READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l The church in Corinth was full of cliques, the rich kept to themselves and the poor were left alone. There was little church discipline, people lack morals and discipline and were unwilling to submit to authority and even questioned Paul’s apostleship. There was also a lack of humility and consideration for others. In general, the Corinthians were keen in the dramatic gift of the spirit and lacked love rooted in the Truth. What was the surprising start then?
1. Unexpected calling of the Corinthians (v1-9)
The Corinthian believers were a surprising aspect of the message. They were called by God despite their social status, lack of influence and prevailing immorality. This unexpected calling highlighted God’s ability to transform lives. It demonstrated God’s grace and mercy towards those who seemed unlikely candidates for salvation. It reminded believers that their worth and standing before God were not based on their own merit but on God’s grace.
2. Unacceptable Conflicts/Cliques in the Church (v10-17)
Paul addressed the division and quarrels in the Corinthian church by emphasizing the importance of unity and harmony amongst believers as the Gospel is necessary for unity.
3. Uniting Centrality of Christ (v18-25)
The central theme was the message of the Cross. The fact that God chose to save humanity through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a seemingly weak and shameful act, was a surprising start. This challenged human wisdom and highlighted God’s unconventional way of working. This contrast challenged the Corinthians’ reliance on human wisdom. It called them to embrace the wisdom that came from God. To be the real church, Christ should be the foundation, teachings, and practices. Everything should be centred on Christ.
4. Unconventional Choice of the Weak (v26-31)
God intentionally chose the foolish, weak and the lowly to shame the strong and the wise. This surprising choice of instruments demonstrated God’s wisdom and power as He used those considered insignificant by worldly standards to accomplish His purpose. This challenged societal norms and reminded believers that their worth and effectiveness came from God and not from worldly status.
Paul’s letter set the tone and prepared the audience for what is to come – Salutation, Prayer Wish and Thanksgiving. It addressed a variety of issues that were troubling the fractured church at Corinth and two key surprising starts were:
The Unexpected Calling of The Corinthians
1. Called to Holiness and Community (v1-4)
This came from the Corinthian’s relationship with God and what He had done for them. Everything that they had came from God. All the positive things were grounded in the grace of God, and Paul wanted to let them know he was called by the Will of God (v1). God also called the Corinthians who are not ordinary Christians to be sanctified and holy, and Paul addressed these to God’s Church in Corinth (v2). God is transforming members of the Corinthian church into people who resembled Jesus Christ. To be holy is to be set apart from worldly things for a special divine purpose. God’s ability to grant grace and peace (v3) bound them together out of the common relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. Paul’s thanksgiving is addressed to God’s work and grace among them (v4). Thanksgiving is a way to reframe the issues around the bigger picture.
2. Equipped Extravagantly (v5-9)
Paul reminded the Corinthians that whatever knowledge and ability they had were given by God. They were fully endowed with God’s gifts (v5-7) for the edification of God’s church. Paul gave thanks because spiritual gifts were the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. His letter was grounded on the work of God amongst them. The people would be completely sustained by the faithfulness of God (v8-9) since He called them together in fellowship, He will see them through. There would be no church without God. He is powerful enough to help all find a way forward with their problems and strengthen them. The ramification for the church was that God will be with them throughout because He is faithful.
The Unconventional Choice of The Weak
The Corinthians elevated people according to their positions in society and assumed they were called by God because of their status; they admired those who were successful than attributed to the grace of God in bringing the lowly to Himself. God did not choose those for His kingdom as a man would choose:
1. Our calling is not dependent upon anything in ourselves
Israel was not chosen from the nations of the world because of any value.
2. God chose to bring about His purposes of redemption in ways that are contrary to the world’s expectations
Jacob was chosen instead of Esau; David was the youngest, yet he was chosen to rule Israel. God chose the humble and weak to lead. God took on the form of a man, humble in birth with no exceptional background.
God is at work in the midst of chaos. We must be committed to the truth and the life shaping power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s work is not over; we have been given spiritual gifts that will strengthen us for the journey ahead. It is possible to live a sanctified life in an unsanctified culture. This is a surprising start for us as we anchor our hope in Jesus Christ.
More details and a summary of 1 Cor can be found in wesley.sg/1cor-MWTS01.
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- The preacher highlighted four themes in 1 Corinthians 1:1-31. What other themes can you see in this first chapter.
- Unexpected Calling of The Corinthians (v1-9)
- Unacceptable Conflicts/Cliques in the church (v10-17)
- Uniting Centrality of Christ (v18-25)
- Unconventional Choice of the weak (v26-31).
- How did Paul describe himself? (1 Cor 1:1). What kind of people were the Corinthian Christians? (1 Cor 1:2). What words of affirmation did Paul have for his readers? (1 Cor 1:2-4).
- In what ways had the Corinthian Christians been “enriched”? (1 Cor 1:5-7).
- How are the Corinthians completely sustained by the faithfulness of God? (1 Cor 1:8-9)
- Which are you more aware of in Wesley MC: the flaws that need correction or the evidence of God’s grace? How does Paul’s introduction help with this?
- Pray for one another.