Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 1: 18 - 2: 5) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 31 May 2015.
The Corinthian church was very much like us – within a society that had no moral compass and experiencing a religious maelstrom where it seemed as though every thought was considered valid.
We are looking at this letter through the prism of grace and peace (verse 3) which only comes from the Father and the Son.
Opening question: Why did Jesus die on the cross? Discuss.
In this passage, Paul deals with some of the issues raised by that question.
The wrong answers include: a tragic end to a good life, as an example to us.
The right answers are: to save us from our sins, conquer sin and death, bring us into relationship with God, fulfil the Old Testament scriptures.
However, the ultimate answer was so God would be glorified.
The Church has managed to corrupt the Gospel so conforms to the viewpoint of the world as Richard Halverson has commented: ‘In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centring on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.’
We will unpack these thoughts as we go on.
We will see:
1. The Modern Greeks
2. The Modern Jews
3. The Wisdom of God
1. The Modern Greek
The Greeks were well-known for their philosophies. Prior to Paul visiting Corinth, he had been to Athens (Acts 17: - ‘All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.’)
Main philosophies that people automatically think about: Epicureans (living for pleasure) and Stoics (self-discipline), which have their equivalents today with the get-rich crowd and the emphasis on yoga among other examples.
In midst of their thinking, the Greeks had stories of gods and goddesses performing mighty deeds, often replication of human actions. They had sense that more than their thoughts, that there was something/someone out there greater than them.
This philosophising is seen in modern atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or the late Christopher Hitchens where there is no room for love but they do not acknowledge that there is Someone beyond their minds and experiences.
I once heard about an atheist funeral where, as the crowd made its way out of the crematorium, a comment was made that it was hoped that the deceased person was looking down on them.
There is no room for love in equation for the philosophers as it is (for them) just academic, which negates the fact that God made us to holistic.
A four year-old girl asked her father, a surgeon, how the heart worked. He drew with pride a diagram with the veins and arteries. At the end, she asked: ‘Where does all the love go in?’
The Gospel is truth, but it is also love which is shown in Jesus.