Welcome To Corinth
1Co01 – Welcome to Corinth– 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Pastor Dave Shepardson Calvary Chapel Nuevo / www.wordbymail.com
Open your Bibles. Today we begin a new series. Title of the message, “Welcome to Corinth.” We’re going to 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.
This is a new verse by verse series through 1 and 2 Corinthians. We are calling it Life As The Church.
To get us started today we have to think back to the series we just finished. We just finished a series called Alone With God, a six message series, and the last message was called “Rightly Reading God’s Word.” And in that message we said that (if possible) we shouldn’t just dive blindly into a verse in a book of the Bible, especially letters, but instead it is much better to understand why the author sent the letter. What was their purpose? What was their reason for sending this particular letter? Then, as we go through the letter, we can correctly interpret what is being written by the overall purpose of the letter. The context gives you the correct interpretation of the letter.
So that is what we’re going to do this message with 1 Corinthians. We’re going to get an overview of who this church is and why this letter was written because we certainly can’t learn how to “rightly read God’s Word” and then not apply it in the very next study, can we?
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we need to correctly interpret and apply your Word, in this book as much as in any book, but we need to understand the place that Corinth was. We need to see how it so easily relates to the place we find ourselves in today. We need to understand the culture then compares to our culture now. We need to understand the problems of living life as the Church then, and we need to relate them to living life as the Church now. And so, as we paint this picture of Corinth, give us a backdrop to study this book; I pray that you would bring it to life in our minds. Bring it to vivid color, that we would be able to use it to correctly interpret this book in the weeks ahead. Do the ground work for us, we pray by your Spirit, in your name, Jesus, amen.
The churches in the New Testament were much more like our churches today than we might think. The church in Corinth was very much like many churches in our culture today.
It was full of Conflicts- Quarrels- and Cliques
It struggled with Celebrity leaders and people ending up following a man instead of God
It was full of Immorality–Serious Marriage Problems and Relationship Conflicts
The people struggled deeply learning how to LOVE each other with the Agape LOVE of God
Solid Biblical Teaching and the Presence of the Holy Spirit were NOT enough to save the church from the SAME “Fleshly” desires that damage our churches today
And although they were WEALTHY-they still struggled with giving to the Lord
The church at Corinth was affluent (had everything they needed), they were well-educated and successful people and yet the church was buried in petty quarreling, in carnality, widespread immorality and major marriage and relationship dysfunction. That was the church in Corinth, and that is unfortunately very close to the average church in our culture today.
So let’s start by seeing where Corinth was and why they were so affluent and so immoral.
It all started with the Macedonia Call (very cool) in Acts 16. Corinth is on the little isthmus that connects the two large land masses of Greece and that little isthmus is only four miles wide and geographically that made Corinth a commercial gold mine. Any merchant coming from Athens carrying all the things money can buy had to go right through Corinth to get to Sparta, which was the famous Greek military city, and they had to go through Corinth on the way back as well.
That little isthmus was the only safe way for merchant ships to get from one side (coast) of Greece to the other. It was so unsafe to sail around the horn to the south that they put the merchant ships on huge skids and drug them across that isthmus – which took awhile. (Today, there is actually a canal there.)
And so the merchant caravans always stopped in Corinth and the merchant sailors had to stop in Corinth. That made Corinth a huge resort type town, a huge money town, and a huge culture town. Along with all that, Corinth became famous for all the things money can buy. Money spent by wealthy merchants and bored sailors and ultimately Corinth became known for its extreme immorality and depravity.
The money and the immorality flowed so freely in Corinth it made Las Vegas look like a pre-school for sinners. Every vice and every sin that could be bought with money flourished in Corinth. Corinth was materially and culturally rich and it was spiritually and completely bankrupt.
Sitting above this affluent city was the Corinthian Acropolis (which is the high place that overlooks the city) and on the Acropolis in Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite (Venus). She was the goddess of love and fertility. But really, she was the “goddess of sex” and it is said working in this temple overlooking Corinth were one thousand temple prostitutes (Priestesses and Priests) who would come into the city every night to allow the visitors (men and women) to consummate their “worship” of the sex goddess Aphrodite – and they got to give an offering to the temple in return for their sexual worship (making it a huge business).
