Paul Thanks God for the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians Sermon 2)
June 24, 2018
1 Corinthians 1:1-17
Thanksgiving Connected to Relationship
Well, I am so thankful to be back with you. I think I may be the only person that was both in Dallas where it was 100 degrees and Newfoundland where it was 31 degrees in the same week. I'm thinking I'm the only one, there might be others. I had the privilege of ministering in different settings, and I'm glad to be back with you today. And really, the idea of thankfulness unifies this sermon that I'm about to preach as we begin a verse-by-verse study in this challenging book in 1 Corinthians, it is challenging because Paul systematically goes through many issues that were facing that local church in almost 2000 years ago, 20 centuries ago, and we find how relevant it still is today. And we're going to see that as we begin that journey today. But we begin with the idea of thankfulness. And I feel just an overwhelming thankfulness to be a pastor in this church, an overwhelming thankfulness to be at First Baptist Durham. I love you, I love being here. There's nowhere I'd rather be than here. I am delighted with the wisdom of God in setting up local church so that we can know and be known and we're drawn together. And so the idea of Paul giving thanks for the Corinthians unifies this for me.
And so, I was meditating on thankfulness even this very morning, and I was thinking about how much thankfulness is tied to relationship. Imagine that you were just walking along in your life and some valuable material object just came in your path randomly. I don't know, I'm trying to picture... (I was working on this in the pew and I didn't come up with a real good solution because of the ethical obligations where you would need to give that back to whoever it was). But set all that aside, set the ethics aside, just go with me on the illustration. Some incredibly valuable thing falls into your lap. You're walking along the beach, or you're in a city urban park, and there's no one around, and there it is. And it's now yours. But there's literally no one to thank. Imagine getting the same valuable possession from a friend who loves you and has sacrificed financially, and is thinking about you and is giving it to you, how different that is. It's the exact same thing that's come into your life, but it's come through a heart of love, it's come through relationship. And I think about all the unbelievers, the atheists that have many of the same common grace blessings that come into their life: Sunrise, sunsets, food that they eat, fun experiences, material possessions, clothes, all of that, but they have no one to thank. I wonder what they do at Thanksgiving.
I've heard some of the strangest things in November where they say, "Well, Thanksgiving is a time where we thank each other." And I think we should thank each other, but that's not what the Puritans thought. The Pilgrims were thinking that we should thank God because every good and perfect gift comes from God. And one of the greatest joys of my life is to realize that there are no random blessings in my life. None. They have all passed through the hands of God and have come into my life. Every good and perfect gift was intentional. It was thoughtful. And that this goes to the very issue of the sin problem and that there's this separation between us and our Heavenly Creator. By redemption in Christ, he is our adoptive Heavenly Father, and he wants us to know that he has good gifts to give us and that it's very personal. And so, as we go through 1 Corinthians, we're going to see more and more just how divided and dysfunctional and messed up this Corinthian church really was. And yet, how richly, fully, grateful the Apostle Paul was for them, and how thankful he was for them.
I. Paul’s Apostolic Greeting (verses 1-3)
So, we begin at Verses 1-3 as Paul gives his usual apostolic greeting. He starts in Verse 1, "Paul called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." Paul was not an accidental apostle. He was not an accidental random Christian. He was called by God to be a Christian and to be an apostle. The will of God overruled Paul's will for his life. And you know the story is well-known how Paul was a zealous, ladder-climbing Jewish person who is seeking to advance in Judaism far beyond any of his fellow Jews in his day. And he was making that progress. And that was his desire, but suddenly on the road to Damascus he had an experience that he never forgot. Blinding light surrounded him, the light of the resurrected, glorified Christ. And Jesus called to him from heaven saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus." Those three words changed Paul's life forever. "I am Jesus, the whom you are persecuting… Now get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do."
