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The Introduction: Who We Are

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If you have a Bible, I’d like to invite your attention to .
This morning, we begin a study of the book of 1 Corinthians, and similar to our study through Mark’s gospel, we will be here for a LONG time. I’m sure we’ll take a break or two along our journey, but our goal is to go verse by verse through 1 Corinthians.
What I believe we’ll see, is that Paul’s letter to 1 Corinthians, has just as much to say to us in 2019, as it did to them in the first century.
I’d like to read these first 3 verses, which is Paul’s introduction. It’s a fairly standard introduction for letter writing of this time.
Then after reading it, we’ll work to unpack it somewhat.
1 Corinthians 1:1–3 ESV
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 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: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of, if not the greatest, animated movies of all time....is The Lion King. My family hates watching it with me, because I can, almost completely quote it from start to finish.
One of the pivotal scenes, is the moment when Simba decides to return to Pride Rock to take on Scar and regain control of the Kingdom. Shame over what he thought he had done, has caused Simba, the son of the King, to live in exile....until... his dead father......speaks to him from the clouds.
Now…I didn’t say the movie was good theologically, but if you’re familiar with the movie, you know the line that Mufassa says, “Remember, who you are.” He then describes to Simba, WHO he is…and that was to be the motivation, for his change of attitude, his change of behavior, and his restoring of things to their proper order.
In some ways, Paul’s introduction sets the stage for an entire letter that will call the Corinthians to, “remember, who they are.”
Paul’s introduction and letter is similar to other letters of his day. It begins with the identification of the sender, then it identifies the recipients....it then provides a thanksgiving of some sort, followed by the content of the letter.
In this letter, the sender, is Paul and Sosthenes.
Paul:
He is formerly referred to as, “Saul of Tarsus.”
He is a Jew, and formerly a Pharisee
The Pharisees were a group of zealous individuals, determined to keep God’s Law…so much so, that they added laws in order to make them OBVIOUSLY HOLY
The problem of course, is that it became all about outward obedience, and not at all about inward transformation
And Saul was so zealous, that he hated the church, which was distinct from Judaism…and it was his mission to eliminate the church entirely
But notice here, how Paul describes himself
1 Corinthians 1:1 ESV
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
Saul of Tarsus had plans to stop the church…God had different plans
Guess whose plans won
Called: kletos; called....here, the sense of the word is to SUMMON: denoting someone whose participation or presence has been officially requested; especially a request to which refusal is not an option
So, he’s been summoned…and this summons came.... “by the will of God”
Signifying that it was the ETERNAL plan of God, to summon Paul into this office....and the eternal plan of God, revealed itself in time and space, by the Divine summons
In other words, we know it was God’s will....because it happened. The WILL of God, is what led to the ACTION of God. The will was before the call.
Our study of Galatians will help us here....
Galatians 1:15 ESV
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
It was the plan of God, the will of God, which brought about the call of God in Paul’s life
An OT example of this would be Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:5 ESV
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
So…Paul said he’s called....by the will of God....and he’s called TO something
to be an apostle of Jesus Christ
Apostle: one sent out by Jesus as His representative
To give us some modern day equivalence....Apostles were the power of attorney of Jesus (they could fully represent Him…and speak on His behalf…that’s why the words they wrote, could immediately be recognized, as the Word of God)
Or…another illustration....they were the very real Ambassadors of Christ....they spoke on His behalf.
In describing himself this way in the opening, he expresses at least 2 things
His authority
He is an APOSTLE of Jesus Christ; He speaks on behalf of the Lord of the church
He is an APOSTLE of Jesus Christ
And his humility
He didn’t seek this position....it was the eternal plan of God....and that eternal plan was executed by the powerful summons (or call) of God
This is what Chrysostom saw in these words, all the way back in the 4th century:
“ See how immediately, from the very beginning, he casts down their pride, and dashes to the ground all their fond imagination, in that he speaks of himself as “called.” For what I have learnt, saith he, I discovered not myself, nor acquired by my own wisdom, but while I was persecuting and laying waste the Church I was called. Now here of Him that calleth is everything: of him that is called, nothing, (so to speak,) but only to obey.”
See how immediately, from the very beginning, he casts down their pride, and dashes to the ground all their fond imagination, in that he speaks of himself as “called.” For what I have learnt, saith he, I discovered not myself, nor acquired by my own wisdom, but while I was persecuting and laying waste the Church I was called. Now here of Him that calleth is everything: of him that is called, nothing, (so to speak,) but only to obey.
In other words, the fact that he was CALLED…meant God should be seen as the great one, worthy of honor…and Paul should be seen as nothing.
