Text: 1 Corinthians 1:2-9
This morning we continue examining the Book of 1 Corinthians. It is a letter of the Apostle Paul to the church or the people/ believers in the City of Corinth.
The Background (of Paul and of the Corinthian People)
When Paul received His call on the road to Damascus, he also received the call to be His missionary to the Gentiles. Paul’s journey touched Asia, Europe and the world, and he went from city to city, planting churches and strengthening the believers.
There were times that when Paul was away, he would receive news from people about a certain church, and Paul would then write to them a letter. That’s the reason why we have the Epistles. When Paul cannot travel right away, he will send a letter instead because there were no Viber or Snapchat during those ancient times. It was then sealed with the Roman wax stamp.
These soon became the letters to the churches which became part of our Bible.
As we learned few weeks ago, Corinth is a city south of Greece. It is located at a tiny strip of land that connects northern and southern parts of the country. When the ships go from the west to the east of the Mediterranean (or vice versa), they would rather go through Corinth instead of going south of the peninsula, which is expensive and dangerous. Seafarers will unload their cargo from one side, drag or transport them to the other side, and load them again to another hired ship.
Because of its strategic location, that city became prosperous, multi-cultural and pluralistic. The mixture of pagan and polytheistic culture led first to the corruption of morals, then to the downfall of Rome at the later part.
The presence of Christians in the Empire led to the survival of what we have called later as the Holy Roman Empire. Thankfully, because of the standing presence of the church, the Barbarians did not completely destroyed all of the Empire and preserved education, truth and the culture.
Together with the rise of their economy was the fall of morality. People brought their practices which included worshipping of many gods such as the Roman gods and other deities brought by immigrants and seafarers.
This is where we got the term “Corinthianize” which means something bad or immoral. It is equivalent to Somody. Society worshipped idols, engaged in prostitution both outside and inside the temple of the goddesses as an act of worship.
In fact, there was this volcanic island under the Roman Empire that archaeologically they found these buildings which walls were painted with lewdness. There were saunas and they would contain nude art at the walls or what we call in the present day as “pornography.”
For sure, the church or the believers in Corinth struggled with these because much of their old nature included the lifestyle of the fallen nature.
The church in Corinth included people with sinful past. Some may be past drunkards, past gay/ lesbians or people with same-sex attraction, past immoral, past prostitutes, past priestess in the temple of the Roman Gods. (I Corinthians chapter 6). In chapter 6, Paul said to the believers, “but such were some of you.” No need to mention, our culture today suffers from these same issues. Much of our past we struggle with what the Corinthians struggled.
In this letter, we can learn that this was a problematic church. There were Christians here who were fighting each other to the point of accusing the other church fellow in the unbelieving court.
Also it’s a church where there’s an issue of a man sleeping with his stepmother, a church where some members believed and followed false teachers, a church that is divided because some follow Paul some follow the good speaker named Apollos. It was a church where people struggled with singleness and they are concerned about marriage. Some married people struggled with divorce or with an unbelieving spouse. Also it was a church where they abuse the Lord’s supper as some become drunk of wine at the assembly. In other words, it was a bad church.
Today, we as a church in the 21st Century also struggle with what the Christians of the past struggled. Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
[Despite this unpleasant background, how did Paul respond? If you have a child and you received a report that after months in the dormitory in another city, he became problematic there. If you write a letter, or text him, how will you start the letter?]
In verses 2-9, Paul responded and it gives 9 profound reasons why we should be thankful amidst the bad situations of our fellow believers.
In verse 1, Paul introduced himself. We learned weeks ago that the unmovable basis why we persevere in a certain situation of life amidst hardship is when we are assured that it is God’s calling for us. That it is not man that placed us there.
In verses 2-3, we can see the Greetings of Paul to the Corinthian believers.
(Part 1) The Greetings
In bird’s eye view, Paul greeted them by Establishing their True Identity. He calls them the church of God. He did not condemn them. He did not focused on negativity. He did not emphasize their geographical or cultural identity such as their Roman citizenship, their Greek culture or their sparky sophisticated class strata, but instead, Paul emphasized their spiritual identity. So, number 1…
1. He gave us a new leader.
“of God” (v.2)
We have a new owner. It was not “the church of Paul” or the “church of Manalo” or the “church of Person X”… but Paul emphasized to them who their Owner really is.
As Christians, we have leaders in our lives. We have fathers, pastors, mayors, presidents. There are people who influence us. But our supreme Leader is Himself. We may follow different political presidents but our One True President is Himself.
We are no longer defined alone by our citizenship or cultural, ethnic, tribal roots. Yes we are born there but our true citizenship is of God. By rebirth, by being born again, a person belongs to God.
2.He gave us a new status.
“sanctified… called to be saints in Christ” (v.2)
The word “saints” means sacred or set apart. It means “blameless”. Despite of our bad backgrounds, positionally, we are blameless or guiltless before God because of Christ.
Imagine, from Day 1 to the last day of your birth, how many wrongs or blames are accounted to us? If we just commit 5 sins a day, and we live 50 years, so 50 x 365.25 x 5 = 91312.5 for a lifetime. But at the accounting Day, the Judge will say to us, “you are blameless.” Multiply that to the millions of people who are inside Christ and that is how much mistakes the Judge overlooked, and that is how much blame Christ absorbed.