I think Paul, looking back on that time from that moment on, realized how much grace was shown him in that he wasn't struck dead at that moment. As he was in route to be persecuting Christ's precious church, and Paul himself would write later in this epistle, "If anyone destroys God's church, God will destroy him." He was making himself an enemy of God. It says in the Book of Acts, Saul began to destroy the church. Put those two together, then why didn't God destroy Saul of Tarsus breathing out murderous threats? Because of grace. Because of the sovereign, loving grace of God. And so Paul, called to be an apostle by the will of God, God's will overruled. And I say that's true of all of us who are Christians. A boy who we just heard a moment ago, God overruled his will for his life, he overruled my will when I was 19 years old. And the same thing, even if you were converted at an early age in a wonderful Christian family, your will was to sin and to rebel, but God overruled your will if you're a Christian. And so praise be to God.
Paul’s apostolic authority attacked in Corinth
Now Paul is establishing himself right from the beginning. And this is going to be a unifying theme in these two epistles, 1 and 2 Corinthians, how he has to defend his apostolic status. He has to defend his apostolic ministry because it was under attack by some false teachers that came in afterwards, after he had planted that church in Corinth and they disparaged Paul. They said his letters are awesome, but in presence, he is not much to listen to. And that was one of the nicer things they said about Paul. Now, Paul wasn't on some kind of an ego trip here where he's defending his apostolic ministry because he's a power hungry person, not at all. He knows that the doctrine that we get in Christianity is tied together in some very rich ways with the people that give it to us.
Remember how Timothy was led to faith, through the genuine faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, and how Paul says in 2 Timothy 3, "You know those from whom you learned it." And so, it's truth through relationship, through personality it flows. And so, he's got to defend himself, not because he necessarily in and of itself wants them to think well of him, but he wants them, the Corinthians, to receive the truths that God is going to be pouring into their souls through him. And if the false teachers can disparage the source, they're going to start questioning the doctrine, and that's the issue. So he has to defend himself. He also mentioned Sosthenes our brother. Now Sosthenes did not, as far as I can tell, help in any direct way writing the letter. It's not from Sosthenes because throughout the letter he's using the first person singular, "I this, I that, etcetera." Paul's speaking in his own voice. This is a letter from Paul, ultimately from God through Paul.
But he mentioned Sosthenes, Sosthenes was one of their own. He's a Corinthian man, he was a Jewish man, and he pops up in the account in the Book of Acts, in Acts 18, where the Jewish people of that area made a united attack against Paul and drag them up in front of Gallio, the Roman procurator, the judge there, and Christ kept his promise to Paul, "No one's going to attack you and harm you in the city. I'm going to put a bubble around you." And so he got accused, but they threw it out of court, Gallio had no interest. So then the Jews turned and attacked Sosthenes there in front of the court, beat him up, the synagogue ruler. Now, I don't know if he was already a believer in Christ or following Christ at that point, or if Paul came later and said, "Let me tell you about Christ," and just picked them up out of that beating and led him to Christ. We don't know the order, but anyway he became a follower of Christ, and so he's Greek.
And then he describes the Corinthian church and it's so beautiful, look in Verse 2, "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy." Now, those are timeless words. It's true of our church here in First Baptist Church Durham, this is true of us. "The church of God in Corinth." We belong to God, our God is a jealous God, and we are his possession, purchased at infinite price. We belong to God, the church of God, and it's in a locality. That's what local church is all about, it's the church of God in Corinth. That was going to be their sight of ministry, that was going to be their sight of temptation. You remember how in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus said, "I know where you live, where Satan has his throne." And so there's a challenge in every city. And in Corinth, their Corinth, that's where they were going to reach. those are the people they're going to reach with the gospel. We're called to the Raleigh-Durham, The Triangle area, this is our region, it's what we're called to do.
Now Corinth (we've already talked some about it a few weeks ago) is a city that is 50 miles southwest of Athens. Some years ago, a good friend, church member, Allen Carlson and I, we had the opportunity of traveling after I spoke to a group of missionaries to travel in Southern Greece in the Peloponnese and then we went to Corinth. It's one of the few Bible places I've ever been. And we were there checking into our hotel and it was owned by these two brothers. And so I said to these brothers who spoke good English, I said to these brothers, "Do you realize that your city is famous all over the world?" He had no idea. So I showed him 1 and 2 Corinthians, and he'd never seen it at all. It was funny but tragic. Funny but tragic. I think they would consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but they'd never heard of 1 Corinthians or 2 Corinthians.
