The message of goodness is simple. God never intended it to be complicated. It’s simple enough for a child to understand and believe. However, mankind often likes to complicate and muddle simple things, making them confusing, elitist sounding, and difficult to decipher. In ancient Corinth and its culture of intellect and high thinking, the simplicity of the gospel message stood out in stark contrast to the scholarly jargon and intellectual lingo of the day.
As we discussed last time, God’s ways are often counter-cultural and opposite of what we might expect. Therefore, it should be no surprise that His values are completely different than ours. The things and people God uses to bring Himself glory and build His kingdom are often the least likely and most commonly overlooked. However, through this, He receives greater glory and reminds us that apart from Jesus we are nothing.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul continues to expound on the differences between the world’s wisdom and God’s, and at the end of the chapter he gives a nugget of truth that is crucial for us to understand and embrace.
God’s ways and how He designed His kingdom and church to operate often seem upside down and backwards to us. His purposes and commands run opposite of what our sinful human nature naturally wants to do and goes against the cultural norms of our fallen world. But it is through this that God’s glory is revealed and the beauty of the gospel is made evident.
Conflict is inevitable whenever two or more human beings together for long enough. However, as Christians, we must ensure that our conflict is resolved quickly and in a loving manner so that we will not become divided. Unity is the central topic of 1 Corinthians and one Paul tackles from various angles. However, here in he first chapter, he dives straight into one of the main issues the Corinthians were arguing over and addresses it with firmness.
Before giving heavy words of correction or discipline, it’s important start with a word of encouragement and affirmation. Paul knew this important principle and, therefore, started his letter with a powerful reminder that though the Corinthians had issues, they were still complete in Christ and firmly held and sustained by the mercy and grace of God.
Discipline is not pleasant, and in the midst of spiritual chastisement, the enemy can easily bring condemnation and discouragement into our hearts and cause us to question our position in Christ. God knows the enemy’s schemes and, thus, inspired Paul to open his letter with this beautiful word of affirmation for the Corinthians.
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
~1 Corinthians 1:1-2
Paul was the church planter of the church in Corinth and the author of this power-packed letter to that body of believers. As a world missionary, Paul traveled a lot and brushed shoulders with many people, planting churches and building relationships throughout the Roman Empire. However, there were two locations that Paul voluntarily spent extended periods of time: Ephesus and Corinth.
Division. Quarrels. Ungodly culture infiltrating the church. Confusion over Christians’ roles in society. Misunderstanding of core Christian doctrines.
While these were all issues embedded in the Corinthian church that Paul sought to address in his lengthy letter to this young church, they should sound familiar as they are widely prevalent in the church of America today. Packed full of practical instruction, strong words of exhortation and correction, and solid doctrine, 1 Corinthians is a timely message for us as we seek wisdom on how to become a more unified, healthy, and spiritually mature body.