1 Corinthians: Practical Living for the Glory of God
We are in a series called “Journey Through the Bible.” And what I'm doing is preaching through every book of the Bible and preaching an overview of that book, all in one sermon. So, this morning, you're going to get all of First Corinthians, not verse by verse, the normal expositional method. You're going to get an overview of this book. The title of the message is “Practical Living for the Glory of God.”
Maybe you've heard of this place before; it's called the Forbidden City. It is located in Beijing, China. It's a vast complex of over 900 wooden buildings. It has 1000+ rooms, and it stretches across 720,000 acres. It's located in the imperial city of Beijing and was built in the 1400s, as the Chinese Imperial Palace, and the winter residence of the Emperor from the Ming Dynasty. Why such a large place? Normally, a winter residence for a wealthy person or an emperor doesn't cover 720,000 acres. Well, the sole purpose of this Forbidden City, as it's called, was to provide a place for the emperor to live apart from the people. That was the sole purpose of this vast complex of buildings, which today is basically a tourist destination with 14 million visitors every year.
Only select people could enter the Forbidden City. Many people live their whole lives and never entered. Sin, like the Forbidden City, will keep you apart from your King. It will keep you distant from him. If you are not forgiven, it will separate you from him forever. Sin’s design is not only to keep you away from God, though; it’s design is to destroy you, to destroy you. You can see this simply by thinking sin keeps you away from Jesus, and Jesus is the giver of life. And sin brings death and separation from God for all of eternity.
The Corinthians were steeped in sin--not just the city of Corinth. If you've ever studied ancient Corinth, again, you can look this up on the map and find it today and see the ruins and the relics of this time period in which Paul wrote this letter. But the church was steeped in sin, and they were okay with it. Now, not all of them in the church, but so much so that it affected how the church operated. Some wanted, though, to know how to please God in this life. So, they wrote Paul a letter asking him questions. They wanted to know certain answers about different topics. In response to that letter, Paul wrote them First Corinthians.
Unlike a distant dictator, though, Paul wanted them to know that God wants us to be near him. Right? God even says that he wants us to draw near to the throne of grace. So, this sin needs to be eradicated. God is with us. That's what “Emmanuel” means: God with us. God is love, and he wants to have this loving relationship with us. And Paul wanted them to understand how that would be possible. So, he wrote them to give them guidance and encouragement. The only problem was Corinth wasn't a normal city. It was normal in the sense that there was a lot of commerce going on, but Corinth was like the Las Vegas of the ancient world. So, the church had many issues. And Paul wanted them to thrive, not just to survive.
So, I want to paint a picture of what it was like to live in Corinth, so that you can see the solution that Paul gives them is adequate for anything that we are dealing with in our culture. We think that our culture is somehow new, that the downgrade of our society is new, and world history shows it is not new. It might be new for us. But Corinth was like the United States being all of like Las Vegas. So, what was it like to live in Corinth? Well, you need to know Rome destroyed it in 146 BC; you can look up great paintings like that, of that time, online. But it was fully rebuilt by Julius Caesar near the end of his life, around AD 44. Greece, this section of Corinth was in a part of Greece, that was its own little island, almost; it was connected by an isthmus.
And it was a very important trade route. If you didn't go across the land there, you would have to sail around another 250 miles to get to more trading. So, the sailors, when they would come, they would actually get their boats out of the water. And they would go to the section of this land connected to the rest of Greece; it's a four-mile width. They would put their boats on logs and roll them across. I mean, we think, you know, mowing the grass is difficult. They would pull these boats, and some of them would eventually build wagons. So just imagine, you know, every day or every week, there would be new traders coming through. And it would take a long time to get their boat across, but it was much safer. But what that did was it created an influence and an influx of outsiders bringing their religion in -- their worship to pagan gods, all kinds of stuff. So, this city was just this giant melting pot of ideas.
