Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Crisis in Corinth 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 by William Klock Today we’re starting a new study of St. Paul’s first letter to the Church of Corinth – a church with a whole lot of problems.  In chapter 6, verses 9 to 11 he says this: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. Ouch!  The apostle writes to them and lists all these sins and says, “And such were some of you.”  I’m sure if the list of sins went on, he could have said, “And such were all of you.”  This might be a little bold of me, but I want to read that list again and ask you to stand up if one of those things described in Paul’s list once described you. We could make the list longer and every one of us would have to stand, but I bet even his short list covers most us pretty well and probably on more than one front.  I’ve been greedy, I’ve been a thief, I’ve been a reviler and swindler.  I may not have committed outward adultery, but I’ve done it in my heart and I bet there’s not a man here who hasn’t done the same at some point. The Corinthian church was made up of people who came from some seriously messed up and sinful backgrounds – so we’re in good company if we’re going to let what St. Paul said to them speak to us too. It didn’t help that Corinth was itself a moral cesspool.  Corinth had sat for centuries on the narrow strip of land that connects the northern and southern halves of Greece and it controlled all the trade that went across that strip by land, north to south, but also all the sea trade between east and west.  Ships came in one side, unloaded, and then ships on the other side were reloaded and carried the cargo on – and Corinth, in the middle got very rich.  It was one of the centres of a cult devoted to Aphrodite, the goddess of sex, and her temple was said to be staffed by a thousand priests and priestesses, who also happened to be prostitutes – that was how people worshipped Aphrodite – with illicit sex. In the Second Century the Romans destroyed the city, but Julius Caesar re-established it, making it a Roman colony.  In short order it was back to its old Greek reputation as the centre of immorality, but under the Romans it became even more messed up.  On top of the old Greek traditions, under the Romans, pagans from all over the Empire moved in and setup all sorts of other pagan cults and practices.  In the ancient world, “Corinthian” had become a sort of slang word for someone who was degenerate.  That was the culture from which these Christians had been called.  St. Paul’s starts the letter saying: Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes. We know from Acts that Sosthenes had been the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth.  That was where Paul had first setup shop when he had started the church in Corinth about five years before this.  When the Jews kicked out the Christians, they moved into a private house next door.  Eventually Sosthenes was driven out of town and is now with Paul in Ephesus in Turkey.  He goes on: To the church of God that is in Corinth, 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, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Not long before, St. Paul had written a letter to the Corinthians.  We don’t know the full content, but a big portion of it was a rebuke telling them not to keep company with those who fell into sexual immorality.  As a result of that letter, a group of men had come from Corinth to visit him at Ephesus and they brought word of even more problems.  They also brought Paul a letter from the church that included a list of questions for the apostle.  First Corinthians is St. Paul’s response to that letter and the reports he was given. First Corinthians is different from Paul’s other epistles in that it doesn’t start with a long doctrinal treatise.  Most of the other epistles start out that way before getting into practical matters.  In this letter he jumps right into addressing the problems in the church.  In fact, he starts out in his greeting: “Paul, called by God to be an apostle…”  He had to start out with that because one of the problems was that some in the church questioned Paul’s authority because he wasn’t one of the “The Twelve.” Verse 2 tells us something too.  He addresses them as “sanctified in Jesus Christ.”  Usually he greeted churches based on their justification, but here he refers to people who have been sanctified.  You see, “justification” refers to our being made right with Christ.  It’s sort of a legal term.  We were guilty of sin and due to be punished, but through Christ, we are now free from that debt – because we have been justified – literally “made just.”  Sanctification refers to our being made holy.  Justification happens once at a specific point in time – when you make Jesus your Lord and Saviour.  Sanctification is what continues on after that – sanctification is the visible result, the change that takes place in us.  St. Paul refers to this with the Corinthians because their behaviour was in question. Verse 2 closes with a reference to Christ: “both their Lord and ours.”  That was important, because the Corinthian church was breaking into a bunch of factions as this group and that group started following after men.  Paul emphasises the centrality of Christ – something they’d forgotten. Paul starts with the good news in verse 4: 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—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,   who will sustain you to the end,  guiltless  in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:4-8) This was a sound church in a lot of ways. First, they understood that they were saved by grace.  They had been pagans, but they had been born again by God’s grace.  They weren’t struggling with legalism.  There were no questions over ritual like the Colossians had or circumcision like the Galatians had or wrestling with “dead works” like the Philippians.  No.  The Corinthians actually had the opposite problem.  They had accepted God’s grace in such a way that they didn’t think it really made any difference how they behaved.  That was the core problem. The Corinthians were sound in doctrine.  No problems there.  And there was no problem with a lack of being equipped.  He says, “in every way you were enriched in…all speech and all knowledge…so that you are not lacking any spiritual gift.  That word “enriched” in Greek comes from the word for Pluto – the god of wealth.  They were wealthy in spiritual equipment, and especially so in the word of God and in knowledge of that word.  They knew God’s word and they understood it.  They could discuss and argue theology with the best. On top of that Paul says, they weren’t lacking in spiritual gifts.  They had gifts of miracles and healing, teaching and tongues, knowledge and leadership.  It was all going on in Corinth.  I don’t think any of them wanted miss church, because who knew what might happen as the Spirit manifested himself in these gifts. Even more so, not only were they orthodox in doctrine and equipped spiritually, their expectation was right.  They were waiting for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They knew that when he came he’d make his spiritual kingdom a physical reality.  They weren’t trying to bring the kingdom by their own works or earn status and favour with God by their works.  They understood that was Christ’s mission. But in verse 9 Paul changes the subject to talk about the fellowship that they’re lacking: God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the central point of the letter.  God had called these people into relationship with himself through Jesus Christ, but they’d forgotten this – and that was the reason for all their problems.  They didn’t understand the implication of their calling and of the relationship they had with Jesus.  The result was divisions, scandals, lawsuits, immorality, drunkenness, fights, and a host of other problems.  They had full provision to live as they were supposed to, but they were failing.  They had the ability given them by the Spirit to do amazing things in their city, but instead of going out and making an impact on Corinth, Corinth was making an impact on them.  Despite their sound doctrine and the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, there was little manifestation among them of the power of God.  They were failing at a critical point, but it’s the same point where so many churches are prone to failure.  And so Paul writes not only to them, but to us, reminding us what is means to have fellowship with Jesus Christ. That fellowship is the work of the Holy Spirit.  As we saw last week, God has sent him to take the things of Christ and make them known to us so that we can apply them daily.  That’s St. Paul’s point here: Christ made real to the heart, able to satisfy hungry souls; Christ providing the power to meet the demands of the law and love of God.  You see, fellowship with Christ isn’t just about having direction in what to do, it’s also dynamic – it shows us how to do it!  Too often we seek direction from the Lord, but we forget that he also he gives us the power to do what he says.  He not only gives us guidance, he gives us resources to do it.  We go to the Bible for guidance – that’s where God speaks to us – but he also undergirds us with his fellowship through the Spirit so that we can do what the Bible tells us to do.  He gives a programme to the Church, but he also gives us the power to carry it out. The problem is that we often forget about that undergirding work of God.  The end result is Christians who recognise the Lord on Sunday when they go to church, but spend Monday through Saturday on their own, with no real recognition of his presence with them.  He’s no longer Lord of their lives, but of one small compartment.  We forget that real worship isn’t about what we do here on Sunday, but about living in such a way outside these walls, that we give him glory and draw unbelievers to our light. This was the problem at Corinth.  They had a lot of stuff right – in fact a lot of critical and important stuff right – but they were missing the key.  They’d forgotten the Lordship of Jesus Christ and their fellowship with him.  Think about the implications of that.  The first problem that Paul addresses is the divisions that were tearing apart the Corinthian church: one faction was of Paul, another was of Apollos, another was of Peter, and another group self-righteously tried to one-up them saying they were of Christ, brushing aside all the apostolic teaching and leadership they’d had.  But these people were suffering these divisions ultimately because they had lost sight of the Lordship of Jesus.  They were leading immoral lives – in some cases grossly immoral – because they had forgotten that the members of their bodies were, through the Holy Spirit, united to Christ and member of him too.  They were dragging each other into the courts and before civil magistrates because they had forgotten that Jesus was judge of the innermost motives of the heart.  They were arguing and fighting with each other because they had forgotten that those others were members of Christ’s body and, therefore, they were all members one of another.  The list goes on, but in each case, St. Paul deals with all of these problems, healing the hurts, by simply calling the Corinthians back to an awareness of fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This morning we all have a perfect opportunity to be aware of the fellowship we have with Jesus Christ as we come to the Lord’s Supper.  As we do, take some time to reflect on what it means to be united with him.  St. Paul addresses this very issue within the context of the Lord’s Supper, because the Corinthians were struggling at this very point.  They’d turned it into an automatic or mechanical performance and in doing that they lost sight of its real meaning.  In fact when they gathered for Communion it became an opportunity for them to indulge in selfishness, for some to lord their higher social standing over others, and for some to be gluttonous and even become drunk.  St. Paul calls them back to an awareness of their fellowship with Christ.  We need to be reminded of the same thing – we have the same fellowship that they did.  There is no sacrament or ceremony of the Christian life better suited to remind us of who Jesus is and of what he does for us as a people than the celebration of his body and blood given for us. As we take and eat these elements of bread and wine, sacramental signs and seals of his body and blood, we are reminded that he died for us, that our old life died with him on the cross and was buried in the tomb.  The bread and the wine remind us that when we came to Christ, our old life ended.  That old life is worth nothing in the sight of God.  It has no value.  It can’t do anything for us.  It can’t help us.  We can go back anytime we want, pick it up, and start living that old life again, but if we do it will be of no value.  Our old lives are good for nothing but pain and sorrow and misery.  Every time we come to the Lord’s Table we ought to be reminded of this fact. But the body and the blood are also a reminder to us that we have new life.  Yes, we died with Christ, but that’s not the end.  He also give us new life as we are united to him.  We feed on him.  He is our life.  We feed on Christ in moments of doubt.  We feed on Christ when we face temptation and feel pressure to pickup the old man and fall back into our old way of living.  We feed on Christ when we want to show his love, but have no capacity to show that love in and of ourselves.  It’s that experience of the presence of the Lord Jesus that the bread and the wine are intended to give us as we come to the Table. I know it’s often easy to come to the Table some weeks and to come without really thinking about what we’re doing.  It’s easy to forget that before we come we need to examine ourselves – to confess our sins and to make right with others what we’ve made wrong with our actions.  We come to the Table automatically, often forgetting or not thinking about the fact that here, in the bread and in the wine, we meet our risen Lord.  And so I urge you to think about these things this morning as we come to the Lord’s Table.  As you come, remember that God is faith.  He is the one who has drawn us to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, and given us his Spirit so that we can be united with his Son – not just to find salvation from the consequences of our sins, but to be brought to new life and to be enabled, undergirded, and strengthened to live that new life. Please pray with me:  Almighty God, on this Trinity Sunday, the day set aside to celebrate you as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that we would know what you have done for us, remind us that you have not merely called us, but that you have sent your Son, and that you have not only sent your Son to redeem, but have also sent your Spirit to empower and strengthen.  Give us the grace to remember always that you have equipped us for every good work, equipped us to faithfully follower your Son and to be conformed to his image, that we might be salt and light in the world in which we live.  Keep us faithful to your calling that we might draw men and women to you, through your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Sharing the Mindof Christ 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 by William Klock If you’ve got your Bibles with you this morning, you can open them up to First Corinthians 1.  Last week we looked at St. Paul’s introduction.  He had sent them a letter some time before and in response they had sent him one – asking him to clarify some of the points he had made.  From what we see in 1 Corinthians it was probably an antagonistic letter – there were people in Corinth who question Paul’s calling as an apostle and that meant that they questioned his authority to preach to them on these subjects. And so Paul starts his response, first reminding them of his apostolic authority, by praising them for the things they’ve done right.  They understand what it means to live in the grace of God.  They know the Scriptures.  And they’re a people fully empowered by the Spirit.  They’ve recognised the gifts that the Spirit has given them and they’re using them.  I admire Paul when I read those first few verses, because I don’t think it was necessarily easy for him to praise them.  When someone treats us badly, we’re more inclined to immediately point out all their faults and to ignore their strengths.  The Corinthians had just sent him a nastygramme, challenging his authority and questioning his teaching.  For most of us, our gut response would be to write an angry response with a flaming pen. And yet Paul responds graciously.  Even so he works in his main point.  In verse 9 he says, “You guys are doing all these great things because God is faithful.  The God who called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord has been faithful to you.”  That’s his central point. And so he then goes on.  Look at verse 10: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. Unity in Christ is a major theme in St. Paul’s letters.  He said something very similar to the Church at Philippi: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2) He encouraged the Ephesian Christians to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Dear Friends, unity in the Church is critical.  St. Paul deals with it first here in Corinth, because a lack of unity was at the heart of so many of the other problems.  In verse ten Paul states his case and it’s amazing simple.  The ground of our unity is the Lord Jesus Christ: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Their unity – our unity – is the result of each of us first being united to Jesus Christ.  There may be some of us who come here and can find unity based on likes and dislike, on social status or social clubs, based on other activities or our military service, but that unity is limited.  There are some of us in the Church who have all sorts of things in common and it would be easy to fellowship with each other even if we weren’t Christians.  But there are also some of us here who have no basis, no common ground for fellowship other than the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think about how the Church brought together into fellowship people so widely disparate as a high-bred Roman and a poor slave from the wilds of Gaul or Germania. You see, only Jesus Christ is big enough to bring all of us together despite all of our differences.  Regardless of whoever or whatever we are, we share a common life if we have come to Jesus Christ.  We are brothers and sisters if we have his life in us.  Jesus is our ground for unity.  But because of that we have an obligation to obey him, to follow him. Remember that we have new life in him only has we make him our Lord.  That’s really the only basis on which you can get Christians to agree: by setting before them the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and by calling them back to him.  That’s what St. Paul does here. Now considering how different we all are here – different personalities, different talents, gifts, and abilities, different ways of doing things and thinking about things – what does unity in Christ look like?  Let’s jump to Philippians again.  That same passage we just looked at from Philippians 2 goes on.  Paul says there, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…”  And in the next couple of versus he goes on to describe the attitude that Jesus had: a willingness to give up the privilege and rights of being God so that he could take a lower place and become the servant of his rebellious creation.  He describes Jesus saying: …who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8) Paul appeals to us to be Christ-like – so consider what he did.  God became man.  And not a great man, but a lowly carpenter from the armpit of Palestine.  He humbled himself.  He gave up his rights.  And he, our creator, did it for our benefit even though we had rebelled against him, put ourselves in his place, rejecting and hating him.  Dear friends, if we want to have unity in our congregation – and not just here, but in the wider church too – we all need to start putting the things of Christ first.  That means being willing to set aside our rights, being willing to suffer loss of personal honour and glory, so that we can see the cause of Jesus Christ advanced.  That’s the unifying factor in a church.  It’s the attitude we should have here.  It’s the mind that lovingly puts others first instead of self. It also means submitting to his Lordship.  This isn’t your church. It isn’t my church either. It’s Jesus’ church.  We are his body and he’s the head.  That means he gives us our marching orders.  And yet how often do we put our interests and desires ahead of those of Jesus for his Church.  This is our basis for unity too – not just a Christ-like, selfless attitude, but also the duty we have to submit to his Lordship – to do what he says.  This is why the study of his Word is so important.  God’s Word is the way we come to know him and to know his mind – so that we can adjust our mind to conform to his – but it’s also the only way we have to know what his agenda is for us.  Claiming ignorance of God’s will for us is no excuse for us to go on doing our own thing.  If you want to know God and if you want to do his will, you have to know his Word.  That’s why I stress the importance of personal study, but it’s also the reason why I preach the way I do. Now at this point some of the Corinthians might have started to clue in, but I bet some of them were feeling smug, thinking that they really were doing all this.  And that’s when St. Paul jumps in with a reprimand.  