Summary: The sermon begins a study of 1 Corinthians 12-14 with an overview of the book and the issues behind it.
Holy Spirit Series 2000
The World, The Spirit and the Cross
Introduction to 1 Corinthians
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
What sank the Titanic? Most of you saw the movie. Many have seen the news reels. What took the gigantic ship to the ocean bottom on April 15, 1912 along with over 1500 men, women, and children? What sank the unsinkable ship? An iceberg? A gigantic gash in its hull? A mistake of the captain? All of these may have had a part to play in the disaster. But what really took the ship down is quite simple. Water. Plain old sea-water.
I am not a mariner. I know very little about ships and sailing. But I do know this. The ship belongs in the water and not the other way around. When the water gets in the ship, you have a problem. You get enough water in the ship and it will sink, no matter how big or impressive or expensive the boat.
There is a parable here for the Christian life. Jesus said his disciples are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-19). Like a sailing ship, it is OK to be surrounded by the world, even worldly ideas and values, but those ideas and values must not get in our lives or our church. When they do, disaster is just around the corner. This has always been the greatest spiritual battle of the Christian life. Spiritual warfare is not about wrestling with demons and goblins. It is about holding back the subtle deadly influence of your neighbors and their way of thinking.
Today I will begin a series of four messages. I hope they will be helpful on several fronts. First we will be looking directly at the Word of God. That always matters. It is one thing to hear interesting and even inspiriting words from preachers and teachers. It is altogether another matter for those words to be directly linked to the clear teachings of the Word of God.
Secondly, the particular portion of the Bible that we will examine is both interesting and somewhat controversial. We are going to examine 1 Corinthians 12-14 and the issue of how God works in the life of his people and his church. This portion of Scripture is in the Bible for a reason. Apparently the Holy Spirit thought the original readers needed it and others who would follow would also need the same message.
But most of all, this series of studies may have something very powerful for those of us in this church, in this city, in this day. Some Bible scholars think this book of the Bible is among the most relevant for our times. First Corinthians is really about how a church of real live human beings who have come to place their faith in Jesus Christ deal with the challenge of life in a very non-Christian world.
Does that have anything to do with us? I dare say it does. We live in a day very different than that of our parents and grandparents. We are surrounded by worldly temptations, worldly attitudes, and worldly priorities to the extreme. Many of us have lost the ability to distinguish between the popular message of our world and the message of the Gospel. Worse yet, some no longer think it even matters. This is the issue of 1 Corinthians.
Today I want lead you through a brief journey of 1 Corinthians. This will provide important background for understanding chapters 12-14. There are three important principles for rightly understanding any passage of scripture. Get these right and you are well on your way to correctly understanding the Bible. Ignore them and you will almost always get them wrong. The three principles are these: context, context, context. Nothing replaces the importance of reading and understanding the Bible the way the Holy Spirit gave—in its original context. Fortunately, reading and understanding the context of a bible passage is not some mysterious process. All you have to do is read and re-read the text. It requires effort, but anyone can do it.
Let’s start by reading the main theme passage of 1 Corinthians. It is the ideas of this text that Paul applies to a number of different issues. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25—
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”£
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.