The canal, there was actually a canal started by Nero to try and, you know, build a waterway across this, so they wouldn't have to bring their boats on land. He took 6000 Jewish slaves and began the work. Unfortunately, he died a year or two later, and the work sat unfinished until 1893. That is a long time. This canal is basically a tourist attraction now. You can take a boat through it if you like; with our modern vessels it’s really unnecessary. It's not big enough for cargo ships. But the rock walls are about 170 feet high, and it's four miles long. And it goes right through, and it's a testament to the centrality of the Corinthian city back in the time of Jesus.
In Corinth, on top of the city, sat an Acropolis; every Greek city had an acropolis. And in this particular city, there's a mound that rises about 2000 feet in the air. And on top of that was a temple to Aphrodite, which you may know more commonly as Venus, the Greek goddess of love. This would cause problems for the city. The temple had 1000 prostitutes who would come down into the city every evening and work there. We know this from other biblical sources that talk about how Corinth is not for every man. Even the pagan world knew this was not a nice place to live if you had any sense of morality.
Corinth was a city set on a hill for all the wrong reasons; to “Corinthianize” meant to engage in immorality. It would be like saying to “Americanize,” and that meaning to engage in immorality. The entire place was known for that, and they were okay with that. This was not new in Paul's day, even Plato some 400 years earlier, described a “Corinthian girl,” and everyone knew what that meant. So, the licentious culture seeped into the church, and was even tolerated among the believers. Now, if you are reaching out to a church like this, if you would write a letter to them, what would you have to say?
Well, I think what Paul starts out with may surprise you greatly. Look in chapter one, verse one, and follow along as I read the first nine verses of First Corinthians. There's a Bible under a seat nearby, if you need one. I'll be reading out of the ESV. So, Paul addresses the church there: “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: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge -- even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you -- so that you were not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Does that sound like the opening of a letter to an immoral church? With all their problems, we might think they were just ungifted, ignorant people. But let me unpack this opening quickly for you. He says they enjoyed “all speech and all knowledge.” We don't normally hand out that compliment. It says in verse six they were “not lacking in any gift,” not any gift. Pastors would love to pastor a church where all the gifts were just going on, or so it would seem. They even, look in verse seven: they were waiting “for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They had a biblical mindset. They were looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. I mean, that sounds pretty good.
But knowledge and gifting do not equal Christian maturity. Let me repeat that: knowledge and gifting do not equal Christian maturity. They should, but they don't. And the church at Corinth was evidence 101 for that. You see, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us understanding, correct? The Holy Spirit is the one who endows the gifts. And we know that each person is given a gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift of God's grace, for the manifestation of the Spirit and the good of the body of the church, every single believer. And they had all of them.
They didn't even need to sustain themselves. Look in verse eight: “our Lord Jesus will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I mean, if you're looking for encouragement as a brother or sister in Christ, and you read from the apostle Paul that Jesus himself will sustain you -- how long, till the end and on what basis, that verse nine: “God is faithful” -- not even on your basis or your thinking or your will or your actions, that is a great start. And we need to keep that in mind, because unfortunately, though they had all those blessings, and all those things bestowed on them, they were pursuing their sin, and they so loved their sin that they forgot to love their Savior. They were so gifted, but in pursuit of other things.
The danger for us, Grace Bible Church, is that though we are in the Word, we must ask ourselves: are we submitting to the Word? We are in the Word; we are tackling entire books. Right? We're in it. You have small groups where you're in the Word. We have Bible studies for the men and women where you’re in the Word. The children, right now, are being taught the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are in the Word; they are hearing it. We are all hearing it constantly; but are we submitting ourselves to it? And this is where the Corinthian church needed help.
As you consider First Corinthians, hopefully you have one of these Bible journals; there's an outline on the inside of it for you to kind of follow along. And the front of it is made to help you connect with your children, or maybe grandchildren, to communicate the truth here. The front today just represents the purity of the church, the light of our Lord Jesus Christ shining through brightly in the church, though the world be dark.
This book can be divided into two main sections: chapters one through six is a call for unity, and chapter seven through 16 is a call for righteous living. You say, “how do we get that?” Well, look in chapter one, verse 11, where Paul says, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.” So, though this church had all these things, there was a lot of infighting going on, and he helps them work through that in the first six chapters. Then in chapter seven, verse one, Paul addresses the letter that they wrote to him.
