Introducing the Corinthians

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:23
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Good morning church family,
If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
Today marks the beginning of a new journey through the Scriptures.
For the next year at least we will work our way through the entirety of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians line by line and sentence by sentence…. Beginning with this introductory greeting.
Introductory greetings are some of the more overlooked sentences…, but they are often some of the more significant sentences.
In the greeting, not only do we discover who the author is, and who the recipients are….,
We discover clues as to what the primary message will be throughout the letter.
Not all of Paul’s greetings are exactly the same…,
he adjusts them slightly so that they foreshadow what is to come.
So as we ease into this book, lets ease in with careful attention to these introductory words.
They will provide for us an introduction to the author, the recipients, and a summary of the message.
1 Corinthians 1:1–3 ESV
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lets Pray
1 Corinthians 1:1 ESV
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
With the first word we are introduced to the author.
Paul is a real historical person.
We aren’t here to discuss fairy tales this morning.
We are here to read a 2,000 year old letter by one of the most influential figures in history, Paul of Tarsus.
Paul was a Jew.
He was trained in the words of the Old Testament in a religious sect called the Pharisees.
He knew his Old Testament thoroughly.
He was also a Roman Citizen.
He was trained in Greek.
He was trained in rhetoric.
He was trained in much of the wisdom of his world.
But Paul was zealous for his Jewish tradition, and he was directly opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus claimed to fulfill all the Old Testament Scriptures.
Jesus claimed to be God.
Paul did not believe him.
Paul believed that Jesus was an imposter, a heretic, and a false prophet.
The Christian movement for Paul was something to be eradicated, not propagated.
Paul was there holding the cloaks and giving approval to men who put Stephen to death by stoning… he was there cheering on the first Christian martyr.
In a real historical moment recorded in Acts chapter 9, Paul left the city of Jerusalem with an agenda.
He left for Damascus with the plan of hunting down the Christians in Damascus, and throwing them in prison for their heretical belief that Jesus was the resurrected savior of the world.
Acts 9:1–2 ESV
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Paul left Jerusalem planning to arrest and/or kill Christians,
Paul arrived in Damascus a Christian himself.
Even the Christian’s struggled to believe that such a conversion took place…,
How did this happen?
How could a man wanting to murder Christians, become so suddenly an apostle of Christ Jesus?
He gained no riches because of this decision, no comfort, no ease, no honor.
Paul would go on to be persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and eventually executed for his Christian faith.
Why would he give up his place of prominence to join in with the persecuted.
The only sensible historical answer, is the answer that Paul gives.
Paul met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus..,
and the sovereign God of the universe saved him,
And opened his eyes to eternal truth.
God gave him saving faith in Jesus, that he really was who he said he was, that he really died for his sin, and that he really rose again on the third day.
Paul summarizes his salvation and his new resolve for the mission of God with this simple phrase.
1 Corinthians 1:1 (ESV)
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus,

