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Unity's Firm Foundation

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1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:24
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"To apply a verse or passage we must first know what it means. The foundation upon which unity rests is the Word of God. There can be no unity if God’s Word is not handled accurately."

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Introduction

As we begin this morning I want you all to take out your handout and look at the very bottom.
You’ll see that we have two questions, a statement, and a blank to write down a commitment.
Off and on during all this COVID craziness I have studied Hebrews 10:25 where we are commanded to assemble.
Biblically speaking, we only meet the qualifications of an assembly if we are doing what is described in this verse.
As a church we are called to stir one another up to love and good works. We are also called to exhort one another.
This means that we are to help one another grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
With that in mind we are going to start something new.
Each week there will be questions on the bottom of your notes.
Be thinking about them during the message and at the end we will have time to think of, and write down a commitment.
This will take a little bit of getting used to, but if we are going to be Biblical, we need to be challenging one another in our Spiritual growth.
PRAY
How important is a foundation?
Pretty important, right?
I don’t know if anyone knows this better than the builders of the tower of Pisa (S).
If you were to look this tower up on Wikipedia this is what the first sentence says.
“The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation.”
The tower of Pisa is commonly called what?
The leaning tower of Pisa.
It is known, not for its architectural beauty, nor for the bells at it’s top. It is know for the fatal flaw of having a faulty foundation.
You may recall that there is a Biblical story of what happens when someone builds their house on the sand (S).
While location is important, it only works when a firm foundation is laid.
When the foundation is unstable, the building has visible issues.
Therefore, we reach the following conclusion.
A building is only as good as the foundation upon which it stands.
In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul describes the church as a building.
If the church is a building, then its foundation is vital.
In recent years there has been a call for unity amongst believers.
Disunity is rightly understood to be a major obstacle in reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unity is very important.
In fact, I believe it is the concept of unity that is the chief motivation behind 1 Corinthians.
While we understand that unity is important, we must also understand that unity cannot be sought at the cost of truth.
Sadly, not everyone has this understanding.
There is an argument that says doctrine should take second place to unity.
In the book of 1 Corinthians Paul will give us clarity on this issue. In this book a vastly important truth is revealed.
Sound doctrine and godly practice are the two essential elements of unity.
We will get more into the structure of the book in a few weeks.
Today, we have a different goal.
As we begin to study 1 Corinthians, we need to answer three questions.
These questions establish the necessity of this book.
When we study this book we will find unity on the firm foundation of Scripture.
Question #1…

1. What Is 1 Corinthians?

If we are going to study and understand this book, we must know what it is.
Let’s begin with the basics.
1 Corinthians is…

a. A letter to the church 1:2

If your Bible is anything like mine you may have a title like this at the top of the page.
The First Epistle Of Paul To The Corinthians.
An epistle is a letter. So this is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
Who are they?
The first place we want to look for information on the Corinthians is the book itself and the rest of the Bible.
Look at v. 2.
Paul tells us very clearly that he is writing to the church at Corinth.
The word church means assembly. So this is a group of believers who gather together in Corinth.
We know they are believers because he calls them sanctified and saints.
According to v. 12 the people here know Paul, Apollos, and Peter (Cephas).
In 4:12 we learn that Paul sent Timothy there.
In chapter 7 we learn there are Jews (those circumcised) and Gentiles (those uncircumcised) in the church as well as slaves and masters.
Chapter 8 reveals there are temples and idols to false god’s in the city.
Chapter 9 teaches us that there are false teachers in Corinth who are attacking Paul and his ministry.
Chapter 11 makes it clear that there are both those who are financially well off and those who are not in the church.
Chapter 16 shows the generosity of this church.
These are all things we learn from the letter itself.
Now we turn to the rest of Scripture.
We are introduced to the city of Corinth during Paul’s second missionary journey in Acts 18.
Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla there and joins them in their tentmaking business.
Every Sabbath he held a dialogue in the synagogue.
When Paul proclaims Jesus as the Christ he is opposed by the Jews and so he begins holding his weekly dialogue’s in a home next door where he could have Gentiles come.
Look at Acts 18:11 (S).
Acts 18:11
Acts 18:11 NKJV
And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
When some of the Jews try to get Paul in trouble, the proconsul, we would call him a governor, throws them out.
Paul remains and ministers there for quite awhile.
In the end of Acts 18 we learn of Apollos who was eloquent and passionate. Priscilla and Aquila take him aside and disciple him.
From this passage we are left with the picture of a growing church that didn’t have too much opposition.
But that is an incomplete picture of the city.
Now we need to look at some extra Biblical sources for the history of Corinth.
Ancient Corinth was located near an isthmus “separating the Peloponnesian Peninsula from mainland Greece.” (S)
Corinth was a Greek city until the Romans destroyed the city in 146 BC. The ruins of the Greek temple to Apollo demonstrate the grandeur this city once held (S).
Corinth was rebuilt by Rome in 46 BC. In less than 20 years it became the capital of Achaia which was kind of like a county.

