“CALLED TO CHRIST”
(Sermon Series on I Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 09-24-06 a.m. I Corinthians 1:1-9
PROPOSITION: The believer, living in Christ Jesus, is called to serve Christ, called to be holy, and called to live in fellowship with the Son.
- THOSE of you who brought your Bibles with you, please turn to the maps, usually in the back of your Bible.
- UNFORTUNATELY the pew Bibles do not have maps.
- LOOK for any maps that have the Roman Empire, or Paul’s missionary journeys on them....and find Greece.
- THE southern portion of Greece was called Achaia in New Testament times...look for the city of Corinth where you see a tiny bit of land joining the southern peninsular to the mainland.
- LET me tell you a little about the city of Corinth.
* Population: 600,000.
* Because of its location right at the connection of the mainland of Greece to the peninsular, all north/south traffic and trade went through Corinth.
* Because of the treacherous straits of Malea to the south of Greece.....ships would either unload their cargo and have it carried across the 4 mile wide isthmus, or if the ship wasn’t too big it would be pushed across the 4 miles of sand on rollers to the east coast...the Aegean Sea.
* As a result Corinth was a busy, flourishing, wealthy seaport and trade center....with a growing gulf between the very rich and the very poor.
* There were 12 temples to the popular deities of Greek culture in Corinth.....the most famous being the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Over 1,000 sacred male and female temple prostitutes would come down from the prominent site of the temple to ply their trade in the city each evening.
* The culture was so obsessed with sex that in that time the phrase “to corinthianize a city” was used all over the world to describe the spread of immorality.
- AND in the middle of this seething, filthy mess of a society God called people to Christ.....through the apostle PAUL who planted the church in Corinth, recorded in Acts 18, and spent 18 months there getting the believers established.
- PAUL received help from Silas, Timothy, Priscilla and Acquilla....and later Apollos, in the building up of the believers there, the people called to Christ.
- THE church of believers in Corinth was made up primarily of the working class...although there were a few wealthy people involved in the fellowship. In I Corinthians 1:26 Paul says,
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”
- WHEN God first called a church in Corinth to Christ, He called mostly bronze workers, potters, shopkeepers, and dock hands...because they were not too proud to come and follow Him.
- IN fact, later in the epistle Paul writes that some of them had been adulterers when God called them to Christ, some had been idolaters, some prostitutes when God called them to Christ, others had been thieves, greedy, homosexuals, drunkards and slanderers when God called them to Christ (I Corinthians 6:9)
- THE church would have had both slaves and free men called to Christ....but the slaves of that time, taken in captivity from other nations by the Roman armies of occupation, could have been better educated and more intelligent than the freemen of Corinth.
- WELL, after planting the church in Corinth Paul left and was gone for some time. Apollos had pastored them for a while, but had returned to Ephesus in Asia Minor, where Paul was when he wrote the first letter to the Corinthians.
- THE church in Corinth was a lively, prospering, growing, and very Pentecostal fellowship.
- YOU would have loved the worship services....the gifts of the Spirit were in frequent evidence.
- FINANCIALLY they were prospering. In fact, when Paul gets ready to take a special offering for the famine-stricken believers in Jerusalem, he raises a significant offering from the church in Corinth.
- BUT then Paul receives word concerning a number of problems in the fellowship at Corinth that require pastoral attention.
- SO, unlike his letter to the believers in Rome, where the concerns were primarily theological, his letter to the believers in Corinth is primarily pastoral.
- PAUL has heard...
* That they were taking each other to court.
* That they were open minded on issues of immorality...to the point of being proud of their tolerance of sin.
* That their worship was filled with hostility and prejudice as the poor were left to fend for themselves at the Lord’s Supper.
* That they didn’t understand the proper operation of the gifts of the Spirit.
* That love was lacking in the fellowship.
* That there were divisions.
* That false teaching about the resurrection had crept in and unsettled many.
- SO, against this backdrop, and to this body of believers, Paul dictates I Corinthians....and with the help of the Holy Spirit we are going to take the next few months to listen to what the Spirit wrote through him to Westgate Chapel.
- PRAY for me as you think about it, that week by week the same Holy Spirit will reveal God’s heart to me for you from this epistle.
- TURN with me please to I Corinthians 1 (page 1128 in your pew Bible).
- LET’S read the first nine verses...and some of you count the number of times in those verses Paul mentions Jesus Christ.
- (READ I Corinthians 1:1-9)
- PAUL received news from Chloe’s household (verse 11) about the critical problems facing the believers in Corinth....and instead of starting by laying down a bunch of rules about congregational order, or calling for revisions to the by-laws, or arbitration from a visiting evangelist.....he starts with Christ.
- NINE times in the first nine verses Paul points the believers in Corinth to Christ.
* He is an apostle of Christ.
* The Corinthian church is sanctified in Christ.
* The Corinthian church is one with all who call on the Name of Christ.
* Grace and peace is in Christ.
* The orientation of the church is to be forward to the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* We are called into fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
- JESUS is the focus of Paul’s life. No wonder that in Philippians 1:21 he would write,
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
ii. called to serve christ jesus
- PAUL had been a blasphemer, cursing the person, the work and name of Jesus Christ.
- AN elitist Jew educated in the tradition of the Pharisees, proud, arrogant, persecuting any who professed faith in Jesus Christ.
- FILLED with hatred he was on his way to Damascus to imprison Christians when God called Paul to Christ.
- HIS life was changed in an instant.
- IT was a dramatic turn of events. Night to day. Dark to light. Hatred to love. Persecutor to preacher and pastor.
