HOPE CHAPEL Sunday Service Notes
Teaching Series: “Be Different” based on 1 Corinthians
Today’s Topic: Living In Sin City
For further study:
“Enduring Word” Commentary - https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-1/
(retrieved September 9, 2020)
Bible Project - 1 Corinthians - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiHf8klCCc4
Today we begin our study of 1 Corinthians, which I have entitled, “Be Different.” But before we get looking at the actual letter Paul wrote, we need to understand the historical setting of this church as it will provide insights into some of the items that Paul chose to address.
Background to 1 Corinthians
City of Corinth - “Sin City’
Paul In Corinth
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthian Church
Biblical Text - Chapter One
Greetings (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)
Paul begins his letter in the usual way by identifying who the letter is from and who it is for. In addition to himself, Paul sends greetings from Sosthenes. Who is Sosthenes? He was Paul’s scribe and may also have been the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth during the time Paul spent in Corinth. According to Luke’s account in the book of Acts, Sosthenes was seized and beaten by the mob in the presence of Gallio, the Roman governor, when he refused to proceed against Paul at the instigation of the Jews (Acts 18:12-17). When Paul left the city, this same man may have chosen to go along with Paul in his travels and in this instance, serve as his scribe or letter writer. Either that or there are two Sosthenes...
Paul then talks about how thankful he is for the believers and acknowledges the many spiritual gifts they have received through the Holy Spirit. They are well equipped to do the work in Corinth of reaching the people of their city for Christ. But there’s a problem...
After Paul’s initial greeting and affirmation of the church, he quickly progresses along a different track. As you read through the first chapter, you begin to recognize that the members of the church were grappling over power, influence and control. They had become a fractured group, each insisting on their own superiority over others--creating alliances based on whose camp they claimed to follow. Each boasted the wisdom of their own position; unity had become all but forgotten as they had drawn their battle lines. The believers are in need of a reality check and Paul is just the apostle to provide it!
Live In Harmony (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
The church had become divided into factions, each claiming to ‘know best’ based on who they gave allegiance–Apollos, Paul, Peter or even Christ. Who is Apollos? (Acts 18:24-28) “Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia [the province in which Corinth was located], and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.”
So after having begun the church in Corinth, Paul had gone to Ephesus and taken Priscilla and Aquila with him. While there, this godly couple met Apollos and trained him up properly in his understanding of the gospel. He then went to the Corinthian church and was able to build on what Paul had started.
Paul tells the believers that this nonsense of claiming a team, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Peter” or “I follow Christ” has to stop. Their knowledge of Jesus had been passed down to them by a variety of individuals, but with the very same message–Jesus was the Christ and belief in Him provided salvation. He challenges them, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul” (v.13)? No...so stop fighting!
God’s Confusing Foolish Plan (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
He continues to admonish them. In the first century, philosophy was all the rage and debating was a national past-time. Paul tells them bluntly that their arguing about who is the wisest and whose side they’re on is pointless. God’s plan had nothing to do with the wisdom of people and was in fact foolish...humanly speaking. God conquered sin by having His Son sacrificed–where’s the army, the vanquishing king, the enemy’s bloodshed? Paul tells them God has in fact proved the ‘wisdom’ of humanity, foolish. What matters is faith not philosophical wisdom, debating prowess or unending hours of study.
In this regard, the world hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years. God’s wisdom is still considered foolish from a human standpoint. During my study, I came across this story: “One day, students in one of Albert Einstein’s classes were saying they had decided that there was no God. Einstein asked them, how much of all the knowledge in the world they had amongst themselves collectively, as a class. The students discussed it for a while and decided they had 5% of all human knowledge amongst themselves. Einstein thought that their estimate was a little generous, but he replied: ‘Is it possible that God exists in the 95% that you don’t know’” (“Enduring Word” online commentary)?
Paul asserts that he and others,“preach Christ crucified.” Instead of giving the Jews and Greeks what they demanded in deliverance from the Romans and philosophical wisdom, God gave them something unexpected: a crucified Messiah.
Basis for Boasting (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Finally, if anyone still wants to claim personal superiority, Paul reminds them of who they were before they came to know the truth about God and Jesus. In the world’s eyes, they had been nobodies. “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (v.26-29). They had not been mighty or noble, but rather foolish, weak and despised.
He tells them plainly to stop trying to be so smart in the eyes of others; they all now possess the wisdom of God, which the world still views as foolishness. The chapter ends with Paul telling them, “If you want to boast, boast only in Christ” (1:31).
The world in which we live epitomizes the sentiment ‘to Corinthianize’–partying, drunkenness and sexual promiscuity. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth is as much for us as it was for them. We need to B E D I F F E R E N T !
But don’t expect the world to applaud your efforts; for them the message of Jesus is still foolishness and those who believe in these ‘myths’ are equally as foolish.
As believers, members of Christ’s body, we need to work towards unity. Rather than becoming fractured over minor differences in doctrine, and assuming a position of superiority over others with whom we disagree, we should be working toward being “one of mind, united in thought and purpose” (v.10).
What is the mind we are to share? Christ’s mind! His thoughts and motivations need to become our thoughts and motivations. This does not happen instantaneously at salvation, but is rather a lifelong process that requires spending time with Him regularly.
And what is our purpose? The Great Commission. “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!