The city itself was really three cities: the port of Cenchrea, about eight miles to the east, where ships from the Aegean would unload; the port of Lechaeum, about a mile to the west on the Gulf of Corinth, where the ships would be reloaded, their goods having been transported in wagons over the isthmus and the ships on rollers; and the city itself on the high ground in between.

The location of the city made it a metropolitan hub. It was believed to hold between 7-800,000 residents. Over half of those, around 460,000, would have been slaves. The commerce that flowed through the city made it extremely wealthy.

As in most Roman cities, marble temples dominated the landscape. The city was supplied with water from an underground well. It became a cosmopolitan city attracting tradespeople from all over the world, though its reputation grew simultaneously as a center of luxury, indulgence, and vice. A large colony of displaced Jews (part of the Diaspora) developed in the city, the group that undoubtedly attracted the apostle Paul.

Corinth was famous for the Isthmian games which consisted of horse racing, gymnastics, music, chariot racing, and foot racing to name a few.
The Lexham Bible Dictionary What Do We Know about Ancient Corinth?

Excavations have also shown that Corinth and its surrounding area were home to dozens of temples and shrines dedicated to such diverse deities as Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter and Kore, Palaimon, and Sisyphus, as well as the Egyptian deities Isis and Sarapis. The Isthmian games focused their attention on a temple dedicated to Poseidon.

Corinth had what was called the Acropolis, a higher portion of the city atop which sat the temple of Aphrodite. Aphrodite, also known as Venus, was the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Part of the “worship” involved the use of 1,000 temple slaves who were used as prostitutes.
Corinthian morals were so notoriously corrupt that when someone was being particularly obscene they would be accused of being a Corinthian.
It is in this wealthy, beautiful, morally bankrupt, idolatrous, and highly sexualized city that Paul plants a church.
When we consider everything going on in Corinth, it is little wonder that the church has some issues that Paul needs to address.
It is important to note that Paul is not only addressing the church in Corinth.
Look at he end of v. 2.
We call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul is addressing us as well.
This means that what is written in this book is for us today.
This brings us to our first lesson.
A letter is meant to be read and understood.
Because this letter is also addressed to you and me as modern day believers, we have a responsibility to read and understand it.
This requires a proper method of Bible interpretation coupled with dependence on and filling with the Holy Spirit.
We will talk about that in our final point this morning.
1 Corinthians is a letter to the church.
1 Corinthians is also…

b. A letter of correction 1:10-11

This letter let’s us know right away that it is focused on correction.
Look at vv. 10-11.
There is division and contention in the Corinthian church.
As we journey through this letter the tone of correction becomes even more clear.
This means that Paul will be stating issues and giving Biblical solutions to those issues.
This is exactly what is needed today.
This also means that the letter to the Corinthian church reads differently than Paul’s other epistles.
Let me give you one other example.
Go to 1 Corinthians 11:17, 22.
1 Corinthians 11:17, 22
This type of language and attitude is found in various places throughout the book.
This doesn’t mean that Paul is only corrective. In chapter 1 verse 4 he states that he thanks God for them.
It is important to know this is a letter of correction because it helps us understand what is being said and why.
The other important aspect to the book is that beginning in chapter 7, Paul is answering the questions of those in Corinth.
Correction requires self-examination and purposeful change.
That is the goal of this letter.
Paul wants to see the hearts of those in Corinth transformed by the conviction of God the Holy Spirit.
That is what the book of 1 Corinthians is.
1 Corinthians is a letter of correction written to the church at Corinth and to all believers.
This brings us to question #2…

