Summary: The Corinthian church made a lot of mistakes that we can learn from. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul calls the church to Holiness, Harmony, and Humility!
Church Matters: Correcting the Corinthians (1)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 11/9/2014
How many of you have ever heard someone say they’re not interested in going to church, because it’s full of hypocrites? What’s really sad is that according to a study conducted by LifeWay Research 72% of people surveyed actually believe that churches are “full of hypocrites.”
Of course, I like Zig Ziglars response to that claim. He invited a friend to church with him one day and he friend said, “I would come, but everybody knows the church is full of hypocrites.” Zig responded, “Oh it’s okay, there’s always room for one more!”
It’s a sad reality that much of the world views the church this way. In some cases I think it’s really just an excuse. But there are times when it’s true. Take the first century church in Corinth for example. In A.D. 56 the church there was in serious trouble. Sad to say, the problems didn’t stay within the church family; they were known by the whole community outside the church.
To begin with the church at was a defiled church. Members of the church allowed the sins of the city to permeate the congregation. Corinth was a polluted city, filled with every kind of vice and worldly pleasure. Thus, some of the members of the church we guilty of sexual immorality, others were drunks, and still others used God’s grace to excuse their perverted lifestyles. It was also a divided church, with at least four different groups competing for leadership. And it was a disgraced church; their worship services had turned into a discordant free-for-all lacking the reverence and respect that God deserves.
Their problems sound like a catalog of problems experienced by local churches today. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives us a carefully reasoned discussion of each problem and how to deal with it, making this letter one of the most practical and important for Christians today.
For the next six weeks, I’d like to hit the highlights from Paul’s letter and discover what we can learn from the problems faced by this young church.
In order to help them resolve their problems, Paul opens his letter by reminding them of their calling in Christ and points out three important aspects of this calling. First, he reminds them that they—and we—are called to holiness.
• CALLED TO HOLINESS
Rather than jumping down their throats first thing, Paul takes a positive approach and reminds the Christians in Corinth of who they are in Christ. He writes, “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2 NLT).
What does it mean to be holy?
To be holy means to be set apart or separate from sin and evil. God is holy—completely separate from everything that is evil. And he calls us holy when he forgives us of our sins by means of the blood of Jesus. But there’s a difference between God calling us holy and us actually living holy lives.
I’m reminded of a rather pompous-looking deacon who was endeavoring to impress upon a Sunday School class the importance of living holy lives. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”
That little boy had his hypocrisy-radar running. So did the people of Corinth. Now, like I said, Corinth was vile and vice-filled society. But rather than being set apart, the Christians in Corinth blended right in. Sadly many Christians today do the same thing. In the article “The American Witness” which appeared in the Nov/Dec 1997 issue of The Barna Report, George Barna examined 131 different measures of attitudes, behaviors, values, and beliefs. In his research, he discovered that self-identified Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to have been divorced, that Christians are just as like to play the lottery. They’re just as likely to cheat on their spouse as non-Christians or to download pornography. And, of course, the list goes on. In fact Mr. Barna concluded: “in the aspects of lifestyle we examined there is no visible difference between the two segments.” Now, of course, these are “self-identified” Christians; that is, people who claim to be a Christian but don’t necessarily follow Christ. And that’s the problem.
Right or wrong, if you are a Christian, you ought to know that your neighbors and co-workers have their “hypocrisy-radar” scanning your lives 24/7. When you claim to love Jesus but you live like he doesn’t matter, people notice. What are they picking up on their radar screens? When they are scanning your life, what do they see? Few things can repel a person from God as efficiently as an insincere Christian or inauthentic church.