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1 Corinthians 1:4-9
What happens when a church isn’t working as well as it should?
Well, in the case of the church in Corinth they receive a letter – inspired by the Holy Spirit – written by Paul.
Here are some observations which are made about the church.
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:12
The church is full of divisions and schisms and egos.
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.
1 Corinthians 3:2-3
There is spiritually immaturity and ignorance.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud.
1 Corinthians 5:1-2
Moral corruption is not being dealt with.
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
1 Corinthians 11:20-21
There is a lack of care for each other, and no respect for the Lord’s Supper or community events.
We could keep going but I think you get the point.
Now, don’t say it out loud, but what words or phrases would you use to describe Corinth?
I suspect some of the descriptions we would use are not too flattering.
Ok, now let’s read the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
You are a church … sanctified … made holy … by Christ Jesus and that description
… being sanctified and called to be Christ’s holy people
… that description applies to those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
So that includes us … doesn’t it.
Us who are in fellowship together … an ekklesia … just as the Corinthians are in fellowship together.
… with our spiritual immaturity.
… with our moral deficiencies.
… with our different views.
… with our sin and brokenness and shame and messed up lives.
… with our lives that do need more biblical discipline.
The sanctified and called to be holy – with their issues – but in fellowship together.
And what does Paul say about such fellowships?
verse 4 I always thank God for you.
Isn’t that incredible!
For all your crazy mixed up ways Corinthian ways ... Paul says ... I still keep thanking God.
That’s not really an emotional response we might have been expecting.
But isn’t it an emotional response that brings a sense of relief.
There can be thankfulness even in brokenness.
There can be thankfulness even when sin needs confronting.
There can be thankfulness even in the face of spiritual immaturity.
A thankfulness that exists because Jesus Christ is in the middle of all of this extending his grace. Having Christ in the middle makes such thankfulness possible.’
For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—
1 Corinthians 1:5
Paul is giving us a subtle reminder that once we were very poor. Not poor as in having no money … but poor spiritually.
We have nothing which God could possibly need or use.
We are a pretty pathetic bunch.
In fact we were so pathetic that the Bible describes us as enemies of God. But then an amazing transformation occurs – Christ enriches us and all of the sudden the picture changes. Jesus takes us
... we who have nothing to offer
... we who are in poverty
and He makes us rich.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9
Thankfulness happens when we remember our greatest riches are given graciously by Jesus.
And this richness changes us in so many ways. Paul specifically tells us that we have been enriched in all our speaking and all our knowledge. In other words
Even though we start off “poor” we are given a rich ability to serve God.
God will give us His Word in our hearts and in our mouth.
As we listen to Him He will give us direction in speech
– speech which builds up and encourages and edifies.
– speech which is well-considered.
– being quick to listen and slow to speak
As we see the impact of the riches we have our knowledge
– knowing what it takes to have a biblical character.
– knowing where the Bible is speaking to our sin and failings.
– knowing which leads to humble transformation in Christ.
We are not left as blind sheep unable to see the shepherd who is standing right next to us. We are like eagles – having been given a clear vision that Christ is with us. As Paul says in verse 6 the testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Jesus confirms for us that we stand on a foundation which cannot possibly falter - and we don't falter because we stand on the cross.
That is a great cause of thankfulness. But there is another reason as well.
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:7
In a day and age where there are bills, expenses, expectations, insecurities, fear and doubt
… a general lack.
… in that day the declaration that we do not lack is a powerful declaration isn’t it.
Indeed such is the provision that we can have the assurance of not having a lack all the way up to the time when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed.
So, when we see “spiritual gift” we don’t want to limit the usage to the gifts like hospitality, discernment, mercy, serving etc.
We need to think more broadly in terms of Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is the same word in Greek in both verses.
Through the grace of Jesus we have been given a gift
… which takes our life out of the jaws of hell and sets us into the kingdom of God.
… which gives us the assurance that, when we face judgement, we can be secure because Jesus will say, "you belong Me".
… which makes us so intimately related to Christ, because of His death and resurrection, that He considers us to be part of His own body.
That is the gift.
… the love of Christ flows through your body.
… the passions of Christ flow through your veins.
… the will of Christ flows through your blood.
Thankfulness happens because in Christ we are given an important and unique place in God’s family.
As those with an important and unique place we can be sure that we will keep having that place.
Even in days of moral failure.
And when our ego gets the best of us.
Even in the times when we look more like citizen of a secular world as opposed to being citizens of heaven
Of course there needs to be a willingness for confession and forgiveness.
The journey will involve much humility and self-reflection.
There will be days – many days – when we look at the Scripture and we realize a measure of non-conformity to the word.
That is all true.
But so is the truth that as we eagerly await for Jesus to be revealed we still have a place.
Each one of us has been called for a purpose, a specific purpose. Each one of us is an intricate piece in the plan of God.
I have said this many times.
This is not my church.
This is the Lord’s Church.
Without you I am nothing but some guy in the front of a room talking to himself.
Together we make it happen.
This is the gift. A gift that comes even in those times when everything falls into a big hole.
A gift that comes even when we get in the way of God.
We look at what Paul writes to the Corinthians about what they are doing … and at times are incredulous and shake our heads.
But for them … as much as for us … there is still thankfulness because of Jesus.
Paul really wants us to understand this.
So he doesn’t stop at encouraging us to eagerly wait.
Paul gives a reminder and a guarantee.
He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:8
One day every single one of us is going to have to give an account.
Paul’s description of that day is found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (read)
Take note of what Paul is saying:-
There is a foundation.
This is the saving work of Jesus. No matter what this foundation will withstand the Day of judgement – and those who stand on the foundation will also withstand.
There is also a building.
This is our Christian life.
Different people will build different types of buildings.
On the day of judgement some of those buildings … well they are just going to go up in flames. And all that is left is someone standing on a foundation smelling like smoke but able to take up their seat in the great celebration called the wedding supper of the Lamb.
We will be there in fellowship – together – even if we don’t have a single piece of a building left.
Thankfulness happens because, when we fail, God guarantees to carry us to the end.
The whole ekklesia – even people who fit the descriptions used of the people in Corinth – the whole gathered heavenly community being blameless.
This reality makes the church a uniquely formed body of people who are in relationship with one another.
A failure on our behalf does not mean the failure of the body.
A questioning or doubt does not bring the ultimate outcome into question.
A lack of fruit on our tree will not stop the fruit bearing of the kingdom.
There is always going to be a road of thankfulness.
As long as we keep standing on the foundation.
Listening to the call of the Spirit and coming to repentance when we fall down.
Holding onto the assurance that God is still our God and, while He is grieves over our sin, He has not stopped loving us.
In fellowship being thankful knowing the church will go on
not because you are good
not because you have some terrific gift.
not because you are faithful.
not because of you …
but because God called you and He makes you belong in fellowship.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9
In fellowship together …
… sanctified and called.
… enriched in every way.
… not lacking in the spiritual gift that causes eagerness.
… being kept to the end.
… being blameless on judgement day.
… called by a faithful God in fellowship – koinonia – with Jesus
How can we not be thankful.