2. Why Should We Study 1 Corinthians?

This is a letter written to an ancient church. Do we really need to study it?
This letter was written to address issues almost 2,000 years ago. Can it really be relevant for us today?
These are arguments that are sometimes made against studying books of the Bible.
It could be argued that it is better to preach on select verses of Scripture that specifically deal with issues we face today.
We need to understand that the book of 1 Corinthians does exactly that.
Let’s examine two reasons why we should study 1 Corinthians.
Reason #1…

a. There is a need for correction 1:12

For now we will look at only one example.
Look at chapter 1 verse 12.
This conflict faced in Corinth is still present today.
There are so many people in Christian circles who are followers of men.
I am of MacArthur, I am of Piper, I am of Calvin, I am of Arminius etc…
Or, to bring it closer to home. I am of Jon, I am of Sean Greene, I am of Bill Fox, I am of Daryl Hanson.
The point is that it is wrong to follow any person more than Christ and His Word.
The correction Paul gives to combat this error is needed today.
Almost all the issues Paul will deal with are present in some form today.
Let me just list the topics dealt with in 1 Corinthians (S). 10
Teacher Worship
Church Division
The Role of Baptism
Who Can Be Used By God?
The Role Of The Holy Spirit
Carnal Christianity
The Rewarding of the Believer
How To Endure Suffering
Dealing With Sexual Immorality
Death As Discipline From God
Treatment Of Unbelievers
Mistreatment From Other Christians
The Motivation For Sexual Purity
Sexuality In Marriage
The Permanence Of Marriage
Divorce And Remarriage
Who Should Get Married?
Our Focus In Marriage
Christian Liberty
Being A Stumbling Block
Should Pastor’s And Missionaries Be Paid?
Contextualized Evangelism
Old Testament Interpretation
Enduring Temptation
Gender Roles In Church
Observance Of Communion
The Unity Of The Body Of Christ
Spiritual Gifts
Your Place In The Body Of Christ
Why Love Matters In The Church
Speaking In Tongues
What Is The Gospel?
Was Jesus Really Resurrected?
Why Does The Resurrection Matter?
What Does The Resurrection Mean Today?
Will We Be Resurrected?
Monetary Giving
Church Leadership
Perseverance In Ministry
Fellowship In The Body Of Christ
We’ve just listed 40 different topics.
There will likely be even more as we journey through the book.
The point is, These topics matter.
These topics are still relevant in the church today.
They are relevant because as human beings we wrestle with the same things today as the early church did.
They are relevant because just as there was false teaching in Paul’s day, there is false teaching today.
When clear Scripture is denied correction is needed.
Let me pick one of these topics to illustrate this. Being A Stumbling Block.
Right now there are three schools of thought.
1 - Do anything you want. You have freedom. People stumble because they choose to.
2 - If there is even the slightest possibility that someone somewhere could take something the wrong way, don’t do it.
Those are the two extremes. And they are both wrong. The first one, because Scripture does call us to limited freedom. The second one because it goes beyond what is written in Scripture.
There is a third position.
3 - Biblical, Holy Spirit led discernment is needed in every use of Christian liberty.
We study 1 Corinthians because there is a need for correction.
Reason #2…

b. There is a need for direction 1:13

Paul presented us with the problem of sectarianism in v. 12. That’s what it means to separate over personality issues.
Now he gives the solution in v. 13.
READ v. 13
This verse corrects the error that v. 12 exposes.
If sectarianism is the problem, then unity is the solution.
How can we be unified?
By remembering that we are all one in Christ! We were not saved by the death of Paul or any other Christian leader!
This is what Paul does all through the epistle. He presents an error and then corrects it.
Within Christianity there are movements to ignore or reinterpret Scripture to conform with the expectations of secular society.
What do churches need to believe and teach in order to defend against what is taking place?
What should we believe and teach about setting human teachers on pedestals?
What should we believe and teach about who God can use?
What should be believe and teach about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer?
Once again.
Are these relevant issues?
Are these questions we need answers to?
We are studying the book of 1 Corinthians because it answers the issues we are facing!
We need direction as we interact with a culture and society that is looking more and more Corinthian every day.
False teaching and compromise demand clear direction.
Direction for the church comes only by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
1 Corinthians is a letter of correction to the church. We study it because we need correction and direction.
This brings us to our final question.
Question #3…

