Title: The Focus of a Healthy Church: Our Blessings!
Text: 1 Cor 1.1-9
Introduction: Most days, I love serving as a Chaplain. I’m chaplain of our Volunteer Fire Department. I serve as a chaplain for the employees of Bandera Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Bandera. And I serve also at Covenant Services in San Antonio. Because of this position, I get to visit with hundreds of people. My calling has opened the door to ministry in so many ways – not to mention being your pastor.
Recently, I got to visit with an employee who grew up in the church, but alas, is no longer active in a local church. This employee spoke my language – a language you know, too. If you were raised in a local evangelical church, you speak the language, too. At first, I was so excited to meet this person; however, after a few minutes of conversation, I realized this person is no longer in a local church. Added to this concern of mine, was a statement made in reference to that employee’s children. They had chosen to not raise their kids in church, but rather for them to find their own religion and way in the world – whatever ‘faith’ that might be.
Now, you should know that as a Chaplain, my job is a little bit different than of a pastor. Being your pastor affords me rights and responsibilities to speak into your life in a manner that simply being a chaplain doesn’t. While operating in the world, I don’t have the same authority. So, I must be careful. I don’t want to ever alienate someone by having a debate over an issue. I think the conversation went well. Still, I have to say this millennial is very much like the generation of millennials who have abandoned the church. They say, “I love Jesus, but hate the church.”
Let that sink in because it is a misnomer. The reality is that they are very much one and the same. The Church is the Body of Christ. And our purpose is to image Him to the World. We are His hands, his feet. When it comes to the mass exodus of the generation that has followed us, that is a huge indictment on us as believers. We have failed to be the Church Christ has called us to be.
I feel confident that you feel as I do when I say, I don’t want to get this wrong anymore! Too much is at stake! Over the next 10-12 weeks, I’d like to study 1 Corinthians from the standpoint of how blessed they were and how in like manner, we have been blessed by God. This will not be easy, because Corinth was a dysfunctional church! Dysfunction in their relationships, Dysfunction in their polity and organization, Dysfunction in their theology, Dysfunction, Dysfunction, Dysfunction!
But Paul begins his letter by reminding them of how blessed they were! The 1st area of focus for the church is found in the very beginning of 1 Cor. Rdv 1-9; this introduction is packed with blessings that each believer has received. There is one truth that stands out in this passage – that permeates the entire teaching: God is at work here! Everything begins, is sustained, and ends with God. Note the references to Christ, Lord, Jesus, God, Father; 23x’s; Paul starts with his place – called to be an apostle – by God’s will; and 2ndly, their place: they are called, as well, the church of God; both called to their positions.
Let’s take a moment to review these blessings from God…cont rd v2;
I. They were made Holy
exp.: Sanctified and saints are the same word in the Gk; lit.: Holy; pft, pass, ptc, having been made holy – a current state based upon a past action; Saints is lit.: holy ones; Now these two statements identify who they are and where they are in Christ – 1st,
- Position: these believers have had their sins washed away and they stand before God Holy!
- Practice: called to be holy – lit.: called to be holy ones; this is what they’re supposed to do now as believers! They’re supposed to live out who they are! The outside reflects the inside!
exp.: and we know that this isn’t just for the Corinthians, but for us also, that is, for those of us who claim Christ today! 2c; rd v 3;
app.: What we have in this opening is a typical greeting, but – look deeper. What we also see is just what characterizes each believer – holiness; Don’t miss this: we’ve been called into relationships. God has made us holy, not because we’re really awesome, cool people and he wants to be with us. No, God has made us holy because He is … fill in the superlative… and we cannot have a relationship with him in our sin. He has called us into fellowship with Him and with each other. And take it one step further, rd v2; associations and conventions and missions; pray about going to a people somewhere in the world who don’t know Christ.
Paul was called to plant churches, not just be an evangelist. He entered into relationships with people in the communities he worked. He poured himself into people through his relationship with them. And, furthermore, he encouraged relationships within this community of grace, called the church.
t.s.: just as holiness appears in a repeated fashion, so does ‘grace’ and that is the next blessing he mentions in v 4-6;
II. They were given God’s Grace (4-6)
exp.: Look what Paul says about God’s Grace rd v4-5:
- It is Given: it’s a gift. It’s poured out on them. Interesting, the word ‘gift’ and the word ‘grace’ are from the same derivative; χαρίς and χáρισματα; 2nd, down in v 6 he says…
- It is Confirmed: evidenced in their lives; a testimony of Christ!
