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Life Matters

Part 1: Perfectly United

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(2/11) Today we are starting a brand new series in the letter of 1 Corinthians called Life Matters. I think its important because there are so many of those matters in life that we need answers to. And as we look at this 1st-century church in Ancient Greece we find God answering many of our questions about divisiveness, relationships, sexuality, marriage, tolerance, and Christianity in our culture. We will discover in these next weeks that the congregation in Corinth was far from being an example of perfection in community. For that matter in my opinion this is probably one of the worst churches in the Bible… and don’t you know there are no perfect churches... Someone once told me that if I hear about a perfect church not to go there… because the moment I step through the door the perfect has met the imperfect. It took a little while for that to sink in… You know what I mean?

So we’re gonna look at Paul’s letter to the churches. Eight messages on life matters… eight weeks of God anointed topics to a culture much like ours today… and we’re going to conclude this series on Easter Sunday. I encourage you not to miss a week, because I know that God has something good for us, and I am excited to be sharing with you what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

Next week in part 2, we’re going to look at 1 Corinthians chapter 5. Let me assure you this is going to be a challenging message because its so close to home. What we’re dealing with in the city of Corinth is a very perverted, sexual type of culture… it may sound like a place you’re heard of… everyone had a lot of tolerance and freedom. There was massive gender confusion, an attitude of sexual perversion, promiscuity, tolerance, pride, and the celebration of alternative lifestyles, parades, and rainbow bumper stickers on the back of the camel… They had homosexuality. They had sex before marriage. They had prostitutes. They had strip clubs. They had bisexuality. They had swingers and open marriages. They had incest… Just about anything you can think of that happens in America today… happened repeatedly, continually, in the city of Corinth. It was so bad that if you were a sexual pervert, they would call you a Corinthian. So it was a very liberal town. And next week we’ll see what God has to say about all that. I hope you can be here.

Now if haven’t already, if you could turn in your Bible to the book of 1 Corinthians… we’ll read the first seventeen verses together. As soon as you find your place, we’ll dig in to the Word of God to the Church…

1 Corinthians 1:1-17

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours: (Let me just pause here a second to point out that this letter is addressed to the church in Corinth and who? …those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!)

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1. The People

When Jesus Christ, was on earth, he made a promise in Matthew’s Gospel, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). With those words he absolutely guaranteed the establishment and the continuance of the Church. But in John 17 he offered a curious prayer. He prayed to God the Father that Christians in the church would be unified, one people, loving each other just as the Trinity, just as God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are lovingly united as One (John 17:20-21). And I believe that he prayed for unity knowing that unity was going to be far more difficult than building the church. And the Church does come… shortly after His resurrection, the church explodes going from just over 100 people to three thousand people added in one day.

Jesus promise that he would build his church did indeed come to pass. But there was this one man… a man named Saul who was on the wrong team. He was a Jew who was persecuting and harming Christians… he was hindering the forward progress of Christ’s Church. And so Jesus makes a surprise appearance from Heaven, comes down, and knocks Saul off his horse (Acts 9). Jesus told Saul that he was the Lord and that Saul would in fact be the one to go out and start churches for non-Jews.

Saul believed and obeyed Jesus. He became a Christian… he changed his name to Paul… and went from town to town and city to city starting new churches. In a short time he moves to the city of Corinth… a wild, up-and-coming, hip port city, much like the San Francisco bay area in California. He starts a church there and serves in the area for about18 months making sure the church was established.

Then he moves on, traveling from place to place, to start new churches, doing exactly what Jesus Christ called him to do. But then everything back in Corinth began to fall apart. As soon as Paul left the church on Sunday people began teaching crazy stuff. Everybody was fighting, people are chucking chairs, and it was getting really bad. I mean they started getting drunk again and returned to the sexual immoral lifestyles they had known. So there are reports coming to Paul saying that the church is not doing very good. And in an effort to correct the problems in this young church, Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians that we’re studying today.

The first thing he addresses is the problem of unity. Wouldn’t you agree that even among faithful Bible-believing Christians there are differences, but there aren’t divisions. This is true in the church yesterday, today, and forever. There are differences, but we agree on those things that matter. And where there are differences, they don’t need to be divisions.

2. The Problem

So Paul comes as a peacemaker and makes a plea to the church for the cause of unity in verse10. And before I go any farther let me tell you what unity is not. Unity is not tolerance of all people, all perspectives and all views. Unity doesn’t mean that we throw out our convictions, our beliefs, and everything that makes us uniquely Christian. Paul would be the first to tell you that unity doesn’t mean that we tolerate sin, false teaching, or immoral behavior. That’s not what unity in the church means, yet when most people today hear "unity" they hear "Accept everyone… all perspectives, all moralities, all lifestyles, all religions." But that’s not what Paul’s talking about.

A little later in chapter 4 he asks, "Shall I come to you with a whip" (1 Cor 4:21). He’s not only wanting unity, but he’s commanding obedience to the Word of God. It’s like your dad saying, "Don’t make me come up there..." Paul was very serious about this point and he wasn’t a man who was afraid of confrontation and conflict for the cause of unity. He’s a man who fights for the truth, defends the truth, is not going to compromise his convictions about Jesus. And he is telling the church that they need to be unified, not in spite of the truth but around the truth.

