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1 Corinthians 1:1-9: Christ in Corinth Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 02 August 2015

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We are all familiar with the term Ďfixer-upperí when we are talking about real estate. Any home that needs some work due to age or inattention can be called a fixer-upper. Sometimes a good paint job will go a long way. And sometimes you have to take it down to the studs, or even worse. But the hope and belief is that the home can be lived in with a few minor (or major) improvements. All at a reasonable cost, of course!

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the Church in Corinth, it had become a Ďfixer-upper.í Not that the building was falling in (they did not have a building) or that the Church community was old and needed repair (they had only been a Church for around three years). No, they needed help living out the gospel in the city of Corinth, which was a wicked city. They needed help being who they were in Christ. They needed help being the light in a dark place. Like all churches made up of believers, they were a community of people being transformed from broken to beautiful through the power of the gospel. But the road from justification to glorification can be difficult, and the temptation to wander from the path is real. So Paul writes to encourage, instruct, and correct them, as they seek to be faithful followers of Christ in this sin-filled world.

As we begin our study through this book, letís start with some information about its author and recipients. Paul is the writer of the letter. Look at verse 1. Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, who has been called by the will of God. He possibly uses the language to remind those in Corinth the work that God has done in his life and the authority he has as an apostle. As we see in the letter, it seems there was a growing number of people in Corinth who were at odds with Paul. So he writes to them as an apostle of Christ who has been appointed by God to help them and encourage them in the faith.

The recipients are identified in verse 2. Look at that with me. Notice how he describes the believers in Corinth. They are sanctified in Christ and called to be saints. He identifies them as Godís people, which is an important place for him to begin. They need instruction and correction (much like Israel in the days of the judges), but they are still Godís people if they continue to call on the name of Jesus with all other believers. As was normal with letters written in those days, Paul then offers a greeting. Look at verse 3. Unlike secular letters, Paul speaks of the grace and peace of God which only comes through Jesus. He is a follower of Christ with every phrase.

Paul wants the believers in Corinth to live out the gospel in their city. He will have to be stern with them and offer rebuke, but he begins by reminding them of who they all are in Christ. He goes on to offer thanks for this in verses 4-9. I want to identify three reasons that Paul offers thanks for the Church in Corinth.

He offers thanks for the grace of God that establishes the Church (v. 4)

Paul begins with thanksgiving for the very grace that he had just mentioned. Look at verse 4. The Church in Corinth would not exist without the grace of God. In fact, there would be no Church at all if it were not for Godís grace in Christ. Paul never wants to lose sight of that. One issue that plagued the Corinthians, and plagues us all, is that of pride. We take pride in our good deeds, pride in our giftings, even pride in our humility. If there is anything to be boastful about, we will find it. But if we remember always that we are nothing apart from Godís grace, then we can better fight against the temptation of pride. Any good deed I do is because of Godís grace. Any hard work I offer is because of His grace. Even my humility is dependent upon His mercy and grace. We must never forget that as children of God. We are not here because we deserve to be, no the opposite is true, we are here by grace. We should always be thankful for the grace of God that has made us a part of His Church, His family.

How is that grace realized in our lives? We have grace from God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only Son of God who came and lived a perfect life in our place. Then He died on a cross for our sins. Three days later the Father raised Him from the dead to show that our sins had truly been paid for by Christ. Any who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus will be forgiven and will be brought into the family of God, the Church. It is through this gospel, this good news, that the people of Corinth were saved. Every believer has been given the grace of God through Jesus. Paul is thankful for the work of grace that God has done in Corinth.