Called to Be Holy
But then Paul says, "sanctified in Christ Jesus." And this word, sanctified, is very important. It's a little bit different than the way I usually use the word sanctification. What it means is, "set apart unto God as his own possession," that's what it means here. It's like a religious term, and it's rooted in the Old Testament and the Old Testament animal sacrificial system.
There were many aspects, physical aspects of the animal sacrificial system in the tabernacle later in the temple that were called to be holy to the Lord or set apart unto the Lord. For example, the priest had a golden plate on their turban which said, "Holy to the Lord." So the priest was set apart unto God, the priest was his. And then other aspects, like they had this incense… They had a special recipe, and it could only be used there in the sacrificial system by the Levitical priests. It was holy to the Lord, it was sanctified unto God. It could not be used for common use. Or the same thing with all of their tithes. You're to set aside a tithe, the tenth of all of your flocks or your crop, whatever. It was to be set apart and given to God, it was holy to the Lord, it belonged to him.
And so here, he's extending that to the church. You are all, all of you who are Christians, you are holy to the Lord, you're sanctified unto God, once for all. So it's a once for all sanctification that he mentions here. The moment you're converted, you become holy to God. Out of all of the world, you are set apart and to be God's special possession, that's what it means here. And he says, "called to be saints." Some of the translation say saints, but one of the translation is "called to be holy." I think that's a little bit better. If you just say saints, you check out and it's like "called to be saints," and you think of it in a certain way. But the word saint means holy one. And so, I really prefer the translation, "we're sanctified and called to be holy." You're thinking, "Well, isn't that redundant?" No, it really isn't.
Now we're going to get into the other use of the word sanctification. That's not really found much in the New Testament, but the idea is there. And that is that we're called upon to become more and more holy in our thoughts and in our lives. We're called little by little, more and more to put sin to death by the power of the Holy Spirit, to become sexually pure, to be pure in our minds, to be pure with our money, to be pure in the way that we do everything, to be pure in our lives. We're called to that. And so there's this progressive idea of holiness. Now, all of the issues of holiness that this dysfunctional, divided, immature church was facing, it was challenging their holiness. I mean, they would have problems with factions and divisions, they had a church discipline problem, which there was egregious sexual sin. And then in the next Chapter, Chapter 6, Paul goes on to general sexual ethics and purity in terms of temple prostitutes and things like that. Then there's just the issue of marriage, divorce and marriage, single people and marriage, sexual purity in that area, and also just healthy married life. And then the problem of meat sacrifice to idols... It's a struggle for this church. And they were called to be holy in the midst of all of that.
This Letter is For Us
Now, this letter that we're walking through today is intended for us. We're not reading somebody else's mail. Look what it says in Verse 2, "To the church of God in Corinth, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours." Well, that is our official permission to read this letter. That's us. Not only to that church in Corinth in that location and in that time 2000 years ago, but to all Christians everywhere. We are called on to read this. Just like in Revelation 2 and 3, where Jesus spoke to each of the seven churches, and then at the end of each of those letters to the seven churches, he says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Plural. By the way, whenever the word "church" is plural, you're talking about local church. There aren't plural brides of Christ. But whenever you see churches, you're talking about local churches. And so, that was a local church in Corinth, we are to read their letter because we're going to face the same things and look how he describes who we are, "All those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours." Those are Christians. That's one way of talking about Christians.
We are those who are in the process of calling on the name of the Lord. It's so important that you hear that. Yes, that's the sinner's prayer. Yes, it's true that when you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. That's the essence of the sinner's prayer. What I would say is, any genuine sinner's prayer that was prayed by a person who's right there in the midst of the process of being converted, and you share the gospel and they say, "What do I do?" And you say, "Call on the name of the Lord. Call on him, call on Jesus to save you from your sins." And then he prays, and I never feed them the lines on the prayer. If they say "I don't know what to pray," I say, "What do you want?" If you don't know what you want, then we need to go back over the gospel, including heaven and hell. Do you want heaven and not hell? "Yes." "Alright, good, then ask for that." "Do you want forgiveness of sins?" "Yes." "Ask for that." "Alright, I got it now, I got it. I'm alright." "Good. Now pray." Alright?