So let me tell you what unity is at Church. First, there’s a theological unity. We have things where we draw the line… things that we’ll fight for… that is like the authority of the Bible, the person and work of Jesus Christ, that God made us male and female, and a literal Heaven and a Hell. Those are some of the things that we’ll fight for. We’re not gonna change our mind on those.

Now on the other hand there are things that faithful Christians who love Jesus and believe their Bible have a variety of opinions. And we’re willing to discuss those things. Over here are things like when is Jesus coming back, ministry philosophy, styles of worship and music. But those are secondary things; we’re not gonna divide over them.

Secondly, unity is relational… That’s why we’re so big on fellowship. Every week we eat together after Sunday worship. It is a relationship-building opportunity. Church can’t just be an event that people come and go. We’re a family where we know and love each other, pray for one another, are serving one another, and taking care of one another. So unity for us is relational.

And then third, what holds us together in addition to our theological unity, and our relational unity, is our missional unity… that we agree that we’re here to love and serve Emmitsburg and our world on behalf of Jesus. That our mission is to be faithful to Jesus and that He’s called us as a church to love and serve people so that they could come to know Him as well. And so if we had to say what we’re about in one word… we agree that together we’re about Jesus.

And so Paul tells the church that the problem is that lots of people are asking about this new church but they’re not hearing the same thing. They’re not saying Jesus. Everybody’s got their own crazy answer, and the answers aren’t coming together, and people are getting confused. But Paul says the answer must be Jesus; because it’s all about Jesus. So Paul appeals for unity on that basis.

3. The Priority

And he asks in verse 13: "Is Christ divided?" In other words, does Jesus only love some people? You know what? Jesus loves Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Independent Bible Church, charismatic’s, non-charismatic’s, people with organs, contemporary music, churches that meet at night, and churches that meet in the morning. Jesus loves the whole church. That is what we learned earlier in verses 1-9, all "who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" are the Church.

The second thing he asked, "Was Paul crucified for you?" This is the issue of salvation. Whom are you trusting? Paul says, "I don’t remember dying on a cross for your sins, so don’t sing songs to me in church… don’t baptize in my name… don’t put my name on the church… and don’t have me to be the focus of your attention."

You see, in the center of the church, we’re to have a big cross, but not a big picture of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. Paul says, his job… the pastor’s job… is to point you to Jesus. He was crucified for your sins. He forgives your sins. He’s your God and Savior. He’s the one with whom you are buried in baptism and raised in newness of life. He’s the one that you’re celebrating and honoring. He’s the one that’s to be the focus… the devotion… and the passion of the church. It must be for Jesus and no one else… no one else… That’s what Paul’s saying.

So it’s not about who your pastor is. It’s not about who serves you communion. It’s not about who teaches your Bible study. It’s not about who baptizes you... It’s about whether or not you love Jesus, whether you’re focused on Jesus, whether you’ve picked up your cross and are following Jesus… Paul says that’s what matters… that you have a passion and a devotion to Jesus.

And then he goes on in verse 17 with this great closing… and I love this... "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel… not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Corinthians 1:17)

We’ve got to understand where Paul is going with this. He’s not saying he’s against baptism, he says, that’s not our priority. Our main priority is this: "to preach the Gospel." Preaching is supposed to take the Word of God, which is sharper than a double-edged sword, and use it to penetrate your heart, to cut you open, to filet you, to expose your sins, to bring you to repentance, to reveal to you the majesty of Jesus Christ, so that he would be your greatest treasure, your heart’s deepest desire, and the means by which you are saved, connected with, and having a relationship with the Living God, becoming part of the family that is the Church.

So what Paul is saying here inspired by the Holy Spirit is that the only way that a church maintains unity is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is continually preached. That the good news of Jesus… that he came as God in human form to reconcile humanity to the Father through his sinless life… his substitutionary death on the cross… his literal physical resurrection… the grace that he provides… and the faith that he gives, so that we can trust in him.

Our unity is around the Gospel. It’s not around the church. It’s not around morality, politics, or a cause. Unity is around Jesus. If at any point we do anything other than talk about Jesus and his death on the cross to forgive our sins, we’ve emptied the cross of its power. That’s why Paul says in Romans 1:16, "I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" in Jesus on the cross, dying for our sins, forgiving us, reconciling us to God as Christians, and reconciling us to one another as the Church.

I believe that, and I trust that, and I’m begging you to be people who are unified and mature, not because of the preaching... or the teaching… or the programs… or the music. But because of the power in the truth of the person and the work of Jesus Christ dead, buried, and raised on the third day. And let me just tell you… if we ever lose that, we’re a wicked church because something else has taken priority over what we’re here to be and do. Amen?

Well, I love you. In a moment I’ll give you an opportunity to respond. Let’s pray together…

Read part 2: STD’s for the Church

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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