3. How Will We Study 1 Corinthians?

Obviously, there are a lot of controversial topics in 1 Corinthians.
Many teachers turn to this book to justify false doctrine.
Clear passages are explained away or twisted to mean something other than their intended meaning.
This emphasizes a need to know how we are going to interpret this book.
To help us understand how we will study this book I am going to give you a description and an illustration.
First…

a. The method described 4:6

We begin with this (HOLD UP BIBLE).
What is this?
This is a book that is really a collection of books.
66 books. 39 in the OT, 27 in the NT. 929 chapters in the OT and 260 chapters in the NT for a total of 1,189. Depending on your translation you have 31,102 verses. That’s 23,145 in the OT and 7, 957 in the NT. The number of words will vary from translation to translation but the NKJV (which is what I use) has 770,430 words.
The Bible was written over a 1500 year period by over 40 authors. The oldest book, Job was written around 1485-1445 BC. Revelation was the last book and was completed around 95-96 AD.
Within these pages we have things written by kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds.
The Bible was written in sometimes strange places. A Dungeon, the wilderness, prison, exile on Patmos, a hillside, a palace, and even while traveling to name just a few.
The Bible was written in times of peace and prosperity and also in times of war and sacrifice, in great happiness and personal depression, confusion, doubt, certainty, conviction, sorrow, joy; all of these moods were faced by the writers of Scripture and are reflected within its pages!
The Bible was written on three different continents; Asia, Africa, and Europe.
It was written in three different languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
The literary style of Scripture covers poetry, song, romance, narrative, history, prophecy, parable, allegory, personal correspondence, biography and autobiography.
It addresses hundreds of controversial topics.
Why do I bring all that up?
I want us to understand the huge variety in the background and style of Scripture to make this point hit home more forcefully.
There is absolutely no contradiction, no inconsistency, and no disagreement within the pages of Scripture.
None.
Everything that over 40 authors wrote over 1500 years agrees 100%!
Why?
2 Peter 1:20-21 (S).
2 Peter 1:20-21
2 Peter 1:20–21 NKJV
knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Every single word in this book was breathed out by God the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16 states that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
Let’s think about this for a minute.
God want’s to communicate with man in a way that can be understood, preserved, and transmitted.
How does He do it?
There seem to be three options.
1 - Appear to anyone and everyone who needs to hear.
Problem: People could claim something that God didn’t say.
2 - Oral tradition. Have it handed down from generation to generation.
Problem: It is too easy for something to be changed. Either by accident or intent.
3 - Written revelation.
While not problem free, it seems the best method.
To be clear, God has used all of these methods at one time or another.
However, it is clear that God has chosen to communicate by the written word.
Those who have trusted Jesus as Savior receive the Holy Spirit and are enabled to understand truth.
God has communicated with man through the Written Word.
Every single Word is inspired by God.
This book then, is not the product of men, it came from God.
Therefore, Our responsibility is to understand what God has revealed.
We need a method of Bible interpretation (a hermeneutic) that places the interpreter under the authority of God’s Word.
The only method that does that consistently is the Literal, Grammatical, Historical method.
Paul gives us a glimpse of this in 1 Corinthians 4:6.
Don’t think beyond what is written.
At it’s core, this is what the literal grammatical historical method of interpretation does.
There’s an old saying that sums it up well.
“If the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense.”
As I mentioned I will demonstrate this method for you, but really quickly, let me just define the three terms.
Literal
We read the Bible normally. When it says that Christ will return in the same way he left, we believe exactly that.
However, literal interpretation does not overlook the fact that sometimes figurative language is used.
For example. We understand that when God is described as having feathers and a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth, we know figurative language is being used.
Grammatical
This means that we consider the grammar of a word.
What part of speech is it?
Is it plural or singular, masculine or feminine, is it a participle or an adjective etc.
Why? Because these things matter!
Remember, God inspired every single word!
We all would recognize that there is a difference between saying i'm going to the store, we're going to the store, or they're going to the store.
Scripture is the same way.
The grammar matters!
Historical
Knowing the history of a place like Corinth helps us to understand why Paul addresses some of the things he does.
Idolatry and sexuality are prominent themes in 1 Corinthians. Why? Because they had dozens of temples and thousands of prostitutes in Corinth!
The Bible is God’s Word.
It tells us what to believe, we do not tell it.
We are interpreters not editors.
Since every Word is inspired, every Word is important.
We seek the clearest meaning of the text keeping in mind the authorial intent and allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.
True interpretation seeks only to understand what God has said.
We then submit ourselves to what He has revealed.
That was the description.
Now…

