Summary: Waiting for Christ in a "self-now" world.
First Sunday of Advent 2005
Dr. Paul G. Humphrey
Valley Forge United Methodist Church
The Faith of Christmas in Corinth and America
1CO 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
1CO 1:2 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:
1CO 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1CO 1:4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (NIV).
Verse 9 shouts at us, “God is faithful!” As we enter into this Christmas season I hope that each and every one of us holds firmly to the promises of God. Christmas is all about the coming of Christ, just as it was promised in Scripture. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. And, we are immediately reminded that he is coming again, as is also promised in Scripture. Central to all Paul has to say to this church in Corinth is that he is aware that they “wait for the coming of Christ.”
How well would that description fit us?
In these verses the Apostle Paul is speaking to the Christians at Corinth. When Paul came to Corinth around 51 AD, the Corinth that he saw was only about 100 years old. Yet, it was five times the size of Athens. Corinth was a wild town, known for every form of idol worship and every kind of sensual depravity. It was a prosperous port city. The city was filled with temples and shrines devoted to emperor worship. There were old temples to the Greek gods such as Apollo. There was also a temple to Apollo’s son, Asklepios, the god of healing. In Corinth you would find the Emperor Cult, the indigenous Greek religion of the mythological gods, the Eastern religions like Mithranism. Drunkenness and prostitution was not only commonplace, it was even incorporated into pagan worship rites. A historical account of the old Corinth claimed that one of the temples had 1000 temple prostitutes.
I can remember a seminary professor once saying that there was a first century adage that employed the word Corinth. It basically meant “to fornicate.” One of the Greek verbs for fornicate was korinthiazomai, “to corinthianize,” a word derived from the city’s name meant “to fornicate.” Can you imagine your hometown’s name being synonymous with fornication? Just as our word sodomy comes from the city Sodom.
They had every pleasure that they could hope for. They lived in a self-now society. But those who became Christians in Corinth chose to reject all of that and turn to Jesus, notwithstanding some exceptions that we will look at in another sermon.
What would cause a person to reject a life of excess in exchange for a life of sacrifice?
Do you think that it may be with the Christians in Corinth that they had available to them every sensual pleasure thinkable, and that after indulging in all of this, they felt empty?
I. Because of their faith, they have been given grace. They are enriched. The testimony was confirmed in them.
When I look at our world today, we have about everything that a person could desire at hands length. To a great extent we are a “self-now” society. We want what we want, and we want it now. Quick markets, fast cash, convenient stores, faster internet, and many more slogans make up the vocabulary of our commercial society. There is even a car advertised today that will turn on the windshield wipers for you when it senses rain. And the advertiser suggests all the other things that you can do with the time that you will save.
Maybe we are not so different from Corinth. For many in America, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, but is just another attempt at filling an unfillable void with gadgets and gizmos, diamonds and furs, food and drink, things that will not fill. And, there will be those who sit under a Christmas tree looking around at all the torn wrapping paper, ribbons and bows totally empty, because their life is devoid of God. They feel just as empty as those Corinthians must have felt before they met Jesus. How many people in this world have had everything that money could buy and still felt empty? You read about suicides. One rock star who had fame, money, relationships, anything that he wanted, killed himself, leaving a note saying, “is there nothing more?”