1 CORINTHIANS | We Want Change
While in Ephesus, Paul receives two reports about Corinth, one in the form of an oral report about the Corinthians, and the other a letter from the Corinthians. The letter we know as 1Corinthians is Paul’s response to these disturbing reports. And while he intends to answer many of the complex questions contained in the Corinthian letter he received, he is more concerned about the verbal report of the conduct of the Christians living in Corinth.
From all signs, the “church was not in Corinth as much as Corinth was in the church.” Instead of wisely going out into culture as the family of God, they are foolishly bringing the culture into their church family. And it is changing them—their relationship with God, themselves, and one another. Like the ambitious Romans fighting for power and prosperity in their city, self-absorbed Christians have begun to compete with one another for prominence in the church. They have abandoned the cross and allowed the world to become central to their identity both individually and collectively.
This has led to a church that is divided. A young city with opportunity for great wealth attracted a myriad of diverse people who were out for themselves—they were very self-centered. The Corinthians citizens considered themselves individually, and corporately, to be the center of the Roman universe. This led to the Corinthian church believing they were the cream of the crop spiritually. Everyone ended up being as competitive in life as they were in their athletics, and their drive to “get ahead” negatively impacted every relationship they had. Their devotion to “winning”, and admiration for those who “won”, made for a prideful people who exploited people and institutions for personal gain. Everyone (even the church at this point) wanted little to do with a Savior who by all earthly measures, served and lost. Success was measured by popularity, power, and prosperity; gospel values like humility, weakness, and sacrifice were all despised. In turn, this made them very self-reliant and less dependent upon one another
Their extreme narcissism leads to a church full of Christians more immoral than their pagan neighbors. Their culture already had a renowned reputation for self-indulgent living. Unrestrained, they freely sought to satisfy every pleasure, resulting in rampant immorality, drunkenness, and sexual promiscuity. The city was built under the shadow the great temple of Aphrodite. Each evening, a thousand sacred prostitutes would descend upon the city to offer their services. In time, the name of city became an international byword for evil living and sexual perversion. “Living like the Corinthians” back then was like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” today — it became synonymous with hard partying and loose living.
There is much to change in Corinth. And while Paul is very practical in his letter, his hope for change rests with the power of the gospel. Paul does not want them to stop engaging in the world or run from it, rather, he wants them to stop thinking and acting like the world as they live in it. In simple, direct, and at times severe words, he calls for them to reject the words of the world and return to the Word of the cross. He calls for them to abandon their love for the world, and to renew their love for Christ. He calls them to stop their competitive fighting like the world, and live as the one fellowship they are called to be in Christ Jesus.
[Sermon Text and Notes available upon request]
CALLED: to be saints | 1.1-3
CALLED: to be thankful | 1.4-9
CALLED: to be in Unified in Fellowship | 1.10-17
CALLED: as fools, by fools, to be fools | 1.18-31
LOVE: the brothers | 8.1- 13 | Pastor Chris Rich