Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 1: 1 - 3) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 6 June 2014.
In Acts 18: 1 – 22, we read of the visit of Paul with Silas and Timothy to Corinth. Paul spent 6 months in tent making, and by preaching and teaching. Both Jews and Greeks were converted to the Kingdom of God during this time.
Corinth was a dysfunctional church, but we need to look at ourselves before pointing the finger to them – the Church today is not exactly perfect and will not be until we go to be with the Lord.
Corinth contained fertile land: olives, grapes, dates and other fruit. The city was proud and wealthy, and it was a commercial centre (for it was at meeting point of trade routes). It was very much like UK, where wealth puts us top 4% in world just by being born here. The result has been conceit, thinking we know it all, and making our own pronouncements like they really matter (e.g. particularly celebrities like the recent Elton John outburst on lack of same-sex marriages in church). We should be more concerned to give pronouncements based on God’s infallible and timeless Word.
On the Accorinth (a hill of 500 ft. above the city), there was the temple and statue of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility. This cult dominated social and religious life of city.
When we look at social and religious life of Corinth, it was not too different from our nation, especially when you consider the low public and private morals in both societies.
The message in this letter is not a man’s thoughts from self-styled teacher or self-appointed Christian worker, but Paul had received direct revelation from God as mentioned in Galatians 1: 15 – 24.
The letter was co-authored with Sosthenes (who was/had been chief ruler of the synagogue - Acts 18: 17), who was Paul’s colleague as they worked together in the cause of the Gospel. The Church belongs to God and they (Paul and Sosthenes) showed harmony that proceeds from God which was absent from the Corinthian church
While Paul was at Ephesus on his 3rd missionary journey, Chloe’s family (1: 11) came to him and informed him of the immorality and dissension in the Corinthian church. At almost the same time, three members of the same church wanted advice on marriage, things sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and charitable collections.
1. Called to be holy
We are called to be separate/set apart – separate from sin, all that against God’s character.
Sainthood is not a rank in Christianity (like a general in the army), but what all Christians are called be.
We are told to be:
· Exclusive: we are told in the Bible that there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4: 12); Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life – there is no other way to the Father (John 14: 6).
· Inclusive: the offer of salvation for all people as Church is made up of redeemed sinners.
There is nothing that we can do for our works illustrate our deficiencies, as illustrated elsewhere in the letter – in fact, the church at Corinth had been engrossed in unholy deeds.
The words ‘to be’ are missing in the original. Our status is that of people ‘called holy’, which can only be so by the finished work of Jesus on the cross, covered by His righteousness. Are we aware that we are called holy?
Sanctification is not an attainment, but what God calls people so that they can start walking with Him. God covers them with robe of righteousness attained through finished work of Jesus. We need to stop often to think and thank God for the work He has begun in us.
In holiness is a long process for we need to have decisive break with unbelief and sin, and start with new way of faith and obedience – commencing at the foot of the cross.
It is most important for people to be, as they to grow in Jesus, rather than what they do, although inevitably one will lead to the other.
Oswald Chambers wrote in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’: ‘There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship with a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life.’
The problem with Church in UK is that there are that not many Christians who are disciples, willing to to work out what it is to be holy. The task takes time and effort. We need to get away from books, DVDs and programmes as the only source for discipleship (as good as these may be) and start to get alongside one another, to walk with each other and encourage one another in the faith.