But it was not even like our prostitution today because for now anyway, our culture still frowns a bit on prostitution. But in Corinth it was encouraged as part of the Corinthian lifestyle – so much so that years later in other cities prostitutes were referred to as “Corinthian Girls” and to take part in immoral sexual acts was “to Corinthianize.”
In addition to all that, Corinth also hosted the Isthmian Games where every other year athletes from all over Greece would come to compete, like our Olympics and when the victors returned home their cities would erect statues in their honor and have a parade and (in essence) worship them at least for a time. (Sound familiar to our culture?)
Every fleshly desire, every fleshly fantasy, every imaginable goal was attainable in the great City of Corinth. It was the City of Opportunity much like what we call today the “Land of Opportunity” and more than anything else, what the Corinthian culture promoted and constantly reinforced was pure self focus, self pleasure, and self promotion.
Can you imagine a culture of opportunity today… that promotes above anything else, self focus, self pleasure, self promotion? If you can imagine that culture today, then 1 Corinthians would be written especially to the Church that lives in that culture (our culture).
And into this city that made Las Vegas look like a pre-school for sin, God sent the great Apostle Paul. WHY? Because God wanted his Church – the Body of Christ – smack dab in the middle of all that immorality and all that dysfunction. God wanted his Church to learn how to “live life as the Church” right in the middle of all the immorality and the dysfunction of that society.
Guys, our culture today is sliding faster and faster into the Corinthian level of immorality and dysfunction and God placed his Church – the Body of Christ – smack dab in the middle of all that immorality and dysfunction and God wants his people to learn to live life as the Church right in the middle of the darkness and difficulty of our culture.
That’s why this series is called Life As The Church. It’s actually short for “Living Life AS the Church in the Middle of an Immoral and Dysfunctional Society.” That is what God called the Church in Corinth to do, and that is what God has called us to do. God grew his Church in Corinth to be a light in a dark place, and God wants to grow his Church here for us to be a light in this dark place. To do that, God is calling us to learn to live life as the Church, right in the middle of the culture we are currently in, right here, right now. THAT is the purpose of 1 Corinthians and that is our purpose for studying it.
So after Paul had started the church in Corinth which is a wonderful story found in Acts 16-18. When Paul left Corinth, he went back to Ephesus and while Paul was in Ephesus trouble came fast to the church in Corinth. And some people from the church in Corinth came to bring the bad news to Paul in Ephesus, and they even brought a letter from the church listing things that the church wanted Paul to address.
There are actually a number of letters referred to in 1 and 2 Corinthians. It seems like there were at least four letters written from Paul to the church in Corinth and at least one letter written from the church to Paul. There was clearly a lot of effort and a lot of struggle to get this church to live as the Church in this “particularly difficult city.”
It seems to me the devil was fighting very hard to retain control of Corinth and maybe because the spiritual battle was so intense for Corinth the effort to help the believers live life as the Church there was equally intense.
And that truth strikes a “very personal chord” with me. So 1 Corinthians is actually written as a response to both what Paul is being told about the church in Corinth and in answer to what the Church had written to Paul about.
So, when these visitors arrived to Paul in Ephesus Paul knew one thing – those called to be holy in the midst of that unholy city were having a hard time living life as the church.
Remember the Church in Greek is EKKLESIA. It means “The Called Out Ones” and it became quickly apparent that they were having a difficult time doing that. So Paul first addresses the things he has heard that he knows are damaging in the Church, in Chapters 1-6. Then he addresses the things the church has written to him about in Chapters 7-16.
So, with that brief overview, let’s get to Paul’s introduction today. These words – written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – were written to the Corinthian Church and to us.
1 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.