John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Hubert Kestell Cornish, John Medley, and Talbot B. Chambers, vol. 12, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 3.
This was crucial for writing into the culture of pride that was the city of Corinth
Paul also adds Sosthenes’ name. Now, to understand who Sosthenes is, we must understand to WHOM Paul is writing
1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 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:
Recipients of the letter, is the church of God in Corinth
Corinth:
City on an Isthmus (thin strip of land connecting two larger pieces of land) between, Greece and the Peloponnesian Peninsula.
Three major ports
Ships would come either around the northern side, or the southern of this Isthmus. They would unload their cargo. And literally drag the ship across the land to the sea on the other side.
Since there was much trade going on from all over, you had many cultures represented in Corinth. And with many cultures, you had a plethora of religions represented.
Not to mention the Roman understanding of religious pluralism that would have allowed for such.
Corinth, in many ways, is a lot like our culture
Both in religious tolerance....everyone is on their own personal journey, they can worship what gods they choose
And, in shame/honor culture that abounded. Quite literally exhibiting itself in the “dog-eat-dog” world…do whatever you have to do to get to the top.
Pride, and egotism, would have abounded.
A city of pride and religious tolerance....also....
The moral culture of this port city, was quite licentious
In Corinth, you had the Temple of Aphrodite, with 1,000 ministers serving in it
Aphrodite was the ancient goddess of fertility, so it doesn’t take much to imagine the level of sexual sins that would have been pervasive there.
And it’s in THIS wicked city, God has a church.
When we pray for unreached people groups, we remind ourselves often, that there is no obstacle too great for our God to overcome, to save His lost sheep
We see that in the reality that there is a church, in Corinth....God’s gospel, is more powerful, than the most wicked of wicked cities
HOW did a church become established here?
We learn that story in
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, is converted in
Along with many of the Corinthians
God tells Paul that He has many people in that town....so Paul keeps teaching the Word of God for 1 year and 6 months
Until Gallio became proconsul of Achaia
It was then the Jews made a united attack on Paul, brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.”
Gallio didn’t want anything to do with the matter....so the Jews, beat a man named Sosthenes
Either angered over the situation, or mad at him…possibly aligned with Paul
Acts 18:17 ESV
17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.
So…in our opening verse, Paul identifies himself as the sender....as well as “our brother Sosthenes”
1 Corinthians 1:1 ESV
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
We’re not told about his conversion…we just know, he’s now a brother. He could have been one while being beaten…we just don’t know.
What we do know, is that the powerful gospel, went into the wicked port city of Corinth, and called God’s lost sheep into the fold.
And…as for the recipients of the letter, notice…this church is in this wicked city, but it is not to the wicked city Paul writes.
He writes....
1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 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:
So…Paul…is writing a letter…to the church at Corinth.
Now…here is THE all-important question that must be asked, and the question that I believe will help us understand the whole of the letter itself: What is a Church?
The Greek word is ekklesia: gathering or assembly
The root is kaleo, from which also comes the word translated “call” we saw earlier, kletos
This word, ekklesia, was used when the OT was translated into Greek, in places like:
Deuteronomy 4:10 ESV
10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
Leviticus 19:5–6 ESV
5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire.
The people of God, were a people “gathered together...” they were an ekklesia
During the time of this letter, ekklesia was used to refer to political gatherings
So the word refers generally to, “an assembly, or a gathering, with a particular function or goal”
And when used in reference to God’s people in the NT, it refers to, “the gathered, or assembled, people of God.”
So, Paul sends a letter, with the destination being the wicked port city of Corinth....and his letter has a specific audience....the people God has assembled in His name.
The people God has CALLED out of the world, and into His assembly
Paul writes to them...
Now…Paul’s not writing a letter to say, “Sup fellas? Things are going pretty well here, hope things are cool with you. Until we see each other again, peace out. #paulnotsaul”
No, he writes to them....as a humble, but authoritative apostle, to address problems within the church.
What are the problems Paul addresses?
David Garland summed it up well: “The problem was not that the church was in Corinth but that too much of Corinth was in the church.”
And in order for that problem to be corrected, Paul was clearly presenting to them, WHO they are.
He must remind them what it means to be the assembled people of God.
And that’s the main point I hope we grasp this morning as well:
REMEMBERING WHO WE ARE, HELPS FIX WHAT WE’VE BECOME.
And in Corinth, they had become many things that were contrary to their identity as one, assembled people, in Christ.
Just a quick overview of the problems Paul addresses in this letter:

