Inter-Community Church of God
January 22, 2023 Service
      • Psalm 27:1HCSB

  • Corinth, in Southern Greece

    We began an introduction to this city and church in last week’s message, from the introduction to the Bible book of 1 Corinthians from the Apostle Paul.
    He cared about this church, about this city, and about the people in and outside of the church. This is a church where Paul had been important in its early years, likely the one who established the church here from the first Jewish Christians that traveled here. He was used by God to add a throttle to their enthusiasm so they might learn more perfectly the message of the Gospel and what it takes to live as Disciples of Jesus.
    In 1 Cor 1:2 “2 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:”
    Paul reminds them Christ sanctified them to be “Saints Together” with every other believer.
    Then he reminded them of Grace and forgiveness, and God’s faithfulness.

    An Important First Century City

    Corinth was located West of Athens, the Greek center of culture. At Corinth, on a peninsula connected to the mainland by a very narrow isthmus of less than 5 miles. So narrow, in fact, that a canal was proposed as far back as the time of the prophet Isaiah. There is a canal there now that was begun during the reign of Caesar Nero, but not completed until shortly after the Panama Canal was begun by the French.
    Because this was the shortest land distance between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea. You could ship things from Rome to Ephesus and Syria by going as far as the Corinthian gulf and hauling your stuff over the isthmus to reload it on a different ship, or haul it to Athens. This made Corinth a rich city because of all the trade going through; ancient cultures did not raise budgets with income taxes. They used tariffs on goods that passed through their gates.
    This was a rich city with a rich culture. Soldiers, sailors, statesmen and salesmen from all around the Mediterranean were here. And, when the Jews were pushed out of Rome as recorded in Acts 18, many of them settled in Corinth.

    An Important First Century Church

    After leaving Athens without setting up a church, Paul went on to Corinth, where he met Aquila and Priscilla, Jews from Rome, and hired on with their tent-making trade. All the while, talking about Jesus, going to the synagogue, persuading the Jews that the Messiah had come and that salvation and forgiveness of sins was available.
    This became on the of the most important churches of the first century, on a crossroads for Jewish and other travelers, in a city that had all the trappings of a multicultural elite and a seedy underside. Paul faced opposition from the synagogue, and was about ready to leave but Jesus spoke to him in a vision that there were many of God’s people here that needed to know about Jesus. So he stayed here for 18 months or so, when he left for Jerusalem to fulfil a vow before returning to Ephesus.

    A Definite Problem with Cliques

    The Church in Corinth was a Church with conflicts, because of Cliques.
    What is a clique? A clique is a group of people who feel like they are exclusive; better than others or just different than they.
    Of course we have all experienced this, unless we are totally asocial and unconcerned about where we stand with others in a larger group or unconcerned about where others stand with us. In our wider world, it may be favoritism because of language or looks or skin color or skills.
    Why are cliques a problem? Don’t we all have our own home-boys, or girl-friends, or team members or study groups or Bible-study groups, or knitting circles or car clubs or business ties or golf-buddies or coffee clutches?
    So what’s wrong with that?
    I mean, I have friends you don’t know, or you don’t know about, or you might be surprised that I have. Is that a problem by itself?
    Of course not. Its a problem, not because it is a special group of people, but because we use it as a way to separate us from others.
    1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV
    10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
    Here’s my personal example from the way-back machine:
    I was on the wrestling team in High School. We had a good team with some great talent. I don’t claim to have been one of the best wrestlers on the team, but in 1967 while I was still on the JV wrestling team as a sophomore, I accomplished something unexpected.
    I was at a wrestling meet at Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, which was the big city compared to my home town of Rainier, OR, which had all of 1240 residents in the city limits. I was wrestling at the 191-pound weight class, which meant I was between 168 and 191 pounds at the time.
    My coach was also my math teacher at school. The varsity coach was my health and social sciences teacher. Anyway, when my match came up, Coach Muck, yes, that was his name, told me to get out to the center of the mat and meet my opponent. There was the whistle, the takedown, the pin, the double whistle, and then I signed the match card and went back to Coach Muck. He was debriefing some of those who were finished and coaching some who would go out in a minute. He turned and looked at me, and said, “Collett, I told you to get out there!”
    So I told him I already did. I pinned the guy, and he had kind of a “WHAT?” look on his face, so I showed him the match card. I pinned my opponent in 14 seconds, beating the Varsity school record of 17 seconds.
    That didn’t get me a spot on the Varsity team, but it did impress my older brother who was on that team.
    Well, that’s just my build-up to the idea of cliques that can be less than peaceful. You see, as wrestlers, we were building strength and technique, close quarters speed, and legal moves. A foul in wrestling would cost you points and probably lose the match.
    You see, we didn’t have a lot of love for the other team that was busy in winter sports, which of course was Basketball. We were strong and spent our whole contests touching and man-handling our opponent. They were bouncing a ball, running away from the other team, and throwing the ball away.
    So we call the Basketball team “Bubble-bouncers.” We didn’t need any cheerleaders to keep us going. We didn’t always have much of a crowd at the match. It was just one-on-one competition with the team’s score made up by adding all the individual match scores to determine the team win or loss.
    But really--”Bubble Bouncers”? I have no idea what they called us. But we weren’t the same. We were different, and we wanted to have an identity that was separate from theirs. That’s a clique. Not the same “school spirit” idea that the football team and basketball team were used to getting, but certainly we thought we know exactly who we were.
    Paul was alerted by a family of the church in Corinth that they had a growing problem with pride and pulling back from others who weren’t in their clique.
    1 Corinthians 1:11 ESV
    11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
    Just like with us, this point of pride that pulls us back from pure fellowship with others was a. . . .