If you don't know what you want, then we got to talk some more. But if you are ready now to call on the name of Jesus, he will give you what you ask for in his name. But here's the thing, that's just the first of many times you're going to do that. Let me ask each one of you veteran Christians… Are you done calling on the name of the Lord? No. Oh, you need him. And you actually, the more you grow and you're growing healthy, the more you see you need Him. And so you're actually continuing to call on the name of the Lord. "Their Lord and ours." And I love that statement. There's only one Lord, there's one God and Father of all, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. One. There is one work going on in this world. Only one. There's only one Lord, and He is both their Lord and ours. And you're wondering right now, "Pastor, only at Verse 2?" Are we going to get through this? I'm not worried about that. I actually forgot my iPhone, it's in my office. So I brought my watch. I'll glance at it from time to time. Let's keep going.
The Riches of Grace and Peace
Verse 3, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Now one thing, this is a very common greeting. Any of you read the epistles? You hear it again and again. It's always the same and in the same order, it's always grace and peace to you. It's never peace and grace. Why is that? Well, you just need to understand what grace is. It is by grace that we are saved. What is grace? Grace is a determination in the heart of God. It's a disposition in God's heart towards sinners. I like to use the word "settled." It's a settled determination in the heart of God to do you good at many levels though you deserve to be condemned at every level. So that's a kind of a working definition of grace. It is a determination, a settled determination in the heart of God to do you good, you could add through Christ, it's only by his blood, to do you good who deserve wrath and condemnation.
So I give a broad definition. There are big gifts of grace and little gifts of grace, but it's all grace. And so when Paul writes in all of his epistles, "Grace to you," he's saying this epistle is grace. The things you're going to learn and get from this is grace. God wants to give you more grace. So just like a moment ago, I said you're not done calling on the name of the Lord so you are not done receiving grace, you need more grace, yet more grace. Oh, God, would you give me more grace? Now, we've already have received grace if we're Christians. "For it is by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works so that no one could boast." So we have received the grace of full forgiveness of sins, adoption into the family of God, the indwelling Holy Spirit. These are all by grace. But here's the thing, you need more grace, you're not done fighting sin, you're not done with this dangerous journey that you're on, you need more grace, and this epistle gives it to you. And so with Romans and so with Thessalonians, all of these… "Grace to you and peace." So he adds peace. So grace first then peace. It's never peace then grace. Why? Because you have a sin problem and if that's not dealt with, you will not be at peace with God, and He will not be at peace with you.
We read in Romans 5:6-8, it was up there while they were playing music. While we were still sinners, when we were still enemies, we were redeemed. At one point, we were enemies of God, but now, in Christ, you have been reconciled to God. You have been reconciled. You who are at one point alienated from him, enemies and hostile to God because of your evil behavior and evil mind now he has reconciled. And so you're in a status of peace with God. And what's the worth and value of that to you? God is not at war with you, He is at peace with you and will be for all eternity, a status of peace. Therefore, Romans 5:1, "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
But now this is talking about peace to you, so there's yet more peace. And this is where I would call it peacefulness or a sense or feeling of peace, being feeling at peace with God. And what's that worth to you? That you're not anxious, you're not troubled, you have a strong assurance of your salvation, and you have a feeling of peacefulness. And so we're told, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." So grace and peace flow into you as you study this epistle.
II. Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Corinthian Church (verses 4-9)
Alright. So now let's look at the thanksgiving, Verses 4-9. Paul gives thanksgiving for the Corinthian church. I just want to stop and just give you an application right here. The more thankful you are, the happier you'll be in your Christian life, and the more fruitful you'll be. The more thankful you are for the gifts of God's grace to you, the happier you'll be, and the more fruitful you'll be, the better your marriage will be, the better your friendships will be, the better local church life will be. So start with thankfulness. If you're having problems with someone, if you're having problems with the church or whatever, start thanking God. Start thanking God for the grace you see in them, start thanking God for the gifts. And that's what he does here. Paul's very well aware where he's going in this epistle.