He offers thanks for the gifts of God that enrich the Church (v. 5-7)

In particular, Paul is also thankful for the grace gifts that the Church in Corinth had received. Look at verses 5-7. The believers in Corinth have been enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge. Paul uses these words on purpose at this point in the letter. Later, he will rebuke their love of lofty speeches and knowledge, but here he thanks God for such gifts. Is Paul contradicting himself or using irony at this point? No, I think Paul is simply not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Gifts of speech, words of knowledge, are indeed good gifts to be used in the Church for the edification of the saints. Yet, we must always remember that they are gifts flowing from Godís grace. We cannot boast in them as if they were not received. Paul will correct their abuses, but he does not want to be accused of being ungrateful for the gifts that God has given. He is thankful for the fact that the Corinthians are not lacking in any spiritual gift. He will encourage them in the letter to remember that they are grace gifts and that they are to be used to build up the Church and not tear it down.

Paul speaks in verse 6 about the testimony of Christ being confirmed in the Corinthians. What does he mean by this statement? When the gospel comes to those who have not heard and people begin to turn from their sins and display such gifts of grace, then the truth about Christ is confirmed through them. That God can transform wicked sinners into instruments of grace is evidence of the power of the gospel to change lives. From the time of Christís ascension to the Day of His return, the Church confirms the truth of the gospel message by its very existence. If God can make us a holy people, then there must be power in the blood. Paul is thankful for the gifts of grace that evidence this power at work in the believers of Corinth.

He is thankful for the faithfulness of God that sustains the Church (v. 8-9)

Paul concludes verse 7 by noting that the believers are waiting for the revealing of Christ. As with all believers, those in Corinth were expectantly longing for the return of Christ. We too, as believers today, are awaiting His return. Yet, how do we know that we will endure? The Church in Corinth was in trouble and so is the Church today, so how can we be sure that the Church will not fail? Or on a more personal level, in my battles with sin, my everyday struggles with pride and arrogance, how I can I be certain that I will be ready for that Day?

Our hope does not rest in our character, but in the character of God. Look at verses 8-9. Before Paul begins to instruct and correct the Corinthian believers, he points them to the faithfulness of God. How do I know that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church? I know it because God is faithful. And how do I know that I will be presented blameless on the Day of Christ? I know it because God is faithful.

Yes, we are called to persevere and grow in holiness, as will be evident in the rest of the letter. Yes, we are called to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yes, we are called to be faithful followers of Christ. But all our persevering, all our working, all our faithfulness, is due to the faithfulness of God. Before we get to work on ourselves, we do good to remind ourselves of the character of God. He is faithful. He will not leave us or forsake us. He will not give up on us. He will not stop making us more like Christ. He has purposed to redeem a people and purify a Bride. And He will do it, for He is faithful. Our hope in our present struggles is the promise of future, faithful grace. Paul is not only thankful for all that God has already done in the lives of these believers, he is also thankful for the work that God will continue to do.

In the entirety of his introduction, Paul is preparing the Corinthians for the rest of the letter. He mentions his authority and reminds them who they are in Christ. He gives thanks to God for His grace in the lives of these men and women. He reminds them of their calling to be holy and the glorious promise that through grace they will one Day be just that. And in all of this, Christ is the key. Go back and read through these verses with me again noticing how many times Paul mentions Jesus.

Nine times in nine verses Paul speaks the name of Christ. Why does he do that? Why be so repetitive? Because Jesus is the key to everything that Paul is going to write to the Corinthians. They need unity, it is found in Jesus. They need forgiveness, it is found in Him. They need purity, it comes from Him. They need love, He laid down His life. They need belief in the resurrection, He came back from the dead! Every need that the Church in Corinth had was ultimately met in Christ. He is the key to living out the gospel as a community of faith.

Is Christ the center of your life? Are you always thankful for the grace of God that has come through Him? Are you thankful for that in the lives of others? Are you thankful for His work in establishing, enriching, and sustaining the Church? Do you look to His return with eager anticipation? Paul writes to encourage the Church in Corinth to be Christ centered, Christ focused, Christ exalting. We are called to be the same. If you have never turned from your sins and trusted in Christ as your Savior, then I invite you to do so today and join with those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord. If you are His, then keep your eyes on Him and encourage this Church, this local community of faith, to do the same. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 18 August 2015 )

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