Look as verses 11 and 12: For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow  Cephas [that’s Peter],” or “I follow Christ.” You see, when the Corinthians wrote to Paul, they tried to make themselves sound really good, but these other folks have informed on the real situation.  We don’t know who “Chloe’s people” were, but it’s pretty clear they weren’t from the Corinthian Church.  Most likely Chloe was a business woman and some of her traders or merchants, who happened to be Christians and who knew Paul, visited Corinth, saw the problems, and reported them to Paul when they were passing through Ephesus. This was the real problem.  The church hadn’t split yet.  There wasn’t a First Church of Paul on one side of town and Church of St. Apollos on the other, but the people in the church had lost their unity.  Being in Corinth, these people were culturally Greek, and the Greeks were used to itinerant philosophers and teachers – and for those itinerant teachers, it was all about style.  The Greeks were known for rhetoric and oration.  That wasn’t really St. Paul’s thing.  He admits to not being a good public speaker.  But then came his friend, Apollos, who was an outstanding speaker and orator.  He was a rhetorician who could speak to the people in a way they greatly respected.  And so now some of the people had devoted themselves to Apollos.  It’s not that his message was different from Paul’s, but that his style was more eloquent.  You know, “Oh, I just loved it when Apollos was preaching her!  He was such a good speaker and he made the Scriptures come alive!” And then there were the traditionalists – maybe former members of the synagogue – who had heard St. Peter preach and they appreciated that he was one of the first disciples and had been with Jesus during his earthly ministry.  “Peter was one of the first.  When he was preaching here we knew we were on solid ground!” And of course there was a group sticking up for Paul.  “He founded this church and maybe he wasn’t the best orator, but he taught us the Gospel!”  And so the congregation was dividing up and not only that but arguing over who had authority to teach them and who didn’t. The fourth group was probably the worst.  They saw these divisions between teachers and apostles and got all self-righteous.  “Well, you might follow Paul or Apollos or Peter, but Ifollow Christ!  Don’t show me any of Paul’s or Peter’s epistles, I only read the Gospels!”  And so in their self-righteous smugness they separated from the rest. Now you don’t have to hang around a church very long to know that we still have the same problem.  One person says, “I’m a Calvinist” and someone else says, “I’m an Arminian.”  “I’m an Anglican.”  “I’m a Baptist.”  “I’m a Presbyterian.”  “I’m a Lutheran.”  And we split up, assuming that we’re the only ones that really matter despite the fact that while we obviously have our differences, we all preach Jesus Christ. St. Paul was really troubled by all this because it threatened the life of the Church.  People were choosing their favourite preacher to the point that they wouldn’t listen to anyone else.  Now it’s not wrong to have a favourite preacher.  And remember that we are called to be discerning about doctrine and sometimes that doctrine does create necessary divisions.  Paul’s concern here is the exclusiveness – people who didn’t even want to come to the service if someone not of their party was preaching.  Remember that he had to assert his own apostolic authority in writing to them, because some of the people wouldn’t listen to him – they questioned his authority. So St. Paul asks: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:13) He’s saying, “You can’t divide Christ, folks!”  He and Apollos and Peter were all preaching the same gospel.  That’s great if one preacher communicates the gospel to you better or more effectively than another, but your focus is supposed to be on the gospel, not the preacher!  As long as we’re all preaching the same gospel, we’re all one in Christ. Did Paul or Peter die for your sins?  No, Jesus did.  Were you baptised in the name of Martin Luther or St. Augustine?  No.  You were baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  You weren’t baptised into the Anglican Church or the Baptist Church or the Roman Catholic Church.  If you were baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity in a Gospel teaching church, regardless of the label on the building, you were baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ. There’s no human teacher, not even the Apostle Paul, who can effect our redemption.  There’s no human teacher who can heal the hurt of a broken heart or restore the person who feels worthless.  There’s no human teacher who can open the heart and mind to reveal the glory of God.  None of that is the work of men – it’s the work of God himself.  He chooses his own channels through which he works, and those channels don’t always have the same flavour or appearance.  We reveal our immaturity when we insist that only those with certain characteristics are the ones we’ll listen to, or can feel blessed by.  Remember: no man is the Saviour; no man can deliver us except Jesus.  The rest are only teachers.  There’s only one Lord. He said it himself: “One is your master, all of you are brothers.” He goes on in verse 13: Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) (1 Corinthians 1:13-16) You see, baptism is a badge.  It’s the outward and visible sign of our belonging to God, but the Corinthians were misunderstanding that.  Those baptised by Apollos had become Apollos’ groupies and those baptised by Paul had become Paul’s groupies.  Instead of allowing their baptism to mark them as being one in Christ, they were using it as a status symbol.  It would be like us splitting up over who baptised us.  Some might take it as a status symbol that they were baptised by this priest or that priest.  Someone else would say, “Oh, but I was baptised by So-and-so – a famous priest.”  And someone else would say, well I was baptised by the bishop!”  I once had a friend who thought he was extra special because he was baptised by a cardinal in St. Peter’s square on Easter.  Hey, that’s cool, but it doesn’t make you any more special a part of the body of Christ!  The benefits of our baptism come from God, not from the priest who pours the water on us! Most groups have this problem.  We take something good and we turn it into a status symbol or an identifying badge that it was never meant to be.  In some churches it’s whether or not you bring your Bible to church.  In other’s it’s the size of the Bible you bring or the translation you choose.  It could be what you wear.  In our tradition it’s often whether or not you kneel, bow, or cross yourself as you worship. St. Paul steps in and says, “No.”  When we start using God’s gifts or our acts of piety to distinguish ourselves from our brothers and sisters we destroy the unity of the body and misrepresent Jesus Christ in front of a watching world.  That’s why he says, “I thank God that I only baptised a few of you.  Not that baptism is optional, but because I don’t want my name or the fact that I baptised some of you to be any more factious than it already is!” Now look at verse 17 where he gives the cure: For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. Now this really introduces what we’ll be looking at next week – the great passage where St. Paul describes the difference between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God.  But what he’s saying here is that you don’t heal division in the Church with identification badges.  He saying, “Christ didn’t send me out to make a tally list or to cut notches on my walking stick every time I make new converts.”  That’s not why he was sent.  He was sent to preach the gospel.  In his case, God called a man who lacked the abilities that would have made a good public speaker by the world’s standard, but, Paul’s saying, “That’s the whole point.  The power of the gospel doesn’t lie in the preacher – it lies with God, with the cross of Christ!”  No preacher of the gospel can take credit for the good that comes when he preaches, because the real work is done by combination of the message and the working of the Spirit in the heart.  In St. Paul’s case it was doubly so.  He lacked eloquence.  He could truly say that those who came to Christ through his preaching were moved by the content of the message, not by the delivery.  It’s all about the cross! Dear Friends, the cross of Christ is what heals the division and fragmentation of the Church.  There are real issues of theology and practice on which genuine Christians can disagree and that require  a certain amount of separation.  You can’t have one group when part of that group holds to Episcopal church governance and another holds to congregational governance.  You can’t have one group if one part of it baptises both infants and adults and another insists that it’s wrong to baptise infants.  Some divisions are necessary.  And yet on those issue over which we can reasonably disagree, we are still united in the essentials of the Gospel.  We are still united in Christ.  When we see men and women dividing, whether it’s in the local parish or in a broader Christian arena, all we need to do is to go back to the cross and those divisions will disappear.  When you get someone’s eyes off the status symbols and the badges and call them away from following men and put their eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ and on his cross, the divisions fade away.  There’s no other cure.  The cross cuts through every human value system.  It wipes away all the petty distinctions that we’re prone to making.  The cross strips away all of our pride and pulls it down from the high place where it exalts itself against the knowledge of God.  In the next section St. Paul’s going to describe this radical force that’s so different from anything else in the world.  Think about it.  No man would ever have planned the cross.  We’d never think up something so shameful as a plan to save the world.  And yet it’s this radical principle of the cross that we need to grasp through and through, because if we truly understand the cross of the Lord Jesus, no room for division is left. Please pray with me:  Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times when we place ourselves, our agendas, or even the good things you give us ahead of the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Remind us Father that unity is a reality that you have given us as your Spirit unites us with Christ.  Remind us that it is not something we can ever create ourselves, but that it is a reality we are simply called to live by virtue of our faith.  We as this in the name of Jesus Christ, in whom you have made us one.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians God's Foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 by William Klock I want to dive right into First Corinthians this morning.  If you’ve got your Bibles, open them to 1 Corinthians 1:18.  If you were here last week, you’ll remember that we looked at St. Paul’s call to these people to stay united.  They were culturally Greek and the Greeks were really into philosophers and great orators and the study of “wisdom.”  They were deep thinkers.  Their problem was that they were thinking deeply about worldly wisdom instead of God’s wisdom.  And the Corinthian church was being torn apart because they started confusing worldly wisdom with God’s wisdom and the Gospel.  One group liked Paul because of his style and another group liked Apollos because of his. And so Paul steps in and stops them, and he calls them to be united.  He reminds them that the Gospel isn’t about the preacher, it’s about the message of the cross of Christ.  The Gospel message, he said, isn’t about eloquent words of wisdom, like the Greek philosophies are – it’s about the power is the cross. The problem today is that we’ve made the cross commonplace.  It’s virtually meaningless.  Anyone can wear a cross today.  In fact it’s cool to wear a cross – it’s just “bling” now.  And yet consider that in the First Century there was absolutely nothing “cool” about the cross.  Nobody would have dreamed of turning it into jewellery, let alone putting a large one like we have here in their churches. In fact it was a couple of hundred years before the cross even became commonplace in churches.  In that world it was a symbol of shame.  It was the means of death for the lowliest of the low.  Roman citizens could never be crucified.  It was reserved for slaves and barbarians.  Think about that as we look at verses 18 and 19: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,  [and here he quotes from Isaiah 29:14] “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” There are two kinds of people in the world: there are those who are perishing because of their sins and those who are being saved.  Those are the only two options.  There’s nothing in between.  And the difference between them is the “word” or the “message” of the cross. One of the greatest gifts God has given to men and women is the gift of intellect.  We can think like no other species in all of creation.  Other animals, like a monkey or a dog, can take in information.  They can learn.  But only man can fully process knowledge and information and experience.  Wisdom – the ability to apply what we learn – is God’s gift to men and women.  And yet because of the fall, our wisdom is coloured by sin.  It’s not just that we act unrighteously – that we act in ways that are unholy and contrary to God’s ways.  We thinkunrighteously too.  We don’t think the way God created us to think.  We reject him and consider his ways to be foolish. That’s why people scoffed at St. Paul when he preached.  He wasn’t a train orator.  He wasn’t a distinguished philosopher.  He was just some Jew, schooled in the Law of the Old Testament (and to the Greeks that was crazy, stupid stuff right there).  He didn’t come with some great new philosophy and what he taught he didn’t even teach well by their standards.  But that’s all worldly men and women cared about.  To them it was all in the delivery.  Consider that in ancient Rome, juries were persuaded less by the facts of a case, than by the defender’s or prosecutor’s skill as an orator.  And into that world came Paul.  He couldn’t see well, couldn’t speak well, and tradition says he may have even had a speech impediment.  And because of that the world thought his message of the cross was foolish. And yet even when the world gets past the preacher, even when they hear the message of the cross, they take offense. You see, the cross tells us that we’re sinners, and not just sinners, but such sinful sinners that the only possible way to find redemption is for God himself to pay the penalty on our behalf.  The world’s wisdom might let us admit to our sin, but it tells us that we’re not really that bad. “If God weighs my good deeds against my bad, surely the good will tip the scale!”  Why does every other religion or philosophical system in the world teach salvation by works? Think about it.  Islam: works.  Judaism: works.  Buddhism: works.  Hinduism: works – but at least you get an infinite number of lifetimes to get it right!  The list is endless.  Why?  Because fallen man is too proud to admit to the real sinfulness of his sin, and for that reason every man-made religion teaches that we can save ourselves if we’re only good enough. To take the message of the cross to those who are still perishing in their sins, whose hearts have not yet been moved by the Holy Spirit, is to take a message that that tells them that all they have achieved is worthless in the sight of God – that it makes them not one degree more acceptable than anyone else.  Those Greeks who heard St. Paul scoffed at him and at the cross, because the cross told them that all their knowledge and philosophy and “wisdom” were worthless. Of course the other reaction is that the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved.  To those whose hearts have been given understanding by the Spirit, the cross is seen for what it is: the way to restored fellowship with God and through that the power to put off the old self and put on the new, it’s the power to live the holy life for which God created us. Those are the two reactions.  There’s nothing in between.  To illustrate the point, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  Isaiah spoke those words when Judah was on the verge of invasion by the army of Assyria.  This huge army was making its way over the northern borders of Judah.  The Jews could have gone out to fight, but they had no chance.  And so the leaders of the nation, even King Hezekiah, were in a panic.  They were weighing every humanly possible option – asking, “How can we save ourselves? ­– and their conclusion was that they needed to make an alliance with Egypt, the other great power in the world.  Egypt could protect them.  And yet God had already told them that they were not to make alliances like that with pagan nations and empires – to do so would be to compromise their being set apart.  But in their panic, it seemed like the only option.  And into that situation God spoke to them through Isaiah, saying he would deliver his people without any help from the politicians.  He said, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” The Assyrians did come and the closer they got, the more I’m sure Hezekiah’s “wise” men and advisors fell into a panic.  Pretty soon an army of a couple hundred thousand surrounded the city, mocking and taunting the Jews.  The commander, a general named Sennacherib, sent a letter to Hezekiah demanding surrender.  And that’s when Hezekiah decided to do the “foolish” thing – but it was the godly thing.  He prayed over the letter.  You can imagine his advisors in conniptions! But God did what he said he would.  That night he sent an angel and slew 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers.  History confirms that a plague broke out in the camp and killed almost the entire army overnight.  When the Jews woke up the next morning, the Assyrians were all dead.  God did exactly what he said he would do.  He didn’t ask for any human help.  God allowed them to be put in a situation where they couldn’t save themselves, but he did that to teach them a lesson: you can’t do it yourself; you have to trust God and let him do it for you.  And God did do it, and his people were delivered. Real wisdom trusts in God.  Think back to Adam and Eve. He asked them to trust him.  He didn’t create us knowing everything.  We’re not omniscient.  There are things we don’t know – just like Hezekiah didn’t know what was going to happen with the army.  We can only see so far and so much – most of the time we can’t see past our own noses!  And so God says, “I love you.  I’ll take care of you.  I can see farther than you can.  I know things you don’t know.  Just trust me – and be prepared for surprises sometimes!”  And yet Adam and Eve chose not to trust him – the devil convinced them that God’s wisdom was foolishness and that they could be smarter than God.  And we’ve been doing the same thing ever since. Think back to the Jews and even Jesus’ disciples.  For three years people followed him around.  They accepted him as the Messiah, but they couldn’t get past their pre-conceived ideas of the Messiah as an earthy conquering hero.  It didn’t make any sense to them when he allowed himself to be crucified.   Look at verses 20-21: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. Where is worldly wisdom getting us?  Has the scribe been able to save himself by his study of the Law and all the rabbinic commentaries. No.  Has the Greek philosopher managed to save himself with all his “wisdom”?  No.  Human “wisdom” isn’t going to get us anywhere.  And so God has stepped in with what looks like us to be foolishness and has brought salvation – just like he did for the Jews when they were surrounded by the Assyrians. He goes on in verse 23: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and  the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. How many people do you know who say that they’ll believe or trust God when they get some kind of a sign?  How many people do you know who reject the Gospel because it doesn’t square with human wisdom?  St. Paul says, “Humanity is so fallen, so unable to perceive the truth, so backwards thinking, that the gospel is a stumbling block to worldly wisdom.  People want a sign or they want “wisdom” that can’t see past its own nose, but you won’t find salvation in those things.  Salvation is found only in the message of the cross.”  Yes, it’s a message that doesn’t make any worldly sense.  Worldly wisdom would never tell you to put your faith in a dead messiahs.  What good is a messiah if he’s dead on a cross?  And yet for those whom God has called – for those in whom God has begun working by his Spirit to give understanding, well, they’ve been able to move beyond signs and worldly wisdom and by trusting in God have come to see his “foolishness” as the only real place to find life. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, 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 bring to nothing things that are. How does God work?  Paul points to the church at Corinth – and he could just as easily point to our church – and says, “Look at yourselves.  How many of you are big shots by the world’s standards?”  He’s sort of telling them, “Look, most of you are losers – at best just regular ‘Joe’s’ – by the standards of Corinth.  But look at what God has done through you!” It really shouldn’t be that hard to see.  God gave us a whole book of (real and historical) storied in the Old Testament that describe how he works – how over and over he has shown his people that his strength is found in our weakness.  