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Church Matters

"Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother:
To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 1:1-3 

Today, as we take a walk through Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we will be taking a closer look at the instructions, counseling and guidance that were given, in writing, to the Corinthians. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, I'll quickly give a little background about the book. I Corinthians chapter 1, the gospel as Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write it. Paul, the Apostle. The writing is in the style of which Paul wrote and the description of Corinth and its people fit the era in which Paul ministered. While the exact date is uncertain, it is believed to have been written around A.D. 54-56. In the history books, Clement of Rome referred to the Corinthian letter in a letter that he wrote around A.D. 96. Ignatius and Polycarp in Christian history often quoted from the letter around A.D. 155. It is also believed, that Paul wrote this letter while he was on his 3rd missionary journey.

Paul began his 3rd missionary journey through Galatia as is recorded in Acts 18:23. Afterwards he went to Ephesus for his 3 year ministry and the writing of 1 Corinthians. This would place the writing of this letter around the mid-50s.

As was indicated in I Corinthians 1:2, it was written to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus. Rather than jumping down their throats first thing, Paul takes a positive approach and reminds the Christians in Corinth of who they are in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote this letter for three reasons:
The first being to draw the church back together in a spirit of unity as one body in Christ. The church was severely divided and split, feuding and arguing, and forming cliques.

The second reason was to deal with the moral laxity in the church.

And, the third was to answer certain questions that the church had. Some of these questions concerned marriage, Christian liberty and rights, public worship, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.

Corinth was the capital of Achaia, located at the southern tip of Greece. It was on a narrow strip of land only 4-5 miles across, much like an island. This provided two natural harbors, one on the east coast and the other on the west coast. Corinth was a commercial paradise. All commercial travelers traveling north and south chose to travel through Corinth.

It had a large population, a mixture of nationalities including Greek, Latins, Jews, Egyptians, Syrians, and Asiatics. Being a prosperous city, Corinth was a sports-minded center. The Isthmian Games, considered the most important athletic events next to the Olympics, were held in Corinth.

Corinth was morally corrupt. If you could imagine a doctrinal error or a behavioral moral error in the church, Corinth had it. They did everything evil, conceivably, that a church could do; and yet he begins by saying to them, "You are saints." Now, clearly, we must remember something that we've distinguished in the past, and that is, there is a very clear difference between your position before God and your practice; between your standing and your state, as they used to call it in the past, and your actual behavior. I am a Christian. I am a saint. I am one who has been made holy before God.
I am, in the eyes of God, as just righteous as Jesus Christ; however, I'd like to point out, that being said, I do not always act like it. My standing is defined as holiness, my behavior is defined as unholiness. So, if you don't understand that distinction, you will really never be able to interpret the New Testament, you will easily get everything confused.

Now, because of the high population of traveling salesmen, and the material prosperity, Corinth was party city. Drunkenness and all sorts of immoral living was everywhere. The city’s name even became a byword for evil and immoral living. They worshiped the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The temple housed 1,000 sacred prostitutes. Talk about an oxymoron!

Corinth was an intellectual and cultural center. The pursuit of personal and pleasure was the norm. There was little recognition of the law. The population of the city has been estimated at about half a million. So this city needed the gospel.

The gospel according to Paul, is important, in fact it's very important. The doctrine of justification as outlined by the apostle Paul as being attacked by those who have invented something called "The New Perspective on Paul." And I need to be very clear about what the New Testament says and what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write with regard to the gospel.

However, before we begin, I'd like to pose a question to you to think about as we study this rich and marvelous epistle;

"Why do you love the Bible?"

Let's bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your Word for us today. It is so powerful, so precious to those of us who believe. Thank You for the delights that we are about to receive by having our dear brothers and sisters gathered together with us, here, around the country and around the world. Thank You for each and every one of them. Thank You Father, for those who serve you so faithfully behind the scenes, those that enable me to do what You've called me to do, preach the Word.

Lord, we pray, that You will continue to cause this church to grow, to flourish in its love for You and its love for the Word. Deepen our love, our affection for the truths in Scripture. We thank You for giving us the mind of Christ.

May we not only love that truth, but love it in such a way that it reveals itself through our obedience to Your Word. Father, we thank You in Jesus Christ’s name,

Today's Message: Church Matters

Open with me your Bibles to I Corinthians chapter 1. If you would follow along with me as I read to you from our text today in I Corinthians 1:1-3

"Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother:
To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

The first three verses are essentially the introduction to Paul’s letter. It may be only three verses, however, they really set the scene for the rest of the letter. First, let’s look at verse 1.
"Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother"

I'd like you to take notice of the fact, that Paul did not refer to himself as a messenger of himself or of anyone else. He is a messenger of Christ. That’s a huge statement! So that you will have a better understanding of what I'm saying, the messenger of Christ is one who is called by God’s will. It’s God who calls men and women to serve Him. As I have stated a number of times, we don’t choose to serve God. God chooses us to serve Him.

You may recall that while on the road to Damascus, Paul was called by God to be an apostle. That means that Paul was anointed by God to be a messenger, a witness, a missionary to carry the gospel of Christ to men. That’s a huge responsibility. This one statement tells me that when God chooses you to serve, it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously.

