correct some issues.
1. Christian Belief Creates Christian Behavior
It’s important you don’t leave here today think Christianity is made up of people who try harder. You were not hardwired to make your own way through this fallen world. You were designed to make it through by God’s grace. In attacking hypocrisy, some would have us try being more moral. In place of such a notion, Christianity is essentially a gift given by God. It’s a gift of pardon for sin and PROTECTION from sin. Christianity is gift of both pardon from our sin and POWER to defeat sin. Christianity is not a club of “Holy Joes” who meet together for self-congratulation on their moral progress. Instead, Christian churches receive a power called grace.