He chose to build a nation out of one simple man.  His chosen people weren’t a great nation or empire, but a lowly group of oppressed slaves whom he redeemed with great signs and wonders.  God’s pattern over and over is to work with little people and losers.  Think of Gideon.  He raised an army of 32,000, but God had him pare it down to a mere 300 men to take into battle against the Midianites.  Even when he does use the mighty, he uses them only when they’ve learned that their usefulness to God isn’t the result of their worldly status, but is the result of his presence in their lives.  Jesus said at one point, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 AV). We need to keep this in mind as a church.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “We Christians often quote ‘not by might nor by power, but by my spirit saith the Lord,’ and yet in practice we seem to rely upon the mighty dollar and the power of the press and advertising.  We seem to think that our influence will depend on our technique and the program we can put forward and that it would be the numbers, the largeness, the bigness that would prove effective.  We seem to have forgotten that God has done most of his deeds in the church throughout its history through remnants.”  We need to remember that our mission is all about the cross.  It’s not about money or crowds or anything like that.  Worldly wisdom is not God’s wisdom. One of the great awakenings of the 19th Century began at Cambridge when D.L. Moody visited the university there.  There were plenty of students and professors who were upset at the idea of some backwoods hick from America coming to tell them anything about “divinity.”  He’d just butcher the King’s English. One group of students went just to jeer him off the platform.  And they were ready when he stepped to the front of the platform and said, “Young gentlemen, don’t ever think God don’t love you, for he do!”  That little group of students was dumbfounded.  A few minutes later Moody said those words again, “Young gentlemen, don’t ever think God don’t love you, for he do!”  Yes, he butchered the King’s English, but something in those words captured them and as they listened they began to see beyond the superficial outward things of the backwoods hick from America and heard the message of the cross.  The man who tells the story arranged to see Moody afterward and was led to the cross and to Christ. Moody was very much a modern St. Paul.  Over and over this is how we see God working and Paul tells us why in verse 29: …so  that no human being  might boast in the presence of God. Every one of us walks around this world like a giant bubble full of pride.  We won’t admit we’re sinners and if we do admit it, we won’t admit our sins are bad enough to condemn us.  But you see, so long as we’re full of our pride and the idea that we’re good, there’s no room for the Gospel – why does a good man need a Saviour?  But God’s a realist.  God knows our real condition even though we’re too bloated with pride to see it.  And so God consistently works in such a way that he bursts our bubble.  He rips away our pride, our prestige, and our illusions of self-sufficiency and he does it with those things that world considers weak and foolish – like he did with that young Cambridge student by speaking to him through the uneducated, backwoods, hick.  Like he did when he told King Hezekiah to stay in the city, when he told him not to do the worldly thing and run to Egypt for protection, and when he destroyed that giant army in one night without the king’s help. Real wisdom is the ability to recognise that though you may have little of what the world esteems, if you have Jesus and have learned to lean on him in every situation, you have real strength, real power.  The problem is that most Christians understand that in their heads, but don’t put it into action when the time comes – they act like anybody else, relying on worldly wisdom.  Think about Hezekiah again.  After God destroyed the Assyrian army, did he have any business strutting around boasting about what he had done?  No!  After what God had done for him, did he have any reason not to trust God and to go on following worldly wisdom?  No!  And yet that’s exactly what we often do.  We strut around as if God loves us because of something we’ve done.  We live our lives trusting in worldly wisdom, even though after what God has done for us, we ought to be leaning on him.  Dear friends, the whole purpose of Scripture is to teach us to walk in a different way, to live by a different power, and to do so in respect to everything we do.  The simplest tasks are done in the power of Jesus Christ.  Look at what St. Paul says in verses 30-31: He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” (RSV) God doesn’t burst our bubble and tear us down to leave us there.  He’s not sadistic.  He does it only so that we can see that he is the way to life and so that we’ll come to him, through the Lord Jesus, to find that life.  God has opened our eyes to his wisdom so that we will have the sense to come to Jesus Christ and receive the new life he offers.  Jesus Christ is the righteousness that we can never have on our own.  He is the source of our sanctification – the one who makes us holy – because it is as we are redeemed – grafted into him to find new life – that our lives are changed and begin to bear new fruit – the fruit of the Spirit. But that new life is for a purpose.  As the Westminster Confessions teaches, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  God bursts our bubble and drains our pride, but he doesn’t leave us deflated.  He fills us back up with that new life and he does it so that we can “boast” in him, as St. Paul puts it.  So that we can share that new life with others.  He wants us to give him glory before a watching world.  But you see, men and women who redeem themselves don’t go around boasting about what God has done for them. In conclusion, think back to Gideon again.  When he and his little band of 300 men routed the Midianite army there was no question in his mind but that God did it.  Do you think he went back to Israel boasting about what he had done?  No, he went back boasting about the amazing thing God had done – how God had saved his people in his own way, not in any way that human thinking would have thought of.  And that’s a picture of what God has done for us spiritually, and he’s done it so that we can give him the glory, not just as we give him our thanks and praise and loyal service, but that we will announce to the world the great thing he has done for us. Please pray with me: Almighty Father, strong to save, we ask that you would take away the pride that puffs us up and that drives us to trust in ourselves and in our wisdom.  Remind us that we were never created to trust in ourselves, but that we were created to trust in you.  Let us trust in you for our redemption, holding to the message of the cross, that we might leave behind the foolishness of the world’s wisdom and be witnesses of your greatness to all those around us.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Revealed by the Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 by William Klock Last week we looked at the second half of 1 Corinthians 1, where St. Paul reminded people about the centrality of the cross of Christ.  They were splitting up and turning into preacher groupies and Paul reminded them: it’s not about the preacher, it’s about he message – it’s about the Cross!  God’s wisdom isn’t the world’s wisdom – the two are diametrically opposed and yet the Corinthians were trying to combine the two.  The world’s wisdom says that if you want people to hear a message, you have to deliver it – preach it – eloquently.  And yet God sent Paul, with his bad eyes, his speech impediment, and all his other shortcoming to preach the “foolish” message of the cross.  Worldly wisdom would never send a feeble preacher and it would never preach the cross.  In the world’s thinking, dead messiahs don’t save, and yet that’s what God did.  He sent the Messiah to die.  God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world – to the person whose mind has not been renewed by the Holy Spirit.  And that’s St. Paul’s argument here in Chapter 2. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:1-2: And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. You see, Paul understood God’s way of doing things.  The Church today needs to hear these words.  I get stuff in the mail.  I read books.  And a lot of what has become “conventional wisdom” in the Church in the last few decades is all about basically how to sugar-coat the cross.  A lot of the current literature on preaching actually says, “Don’t talk about sin.  Don’t talk about the cross.  Because, you know, people don’t want to hear about that.  Tell people what they want to hear – what makes them feel good and feel good about themselves.  Tell them what God can do for them.  If you talk about sin and hell and the cross, it just turns people off.” And I want to say, ‘Um, hello???  What’s the most important thing God can do for them?  He can take away their sins, but first they have to put their trust in Jesus Christ, and to do that they have to know they need him!”  The Church panders to the world’s wisdom instead of preaching God’s wisdom. Yes, that message is going to be considered foolish to a lot of the people who hear it.  But convincing them otherwise isn’t our job.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  Whenever preachers start trying to do the persuading themselves, the message gets compromised, because they try to do it by introducing the world’s wisdom into the message.  They turn the cross into a symbol for self-help.  They turn the message that men and women are sinners in need of a Saviour into “You’re nice; God’s nice; so be nice.”  The saving power of the Gospel gets lost when we try to do the Spirit’s work ourselves. The fact is that the true and unadulterated message of the cross is an offence to men and women, because it reminds them that they aren’t as good as they think they are.  It deflates their pride.  It humbles them and reminds them that they aren’t God. It calls them to trust not in themselves, but in the real, one, and true God.  And for that reason the message of the cross will be rejected by many.  But that’s no reason for compromise, because no other message can save!  The job that God has given us is to share the message of the cross of Christ – full-strength, undiluted, and unadulterated by worldly wisdom and gimmicks.  His job is to soften hearts and minds and to bring the fruit of repentance and conversion.  And history shows us that every time Christians have confused those two roles – every time they’ve taken responsibility for moving men’s hearts to conversion – the message of the cross is lost.  Remember: be faithful in sharing the cross.  God will take care of the rest. St. Paul goes on: And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5) Are you ever scared to share the message of the cross?  You’re in good company!  The book of Acts tells us that St. Paul came to Corinth from Athens, and that he went alone to Athens after he was driven out of Thessalonika, Philippi, and Berea.  He had been driven out of those towns because of his message and when he got to Athens he tried to preach in the Areopagus – the marketplace where speakers stood to teach – but his message wasn’t received there either.  He had preached the cross of Christ, but the people wouldn’t hear it.  So imagine how he felt when he got to Corinth.  “Are they going to run me out too?” maybe he was asking.  He was probably feeling pretty ineffective.  It’s easy for a preacher to get discouraged that way.  And so he showed up at the synagogue in Corinth feeling weak, fearful, and was trembling the first time he got up to speak.  And yet the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision, Acts 18:9-10 tells us, and he said, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you.”  And so he preached the cross at Corinth. And pretty soon Paul’s preaching was bearing fruit, even though it was weak by worldly standards and proclaimed a message that the world thought was foolish.   The leaders of the synagogue were the first to believe and others followed and pretty soon there was a new Church in Corinth. These ought to be encouraging words to us.  How many of you here are afraid of God’s call to share your faith with others?  How many of you have actually shared the cross with someone who then rejected it?  How many of you are just plain scared to share it because you can’t share it eloquently or with persuasive arguments?  Maybe you know the questions will come and you can’t answer them all.  If you feel that way, you’re in good company, because in many ways that was St. Paul.  He was afraid and trembling, and yet he preached the cross anyway.  The key is to remember that the message is the cross of Christ.  That’s it.  Don’t get sidetracked with other things.  Don’t feel you need to appeal to worldly ideas to combat the objectives that come.  Share the message of the cross: that Jesus died to save sinners and rose to new life that those who trust in him might have that life too.  St. Paul says, “It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers or if you aren’t eloquent, remember the power isn’t you, the power is the Holy Spirit.  Your job is to share the message, the Spirit’s job is to move the heart and mind and to convince them of the truth of the message.” The end result in Corinth was a great manifestation of the Spirit’s power as men and women heard the message and made Christ their Lord and Saviour – as lives were changed one by one.  Remember  6:9-11?  Paul lists all those sins and says, “Such were some of you, but now you’ve been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus!”  And that was the second half of the message they shared: a changed life.  It’s how we live that communicates the Gospel just as much as what we say.  The message was spreading through Corinth as people saw their friends and family and neighbours changing in drastic ways.  If you will let God work in you, renewing your heart and mind, sanctifying you and leading you into holiness, the world will see it.  That’s as much a part of sharing the Gospel as preaching it with words. The problem in Corinth was that they weren’t getting all this.  They were redeemed people, full of the Spirit, but they were still hanging onto worldly wisdom because it was so much a part of their culture.  Look at 2:6-10 and consider how often we hang onto the worldly wisdom of our culture too. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. St. Paul’s argument up to this point has contrasted the world’s wisdom with God’s foolishness and at this point it’s clear now that God’s way of doing things isn’t really foolish, it only looks that way to the world.  Paul’s ready to turn the argument around now.  We really should be talking about God’s wisdom and the world’s foolishness.  But he had to make this clear because the Corinthians didn’t understand how foolish the world’s wisdom really is.  He’s saying, “You Corinthians have it all backwards.  You won’t listen to me, you question my authority as a teacher, because what I teach doesn’t square with your ideas of wisdom.  Let me ask you this: Does that wisdom you’re seeking after save the people who follow it?  How many kings and philosophers have followed that wisdom, but still died.  How many different schools of philosophy have come and gone over the generations?” Paul stresses that God’s wisdom is different from the world’s wisdom.  These people were Christians, but they were still following these old pagan ideas.  Consider that it was people who followed that worldly wisdom that had been so threatened by Jesus that they killed him.  And Paul’s saying, “That wisdom rejected Christ and killed him.  You call yourselves Christians and yet you’re still seeking after the world’s sin-clouded wisdom!  You can’t have both.  They’re polar opposistes!” Paul now says, “Yes, I’m the real preacher of wisdom, but it’s God’s wisdom, not the foolish wisdom of the world – and you guys should understand this, because you’re mature!”  That word, “mature”, is made clear in Chapter 3.  In the context, by “mature” Paul means “spiritual” or “spirit-filled” and in Paul’s teaching there are only two kinds of people in this world: the unredeemed, who don’t have the Holy Spirit and the redeemed, who are full of the Holy Spirit.  There’s nothing in between.  He saying, “You guys are full of the Spirit.  The Spirit has renewed your minds so that you can understand God’s wisdom, so why are you still so keen on the world’s foolish wisdom?  What gives, Corinthians?  You want wisdom?  That’s what I’ve been preaching all this time!  The world doesn’t understand it –in fact it so didn’t understand it that it crucified the Messiah – but God has revealed his truth to you by his Spirit.  So again, why are you still following after the world’s foolish wisdom folks?” God’s wisdom is revealed by his Spirit.  If you aren’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you’ll never know or understand his wisdom.  The cross is not something that we’ll ever know or understand by natural processes.  No philosopher who isn’t grounded in Scripture, no scientist who isn’t grounded in Scripture, no psychiatrist who isn’t grounded in Scripture, no historian who isn’t grounded in Scripture is ever going to know God’s wisdom.  As Paul says, no eye has seen it, no ear heard it, and no heart imagined it – his wisdom comes only as it’s revealed by the Spirit.  He goes on in verses 10-11: These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. That ought to make sense.  Who knows your own thoughts better than you?  Since the Holy Spirit is God, he knows God’s thoughts! If you want to know God’s thoughts, listen to his Spirit.  He speaks God’s knowledge in the written word and as he works in our hearts he gives us the understanding we need to apply that written word.  So Paul asks, “If you want to understand real wisdom, if you want to understand the things of God, who are you going to ask?  Are you going to ask the world’s philosophers and thinkers or are you going to let the Spirit give you understanding?”  Look at verses 12-13: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. Every one of us starts out under the influence of the world’s spirit.  We’re born sinners.  We’re born fallen.  Everything we do, say, or think is clouded by the sinful spirit of the world.  We can never understand God’s wisdom.  Consider all those people who read the Bible, but are never saved, who never obey, who misinterpret and misapply what God says there.  They’re reading it through worldly eyes and with a worldly mind.  But those whom God has called to himself, he has given his Spirit. Why?  He gives us his Spirit to regenerate our hearts and renew our minds so that we might freely understand the things he’s given us; that we might see the world around us with new eyes; that we might read his Word with understanding; that we might hear the message of the cross and receive it as wise instead of rejecting it as foolish. Consider the disciples.  Did they take Jesus’ message to heart when they heard it?  No.  They argued with him.  They even got mad at some of the things he said.  Right up to Pentecost they kept looking for a Messiah who would be an earthly king.  Consider all those Jews who had the Old Testament scriptures in front of them all the time. The scribes and Pharisees who held in their hands God’s Word, inspired by and spoken through men by the Spirit.  And yet they were the ones who rejected the Lord Jesus.  Consider again all those people in the world today who read and even study Scripture, but still reject Christ and who spend their time coming up with arguments meant to undermine Scripture because they don’t like what it says. And yet what happens when the Spirit enters them.  At Pentecost the Spirit came for the first time and the disciples suddenly understood what the mission and ministry of Jesus were all about.  Consider Saul of Tarsus, Pharisees of Pharisees, studied and versed in the Law and ardent persecutor of the Church.  And yet when the Spirit came and indwelt him he suddenly understood God’s Word and became the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Consider someone like C.S. Lewis: an atheist and harsh critic of Christianity who set out to prove the Bible false.  And yet the Spirit fell on him too and gave him understanding, compelling him to put his trust in the very Messiah he had spent his whole life considering to be a fool. Paul says continuing on at verse 14: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Take a natural fallen man whose heart has not been indwelt by the Spirit.  His trying to understand and discern God’s wisdom without the Spirit is like trying to pull radio waves out of the air without a radio.  In contrast Paul says: The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. Paul makes up his own Greek word when he says “spiritual” person.  He’s describing the person who is indwelt by – who’s full of – the Spirit.  That’s the difference between the non-Christian and the Christian.  In Romans 8:9 St. Paul tells us that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ living in him he is not of Christ, and yet he goes on to say that those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (8:14).  You can’t be a Christian and not be full of the Spirit.  In fact, it goes even further than that.  You can’t become a Christian without being indwelt by the Spirit.  It’s the Spirit that gives us the understanding of the Gospel in the first place. The natural man is blind.  He’s an enemy of God.  He has no ability to understand the things of God.  