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United we stand - Divided we fall

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“United we stand – Divide we fall”

1 Cor 1:1-17; Acts 18:1-18

Date:  Aug 19th, 2007

Place:  Faith EBC

Introduction

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

- Aesop Greek slave & fable author (620 BC - 560 BC)

We live in a day where we have more resources at our disposal, more knowledge, and greater ability than any other time in human history. We have made great strides in science, we have people in outer space working on the international space station. All of these things have been accomplished because we worked together. We have translated the Scriptures in more languages in this last generation than any other time in history. We are reaching more people with the gospel through radio and many are coming to Christ because we are working together for the cause of Christ. All of this is because of unity. However, we also live in a world that is divided. We don’t share the wealth – in fact it wouldn’t be prudent to share all the information we have gained with certain people, because we live in a world that is infected with evil – people getting worse and worse.

The church is to be a people that overcome evil, that should understand the dangers of selfishness and we have many examples and descriptions in Scripture which remind us of our fallen nature. We also have many admonitions which exhort us to live in unity, looking out for the interest of others. Unless we obey these admonitions, we will be divided, we will be polarized on different issues.

The church in Corinth was such a church – a church with many resources, a church with great opportunity, but a church that was divided along many different lines – social, cultural, and spiritual. They had rival groups with the church, some were claiming to be followers of Paul, Apollos, Peter, and some of Christ. How did Paul address this division? We read about it in the two letters addressed to the believers at Corinth.

Corinth: Location, History and Background

Corinth was a city known for its wealth, its strategic location, and its immorality. It was made up of the Achaean people who revolted against Rome. Corinth was destroyed in 146 BC by Lucius Mummius, but was later rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Julius Caesar populated the city with three different people group, the freedman, the veterans and the average tradesman and labourer. Therefore, with this rebuilding, Corinth was heavily influenced by Roman culture and polytheistic ideas which influenced the cults in the area. “Its official language was Latin, but the common language remained Greek … The city was filled with shrines and temples, but the most prominent was the Temple of Aphrodite on top of an 1,800-foot promontory called the Acrocorinthus. Worshipers of the “goddess of love” made free use of the 1,000 Hieroduli (consecrated prostitutes).[1]

Thisselton notes: “Greek temples were rededicated to the same Greek deities in the Roman period, notably at Corinth, to Poseidon, Aphrodite, Apollo, Demeter, Kore, and Asclepios.”28[2]

“In Paul’s day the population of Corinth was approximately 700,000, about two-thirds of whom were slaves.”[3]

Corinth was noted for its strategic location (48 miles west of Athens), “at the crossroads or intersection between east and west and between north and south.”1 “Corinth is called ‘wealthy’ because of its commerce, since it is situated on the Isthmus and is master of two harbours, of which one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange of merchandise from both countries.”3 … there is abundant evidence that “this coastal plain [Corinthia] was among the most productive regions in Roman Greece.”15[4]

Paul planted a church in Corinth during his second missionary journey, cf. Acts 18:1-18. “Paul taught the Word of God in Corinth for eighteen months in a.d. 51–52.”[5]

Occasion of writing:

“First Corinthians is a reply to two letters. Paul had left the Corinthian church under the leadership of Aquila and Priscilla in the spring of a.d. 53 to continue his second missionary journey. On his third journey, during his stay at Ephesus, he received two letters from the Corinthian believers. One was a disturbing report from the household of Chloe (1:11). The report detailed the divisions and immorality in the church…The second letter Paul received was a set of questions that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had brought from Corinth (16:15–18). The detailed questions were about marriage and singleness (7:1–40) and Christian liberty (8:1—11:1).[6]

The probable chronological order is: Galatians, First Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Romans, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, First Timothy, Titus, and Second Timothy.[7]

First Corinthians is the “problem book” in the sense that Paul handles the problems (“Now concerning ...”) [“Now concerning,” 1 Cor. 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1).][8] .. that faced the congregation in the wicked city of Corinth…It would be wrong, however, to think it was all problems! This is the Epistle that contains 1 Corinthians 13, the most beautiful essay on love, not just in the Bible, but in all literature. The remarkable teaching on the resurrection—both Christ’s and ours (chap. 15), the regulation of the Lord’s Supper (chap. 11), the command to take part in the collection (chap. 16), are all here. [9]

Date and Location of writing:

Most likely Paul wrote the letter while he was ministering at Ephesus during his third missionary journey. In 16:8, Paul said that he would remain in Ephesus until Pentecost. This, coupled with Acts 20:31, indicates that he wrote it in the last year of his three-year stay in Ephesus, some time in the spring of a.d. 56. The Corinthian church would have been about four years old at that time.[10] “The Corinth that Paul knew was partially destroyed by an earthquake in a.d. 521, then totally devastated by another in 1858. Modern Corinth, rebuilt about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the ancient site, is little more than a town.”[11]

Theme and Purpose of the Book

Paul wrote his letter to address the divisions and urge them to live in unity for the sake of Christ.

