I Corinthians 1:1-9

Steve Viars May 25, 1991 1 Corinthians 9:1-9

- If the Apostle Paul were to write a letter to the evangelical
church of the 20th century, I think the letter would look much
like the book we're beginning to study tonight, the book of I
Corinthians.

- I say that for a couple of reasons

        1.  1st century Corinth was much like 20th century America

        a. Real thirst for intellectualism

        - love of knowledge and the pride that came from having it

        b. Same permissiveness to moral standards

        - To "Corinthianize" - live an immoral life

        - Call a "Corinthian girl" - prostitute

        - We will discuss that more in a moment

        c. Fascination with the spectacular - Corinthians loved to see
a show

        2. 1st century Corinthian Church was much like the 20th century
American church

        a. Lot of Pride

        b. Much affluence

        c. Materialism

        d. It was a church that was weakened by problems that had gone
unaddressed

        - As we go from place to place to discuss counseling, hear
stories over and over on problems

        e. Church whose ministry was hindered because the members were
not capitalizing on God's provision and using them to grow and
bring others to Christ

 

- One man who wrote on I Cor. titled his book - "For a world
like ours", and I think he is absolutely right

 

- Now, I want to be sure as we go through this series that I've
said a number of times that I don't believe that the condition
of the Corinthian Church and the condition of our own church are
parallel.

        - I don't want to give you the impression that I believe just
because something was happening in the church at Corinth, that
it is also happening here, happening to the same degree.

- However, having said that, I believe there are several
benefits to studying this book:

        1. We're not growing at the rate God desires for us, just like
the Corinthians weren't growing at the rate God desired for them.

- I hope no one would be uncomfortable with that statement

- Cf. Lot of good things happening at Faith, God's been very
good, but:

        a. FBC isn't so perfect that its starting to life up off its
foundations to be taken to heaven

        b. I don't notice that happening to you, either!

        c. And while we're on that subject, I seem to be pretty firmly
planted myself

Point is:  None of us are growing completely at the rate God
wants us to grow, and we can benefit greatly by studying the
strategy Paul took to help the Corinthians grow and apply those
same strategies to the way we should grow

2. It will help us be more effective at helping others

- God has placed around us a host of individuals who also are
not growing completely at the rate God desires

- Cf. Spouses, children, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ

- After we've applied Paul's strategies of growth to ourselves,
we can also benefit by becoming more effective at ministering to
others

 

3. To learn God's truth on a number of critical subjects

This book addresses all kinds of issues

- Unity

- Marriage

- Lord's supper

- servanthood

- Christian Liberty

- Morality

- Men & Women in the Church

Just like the church at Corinth, we need to understand what our
Lord says about these important topics

- Having just mentioned all of the problems that facing the
church at Corinth, one of the natural questions that arise is:
What's the Lord going to say to those folks first?

- I'll bet this is going to be one stinging letter -- smoke
rolling off the pages

- And that's what I'd like to study with you tonight!

        - God's first words to folks who weren't pleasing Him
Read 1:1-9

- I think you'll agree that the words we've just read are
amazing words

- With all the problems this church had, you'd expect these
words to be "red hot"

- You would expect Paul to be "pitching a fit" as we sometimes
say

- But instead, the Lord begins by speaking to the Corinthians
about His Grace

- These verses can be organized around verses 3,4 (Reread)

- See, God's first words to folks who weren't pleasing Him were
to remind them of ways He had demonstrated His Grace

        - Grace is the original word "Karis"

        - Literally means "favor", or undeserved and unrepayable
kindness and mercy which God has shown to sinners

- We're talking about God:

        1. Doing for us,

        2. providing for us,

        Things that we don't deserve

- When Kris and I were thinking about names for our children, we
didn't automatically think about names that had hidden meaning -
that's not natural for us

- But I can tell you, that when Kris and I had gone through a
couple of years without being able to have another child, prayed
about it, sought medical help - {Situation with Karis - God's
Grace}

- Real wrestling

        - On one hand - we wanted to be satisfied with God's will and
if that meant having no more children -- that was fine with us

        - On the other hand, we loved Bethany, we loved the challenge
and joy of raising children

- We told the Lord we'd love to have more but we'd work on being
satisfied and joyful about whatever His will was