His concept of right and wrong is all mixed up. That’s how you get a Nero or a Hitler or a Stalin.  And yet, when the Spirit opens the eyes of the believer, St. Paul says that person is able to judge all things – his eyes are opened to right and wrong.  That’s the work of the Scriptures and the work of the Spirit in us.  And not just that, but Paul says we are judged by no one.  The Spirit changes our desires.  He gives us a desire to do that which is pleasing to God.  Why does a person change, often so dramatically, when they become a Christian?  Because the Spirit changes the desires of their heart. And St. Paul ends the passage saying, “We have the mind of Christ.”  As the Spirit works in us, both by his Word and by renewing our hearts and minds, he changes us so that we have the very way of thinking about life that Jesus himself has.  The real mark of the Christian is that he or she behaves like Jesus. That’s the fruit of the Spirit as he works within us.  We’ll live out his marks: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That’s St. Paul’s message to the Corinthians and it’s his message to us.  If you are in Christ Jesus, each and every one of you is full of the Holy Spirit.  And yet whom are you following?  Whose wisdom are you looking for or listening to?  Are you still living according to the wisdom of the world or are you living according to the wisdom of God?  If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you in all fullness and he’s given you the mind of Christ.  The question is: Are you letting the mind of Christ direct you? Dear friends, there’s nothing more radical than that: to act according to the mind of Christ.  If you want to make a difference for God, if you want to know what his will is for you: leave behind the foolish wisdom of the world and live according to the mind of Christ.  None of us is ever going to do it perfectly.  We’re all in the process of learning.  But make that learning your passion!  Pursue it with everything you have!  To the degree that we are learning to mould our lives according to the revelation of the wisdom of God – to mould our lives according to these mysteries of God that are revealed in the Scriptures – to that degree we’re letting loose in this world the mind of Christ.  Think about what a radical and powerful effect that has on the world in which we live.  This is the privilege and calling of the spiritual man or woman, who is able to live in the middle of the confusion of life today in such a way as to call others back to reality, away from the confusion and the illusion and the delusions and the fantasies that the world lives in, to the realities of life as it is in Christ.  That’s our calling.  And what a privilege it is! Please pray with me: Our Father, we’re amazed by the apostle’s declaration here that we who are open to the teaching of your Spirit posses the mind of Christ.  We thank you for teaching us your wisdom, but we also ask you to open our eyes that we might see the folly of the world’s ways – that you would turn us aside from everything contrary to the mind of Christ.  Turn us from the world’s lies about ourselves, our relationships, about what’s important in life, and about how we live our lives.  Father, teach us to be led in all these things by your Spirit, that we might release the awesome power of the mind of Christ into the world.  We ask this in his name.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians God's Fellow Workers 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 by William Klock Back in Chapter 1, St. Paul began by pointing out that the church of Corinth was in dire straits because of their divisions.  Some of them were devoted to Paul, some to Apollos, and so on.  And so Paul’s gone on to show them just how foolish their divisions are and that’s what we’ve been looking at for the past couple of weeks.  Yes, the Corinthians were Christians, but they weren’t really acting like it.  They were full of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time they were hanging on, tooth and nail, to the very world that the Spirit was calling them to leave behind.  They lived in a place where the study of Philosophy was really important, but it was a worldly philosophy that had no place with the teaching of the cross of Christ – and yet when teachers came, the Corinthians were judging them based on how their teaching and style squared with what the culture admired, not with the message Paul had taught them. So for the last chapter-and-a-half, St. Paul’s been trying to show them that what they consider wise, is really foolish – it’s the world’s wisdom, which means it’s wisdom men have put together in accord with their own sinful desires, thoughts, and passions.  God’s wisdom, on the other hand, the wisdom of the cross of Christ, is real wisdom and they ought to be able to see that.  That’s why God has given them his Spirit – to clear their vision so that they can see the world’s wisdom for the foolishness that it really is and so that they’ll see the cross of Christ as truly wise.  In Chapter 2 Paul told them, “You are “spiritual” people – you are people whom God has filled with his Spirit and because of that you have the mind of Christ!” And so now he brings the argument back to their divisions.  In 2:16 he just said that because they have the Spirit they have the mind of Christ.  And from there he goes on. Look at 3:1-4: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.   Ouch!  All along Paul’s been telling them that they are spirit-filled people, but now he says: “You might be full of the Spirit, but you’re not acting like it, and because of that I’m having to go back to the basics with you.  Instead of moving on from the basics of the Gospel, of the message of the cross, I’m having to go back to that message because you don’t seem to be getting it.  You’re not acting like Christians, so I’m having to address you as if you weren’t – as if you were still people of the world.  You have the mind of Christ, but you’re not living it! Paul had spent a year and a half with them, teaching the message of the cross.  They should have been maturing in their faith and becoming increasingly Christ-like.  By now Paul ought to be able to start teaching them some of the deeper things of the faith, but he can’t.  They don’t get it.  They’re still baby Christians.  It is okay to be a baby Christian – if you’re really a baby Christian.  But it’s not okay for a baby to be a baby when he’s five, ten, fifteen, twenty years old.  Every Christian needs to mature in their faith – and that’s what happens as we live out the reality of having the mind of Christ.  He goes on: I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? Hebrews 5 and 6 talks about this same problem of spiritual babyhood and describes this “milk” as “the elementary doctrines of Christ.”  The most basic of those doctrines is the Gospel message itself in terms of how you become a Christian.  Hebrews also includes teaching on baptism and laying on of hands, on the resurrection and on the final judgement as “milk.”  Those are the things we need to understand to become Christians. Meat, on the other hand, is teaching and preaching that unfolds the riches and glory of the gospel so that people grow up.  They stop being babies and start really living the new life they have in Christ.  St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:14, “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  How do you grow out of being carried away by human cunning and every wind of doctrine?  You nourish yourself with the meat of the Word. “Christ died for my sins.”  That’s milk.  “I died with Christ to sin.”  That’s meat!  That’s what frees us from the habits and attitudes and desires of the flesh that cling to us.  The knowledge of the gifts of the Spirit.  That’s milk.  The Corinthians were doing great there.  Paul said he was thankful that they were “not lacking in any spiritual gift.”  But miracles, healing, prophecy, tongues – all that stuff – that’s milk.  What they didn’t understand was how to live the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That’s meat.  Later in 1 Corinthians Paul goes on to talk about those gifts of the Spirit, but then he says: “I’ll show you a more excellent way: love.”  Becoming Christ-like.  That’s meat. Paul’s evidence against them is the jealousy and strife that are present at Corinth – the fact that they’re competing with each other, dividing up, and forming factions.  That’s the way the world works, but it’s not how the Church works.  Ministry isn’t about being top-dog.  It’s not about rivalry.  It’s not about jealousy.  It’s not about doing your work to be praised by others.  It’s not about being afraid that that person or that congregation over there is going to do more for the Kingdom.  The Church is about working together to fulfil the mission Christ has given us. Paul goes on in verses 5-9: What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.   I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. There are two important principles here that have to do with ministry and our life together as the Church as we use our gifts and live the fruit of the Spirit.  The first is servanthood.  The Corinthians were putting their favourite preachers on pedestals.  (I think we can say that we have the same problem two thousand years later.)  And so Paul asks: What am I?  What is Apollos?  Are we big-shots?  Are we better or more important than you?  And the answer is “No.”  We’re servants doing God’s work.  He sent us to come and preach to you.  It wasn’t our idea.  It wasn’t our message.  It was God’s idea, God’s message, and ultimately all God’s doing.  Remember Paul made a point earlier to say that he came with all his shortcomings to preach a message that was foolishness to the world.  The fact that anyone in Corinth believed the message ought to be a reminder that while we do the work – even if it’s St. Paul himself – that it’s God who brings it about in the first place and God who produces fruit in the end. He uses this analogy: He came and planted the seed and Apollos watered it.  Can Paul take credit for the fruit?  No.  Sure, he planted the seed, but if it hadn’t been watered, it wouldn’t have grown.  Can Apollos take credit?  No.  If Paul hadn’t planted the seed, there wouldn’t have been anything to water.  And so with the rest of us.  Some might have more high profile roles to play.  Some may have a very visible position and others might work behind the scenes.  One person might reap the harvest, and yet how many others have been sowing seed, watering, weeding, and tending the plants as they grow?  Every one of us has his or her place and together we’re all servants of God as long as we’re faithful in giving our talents and gifts over to his service. And really, there’s nothing more exciting or uplifting than that.  Consider the privilege of being a fellow worker with God.  Someday when we stand before our Lord, the greatest honour ever given us will have been that we have been bearer of his name and that we’ve been instruments of grace here on earth. At the end of verse 9 Paul switches analogies from growing crops to raising a building.  Think of all the people and different skill sets that go into construction.  Each one has his place and all of them are important if you want to pass your final inspection.  Look at verses 10 and 11: According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. What we build and how we do it is just as important as that we build.  God doesn’t call us and equip us to go out and do our own thing.  He’s calls and equips us to build his Church, and for that reason the foundation has to be Jesus Christ: his person, his life, his teachings, his resurrection, his ascension, his sending of the Holy Spirit, his second coming.  If you build on anything else, you’re not building the Church.  If you build on anything else, what you’re building is eventually going to fall apart. That’s why it’s so critically important that each of us be firmly grounded in Scripture.  The Bible is the only means we have of truly knowing Jesus Christ. God calls us to build and he’s given us the blueprints in Holy Scripture.  If you don’t know the plans, how are you going to build?  And yet there are a lot of Christians out there swinging their spiritual hammers, but who haven’t studied the blueprints.  How many builders start construction with no plans?  How many of them build and only take a look at the plans once or twice a week?  And yet that’s what we do when we fail to read, study, memorise, and meditate on God’s Word.  If we’re not doing that, we’re swinging our hammers in vain – if we’re swinging them at all.  Chances are, if we’re not in the Word, we’re probably just sitting around letting the tools God has given us rust.  The most critical thing we can do as Christians is to immerse ourselves in the blueprints – in the Scriptures.  We need to be spiritual sponges, soaking up the truths of the Word.  If we don’t, we’ll either shrivel up or we’ll soak up the closest thing around – and that’s the world’s foolishness. What are we building with?  Are we following God’s plans or the world’s?  It’s important, because Paul says, “Eventually there will be a final inspection.  Will you pass?” Look at verses 12-15: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Our divine building inspector is a little different than the earthly ones we have here, because on that last day, he’s going to set fire to the building to see if we were building for eternity or not.  And that’s the question.  First: Are you building on Christ as your foundation?  And second: Are you building for eternity. Are you building with gold, silver, and precious stones or are you building with things that are going to decay or burn up: wood, hay, and straw? The things that will last are the wisdom of God – the things he tells us in Scripture.  The things that will burn up are the wisdom of the world.  Paul’s saying, “You Corinthians are lacking in no spiritual gift – you have all the tools.  The question is: What are you doing with them?  Are you taking advantage of those gifts to build up yourself?  Or are you using those gifts as tools to build up the Church?  Are you using your gifts and talents to make a name for yourself?  Or are you using them to make a name for God and for his Kingdom? In Second Corinthians, Paul reminds them that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  In Revelation, St. John describes the Lord to whom we will have to answer: “His eyes are like flames of fire” (1:14).  Those flaming and searching eyes are going to examine our Christian lives, what they’ve been made of, what we’ve been building with.  Back in 2 Corinthians Paul says, “Then each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” – whether we’ve been building on God’s wisdom or the world’s wisdom.  If we’ve been building with God’s wisdom, it’s going to survive the judgement, but if it’s build on the world’s standards and ideas, it’s going to go up in smoke – that we wasted the precious time God gave us here on earth. Paul doesn’t say specifically what the reward is going to be, but he does hint at it in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 when he says, “Are you not our crown of rejoicing?”  I think the reward is that simple: joy.  Joy in having spent your life in a way that counts, doing God’s work.  I’ve said it before.  The Westminster Catechism sums it up best when it says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  That’s the reward: joy in God and in the knowledge that we serve him and give him glory.  That’s what the Christian life is all about. There’s a great reward in building for God, but Paul concludes with a warning.  Look at verses 16 and 17: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  We need to understand that we’re not just building any old thing.  We’re building the very temple of God.  It’s the place where his Spirit dwells and that temple is us – the Church – the collective people of God as the body of Christ.  And here his warning comes back to his first point about divisions and strife in the Church – in the Temple of God: If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. You can see Paul pointing his finger at the ring-leaders of the divisions in Corinth: You guys are supposed to be building God’s Temple, but instead you’re tearing it down.  The Greek word that the ESV translates as “destroy” is usually translated “corrupt.”  Either way it paints a vivid picture.  The Corinthians are supposed to be building a Temple for the Spirit, and yet there were those in the church who were instead pulling down the walls and others who were, to use Paul’s earlier imagery, corrupting the building by using wood, hay, and straw while others are building it with gold, silver, and precious stones.  Ultimately what they’re doing is corrupting the Temple and making it ineffective for its ministry. Think about that.  What is are our primary goals as a Church?  We’re here to glorify God by building each other up in the faith, encouraging each other, and to be a witness to the world of the power of Jesus Christ.  And yet if we’re divided, squabbling, and unrepentant in sin like the Corinthians were, how does that further our mission?  The bottom line is that it doesn’t.  In fact it works against our mission.  You can’t exhort one another while fighting with each other; and proclaiming the saving power of Christ to the world with our mouths while living in unrepentant sin and division amongst ourselves is hypocritical.  So St. Paul warns: Those of you who are destroying and corrupting the Church had better watch out, because you’re destroying the very temple of the Holy Spirit and God will destroy you. Paul concludes this section in verses 18-23.  He’s reminded us that as Christians we have the Spirit, that as people with the Spirit we have no business following the world’s “wisdom,” and that those who would continue to follow the world’s wisdom and corrupt the Church will themselves be destroyed.  Now he says: Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again,  “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. See how he turns the Corinthian problem on its head?  They were saying, “I’m of Paul” and “I’m of Apollos” and “I’m of Cephas.”  And Paul says no, folks, Paul and Apollos and Cephas are yours.  You don’t belong to them, they belong to you.  God is working through all three of us and yet each of your groups is limiting itself to one of us and because of that you’re not getting the whole picture, the whole message.  Paul, who planted, his whole ministry is yours.  Apollos, the waterer, his ministry is yours.  And Cephas (Peter), the rock, whatever is of value in his ministry – that’s yours too.  The fact is that the whole world is open to you.  Led by the Spirit of God you can go anywhere and God will give you things that money, that the world, can never buy.” Paul brings us back to the cross of Jesus Christ.  That’s what’s at the core, at the centre, of our life as Christians.  It’s through the cross that we come to belong to Christ and that means that every one of us who has come through the cross belongs to each other.  We are the Church.  Weare the Body of Christ.  And that we doesn’t just refer to those of us gathered here in this spot today, but to everyone else who has come through the cross and who has made Jesus their lord and saviour – past, present, and future, here and around the world.  We all belong to each other.  What does that mean?  Remember our purpose as the Church, as the Body of Christ, as the Temple of God’s Spirit?  We’re here to give glory to God by exhorting each other to maturity and by proclaiming the message of the cross to the world.  That means we each have work to do.  And it means that God has called us to do that work together, for a common purpose, using the gifts he’s given us, and building up the Kingdom, strong in the fruit of the Spirit – really living out the mind of Christ. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, you have gifted each and every one of uniquely.  We ask that you would move us by your Word and by your Spirit that we might know how to put those gifts to use and that we would do so, living out the fruit of your Spirit and showing the mind of Christ to our brothers and sisters and to the whole world.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians God's Fellow Workers 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 by William Klock Back in Chapter 1, St. Paul began by pointing out that the church of Corinth was in dire straits because of their divisions.  Some of them were devoted to Paul, some to Apollos, and so on.  And so Paul’s gone on to show them just how foolish their divisions are and that’s what we’ve been looking at for the past couple of weeks.  Yes, the Corinthians were Christians, but they weren’t really acting like it.  They were full of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time they were hanging on, tooth and nail, to the very world that the Spirit was calling them to leave behind.  They lived in a place where the study of Philosophy was really important, but it was a worldly philosophy that had no place with the teaching of the cross of Christ – and yet when teachers came, the Corinthians were judging them based on how their teaching and style squared with what the culture admired, not with the message Paul had taught them. So for the last chapter-and-a-half, St. Paul’s been trying to show them that what they consider wise, is really foolish – it’s the world’s wisdom, which means it’s wisdom men have put together in accord with their own sinful desires, thoughts, and passions.  God’s wisdom, on the other hand, the wisdom of the cross of Christ, is real wisdom and they ought to be able to see that.  