Paul, chosen by God as an Apostle. The word means “A sent one” or “One sent out with the message of another” and God certainly sent Paul with the message of the gospel into Corinth. Next Paul says he is with our brother Sosthenes. We learn in Acts 18 Sosthenes was the leader of the synagogue in Corinth who was beaten by the Jews there possibly for allowing Paul to teach and who eventually joined Paul in his work for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (NLT)
2 I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Notice first, it is God’s Church, NOT Paul’s, not anyone else’s – the true Church belongs to God alone. And then second, Paul says, You - who belong to God’s Church have been CALLED to be HIS OWN HOLY PEOPLE.
Holy means to be set (sanctified) apart for God’s use and for God’s glory. And if we are part of God’s Church, then God has called us to be set apart for God’s use and for God’s glory. God has not saved us so that he could be set apart for our use and for our glory and often we need to make sure we don’t have the purpose of God backwards.
This phrase in verse 2 GOD’S OWN HOLY PEOPLE in the literal translation is SAINTS – “Called BY God – to be His SAINTS.” The word SAINT means “Holy One” or “One dedicated to God.” We have been called to be the holy ones of God, set apart for God’s glory in a world that does just the opposite.
God made us holy (Saints) when he saved us through faith in Jesus Christ. Now we are his holy ones dedicated to his glory – we are his Saints.
And then Paul’s famous twin salutation.
1 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)
3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
And we say amen and may he do just that.
And then from verses 4-9 is Paul’s classic thanksgiving section that opens most of his letters in some way. But to me there seems to be some subtle hints of things to come in the letter between the lines here. And then this section ends in verse 9 with a key to understanding the entire book.
1 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)
4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.
This is the first mention of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that becomes a focus later in the letter.
1 Corinthians 1:5 (NLT)
5 Through him(Jesus), God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge.
This almost sounds sarcastic but the church at Corinth was enriched in every way and they were known for their eloquent words and their knowledge. They were Greek, they were affluent, they were well-educated and they had brought those attributes into the church.
And then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:6,
1 Corinthians 1:6 (NLT)
6(all of)This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true.
Paul is actually reaffirming them and reassuring them before he begins his rebuke and it’s okay for us to learn from this how to approach someone when we must rebuke them.
Then back to the reference of the spiritual gifts which the Corinthian church had all of.
1 Corinthians 1:7 (NLT)
7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are twenty-one specific spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament and the church at Corinth had all of them. Unfortunately we will soon see that having all the spiritual gifts does not automatically equate to a holy or pleasing life in God’s eyes.
And then in verse 8 Paul stands on his absolute confidence in the faithfulness of God toward his church.
1 Corinthians 1:8 (NLT)
8He(Jesus Christ)will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
It seems Paul is trusting here in God’s assurance of their salvation and stating confidently that since they are truly saved God will assure their salvation until the end. (Even though their actions have a long way to go to “catch up” with their salvation.)
And then the key verse of 1 Corinthians 1:9,
1 Corinthians 1:9 (NLT)
9God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Man, this is a very full verse. First, there is the assurance that God will complete the good work of salvation he has begun in them. But then there is the critical key line [God] has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
The word partnership here is the Greek KOINONIA – most often translated “fellowship” or “communion.” But the context of the letter is that we are one with Christ – that our life is in partnership with Christ, that we are part of his body and so what we do is in partnership (fellowship) with him and that one truth will drive Paul’s exhortation through his letter.
We have been made ONE with Jesus Christ. We are his body in the world. We have got to learn to live life as the body of Christ, and 1 Corinthians will help us do that.
And so from that “subtle encouragement” Paul is going to launch into his exhortations on HOW to “live life as the church.”
To end with a sense of the urgency that Paul has in writing this letter, let me give you the lead in to the first major section from the paraphrase called The Message.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (The Message)
10 I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can . . .
That begins the first section of living Life As The Church and we’ll dive into that – next week.
Let’s pray. Lord, Jesus, show us, teach us how to live life as the Church. And if there is anyone here that would say, “The Church? I don’t even know what I’m doing here.” I say to you, seek Christ. Seek him while he may be found. Set your heart towards him, to receive him, to be forgiven by him to be given new life by him. Begin to seek him now. Lord, as we seek you, transform us, that we would learn to live life as the Church. For your glory, Jesus, amen.