b. The method demonstrated ch. 13

Turn to 1 Corinthians 13
READ vv. 4-8a
How many have heard this used for weddings or to describe romantic love?
That’s not what it’s about.
It can be applied to that. But the actual interpretation is different.
How do we know that?
One of the important aspects of literal interpretation is context.
This passage appears in a letter written to a church.
This letter addresses the need for unity in a local congregation.
Beginning in chapter 12 Paul is addressing Spiritual things.
Paul has been discussing the proper use of Spiritual gifts.
Now let’s look at the beginning of the chapter.
READ vv. 1-3
Part of grammatical interpretation is noticing changes in thought or address.
Notice that Paul mentions tongues, prophecy, understanding, faith, and acts of service.
These are spiritual gifts.
Paul has not changed topics. He is still discussing the proper use of Spiritual gifts!
If we want to use our gifts correctly, we must use them in love!
This passage is talking about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ!
That’s why Paul ends the chapter discussing the cessation of some gifts and the necessity of maturity.
Historical interpretation reminds us to consider events when the book was written.
This church had a major love issue. They were not loving one another.
When we put all this together, it becomes clear that this passage is about you and I loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
To apply a verse or passage we must first know what it means.
The best method for determining the interpretation and meaning of a passage is the literal, grammatical, historical method.
This is the method we will be using as we encounter difficult passages.
Our title this morning is Unity’s Firm Foundation.
The foundation upon which unity rests is the Word of God.
There can be no unity if God’s Word is not handled accurately.
As we study 1 Corinthians, we will strive to properly handle God’s Word of truth.

Conclusion

Alright, it is time to wrap this up.
As we do I hope that you have all been considering these thoughts.
How will I apply the message today?
The Word of God is the Foundation for every area of life.
How will I make it my foundation in every area of my life?
I want you to consider 4 areas with me: Personal. Friendships. Marriage. Family.
As we consider these think if there is a specific way you can apply the message to that area.
When were done, choose one area and think of a specific application.
Here we go.
Personal: How can I make God’s Word the foundation of my personal life? This could look like a commitment to memorize the verse of the month, or follow the reading plan, or listen to the daily Bible reading podcast.
Friendship: Make God’s Word the foundation of your friendships. This could be a commitment to share scripture with one friend this week. Or Share what you learned at church or at Bible study or in your own time in the Word.
Marriage: To make God’s Word the foundation of your marriage you could commit to reading 5 verses together each week, or something similar.
The point here is not to do exactly what I am saying, but to think of a specific commitment that God is calling you to. Your commitment will not look like mine. We are different people.
Parenting: Make God’s Word the foundation by choosing a day, time, and Bible passage to read with your family.
Those are just examples.
Okay. We are going to take 2 minutes and I want everyone to write down a commitment.
Pick one of these areas and write down one thing you want to work on. Then share it with someone who will hold you accountable to do it.
COMMITMENT: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1 Corinthians is relevant, timely, and needed today.
We will be handling it using the same literal, historical, grammatical method we have used in every other study.
As we study 1 Corinthians, may God establish our faith on His Word.
May we have Biblical answers for the questions of life.
May Grace Church of Lockeford grow in unity as we study this book.
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