That’s why God has given them his Spirit – to clear their vision so that they can see the world’s wisdom for the foolishness that it really is and so that they’ll see the cross of Christ as truly wise.  In Chapter 2 Paul told them, “You are “spiritual” people – you are people whom God has filled with his Spirit and because of that you have the mind of Christ!” And so now he brings the argument back to their divisions.  In 2:16 he just said that because they have the Spirit they have the mind of Christ.  And from there he goes on. Look at 3:1-4: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.   Ouch!  All along Paul’s been telling them that they are spirit-filled people, but now he says: “You might be full of the Spirit, but you’re not acting like it, and because of that I’m having to go back to the basics with you.  Instead of moving on from the basics of the Gospel, of the message of the cross, I’m having to go back to that message because you don’t seem to be getting it.  You’re not acting like Christians, so I’m having to address you as if you weren’t – as if you were still people of the world.  You have the mind of Christ, but you’re not living it! Paul had spent a year and a half with them, teaching the message of the cross.  They should have been maturing in their faith and becoming increasingly Christ-like.  By now Paul ought to be able to start teaching them some of the deeper things of the faith, but he can’t.  They don’t get it.  They’re still baby Christians.  It is okay to be a baby Christian – if you’re really a baby Christian.  But it’s not okay for a baby to be a baby when he’s five, ten, fifteen, twenty years old.  Every Christian needs to mature in their faith – and that’s what happens as we live out the reality of having the mind of Christ.  He goes on: I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? Hebrews 5 and 6 talks about this same problem of spiritual babyhood and describes this “milk” as “the elementary doctrines of Christ.”  The most basic of those doctrines is the Gospel message itself in terms of how you become a Christian.  Hebrews also includes teaching on baptism and laying on of hands, on the resurrection and on the final judgement as “milk.”  Those are the things we need to understand to become Christians. Meat, on the other hand, is teaching and preaching that unfolds the riches and glory of the gospel so that people grow up.  They stop being babies and start really living the new life they have in Christ.  St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:14, “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  How do you grow out of being carried away by human cunning and every wind of doctrine?  You nourish yourself with the meat of the Word. “Christ died for my sins.”  That’s milk.  “I died with Christ to sin.”  That’s meat!  That’s what frees us from the habits and attitudes and desires of the flesh that cling to us.  The knowledge of the gifts of the Spirit.  That’s milk.  The Corinthians were doing great there.  Paul said he was thankful that they were “not lacking in any spiritual gift.”  But miracles, healing, prophecy, tongues – all that stuff – that’s milk.  What they didn’t understand was how to live the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That’s meat.  Later in 1 Corinthians Paul goes on to talk about those gifts of the Spirit, but then he says: “I’ll show you a more excellent way: love.”  Becoming Christ-like.  That’s meat. Paul’s evidence against them is the jealousy and strife that are present at Corinth – the fact that they’re competing with each other, dividing up, and forming factions.  That’s the way the world works, but it’s not how the Church works.  Ministry isn’t about being top-dog.  It’s not about rivalry.  It’s not about jealousy.  It’s not about doing your work to be praised by others.  It’s not about being afraid that that person or that congregation over there is going to do more for the Kingdom.  The Church is about working together to fulfil the mission Christ has given us. Paul goes on in verses 5-9: What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.   I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. There are two important principles here that have to do with ministry and our life together as the Church as we use our gifts and live the fruit of the Spirit.  The first is servanthood.  The Corinthians were putting their favourite preachers on pedestals.  (I think we can say that we have the same problem two thousand years later.)  And so Paul asks: What am I?  What is Apollos?  Are we big-shots?  Are we better or more important than you?  And the answer is “No.”  We’re servants doing God’s work.  He sent us to come and preach to you.  It wasn’t our idea.  It wasn’t our message.  It was God’s idea, God’s message, and ultimately all God’s doing.  Remember Paul made a point earlier to say that he came with all his shortcomings to preach a message that was foolishness to the world.  The fact that anyone in Corinth believed the message ought to be a reminder that while we do the work – even if it’s St. Paul himself – that it’s God who brings it about in the first place and God who produces fruit in the end. He uses this analogy: He came and planted the seed and Apollos watered it.  Can Paul take credit for the fruit?  No.  Sure, he planted the seed, but if it hadn’t been watered, it wouldn’t have grown.  Can Apollos take credit?  No.  If Paul hadn’t planted the seed, there wouldn’t have been anything to water.  And so with the rest of us.  Some might have more high profile roles to play.  Some may have a very visible position and others might work behind the scenes.  One person might reap the harvest, and yet how many others have been sowing seed, watering, weeding, and tending the plants as they grow?  Every one of us has his or her place and together we’re all servants of God as long as we’re faithful in giving our talents and gifts over to his service. And really, there’s nothing more exciting or uplifting than that.  Consider the privilege of being a fellow worker with God.  Someday when we stand before our Lord, the greatest honour ever given us will have been that we have been bearer of his name and that we’ve been instruments of grace here on earth. At the end of verse 9 Paul switches analogies from growing crops to raising a building.  Think of all the people and different skill sets that go into construction.  Each one has his place and all of them are important if you want to pass your final inspection.  Look at verses 10 and 11: According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. What we build and how we do it is just as important as that we build.  God doesn’t call us and equip us to go out and do our own thing.  He’s calls and equips us to build his Church, and for that reason the foundation has to be Jesus Christ: his person, his life, his teachings, his resurrection, his ascension, his sending of the Holy Spirit, his second coming.  If you build on anything else, you’re not building the Church.  If you build on anything else, what you’re building is eventually going to fall apart. That’s why it’s so critically important that each of us be firmly grounded in Scripture.  The Bible is the only means we have of truly knowing Jesus Christ. God calls us to build and he’s given us the blueprints in Holy Scripture.  If you don’t know the plans, how are you going to build?  And yet there are a lot of Christians out there swinging their spiritual hammers, but who haven’t studied the blueprints.  How many builders start construction with no plans?  How many of them build and only take a look at the plans once or twice a week?  And yet that’s what we do when we fail to read, study, memorise, and meditate on God’s Word.  If we’re not doing that, we’re swinging our hammers in vain – if we’re swinging them at all.  Chances are, if we’re not in the Word, we’re probably just sitting around letting the tools God has given us rust.  The most critical thing we can do as Christians is to immerse ourselves in the blueprints – in the Scriptures.  We need to be spiritual sponges, soaking up the truths of the Word.  If we don’t, we’ll either shrivel up or we’ll soak up the closest thing around – and that’s the world’s foolishness. What are we building with?  Are we following God’s plans or the world’s?  It’s important, because Paul says, “Eventually there will be a final inspection.  Will you pass?” Look at verses 12-15: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Our divine building inspector is a little different than the earthly ones we have here, because on that last day, he’s going to set fire to the building to see if we were building for eternity or not.  And that’s the question.  First: Are you building on Christ as your foundation?  And second: Are you building for eternity. Are you building with gold, silver, and precious stones or are you building with things that are going to decay or burn up: wood, hay, and straw? The things that will last are the wisdom of God – the things he tells us in Scripture.  The things that will burn up are the wisdom of the world.  Paul’s saying, “You Corinthians are lacking in no spiritual gift – you have all the tools.  The question is: What are you doing with them?  Are you taking advantage of those gifts to build up yourself?  Or are you using those gifts as tools to build up the Church?  Are you using your gifts and talents to make a name for yourself?  Or are you using them to make a name for God and for his Kingdom? In Second Corinthians, Paul reminds them that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  In Revelation, St. John describes the Lord to whom we will have to answer: “His eyes are like flames of fire” (1:14).  Those flaming and searching eyes are going to examine our Christian lives, what they’ve been made of, what we’ve been building with.  Back in 2 Corinthians Paul says, “Then each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” – whether we’ve been building on God’s wisdom or the world’s wisdom.  If we’ve been building with God’s wisdom, it’s going to survive the judgement, but if it’s build on the world’s standards and ideas, it’s going to go up in smoke – that we wasted the precious time God gave us here on earth. Paul doesn’t say specifically what the reward is going to be, but he does hint at it in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 when he says, “Are you not our crown of rejoicing?”  I think the reward is that simple: joy.  Joy in having spent your life in a way that counts, doing God’s work.  I’ve said it before.  The Westminster Catechism sums it up best when it says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  That’s the reward: joy in God and in the knowledge that we serve him and give him glory.  That’s what the Christian life is all about. There’s a great reward in building for God, but Paul concludes with a warning.  Look at verses 16 and 17: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  We need to understand that we’re not just building any old thing.  We’re building the very temple of God.  It’s the place where his Spirit dwells and that temple is us – the Church – the collective people of God as the body of Christ.  And here his warning comes back to his first point about divisions and strife in the Church – in the Temple of God: If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. You can see Paul pointing his finger at the ring-leaders of the divisions in Corinth: You guys are supposed to be building God’s Temple, but instead you’re tearing it down.  The Greek word that the ESV translates as “destroy” is usually translated “corrupt.”  Either way it paints a vivid picture.  The Corinthians are supposed to be building a Temple for the Spirit, and yet there were those in the church who were instead pulling down the walls and others who were, to use Paul’s earlier imagery, corrupting the building by using wood, hay, and straw while others are building it with gold, silver, and precious stones.  Ultimately what they’re doing is corrupting the Temple and making it ineffective for its ministry. Think about that.  What is are our primary goals as a Church?  We’re here to glorify God by building each other up in the faith, encouraging each other, and to be a witness to the world of the power of Jesus Christ.  And yet if we’re divided, squabbling, and unrepentant in sin like the Corinthians were, how does that further our mission?  The bottom line is that it doesn’t.  In fact it works against our mission.  You can’t exhort one another while fighting with each other; and proclaiming the saving power of Christ to the world with our mouths while living in unrepentant sin and division amongst ourselves is hypocritical.  So St. Paul warns: Those of you who are destroying and corrupting the Church had better watch out, because you’re destroying the very temple of the Holy Spirit and God will destroy you. Paul concludes this section in verses 18-23.  He’s reminded us that as Christians we have the Spirit, that as people with the Spirit we have no business following the world’s “wisdom,” and that those who would continue to follow the world’s wisdom and corrupt the Church will themselves be destroyed.  Now he says: Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again,  “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. See how he turns the Corinthian problem on its head?  They were saying, “I’m of Paul” and “I’m of Apollos” and “I’m of Cephas.”  And Paul says no, folks, Paul and Apollos and Cephas are yours.  You don’t belong to them, they belong to you.  God is working through all three of us and yet each of your groups is limiting itself to one of us and because of that you’re not getting the whole picture, the whole message.  Paul, who planted, his whole ministry is yours.  Apollos, the waterer, his ministry is yours.  And Cephas (Peter), the rock, whatever is of value in his ministry – that’s yours too.  The fact is that the whole world is open to you.  Led by the Spirit of God you can go anywhere and God will give you things that money, that the world, can never buy.” Paul brings us back to the cross of Jesus Christ.  That’s what’s at the core, at the centre, of our life as Christians.  It’s through the cross that we come to belong to Christ and that means that every one of us who has come through the cross belongs to each other.  We are the Church.  Weare the Body of Christ.  And that we doesn’t just refer to those of us gathered here in this spot today, but to everyone else who has come through the cross and who has made Jesus their lord and saviour – past, present, and future, here and around the world.  We all belong to each other.  What does that mean?  Remember our purpose as the Church, as the Body of Christ, as the Temple of God’s Spirit?  We’re here to give glory to God by exhorting each other to maturity and by proclaiming the message of the cross to the world.  That means we each have work to do.  And it means that God has called us to do that work together, for a common purpose, using the gifts he’s given us, and building up the Kingdom, strong in the fruit of the Spirit – really living out the mind of Christ. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, you have gifted each and every one of uniquely.  We ask that you would move us by your Word and by your Spirit that we might know how to put those gifts to use and that we would do so, living out the fruit of your Spirit and showing the mind of Christ to our brothers and sisters and to the whole world.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Servants and Stewards of the Cross 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 by William Klock I want to look at the fourth chapter of First Corinthians this morning, but before we get into that, remember that in the first three chapters St. Paul has been addressing the problems of divisions and factions in the Corinthian church.  Paul went right to the root of the problem: they were looking to the ways of the world when it came to evaluating ministers.  They were doing the ancient equivalent of judging a minister based on the size of his church, or his eloquence as a speaker, or the quality of his suit – and then becoming groupies of one preacher to the exclusion of all the others.  And so we’ve seen how St. Paul has told them: It’s not about the person or the delivery, it’s about the message.  And the message is always the cross.  And then in chapter three we saw how he told them how we’re all in ministry together.  Each of us has our role to play.  He had gone to Corinth to plant seeds.  Apollos has  gone there to water those seeds.  But in the end, it was God who coordinated the planting and the watering and who ultimately gave the growth.  And because of that, they –and that means us too – have no business saying that we want only this person or that person to the exclusion of the others.  If the message they preach is the message of the cross, then they’re in it together with us – in fact, they belong to us just as we belong to each other.  To reject them as the Corinthians had rejected Paul is to reject a gift that God has given his body. In Chapter 4 St. Paul goes on to deal specifically with their criticism and rejection of him, but what he says applies to every body of believers and every minister of the Gospel. Look at verses 1-2: This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. Paul uses some words here that especially pack this passage with a lot of meaning.  How are God’s people to regard a minister?  First, Paul says, as a servant of Christ.  The Greek word he uses for servant is huperetas and the first time we can find of its use is in Homer’s Illiad.  It literally means “under-rowers” – not slaves, but warriors who are also responsible for rowing the Greek war galleys to get themselves to the battle.  Think of the story of the Greek armies setting sail for Troy in their warships: the captain was up on deck and he would call out his commands and then a big burly guy down with the rowers would call out those instructions to the rowers and beat his drum: boom…boom…boom…boom…battle speed.  And then he’d speed up: ramming speed.  You guys have seen that in the movies.  Under-rowers.  Later this term that we translate as “servant” was used to describe Hermes, the messenger of the gods, who would fly off with his winged sandals to carry their messages to mortals on earth.  Eventually it came to refer to anyone, but especially those in the army, who were responsible for seeing that the orders of the commanding officers were carried out.  And interestingly, it also referred to the officers in the army who were responsible for equipping the troops for battle.  St. Luke tells us in Acts that when Paul and Barnabas went on their first missionary journey, they took John Mark with them as their “servant” – as their huperetas – the guy who made their travel arrangements, looked after their baggage, ran their errands, and basically did what they told him to do. The Corinthians had the wrong understanding of who and what a minister is.  They’re not big-shots, they’re not generals, they’re not CEO’s, they don’t have the last word.  They serve under the leadership of Christ and answer to him, just like those warriors in the ship were under the leadership of the captain. I think we really do understand this, but we forget it. It seems that more often than not that church vestries and boards tend to view their ministers as their servants and not as Christ’sservant.  Yes, just as we’re all ministers to each other in the Body of Christ, the minister is the servant of his parish, but when it comes to his role as preacher and teacher, he is first and foremost a servant of Christ.  When it comes to the message, he’s answerable to Christ, not to the vestry or the board.  St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (1:10). When I was in seminary a lot of the other guys were already in ministry and I learned a lot listening to them talk about the things they dealt with.  One of my classmates once asked our professor for advice.  He said that his church board called him for a meeting and told him, “We want you to understand:  This is our Church, not yours.  We were here before you and we’ll be here after you.  We want you to do what we want you to do, not what you think you should do.”  Our professor told him, that he needed to call a meeting of his own to remind them that it wasn’t “their” church – that it’s Jesus’ church and that Jesus gives the marching orders.  We live in a democracy and so we’re prone to forgetting that the church is not a democracy.  Every member of the church is under Christ’s authority.  Second, he told this man: “You need to remind them that even though they’ve hired you and are paying you a salary, you haven’t come to ‘work for ‘their’ church’ – you’ve come to share in the ministry of the church with the rest of the members.” Well, he did what our professor advised and got fired.  The good news is that another church heard about it and sought him out and hired him, knowing that he was going to be faithful to the things of God and not the desires of men. Now Paul also uses the word “steward”.  A steward was someone, usually in a large household, who was put in charge of the master’s affairs and possessions when he was away.  And so not only are ministers servants of Christ, but they’re also stewards of the mysteries of God.  The mysteries of God are the truths he’s given us in Scripture and the duty of the minister is to guard those truths and to dispense them to Christ’s people so that they can learn to live out the new life they have in the Saviour. In verse two Paul stresses: The most important thing a minister can be is trustworthy – that he be a faithful to his master — to Christ — and that he take good charge in guarding and dispensing the mysteries of God.  