Dis-Unity (Chapters 1-4)

Really....this is the problem identified throughout the letter
It’s due often to their pride and egotism
It leads to allowing different personalities to become polarizing
It fragments, God’s ONE church....God’s ONE gathered people

Poor Ecclesiology (Chapters 5-10)

Ecclesiology is just the study of the church…or an understanding of how the church functions, comes together, does what it does, etc.
This is really both an over-simplification....for there are a LOT of things dealt with in chapters 5-10…and really, this could again be said that this is THE problem, found throughout the letter
BUT....
This too could be seen throughout the book, but it’s clear in chapters 5-10
They didn’t seem to GET, what it meant to BE the church
They didn’t seem to GET, what it meant to BE the church
To function as the called out people of God, living together in unity as such, for the glory of God
They didn’t understand what to tolerate, and what not to tolerate
, they’re tolerating horrible sexual sins that even wicked Corinth won’t tolerate
, they don’t know what to tolerate on eating meat sacrificed to idols
They didn’t understand how to work out their understanding of sexuality, singleness, and marriage ()
WE TOO…OFTEN DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THE CHURCH

Improper Worship (Chapters 11-14)

Everything from the role of men and women in the gatherings, the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper, to the godly view of spiritual gifts…they didn’t understand the PURPOSE of worship
They didn’t understand then, HOW to come together and worship in the GOD-honoring way
Paul will say things like
1 Corinthians 11:20 ESV
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.
And he will rebuke them for their view on spiritual gifts

Misunderstanding of Eschatology (Chapter 15)

Which is really a misunderstanding of the eternal plan and work of God
So Paul writes to them, and instructs the church in Corinth, on these matters where they are not aligning with their identity in Christ
And in the introduction, we get a taste of how we will remind them WHO they are, so they can fix WHAT they’ve become
Take their dis-unity for example....Paul calls them, as the ekklesia of God.....
To come together and unite, not around their favorite preachers, or their particular stance on religious practices.....but to unite in Christ Jesus
Jesus is mentioned 4 times in this opening salutation, and in every verse of the thanksgiving…which is verses 4-9
Their unity is in Christ....and especially the cross of Christ
And Paul begins, by reminding them of WHO they are…as God’s church…in order that throughout the letter, he can point by point call them to recognize how they’re living contrary to that identity, and call them to live in unison with that identity.
It’s the description Paul gives of the ekklesia of God, the church of God, in Corinth....that I believe provides us with the goal to call them back to
“I’m writing to you, the assembled people of God. This is who you are…see that, so you’ll no longer be what you’ve become.”
So how does Paul describe the church?
There are 5 things here Paul highlights for us, and I want to touch on each briefly.
First of all…the church’s

