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A Brand-New Church




1 CORINTHIANS 1 PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH 06 AUGUST 2023


Introduction:


Today I want to begin a series of sermons from 1 Corinthians.


I Corinthians was written as a letter to the brand-new church in Corinth.


To understand more about this new church in Corinth we need to know more about the city of Corinth.


Corinth was well known for its commercial prosperity. The city was also well known for its evil living. To be a Corinthian really meant to be known to live with drunken and immoral debauchery.


The city of Corinth was enormously wealthy and had both the assets and liabilities that accompany prosperity.


A pleasure-mad and immoral atmosphere had been cultivated over the years.


Corinth came to be what one historian described as “the cesspool of the ancient world.”


Drunkenness, prostitution, brawling, murder, and assorted other sinful things took place there. Does that sound a bit like the world we live in today?


Corinth was the capital city of the province of Achaia when Paul wrote this letter. Its population was something near a half-million people.


What religion there was at Corinth centered around the polytheistic gods of Greco-Roman mythology. In particular, the worship of Aphrodite – the Greek “goddess of love” – had a large following.


This cult certainly contributed to the immorality of the city since the priestesses of the cult were “sacred prostitutes,” and the worship center was nothing more than a brothel.


Corinth housed other religious shrines too, most notably a temple to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, as well as sites for worshiping Isis, the Egyptian goddess of seafarers, and her Greek male counterpart Poseidon.


Also, there was a synagogue in Corinth, so there was a small Jewish community in the city.


Because Corinth was a major seaport, traders and sailors came from all over the earth. They brought with them all manner of vices and sin.


So, Corinth became not only a symbol of wealth and luxury, but also a symbol of drunkenness and debauchery, and all kinds of filth.


Paul was in Ephesus when he learned that all was not well in the church in Corinth.


Here are some of the problems which came to Paul’s attention about the church in Corinth:


1. Powerful leaders promote themselves against each other, each with their own band of loyal followers.


2. Some of the church members are suing each other in the secular courts, and some like to solicit prostitutes.


4. As a backlash against this rampant immorality, another faction in the church is promoting celibacy.


5. Still other debates rage about how decisively new Christians should break from their pagan past.


6. Disagreements about men’s and women’s roles add to the confusion.


7. And a significant number in the church may not even believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.


Most likely there is no one church that faces these exact issues. But it was definitely going on in Corinth in the first century of the church of Jesus Christ.


So the Apostle Paul wrote them a series of letters to try to help them with their problems.


Studying the letters of the New Testament is always an interesting experience because in many respects we are reading and studying somebody else’s mail.


The letter of 1 Corinthians was originally addressed to this mission church in the ancient Mediterranean city of Corinth.


It is likely that the Christians at Corinth would have preferred that Paul’s letters to them not be preserved for the world to know about their problems. After all, portrays them in an unflattering light and divulges a number of things that they might wished to have kept private from the world – although we know that nothing is kept secret from God.


But, for our benefit in 2023, we are fortunate that the letter has been preserved, translated, and has become a part of the New Testament.


We are privileged to view a particular tension-filled moment in the life of the first generation of the church. Although the letter was not originally written directly to us, we are allowed to see the evil which can even infiltrate a church if the Word of God is not heeded in its entirety.


These truths that Paul writes as he deals with their problems are just as valuable to us today as we find that we must deal with the same questions and problems we face in our times and in our culture in our dedication to keeping the church of Jesus Christ pre.


As Paul proclaims the wisdom of God in the gospel and the beauty of Christian life and service, our hearts will be filled with awe and joy.


But then as we might hear of carnal minds and ant-Christian lives of many who appear to be Christians in the churches around us, and we become heartsick in frustration and disappointment.


One of the benefits we will gain from spending some time with this letter will be the contrast between the divine ideal and the human reality.


That contrast was certainly evident at Corinth way back when, but it is still the realistic life situation of God’s people on earth, in the here and now.


We need to evaluate ourselves honestly in light of the Gospel as set forth in Scripture as the ideal and then grow toward that ideal by the grace given to us through Jesus.


We need to remember and appreciate the magnificence of God’s patience with us in our weaknesses. He knows, and we know, that we will always fall short of that ideal.


So, the church in Corinth had problems.


Division, immoral conduct, brethren fighting with one another in court, marriage and divorce controversies, abuses of the Lord’s Supper...the list goes on and on.


But you know what is amazing? Paul did not give up on the church at Corinth. We might have been tempted to write off the whole bunch of them and say that God had no church in Corinth, The Apostle Paul still regarded that troubled body as “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2).