The Corinthians didn’t get this.  Most of them had reject Paul as a minister of the Gospel because he didn’t live up to a variety of standards.  They were looking for the big church or the eloquent preaching or the expensive suit.  And so Paul’s saying that what they really need to be looking for is faithfulness to Christ and the message of the cross.  That’s number one!  Eloquence as a preacher, a big church, a fancy suit – that’s gravy on top, but it’s not our focus.  We need to ask: “Is this minister faithful to his master,  to Christ, or is he wanting to please men?” and “Is he dispensing the message of the cross, or is he preaching something else or watering down the message?” And so because Paul knows who his master is – to whom he ultimately answers, he goes on in verse 3: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.   For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive his commendation from God. My guess is that the Corinthians probably didn’t like hearing those words, because that’s exactly what they were doing: judging Paul – and not just that, but judging him be all the wrong standards.  So Paul tells them: “Your judgement doesn’t matter to me.  Really, it only matters in the sense that I’m saddened that you’re so confused.  Ultimately,” he says, “I’m not answerable to you.”  And he adds, “or by any human court” as the ESV says.  Literally the Greek says “by man’s day.”  It’s a direct contrast with what he says in verse 5: that his judgement will come from the Lord when he comes back to judge all men and women.  That’s what we do when we judge: we put ourselves in God’s place and condemn someone as if it were Judgement Day.  What God does call us to do is to know his standards and offer correction to our brothers and sisters out of love so that they won’t stand condemned on Judgement Day. Paul even says that he doesn’t judge himself.  That’s kind of a weird one, because he tells us in a lot of other places that we do need to examine ourselves.  But his point is judgement.  He’s not saying that he doesn’t examine and evaluate himself to make sure he’s being a faithful servant and steward.  He’s done that with the Spirit’s help and he says, “At this point in time I’m not aware of any shortcoming in my ministry – any places where I’m failing in my stewardship.”  He knows he’s not acquitted by that, but his point is that the only judgement that counts for a minister is God’s judgement on the last day. Paul’s biggest problem was the judgement and pressure of the congregation and I think that’s where we have to be the most careful.  When we judge a minister, we first need to ask if we’re judging based on the criteria Paul gives here.  Just last month I was confronted by someone, because they didn’t like what I was preaching.  I was told that what I was preaching was all wrong;  that I shouldn’t talk about sin and that I just needed to preach about the love of God and how he wants to befriend us.  This person judged that I must be doing something wrong because this church isn’t as big as a few others they named.  That’s exactly what Paul was dealing with in Corinth.  They were judging him based on the world’s standards.  They wanted a message like the pagan teachers were teaching – a message that made people feel good about themselves –  and Paul says,  “No.  The wisdom of the world is foolishness.  I preach the cross – that’s what I’ve been entrusted with.  Preaching about the love and mercy of God is pointless if you don’t first preach the cross and why we need it.” You can’t judge a minister by the size of his church.  In fact, if anything in our culture, a big church might even make you suspicious.  In this case the churches named are big, precisely because what is being preached is worldly wisdom and not the cross – and it’s really easy to attract big crowds when you stroke their egos and promise them health and wealth. The problem is that ministers who do that are failing at the most important part of their calling.  They’re not being faithful servants of Christ and stewards of the message of the cross. That is something you can judge a minister on.  Let me make one things clear: we do have a duty to hold our ministers accountable.  But the reason why Paul wasn’t concerned with the Corinthian’s judgement of him was because they were judging by the wrong standard.  When we know the right standard, then we should evaluate our ministers.  A minister who is failing as a servant and steward of the gospel needs to have it brought to his attention.  And if a minister refuses to be true to that calling, that’s when it’s time to either fire him or to find another church. The good news is that if we understand all of this, we won’t have the kind of rivalries they had in Corinth.  Look at verses 6-7: I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.  For who sees anything different in you?  What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? I spent a year in a church where there was a rivalry between two of the ministers.  The supporters of each were very much “puffed up” in favour of one against the other.  It not only destroyed the ministry of the church, but it damaged the ministry of the two ministers, who were both feeding on the adulation from each of their camps.  Eventually it meant that the senior of the two was forced out, but that didn’t fix the problem.  The guy who was left, because he was so full of himself, was unable to minister to those who had supported the other minister and the people themselves remained split down the middle.  It was an ugly thing. Paul says the way to avoid that problem is to remember that we have nothing to boast of except Christ himself.  If you have a gift to use in the Church, you need to remember that that gift came from God, not from you – and that goes for the preacher as much as it does for any of the laymen.  Does it make any sense for the servant or the steward to boast about the things in his charge?  Of course not, because those things aren’t his own – they belong to his master! You see, the Corinthians were puffed up because they had forgotten that their gifts, their ministry, and even their redemption were all ultimately from God and not of their own making.  Look at verse 8.  St. Paul strikes right at the pride they had in their accomplishments: Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!  They’re puffed up and think that they’ve arrived at their spiritual destination when in reality, as Paul said in Chapter 3, they’re spiritual babies who have never grown up.  They’re full of pride thinking they’ve made themselves and that they’re responsible for all the great things that have happened in their church.  In contrast Paul says about himself: For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.   We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  [He’s being kind of sarcastic just to make the point that their pride in themselves is misplaced and that what they scorn in him is exactly what they should aspire to themselves.] To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed andbuffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat.  We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. He’s basically telling them what he’ll write later in 2 Corinthians: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  God shows his strength by working through our weakness.  They criticised Paul like he was some kind of loser, but it was precisely his “loser” status that allowed him to be an instrument for God’s glory.  He had nothing to lose, and so he became a servant of Christ and a steward of the cross.  And yet the Corinthians couldn’t see past the outward appearance.  They judged him based on his humble appearance and attitude instead of judging him based on his faithfulness to the Gospel.  He gets pretty sarcastic to make his point, but then he goes on in verse 14: I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  [Paul reminds them: I’m not trying to be jerk.  But you need to be admonished because you’re way off track.] For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  [Paul had a special charge in the Corinthians.  He had planted the seeds.  In a sense he was like their father and he had special concern for them.  And as their spiritual father, he wanted to do anything he could to help them to mature.  That’s why when they strayed from his teaching, he sent this letter.  And that’s why he sent Timothy to them when he couldn’t be there himself.  He goes on:] I urge you, then, be imitators of me.  That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.  [Finally, Paul leaves them (and us) with a choice.  Are we going to submit to the message of the cross or not?] Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.  But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.  For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.  What do you wish?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? Paul switches gears suddenly.  You see, this isn’t about him.  As a fellow minister I can guess that this was probably not the easiest thing for Paul to write.  This is something that could easily be mistaken as some self-serving writing on Paul’s part.  And so here he’s basically saying, “This isn’t about me.  It’s no skin off my nose if you reject my authority as an apostle.  I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m being a faithful minister and steward of Christ.”  And that’s where a less faithful minister might shake the dust off his feet and walk away.  But not Paul – and not any other minister worth his salt.  He’s writing this for the benefit of the congregation.  It’s no skin off his nose if they reject him, but it is skin off their noses even though they don’t realise it. If they reject Paul, they reject the Gospel with him – or at the very least they reject the full message and ministry of God and they kiss off any chance of real maturity.  And so like a father with a rebellious child, Paul goes back for more – ready to take the abuse that might come – because he loves these people like his children.  He’s going to try to correct gently, but if that doesn’t work, he says, he just might have to come and give them some “tough love.”  We might not realise it, but there are both those sides to ministry: the gentle and the tough. It’s scary to think what the Corinthians might have done to Paul if this were happening today.  They didn’t like his style and his message.  Today that could easily mean cutting off his support – firing him.  Telling him not to come around anymore.  Maybe it might mean starting a new church that would exclude him or they might reject him and go running to Apollos or Peter, asking them to be their apostle – because they liked their message and delivery better. Friends, that’s our problem today.  We’ve democratised the Church.  We’ve rejected her authority and with that the authority of Scripture.  We say we believe that Scripture is without error, and that’s great; we should affirm that.  But what does it matter if we reject Scripture when we hear it?  If we decided to approach it like a buffet: a little grace, two helping of love, three spiritual gifts, but no sin and no dead Messiahs please? What’s the point? We’ve reached a place where, just as the Corinthians did with Paul, we often judge the Church and her ministers based on criteria other than the ones Paul lays out here.  We hear something we don’t like so we get mad, we berate the messenger, or we leave for some other church with a message we like better.  And it’s scary that we can do that.  The fact that we can, speaks volumes to the sad state of the modern church: that someone who doesn’t like hearing about sin can go somewhere where they don’t have to hear about it.  It means that there are churches and preachers that aren’t preaching the Gospel and that are offering a Scripture-buffet. And so we need to ask when we evaluate ministry (and really this is something that applies to everything we do in the church and to each and every one of us as ministers of the gospel in some way): are we faithful in being servants of Christ, or are we serving someone or something else?  Who are we trying to please?  Are we trying to please people, or are we trying to please Jesus.  And second, are we being faithful stewards of the message of the cross?  Are we proclaiming the cross?  Does our message humble the sinner, exalt the Saviour, and promote holiness?  Or are we watering it down into some kind of pop psychology or self-help seminar? Friends, do you want power?  Do you want to bear fruit?  St. Paul says, the power of God is in those churches and ministers and ministries that are faithful servants and stewards of Christ and his cross.  That’s what’s going to bear fruit.  That’s what God will bless.  Anything else is a spiritual dead end. Please pray with me:  Heavenly Father, thank you for calling us to be your fellow workers for the Gospel.  We ask that as we grow in maturity of faith and in the knowledge of your Word, that your Spirit dwelling in us will encourage us to be both zealous to proclaim the cross of Christ and to be discerning of those who minister in the Church, that we might judge rightly both our own ministry and the ministry of others.  We ask this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians The Joy of Being Different 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 by William Klock When we started this series on 1 Corinthians, one of the things I stressed was that throughout the letter St. Paul’s focus is on the cross of Christ.  The problem in Corinth was that the people in the church there had taken their eyes off the cross and the result was a blurring of the lines that are supposed to separate the world and the Church and between the unbeliever and the believer.  Regardless of what other repercussions might come from losing sight of the cross, the most important was that the Church failed to be what it was supposed to be.  The people lost their joy in Christ and when they lost that they lost their witness to the world.  It started with them abandoning the Gospel they had been taught by Paul and instead favouring teachers whose style, and possibly even teaching, fit better with the worldly Greek philosophy that was so popular in their culture. And of course that problem never went away.  Preachers that sound more like Oprah and Dr. Phil often draw a bigger crowd than those who actually preach the cross of Christ.  But the problem went further.  I want to look at Chapter 5 this morning.  The Greco-Roman culture of Corinth was infiltrating the church in other ways too.  Look at verse 1: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. Sexual immorality was a place where the early Christians, just like Christians today, had some real struggles.  Sex was everywhere in the Greco-Roman world.  Consider that most of the ancient pagan religions started out as the worship of fertility gods and goddesses, and even as those religions became more sophisticated, sex was still a big part of them.  Corinth was a major centre of the worship of Aphrodite and the temple there is said to have had a thousand priestesses who were also prostitutes.  Sexually explicit imagery was used to decorate everything from dining room walls to mile-markers on the highways.  The idea of marital fidelity was laughable in most of the Greco-Roman culture too.  People were being called out of that culture as they came to Christ, but they often struggled to leave behind their sinful cultural baggage.  As unbelievers we work hard at developing our sinful habits and they aren’t always easy to break when we come to the cross. And yet as bad as the Greco-Roman norm was, the problem in the Corinthian church went beyond even that.  One of the men in the church was in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother – something that even the unbelieving Corinthians knew was wrong!  We can tell that it wasn’t just the church turning a blind eye on this guy’s sin – the congregation was actually proud of his being there. Paul goes on in verse 2: And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. We can’t tell from the text what their justification was for tolerating this man’s sin, but we do know that where other Churches, like those in Galatia, struggled with legalism, the Corinthians had the opposite problem and that’s probably what was going on here.  They were abusing their freedom in Christ to the point that anything and everything was okay.  It’s possible they just decided to accept this sin as okay.  Or maybe they took the position that transitioning from the world into the Church is a hard thing for a new convert and they were just hoping that eventually the Spirit would convict this guy and get him straightened out.  But in the end it doesn’t really matter why.  Paul condemns them because their response to sin is the opposite of what it should be.  They were proud that they were tolerating it and when, Paul says, they actually should have been mourning it.  Sin is never something to be proud of.  It’s something we mourn in ourselves and it’s something that the Church grieves over when it’s found in our brothers and sisters.  Paul says, “Don’t tolerate this kind of sin.  Not even the pagans tolerate it!  You need to remove this guy!”  He goes on in verse 3: For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Paul gives his apostolic judgement: “deliver this man to Satan.”  Throw him out. Why? The first reason he gives is for the benefit of the man himself.  If we tolerate the gross sin of a brother or sister, we’re not doing them any favours – in fact we may be giving them false assurance of salvation.  Jesus stressed over and over that if we are truly grafted into him by the Spirit, we will show new life.  He’s the vine.  We’re dead wood.  But when the Spirit unites us to Christ we’re brought to life.  We change.  And the evidence is that we become like the vine – like Christ – and we bear the fruit of the Spirit.  And a part of that fruit is repentance.  It doesn’t mean we become perfectly sinless, but it does mean that we develop a desire to please God and that we mourn our sins and the sins of others. And so when we see a brother or sister who isn’t bearing fruit – and especially when they’re bearing rotten fruit like this guy sleeping with his step-mother and being totally unrepentant – basically when we see someone who claims to be a Christian showing by his actions that that he’s not a Christian – the most loving thing we can do for him is to remove him from the Church and return him to the world.  Again, why?  I know it may not fit with the thinking of modern Evangelicalism, but it really is about evangelism – it’s about our mission as the Church to make new disciples.  Paul says, remove him “that his spirit may be saved.”  It’s meant to serve as a wake-up call.  If he really is a Christian, being removed from Christian fellowship ought to be the thing that prompts him to get his life in order – and when he does that and shows repentance, he’s welcome to return to fellowship.  But it may well be that he’s not a Christian.  Scripture teaches us over and over that if you’re truly a Christian you’ll show it.  If someone isn’t showing it, we need to realise that it’s a very real possibility that it’s because the person isn’t a Christian.  Maybe they never truly understood the Gospel.  Maybe they think that because they’ve been baptised or have been in church all their lives, that that makes them a Christian.  Someone like that needs to be taken back to square one so that he can be evangelised and come to a point of really understanding the Gospel and giving his life to Christ.  But to do nothing – to allow him to continue in Christian fellowship and to continue to come to the Lord’s Table to receive Communion, is to give him a false assurance.  It’s like being the prophets who said to Israel, “Peace, peace,” when in reality they were not at peace with God.  Again, itt’s giving a person false assurance, and that’s dangerous and spiritually deadly.  So first, this kind of excommunication is for the benefit of the individual – that they might die to the flesh (because they obviously haven’t done that yet) and be pointed back to Christ by the Church. But Paul’s main focus here is on the second reason for excommunication.  The individual needs the wake-up call, but first and foremost it’s for the purity and witness of the Church.  Look at verses 6-8: Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Paul takes these people back to the Jewish Passover Feast.  That was the once-yearly remembrance of God’s having delivered his people out of their bondage in Egypt.  They were told to sacrifice and eat a lamb, and then to paint its blood on the doorframe of their house as a sign to the angel of death to “pass over.”  They were also told to eat unleavened bread – in fact leaven was specifically forbidden, so it became the tradition to purge the house of any kind of leaven as part of the preparation for Passover. You see, in the Old Testament (and it carries over into the New) leaven always represents evil.  And it makes sense from an ancient perspective.  You couldn’t go to the store and buy yeast like you can today.  For that reason unleavened bread was popular.  But when you did make leavened bread, you’d have to save a lump of dough.  The next time you made bread, you’d knead that left-over lump into the new batch, again saving a piece that you’d knead into another and another and another.  But if you went too long, that leaven became a health risk, because you were basically using rotten dough as leavening and the longer you passed along that little piece, the more rotten it became. Sin does the same thing in the Body of Christ if we don’t deal with it.  Instead of using Paul’s talk about leaven, we’d say, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”  Either way it’s a reality.  