A BIG CITY CHURCH

(I Corinthians 1:1-17)

Introduction

-          Study through first four chapters over the next couple of months.

Read Verses 1-9

The City

-          Show map of city

-          Strategic location

·   Located on a narrow piece of land bridging the mainland of Greece and Peloponnesus.

·   The waters around the coastline of southern Greece were very rough waters so sailors would drag their boats across the isthmus as a short cut.

-          Big city by ancient world standards

·   100,000 people in city and surrounding area

·   New York City of ancient world (Dr. Fee)

·   Very popular

-          Had all the big city stuff

·   Port with international business

·   A huge sporting event much like the Olympics was held there every two years (Isthmian games).

·   Grand outdoor theater that held 18 thousand people

·   Concert hall (held 3,000)

-          Big city culture

·   Very urban

·   Cultural melting pot

(People, religion and moral standards)

(Although the people in the church are primarily Gentiles who came out of a pagan culture)

·   Greek philosophy (cf 1:17ff)

(These philosophers were famous for their so-called “superior wisdom” and lavish eloquence of speech)

·   Roman and Greek art

-          Big city attitudes

·   Pride, arrogance, condescension (8:1)

·   Illustrate

-          Big city immorality

·   In the ancient Greek world a “Corinthian woman” was a slang term for a loose woman

·   Ironically much of it came of the pagan religions

·   Many pagan temples and thousands of temple prostitutes to “serve” the needs of the worshipers

·   No pagan temple bigger than the temple of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love).  It was located on a massive hill raised high above the city.  (Imagine a temple on top of Stone Mountain that was prominently displayed).

God’s Heart for the City

(Acts 18)

-          Expound God’s heart for the city/specific communities of people

·   Romans 5:8

“… God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

-          Acts 18 gives the details of Paul’s second missionary trip when he planted the church in Corinth.

·   The Jews opposed Paul and became abusive so he went to the Gentiles (verse 6).

·   Read verses 9-11

-          I love the statement in verse 10:

·   “I have many people in this city.”

-          Expound

·   God’s elect – those whom God had chosen before the foundation of the world to be saved.

·   Those who were not Christians yet – but would come to Christ as a result of the gospel ministry in that community.

·   God had a specific people He was going to save in Corinth through the preaching of the gospel in that day and age.

·   Reminds me of Luke’s statement about Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:

·   all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Acts 13:48

·   (How could anyone doubt the sovereignty of God in man’s salvation?)

·   God has a people in communities all over the world, and He will call them out of sin and the world to Himself at some point during their lfie.

*Here’s my question about Carroll County.

·   I wonder how many people God has in this community He has yet to call out – right now – during this day and age.

·   Expound.

*How can we be more faithful to do our part to reach people in our community?

·   Keep preaching the gospel!

·   How can we reach more people with the gospel of God’s grace?

·   How can we reach out more without selling out?

·   Expound – attractional (building bridges to our community) and missional (being missionaries to our own culture) yet firmly grounded in God’s truth.

·   Paul found a way in his day and we need to find a way in ours.

·   If God can call people to Himself out of a big city mess like Corinth He can do the same in our community.  We need to capture afresh God’s heart for people.  Because God also has His people in our community whom He has yet to call to Himself.

Concept of God’s Call

-          The doctrine of God’s call in a person’s life is very powerful.

·   Not just an external invitation that is optional.

·   The call we see in this text is

·   Internal – in the mind and heart.

·   Authoratative – has power.

·   Effectual attraction to God… and His will – it is irresistable when it comes.

1.     Paul’s call to be an apostle of Christ (verse 1)

·   Not just an invitation – remember the “road to Damascus” episode in Acts 9?

·   God sovereignly turned his world upside down.

2.     The church of God in Corinth (verse 2)

·   Church in Greek (ekklesia) means the “called out”.

·   God sovereignly attracted their hearts with an effectual internal pull.

·   He called them out of sin – out of their worldliness – out of spiritual darkness.

3.     “Called to be holy” (verse 2b)

·   Not legalistic.

·   Not just religious.

-          Holy means “set apart” or “separated”

·   From sin’s destructive ways.

·   To God.

·   To know God and enjoy God in ways you never dreamed possible.

·   To be set apart to be restored to the kind of person God originally created you to be.

·   Set apart for God’s special purposes for your life.

·   Set apart for the “mother” of all relationships – the “mecca” of all relationships…

4.     “Called (into) fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord”  (verse 9)

·   We have a lot of religious weirdos in the world today.  So there are a lot of misunderstandings about what a real Christian is – or what he looks like.

·   Paul says when the Corinthian saints were called out of the empty, vain experiences of the world they were called to a person… the coolest person in the universe, Jesus, our glorious Lord.

·   That’s what a Christian is – someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus is honored as the Lord of his life and he/she is the willing follower.

·   Turned from sin and independence from God.