We have some problems to deal with. We have some mopping up to do. We have some construction work to do. But I want to just begin by thanking God for you. And it's not a minor thing, it's not a light thing. He is genuinely thankful in his heart, look what he says, Verse 4, "I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus." I'm just thankful for the grace I see in your life. This was in CJ Mahaney's Humility book. Just one of the most humble and building things you can do is think it and then say it. I just thank God for the grace I see in your life. It's a beautiful thing to do. It really joins Christians together. So he says, "I thank God always because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus."
Now, here's a key theological principle. If you thank someone for something, you think they are responsible for giving it to you. Are you tracking me? Alright. You don't open a Christmas gift and then thank another person in the room for that gift. That would be confusing to everybody, especially to the person giving the gift. If your wife gives you a beautiful sweater, you open it up and you thank your daughter, that's a bad moment. Don't do that, alright? And so, when Paul thanks God for the salvation of other Christians, what is he saying theologically? God is responsible.
One of my favorite sermon titles that I've ever done, did it years ago. And it's theologically accurate… And if you don't think it's exegetically true, let's come and talk afterwards. It was Romans 6:17, "Thank God you obeyed." Wow! "Thank God you obeyed." To God be the glory that I obeyed. You got to believe it and the more you go on in the Christian life, you'll know exactly how true that is. If God had not worked, I would not have obeyed. And it comes right from Romans 6:17, "Thanks be to God that though you used to be slave to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed that form of teaching to which you entrusted." Take all the words out and have "Thank God you obeyed the gospel." And so he gives credit and he's going to say it at the end. Look down at Verse 30. I know we're not quite going to get there today. We might not quite get to Verse 8 today, I'm doing my best. But look at Verse 30, you see what it says? "It is because of him, [God] that you are in Christ Jesus." Wow! That's a theologically explosive statement. It is because of God that you are a Christian. And so he's just thanking God for them.
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. I'm just so thankful that we're going to spend eternity together in heaven. I'm so thankful that all these problems I'm about to write in this epistle, some day they'll all be gone and we're going to spend eternity one in Christ, and I just thank God for that. I thank God he knit you together in your mother's womb. I thank God that at the right time he saved you by the same gospel I was saved with. I thank God that we're now brothers and sisters in Christ. You have the same indwelling Spirit I have. I thank God for the grace I see in your life. And beyond that, he thanks God for their gifts, their spiritual gifts, look at Verses 5-7, "For in him, you have been enriched in every way, in all your speaking and in all your knowledge, because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift, as you eagerly await our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." So they've been richly gifted or richly blessed with spiritual gifts.
Now, three whole Chapters are devoted to spiritual gifts later in this epistle. Chapters 12, 13 and 14 all deal with spiritual gifts, including the famous Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is really about spiritual gifts. So he's going to get to that. But what are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts, we talked about many times, it's very, very important you understand. Spiritual gifts are special abilities given to individual Christians for the purpose of building the entire body of Christ up to full maturity. Special abilities for building the church, and every single Christian has a spiritual gift package. It's the way I like to look at it. Not one gift, but an array of special abilities that enables you or should be plugged into a regular repeatable habit pattern of ministry. For me, it's preaching and teaching, there's no doubt, and I should be doing this. This is what I do. So I study commentaries, I write sermons and other things. And so I have a gift package. Every one of you Christians has a gift package. So the question you have to ask is, "Am I using it? Is there a consistent pattern of ministry in my life? Am I using my gifts?"
But he's thanking God there because this is a super talented or super gifted church, the Corinthians were. And he zeroes in specifically on all their speaking and knowledge. They've been enriched in every way through speaking and knowledge. Now I want to reverse it: knowledge and speaking. Isn't it better to know first then speak? Just think about it, you'll come to the same conclusion. But anyway, I'm grateful for your deep, rich theological knowledge. You are solid doctrinally, for the most part. And you also speak out of that knowledge, that doctrinal truth. And those are gifts. And he says, "I thank God" and he's going to get in Chapter 12 into a whole array of other gifts like healing and speaking in tongues, prophesies, he's got a whole bunch of things, and we'll get to all of that. There are two separate things: To have knowledge and to be able clearly to speak it and articulate it are two different things.