When we are united with Jesus Christ he gives us new life.  As I said, the Spirit takes dead wood, grafts it into Christ, and brings it to life.  Through Christ the “malice and evil” that characterise the unbeliever are purged from us and replaced with “sincerity and truth.”  It’s like the Passover.  The leaven of sin is purged by the sacrifice of Jesus.  He makes us a fresh lump of dough, to use Paul’s analogy.  The problem is that as we continue to struggle with sin, its leaven keeps getting into the dough.  Life in Christ is an ongoing thing and we need to continue to rely on his cleansing power. But it goes beyond the individual level; the same principle carries over to the Church.  We’ve come together precisely because we’ve each been purified by Christ and given new life.  But sin comes in and adds that bad leaven.  If it’s allowed to grow unchecked, it eventually destroys the whole loaf. Unchecked sin in the body undermines who we are.  Remember I started this series reading from Chapter 6.  Paul listed a bunch of sins and then he said, “And such were some of you. Butyou were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  A changed life is our number one witness to the world of just what it is that God does for us through Jesus Christ.  But what happens to that witness if we keep living as idolaters, sexually immoral, greedy, drunkards, and revilers?  The only difference between the world and the church at that point is that most of the people in the world are at least honest about their sin.  But the church becomes hypocritical – claiming not to be sinners, when in fact they continue sinning.  Worse yet, self-righteousness goes right along with that hypocrisy.  We turn a blind eye on our sins so that we can tolerate and live with them, but all the while we point our fingers at people in the world and condemn them for their sins.  As sin spreads in the Body, this is exactly how it destroys our witness to Christ.  We lose sight of the cross and fall into self-righteousness – and as we do that we lose the joy of new life in Christ. For nineteen hundred years the Church was pretty faithful in doing what St. Paul says here, but between some churches abusing discipline and worldly pressure to conform to a culture where anything goes, we’re now at a point where there’s virtually no accountability in the wider Church.  And in the end the Church as a whole is the poorer for it.  We now have churches where anything goes and when a church does follow the demands of Scripture, there are plenty of other churches in town that don’t and will happily receive those under discipline, no questions asked.  And lately it seems that more and more pastors and churches as refuse and even ridicule what Paul is telling us to do here. And we wonder why the contemporary Western Church has become so ineffective in ministry and evangelism.  We’ve taken to picking and choosing from Scripture.  We’ll do this, but we won’t do that and in the end we have a Church that looks an awful lot like the world.  And because of that we’ve lost the joy of life in Christ.  We replace it with legalism or with a weekly seeking after superficial emotional experiences.  Instead, we ought to be doing what Scripture tells us to do.  If we’re faithful in holding our brothers and sisters accountable, St. Paul says that we can and will truly celebrate in Jesus Christ – in our Passover lamb.  The Church can be what it has truly been made by Christ and can begin to live out its new life while the world looks on in wonder and is drawn to Christ through us. That’s what should naturally happen in the Church.  Joy comes from the knowledge that through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, God has washed us clean from our sins, from our old ways, and from everything that separates us from him.  Joy never comes from Christians thinking that they’ve somehow achieved some standard of good morals on their own.  Joy comes in the knowledge that we’ve been cleansed and freed by God’s grace and that new-found joy is what proclaims Christ to the world more than anything else we can do. In verses 9-13 Paul puts all of this in the bigger picture.  He says: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside.  “Purge the evil person from among you. Again, the Corinthians had got it wrong.  Paul had written them in an earlier letter warning them not to associate with those guilty of gross sin.  They took that to mean that they needed to withdraw from the world.  And now Paul’s writing and saying, “No.  That’s not what I meant.  I’m not worried about us associating with the world (at least within reason).  My point was that you not associate with people who call themselves Christians, and yet continue to live in unrepentant sin, just as if they weren’t Christians.” He’s right. We can’t avoid the world.  In fact, remember that Jesus actually sends us out into it.  He told his disciples in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”  That’s our mission.  God has already pronounced judgement on sin.  Our mission is to share the cross of Christ with the world, because it’s the only source of hope – the only way sinners will escape God’s judgement on sin.  And that’s exactly why we need to judge those in our own ranks.  Are there those that are casting the Church in a bad light and destroying her witness?  Those who continue in their immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, and drunkenness, showing no repentance need to be removed, because they represent the world, not Christ.  Because as they misrepresent the cross, they actually turn people away from Christ. Friends, part of being the Church is that we hold each other accountable, even it means excluding them from our fellowship.  Hopefully we deal with our sin before it goes to that extreme.  But consider how effective the Church would be in her mission if we really did live out the joy that comes from the knowledge that we have found forgiveness and new life through the cross of Christ, if we truly did come every Sunday to celebrate that new life we’ve been living all week by coming to the Lord’s Table to find communion with Jesus.  But to do that we need to walk together in the beauty of holiness.  That’s the unique privilege that God has given us.  And as we live in that victory over the forces that destroy others, that’s when people will start to see that there really is something powerful in Jesus Christ and in his cross. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, your truth is sometimes hard for us to hear, but we thank you for caring enough for us that you’ve spoken to us in words like this.  Father, you don’t spare us, and yet for Christ’s sake you don’t condemn us either.  Through the Spirit inspired Word you give us your truth.  Give us the grace to see behind the truth your own love for us.  And, Father, help us as your Church and as individuals to judge our lives in these areas, always according to your word, that we might walk in its light and power.  We ask this through Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Putting the Cross Before Ourselves 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 by William Klock I want to look this morning at the first half of First Corinthians 6.  We’re now in the middle of a section where St. Paul calls the Corinthian Church to account for a number of problems – not things they wrote him about, but things that have been reported to Paul, probably by mutual friends who were visiting in Corinth.  All of them are problems that show that the Corinthians were failing to be what the Church is supposed to be – they weren’t being true to their calling and as a result they were not only getting side-tracked from their calling and ministry, but they were damaging the witness of the wider church.  The first issue Paul addressed was their tolerating the man who was sleeping with his step-mother.  Paul addressed the issue of discipline – for the benefit of the unrepentant sinner and for the benefit of the Body – and he told them: “Throw him out.  Send him back to the world that he might die to the flesh and his soul be saved in the end.” If you were here last week, you’ll remember that St. Paul warned them about the fact that they were busy pointing their fingers out at the sinners in the world, while ignoring the unrepentant sinners in their midst.  And so Paul had told them.  Judging the world isn’t the Church’s business.  God’s going to take care of that.  The Church needs to be about judging herself – judging those in her midst.  (How often do we do just what the Corinthians were doing?  We ignore our own sins and the sins of our brothers and sisters, while throwing a fit about the sins that go on outside the church.  That’s called hypocrisy and it’s rooted in self-righteousness.  It’s what happens, just as it did for the Corinthians, when we lose sight of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the fact that we come to God only through him.)  So Paul tells us that we need to work out our faith in such a way that we deal with the sin in the Body and encourage each other to holiness.  That’s the best witness we can have to the world.  Remember that 1 Corinthians is all about the cross of Christ: that we first live our lives in the reality of the cross and that because of that the natural result is our proclamation of the cross in our words, in our deeds, and through our changed lives. But it wasn’t just sexual immorality destroying the Corinthian’s witness.  Paul has more to say to them and to us.  Look at 6:1-3: When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?  Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! Now it doesn’t come across very well in English, but when St. Paul writes this, the Greek makes it clear that he’s angry…really angry with them.  Unlike English, Greek lets you mix up the order of words in a sentence so that you can emphasise parts of it in ways we can’t.  In Greek you put the most important part of the sentence first.  In this case the first word in Greek is “dare.”  Paul starts out saying, “How dare you!?!  I’m told that you’re taking each other before the unrighteous over your grievances!”  Paul is utterly incensed by this. We don’t know the specifics of the situation, but based on what Paul says later in this section, we can gather that one member of the church felt that he had been defrauded – ripped off – by another member, and so he took that brother to court.  When Paul says “go to law” he’s literally talking about going to the ancient Roman equivalent of our modern courts.  You took your grievance or complaint to the market place or to the local forum where the city’s judicial magistrate would hold court, usually on a raised platform.  And of course, just like we make court a spectacle on TV today, it was a big public spectacle in those days.  If it was an important case, it was common for a crowd to gather and the parties involved, and sometimes even the magistrate, would play to the crowd.  And so here we have two Christian brothers taking their problem before a civil judge and making their disagreement a spectacle for the whole city. Now you’d think that Paul would go after the guy who had done the swindling first, but instead he goes after the guy who was ripped off – the “good guy” – and with him the whole church for allowing this to happen.  “How dare you make spectacle before the world of your inability to live together as brothers in Christ!”  And he reminds them that when Judgement Day comes, the saints will be gathered together with Christ to judge the world, the devil, and his fallen angels. Scripture doesn’t make it clear exactly how we’ll be involved in judging men and angels, but we’re told over and over in the Gospels and in the Epistles that we will sit with Christ in judgement over the world and the devil.  That’s an amazing thing to think about – that someday, somehow – we don’t know exactly how, but we have God’s word that it will happen – we will be called on by him to sit with Christ as judges over the world and the devil.  The Corinthians had lost that long-term perspective.  They were thinking about the here and now and not about eternity. And so Paul’s saying, “You guys have what’s in the overall scheme of things a minor dispute.  The two of you should have been able to settle it between yourselves and failing that the church should have been able to settle it.  But instead you’re taking the problem to be settled by an unbeliever whom you yourselves will someday be judging? What are you thinking?”  It’s kind of like an accountant paying a kid just learning multiplication and division to balance his chequebook.  How stupid is that? Now it’s not to say that St. Paul is telling us we can never go to court.  He’s not belittling human justice systems.  Paul himself would appeal to the Roman justice system more than once when he was unjustly accused.  In our world there are times when we might be falsely accused and need to go to court to defend ourselves.  St. Paul isn’t laying out some legalist rule about Christians not going before a civil judge.  The issue is how we operate as the Church and how we deal with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Are we operating with the cross of Christ in mind or are we operating like the rest of the world? He goes on.  Look at verse 4: So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?   I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?  To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.  Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?  But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Again, St. Paul is angry with them.  Just as they were proud in their acceptance of the man sleeping with his step-mother when they should have been mourning the sin in their midst.  Again they see nothing wrong with taking their problems to the civil magistrate and St. Paul says in very strong language, “Shame on you!  How can you take the Church’s problems to someone who has no standing in the Church?”  Think about that.  Does a non-Christian civil judge have any qualifications to deal with the relationships between Christian brothers and sisters?  He has no concept of the Fatherhood of God and the family life of believers.  He doesn’t understand that through Christ we are members one of another.  Why would you take your problems to someone not qualified to settle them? This is our problem, Friends.  The Corinthians were forgetting who they were – and we struggle with this too. We have new life through Jesus Christ.  We’re knit together into one body by his Holy Spirit.  That’s the reality of the Christian life.  But then we go on living the same way we did before.  We have new life, but return to our old life.  We are members one of another in the Body of Christ, but we go on living as if we’re still individuals, still just wanting to take care of Number One and make sure we get what’s ours.  But if we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we need to live like Christians. You see, as Christians, our relationships with each other as members of the Body of Christ are important – and sometimes that belonging one to another overrides the issues that used to be important to us before we became part of the Body.  The world is all about putting me first – making sure nobody steps on me or my rights.  And that’s what the civil courts are there for.  If someone rips you off, you go to court, prove your case to the judge or the jury, and you get what’s yours. But Friends, this is exactly what St. Paul is saying isn’t for Christians.  He’s asking, “Isn’t there anyone among you wise enough to settle the dispute the way it should be settled between brothers?  Someone who will take into account our life together in Christ?”  It’s frankly amazing to me how little this is done in the Church, despite the fact that this is what Scripture tells us to do.  I think the Church is afraid to do this for the same reason it’s afraid to exercise discipline or even faithfully preach difficult parts of Scripture: because those who don’t like it can easily run away to another Church that doesn’t hold her members accountable.  But that’s not reason for us not to do what Scripture tells us to do. We’re supposed to be showing the world what it means to have victory in Jesus, but in verse 7 Paul says it’s a sign of defeat that we would have these lawsuits among us. I think this even applies to bringing a disagreement to the church in some cases, not just to the civil magistrate.  No matter who wins the lawsuit, the Gospel loses.  I can’t help but think of the current lawsuits going on all over the place as a result of the present Anglican “Realignment”.  Parish and in some cases whole diocese are going to court with their bishops, suing to retain their property.  I’ve heard some justify it saying that the church and bishops they’re suing aren’t really even Christians – and they’re probably right.  But does the world see it that way?  Does the world understand the theological issues involved?  No. The world just sees two groups who call themselves Christians taking each other to court – unable to get along or solve their problems.  The world at least knows that Christians are supposed to love each other and that’s the opposite of what we’re showing them.  What do these lawsuits do to the reputation of the cross of Christ?  The watching world says, “You Christians aren’t any better than we are.  You don’t have anything we don’t have.  You have to have a judge to settle your disputes and force one to do the right thing.  What do you have to offer us?” But St. Paul goes a step further.  What if you go the alternative route?  What if you let yourself suffer wrong?  What if you let yourself be defrauded?  Stop thinking about yourself, about your rights, about just today.  Start thinking with a Kingdom perspective.  Think with eternity in mind.  Is your getting yours really all that important when you consider the damage it might bring to the cause of the Kingdom of God?  Is your going to court to get what belongs to you going to give the Body of Christ a black eye?  If you put things in an eternal perspective, what’s the loss of a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand dollars – or even the loss of your church property – if in the end the whole cause of Christ and the Gospel are going to look like something ugly in the eyes of those who need more than anything to see them as beautiful? So Paul calls the Corinthians back to an awareness of what they do as believers in the eyes of the world when they fall into this aggressive, self-centred, self-serving defensive mindset that insists on getting what’s theirs at any cost.  Henry Ironside tells a wonderful story to illustrate this point.  When he was a young boy his mother took him to a Plymouth Brethren meeting.  The Brethren were, at least in the past, known for following Scripture in this area.  One man was bringing up his complaint with a brother before the Church and things got really heated.  At one point the man stood up, shook his fist, and said, “I don’t care what the rest of you do.  I want my rights!  That’s all!  I just want my rights!” An elderly member sitting in the front row turned around and said, “Your rights, brother, is that what you want, your rights?  Why the Lord Jesus didn’t come to get his rights.  He came to get his wrongs, and he got them.”  Dr. Ironside said that he always remembered how the first man stood there thinking for a little while and then dropped his head and said, “You’re right, brother, you’re right.  Settle it any way you like.”  And the whole thing was settled in a few minutes. I know that that’s a hard thing for a lot of us to hear.  And yet as believers we can never forget that God calls us to show the world a different way of living – and part of that different way is that we’re willing to surrender our personal rights for the cause we serve.  St. Paul develops this more and more as we go along in 1 Corinthians, but this is the same principle that Jesus teaches us when he tells us to turn the other cheek.  It doesn’t mean that we’re called to be doormats, but it does mean that when we find ourselves in a dispute our first thought shouldn’t be protecting our rights, but first and foremost we should be asking what will best serve the cause of Christ and the Church’s mission to the world.  It might mean a personal loss, but we need to remember that faith in Christ is for more than just our spiritual salvation.  Faith in Christ mean we trust him in all things – even to take care of us when for the sake of the cross we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. I worked one summer as a cashier in a family-owned hardware store.  They had a policy of not getting into disputes with customers or vendors.  Even when it was obvious they were being taken advantage of, the company policy was to just settle the problem by giving the customer or the vendor what he wanted.  I thought it was a crazy policy, because over and over again I saw us getting ripped off.  Customer would come in and make outrageous demands, but our manager would always just tell them, “Okay.” I asked one of the owners about it.  He said that the policy started with their father.  They were all Christians and their father had held the policy as a way to witness his faith and had found that in the days when he dealt with customers and vendors himself, his willingness to settle disputes this way often opened up the door to sharing his faith.  Are we willing to trust Christ and operate like that? Paul goes on in verse 9: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:  neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. St. Paul takes us back to the cross.  If the Church is going to be the Church, we need to remember who we are.  