Truth #1 God Calls Sinners to Himself and to His Mission

The God who spoke the universe into being called Paul out of unbelief, out of blindness, into faith, and into an apostleship.
This word “called” in 1 Corinthians becomes an important descriptor for the kind of work that God does in an individual’s life.
Not only was Paul called by the will of God…, but if you are a Christian person, you too are called by the will of God out of death, and darkness, and sin, and out of the purposeless pursuit of your own glory.
The same word is repeated again in verse 2.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
1 Corinthians 1:22–24 (ESV)
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:26–27 (ESV)
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
Paul begins his letter with a public acknowledgment that the primary mover and shaker behind this missional movement is God.
- Paul is the one who planted the Corinthian church.
- He is the one who first shared the good news of Jesus with them.
- He is the one who labored long and hard for a year and a half in a difficult city preaching the gospel.
- He is an apostle - an official representative of the resurrected Jesus, sent to speak authoritatively on Jesus’ behalf to a lost and dying world.
BUT…, it was only through the effectual, active, powerful, call of God’s divine will.
God had a plan That God acccomplished through his Call in Paul’s life.
In a moment where Paul hated Jesus, and was doing everything in his power to deny Jesus…
God effectively and with transforming power called him..
not only to salvation, but to a life of kingdom expanding service.
Paul, “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” is a miracle Sentence.
it tells us something from the outset.
Paul begins with this acknowledgment To defer glory to its rightful place.
God is due all the glory for Paul’s life and ministry among the Corinthians.
But Paul also begins with this acknowledgment as a way of encouraging the Corinthians, who certainly were called out of some dark sin.
Paul’s sinful past set him up perfectly to fulfill his ministry not just in general, but in Corinth.
Having looked at the author, now lets look at the recipients.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth
The word Corinth might not strike us like it would have struck readers of the ancient world.
Corinth had a reputation.
Not a reputation of virtue, but a reputation for its vices.
Let me try to paint the picture for you through the words of several different commentators on the city of Corinth.
Corinth Was Known for Wealth
Commentator Craig Blomberg says this.
In Paul’s day, it was probably the wealthiest city in Greece and a major, multicultural urban center. Every two years Corinth played host in its massive stadium to the Isthmian games, a competition which was second only to the Olympics in prominence. A large theater seating eighteen thousand and a concert hall which could hold three thousand regularly brought drama and musical entertainment of many forms. (Craig Blomberg , The NIV Application Commentary, 19)
Corinth Was Known for their Arrogance and Divisiveness
Ben Witherington writes this,
Corinth was a city where public boasting and self-promotion had become an art form. The Corinthian people thus lived within an honor/shame cultural orientation, where public recognition was often more important than facts and where the worst thing that could happen was one’s reputation to be publicly tarnished. In such a culture a person’s sense of worth is based on recognition by others, of one’s accomplishments, hence the self-promoting public inscriptions.
(Ben Witherington, Conflict & Community in Corinth, 8)
In 80 BC Plutarch wrote about the social climate of divisiveness in Corinth, and honestly it sounds like he is writing about social media today.
Most of all we must consider whether the spirit of contention and quarreling over debatable questions has been put down, and whether we have ceased to equip ourselves with arguments, as with boxing gloves or brass knuckles, with which to contend against one another, and to take more delight in scoring a hit or knockout than in learning and imparting something. For reasonableness and mildness in such matters and the ability to join in discussions without wrangling, to close them without anger, and to avoid a sort of arrogance over success in argument and exasperation over defeat are the marks of a person who is making adequate progress. - Plutarch 80 BC
Corinth Was Known for its Sexualized Idolatry
Gordon Fee writes,
As often happens in such centers, vice and religion flourished side by side. Old Corinth had gained such a reputation for sexual vice that Aristophanes coined the verb korinthiazo to mean commit fornication. (Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2).
So in the ancient world corinth had become a slang word for sexual immorality.
That would be like someone saying, yeah I went got New Orleaned last night, and everyone knowing what you meant. Not far from reality.
High on the hill in Corinth was a temple where cult prostitutes would reside and come down into the city for sexual worship of false gods.
Gordon Fee summarizes the urban feel of Corinth in this way.
“All of this evidence together suggests that Paul’s Corinth was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.” (Gordon Fee, 3).
thats the city, Paul walked into in Acts chapter 18.
At first it was a hard ministry if not a seemingly impossible ministry.
Acts 18:5–6 ESV
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Paul gave up on reaching Jews in the city,
he transitioned to preaching to Gentiles,
He saw some fruit, but was obviously still undergoing a lot of opposition.
God actually had to intervene with a word from heaven to encourage Paul to keep laboring in Corinth.
Listen to these words.…
Acts 18:8–11 ESV
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Though its not for certain, it is likely that Sosthenes, the co-laborer that Paul mentions is actually someone that came to faith in Paul’s ministry their in Corinth.
In Acts 18, there is a ruler of a synagogue who apparently came to faith and suffered persecution in Corinth.
Acts 18:17 ESV
And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.
God did indeed have many in that city who were his people.
What an incredible reminder and encouragement that sentence must have been to Paul.
It was not up to Paul. It was not about Paul. It was not about how difficult Corinth must have been.
IT was about God building his church.
Notice the personal possessive pronoun in verse 2 Of the greeting.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth

Truth #2 God Builds His Church in the Hardest of Places

One of the themes that we will see over and over again in our community groups this fall working through 1 Samuel is that God is a God of great reversals.
He is not limited by the difficulty of a situation.
The size of Goliath verses the size of David is a non-factor.
God often chooses to work in the face of opposition and in the face of difficulty and through the least likely candidates.
Be encouraged, God tends to work in such a way and in such a scenario where only God could work…
where only God could be credited for the work.
A church had been planted in Corinth, and it was God’s church because of the miracle work of God’s grace.
Paul stayed in Corinth for as long as he did, not because he liked the Isthmean games,
not because he was into the korinthiazo culture…,
but because God had many in that city who were his people….,
and God had called, he compelled, he put a burden within Paul to preach the good news to them For such a time as that.
Let me pause here and ask, where has God called you to speak boldly for the name of Christ?
Are you sensitive to the compelling, calling, convicting work of God in your life?
How have you responded to the compelling of the Holy Spirit to bring the good news to a particular people?
Paul is uniquely called to be an apostle…, but he makes clear, that any Christian is uniquely called to be set apart for the purposes of God in their lives.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
This letter was written to the church.
The word literally means assembly or gathering. .
Its written to the called out people of God who assemble together regularly to call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
This church in Corinth that God had established was a gathering of people.
Gathering with God’s people is God’s idea.
It is essential to what being a Christian means.
We are called out of the world and one of the marks of our calling is that we gather in an assembly with other people who are also called out of the world.
Gathering with God’s church is not a man made concept.
It is God’s. The Bible is clear that gathering with other Christians is a matter of Christian obedience.
Later Paul will describe the church as one body of interconnected members all with their different giftings. They are joined together, and they function differently to build up one another.
For us to obey any of this requires the ministry of presence with other Christians.…
the ministry of gathering…
the ministry of being a church - that is the people of God who assemble Together.
Now, there are two words that Paul uses when he describes God’s assembly….,
And those two words set up the dominant themes for the rest of the book.
The first word is the same word repeated in two different forms - sanctified and saint.
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Truth #3 God’s Church is Called to be a Gathering of Saints