Now, just as a way of overview, Paul visited this church three different times. He established this church on his second missionary journey, and he actually wrote to them four letters. We just have the second and fourth, okay, so he is in constant communication with them. This is the heart of a shepherd. This is the heart of someone who loves his people; he is engaged with them. He is not merely one who speaks to them or talks at them, he knows them. He even relates to them. It's Chloe's people who brought these verbal reports to him. And so, therefore, chapters one to six.
And then in chapter seven: “You wrote your letter to me, so I'm going to respond to your letter.” He takes the time out of his love and compassion for them to respond to their specific questions and their specific needs. So first: they were forming cliques after their favorite teachers. Look in chapter one, verse 11. I mean, we never do that. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ [that's Peter] or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
When I was in seminary, we had a professor who loved this passage. And he would look at us and he would say -- he set us up all the time -- and he's like, “How many of you love Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation?” You know, we’re like, “Oh, yeah, we love Luther. We're actually starting to read him,” and all that kind of stuff. And he's like, “Did he get crucified for you?” Ooh. And then the second question we all know not to raise our hands. Right? And he's like, “How many of you love the teachings and the reform that happened from Calvin and Zwingli, and all those guys?” And, you know, we're all doing this? He's like, “Mm hmm, you know he was paid in barrels of beer. Are you okay with that? John Calvin?” Let's just, you know, my fellow seminarian here knows exactly who I'm talking about.
You know, but we've got to be taken out of our camps and put it in the only camp we should be in. And notice here he says some follow Christ. I mean, that's good, right? But is it good that we say, “Well, I follow Jesus Christ”? Meaning, “You don't. You just follow his main apostle’s teaching.” And when they say, “I follow,” it is “I follow the teaching.” So, “I follow the teaching.” Was Peter there in Corinth? No. Was Jesus there? No. This is 11-12 years after Jesus ascended to heaven. So, it's not like “I follow” the person directly and we're following him around. It's “I am, in my person, I am a disciple of this person. I follow them, I follow what they teach and what they speak.” That's what that means.
Now, in our day, we of course, thankfully, I didn't wear my little symbol of where I went to seminary today. But thankfully, we need to think about this too, right? I mean, this is social status. They were dealing with social status in the midst of the Corinthian church, and they're like, “Hey, we're doing right here.” I mean for us, we would say “I follow…” Good, you learned. “I follow MacArthur,” or “I follow Sproul,” or, you know, “I follow Dever,” or whoever your guy is. Hopefully, it's a guy, not a female pastor. But we get in these cliques, and we get in these things. And it's almost like if I say I follow this guy; I went to this seminary, I must be okay. But knowledge does not equal maturity.
It doesn't matter how many people follow you on social media. In fact, that might point out a problem, actually. What are we aiming for in life? Just a giant following so we can make our living online? Okay, I guess there's many people doing that correctly. But is that to be the sum-total of our life, to influence people we will never meet? We need to think through the foolishness of such things as we consider First Corinthians. And we think through who we’re being influenced by and what we're being influenced by. I mean, other authors are good, right? God had many men from three different continents, and over 1000s of years, write different books that we put together, and we call the Bible, all inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yes, right? So, other teachers are given for our benefit, Ephesians four: “The teachers are given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12)
Or you can even read other books besides the Bible. I encourage you to read other books besides the Bible, knowing there's only one inspired canon. But a wise man once said, “Visit good books, but live in the Scripture.” Right? So, it's good. It's just, are we known by who we've been trained by, Grace Bible Church, by who we like to read certain commentaries or listen to their sermons? Or are we known as a person who has a passionate pursuit for Jesus Christ, to love God and to love others with everything we are? See, Paul was not only going to course correct their specific sins, he was going to course correct their thinking, to give them a truly biblical worldview.
He summarizes this teaching in chapter three, verse 21, where he says: “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future -- all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God's.” If you are Christ’s, and Christ is God's, that's really all we need to know. We need to be thankful for that and put our efforts in that direction. So, after confirming the direction that they should have and kind of dealing with, you know, some of their propensities to study certain people and to be known by who they study -- Mars Hill, famous speeches, who we like to read, all those kinds of things.