“The basic theme of this epistle is the application of Christian principles on an individual and social level. The cross of Christ is a message that is designed to transform the lives of believers and make them different, as people and as a corporate body, from the surrounding world. Paul wrote this letter as his corrective response to the news of problems and disorders among the Corinthians. It was designed to refute improper attitudes and conduct and to promote a spirit of unity among the brethren in their relationships and worship.”[12]

This book is very practical as it addresses some of the same challenges we face in our world today. How are we to live in a world that is focused on self? Much of church today is abusing its freedoms, therefore the reason for legalisms in the church. How do we help believers understand the importance of unity? “Paul forcefully amplifies his thoughts with abundant literary devices (narrative, sarcasm, appeal, etc.).”[13]

Here is a list of subjects handled by Paul in this first letter:

  1. Divisions – followers of personalities, chapter 1
  2. Sexual immorality, the need for church discipline, chapter 5
  3. Taking believers to court, chapter 6
  4. Marriage, celibacy, divorce, remarriage, chapter 7
  5. Issues of conscience – learning to limit ones freedom in the interest of others, chapters 8-10
  6. Lord’s table, chapter 11
  7. Unity of the body, recognizing diversity but valuing unity, chapter 12-14
  8. The Resurrection, chapter 15

I.                     Paul’s Methodology

a.        Strategic Church Plant

                                                               i.      Tentmaker – self-supporting, good for first time contacts.

                                                              ii.      Associate with every day people, humble.

                                                            iii.      Avoid using eloquent arguments

                                                            iv.      Stay as long as it takes

                                                             v.      Team player with Aquila and Priscilla

                                                            vi.      Begin in the local synagogue

                                                          vii.      Stay and teach the fundamentals of the faith

b.       Able communicator

                                                               i.      He spent 1.5 yrs with every day people, teaching them the truth of Scripture.

                                                              ii.      His letter is filled with various forms of argumentation.

                                                            iii.      He appealed to the truth he communicated, the Word.

                                                            iv.      He used rhetorical questions to prove a point.

II.                   Paul’s Response to the Reports

Let’s note the fact that the name of Christ in these first seventeen verses is mentioned no less than 14x.

a.        His Address, vv. 1-3

                                                               i.      Reference to Paul’s call as a apostle, vs. 1

                                                              ii.      Sothesenes, cp. Acts 18:17

                                                            iii.      Written to Corinth, but also to us, vs.2

                                                            iv.      Typical greeting, vs. 3, cp. 2 Thess 1:2; Rom 1:7

b.       His Commendation of the Corinthian believers, vv. 4-9

                                                               i.      Grace given to them – resulting in being enriched

1.        in speech

2.        knowledge

3.        favour

                                                              ii.      Eagerly awaiting the return of the Lord

1.        established in the faith, in order to be presented blameless

c.        Report of divisions, vv. 10-17

                                                               i.      Request given, vs. 10 – cp. 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 1:27, 2:1-5

1.        Speak the same things

2.        Perfectly joined in mind and the same judgment

“For Paul, maturity is not just an individual matter but a corporate growth. Maturity here is the process of the mending of relationships25 that takes place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Maturity and unity are inseparable.”[14]

                                                              ii.      Report of contentions – following personalities, vv. 11-17, cp. Matt 12:25

1.        We are to speak and act in keeping with the grace we have received.

2.        Danger of the Cross losing its effect

Conclusion

The witness of our church in the world is directly related to how we communicate through our words, our attitudes, our actions. We need to be conveying the same message and the same judgments on the issues of the day. We need to be supportive of one another and not allow the world’s way of dealing with differences affect the way we are to live. Unity is a wonderful word, but requires deliberate action on behalf of every believer in the body of Christ. This is part of the theme of 1 Cor and will be addressed numerous times. Let’s be prepared to hear, understand and apply this principle within our homes, our workplace and yes our church body.


----

[1]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 381. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

28 Cf. Engels, Roman Corinth, 93–101.

[2]Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, 6. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.

[3]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 381. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

1 On Acrocorinth (1884 feet or 574 meters) and the geography of Corinthia (the territorium of Corinth) see Donald Engels, Roman Corinth: An Alternative Model for the Classical City (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 8–14; and J. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A History of the City to 338 bc (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

3 Strabo, Geography 8.6.20. See further J. Murphy-O’Connor, St Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Wilmington: Glazier, 1983), 6–10, 51–54.

15 Ibid., 11; see also Wiseman, Corinth and Rome, 444: “The land to the West of Corinth was proverbially fertile … the extensively cultivated coastal plain. Corinthian territory extended to the Nemea River.… The Saronic coastline of the Corinthia, then, from Epidauria to Megaris was a sea-distance of 300 stades [53–28 kilometers]” (445). Cf. also B. von Freyberg, Geologie des Isthmus von Korinth (Erlangen: Erlanger Geologische Abhandlungen, 1973).

[4]Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, 3. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.

[5]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 382. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

[6]Radmacher, Earl D., Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 1 Co. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999.

[7]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 368. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

[8]Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.; Includes Index. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).

[9]MacDonald, William and Arthur Farstad. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments, 1 Co 1:1. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995.

[10]Radmacher, Earl D., Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House.

[11]Youngblood, Ronald F., F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995.

[12]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 382. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

[13]Wilkinson, Bruce and Kenneth Boa. Talk Thru the Bible, 383. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983.

[14] Hampton Keathley, http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=781

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