As we start a new sermon series on 1 Corinthians, “We Are Church,” we anticipate how God will use his Word to shape us and mold us to be God’s church that reflects his glory through our life and ministry together. 1 Corinthians has much to teach us about what it means to be God’s church. At a macro-level we see that there are two realities of the church seen in 1 Corinthians: the imperfect church and the perfect church.
First, the imperfect and broken church. We see that it was a large church; many Corinthians were converted to Christ. It was full of cliques, each following a different personality. Many Christians were very snobbish: at fellowship meals the rich kept to themselves, and the poor were left alone. There was very little church discipline: a lot of laxity was allowed, both in morals and in doctrine—an all-too-common combination. They were unwilling to submit to authority of any kind and the integrity of Paul’s own apostleship was frequently questioned. There was a distinct lack of humility and of consideration for others, some being prepared to take fellow Christians to court and others celebrating their newfound freedom in Christ without the slightest regard for the less robust consciences of fellow believers. In general, they were very keen on the more dramatic gifts of the Spirit and were short on love rooted in the church. That is the church in Corinth. It was messy—full of problems, sins, division, heresy. It was no different from any modern church. The sad thing is that dissatisfied church members will often naively think that another church in the area will somehow be better than the one they now attend. From this restlessness comes the common habit of church-swapping. Perhaps one of the best antidotes for this kind of malaise is to look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 1:4-9 about the notoriously messy church at Corinth. This brings us to the second reality of the church: the perfect and beautiful church—God’s church in Christ.
Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ before he looks at anything else that is true (and messy) of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches. The warts are examined and lamented, but often there is no vision of what God has already done in Christ. If the first nine verses of 1 Corinthians were taken out from the text, it would be impossible for any reader to come to anything but a pessimistic view of the church at Corinth. The statements of faith, hope, and love that occur at frequent intervals in the text would have no context; they would degenerate into pious dreams. Due to a lack of the kind of vision spelt out in 1 Cor 1:4-9, the people of God today are, in many places, perishing: either going through the motions of being the church with no real expectation of significant growth into maturity, or desperately urging one another to more effort, more prayer, more faith and more activity—because those seem to be the right thing.
If it is true that the church in the home or in a given area lacks nothing except numbers, then what Paul says of the church at Corinth in Christ is an accurate description of every church of God. His confidence in the church at Corinth is based on God’s grace (v. 4) and faithfulness (v. 9).
Through the new sermon series on 1 Corinthians, may we learn to love the broken and imperfect church for whom Christ died. May we be captivated by the glorious vision of the beautiful church whom Christ adorns. May we grow in our confidence about God’s desire and ability to make his church glorious like Jesus Christ.
This week’s bible reading schedule:
|Monday: Jeremiah 50||☐||Thursday: Ezekiel 1||☐|
|Tuesday: Jeremiah 51||☐||Friday: Ezekiel 2||☐|
|Wednesday: Jeremiah 52||☐||Saturday: Ezekiel 3||☐|