    A Constant Issue with Believers

    Pride and cliquishness is a description of something we also call “Inter-personal conflict” which shows up in the Bible as early as Genesis 4 between Cain and Abel. We find it between King Saul and David, Mary and Martha, Jesus’ disciples and event Paul and Barnabas.
    Where does this all come from? Well, if it’s a matter of conflict, and a matter of who’s right, its from pride which is from sin. Here’s what Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21
    Galatians 5:19–21 ESV
    19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    Here the big problem with behaving like normal people we are used to being exposed to: People who show these patterns of behavior are actually NOT ELIGIBLE TO INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
    That should be a concern to us, because we are prone to behave just like others who don’t know Christ if we don’t watch it.
    James, the actual half-brother of Jesus wrote this:
    James 4:1–3 ESV
    1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
    In other words, the problem happens because we are selfish and prideful, greedy and jealous, covetous and lustful.
    And this is not just in the church. It started with tribalism, or job preferences, or economic status or family size or background.
    It’s an issue noted many times in the Old Testament, either in the positive or the negative.

    What are the Causes of Conflict

    Conflict Comes from Anger

    Proverbs 29:22 ESV
    22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.

    Conflict Comes from Greed

    Proverbs 28:25 ESV
    25 A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.

    Conflict Comes from Hate

    Proverbs 10:12 ESV
    12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

    Conflict Comes from Gossip

    Proverbs 16:28 ESV
    28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

    Conflict Comes from Perverse People

    Proverbs 6:12–14 ESV
    12 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, 13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, 14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;
    That’s a list of what constantly happens in most any social group. But is it right for that to happen in the church?
    In Corinth, the church members had been visited by many of the well-known Apostles and Teachers of their day. And they began to have issues that could just as easily have happened to them as it does to us these days if they had TV or radio preachers like we do.
    >>>They became . . .