After he does that, he gives in chapter four and following, he gives his authority as Apostle. But remember, in chapter one, he said he's called by God. But also in chapter one, he says they are called by God. Right? So, he's relating to them the same call, though he was set apart for a specific work. And then in chapter five, he just kind of goes there. If you want to know just how straightforward Paul is, you just read chapter five and maybe chapter six. And he just takes the gloves off a little bit, and in a loving way, he confronts them. Chapter five, verse one: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” What's he calling for here? He's calling for church discipline. The church was not speaking out against fornication. In Corinth, as I said, they worship Venus, and they had all of these practices that went along with it. And to live in the city meant you were always aware of what was going on, because atop the Acropolis was that temple, among other buildings. And in chapter five, verse two, Paul says: “Let who him who has done this be removed from among you.” Very straightforward -- not get together and have a quiet time, or pray about it and think, “Should we do this or not?”
So now they had an ultimatum from the apostle Paul: who were they going to follow now? Were they going to make each other uncomfortable? Or were they going to treat this person in love and remove them? And yes, that is loving, and it's necessary. Why is it necessary? Well, chapter five, verse five: “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Now, we are observing what Paul did here in a specific instance. In Matthew 18, where it goes over to church discipline, we're not commanded to hand people over to Satan, but we are to discipline them. Why? So that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. A restoration is the goal. A restoration is the goal.
Satan's goal is not simply to get people to stop attending church. His goal is to destroy them. And when a person is set aside, they see the futility. And the goal is to turn back to Jesus and his Church. So, discipline is an effort to set the person free from their sin. The second thing that it does is it corrupts others around them. Verse six: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” I mean, with all of the things that he's about to mention that they were doing and part of, it's imagined they had anyone left in the church. I mean, can we not relate to the depths of our own sin? Can we not relate to just how foul sometimes we are? And it is a long haul.
But here, he goes even further in First Corinthians chapter five, verse 11. This is even more rare than church discipline. “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he's guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolator, reviler, drunkard, or a swindler -- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” So why is he going into all this? Well, the context, remember the context. It wasn't just the immorality, but greed. The love of greed, the love of wine, the love of lying, of cheating people, swindling them, of communicating in a way that is just constantly degrading people. I mean, all of Twitter would be kicked out of the church.
You see, it saves the person and the church -- so that they would not be prideful, and so that they would have compassion among themselves, for each other, and for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then he reminds them of who they were, First Corinthians 6:9: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It's nothing that you've done. When we have to deal with these things, it's not that there's this better group and this worst group; there's just this group trying to be pure. And we need to submit ourselves to the cleansing of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when that happens, in that moment, anyone can be made pure. Anyone can be made to walk rightly with God -- no matter what you've done, no matter where you are, no matter what situation you're in, no matter what's going on. Washed, sanctified, justified by Jesus. That is a message that the church needs to hear, not just everyone out there.
Notice he said, “God judges the outside.” That's our favorite pastime, “God judges the outside.” We the inside, is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? Don't we want one another to live cleansed from unrighteousness? Don't you want to set aside whatever your favorite sin is? Don't you want to be continually sanctified, “sanctified” here in 6:11 is a positional sanctification, very similar to justification, whereas there is this one moment where God has washed you clean, all the dirt is gone. And you're instantly justified in the sight of God because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Don't we want to live that way with others who are that way? And when they have these problems, notice Paul's not, like, kicking the whole church out. He's calling them to repentance. He's calling them to live by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that it is through the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God that any one of us can have a righteous thought or deed, ever. So, he calls them to unity, to be unified around this pure church.
Section two: chapters seven to 16. And this is where Paul responds to a letter that they wrote. And if you thought the first few chapters were deep, or went there, chapter seven really goes there. Chapter seven, verse one: “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:” And I'll let you read the next two verses there. Yeah, he goes there. Why? Because God cares about our marriages. God cares about our minds and the purity of mind. And he cares about this church. It's like, “What do we do with them?” They weren't asking “Is this right?” Paul is giving them the courage to act. There weren't any strong leaders in the church to say, “This is the line. Thus far and no more.”
