Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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1 Corinthians 1

July 8th, 2012 by Vic

1 Corinthians 1

“When is boasting good?”

July 8, 2012


Why do kids boast?  Why do people boast?  What do we boast about?  Do you boast about what you have or what you do?  What are the benefits of boasting?  What are the pitfalls of boasting?  When do you stop boasting?


Today we begin reading Paul’s letter to the church of God at Corinth.  This was a young church.  They were boasting.  There were factions in the church that claimed superiority over other groups.   Divisions are usually caused by boasting children with unthankful hearts.  Paul is going to encourage them to grow up and get along.  This letter is encouraging.  If God can transform lives in Corinth, He can do it in our culture.

Corinth was a city with 2 major sea ports.  The map in the back of your Bible will give you a hint why it was 4 times as large as Athens.  All north-south traffic had to go through Corinth.  All small ships going east and west in the Mediterranean went through Corinth.  It was located on a narrow strip of land that connected northern Greece to the south.  The extreme southern tip of Greece was known as Cape Malea.  It was the most dangerous Cape in the Mediterranean.  As an alternative route small ships could be dragged across the 4 mile wide isthmus at Corinth on log rollers.  It was also 200 miles shorter than going around the Cape.


Corinth was destroyed by the Roman conqueror Mummius in 146 B.C.  Julius Caesar rebuilt the city in 46-44 B.C. and assigned retired soldiers to govern.  The merchants came.  By 27 B.C. it was a capital city in Greece.


Paul started the church around 51 A.D.  He stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent makers.  Paul also supported himself as a tent maker.  Soon he started teaching in the local synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 18:4f).  When Silas and Timothy came, Paul started preaching full time and was kicked out of the synagogue.  He moved into a house next door.  This was the beginning of the church in Corinth.  The church started growing and the Jews took him to court accusing Him of introducing a new god.  The case was thrown out.  The synagogue ruler, Sosthenes was beaten up by the Jews.  Sosthenes decided to become a Christian.  Paul’s stay in Corinth was 18 months.  He visited Jerusalem for a short time and then settled in Ephesus for 2-3 years.  He wrote this letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus.


Ephesus was only about 8 travel days from Corinth if the winds were favorable.  Paul received occasional reports from the church in Corinth (1:11).  He wrote letters we do not have copies of.


The Corinthian Christians were living in a city and culture that boasted of their sins.  They were living in a culture that said the purpose of life was to be happy and feel good.  Like San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Portland, Corinth was known for being weird and corrupt.  The temple of Venus (Aphrodite) had over 1,000 priestesses.  They boasted of their freedom from moral restraint.  The word “corinthianize” was synonymous with immorality.  Plato used the phrase ‘Corinthian girl’ to mean a prostitute.  God was building a church in this city.  Worship for them had always been a personal thing.  They were learning what a community or church body meant.  They were learning how Christian brothers and sisters helped one another.  It was common in their culture to use drugs, meditation, mantras, fasting, and feasting to please their gods.  How does that change when you become a Christian and worship God Almighty?  Listen closely to Paul’s answer.


1:1-3  Paul felt he was chosen by the will of God to be an apostle.  Sosthenes was known to those in the church.  He had been the synagogue ruler and was now our brother.  Notice Paul’s emphasis on unity as you read through this letter.  The idea of brothers and sisters in the Lord was a new idea to many Corinthians.  They had always considered religion a private thing.


Paul does not write this letter to the Corinthian church, but to the church of God at Corinth.  He describes the church people as those who have been declared holy in the sphere of Christ Jesus.  Jesus is the sphere in which commitment and consecration take place.  As Christians our holiness begins in Him and we receive holiness as we walk in obedience.  We are called to be holy so that we have a sincere love for all Christians everywhere (1 Pet 1:22).  Our unity is in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our salvation begins in the same Lord.  We all pray to the same Lord.  We greet one another with a prayer of blessing from the same Father and Lord.


Notice in this letter that there is no hierarchy in the church.


1:4-9  Right up front Paul expresses thankfulness to God for the grace (chariti) they received in Christ Jesus when they became Christian.  This grace of God enriched their lives in speech and knowledge.  They were eloquent in speaking and they knew the truth of God better than ever before (5) which confirms the testimony they received from Paul’s preaching (6).  However Paul will soon exhort them about their unChristlike actions.  They were not doers of the Word.  Their heart was purified by faith, but there were some attitudes that need to be changed.  Gifts of speech and knowledge are not indicators of Christian maturity.  Gifts only reveal God’s grace.


You are not lacking in any gift (charismati).  The grace you have received has prepared you for Christ’s return (7).  You have everything you need for life and godliness.  You have planted your feet on the Rock so you can stand firm and be blameless to the end.  God called you all into fellowship with Jesus and He will keep you.


The gifts of God’s grace you received when you became Christians were to be a testimony of what God had done in your heart.  “The things that are seen are temporal.  The things that are not seen are eternal (2 Cor 4:18).”  Paul does not criticize the Corinthians, but he shows them a better way.


The word ‘charisma’, (translated ‘gift’) occurs 17 times in the NT.  8 of those in Corinthians.  The word ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos) occurs 26 times in the NT.  15 of those in 1 Corinthians.   Although our English Bibles translate both words as ‘gifts’ Paul makes a distinction between these 2 words.  The Corinthians were not ‘pneumatikos’ spiritual (3:1).  But they had plenty of ‘charisma’ (1:7); in fact, they were desiring the ‘charisma’ (12:31).  But they were ignorant of the ‘pneumatikos’ (12:1).  Paul wanted them to see the better way.  He wanted them to desire the ‘pneumatikos’ (14:1).