Sanctified -
The word sanctified means to consecrate, to make holy, to set something aside for a divine or sacred purpose.
The word sanctified is in the perfect passive form, which means Paul is describing something that happened definitively in their past.
When a utensil was sanctified in the temple… It was cleansed and set apart for use only in the temple.
This sanctifying work is Something that has already been done to every Christian when they put faith in Jesus. These Corinthians were as the phrase puts it, “sanctified IN Christ Jesus”
Now what does it mean to be set apart IN Christ Jesus.
wouldn’t it make more sense to say set apart or sanctified FOR Christ Jesus.
Or perhaps Sanctified or set apart BY Christ Jesus.
All those sentences would work grammatically, but Paul chooses to use the word IN…, a preposition of position.
In what way are we located IN Jesus Christ?
Well Paul makes clear elsewhere that this immersion into Christ Jesus…, is an immersion in to everything Jesus earned with his totally sanctified life.
If we are consecrated within Christ… we are not only in relationship with him…, but we are so united to him that we will receive from God the Father all the blessings that are due Jesus alone.
To be IN Christ Jesus, is to be wrapped in his righteousness so that we can come into the presence of God.
Jesus represents us.
His death paid the penalty for our sins,
His life was credited to us,
His Spirit has been poured into us.
Christian, by God’s grace and through your faith in Jesus, you have been already sanctified, set apart, consecrated for God’s purposes, IN the eternal security of being IN Christ Jesus.
But this finished-past reality should also translate into your present and ongoing reality.
this brings is to the second form of the same word.
Saints -
Contrary to popular belief, saints are not football players, nor are they special people with glowing halos around their head.
Paul uses the word saint to describe all Christian people 39 times in his letters.
The word saint here is an adjetive in the Greek describing the ongoing reality Of being a holy person. It is something every Christian in every place is called to be in their daily lives.
because we are positionally set apart in Christ Jesus…
we now actively live in set apart ways and holy ways… we live as a saint, a set apart one, a holy one, in a world of sin and darkness We are different.
Saint in this context is an adjective. It is a descriptor of something we increasingly want to reflect.
Christians are set apart.
That means they think differently then the world.
Their purpose in life is different
They spend their money differently
They talk differently
They reason and decision make differently
They respond to conflict differently
They respond to suffering differently
God’s church is called to be a gathering of people set apart and distinct from the world we live in…
because if every person deserves an eternal hell,
but there really is a God who made a way of salvation through the person and work of Jesus,
and there is an eternity on the other side of this life… then we cannot go on living in the world as we once did.
We have something much bigger to live for then a good retirement and some nice things.
We have been set apart to live lives of holiness for the glory of God and the eternal good of those we love.
Now, That was something that the Corinthian church was losing site of…
As we will see, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians primarily because of this problem…
the church in Corinth was becoming too influenced by the city of Corinth.
Commentator Gordon Fee says it this way:
The scattered pieces of evidence from Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Romans suggest that the church was in many ways a mirror of the city… Although they were the Christian church in Corinth, an inordinant amount of Corinth was yet in them, emerging in a number of attitudes and behaviors that required radical surgery without killing the patient. This is what 1 Corinthians attempts to do.
- (Gordon Fee, 3-4).
We turn to 1 Corinthians for guidance in how to remain set apart from the world…,
saints in the world,
while we are so immersed in a world that does not Follow Jesus.
As we will see, the Corinthian church began to think, and act, and tolerate the behaviors and thought patterns of Corinth without even realizing it.
They let Corinth’s understanding of sexuality into the church,
The let Corinth’s arrogance and divisiveness into the church,
They let Corinth’s greed into the church,
they did what we are always in danger of doing… ,
I have no interested in the people of this church embodying the ideals of our society, more than we embody the ideals of heaven. Christ went against grain of his culture more than he assimilated with it.
and thus God has preserved this letter for us in Saint Rose Community Church, that the members of this church would be true Saints - set apart ones for the purposes of God.
Sounds daunting…,
sounds impossible even..,
How could we ever resist and survive the continual onslaught of ideas of a culture we are totally immersed in?
We do it together.
There is a second word Paul uses, to modify the word saint which becomes important
1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Truth #4 God’s Church is Called to be a Gathering of Saints Together

