Summary: Each person who comes into contact with the church has a different thought of what the church is like. Some see it as a geographical location or as a building, but the church is a group of people who have put their faith in Jesus.
Series: Questions About the Church
Title: What Exactly IS the Church?
Scripture:1 Corinthians 1:1-19
1 Cor 1:2, 11
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours:
11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.
Once upon a time a certain king called on three blind men to describe an elephant. The first, who was touching a leg, said, "An elephant is much like a tree trunk." The second blind man, who was holding on to the tail, said, "An elephant is like a snake. It is much smaller around than a tree and does not come to the ground." The third blind man reached for the elephant and felt its trunk. He said, "You are both wrong. The elephant is like a giant vacuum cleaner."
Descriptions of the church are much like this story of the three blind men and the elephant. Each person who comes into contact with the church has a different impression of what the church is like.
I. Some people think of the church as a geographical location.
Probably the most general way we refer to the church is that it is a geographical location. If you were going to come up here and do some landscaping or yard work on the church property, and someone asked you what you were fixing to do, you might answer, “I’m going to do some work around the church.” You would be talking about the general geography of the church; the whole area of the church. It’s a plot of ground that you could locate on a map. Look at verse 2:
2 To the church of God in Corinth…
When Paul uses this phrase, he is identifying the geographical location of this church. Corinth was one of the four most important cities of that day. It was on a narrow isthmus that linked northern and southern Greece. And it was very important because of that.
The Panama Canal was built on an isthmus in Central America. It was built to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When ships used the canal they saved time, because they didn’t have to go around South America. It wasn’t as dangerous as the sea going around the cape. It saved money, making the cost of shipping less. It was very valuable.
Even though Corinth didn’t have a canal, it was more beneficial for ships to unload their cargo on one side of the isthmus and carry it to the other side where it was loaded on other ships. Because of this, Corinth became very wealthy, but was, also, godless and immoral. Here in this sinful, cosmopolitan kind of place is a church.
I don’t think it’s best to say that the church is a geographical location, but the location often helps to give an identity to the church. Our church is located in a geographical place—in this particular area of the state, in the rural area outside of this town, in this county. And the history of this area, and the people of this area have had an impact on this church, and will have an influence on this church in the future.