When I was a student at MIT, I was surrounded by some of the most brilliant professors in the world. Some of them were good teachers. I'm not trying to be unkind. They all, as far as I can tell, knew their stuff but some of them were not so gifted in speaking it. I had a hard time understanding what they were talking about, but others, it was crystal clear. They're really just two different gifts. It's like the difference between being a super basketball player and being a coach, they're just different things. But they were good at both, they had a solid doctrinal knowledge and then really gifted preachers and teachers and otherwise, they're a gifted church. Now later, Paul is going to actually be criticizing some of them for their flaunting of spiritual knowledge, that they are flaunting their freedoms with the meat sacrifice to idols and their knowledge wasn't tied to love, and they're forgetting that their knowledge should be bound together with love so that they could care for the weaker brother and sister.
And so we'll get to all that in Chapters 8-10 but he's going to criticize them in this area and say, "Look, you can have supreme spiritual gifts. But if you don't have love, it's worthless." You know exactly what I'm talking about, 1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am nothing. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and I have all these deep knowledge, but if I have not love, I gain nothing. I achieved nothing. I am nothing." So we'll get to all that. But he's saying, You're blessed, you're spiritually gifted, but there's more to talk about. And so in Verse 7, they do not lack any spiritual gift. Everything needed for that local church to flourish in whatever ministries God has for them to do, it's there.
And the same is true in this church, we are called on to fulfill a specific mission here in this church. We're not called to be everything for Durham and in Raleigh and in Chapel Hill. We're not called to be everything but we're called to be something specific, and the ministries that God has for us to do many of which I would contend haven't even begun yet. Haven't even begun yet. There are ways we could bless this region that we're not blessing yet. And some of you are going to have a vision for it. You're going to have a passion, not the elders, you. And you're going to move out and we are going to support that, and others are going to join you and we're going to see fruit, we're going to see people converted. You know what I want to see in baptism? I love all of the baptisms that we have, but they come in categories and I would like to see an increase in one category, someone that says, "I was lost until I met a member of your church who spoke the gospel to me and now I'm saved." Don't you all want to see lots of those? I want to see that happen. I was lost until I met so and so, they'd share the gospel and now I'm here. Pray for that. That's what I wanted because we've got thousands of people pouring into this area, thousands of lost people. Don't we want to see them converted?
So that's what we're looking for here. But everything that we need to do the job is here already. And he says, "You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." So he's talking about the second coming of Christ, the second coming of Christ, the unveiling of Jesus, it's the same Greek word. You're waiting eagerly for the unveiling of Jesus. There is no book that so clearly portrays all of that in the details as the book we just finished, the Book of Revelation. And isn't it interesting? You probably didn't notice this before but the Book of Revelation ends the exact same way 1 Corinthians ends. It says in Revelation 22:20-21, "He who testifies to these things, [Jesus], says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." So that's the end of Book of Revelation. Listen to the end of 1 Corinthians. "Come O Lord, the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen." It's amazing. So what it's saying? A vivid, eager expectancy to the second coming of Christ is part of a healthy church life. So foster that.
Now, in Verse 8 and 9, he talks about the faithfulness of God's sovereign grace. He, God, will keep you strong to the end so that you'll be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 9, "God who has called you into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful." Our souls are under constant assault by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We're in enemy territory. We are called on to make an escape from a POW camp 20 miles behind enemy lines, and they're sending out search party searching for us to kill us and bring us back to the prison. So it is with Satan and his demons in this world system. We're in enemy territory and your soul is being assaulted everyday to turn away from Christ, to turn to sin and to turn to wickedness and idolatry, and to turn your back on your confession.
How do you possibly think you're going to make it through the next number of decades if God leaves you that long and still be blameless and trusting Jesus right to the end of your life? What is your confidence? How do you think you're going to do it? Don't underestimate the enemies that are arrayed against you. But here I'm saying to you, don't underestimate the far greater power of God to keep you. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear but with the temptation will make a way of escape. He's going to say that later. And so he is faithful and he's going to keep you strong to the end in Christ right to the end. And we trust in that.