“…sanctified…” If someone is called to be a soldier, he is set apart to be a soldier. He is trained in PMA, he is sent to the camp, to the battle field. He is supported by the government. He is set apart to be a soldier. We were set apart to fulfill a specific purpose.
A Christian is set apart for the Lord. Whatever we do in this life, we are representing a new culture.
3. He gave us a new family.
“to be together with all those call upon the name of our Lord around the world.” (v.2)
Our father is no longer our biological father only. Our family is no longer our family here in the Philippines. We have a new family around the world.
There are Christians forsaken by their family because of their faith. But the Psalmist says “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”
There is only ONE CHURCH and many congregations. One universal church. But many local church or local congregations. In essence, we are the true United Nations. We are a Kingdom of priests, a holy nation. If people ask, what is your nationality? In reality, our true nation is not Philippines. We are from another nation.
4. He gave us a new greeting.
“Grace to you and peace…” (v.3)
In the ancient Roman world, the common greetings is Ave Imperator. It means “Hail Caesar!”
When we were born again, we no longer use greetings of the world such as “good luck.” When we use good luck, we acknowledge that blessings are impersonal, that good things in life come from random happenings such as roll of the dice or roulette wheel. But the blessings of life come from a Person and that is God.
When we greet “Grace to you,” we wish good for the other person but we acknowledge that good will only come from the Lord’s favor. We also acknowledge that the person we greet is not worthy of the good things he will receive.
When we greet “peace to you,” we wish that the person receives rest and prosperity. The motto of US Army is “peace through strength” because there is no prosperity without peace. Peace means rest. It is the absence of war with God. By prosperity, it means the abundance of resources especially spiritual or inner resources. We wish that the person’s life will be enriched and happy.
[Paul’s greetings already contained a rich wealth of reasons why we should thank God. But the next set of verses is where we can see deeper why we should be thankful for the Assembly or the Gathering of Christians]
(Part 2) The Gathering
5. He Gave Us All Favor in Christ.
“because of the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus.” (v.4)
Not all blessings are tangible. In fact, tangible or material blessing is minor to the whole grace which is given to us.
“Grace” fuels our thanksgiving. The more we understand grace, the more we will be a thankful people. If a person bases his life on works-merit or legalistic approach, thanksgiving will be taken away from him.
“in Christ Jesus” – we can only avail all the favor of God if we are in Christ.
6. He Improves Our Life by the Truth.
“you were enriched in all speech and knowledge” (v.4)
He doesn’t just give us life, he sustains and enriches our life.
In order to be wealthy, one must first possess a rare commodity. If you have a rare jewel, or a rare talent, or a rare profession and high in demand, you will be wealthy. In the spiritual realm, Truth is rare and those who have it are wealthy people.
“Enriched” –literally means to make wealthy or make prosperous.
“Speech and Knowledge” – refers to speaking in tongues and understanding of tongues in the New Testament. During that time, there was no New Testament yet and the Holy Spirit fills people and they are able to preach the gospel to their own language so other people can understand. There must be knowledge or interpreter that can understand the message so the church can grow in Truth and Understanding.
Now, we have the whole Bible and the Holy Spirit that helps us understand Truth and multiply our spiritual resources.
7. He Entrusted Us with Spiritual Gifts.
“so that you are not lacking in any gift…as you wait for Christ” (v.7)
God has given each Christian at least one gift to serve the body of Christ. We are an organism that if one part of the body is suffering, the other parts have the resources to compliment that deficiency, making as a complete system.
God gave some of us with gifts of caring such as Gift of Mercy, Gift of Service… Some with Gifts of Preaching and Teaching to edify the church… Some with Gifts of Administration, Giving to supply or provide for the needs of the church.
“…as you wait for Christ.” God will someday return and account us with how we used those gifts. We have to remember that we are accountable as to how we used the talents and resources He entrusted to us.
8. He Will Carry Us Until The End.
“who will sustain you to the end” (v.8)
The word “sustain” means “to establish” – it is a legal term which means that a contract is done, it is final and irrevocable.
It is an assurance/ insurance that no matter what happens, He is always with you and He will never lose you.
9. He Releases Us from All Guilt.
“guiltless in the day of Christ” (v.8)
Despite of all the bad things that Corinthians did, Paul looks to the future when each believer will stand before God and will be guiltless. In legal terms, we will be acquitted, not guilty, blameless, clean record.
Justified- “just as if I never sinned”and “ just as if I lived a perfect life.” This gave Paul a powerful reason to thank God for the believers.
Imagine how did that prostitute, or that gay/lesbian, or that drunkard or any fellow sinner felt when they heard that in Christ, they are no longer condemn-able or punishable- that their faults were all overlooked and charged to Another. How liberating could that be!
“guiltless.” All men, no matter what our status in this life, we will all give account to the Judge. But blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no deception. (Psalm 32:3)
Paul Concludes: God is Dedicated and He Invites Us to Be His Own Family
“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (v.9)”
“Faithful” – means loyal, true, sure, honest, responsible, devoted, good, dependable, solid, intentional, serious, determined
“called” – to name, to give his identity to you.
“of his Son” – to be with his Son
Those three words emphasize God as a Father and He desires you to marry His Son and enjoy Him forever.
He invites you to be with His Son where eternal happiness belong.
Transfer to the One that will not leave you nor forsake you. Yung di ka lolokohin. Yung tapat. Yung hindi ka ipagpapalit.