Exeter Temple Message notes: 12th July 2015
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Greece may be having some financial difficulties in 2015 but in the first century the Greek city of Corinth was a very prosperous centre for trade. It was a thriving centre for sports, the arts, for music, for culture and religion. Sadly it also provided opportunities to live an immoral and hedonistic lifestyle.
Paul preached the message about a God who became poor in order to bring the riches of God’s grace to the world and a church had been established. Now some years later this church needed reminding that they were only as spiritually rich as they were through the grace of God. They had forgotten that Christian community does not need to be competitive because there is a place, a purpose and adequate provision for all.
“For in him you have been enriched in every way- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. “ (v5)
How are we enriched?
1. We have Christ
v 4 “I always thank God for you because of the grace given you in Christ.”
In Christ is one of Paul’s favourite phrases.
Christian pastor John Piper points out that in the media advertisers want us to think about our lives in relation to certain things.
“Automobile commercials want you to think of your life in relation to things you have. Beer commercials want you to think of your life in relation to the brotherhood at the pub. Life insurance commercials want you to think of your life in relation to your family with touching scenes of childhood and graduation and marriage and first home and first child. And a hundred soaps and deodorants and shampoos and foods want you to think of your life in relation to your body.”
Paul wants us to think in about our lives in relation to Jesus Christ. He
will not let the Corinthians get away from Christ. He mentions him 9 times in these 9 verses!
We have Christ. He is our greatest treasure.
“He (that is Jesus) comes to us and says “My child I never promised you that if you would surrender, repent and get right with me you would have an eased situation, great power, success in your service, or even revival. What I do promise you is that if you walk with me and allow me to show you sin as soon as it comes in and cleanse you from it you may not have these things but you will have ME. Make me your end and you will be satisfied, lacking nothing that is in the will of God for you. The shameful thing is however that when this comes home to us we feel a little disappointed. We have to admit it was not himself we really wanted but rather his gifts.” (Roy Hession “We would see Jesus”
We tend to think of a humble person as being someone who tries to point away from themselves and drawing attention to the qualities of others but in the New Testament we find that Jesus was always talking about himself. He related everything to himself. Some of his most famous sayings begin with “I am” He called his disciples with the invitation, “Follow me”
Either he had a huge ego, or he was revealing a truth that God’s order of things is that we always line our life up with Jesus, always to view in the light of Jesus. Jesus is not only the means through which our lives our enriched, he is the treasure itself.
2. We have a genuine testimony
Paul says that his testimony to the Corinthians was confirmed in them. They knew what Paul was saying about Jesus grace was true because they experienced themselves.
Corinth was one of the unlikeliest place for the gospel to take hold but it did. The love of God swept over them and did this amazing work among them. Christ had brought them from empty intellectualism, from paganism, from confusion, from the emptiness of materialism, from brokenness, from the bondage of sin.
“Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.” (1 Corinthians 1:5The Message (MSG)
They had become a thriving community, they had survived despite opposition and ministries had developed among them. There was no doubt that here were a people among whom a genuine work of grace had taken place and that God was still at work there.
But this was a church, which was losing sight of the source of their wealth. They had become proud. They now felt superior to Paul the very person who had brought them the gospel, they took great pride in their ability to preach eloquent sermons and win religious arguments, they were easily impressed by people who looked and sounded good but lacked discernment. Some of them got drunk at communion, sexual sin was rife and worship was a show where people competed to perform.
This could have led Paul to regret starting this church or to think that maybe their experience of God had not been real. Instead he says,
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
He writes to remind them that everything they are, everything they have, every good thing they have done, has come through the grace of the Lord Jesus. He does not write to humiliate them but he does want to chip away at their arrogance and self-delusion.
“It’s hard to be proud when you can’t take credit for anything.” (Joshua Harris)
If Corinth was an unlikely place for a church to begin so the Salvation Army an unlikely group of people to take the message of the gospel around the world for the last 150 years. The Boundless Congress celebrated the amazing work that the SA is doing around the world today. There is a temptation to be proud but “it’s hard to be proud when you can’t take the credit for anything.” The Salvation Army is just as dependent upon the grace of Christ as the Corinthians and perhaps in just as much in need of being reminded of that as they were.
It is also true that if there were things wrong in the Corinthian church, there are also things that are seriously wrong in the Salvation Army which disappoint us and cause us to become disillusioned.
Paul’s approach was to keep on looking for evidence of where the grace of God shines through the brokenness. Despite personal hurts and disappointment he stayed connected with them, kept on loving them, praying for them and working to bring change.
3. We are spiritually equipped (vs 7)
God enriched the lives of this community by equipping and resourcing them. The problem at Corinth was not lack of resources, or inferior provision by God but that people forgot that that their abilities were gifts and that they were provided for the kingdom building not for their own indulgence.
Paul had to remind the Corinthians that they should be thankful to see that these enriching gifts at work amongst them but had to warn them against seeing them as a reason for spiritual pride.
But perhaps the reminder we need is that each of us has received different gifts. God has equipped us and we should have more confidence. Rather than boasting about our wealth, sometimes I think we have more of an attitude that we don’t have what we need to fulfil the demands he makes upon us and we have an attitude that our mission is impossible.
Philip Brooks, the preacher and hymn writer who gave us O Little Town of Bethlehem said; “It is almost as presumptuous to think you can do nothing as to think you can do everything. “
God has equipped us; we need to use what he has given.
4. We have sustaining grace
Paul mentions this sustaining grace because these Corinthians had become obsessed with the present experiences. We can so often be caught up in the transient that our eyes are locked on earth, either on the high moments such as the Boundless Congress or the difficulties we are currently undergoing.
“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (v 9)
This is not an assurance that God will save us, even if we stop believing or following the Lord but a promise that God will keep on giving you’re the resources, the strength and the power to keep on believing, to keep us firm to the end.