    And it became a point of pride for them to tell others whom they followed and why.
    Paul wrote this to the church of the city of Corinth, a church that had existed for less than about 10 years.
    1 Corinthians 1:12 ESV
    12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
    In the days of Paul, in the first century, the preacher-followers are what we would today call the denominations that are so prolific in our day.
    What church to you go to? What do they believe? etc., etc. It develops into our own pride of being something different than another Christian who isn’t as “enlightened” as are we.
    It isn’t a very long list that Paul presents to us here. The other thing to notice is that every one of them is Jewish. That part shouldn’t surprise us. There are differences among them that we know of from their stories in the book of Acts.
    We have Paul, the writer of this letter to the church and the Apostle to the Gentiles. He is a Roman citizen, and has freedom to travel. He was born in Tarsus, near the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, to a Jewish family. He knows his lineage, and also shares his own teaching Rabbi, Gamaliel, one of the leading Rabbis of the first century. His spiritual roots were established in Jerusalem, he was a brilliant legalist who was a part of the Pharisees party of conservatism. He had had an intense personal encounter with Jesus Christ, and couldn’t help but be an evangelist missionary. He had itchy feet, and couldn’t keep himself from travel everywhere.
    The next name is Apollos. A thoroughly Greek name, following the name of the demigod with wings on his feet that swiftly carried messages between the gods and humanity. He was a Jew from Alexandria, on the North coast of Egypt, where there was one of the strongest Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem. The Alexandrian Jews were progressive. They translated the Jewish Bible from Hebrew to Greek about 150 years before Jesus was preaching in Galilee. We find Apollos connecting with Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus, where Paul would return to pastor the church for a few years. Apollos went on to Corinth, and man, could that boy preach! He was a master preacher, he knew the scripture inside and out from the Greek translation, and had become one of the best apologists for Christ among the Jews.
    Then there is Cephas, the Jewish name of Peter, the Rock. He too spent time in Corinth. He was at Galatia for a while, for we read about some ups and downs of his ministry there in Acts and in Galatians. Later, through Macedonia and Greece, Cephas did some preaching in the Corinthian synagogues and church. He had a special status, for he was one of the 12 original Apostles of Jesus Christ. People listened intently to this Galilean fishing-boat owner who had been with Jesus for 3 years, had walked a few steps on water, who was present at the transfiguration, was declared by Jesus to have received the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Son of God. Why wouldn’t you have wanted to be on his team?
    And of course Jesus the Christ is Jewish. Born of the house and lineage of David, crucified and risen, a fulfillment of important Jewish prophecies.
    But the people were using these loyalties to spark division. And that’s where the trouble began.

    Christ’s Church, Christ’s Body, Is One

    And because of that, people who were separating themselves into Christian Cliques were causing trouble in the church.
    You’ve seen it happen. So have I . And it is wrong, because it breaks relationship between people who should be depending on one another.
    Paul challenged them at the core of their disagreement. If the Church is the body of Christ, it must be whole. If Jesus is the Subject, don’t get confused by the messenger.
    Paul puts himself into the argument to say that this is NOT about Paul:
    1 Corinthians 1:13 ESV
    13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
    In fact, having spit that out, he goes on to say he’s glad he didn’t come as a baptizing convert-claimer.
    1 Corinthians 1:14–16 ESV
    14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
    You see, although it didn’t show up all the time, Paul was learning about his own place in the great plan of God’s church. He was learning humility.

    The Lesson of Paul’s Humility

    We often think about the Apostle Paul as someone who was completely in control of himself in all his ministry days. But that was not the case.
    He describes himself as rising up in the ranks of Rabbis:
    Galatians 1:13–14 ESV
    13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
    He did wrong in the name of right, he was all about himself. He knew because his actions were selfish attempts to climb the ranks of success, for which many others paid dearly, that he was unfit for the Lord’s service except by the grace of God.
    1 Corinthians 15:9 ESV
    9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

    All he Had Worked For Was Worthless

    When He Met Jesus as Christ and Lord.
    Philippians 3:8–9 ESV
    8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

    Loving Others More Than Yourself

    Heals relationship when it is real.
    Philippians 2:3–5 ESV
    3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
    This change of heart and mind was not automatic.
    Paul had to learn through many of his own ups and downs. He thought he knew better than Barnabas who should tag along on the second missionary journey, and it created a split between them that changed their relationship forever.
    Acts 15:39–40 ESV
    39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
    You see, when it comes to matters of salvation, or matters of mission, or matters of the faith, our personal investments are so deep that we take disputes way more life-and-death than we should. Our own sense of right will end up causing a wrong to our relationships with others.
    Our Loyalty is to be to Christ alone, but not as a matter of pride that you follow the best of the lot; instead as a matter of love that keeps you centered in the grace of God.
    Paul reminds us that

    Division Robs the Church of the Power of the Cross

    to bring us from death to life
    1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV
    17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
      • 1 Corinthians 1:10GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 1:11GS-NETBIBLE

      • Galatians 5:19–21GS-NETBIBLE

      • James 4:1–3GS-NETBIBLE

      • Proverbs 29:22GS-NETBIBLE

      • Proverbs 28:25GS-NETBIBLE

      • Proverbs 10:12GS-NETBIBLE

      • Proverbs 16:28GS-NETBIBLE

      • Proverbs 6:12–14GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 1:12GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 1:13GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 1:14–16GS-NETBIBLE

      • Galatians 1:13–14GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 15:9GS-NETBIBLE

      • Philippians 3:8–9GS-NETBIBLE

      • Philippians 2:3–5GS-NETBIBLE

      • Acts 15:39–40GS-NETBIBLE

      • 1 Corinthians 1:17GS-NETBIBLE

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