There are many in our seminaries today that choose to go to seminary to be a minister. But sometimes that can be a mistake. I had one seminary professor tell me that so many young men and women enter seminary because they think it’s the easy road, it's an easy career. It's not too strenuous or exhausting.

Allow me to just make something perfectly clear here today, the ministry is not a career. It’s not a job that you seek and apply for. It’s a calling. And God is the One who does the calling! He is the One who chooses us. I was called to the ministry. I didn't choose it, God chose me. I hope that helps you to understand the difference.

In Paul’s particular case, some of the Corinthian believers were questioning and denying his call by God. That is nothing out of the ordinary. That type of thing still happens today. And that is why Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians with the very important announcement of his call by God.
Paul calls Sosthenes "our brother." That means that he was a brother in Christ. Sosthenes was probably one of the men sent by the Corinthian church to deliver their letter to Paul. That was the letter that asked Paul the questions that he answers here in I Corinthians.

It’s however interesting to note, that Sosthenes may have also been the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. He may have been the ruler who took the lead in having Paul arrested and tried. We also need to note that Sosthenes was himself taken and beaten by the Roman governor because he dared to bother the busy schedule of the courts with such an insignificant matter as preaching.

According to Acts 18:12-17, which says, "While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack against Paul and brought him to the judge’s bench. "This man," they said, "persuades people to worship God contrary to the law!"
As Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of a crime or of moral evil, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you Jews. But if these are questions about words, names, and your own law, see to it yourselves. I don’t want to be a judge of such things." So he drove them from the judge’s bench. Then they all seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the judge’s bench. But none of these things concerned Gallio."

If this Sosthenes was the same as the ruler of the synagogue, he was at some point converted to Christ. My point is that the messenger of God is called by God, but his call doesn’t make him better than anyone else nor superior to other believers. The called person as a messenger of God is to be acknowledged and respected, but it doesn’t make that person a superior person. That person is a brother or sister to all other believers.

Now let's take a look at verses 2-3. So Paul addresses the local church. His statement reveals what a church is; or what a church should be. He says the church is born of God. It’s the church of God that was in Corinth. The church was not the church of Corinth. It was the church of God in Corinth. The church belongs to God! It does not any city or any man, or any group of people.

There is a lesson in this statement. Sometimes some leader or some group of people in a church begins to act like they own the church, as though the church exists to do their will. That’s dangerous behavior both to the church and to those who act like they own it. It will destroy the fellowship and ministry and the usefulness of any church. And it will eventually lead to punishment for those who set themselves up as the owners of the church. That’s because God will not share His glory with any self-centered, arrogant person who works to destroy His church. The church is God’s alone.

That leads to the next thing: the local church and its believers are set apart in Christ, and called holy. The word “sanctified” means to be set apart or separated. God’s church is to be set apart unto Him. Believers are not to be taken out of the world, but they are to be different from the world. That means their lifestyle and purpose in life are to be different. They are no longer to love the world.

How is that church sanctified? The apostle Paul tells us in verse 2. "To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours."

They are set apart to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. No person can approach God or be set apart to God except through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that believers are called to be holy. Believers are called, to be holy.

Now, one must read between the lines to see what is happening, what was going on in the Corinthian church. The local church and its believers are identified with all other believers. There is no exclusiveness, no superiority in the church of God, at least not in the true church. All believers are equal to one another.

However, there may be levels of superiority in some churches that dishonor the name of Christ and in the man made religions of the world, but not in the true church of God. And, this was the problem in the Corinthian church. Some were claiming to be superior, to have a more special relationship to Christ than others. Super spirituality and pride were seeping into the lives of some to the point that the whole fellowship of the church was being threatened.

Beloved, super spirituality and pride have no place in God’s church. We are to remain humble as we serve God alongside one another, together.  We are to put others before ourselves. There’s only One Who is to be honored and exalted: that is Christ Jesus.

Then, Paul mentions grace to the church in verse 3. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The local church and its believers experience grace and peace. Grace is the favor God. And fellow church members, we are and have been experiencing the favor of God here. Grace means all the good and perfect gifts of God, all the good and beneficial things that He gives to us and does for us, whether they be physical, material, or spiritual.

Peace is the result or the fruit of God’s favor. When a person receives the grace of God, that person is immediately reconciled to God and man. That person is given fellowship with God and a love for all other people.

We also don’t want to overlook that both grace and peace come only from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the only source of grace and peace. And, to receive this grace and peace, you have to come to God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. I'd like to point out, that there is no short cut, no special formula, there is no other way to receive grace and peace than by God through Jesus Christ.

In Closing...

I'd like to make mention of one more thing before we stop for today, the apostle Paul’s letters were written backwards, meaning in the opposite order in which we write our letters today. Today, we close our letters with a signing off, such as sincerely, best regards etc and then we sign our names.
So if you receive a letter, you have to look at the last page of the letter to see who wrote it.

In Paul’s writings, and other writings of that day, the letter begins with who wrote it and makes mention of who the letter was written to. Now today’s verses are just laying some of the foundational facts concerning this rich text, however, they are nonetheless, very important as to where Paul will be going and what he will be addressing in the following letter.

Let’s stop here for today and we will pick it up our study of I Corinthians 1 verse 4 next time.

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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