So, they called upon the apostle Paul, “What do we do here?” And they knew if he was going to drop the hammer, then they would all either have to reject Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, or fall in line. So, there were some among the church who had the courage to write to Paul and say, “Please help us! We got issues.” Anybody out there have issues? Just look at the person next to you and say, “You've got issues.” Don't do that. We could all do that. Right? You could look at me; I've got issues. I know. I've got lots of issues.
But listen: there is no area of your life that God's Word does not address, either specifically, or in principle. None. None. Anything that is happening to you in your life, you either have specific commands or principles to live by. Why? Because God is gracious. He knows what's going to happen to you before it happens. And he knows what we need. Chapter 10, verse 13 is such a powerful verse. And now that you know the context of First Corinthians, I'm hoping this verse has more power and authority than what we do when we just kind of helicopter in and pluck out a verse. He says, “No temptation has overcome you that is [what?] not common to man.” None.
Every biblical counselor knows this verse, every single one. It's like, if you don't know what to say, you just go back to this verse. “I am lost. We've been working for months; I have no idea what to do.” “Well, let's just go back to this one.” Why? It's built on the faithfulness of God. It says, “God is faithful.” “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” And in Corinth, it was like, “Okay, I guess we'll stare at our shoes all day.” Right? Flee from it. He doesn't say leave the city. Who's going to be the light if everyone leaves? If we just huddled together in the “us four, no more,” then we just let the darkness reign. But if God sends us out as lights into this world, then we shine the light in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Verse 31 of First Corinthians 10 -- another amazing verse: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Again, another wonderful verse we kind of pull in and pluck out and then move on. And he's just talked about, you know, food that’s sacrificed to idols. What do you do when they serve food that was sacrificed to Venus? Do we eat it or not? Or what's going on here? Paul works them through all those issues. “So, whether you eat or drink… do all to the glory of God.” Praise God that he just summarizes things for us at times. Like, “What am I supposed to do?” Just do that verse. That's it. In everything -- every thought, action, word, deed. How ever you serve your family, just do that. How ever you love your spouse, just do that. How ever you serve your boss at work, just do that. How ever you hang out with the kids at school or the kids around the block, just do that, and you'll be doing really well.
So, then in chapters 11 to 14, he turns to instruct them in the positive ways they should live. We were in chapter 11 today, in the second half of that talking about communion. And then he writes a huge section on spiritual gifts. And I've preached verse by verse through the book of Acts. So, if you want to find out what I specifically think, and what this church teaches, you can look at our “what we teach” online, and you can look at the sermons. Pick out whatever verse gets you going in Acts, and you can see a whole sermon on that or listen to a whole sermon on that. But he wants them to focus on the love of God. Notice, the greatest definition in all of Scripture is chapter 13. “Love is…,” “Love is…,” “Love is…,” “Love is…” Why is that? Because they were so focused on themselves and their factions and their gifts, that they forgot what real love was.
It's not that we just set aside truth and “Oh, you have your view, and I have mine.” No, Paul never tells us to do that. He encourages us to live at peace with all men, so far as it depends on us. But he gives specific instructions on how to use those gifts. And I believe they have ceased. You can see in chapter 13, they cease at some point. These three remain: faith, hope and love. But again, if you want a whole teaching on that, you can go to our scriptures that talk about that online, the “what we believe” and also the book of Acts.
But he doesn't skip over any, any topic. I love that because I need that. I need Jesus to be straightforward. I need him to not beat around the bush. I need him to say, “Dave, this is wrong. And I'm going to help you live by my grace through it.” “Dave, this is an area that you need to work on. And my Word is going to walk with you through the valley, not just see you on the other side, but every step of the way.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you. In fact, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Not only does my Word reside in you, not only are you a temple of the Holy Spirit,” but in John 17 -- probably already written by the time this was given -- he says they are to abide in the love of God. And he who abides in God's love will have the love of God.
