Summary: When we think of the problems in the Corinthian Church they are numerous but Paul chose to address disunity first.
United we stand
What a mess! It should have been a model church; after all it had all the earmarks of becoming the greatest church in the denomination. Its founding pastor was the most prolific church planter in the denomination; the next man was by far the best preacher that could be offered and tossed in for good measure was one of the original founders of the denomination.
One who had stood closer to the original flame that started the group than any other. It had everything that could be offered to it, it had been planted in a major metropolis that was the capital city of the state. Time, money and talent had been invested in seeing it become everything that it could possibly be. This church was destined for greatness.
But then it came tumbling down like a house of cards. They began to have problems with the spiritual gifts and tongues in particular seemed to tear the church apart. Sexual immorality had reared its ugly head within the congregation, as well as incest, adultery, marriage problems and just a hint of heresy over the resurrection. Members were taking each other to court, and their fellowship times were becoming excuses for gluttony and even drunkenness.
And then if that wasn’t enough the entire church split along party lines giving loyalty to either the guy that planted the church, or to the fellow who was such a great preacher or the denominational official. What a mess.
Surely not a Wesleyan church, it must have been you know one of those churches.
Well you’re right and you’re wrong. I mean it wasn’t a Wesleyan church but then again it wasn’t one of those churches either.
The church planter was Paul, the preacher was Apollos, and the official of the denomination why that was one of Jesus’ closest friends, Simon Peter. The church of course was the Corinthian church and its problems are well chronicled in both 1 and 2 Corinthians the letters that Paul wrote addressing those problems.
Here we are week 9 in our “Story of the Book” series. Since the first of July we have been taking a whirlwind tour through the bible. Last Sunday we were in the book of Acts and looked at the Birth of the Church, and finished with Bill Hybel’s words “The local church is the hope of the world.” And the promise of Jesus when he said “And the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.”
And now we have arrived at the Pauline Epistles, or the Letters of Paul. This section is exactly what it is called, Letters written by Paul to various churches and individuals. It includes Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
These letter were written by Paul between 50 and 57 AD. These probably aren’t the only letters that Paul wrote but they are the ones chosen by God to be preserved for the church.
Most of the letters were written to churches and often related to problems that the church was having in regards to specific situations. And letters are the most personal of correspondence, even now, maybe especially now, if you receive a letter you are getting something special.
And we think that privacy is a major concern today and we are always warning people that what they write will be around forever it wasn’t much difference when our country was first born. Our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald testified to the power of the letter when he said “Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one!”
And Paul was a prolific letter writer, it is because Paul left us so many letters that we feel we know him so well.
It was Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who wrote, “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”
But there is a problem with reading a letter, letters are dialogues, they are part of a fluid conversation. And when we read a letter it is often like hearing only one side of the conversation.
In the case of the scripture that we are looking at today Paul starts by bringing us up to speed on the other side of the conversation.
You see in this case Paul is writing to a church that is torn from within and Paul sums up the major problem of this division in 1 Corinthians 1:12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter.”
And then he responds to the problem in the next verse by asking is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? And the answer is “of course not”.