Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are from the 1st chapter of 1st Corinthians.
The Corinthian church was full of extremely carnal, ignorant Christians. Yet there are both negative and positive lessons to be learned from them.
The first few chapters of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church are also a brief ramble through the history of the church of our time. In the first chapter, Paul says “you are not lacking in any gift“, and “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”
But Paul quickly follows that with a rebuke against quarreling and factions within the church. He calls them “babies” who need milk because they aren’t grown up enough to eat meat. He cites quarreling, jealousy, and arrogance, to the extent that he threatens to come to them “with power” and give them an attitude adjustment. (Chapters 3 & 4.) In chapter 5, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for tolerating sexual immorality “of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans“.
Paul had three messages to the Corinthian Christians: 1) recognition of their faith and the things they were doing right, 2) rebuke for their sins, and 3) knowledge of God he wanted them to understand for the health and growth of their faith.
“… to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [Who is] both their Lord and ours…” Paul acknowledges that these corrupt Christians, ignorant of their faith, wallowing in sins, are still genuine believers in Jesus. Paul’s purpose – and God’s – is not to punish, but to warn and if necessary to discipline, because those far-below-par Corinthian Christians were in fact saved, born again, genuine believers in Jesus. God does not want us to be embarrassed on the Judgment Day, and He does not want our witness to the world to be so compromised that the world turns away from God because of us. So He deals with us when we wander into sin too far or too long. Paul wrote in chapter 4:14: “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”
And did you notice that the Holy Spirit had Paul include us specifically in this letter? “…together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [Who is] both their Lord and ours“! Hallelujah! Amen! It’s a basic principle of Christian faith that the whole Bible is written for all Christians everywhere in time and on earth, but here the Holy Spirit emphasized that fact. Be encouraged, brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit had us in mind too when He caused Paul to write these words!
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, “This is not a declaration of war, brothers. This is not a threat of doom. Grace and peace to you.”
Paul continues, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge. In this way our testimony about Christ was confirmed and established in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ …” Paul is offering fellowship, acknowledging the Corinthians’ genuine Christian faith. He wants to encourage them!
God still offers encouragement today even to those of us who have become caught up in sins.
“… as you eagerly wait [with confident trust] for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ [when He returns].” Acknowledging their common hope, which is one means of strengthening ourselves against temptations. King Jesus is coming back for us! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
“And He will also confirm you to the end [keeping you strong and free of any accusation, so that you will be] blameless and beyond reproach in the day [of the return] of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is faithful! Paul reminds the Corinthians – and us – that we are not alone in our struggles against worldliness and sins. God will help us!
Not twenty minutes ago, I was talking with a “Corinthian-style” believer who is dealing with a serious problem, and I reminded him to pray, because God would help him overcome. He replied, “Oh yes. I know, because He’s the only way I overcame alcoholism.”
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will nullify.’ ”
It’s easy for Christians to feel like fools, when we are almost always in the minority outside of church, and truly intelligent people heap scorn on us and our faith. You take a few doses of that, and you can begin to be afraid to speak up about your Lord. But Paul reminds the Corinthians – and us – that God Himself is going to “nullify” (Amplified Bible) or “bring to nothing” the so-called wisdom of the scornful. God has made the wisdom of the intelligentsia foolish. They just don’t know it yet.
It is the despised, scorned Christians who are wise, and in the end, the truth will be known by every human being, as well as the holy angels and whatever other beings exist beyond human sight.
“I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:8-9)
God is going to defend your reputation and your wisdom. In that Scripture, the Holy Spirit through Paul is telling the Corinthians, “I know how it looks and how it feels, but you are right, and you will be vindicated in God’s time.”
“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, [a message which is] to Jews a stumbling block [that provokes their opposition], and to Gentiles foolishness [just utter nonsense] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. [This is] because the foolishness of God [is not foolishness at all and] is wiser than men [far beyond human comprehension], and the weakness of God is stronger than men [far beyond the limits of human effort].”
Paul turns specifically to the conditions of the Corinthian believers as proof of what he is saying:
“Just look at your own calling, believers: not many [of you were considered] wise according to human standards, not many powerful or influential not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are not on the losing team. You are on God’s team, and He will vindicate you in the presence of every single person who has slighted you, sneered at you, slandered you, mistreated you. You are God’s child, whether you are the kind of God’s-child you should be or not. Yes, you should struggle against “the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). But if you have believed in King Jesus, put your trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and your admission into Heaven, you are God’s child. Don’t ever forget it! If you require discipline, you may get it. If you’re offending badly enough, God’s discipline may be harsh. But it’s just discipline, not punishment. God does not hate you. You are “accepted in the Beloved“, that is, in Christ:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Paul ends the first chapter of 1st Corinthians with that thought, and that’s where I’ll stop too:
“And because of him [God the Father] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ”
“May each soul be rekindled with fire from above!”