Summary: Introduction to 1 Corinthians
Imagine a church wracked with divisions. Powerful leaders promote themselves against each other, each with his band of loyal followers. One of them is having an affair with his stepmother, and, instead of disciplining him, many in the church boast of his freedom in Christ to behave in such a way. Believers sue each other in secular courts; some like to visit prostitutes. As a backlash against this rampant immorality, another faction in the church is promoting celibacy --- complete sexual abstinence for all believers --- as the Christian ideal. Still other debates rage about how decisively new Christians should break from their pagan past. Disagreements about men’s and women’s roles in the church add to the confusion. As if all this were not enough, alleged prophecies and speaking in tongues occur regularly, but not always in constructive fashion. A significant number of these immature Christians do not even believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ!
Does this sound like anything you have ever heard of? Probably no contemporary church faces this exact cluster of issues all at once. But all of the issues remain remarkably current. The description, of course, is not of any contemporary church but of the first-century church in Corinth. Yet if we can understand the nature of these problems and the nature of Paul’s divinely inspired instruction in response to them, then we will gain great insights into numerous debates that threaten to divide today’s church and keep it from having the world-transforming impact God intends it to have (Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary, p. 17).
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Why preach through a book of the Bible?
· Because it allows the preacher and congregation to know what the coming week’s text will be.
· Because it forces the preacher to address difficult or unpopular passages.
· Because it keeps the preacher from always speaking on the same subjects.
· Because it is the most natural way to learn the message of God’s Word.
Like most letters of the first century, 1 Corinthians begins with the name of the writer, the name of the recipients, and greetings (see vv. 1-3).
AUTHOR: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul also sends greetings from a man named Sosthenes. He is simply described as “our brother” which leads us to believe that he was well known to the Corinthians. Acts 18:17 mentions that the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth was named Sosthenes. We are told that he and some other Jews took Paul to court because of what he was teaching. If this Sosthenes was the same Sosthenes as in the opening of 1 Corinthians, then he must have turned to Christ sometime later. This gives us encouragement to share the gospel of Christ with those who seem most opposed to it. Paul is probably the greatest example of this. He was once a persecutor of the church. God saved him as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. The greatest persecutor of the church became its greatest preacher.
This letter of Paul to the Corinthians is actually a response to a letter they wrote to him. It’s possible that Sosthenes delivered the Corinthians’ letter to Paul and then later returned with Paul’s letter to them.
RECIPIENTS: “The church of God in Corinth.” The church was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). Notice, though, that Paul describes the church in Corinth as “the church of God.” Paul was as responsible for the birth and life of that church as it is humanly possible to be, but it was God’s church, not Paul’s church.
Forest Hills Fellowship Baptist Church is not my church. It’s not your church. It’s God’s church.
The church in Corinth caused Paul a lot of grief. It was a church filled with problems. Many church members were resisting Paul’s authority. Yet still he could say, “I always thank God for you” (v. 4).
TITLE: Thank God for the Church!
Sometimes it’s hard to thank God for other Christians. Yet even when Christians are not all they should be, there are always reasons to be thankful for them.
Why should we give thanks to God for our fellow Christians?
Paul gives us three reasons why we should give thanks to God for other Christians.
I. EVERY CHRISTIAN HAS BEEN SANCTIFIED BY GOD (v. 2).
. . . 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.
To “sanctify” means to “make holy.” Every Christian has been made holy “in Christ Jesus.” We are not only made holy but also “called to be holy.” Is Paul being redundant. No. Sanctification has a past, present, and future tense.