And so, Paul just continues to weave this strong focus on the love of God for God's glory all throughout as he hits all the hot button issues. Chapter 15, verse one is wonderful. He says this: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain.” So, for those of you who wonder if someone leaves the faith, Paul says they have believed in vain. The Judas faith for all the wrong reasons, the demon faith -- all the knowledge and none of the follow up, none of the submission. Right? Verse three: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. And last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Paul demonstrates his humility in that though he wrote more books of the New Testament than any other person, he is the least of them. He is the last one. Notice, he reminds the believers of the gospel. Believers, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. And what that means biblically, is that it energizes us to live rightly. When we preach the gospel to ourselves, it's not just like, “Oh, I've heard that before.” It's like, “Yes, that is what I live for. That is the strength and the power that allows me to live for God.” And as we've already seen, it's the fellowship of his Son. It's the power of the Holy Spirit. It's the reminder of Scripture. And I just want to ask you: Have maybe you set some of those things aside, and feel like you're getting pummeled by sin, or by doubt, or by bitterness, or by the world? Notice, Paul's not trying to fix the world. Paul's trying to fix the church.
I think if I read this from chapter 15, I would be looking for some of those 500 brothers. “Jesus appeared to you? Can you tell me about that?” So, he gives them more faithful witnesses than just himself. Cephas, James, others, many people that they could get instruction from. He wasn't pointing them to himself; he was pointing them to the message delivered by the apostles. And then he goes into what is critical after giving them the gospel, and I love how he wraps up First Corinthians here. And over the next five minutes, we're going to wrap up here, 15 verse 12. “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
So, First Corinthians is not necessarily a deep theological book; it is an extremely practical book. But it has an immense section, not only on the gifts, but on the significance of the resurrection. That's why I preached on this this Easter. It's the longest explanation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ -- its critical nature to our faith and also, hallelujah, that we get to have new bodies one day, that we're not going to stay as we are; that God is not only going to just give us a new home, a new location, he's going to give us a brand-new self. He's started with a new nature, but he's going to give us something new entirely. And he goes through this chapter and explains all that.
Remember, Paul's a Pharisee, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection; the Sadducees did not. So, he was constantly arguing this, even before Christ, that there's a resurrection, but not arguing it biblically. Now he gives us the greatest section on our bodies that will be changed and transformed for his glory in Scripture. Verse 13 of chapter 15: “But if there's no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. [And here's the significance.] And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. [verse 17] And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Do you see how the resurrection now applies to our daily living? Why do we have to think through theology? Why do we have to think through this? Well, if Christ has not been raised, he says we're still in our sins and our faith is futile. I love how Paul ties in one of the greatest truths of the faith and says, “Look, if this isn't true, we're all lost.” But he gives them encouragement. You know the feeling. When you're getting pummeled by sin, you need encouragement. When life is like wave after wave, right, you need to know that there's a good ending on the other side. And that's verse 56 of chapter 15: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.” “In the Lord your labor's not in vain.”
That conversation with a co-worker that seems to go nowhere, “Your labor's not in vain.” The just seemingly repetition of life, as you live to the glory of God, not in vain. The fact, “Should I be here? Does my life matter?” You are not in vain. Be steadfast. You want to be immovable in this life? Digest First Corinthians. Want to know how to overcome any of the besetting sins that plague our culture? Digest First Corinthians. He says, “the victory comes through our Lord Jesus Christ” -- that's verse 57. That's where the victory is. And if you want to learn about the victory, you learn about Jesus Christ more. I pray, as Paul exhorts them, that you and I can learn to live in a steadfast way -- not tossed all over the place, but immovable, and always abounding for the work of the Lord knowing it's not in vain.
Let's pray. Father God, we give you praise and glory, for this wonderful day because we get to live for you. Lord, sometimes we can't see the end. We can't see how you're using us in other people's lives and in this world, but we know that our work is not in vain. And we know that we can fight against sin. We know that you provide a way of escape, from all sin and temptation, by your power and by your grace. How loving, how kind, how merciful are you, Oh, Lord. Let's just take a moment right now and ask God for two things: one, the purity of our church, and one, the purity of our own souls. Lord God,
we thank you for this day, this wonderful service. We thank you that the victory comes through Jesus Christ and Christ alone. Amen.
other sermons in this series