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1 Corinthians 1:10-2:5: Christ Crucified, the Wisdom and Power of God Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 16 August 2015

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Tuning is very important when playing a musical instrument. Two issues are involved when tuning a stringed instrument. The first is making sure that the instrument is in tune with itself. If you play a guitar that is not at least in tune with itself then it will sound very bad. Yet, the second issue is that a guitar may be in tune with itself but it is not in tune with the other instruments that it is playing with, like say a piano. The guitar and piano might sound fine when played by themselves, but when you play them together, the sound is terrible. So what is the cure for these difficulties? Simple, you need a standard for tuning. This is something that every instrument can conform to and thus sound good when played together. This is called being in true tune. But if even one string is out of tune on the guitar, then things will sound bad.

The Church in Corinth was out of tune. Primarily, it was out of tune with itself. There were serious divisions within the Church that compromised its mission and purpose. In fact, the divisions threatened the very existence of the Church in Corinth. Paul spends the first four chapters of the letter confronting the issue of division. And what is his answer to the problem? They need to return to true tune, namely they need to get back to the cross. As we have seen already, Paul points the believers in Corinth back to Jesus repeatedly in this letter. He is what they need to overcome their problems. He is the answer to their divisions. He is the standard they need.

In the first part of Paul’s argument against division in 1:10-2:5, we can identify two lessons and two examples of the second lesson. Let’s consider these this morning.

First lesson: Pride in men will divide a Church (1:10-17)

Paul begins the heart of the letter with an appeal for unity. Look at verse 10. Paul appeals to the Church to be in agreement and united. He does not want the divisions to remain. Yet, what is it that the Corinthians were divided over? We see the answer in verses 11-12. Look at those verses with me. It appears that the people were following different leaders. Some followed Paul, while others followed Apollos. Some sided with Cephas, or Peter, while others claimed to take no side and just follow Christ. Yet, even in doing that, they were divided from the rest. Paul does not tell us exactly how or why these groups developed. It could have been the Paul was the founder and Apollos was more intellectual (see Acts 18) and Peter more Jewish, but we really don’t know. And for Paul, the issue was not the reason for the divisions, but the division itself. Whatever it was, it was not worth dividing over.

So Paul begins to correct them in verses 13-17. Look at those with me. Paul says to them: ‘How can you be divided in light of Christ? How can you take pride in men and be divided over leaders in light of the cross? Don’t put your trust in me! Did I save you? Did I die for you? I didn’t even baptize most of you. So don’t look to me or any other man, be united in Christ.’ It might be easy to shake our heads at these believers. We might think: ‘Who allows divisions over things like this?’ Yet, the history of the Church is littered with the followers of charismatic men. We are regularly divided over things that should not come between us.

Trinity Baptist is not above that. Think about the issue of educating our children. Some in our Church homeschool, while others send their kids to private or public school. Is their potential for division along these lines? Absolutely, although I am thankful for the unity that we have. But if there was division over this issue, I can imagine Paul coming to the homeschool parents pleading: ‘Do you want to see your kids follow Christ? Do you want them to be faithful Christians?’ And of course, they would say yes! Then he would turn to the public school parents and plead: ‘And what about you? Do you want to see your kids as faithful followers of Jesus?’ And they would say yes. And Paul would drive home his point: ‘Then why are you divided over this issue? If Christ is not divided and you are the Body of Christ, then why can you not come together?’

Every time we consider issues that could divide us as a Church, we must hear Paul in our ears asking: ‘Is Christ divided?’ Yes, there may be issues to divide over, but the Church has been way too quick to do that in the past. Paul appeals to us all: be united.

Second lesson: Belief in Christ will humble (and unite) a Church (1:18-25)
Paul goes on to expound on the way to avoid taking pride in men and being divided. And what is that remedy? The word of the cross. It is this message that divides and unites. Look at verse 18. Paul divides the whole world into two categories: those who believe the word of the cross and those who do not. Those who reject it believe it to be folly. They see no wisdom in it. The issue of wisdom was apparently very important to the people of Corinth. The culture valued wisdom and learning. Yet, such worldly wisdom would not lead a person to God. Rather, it would cause them to reject God’s plan of sending Christ. Look at verses 19-23.

