Summary: There is probably no more appropriate book in the Bible to the western church than 1 Corinthians. The early church was by no means perfect. However that is no excuse for not living a life surrendered to the sanctifying work of Christ.
ntro: While we were in Myrtle Beach SC my wife of course wanted to go shopping. So I could spend time with here I went and actually found something that would be useful for us to think about as we begin the New Year. A little sign said cherish yesterday, dream for tomorrow, but live for today. That is what we as the church should do. However, often we live for yesterday, dread tomorrow, and forget today. Learning from the early church we can establish principles to live for today. We are not promised tomorrow so we plan and dream with God about a great future but don’t allow that to distract us from what is before us at this present moment.
As we study the first letter to the Corinthians we find that they were a church like many today, they were a church with cracks. Paul tells them he had heard of their quarrels and factions and rampant immorality that was fracturing the churches unity and mission. From this letter to the Corinthians we learn that the early church was by no means perfect. We also learn that a lack of perfection is no excuse for fractions, divisions, or disunity, lack of discipline or disrespect for one another. Paul also addresses their misunderstanding of a previous letter. 1 Corinthians 5.9 alludes to this letter. He had told the church to not associate with immoral people. The church assumed Paul meant immoral non-believers. However, Paul had intended for them to discontinue fellowship with professed believers living an ongoing immoral unrepentant lifestyle. He desired what Jesus desired for the Church to be in the world but not of the world. What we see especially as Paul describes in Chapter 12-13 with the exercise of gifts that their disunity was marked by recurring arrogance and immaturity.
NIV commentary “As is so often the case, the most immature often think they are quite mature.” We must guard against arrogance, pride and false humility which are flip sides of the same coin called spiritual immaturity.
I. The city where the church was assembling
Corinth was a cosmopolitan city. That simply means that it was very diverse in its citizens and culture. It was renowned for its temple to Aphrodite. As Athena was the goddess of the mind which the city of Athens was named after Aphrodite was the Goddess of the body. Her priestess’ were glorified prostitutes housed in her famous temple.
Barclay says Corinth “was a by-word for evil and immoral living. In fact in the Greek of the day to say Corinthianize “to live like a Corinthian” meant to live drunken and [immorally].” The city was intellectually alert, materially prosperous but morally corrupt. The ideal of the Corinthian was the reckless development of the individual. The merchant who made his gain by all and every means, the man or woman of pleasure surrendering himself to every lust, the athlete steeled to every bodily exercise proud in his physical strength, are the true Corinthian types: in a word a man or woman who recognized no superior and no law but his own desires. (Tyndale Commentary)
In our lives what drives us and our desires will reveal our closeness or distance from God.
Paul planted a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and His call on the lives of the Christians and church at Corinth. This letter is written to that church. But this letter is also written to this church. He gives some strong words to these worldly Christians at Corinth. He also gives practical teaching to some of the questions raised in their letter to him in Ephesus. These strong words and practical principles were not just penned for them but for us as well.
II. The Christians calling that Paul was reminding
A) Paul’s authority (before Paul can address who they are he reminds them who he is.)
Paul begins by reminding the believers at Corinth about His apostolic authority. It was by his calling and mission as God’s ambassador that he was able to share the strong words, and severe criticism, and practical principles in this letter. The only way anyone has the authority to teach, lead, preach, etc is by way of God given authority. It is not because of personality or ability, but calling!
Paul is gently reasserting his authority as given by God in order to lovingly yet powerfully address the cracks in the church at Corinth.
B) The Church’s appointment
Paul calls the immoral, carnal Christians in Corinth the Church of God! This clearly speaks of their appointment to the grace spoken of in 1.3. The Greek word is ekklesia. It can mean the called out of God. It was a normal every day word used to speak of any assembly in the Roman empire. In Acts 19.32 there is a riot in Ephesus because of Paul’s preaching and the word is translated assembly. This word came to be the name that the Christians referred to themselves as. This was no new religious group. This was God’s assembly. This is those that have responded to the calling of God to salvation in Jesus Christ. They become set apart to be God’s people for His purposes, His promises, His place to dwell.