III. Paul’s Appeal for Unity (verse 10)
Alright, now we get to the problems. We've had the greeting, Paul an apostle, grace and peace to you, I love you, praying for you. Now let's roll up our sleeves 'cause we have some problems to address and it's going to be a series of them. He's going to go from topic to topic to topic, and this is the first one. Verse 10, "I appeal to you brothers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." So of all the many problems that he deals with, the first that he deals with here are their divisions and factions, their unity. And when you think of the laundry list of problems that are coming, why would you start with this one? But this is absolutely vital. It's essential for Christ's church to be evidently, obviously united. And he's appealing to them to stop arguing with each other. Stop arguing. There are disputes. He's going to say in Verse 11, there are disputes. There are arguments going on between you, stop it. You're like, "Well, can you just stop arguing?" Yes, you can. I've said this before, you know what I'm talking about. Two of you in the family are having some kind of discussion. There's some heat involved, and then suddenly, a neighbor comes by to borrow something or the phone rings, and you suddenly become sweetness and light.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. Just like that. So at least it's true, and it's theologically true. You don't ever have to sin again. You could be in the middle of sin, and not sin the next sin because you're not a slave to sin. You can just stop, say, "What are we doing? Come to my senses. I don't need to do this. We don't need to be divided. We don't need to argue. Let's pray together." And so he's deeply concerned about their unity because when we get to heaven, we are going to be perfectly united in mind and thought in every respect, just like the Trinity is. It's based on the unity of the Trinity: The Father, the Son, the Spirit are one. Three persons in absolute unity. And so Jesus prays in John 17, "O, Holy Father, may they be brought together to display the perfect unity that I share with you and you with me." "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me."
So our evangelistic success will be tied to how united we are with one another, how much we obviously love one another. Perfect unity. And look at it, Verse 10, we're not talking about a sham unity, we're not papering things over, we're not going to acting school. We really do agree. We really do agree. Look at Verse 10, "That all of you agree with one another and that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." Another translation, "Perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." So how do we do this? I would go over to Philippians 2:2. This is how you think and how you love. Your mind and your affections are totally one. That's what he's yearning for. Perfectly joined together. Like a beautiful piece of furniture where two pieces of wood come together so perfectly, like this pulpit, I can see it right now. I can see the different grains of wood, but I can't feel any two different pieces at all because the skill of the joiner, of the craftsman is so good. You know what I'm talking about? That we would have two different people or a whole group of people come together so united that there's no difference at all.
Now you're saying, "How is that even possible? Can two individuals who are deep thinkers and have strong opinions actually agree about everything?" Not only is it possible, you're going to spend eternity completely agreeing with lots of strong individuals from all over the world. And we will agree about everything. The more we can be united now, the more powerful we will be evangelistically.
IV. A Church Rent by Factions (verses 11-12)
Now, what's going on is, somebody says, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ." The ESV translation puts an "or" in between each of them. So he says in Verse 11, "My brothers, some from Chloe's household, have informed me there are quarrels among you." You're arguing, and what I mean is one of you says, "I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas, [that's Peter], or I am of Christ." Those are my favorite ones. They're like, "No, no, isn't that right?" Not like that, it's not. Because you've got factions. "I'm of the Jesus party." Those are actually maybe the most dangerous of them all. "We have Jesus. You can have Paul, you can have Apollos, Cephas," is what it said. But at any rate, the body of Christ is rent, it's ripped apart by factions and divisions.
And this was common in Ancient Greece. They would follow philosophers and their schools. "I'm of Plato," "I'm of Aristotle," "I'm of Socrates," "I'm of Epicurus," "I follow that way of life." They're used to this. And the problem with it is, it's way too arrogant and prideful and man-centered. You're focusing too much on Paul or Apollos or Cephas. You're focusing too much. Let's start with the Jesus party. Is Christ divided? We all have Christ, there's one body. So, no, Christ is not divided. We are all of Jesus. But you're immature in your thinking, he's going to say in Chapter 3, "Because you don't see who Paul really is or who Apollos really is." Look at Chapter 3:5-7, he says, "What after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but God who makes things grow."
