PAUL: A FOOL FOR CHRIST - We Are Fools for Christ!
April 22, 2018
1 Corinthians 4:10 (p. 795)
A few years ago Kari and I got to go on a cruise that was called “The Steps of Paul.” We had the privilege to visit Ephesus, Athens, Malta, and many other of the places from Paul’s missionary journeys. One of the most remarkable places we stopped was Corinth…It’s in southern Greece. The Bible calls this region “Achaia.” It’s located near the Sea on an Isthmus about 50 miles west of Athens.
When Rome conquered this city they made it their seat of government for Southern Greece…It was a rich city, a conduit as a seaport to the rest of the Roman world, but like other rich cities it was filled with vices…Corinth was the Las Vegas…Bourbon Street location of its day.
Kari and I witnessed the remains of a Pagan temple…
SHOW PICTURE OF TEMPLE
…within the city limits…It was dedicated to the pagan goddess Venus…(the god of lust). During Paul’s stay here it housed 1,000 prostitutes, they called “priestesses.”
Sexual sin was the norm for people in Corinth…Lust was celebrated and a part of worship for their idols. Corinth was one of the most ornate and architecturally beautiful cities of its day…but it was enveloped in sin to its very core.
Its during his 2nd missionary journey that Paul leaves Athens and travels to this city (around 50 AD). It’s during this time that he meets a couple named Aquilla and Pricilla…and works with them to spread the gospel of Christ.
ACTS 18:1-11 (p. 773)
The Christians at Corinth are a ministry of Jesus (like Aquilla & Priscilla) and Gentiles… “who believed and were baptized.” Some had a background where they understood the OT, prophets, and the promised Messiah…Some had a background of worshipping Venus and other Roman idols…it was an interesting dichotomy.
Paul stayed there teaching them the Word of God for a year and a half with Aquilla and Priscilla.
Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4) Silas and Timothy joined him here to help with the work.
Later another believer named Apollos would be mentored by Aquilla and Priscilla and lead to Corinth as well.
ACTS 18:27-28 (p. 773)
Think about the spiritual investment at Corinth…it’s teachers were Paul, Timothy, Aquilla, Priscilla, Apollos, Silas…and others.
But Corinth had the same major problem we all have…pride and arrogance…with all their different backgrounds and pasts…They foolishly divided themselves up in cliques. They lost sight of the big picture and focused on selfies.
I. A CHURCH DIVIDED
It’s why Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians begins with an appeal for unity.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-13 (p. 793)
These folks began to make the teacher more important than what was being taught…They began to fight about which group was best instead of rallying around the power of the cross.
What happens when believers begin to focus on themselves and the things that make them feel more important than others…“The cross is emptied of its power.”
Folks, the purpose of the cross is about reconciling us to God…The power of the cross is that Jesus, the perfect son of God, died for all sin so atonement could take place…Atonement means “to make one.”
That’s why Paul asks “Is Christ divided…was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
It’s breaking Paul’s heart that the Corinthians are quarreling over worldly issues when the very purpose of the cross of Christ was to make us one.
Kyle Idleman, in “Not a Fan” said,
SHOW PIC OF QUOTE BY KYLE IDLEMAN
“The greatest danger in life is anything other than Jesus that becomes a foundation for our confidence.”
The Corinthians, like many of us today…accepted the message of the cross…but didn’t pursue it…They stayed immature in their faith…believing they were smart enough to figure life out on their own…and when it came to their opinions and rights, they asserted them over the needs of others…no wonder the Apostle Paul reaches a point of frustration and says, “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak but you are so strong. You are honored, we are dishonored.”
Paul, Apollos, Timothy, Silas and others are on the front lines…being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned. They’ve been hungry, thirsty homeless and brutally treated…He says “We’ve become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world in
1 Corinthians 3:13.
But, in their relatively rich comfort, the Corinthians ignore sexual as a man sleeps with his father’s wife…They sue each other in court, they engage in relationships where they tolerate gossips, swindlers, drunks and greedy people who claim to be “church people.” They argue about insignificant issues like food…and hurt other believers…and even when they meet together, they’re not united around the cross…They are divided into cliques.
