Summary: The root and cure of all church problems
Let’s imagine that this building has been transformed into a time machine. Where should we go? Any suggestions? I think it would be good for us to visit the apostle Paul since we will be learning from one of his epistles this morning.
First, I must type in the proper information into the system. Let’s see . . . Time: A.D. 55 . . . Place: Ephesus . . . E-P-H-E-S-U-S. Okay, everything’s ready! Everybody, hold on! Here we go!
We step out of our time machine into the ancient city of Ephesus. This is a big city! How will we ever find Paul? We ask several people on the street where we can find Paul. No one seems to know. Finally, we run into a Christian who leads us to him.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little nervous about meeting Paul. This is Paul—the apostle, Paul—the greatest missionary the church has ever known, Paul—the author of one-third of the New Testament.
We ask him many questions about his life and ministry. His answers fascinate us. Then he asks us some questions. He begins by asking about our church.
We start by telling him some of the good things about our church. Then we tell him some of the problems and struggles we have. Paul politely stops us and says, "IF YOU THINK YOUR CHURCH HAS PROBLEMS, YOU SHOULD HEAR ABOUT THE CHURCH AT CORINTH!" "Actually," he says, "I am in the middle of writing a letter to that church."
That letter is now found in our Bibles. It is The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.
I. THE PERFECT CHURCH IS A MYTH.
A man reportedly came to the British pastor Charles Spurgeon looking for the perfect church. The famous preacher told him he had many saintly people in his congregation, but a Judas could also be among them. After all, even Jesus had a traitor in the company of His apostles. He went on to say that some might be walking disobediently, as had been the case among the believers at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Sardis.
"My church is not the one you’re looking for," said Spurgeon. "But if you should happen to find such a church, I beg you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing." (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, 123)
What is a church? What is Ridgeway Baptist Church? Ridgeway Baptist Church is not these walls. It is not this pulpit. It is not these pews. Ridgeway Baptist Church is the people in those pews. You are Ridgeway Baptist Church. Of course, simply sitting in a church pew doesn’t make you a Christian, but I hope that all of you are. A church is a group of people who by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have been born again into God’s family by the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a perfect person. Since a church is made up of people, and since no person is perfect, there can be no perfect church. We all have our unique faults and weaknesses. This church is not perfect. We all know that. But neither is any other church perfect.
The church at Corinth was a church plagued by problems:
THERE WERE DIVISIONS IN THE CHURCH. "It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you" (1:11).
THERE WAS SEXUAL IMMORALITY IN THE CHURCH. "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife" (5:1).
THERE WERE LAWSUITS BETWEEN CHRISTIANS IN THE CHURCH. "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" (6:1).
THERE WAS ABUSE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER IN THE CHURCH. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse" (11:17).
THERE WAS MISUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE CHURCH. The Corinthians were using their spiritual gifts to impress one another rather than edify one another.
THERE WAS MISUNDERSTANDING OF IMPORTANT DOCTRINES IN THE CHURCH. "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, who say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead" (15:12).
II. PRIDE IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF MOST CHURCH PROBLEMS.
C. S. Lewis once said, "It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began."
Pride is the ground in which all other sins grow.
Let’s go back for a moment to the first problem that Paul confronts in this letter: the problem of divisions in the church (1:10-13). The Greek word for "divisions" in verse 10 literally means "tears" or "cracks." The church at Corinth was tearing and cracking in four parts. Paul asks, "IS CHRIST DIVIDED?" Of course not! The church is the body of Christ. Galatians 3:28 says we "are all one in Christ Jesus."