He says, "We're nothing. We are nothing. Everything is of God." So don't think too much of Paul or Apollos, whatever. A number of years ago, I went out to be in a wedding, I was the best man for a friend of mine from college. And brought me out to LA, then he and his new bride went off on their honeymoon, and I was there and I was so excited. I made a hour plus drive up to John MacArthur's church. He had been my mentor by radio and I'm going to go hear him preach Sunday morning. Drove up there, it actually took two hours to get up there, traffic and all, and even on Sunday. I got up there, I was there in plenty of time, and settled in at the church there, Grace Community Church, Panorama City. Settled in, ready to hear John MacArthur, only to be told Pastor John is going to take one week off, he'll be back next week. And I was crushed. And then I had this amazing experience through the Holy Spirit, who spoke to me and said, "I'm here."
That was a convicting moment. Who are you here for? Truth be told, I was there for John MacArthur. And he wasn't there that day, but Jesus was there. And I'm not saying that God doesn't raise up some servants and make them extraordinary. Paul was extraordinary, there will never be another Paul, ever. But he's not indispensable. And when he died, the church of Christ went on and flourished. And we have some gifted teachers here. For the next five weeks, you're going to hear preaching from other gifted men, and I praise God for them. But there's going to come a time, if the Lord doesn't return in our lifetime, we'll all be gone. I yearn that this church still be here and healthy in this community. And so, we're yearning to see younger gifted men and women use their gifts, and younger gifted men preach and use those gifts. That's our desire. And so, don't focus overmuch on the human servant.
And one thing you forget, he's going to say this in Chapter 3, if you say, "I follow Paul," "I follow Apollos," and you put an "or" between it, it's like you get Paul, you can have Apollos. No, you misunderstand, you actually get them all. You get Paul and Apollos and Cephas and John MacArthur and any of the other teachers as long as they're teaching the truth. All of the truth comes from God, and you can get all of it. You don't have to pick and choose, you get them all because all things are yours. We'll get to that in Chapter 3. Well, I'm well aware of what time it is, and I'm also well aware how many pages I haven't covered yet. I have no idea what to do. But guess what? I've got five weeks to figure that out. So, I'm going to stop here, I'm going to just say this as we close. Factions and divisions have rent Christianity for centuries. Do you know how many Protestant denominations there are? I didn't know. 41,000.
Any chance there's some sin in there somewhere? 41,000 different Protestant denominations. But when we get to heaven, it's going to be perfectly united. So, by way of application, let me just finish by urging all of you. Paul's going to say, "When I was with you, I was with you in weakness and fear, and much trembling, and I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified." If I take this whole book, I'm going to unify it under one thing. No matter how many and how severe the problems are in the local church, Christ and him crucified is sufficient for all of them. He's going to bring each of these problems to Christ, again and again.
So I appeal to each one of you. I don't know your spiritual condition. If you are here today and you know you're outside of Christ looking in, I believe God brought you here to hear that your sins can be forgiven through the death and the resurrection of Jesus, if you just have faith in Him. So trust in Him. Don't leave here unconverted. Come and talk to me. If you've got questions about Christianity. This is what I'm here for. And there are other brothers and sisters that will be happy to talk to you.
So first and foremost, don't go to hell, don't be condemned. You don't know how much longer you have. Secondly, if I could just urge you also, just enrich your thankfulness. Enrich it in your marriage. Thank God for your spouse. And then your local church, thank God for this church. Thank God for the brothers and sisters here. Don't take Him for granted. Thank God for the grace you see in other people and express it to them. And don't allow your heart to become divided with other people here in the church. Take advantage. I would urge you, just go over these announcements and just look at them and look at VBS. And thank God for the spiritual gifts of Susan Fisher and others that just do this every year. I'm amazed. Do you realize how bad VBS would be if I were in charge of it? It would be awful. Not because I don't love kids, I do love kids. But specifically, the administrative things. I would not order the goldfish, I would forget to order the goldfish. And many other worse things would happen. So, I'm just praising God for that. Take advantage of the sack lunch thing. Let's draw together and love on one another.
I'm going to close in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time that we've had, however brief, to study your word. Grateful for it. And Father, I just pray that you would take the word of God and pour it into our hearts, help us to know how much we need you to continue to save us. We have been justified, but you continue to make us holy. And help us to help one another. Draw us together in a remarkable, evident unity so that we can be a light shining in this dark region. As thousands of people are pouring in here to live here, help us to witness to them and show them the life that truly is life. In Jesus' name. Amen.