1:10-17  “I beseech you.”  I call you along side (parakalew) brothers.  Some things that you are doing are not Christlike.  You all should be ‘speaking as with one voice’ (agree).  There should be no boasting.  There should be no divisions (schisms).  This is an old word for splitting wood or ploughing a field.  The philosophers spent a lot of time splitting hairs about their beliefs.  Paul says we can be perfectly united in our frame of mind and judgment so we speak with one voice.  The word for ‘perfectly united’ is also used for repairing torn nets and putting a displaced bone back in its joint.  They were getting their noses bent out of joint.


This letter will discuss divisions in the church over preachers, marriage, meat offered to idols, the Lord ’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection and more.  Paul gives us principles for living as the body of Christ.


Paul again calls them brothers (11).  Relatives or servants of Chloe have brought the report that there were quarrels in the church regarding their favorite preacher.  Our unity is not in the preacher, but in Christ.  Paul will explain later that Christ made us so our unity is in diversity rather than sameness.


Baptism does not make you part of some exclusive group in the church.  Christ did not baptize anyone and Paul only baptized a few leaders in Corinth.  A unique method of baptism, place of baptism or baptism by an important person should not create a separate kind of fellowship in the church.  Paul says (17), “Christ did not send me to be a baptizer like John the Baptist, but a gospelizer.”


1:18-25   The Corinthians really enjoyed listening to orators who used fancy words, eloquent illustrations, and clever clichés.  Paul reminds them that he did not use those artificial elements of human wisdom.  He just preached the simple truth of Christ and the power of the cross.  The story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ seems like foolishness (moria) to sinners.  The message was too simple to be important.  They felt that pleasing God should be more complicated than that.  They had always been told that secret and complicated truth would be more powerful than plain truth.  Simple truth couldn’t be worth much.  But Paul says if we believe that Jesus is Lord, our lives will demonstrate a phenomenal power like the germination of the imperishable seed that has been quietly planted in us (1 Peter 1:23).


God told the prophet Isaiah that the wisdom of this world cannot discover anything about God (21).  God’s plan is to reveal Himself through the story of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit who has been sent by Jesus will teach us about God.  The wisdom of this world does not honor God.  The Greek mystery religions offered salvation by initiation, ritual, and ceremony.  In contrast, Christianity transforms the heart by belief in Christ Jesus.


The Jews assumed God would demonstrate His truth with powerful signs and miracles that would confirm the truth as they already understood it (22).  The Greeks wanted eloquent explanations of this new truth about Jesus Christ.  Both Jewish theology and Greek philosophy failed to know God.  The proclamation of the gospel seemed liked simplistic foolishness.


Paul says, “We don’t discuss Christ.  We preach Christ as crucified.”  Jesus did not come to satisfy our expectations for an empire introduced with spectacular signs.  He did not come to satisfy the expectations of the scholars (23).  Logic told the Jews that a real god could not die on a cross.  The cross was a curse and a sign of weakness.  The philosophy of the Greeks determined that a real God would never have to suffer.  But Jesus came to introduce the kingdom of God with the power of love and the wisdom of the cross (24).  We can’t discover what God is like without believing in Jesus.


The simple gospel story is wiser than men and stronger than men (25).  Christians are the foolishness of God.  The world considers us foolish.


1:26-31  “Look at this thought (26).”  If human thinking and human wisdom were keys to success or happiness we would be in trouble.  Not many of us are philosophers or powerful leaders, or have noble lineage.  God gets all the glory when we are weak and foolish, not when we are boasting.


Division and discord are based on human thinking.  Cultural labels are based on human thinking.  Empires are based on human thinking.  When Jesus is Lord, He is Lord of all.  Other allegiances are not appropriate.


God chose us to be His children in order to shame the wise and the strong (27).  He has chosen the despised things of the world to make idle or neutralize the things this world honors.  Jews called the Gentiles “them that are not”.  God has chosen “them that are not” to shame the Jews (28).


God has done this so no one can boast before God.  When do you stop boasting?  When you see who you really are and who God is.


2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  The ways of God’s kingdom are different than the ways of this world.  As Christians we should be giving thanks that Jesus is our wisdom.  He has given us a new worldview.  Jesus is our righteousness.  He has given us a new relationship with God.  Jesus is our holiness.  He has given us citizenship in His kingdom and new life.  Jesus is our redemption.  He has become our new Master, our rightful Owner (30).


Notice that Paul describes our salvation from God’s point of view.  He begins with the change of our mind and thinking.  He ends with our salvation or our redemption.  Peter does the same thing in the introduction of his letter (1 Peter 1:2).  From our point of view we describe Christianity beginning with our salvation.


The bottom line is, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


On the Mt of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared.  The disciples quickly assumed this was the beginning of the kingdom of God.  Moses the great leader of law and order.  He had the 10-step plan to recovery.  And Elijah was the man of power.  He could call down fire.  He could make iron float.  He could run a 60 mile marathon faster than a horse.


God spoke and the disciples’ perspective changed.  They opened their eyes and saw Jesus only.  The plan of God is Jesus only.  The most effective program we can have in the church is Jesus only.  It is not counseling or a 10-step plan.  It is not a demonstration of powerful signs and wonders.  It is Jesus only.  It is not something we can boast about.


Paul says in Romans 4 that Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation had nothing in himself to boast about.  Neither Jew nor Gentile has anything in himself to boast about.  We boast in the Lord.  We will find joy as we boast in the Lord.  We will find grace as we give thanks for what we have received.


We are children of the God of Creation.  He wants to purify our heart and mind so that we can see Him in everything and know Him relationally.  He wants us to honor Him and give thanks.




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