Yes God has called us to be different from the world around us but he has called us to be different together.
One of the things that makes real every day holiness possible in the Christian life is that we are called to holiness together.
There is a unity within the gathering of God’s people.
There is a unity of being,
a unity of priorities,
a unity of purpose,
Paul reminds his readers from the beginning that we are called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
There is a unity in the Christian church primarily because we all serve this one Lord.
For me, Jesus and his leadership over my life is chief priority in everything that I do.
It governs what I buy, It governs where I live, it governs what career I choose, it governs how i parent, it governs how i respond to conflict and being wronged.…
If you have that same mentality, then we can culturally be very very different people, but I will have more in common with you as you pursue Jesus’ leadership then I do any 6 ft tall white 32 year old parent of two who plays soccer and loves the Georgia Bulldogs, but doesn’t prioritize the leadership of Jesus in his life.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 ESV
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Its this Jesus as Lord,
this Spirit who has filled us,
and the hope put before us
that must bind us together in this gathering of God’s people.
Ben Witherington summarizes the two emphases of verse 2 in this way:
“At the outset, Paul thus stresses two things about being a Christian: that it involves being set apart from the world and its dominant values and behavior patterns and that it involves being part of a group created by God that extends beyond the local congregation. Paul envisions a worldwide subculture of Christians that stands out from its environment in both belief and behavior. Perhaps Paul sees the Christian community as a different sort of colony than Roman Corinth.
- Ben Witherington III, 80.
Pauls’ hope for the church in Corinth was that they be a gathering of people marked by their holiness and their togetherness surrounded by a world that is very unholy and divisive.
Only God’s people and only because of Jesus can we expect Paul’s final sentence of the greeting to become a reality forever and ever.
1 Corinthians 1:3 ESV
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
grace and peace is our forever future because of these truths.
Four truths today:
#1 God Calls Sinners to Himself
#2 God Builds His Church in the Hardest of Places
#3 God’s Church is Called to Be a Gathering of Saints
#4 God’s Church is Called to be a Gathering of Saints Together
Now let me leave you with a few simple takeaways:

#1 Examine Yourself

We will be confronted throughout this book with the many ways we have been influenced by the culture around us more than we have been informed by the Christ who called us to more.
In what ways do you still think and act like the world, rather than in a way that is set apart and holy different from the world?
If you are a non-Christian, this book will challenge your rational, it will point you to the undeniable power of the Holy Spirit, and the undeniable historical reality of a resurrected Jesus...
come humbly, and come willing to examine yourself to see whether you are a saint.
consider that God may be calling you even right now.

#2 Listen for God’s Calling

God actively calls sinners to himself,
but God also actively calls saints to his mission.
As we will see, God is doing something.
He is building something by the power of his word and the power of his spirit.
And he intends to use his people to accomplish his mission Of planting churches in hard places.
Begin to actively listen this morning…, where is the Spirit compelling you to pour yourself out?
If you are a saint… you are set apart for God’s purposes… what does that tangibly mean for you?
how are you set apart for his work in your family, your workplace, your community, your church?
begin to actively listen to what God might be urging you to be set apart for in his mission.

#3 Join Together

1 Corinthians shows us how to be set apart from the word, but it also shows us how to be united together on a mission with God’s people.
In what ways can you begin now striving for the kind of togetherness that Paul will advocate for?
Is it time to join our church’s membership?
Is it time to get faithful in your gathering with smaller groups in community group or on Sunday evenings in corporate prayer?
Tonight at 6:00 PM, Austin will lead us in a time of prayer for our missionary partners in Southeast Asia. I would encourage you to come.
Is it time to get more serious about being equipped for the mission through our classes on Sunday mornings?
Next week we start our training tracks where we seek to train you for the work of the ministry in your life.
Sign up on the website or on our church app.
Is it time to get serious about your personal evangelism of your community or work place?
1 Corinthians exists because church life is important to God and through Paul’s writings he urges us to see its importance.
Lets pray that God would use this book in our livers as God seeks to all the more sanctify us as saints in Saint Rose, New Orleans, and beyond,
Lets Pray.
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