You cannot think your way to God. You cannot research your way to heaven. The only way that sinful man could ever know God is if God reveals Himself. And He has chosen to do that ultimately through the sending of His Son, the Messiah, who was crucified on the cross in our place for our sins. But the Jews wanted a sign since that is how God had revealed Himself in the past. And the Greeks wanted wisdom and learning since that is how they arrived at truth. Thus, men rejected the word of the cross, both Jews and Gentiles. What about you? Have you rejected the word of the cross for some reason this morning? Does it seem foolish to you? Are you struggling to believe? Then let me encourage you...

But not everyone rejected. Look at verses 24-25. There were Jews who heard the message of the cross and they turned from their sins and their demanding of a sign and placed their faith in Him. There were Gentiles who heard the message and they turned from their sins and their seeking after worldly wisdom and placed their faith in Jesus. Jews and Gentiles brought together by the word of the cross. They were united in their faith in Jesus through the power and wisdom of the gospel. The answer to division in the Church is the unity that we find at the foot of the cross. At the foot of Jesus, Paul is just a dirty sinner, Apollos a wicked fool, and Peter a denier. On calvary, we are all equal in the dirt and we are all equally desperate for the mercy in the blood. The believers in Corinth needed to remember such truth to be unified and so do we.

Paul then gives two examples to drive home the truth of our humility and unity found at the cross:

First example: The calling of the Corinthians (1:26-31)

The Corinthians themselves were weak and without wisdom before Christ. Look at verse 26. Yet, God chose to reveal Himself to them. Look at verses 27-28. They did not have worldly wisdom, but God chose them. They did not have worldly power, but God chose them. And why did He do this? Look at verses 29-31. God chose the foolish and the weak for His glory. No man will ever be able to boast before the Lord about his salvation. Can I claim that my wisdom saved me? Never! Can I claim that my power saved me? Never! My only boast can ever be that God in His grace and His mercy has saved me through the work of Jesus Christ! “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom/But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection!” 1 In light of their own calling to faith in Christ, how could the Corinthians let pride in men divide them? With Christ as our only boast, we will stay united.

Second example: The preaching of Paul (2:1-5)

Paul gives another example of how the gospel will humble and unite us: his own preaching. Look at 2:1-2. Paul did not try argue them into the Kingdom. He did not try to use ‘the wisdom of this world’ to convince them of the wisdom of the cross. He did not try to dress up the message with flash and style. No, He just preached Christ crucified. He just pointed them to their need for the Savior who was executed on a tree. Does this mean that Paul didn’t study? Does it mean that he preached the same sermon every time? No, it just means that at the heart of everything he taught them was Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners. If he was preaching from Leviticus, then He was talking about the atonement that comes through Christ crucified. If he was talking about the victories of Israel, then he was pointing them to the victory that comes through faith in Christ crucified. Everything revolved around the word of the cross, the message of Christ crucified.

Not only was Paul’s message simple, but his appearance was nothing to brag about either. Look at verses 3-4. Unlike the other ‘men of wisdom’ who came and taught in Corinth, Paul had nothing outward to win himself an audience. He was weak and full of fear (that happens sometimes when you have been on the road proclaiming the gospel and planting churches). His speech was not full of worldly wisdom. Rather, he preached in such a way that if anything happened it could only be accredited to the power of the Spirit. Why was this important to Paul? He tells us in verse 5. Look at that with me. Paul did not want the faith of the Corinthians to rest in anything but the power of God to save through the gospel. He refused to manipulate the Corinthians through lofty speech or eloquent words. Rather, he just proclaimed Christ crucified and the power of God was put on display as men and women were completely transformed through faith in Jesus.

So Paul is saying to these believers: ‘Don’t put your trust in men. Don’t boast in me or Apollos or Peter. Don’t think that Christianity is served by worldly wisdom or lofty speech. No, brothers, be unified in Christ. Let your faith and your wisdom and your boasting be in Him.’ And that is a message that we need to hear today. Brothers and sisters, we need to stay humble at the cross. We don’t need to boast in our wisdom, boast in our leaders, boast in our learning. We don’t need to divide over superficial issues. Rather, may our humility at the cross bring us together. We are going to have differences of opinion on various issues, but that need not divide us. If we stay humble at the cross, then we can stay together in spite of our differences. So I appeal to you this morning: by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...be united. Amen.

1 Taken from the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love” by Stuart Townend.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 28 August 2015 )

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