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Digging Deeper: The Corinthian Contention

This is the first of a weekly blog series that is called: "Digging Deeper." The blog will be posted each Tuesday, and in each blog we will "dig deeper" into one aspect of the sermon from the previous Sunday Morning.

On Sunday Mornings at Good News we have been studying verse-by-verse through Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth, and we just finished the first chapter. As you read through the letter it becomes very clear that, while God had done a mighty work in Corinth, the believers in the local church there were struggling with many different issues. Paul writes the letter to them in order that he might address these problems, encourage the believers, and set things in order. The problems in Corinth range from open sin in the church to neglect of the proper observance of the Lord's Supper, and many other issues besides.

The first problem that the Apostle deals with is the issue of divisions in the church. Evidently the divisions were strong, because Paul calls them "contentions" in verse 11, which indicates that these divisions were sharp and active. Cliques had formed in the church, and the people were uniting under different leaders in the church. Paul and Apollos were the two main leaders around which these cliques had formed, but neither of them had sanctioned this behavior! In fact, there is no reason to believe that these men were at odds with each other in the slightest! That being the case, what was the cause of these divisions? All the details are not spelled out in the letter, but it seems as though some in Corinth were boasting in their baptism, and others were boasting in the "worldly wisdom" that the Graeco-Roman world was so entranced by. While we can gather evidence from the letter and attempt to fill in the blanks, the important thing to see is not how the divisions were manifested, but that human pride was what fueled them. Like a cancerous tumor, pride entered into the church and began to spread and contaminate all that it touched. Many of the specific issues in Corinth cannot be replicated today, but we can certainly understand the effect that pride has on anyone, let alone a believer in Christ Jesus. So how does Paul deal with this issue of pride and boasting? He speaks of two reversals of the Christian faith: the cross of Christ, and the effectual call of God. The cross of Jesus Christ reverses all human expectation. Paul tells us that fallen humanity, while boasting in their wisdom, deem the preaching of the cross to be foolishness. However, the cross of Christ is the wisdom, power and salvation of God! He points to the fact that the message of the cross was the message that they believed, the Gospel by which they were saved! He then reminds them that the call of God to salvation was not based human merit or works, that God did not call them to Himself because they were wise, strong, or noble. He called them by His grace, and granted them repentance and faith to believe. Why had God done this? Why did God reject human wisdom and call those to Himself that the world saw as foolish? In order that all human pride might be eliminated, and God be the only thing that we glory in. Why would the believers in Corinth, or any church, glory in anything else? The cross and the manner of God's call to salvation should deal the death blow to all pride and contention in the church. When we remember these vital truths, we can say with Paul, "That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Pastor Jacob


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