  • What should we do when there are church troubles?

  • Should we grumble?

  • Should we run from them by moving to another church?

  • Should we pull off and start a new congregation and have no fellowship with the old one?

  • Or maybe we should just “drop out” altogether and excuse it on the basis of all the turmoil in the church. All too often that is the solution for some folks.


But the Apostle Paul did not react in any of these ways. He was determined to do everything within his power to help resolve the problems, restore unity, and see that none of them perished.


The Beginning of the Church in Corinth


It would seem that most people looking for a place to birth a new congregation would have selected the city of Corinth as a promising site for a church planting.


But Corinth is precisely where the Holy Spirit led Paul on his second missionary journey.


Paul arrived in Corinth from Athens in early A.D. 50 (Acts 18:1).


There in Corinth, he met Aquila and Priscilla, two Jewish believers who had recently arrived from Rome. Paul lived with them and joined them in working in their common trade as tentmakers so as to support himself.


Paul began preaching the gospel to any and all who would listen. Every sabbath in the synagogue, he reasoned and persuaded Jews and Greeks that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:4).


Paul was joined later by Silas and Timothy, who likely brought him financial support, because, after their arrival, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, leaving his tentmaking occupation.


His ministry there was so successful that the Jewish leaders opposed him and became abusive (Acts 18:5-6).


Paul left the synagogue and moved his evangelistic work next door to the house of Titius Justus a worshiper of God who had been learning under Paul.


Even Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, and his family were convicted and convinced by Paul’s preaching, and they believed and were baptized, and left the synagogue.


Paul stayed in Corinth for a total of 18 months in order to teach the Word and help establish the church in such a hostile environment (Acts 18:9-11).


In late A.D. 51 or early 52, Paul decided to move on to Ephesus, and there he stayed for 3 years. During Paul’s extended ministry at Ephesus, Paul’s concern for the church in Corinth was still strong and he was naturally concerned to know the condition of their faith and their growth in the Word.


This is when he learned of the immorality in the church, and when he wrote the first letter to them giving them counseling about dealing with the problem.


The immorality about which he had written already was not only unresolved but was getting worse. Therefore, he wrote the letter we call 1 Corinthians to challenge his brothers and sisters at Corinth to live up to their status in Christ.


Paul had a great love for the Corinthians. He was grieved by the problems they were having. He was concerned that their souls were in danger of hell.


With all of their problems, they were still the people of God. They were still “the church of God in Corinth.” (1:2). They were “those sanctified in Christ Jesus…” (1:2)


Throughout the letter, Paul maintains this positive and hopeful view of the troubled Corinthian church. He calls them “brethren” on numerous occasions.


He calls them “God’s building (3:9), and “God’s temple” (3:16).


Have you ever noticed how children tend to live up to the names we give them? Call them “clumsy” or “poor in math,” and they probably will be. Call them “thoughtful” or “a good student,” and they probably will be.


Self-image is important. It becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Guided by the Spirit, Paul began by fostering a positive image of the spiritual identity of these people, and from that he would be in a better position to call on them to live differently.


So, Paul and Sosthenes together began by greeting this church with “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3), rather than beginning with fire and brimstone from heaven.


Then, Paul proceeded to talk about his constant prayers of thanksgiving on their behalf. Paul focused on the spiritual gifts which he knew to be present there among the Corinthians.


The presence of those gifts was proof to Paul that these people had indeed been recipients of God’s grace. And the apostle knew that the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst gave hope for victory over their various problems.


Paul certainly was not ready to give up on the church at Corinth.


The same divine power that had turned a persecutor of Christians into a Christian missionary, could certainly complete a good work there in Corinth.


Ultimately, Paul’s confidence was not in the Corinthians themselves. His confidence was in his God’s grace and power.


So, Paul focused their attention on God, “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will, be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1:8-9)


Conclusion:


Corinth was definitely not an ideal or perfect church.

It had more problems than any other church that any of us have likely seen or heard about. But nevertheless, that body of struggling, carnal, and imperfect people was God’s church in that city. Let us thank God for his patience with his people.


Thank God that there are people like Paul who will step in and help troubled churches.


And thank God for strong, gifted, faithful Christians who will stay with churches and help them work through problems, and help rescue them from ruin.


  • May God help us to love and appreciate this church and each other.

  • May God show us a more excellent way.

  • May God help us to see ourselves and our weakness and sinfulness.

  • And may God help us to grow in our unity and maturity in Christ.

  • God is faithful, and He is able to make us strong to the end so that we will be blameless on the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s put our trust in God!

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