1. Possessor

1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 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:
The church OF God
The church does not belong to the pastor
The church does not belong to the elders as a whole
The church does not belong to a group of churches assembled in a denomination (even if the building does…the church doesn’t)
The church does not belong to the congregation
The church does not belong to the pope
The church....belongs....to God
Being owned by God, had several implications for the Corinthians
They had no reason to divide it; no reason to make it immoral; no reason to conduct themselves in improper worship
And the same is true for you and I
For the individual:
You may say, “Yeah, but pursuing this activity, this job, this sinful act makes me happy.”
It doesn’t matter....you belong to God, because He created you
And you belong to God, if you’re in His church, because He owns it
You have no right to question what the owner says do
For the congregation:
We have no right to determine HOW we’re going to worship God
He has told us....we cannot go outside of what the Bible truly teaches
The church....is God’s church
Secondly....Paul describes the position of the gathered people of God....

2. Position

To those sanctified in Christ Jesus
The gathered people, belonging to God....have been sanctified
Made holy, made separate; consecrated
IN Christ Jesus
Paul does not say, “This is your goal, sanctification in Christ Jesus,”
Although, in the practical sense, that is certainly their goal…and ours
Paul does say that they ARE sanctified in Christ Jesus
This is their CURRENT status; their position
Throughout this letter, Paul will call them to morality and right living
He will expose their sin, and call them to repentance
And what we must remember, is that the indicative, comes before the imperative.
In other words, God describes to His people, their STATUS…before He gives them their COMMANDS
It’s always been this way with God’s people:
When He gave them the Law, He established to them, and for them, that He had redeemed them…He had set them free....He had delivered HIS people. That He was their God, they will be His gathered people
THEN…because of their status....here’s the Law, obey it.
The assembled people of God, have always had God describe their status, and their relationship with God....THEN told what to do
It has NEVER been “do this, so that THIS will be our relationship”
Same is true with the N.C. gathered people of God
(this is who you are in Christ)
(now this is how you should live, because of who you are in Christ)
Same is true for you and I. When you fall into sin, when that struggle with anger, or that struggle with pride is ongoing…we don’t simply provide a law and say, ‘get better,’
we remind you..... “You belong to God, and you are IN Christ…now by His grace, start living like it.”
God’s assembled people, have always been set apart, by God, for God. Paul’s description of Corinth shows, this is still the case.
Thirdly…He describes their....

3. Producer and Purpose

I put two here, because both come from one phrase in our verse
Called to be saints
Called: same as Paul’s call
It is by God’s divine summons, the Corinthians were separated, consecrated
And again, like with Paul’s call, this brings humility
We didn’t come to God; we didn’t choose to say, “you know....Christianity sounds appealing.” No, He descended....He came to us…His call, we heard, and obeyed
God produces, He constructs His own church....by calling, and gathering, and assembling His own people, by His own divine summons, through His own Word
And it is a humbling reality…that Paul continues to look to in the early portions of this letter, to attack their pride
1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 ESV
26 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. 27 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; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
You see…the Corinthians have no need to prideful, since it isn’t their church, and they aren’t the ones that built it in the first place....
God…builds His own church
Matthew 16:18 ESV
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
How will He build it?
John 17:20 ESV
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
So we see, that’s what the apostles did....they preached, and in God’s wise way, they wrote God’s Word....and people are CALLED by God, through it.
Joh
2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:14 ESV
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
God creates, produces, His gathered people…and He does so for a purpose, to bring glory to Himself, by them living distinct and holy lives
“Called to be saints”
Called to be holy; set apart;
This is not a call for the Corinthians that they receive, AFTER their call to salvation…this is the call of God.
For Saul of Tarsus, in the midst of persecuting the church, “Saul, I’ve set you apart to be an apostle…come follow me.”
For all other believers, in the midst of their sin, they heard by ears that were given by God’s Spirit....the call to leave the path of sin, and daily turn more and more, to righteousness and holiness
And if you’re here, and you’re not a believer, this is the call to you, that I pray God makes effective in your heart.
That today would be the day, you respond to the call of the gospel…realizing you have broken God’s Law, and are worthy of His judgement, but trusting that Jesus…God’s Son....has come as the ONE in whom are ALL the people of God.
If you would today but trust that Jesus has died to receive your punishment, and that He rose again in victory, you will be saved.
God’s assembled people, have God as their Owner; They have been positioned into Christ; God has produced them for the purpose of His glory through their holiness
Paul also provides them with....perspective