- Then we got the call at 2:00 AM - That a little baby needed a
mommy and daddy, and would we be willing to take her

- I have trouble describing what that was like, but a big part
of our thinking was --> God has been so gracious to us -- we
didn't deserve this

- And this is another clear example of God's undeserved and
unrepayable kindness

- When it came time to choose a name (which we did that morning
- since we couldn't go back to sleep ) we the name Karis -->
Grace (develop why)


- See Paul is saying --> Here's what we need to talk about first

- We need to talk about God's Grace -- Undeserved and
unrepayable kindness and mercy which God has shown


- In the next 2 weeks, I'd like to look with you at 4 ways God
was gracious to the Corinthians according to verses 1-9

- First, he was gracious in that He gave them a strategic
location, let's call that:

I. God's Grace in the Context

- I don't want to spend a lot of time here, but I would like to
point out that God was gracious to the Corinthians even in the
place and time and culture in which He chose to locate their
church

- Let's first think about that:

A. Geographically

- On the back of your notes you've got a map that shows Greece
divided into 2 parts, connected by a 4 mile wide isthmus (a
narrow strip of land connecting two larger masses of land)

- You may want to note that traveling by ship around the
southern tip of Greece (Achain) was very, very dangerous

- Mariners used to say "A sailor never takes a journey around
Malea without first writing his will"

1. As a result, that actually build a portage where captains of
larger ships would unload their cargo on one side of the
isthmus, carry the cargo across on dry land, while they sailed
the ship around empty

2. For the smaller ships, they even build a system of skids,
where they would actually bring the ship out of the water, and
roll it across

Point is:  Corinth was right in the middle of all of this

- God had given them a strategic location geographically


- That was also true:

B. Athletically

- In that day, there were 2 great athletic festivals -- The
Olympian and the Isthmian games

- Corinth hosted the Isthmian games

- Every other year they had all the traffic that would be
associated with a great athletic festival

- God had placed them in a city where thousands of people who
didn't know Christ would come to visit

Therefore it was Strategic:

C. Spiritually

- City of Corinth, like most Greek cities, had an acropolis (or
high city) that rose 2000 feet in the air

- On that acropolis stood the famous (infamous) temple to
Apaphrodite - the Greek goddess of love

- History tells us that the temple housed 1000 temple prostitutes

Point is:  Even from the context, its clear that God had been
very gracious to this church in strategically placing them in a
location where they could have a great ministry to people

- Now, let me ask you ...

D. How About Us?

- What are some ways God has been gracious to us in relation to
the place, time and culture God has located around us?

1. New housing additions starting all around us

2. Purdue

3. An age which is spiritually dark

        No Bibles in schools

        No prayer at commencements

There is a couple of ways you can look at that

- It's so dark, there's no hope

- Or, it's so dark, there's plenty of hope

Like the two shoe salesman who went to Africa to sell shoes

- God there - no one was wearing shoes

- One wired back - cancel my orders - no one wears shoes

- The other - double my orders - everyone needs shoes

- See there's no question that God had been very gracious to the
Corinthians, even from a study of the context of the book


But,

1. They had neglected His Grace

2. They hadn't focused on it

3. Hadn't been moved by it

4. Hadn't responded to it with a sincere desire to please Him
more

- Paul also wanted the Corinthians to remember that:

II. God was gracious in their past

- I'd like you to especially notice 2 phrases, one in verse 4
and one in verse 6 -- Both are past tense

        - V4 "is given you"

        - V6 "was confirmed in you"

- Point is:  Paul wants them to think about just how gracious
God has been to them in the past

- Those two phrases in verse 4 and verse 6 refer back to when
he's already mention in Vs. 1 & 2

- God was gracious to them:

A. By sending them His Truth

- I'm thinking now even of the way Paul introduced himself -
"the apostle"

- Paul didn't introduce himself as "Paul the apostle" because he
was afraid they would confuse him with Paul the candlestick maker

- he's using that title to remind them that he's the one God
sent to tell them about Jesus

- In verse 6 (and this is what wraps this up) - Paul says that
the "testimony of Christ" was confirmed in you

- What testimony?