*Don’t miss these two important items concerning Grace: repeat
JM: Three Items that Cannot exist w/ Grace:
- Human Obligation – we can’t pay it back by earning it
- Human Merit – we won’t ever deserve it – never
Another great message out there is by Matt Chandler; He says that people don’t stumble into godliness; and he quotes Paul: “training ourselves in righteousness” (1 Tim. 4:7), “laboring in prayer,” “running to win,” “counting it all as loss” (Philippians 3) and “beating his body” (1 Corinthian 9:26-27).
Check out the balance here. This is a quote from Jared Wilson, a pastor: My disobedience is good grounds for doubt, but my obedience is terrible grounds for assurance.
ill.: I love that Paul starts out with his usual greeting, thanking God. But this is unusual when you consider whom he’s talking about. This is the one church that gave Paul the most grief: the Corinthian Church! And yet he says he is thankful to God for them.
exp.: look at what he was thankful for again; rd v 4; the grace;
app.: can we just apply that to us for a moment? Here is our history, but we do not stand today because of our history! We stand in the grace of God. Don’t forget that blessing, Church! We stand holy, sanctified, and grace-filled because of the effectual work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
t.s.: which is where Paul is going in the next verse and offers us our 3rd blessing…he says they were
III. They were Enriched
exp.: rd v 5; how? In every way; lit.: in every ‘thing’; and then he narrows down the focus: 1st, in speech and 2nd, in knowledge;
- In speech; logos; 2 Cor 8.7 – 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.; 1 Tim 4.12; But Paul says that these folks have been enriched with this gift, too; rd v 5b;
- In knowledge; 2 Cor 8.7, let me pause and say that this is great, but there are those who speak w/out knowledge! and look at the result; rd v 6-7a;
- So that you’re not lacking in any spiritual gift
app.: here’s what Paul is saying “God has gifted you with everything spiritual (gifts) that you need as a body to function, which, by the way, you are, as has been confirmed in you! You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing! Wow! He says this despite their arguing, fighting, division, sinful disobedience, adultery, fornication, disorganization, etc., etc., etc.
t.s.: And then Paul moves to another blessing in v 7b; rd 7b;
IV. Their Future was secure
exp.: What a blessing, knowing one’s future is secure; Paul lists 4 attributes of those who know their future is secure;
- Watching; the revealing; this is the Gk word from which we get our English word ‘apocalypse’; that sounds even more like us, doesn’t it? This is living in grace; then, rd v 8;
- Enduring; because he sustains them; They’re not fulfilling their calling in their own strength and wisdom! (BTW: this is a major topic for Paul over the next few chapters) We don’t do this in our strength! He sustains us, and it’s easier to do when you know that this momentary set of problems is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us!
- They are presented before him – blameless, guiltless; ‘sustained’ is the same word as v 6 ‘confirmed’; “establish, verify, increase in inner strength”; Fee says this is their guarantee; we see this idea also in Eph 1.11-14;
t.s.: and this final blessing, just caps it all off beautifully!
V. God will Complete His Work in Them
exp.: rd v 9a; that’s really all you need! He says to them! Rd v 9b; called out “ecclesia”; and called into a relationship w/ Christ!
Conclusion: Do you see these 5 Blessings are ours, too?
We’ve been made holy if we’ve committed ourselves to Christ! We’re not holy because of our actions; we’re not gifted because of ourselves; we’re not enriched by our works and our future isn’t secure because we are able to keep up with all that is before us! No, we enjoy these blessings because of one reason! v 9a; God is faithful! And he who called you will carry you through and sustain you until his appearing!
Observations and Implications:
- A Church that is healthy has her focus Her Lord: Christ and God appear some 23x’s in these 9 verses.
- The top and the tail of this short passage remind us of our calling. Both Paul and the church are who they are and where they are and do what they do because of their calling.
- As you look for balance in your life, how does God’s grace compare with your obedience? As a believer, you’re holy! Does your life reflect that holiness?
- As a church, do we realize that God has given us everything we need? If we were lacking, he’d give us more.
- Do you understand your future is secure, and that is what matters the most? You can now live your life in Grace and Peace, fearing nothing, because of the beautiful future already secured for you!
- The Top and the Tail of 1 Corinthians calls us to Stand! It summons us to work! 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
- Too often, we get down because we don’t have what we used to have, or we don’t see what we used to see. We must realize that God is at work – and he isn’t finished with us yet! In this, if our focus is where it should be, then we’ll see that we are truly blessed!