The Apostle Paul shares a devastating overview of what this has done to their worship.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:18-30 (p. 799)
Think about this…Paul, Aquilla & Priscilla, Apollos, Timothy, Silas…spent considerate time here building a foundation in the Word of God…Paul himself a year and a half…and a few years later…THIS!!!
All of us sin…all of us struggle with selfishness…every one of us have people we like more than other people, but when our rights, preferences, and groups become more important than the unified body of Christ, people get spiritually weak, sick, asleep and dead.
We are no longer “fools for the sake of Christ.” We are just “fools.”
So, what’s the answer? Is there any hope for unity for the Corinthians and every other group of people who claim to be “the body of Christ?”
SHOW PICTURE OF CHURCH WITH DIFFERENT SERVICES
Just kidding…That won’t fix it because someone wouldn’t like their time slot.
More division doesn’t cure the root issue, but the Apostle Paul puts in this letter to the Corinthians 3 things that will.
II. SERVE OTHERS, LOVE OTHERS, AND GROW UP
1. SERVE OTHERS
It’s not an accident that Paul follows his evaluation of the Corinthians worship service with these words:
1 CORINTHIANS 12:1-7 (p. 799)
If and when you and I are filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, it’s so we can serve others…He empowers us with different gifts and abilities…but He also fills us with an attitude. “It’s for the common good.”
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord…There are different kinds of work, but in all of them it’s the same God at work.
You are never saved by your works…but you are saved so the Holy Spirit can work through you…
When you faithfully serve, you are connected to others as a family…you and I aren’t just consumers, we are ambassadors…We become partners with Christ in Kingdom building. Truth is…we never join a church…we need to become members of a local body of Christ, but God adds us to the Church upon our salvation…We get to choose what family we’ll serve with…but it’s never an option for those filled with the Holy Spirit. And it’s never something we retire from because we’ve done our share…that’s a works theology, not a grace theology.
Service connects us to the will of God and each other for a common purpose and the common good. True servants are unifying people…Christ enables them…They do what’s needed…God gives the increase.
2. LOVE OTHERS
Paul follows the spiritual challenge of service with 1 Corinthians 13…The Love Chapter.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-8a (p. 800)
Christian love, “Agape” love is “compassion in action.” It’s a verb not a noun.
Real love is focused on the needs of others above the needs of self…and it's a choice, not a feeling. And folks, you can serve without loving (and it profits you nothing) but you cannot love without serving.
Love looks for opportunity…love obeys the Holy Spirit when He prompts you with a generous impulse…Love speaks kindly and love wants to help those who are hurting…and does. Love is a daily adventure of looking at others through the eyes of Jesus.
When we live like this “Love becomes a glue that holds us together…and the love of Christ becomes a glue that nothing in this world can break (Romans 8:37-39)…Love like this never fails.
SERVE OTHERS, LOVE OTHERS…and Paul gives one more cure for divided people…
3. GROW UP
1 CORINTHIANS 13:11 (p. 800)
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I become a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
Paul said many of the Corinthians had never moved beyond childhood in their Christian lives… “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:1)
[I’ve got a 2 year old grandson named Brix.
SHOW PICTURE OF BRIX
He’s stinkin’ cute huh…For Easter they got a basket…but Brix wanted the whiffle ball bat that was in his brother Kanaan’s basket…He grabbed it…Kanaan (who’s 5) grabbed it back…Brix started crying. You’ve been there too, huh? We expect 2 year olds and 5 year olds to fight over stuff… “I want it…NO!!! It’s mine!!!”
Paul says…many of the Corinthians hadn’t moved past this place in their relationship with Christ and how they dealt with other people and they needed to grow up.]
Brix didn’t get the bat by crying…and we asked Kanaan later to let him play with it for a while…It’s the only way they learn to grown up.
This is part of life if you’re 2 and 5…If it’s still part of your life when you’re 30, 40, 50 or older there’s a real problem.
If we would be men and women of God that bring unity to Christ’s Kingdom…then we’d better grow up to be like our Dad.