        - the testimony he gave when he first came to Corinth

- see, Paul wants them to remember just how gracious God had
been to them in the past by sending his truth


- God loved you so much that he sent an apostle, a "herald" of
his truth, so that your testimony could be confirmed in you


- Overall implication is - "What a terrible thing for a church,

        - or for believers to be divisive,

        - for believers to ignore problems

        - or for believers to lack love


- what a terrible thing for believers and churches not to be
growing at the rate God desires

        - somewhere along the line, Paul says, you have forgotten, or
you've neglected to concentrate on just how gracious God has
been to you in the past

        - that happens so easily, doesn't it

- When's the last time you thanked God for sending you his truth?

- When's the last time you thanked him for the person who told
you about Christ?

- When's the last time you thanked that person for their
persistence, even when you weren't responding?

- When's the last time you thanked God for that?

- See, when's the last time you were thankful to God for being
gracious to you in the past by sending you his truth?

- Do you know what part of the problem is - "I'm convinced for
some its just simply having a low view of God's truth"

- this week at Grace I had the opportunity to begin reading two
books from 2 different authors

- both authors are pastors of large evangelical churches, in
fact among the largest evangelical churches in America

- both writers are writing about contemporary life in American
churches and Christianity

- but there is an obvious difference in the two

- one is taking his points right from the Scripture

- many of the chapters begin with thorough discussions of key
Bible passages and then the arguments are developed from those
passages

- But the other gentlemen says very little about the Bible.

  In fact, in his chapter on marriage, the Bible is never
mentioned.

- now Carl Jung and a number of other psychologists who don't
know God are quoted as proper sources for building a Christian
marriage, but the Bible is never mentioned

- and you ask, how in the world could that happen?

- one of the answers is - we're talking about an attitude toward
truth

- somewhere individuals have forgotten, or failed to concentrate
on, or be thankful for -- just how gracious God had been to them
in the past

        - by sending them his truth

- one of the key steps the Corinthians will have to take if
they're to make progress for God is to go back and concentrate
on how gracious God was to them in the past

- by sending them his truth, and also:

B. Made It Possible for them to be called saints

- I'm sure you know this whole idea of being a saint has been
thrown out of whack in Contemporary America

- many folks today view a saint in the same way they view an
athlete making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame

- 1) doesn't happen to many

- 2) you have to be fairly old

- 3) have to be a superstar

- some folks view saints that way - "as specially pious or
self-sacrificing people who were canonized by an ecclesiastical
council"

- but that's not the Bible meaning of saint at all

- A saint is literally a "saved one"

- it would be perfectly appropriate for me to go home and refer
to my wife as "saint Kris"

- If you have a KJV, the words "to be" have been added, but the
words literally say "called saints" or "saints by calling"

- that's why Paul says in the phrase before, I'm writing to
those who are "sanctified in Christ Jesus",

- set apart to God

- point is - look how gracious God has been to you in the past

- He's sent you his truth

- When you trusted Christ as Savior, you immediately became a
saint, a saved one, you were sanctified

- immediately, verse 6 says, the testimony of Christ was
confirmed in you

- see, the overall question Paul is wanting the Corinthians to
wrestle with is:

        - when's the last time you thanked the Lord for the way He's
been so gracious to you in the past?

        - see, there's no question that you're having problems

        - there's no question that a lot of things need to be changed
or adjusted

        - but is one of the reasons because you haven't responded to
his grace?

        - have you forgotten, or failed to be thankful for his grace in
the past?

- Oh, we forget so easily, don't we?

(illus - Grace) - It was good for me to be at Grace seminary this week


        forgot -

        1) how Kris had worked to put me through school

        2) how God had provided for us in so many ways

- and there's no question in my mind that I would have been a
better husband, and I would have been a better believer if I
would have done a better job of remembering

- I think we need to conclude with this question tonight

- Why would the Lord begin a letter to the Corinthian church
with this kind of material?

- answer - in the Bible, "you are" (that is, what you in Christ)
always precedes what "you ought"

- God's desire is always that we'd take a good look at all He's
done, and respond to that goodness with growth and change

- let me encourage you tonight, and through this week, to do two
things:

        1) Rate yourself on how skilled you are at concentrating on,
remembering, and thanking God for how gracious He's been to you
in the past

        2) Make a list of some specific ways He's been gracious in the
past.  Perhaps you can do that with other family members or
friends, but work at listing, concentrating on, and being
thankful for God's KARIS, His grace to you in the past.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video