The mission of the church is to glorify God and to proclaim the cross to the world – to the unrighteous.  And we do it not because we’re righteous in and of ourselves – we can never be righteous on our own.  We do it by showing the world what Jesus Christ has done for us through the cross.  There was a time when each of us was counted among the unrighteous.  We were sexually immoral, we were idolaters, we were adulterers, we were homosexuals, we were thieves, we were greedy, we were drunkards, we were revilers, we were swindlers.  We were all just like the unrighteous – the unredeemed – in the world.  At one point we were enemies of God.  At one point we had no inheritance in his Kingdom. And yet, Paul says, at some point God picked each of us up – picked us up out of the filth of our own sin – through the blood of Christ he washed us clean, he declared us just, and is working to sanctify us – to make us holy – to make us like Jesus. And yet how often do we return to the muck and mire of our sin?  And how often do we return to the mire in full view of the entire world, returning to our old way of life, to unrighteousness, failing to trust in God, and destroying our witness for Christ and shaming the Church?  That’s exactly what was happening in Corinth as believers fought with each other to make sure they got what was theirs. In contrast think back to the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector.  Jesus was visting Jericho and passing through town he saw Zacchaeus sitting up in a tree trying to get a look.  So Jesus called him down and went home with him for lunch, and after becoming a follower of Christ, Zacchaeus started repaying the people he had stolen from, and not just the amount he had stolen, but giving them back four times what he had taken.  He wasn’t concerned about what was his by right, and because of that there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind about Zacchaeus’ faith in Jesus – it changed his life.  And this is what Paul’s getting at.  He wrote to Timothy saying, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).  That’s the consistent message of Scripture from beginning to end: God redeems us from the consequences of our sins, that we might sin no more. You can tell a Christian – a follower of Christ – because he or she is no longer controlled by the sins they once walked in.  The Christian was once a drunkard, or sexually immoral, or a swindler, but not anymore.  Those who profess Christ but go on living under the control of sin are saying by their testimony that they really are not Christians. St. James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?... some will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:14, 18).  Remember, Christianity isn’t about fire insurance.  Faith in Christ isn’t a “Get out of Hell Free” card.  It’s about being saved unto love and good works – about being saved by Jesus Christ to enter his service to make him your Lord and Master.  He wants to save you and me, but he also wants to work through our witness to save others.  The Church is about that witness, as we gather together to give praise to Jesus Christ for what he’s done for us and to live out our new life together, exhorting one another to love and to good works.  It’s as our lives are changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and we become willing to give up our rights so that we can live for others – so that we can become their servants – that the world starts to sit up and take notice.  That’s when people see the difference between the Church and the world and come looking for new life themselves.  That’s what we need to be about as the Body of Christ. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, help us to understand that redemption is not merely a rescue from the consequences of our sins, but that it’s also a call to a new kind of life – to a life that seeks to follow in the footsteps of Christ and to a life of unity, one with another, in your Spirit, that your people might be a witness of your glory and the saving power of your Son to the world around us.  We ask you to renew our minds that we might always seek to put the cross of Christ first in everything we do, that we might be his faithful witnesses.  We ask this in his name.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: First Corinthians Your Body s Not Your Own 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 by William Klock King Solomon wrote that there is “nothing new under the sun,” and that applies to sin just as much as it does to anything else.  Corinth was a city that was given over to the worship of sex.  The religious centre of the city was the temple of Aphrodite, whose thousand priestesses were essentially “ordained” prostitutes and the greatest show of worship that the people of the city could make to their goddess was to engage in sex with one of her priestesses.  And God had brought the Gospel to that city through the ministry St. Paul, and as men and women came to Christ, their new faith challenged the sexual immorality of Corinth…or it should have. St. Paul had made it clear to these people that what was going on in Corinth was wrong, but there were some people in the church who disagreed with him.  In fact, they twisted Paul’s words about freedom in Christ to justify Christians continuing in their former live of sexual immorality.  There’s nothing new under the sun.  We have the same problem today.  Some claim that the Bible doesn’t say what it really does say about sex.  Some claim that to say that some things are wrong is to be guilty of legalism.  I’ve heard people say, “Well, if I were doing something wrong the Holy Spirit would tell me…and he hasn’t,” as if the Holy Spirit hasn’t already told us in the Scriptures he caused to be written for us. Look at chapter 6, beginning at verse 12.  In these nine verses Paul deals with these arguments.  Again, this is a problem that has to do with the Church’s witness to the world, but it also has to do with our own spiritual health and, as Paul will show us, with what it means to be a worshipper of God.  He says in verse 12: [You argue:]“All things are lawful for me,” but [I say,] not all things are helpful. [You say:] “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. Notice that in most of your translations “All things are lawful for me” is in quotation marks.  This was one of Paul’s statements about our new life in Christ – about living in the grace of God.  “All things are lawful for me” was Paul’s statement against legalism. It was something that other churches struggled with.  Like the Pharisees, they reduced the faith to a list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s not that the do’s and don’ts were wrong, but that these people saw their redemption as a matter of keeping the list. The Law given in the Old Testament was given to show us God’s holy standard and to show us that no human being can ever meet it.  The Law was given to drive men and women to trust in the righteousness of someone else – to drive them to Jesus Christ, the only man who ever lived up to the Law’s standard.  Our problem is that it’s easier to fall back on earning God’s favour by following the list of rules – and it makes us feel better about ourselves.  That’s the problem of the legalist.  But as I said before, the Corinthians had the opposite problem.  When Paul said, “All things are lawful for me,” the Corinthians took it as an excuse to simply throw the idea of right and wrong out the window.  They said, “I’m free in Christ.  He paid for my sins.  I no longer stand condemned.  I’m gonna go have fun!  After all, Paul said: ‘All things are lawful for me.’” And so here Paul gives the first reason why sexual immorality is wrong from the Christian.  He says, “No.  You’re abusing what I told you.  It’s true, you no longer stand condemned by the Law, but that doesn’t mean that the Law doesn’t have anything to say about what’s good for you.”  It’s still valid in showing us the standard of our holy God.  You were redeemed from the penalty of the Law so that you could live in freedom to fulfil it.  He freed you from the mastery of sin, so that he could be your master – which is why he also says that while all things might be lawful, continuing in anything – even if that thing isn’t inherently sinful – if it makes you a slave to it instead of a servant of Jesus is not good either. But notice what Paul doesn’t do here.  He isn’t stepping in and saying that now that they’re Christians there’s another set of rules for them.  That would be legalism again.  He steps in and says, “Yes, you’re right, but truth stands in the balance. When I was a kid one of my favourite things on the playground was the balancing beam.  Pretty soon it just wasn’t a challenge to balance on something a few inches off the ground, so I’d climb the monkey bars or the swingset and walk along the bar at the top like it was a balancing beam.  It was a stupid thing to do because I could have easily lost my balance and fallen off that narrow path.  But I’m reminded of that narrow beam when I consider that Jesus described the Christian as “the straight and narrow way.” One of the problems inherent in walking a narrow path is that you can fall off.  From the top of the swingset, it didn’t matter which side I fell off – either way it was bad.  As Christians walking the narrow path of liberty and have a similar problem. C.S. Lewis was right when he said that Satan sends errors into the world in pairs of opposites.  He doesn’t care which side we fall to, he just wants us to fall.  He wants us to look down at one error and guard ourselves against it so much that we fall the other way and unwittingly fall into the opposite error. So the Corinthians were avoiding the extreme of legalism on one side, but in avoiding it they had fallen off the other side into license without even realising it.  Their response to the Law was to simply do whatever it was they wanted no matter what it was.  The problem is that that’s not liberty.  Paul reminds them: Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing to do. Look at verse 13.  Paul addresses their second argument. [They said:] “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”— [but Paul said, Yes,] and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. They figured: “Hey, sex is a physical appetite just like hunger.  God gave me a stomach so that I can eat when I’m hungry and there’s nothing wrong with that, so why is it wrong to indulge my sexual appetites with a prostitute?  In fact, if it would be wrong to starve myself of food, wouldn’t it be wrong to starve myself of sex?”  Sound familiar?  This is the same argument we hear today: “It’s just part of our animal instinct and it’s unhealthy to say no to it – in fact if you tell a teenager ‘No,’ they won’t develop into healthy adults.” Part of their problem was that they had bought into the Greek philosophy that said that soul was all that mattered – that when you died the body was forever destroyed while the soul lived on.  They saw the body as just a temporary shell for the soul so it didn’t matter what you did with it.  But St. Paul reminds them of the Resurrection.  God isn’t going to annihilate our bodies – he’s going to perfect them.  Just as he raised Christ to perfection, he’s going to raise us. “Yes,” he says, “God made food and the stomach for each other, but he set that up as a temporary arrangement.  There will come a time when God will consummate our redemption and he’ll do away with these earthly bodies and we’ll be resurrected into a perfect body just like Jesus.” We get tied up with the things of this world and we forget that God has bigger plans for us.  He created us for union with himself.  Because of our sin that union was broken, but through Christ God has restored it.  Jesus talks about his relationship with us in John 14:20, describing it as “you in me, and I in you.”  One of the most profound things we can realise and come to understand is that God created each of us to be indwelt by himself.  And that’s what God does for us when we’re born again – when he gives us new life: Christ’s Spirit takes hold of us, fills us up, and unites us wholly with him.  As Paul says, the body was made, not for destruction, but for the Lord – for that unity with Christ.  He’s done that by giving us his Spirit to indwell us, but also promises to perfect that unity – to one day resurrect our bodies, that have been corrupted by sin and death, and unite us perfectly with himself.  Just as he raised Jesus, he will raise us too.  One day the mortal side of our existence will pass away – the need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, sleep – but that will happen not because God is just going to do away with our bodies, it’s because he’s perfecting them and making them fit to be one with him. And because of God’s bigger purpose, Paul says, “Your body was not made for sexual immorality – for union with a prostitute – but was made for the Lord.”  He goes on in verse 15: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written,  “The two will become one flesh.”  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Why is sexual immorality wrong for the Christian?  Because sex unites two people together, not just physically, but spiritually.  God gives us a real view of sex in Scripture.  The world wants to see it as nothing more than an animal passion.  But God shows us that there’s more to it than that.  Paul takes us back to the Creation and to Eden where God brought Adam and Eve together and said that they would “become one flesh.”  Animals mate with each other and move on.  Humans were created to be spiritually united by sex.  Once you have sex with somebody, your relationship with them is never the same again, no matter how much you pretend otherwise. But that’s how God made us and that’s why he tells us to limit sex to the context of marriage.  Becoming one flesh with someone outside the husband-wife relationship only causes hurt and pain. St. Paul emphasises the fact that sex makes two people one.  He tells us that sexual immorality on the part of the Christian means taking the personal property of Jesus Christ and uniting it sexually and spiritually with another.  And in the case of prostitution, actually paying for it.  I wonder if the Corinthians had had this in mind if they would have been involved in this kind of immorality.  Would you take Jesus to see a prostitute with you?  But that’s what was happening.  Any time we engage in sexual immorality, we’re joining not just ourselves to another, but Jesus too.  And the word that Paul’s using here for sexual immorality is that word porneia.  In the Greek world it usually just referred to prostitution, but it was used by Greek-speaking Jews to describe every sexual activity outside of marriage.  And remember that Jesus said that we can be just as guilty of adultery in our minds as we can in our bodies.  As Christians we belong to Christ.  We bring him with us if we hire a prostitute, if we have an affair, if we engage in premarital sex, if we engage in lustful looks, if we look at a Playboy, or if we surf porn on the Internet. Can you see why Paul was horrified by this?  Who would want to unite Jesus with a prostitute – involving the Lord of Glory in a grossly sinful act?  And yet that’s what every act of sexual immorality is for the Christian.  Again, going back to verse 13, he says: The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And then in verse 17: But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. The Lord is a Spirit, but he also created us as beings with a spiritual element. Becoming a Christian – being born again – is about the Holy Spirit fusing your spirit with himself. This is what St. Peter is talking about in his second epistle when he says we “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).  Think about that and think about how amazing it is.  We can talk about all sorts of ways humans are different from animals, but here’s the biggest: we were created with the capacity to be united spiritually with our Creator. And that’s the basis for the New Covenant in Scripture: the uniting of the believer with the Holy Spirit to give new life: our being united with the Holy Spirit so that we face every situation and circumstance with a new power and a new ability to resist sin and a new ability to understand and see things like we never saw them before.  That’s why our lives change when we come to Christ and are born again by the Spirit of God.  There’s an amazing inner transformation that takes place as the Holy Spirit takes our spirit and makes us one with Christ.  We are one with Christ in the power of his Spirit and that’s why Paul says in verse 18: Flee from sexual immorality. People ask me how to overcome sexual sin. They tell me it’s hard to resist.  Here’s St. Paul’s profound apostolic advice: Flee!  Run away!  Get away from it, no matter what it takes!  The reason we find it hard to overcome sin is because we don’t flee.  We decided to sit next to it, to look at it, to play with it.  If you’re sitting in a parked car and start to get aroused, turn the ignition on and get out of there.  If you’re watching TV and something smutty gets your attention, turn it off or change the channel.  If you can’t keep yourself away from porn on the Internet, cut off your service or move the computer to place that’s not private. “Flee immorality” – that’s the advice that Scripture gives everywhere.  Don’t play with it.  Don’t see how far you can go before falling into it.  Flee.  Run away.  Temptation is often a subtle force, but the destruction it causes in people’s lives is everywhere to see and ought to back up what Paul says: Flee.  Run away.  Especially from sexual immorality.  He goes on: Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Sexual sin falls into it’s own unique category.  It’s not the unforgivable sin by any means, but the damage it causes is more severe than most other things and its implication for our unity with Christ are severe.  Paul goes on to explain what he means in verse 19: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. St. Paul takes them back to the temple metaphor they knew so well.  The temple of Aphrodite was a temple because it housed a statue of the goddess and was devoted to her worship.  And so Paul says to the Corinthian Christians: “You are a temple too!  As a believer you have been united in spirit with God.  God lives in you by his Spirit.  In 12:13 he tells us that by the Holy Spirit we have all been baptised into the Body and that we have our new life as we drink of God’s Spirit.  The Holy Spirit indwells us.  He unites us to Christ.  He makes us his temple. And what a temple!  We don’t just have a piece of carved stone somewhere inside us to worship.  We have God himself inside us!  That’s what happens when you become a Christian – when the Spirit baptises you into the Body of Christ.  It’s not something for later, not a “second work,” not something you have to ask for or earn somehow – it’s the very essence of being a Christian.  Notice Paul isn’t just addressing some Christians as temples of the Spirit.  We’re all temples indwelt by the Spirit, because it’s by being baptised – immersed in and with and by – the Holy Spirit that, as Paul said in 12:13, we are made one with Christ in the first place. And so Paul asks, “What are you doing with your body – with your temple?”  It’s supposed to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and devoted to the worship of God.  And yet sexual sin opens the door of the temple and invites someone else in.  It brings the body of that person who is the temple into a wrong union.  By it’s very nature, sexual sin is a form of idolatry.  It means kicking God off the temple’s throne and replacing him with the one we sexually desire. Idolatry defiles the temple.  It is a wilful rejection of the very God who gives us new life by uniting our spirit to his Holy Spirit.  And so sexual immorality ought to be of special concern for the Christian.  Who sits on the throne in your life?  Whom do you worship?  Is your body God’s temple?  Is it dedicated to the Lord?  To his worship and to his service? Paul closes by taking us back to the cross – because that’s what it’s all about: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. That’s the basic truth of Christianity.  Every one of us needs to remember this fact.  None of us has a final right to himself or herself – only God has that right.  He calls us to serve him and to follow him.  We each need to ask: To whom do I belong? Friends, he bought us at the cross.  And so he has the right to send us where he wants us to go.  He has the right to take away from us anything he sees that that’s harmful to us.  He has the right to give us blessing or trouble as he sees what we each need.  And he has the right to guide us as a loving Father to the place where we recognise that he owns us, that we belong to him.  God is glorified when we start living on that basis – when we can say, “Lord, you are the Lord of my life.”  That’s why Paul finished in verse 20, saying: So glorify God in your body. Brothers and sisters, this is what it comes down to.  What does your temple look like and what’s going on inside?  Who’s on the throne?  Who’s being worshipped?  And is it a thing of beauty that shows off the glory of God to a world in desperate need of him? Please pray with me: Heavenly Father we prayed earlier in the collect, asking you in your providence – in your wisdom and love toward us – to take away from us everything that is hurtful and to give us instead everything that is profitable.  Father renovate our temples that they might be fit dwelling places for you and that we might show the beauty of your holiness to the world.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.