- ALL because Paul experienced God calling him to Christ....on that road to Damascus and until his death at the hands of the Roman government.
- NO wonder that the theme of being called was so important to Paul.
- THAT is where he starts his letter to the believers in Corinth.
- VERSE 1,
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes...” (I Corinthians 1:1)
- THAT word, “called,” comes from the Greek word, kletos.
- IT is the process by which God calls men and women out of their bondage to this world SO that He may forgive them, heal them, restore them, make them new, and bring them into His service.
- THE call is part of God’s work reconciling this broken, sinful world to Himself.
- THIS call reaches a man or a woman through the love of Christ directed towards them, seeking them.
- IT is not dependent on your works, but His love and grace for you.
- IT was set in motion before you were born.
“But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased (16) to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles. (Galatians 1:15-16)
- GOD has always been calling His people to Himself.
- IT started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned.....and rather than destroy them for their rebellion....God came calling them by name to forgive them and cover their shame.
- HE called Abraham to follow Him and become the father of the nation of Israel.
- HE called Moses from the burning bush to lead Israel out of captivity.
- HE called Gideon, who was the least of his brothers, to make a mighty warrior out of him and deliver Israel from the Midianites.
- HE called Samuel when he was four years old....to be a prophet to His people.
- HE called Saul on the road to Damascus and made him Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles.
- AND today He is calling you to Christ.
* To set you free from your bondage to sin.
* To forgive you, heal you, restore you, make you new, and bring you into His service.
- THE love of God is directed towards you, seeking you today.
- THE call was set in motion before you were born.
- AND it is not just a call to deliver you from the brokenness of your past so you can retire in a church pew and wait for Jesus to return.
- NO! It is a call with a purpose.
- FOR Paul it was a call to be an apostle “by the will of God.”
- YOUR call is a call to Christ.....but, like Paul’s, it is a call to serve.
- WHEN Paul responded to the call of God to Christ, he didn’t have another idle moment the rest of his life.
- WHEN he wasn’t preaching the Gospel, he was being run out of one town or another.
- WHEN he wasn’t planting churches he was writing letters that have guided the church for 2,000 years.
- WHEN he wasn’t preaching, he was discipling young men like Timothy.
- WHEN he wasn’t healing the sick he was training elders to care for the church in Ephesus.
- THEN there were the missionary journeys, and shipwrecks, and the years in prison.
- YES sir, Paul’s call was a call to serve.
- THIS is a call that you cannot sit on....that is if it is a real call to Christ.
- JESUS’s life example was that He came to serve and not be served. In John 4:34-35 Jesus said,
“"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (35) Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
“"My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." (John 5:17)
- YOU and I are called to Christ....in order to fulfill His purposes and serve Him....not take up space in the kingdom of God.
- YOU are called to serve....just like Paul.
- YOU may not be called to be an apostle, but you are called to serve.
iii. called to be holy
- NOW, there is another aspect to this calling in these first nine verses of I Corinthians 1.
- LET’S look for it.
- TURN with me to verse 2,
“To the church of God in Corinth...” (vs.2a)
- NOTICE it is the “church of God” in Corinth......not the church of Corinth, not the church planted by Paul, not the church of pastor Acquilla....but the church of God.
- HE gave His Son to purchase it.....it is not yours or mine, or the property of any denomination, or pastor or board.
- THIS is not “my church!” It is the church of God!
- LET’S move on to the next aspect of why God called me to Christ.
- VERSE 2b,
“...to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy...” (vs. 2b)
- NOTICE that in this one verse you have the finished work of sanctification provided for the believer through faith in Jesus Christ.
- AND....you have the call to be holy, the day-to-day application of the power of the blood of Jesus providing victory over temptation and sin.
- WHO is it that is called to be holy?
“...together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours...” (vs. 2c)
- HOW is it that you will come to be holy?
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 3)
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 4)
- WHAT is the practical result of this grace give the believers in Corinth?
“For in him you have been enriched in every way-- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge...” (vs. 5)
- PAUL is commending them because the grace they have received has made them fluent in spiritual topics, and has given the insights about spiritual things.
- AND verse 6 says that the message of Christ produced this understanding of spiritual things.
“...because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.” (vs. 6)
iv. called into fellowship with the son
- THEN in the last three verses of our passage for today Paul identifies one last aspect of God’s call to Christ.
- YOU will be gifted by God for every situation, while you wait for Christ’s return,
“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” (vs. 7)
- YOU will be kept strong to the end!
- YOU will be blameless on the day of Jesus Christ.
“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 8)
- THIS is quite a faith affirmation when you realize the kinds of problems Paul is going to be dealing with later in the letter.
- AND then in verse 9 we hear the third aspect of God’s calling us to Christ.
“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (vs. 9)
- YOU are called to Christ!
- YOU are called to serve.
- YOU are called to be holy.
- YOU are called to be in fellowship with Jesus.
- NOW, here is a puzzling verse in Matthew 22:14. It says,
“Many are called, but few are chosen.”
- IT simply means that there are two different groups of people under the hearing of God’s voice.
- THE first group hears the call....but procrastinate, ignore God’s voice and eventually reject it all together.
- THEY hear the call, but never move by faith and surrender to God, to being the chosen of God.
- OTHERS hear the call and run by faith to embrace a Savior....becoming the called and the chosen.
- BUT that verse says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
- SO there is apparently a significant drop off between hearing the call and becoming one of God’s chosen people.
- WHERE does that leave you this morning?
- WHICH group are you in?