·   Looked to the cross of Christ for forgiveness of their sin.

·   Trusted Christ – received Him.

·   Now lives in such sweet fellowship with Jesus that all other relationships, no matter how important, pale in comparison to this one.

·   Jesus becomes the hero of your life.  He is the major attraction of your heart.  Your allegiance goes to Him – your loyalty.  He consumes your life – your thinking – your heart. (For example, do you know how many times Jesus is mentioned in the first 9 verses? Nine times.)

-          The concept of the call of God is an incredible doctrine.

·   It dramatically changes lives.

*Have you ever experienced the call of God in your life?

·   The call to become a Christian – to have your heart drawn to the person of Jesus Christ in a new and powerful way.

·   Caused you to gently humble yourself before Him – own your sin – ask for mercy – yield completely to Him.

·   Expound

·   The call to ministry?  Following the internal compelling desires God put in your heart to be used by Him with your spiritual gifts.

-          Exhort!

Big City Problems

-          Let me touch on the occasion of this letter.  The Corinthian church was very gifted but they also had their share of big city problems.

·   Although they were called out of the world into a dynamic relationship with Jesus as their Lord – they still had a lot of “ Corinth” in them… a lot of the world and a lot of spiritual immaturity (cf. 3:1).

*One of the main reasons Paul is writing to the churches in Corinth is to help them deal with all their problems in a God-honoring way.

A Sampling of the Problems

in the Corinthian Church

-          Note the headings

1.     Divisions in the church  (1:10 ff:3)

·   Potential church split.

·   Factions around favorite preachers.

·   Read verses 10-17

·   Don’t know much about it.

·   All I know is that the ultimate source of ugly divisions and divisiveness is sinful human pride.

·   It’s ok to have preferences when it comes to ministers, but when it becomes divisive and begins to alienate people and build walls then it disturbs the peace of a church and must be stopped.

2.     Chapter 5:  Scandalous Immorality

·   Man sleeping with his stepmother.

·   Disturbs the purity of the church – Paul calls for church discipline.

3.     Chapter 6: Lawsuits Among Believers

·   Christians suing Christians.

4.     Chapter 6:12ff:  More Immorality

·   Apparently some of the members were falling to the temptation the pagan temple prostitutes presented.

5.     Chapter 8: Debate Over Food Offered to Idols

·   One of the “gray” issues of the day.

·   Polytheistic culture (worshiped many gods).

·   Can a Christian go to the market and buy food that was left over from a sacrifice made to a pagan god?

·   Very touchy issue for people who were saved out of this kind of paganism.

·   Nothing wrong with the meat – free to eat – but you must be sensitive to the consciences of your Christian friends.

6.     Chapters 11, 12, 14:  Major Worship Issues

·   Proper dress (11:3ff) – head covering.

·   People getting drunk on the wine at the Lord’s Supper (11:17ff).

·   Disorder and confusion in worship service (14).

7.     Chapter 15:  Denying the Resurrection

·   Some were denying the resurrection of Christ – others were denying the bodily resurrection of believers.

·   So Paul gives us the most extensive teaching on the resurrection found in the Bible in chapter 15.

* Corinth was a church with many, many problems.

Conclusion

Observation

*Today the church is the neglected, disrespected, abandoned stepchild of modern day Christiandom.

·   Low views – low commitment.

·   Prefer parachurch ministries.

-          Why?

·   Argument goes: Church today is a mess…

·   Supposed to justify their low view and low commitment to the church.

·   Inevitably the statement is made:  “We need to get back to the first century church.”  Ever hear someone say that?

-          News flash!

·   Corinth was a first century church.  And the messes don’t get any bigger than this church.

·   Do you know any churches today that have all these problems going on at the same time?

·   Maybe one or two but not all at the same time.

-          Don’t give up on the church (i.e. universal church)  - just make sure it’s a biblical church.  Learn to love the church.  Love is very patient (I Corinthians 13).

·   Hurt by the church?

·   So have most ministers (note Paul in II Corinthians).

·   (God’s grace can heal such wounds.  Drop your pride – forgive and learn to forbear jerks in love – Ephesians 4:2).

*The church is like the cross of Christ to some people – it’s utter foolishness to them (cf 1:18).  Human wisdom doesn’t see a whole lot of value in a thing that can get so messy and painful.

·   But the church is still the infinite wisdom and perfect plan for God’s called out people.

·   To think that you can come up with a better plan than Infinite Wisdom is supremely arrogant.

-          What if God’s love and commitment to us was like our love and commitment to His church?

·   When things got messy in our life He withdrew from us… withheld from us.

·   God would never completely abandon His bride (refering to the church universal).

-          May God give us grace to love His Bride – warts and all.

·   God give us grace to do our part in spreading the message of the cross as God sovereignly calls His people out of their skewed little worlds to Himself.

Amen