Summary: The church tries all sorts of gimmicks to quell falling numbers, but God simply wants us to get back to the basics... Faith, Hope and Love.
Faith, hope and love.
In AD 50 Corinth was one of the most important cities, commercially of the day, controlling much of the shipping between the East and the West. It was a city heavily steeped in Greek culture, its idolatry and immorality. Paul established the Church, after spending 18 months living there. After preaching in the synagogues and getting thrown out of there, Paul set up the Church next door to it. After he had left he received disturbing reports that the church was having problems with immorality, divisions, and Greek culture affecting the religious beliefs. Paul wrote the letter that became 1 Corinthians, during his time ministering in Ephesus. He wrote it to try and correct some of the practical and doctrinal problems that they were facing. It is during this letter where we find Paul emphasising to the Corinthians the very heart of Christianity.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Paul was telling the Corinthians that when all else was stripped away, he wanted to find that the church excelled in these three areas. This threefold combination of faith, hope and love is also found in 1 Thes. 1:3; 5:8; Gal. 5:5-6; Heb. 6:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:21-22. Here God was talking to the Corinthians both as a church, and as individuals.
Faith is a subject that featured a lot in Paul’s writings, and so he knew what he was looking for in the Corinthian Church, In the book of Romans, Paul cites Abraham as being the greatest example of faith. In Romans chapter 4 Paul states that it is Abraham’s faith that made him righteous, not his circumcision, or any of the things that he did. Abraham believed God that he was going to be the father of many nations, even though he was 99 years old and his wife wasn’t far behind. It was Abraham’s faith in believing God could do what He said he would, that was awarded to him as righteousness. Why? It was because Abraham believed God could do what He said He would, that God knew that Abraham truly believed in who He was.
The second example of faith that I want to look at occurred around three thousand years later. This person showed that much faith that it surprised even Jesus.
When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he
2:There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and
about to die.
3:The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and heal his servant,
4: When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ’This man
deserves to have you do this,
5.’because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’1
6:So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the
centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do
not deserve to have you come under my roof.
7:That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say
the word, and my servant will be healed.
8:For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this