4. Perspective

1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 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:
“Together with....”
They are not the lone church; nor are they the central church; they are a part of the larger church.
They are called to be saints, TOGETHER WITH, all those....in every place.
The divided, proud, often far-too Corinth like, gathered people of God in Corinth, need to be reminded that they are one part of a very large gathered people.
They are the gathered people of God in Corinth....that was a part of the gathered people of God from everywhere, where God has summoned people to be saints.
This is one reason we recited the Nicene Creed this morning. To remind us, that we are a part of a church that is worldwide, and historical. That the assembled people of God transcends geographic boundaries, as well as time itself.
God has always had a remnant people in every generation. He has always had a people HE has assembled.
As we’ve already noted, this is the word used to describe His people in the OT.
He called out Abraham, and assembled a people from a part of his descendents
And that assembled people, was sometimes a very small remnant compared to the large number that was not a part of His assembled people
The same seems true in the N.C. as well…as it always appears as if the assembled people of God are a small remnant
“many are they…few are they...”
But when God finishes assembling His people from all times, “they are a crowd that no man can number.”
Revelation 7:9 ESV
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
As we’ve already noted, this is the word used to describe His people in the OT.
He called out Abraham, and assembled a people from a part of his descendents
And that assembled people, was sometimes a very small remnant compared to the large number that was not a part of His assembled people
The same seems true in the N.C. as well…as it always appears as if the assembled people of God are a small remnant
“many are they…few are they...”
But when God finishes assembling His people from all times, “they are a crowd that no man can number.”
Remember child of God, when the problems around you seem so large, that they make you feel alone and isolated....that you are a part of God’s church, in Lake Butler.
But you are also a part of God’s church, “together with all who in every place, call upon His name.”
And this assembled people....fifthly....has one primary

5. Program

1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 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:
Call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
Scripture repeatedly gives us this, as the “program” for God’s assembled people
That activity, that literally EVERY single child of God participates in...
Joel 2:32 ESV
32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Acts 2:21 ESV
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Romans 10:13 ESV
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This word “call,” is distinct from the call that God gives. He gives a command, this word for “call,” is to offer a plea for help, out of a recognition of need.
From His position as Creator and God, He summons.
From our position as fallen creatures, we cry out for His mercy.
That is a distinguishing mark of all God’s people.
And it’s this mark, that will come into focus, as Paul calls them back to live like God’s church in Corinth.
So....
Paul writes to the ekklesia, the assembled people of God. The ones who belong to God, have their position in Christ, have God as their producer with the purpose of their holiness for His glory…the ones who are a part of the universal assembled people, and the ones who call upon the Lord.
And then Paul tells them of his prayer for them
1 Corinthians 1:3 ESV
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
That God’s unmerited favor that saved them, and brings the peace of God to them....would continue to come and be given.
And indeed, that is a prayer we all must pray for ourselves.
Conclusion
So, we are beginning a long journey through this book to be sure
But in the introduction, we get a taste for where we’re headed.
Paul is addressing issues that are threatening this part of God’s church, issues that this part of God’s church seems to be oblivious to.
So…from his introduction…he reminds them of WHO they are.
Whatever problem we come to face as God’s church, may we be reminded of who we are in Christ, and the reality that our solutions are always found in Him.
Prayer
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