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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 1:17-18; The Power of the Word

02/24 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 The Power of the Word; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130224_1cor1_17-18.mp3

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ· Ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν, καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. 20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου; 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας. 22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν·23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν, 24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν.25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστίν, καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

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. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The believers in Corinth were in danger of undermining the power of the gospel by their division; Paul had heard reports of their quarreling and wrote to address this issue. They were caving to our human tendency to elevate a human leader or teacher to almost a divine status deserving of allegiance. They were buying in to the cultural wisdom of their day, trying to gain status or prestige by the teacher they identified with. When Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, he told them

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

The messenger is not as important as the integrity of the message. Human messengers will come and go, but ‘the word of the Lord stands forever’ (Is.40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25). Paul’s solution to their divisions was to bring them back to the gospel; to remind them of the simplicity of the good news that they had believed.

The Word of the Cross

Paul claims that he was sent to preach the gospel. This passage gives us a clear picture of what Paul believes is the core message of the gospel. Gospel means good news. Paul’s primary responsibility was to announce a victory. The war had been won. The enemy had been defeated. Good news! In verse 17 he says that he was sent to preach the gospel in a way that avoided sophistry so that the cross of Christ not be emptied of its power. He is claiming that the power of the gospel is the cross of Christ. He says as much in Romans 1:16.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul declares that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, regardless of ethnic distinctions. He says that he is not ashamed of the gospel because many people would think that it is a shameful message. Instead, the gospel is the power of God for salvation. In the context of Romans 1, salvation is rescue from God’s righteous wrath against my God-belittling ways. In Romans 3, salvation is being:

Romans 3:24 …justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Here in 1 Corinthians he tells us that the gospel is a simple message centered on the cross. The cross of Christ is the power of the gospel. In verse 18 he describes the gospel as ‘the word of the cross’. This is in contrast to the ‘words of wisdom’ in verse 17. It is not wisdom words that have power, it is cross-words. The gospel is a cross shaped message. He says that the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. In verse 21, he tells us that the message is foolish, but it is a message that saves those who believe. This saving is contrasted to not knowing God; so being saved is related to knowing God, to being in relationship with God. Salvation is rescue from a life lived in separation from God, outside a relationship with the living God. Down in verse 23 he expands on what it means to preach the gospel. He says ‘we preach Christ crucified …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. In chapter 15, he comes back to the gospel message and reminds the Corinthians of the gospel he preached, the gospel that is saving them. This is the content:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

The gospel was the announcement that Jesus died and was buried; that he died and was really truly dead; and that he was raised and appeared to many; that he is alive and that it has been undeniably proven that he is really and truly alive. But the gospel is not merely the facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is the fulfillment of prophecy. The gospel is the focal point of all of biblical history. The Messiah died and was raised in accordance with the Scriptures. This was no accident, no surprise, no new direction in the plan of God. This had been the grand design of God through the ages. The promised one had come to die. The Christ died and was raised as the final fulfillment of God’s plan. The good news also answers that most important question ‘why?’ Why did the Christ die? Why did God’s perfect sinless King, whose rule would never end, die? Christ died for our sins. He died as a substitute. He took our place. He died for us. He paid the price for our sins. The wages of sin is death, and he died for us.

So the good news or the gospel is the power of the cross of Christ, the power of God in the word of the cross, the foolish preaching that saves believers and brings them into a relationship with God, knowing God. Preaching the gospel is preaching Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. That Christ died for our sins and is now alive. Any so called gospel message that is not anchored in the cross, in the death of Christ as a substitute for sinners is an empty message and it is not the Christian gospel.

No Third Category

We are told here that the cross divides all of humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. There is no third category.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Some of you right now are in the process of destroying yourselves. You will choose to resist the gospel and reject what Jesus did for you. The cross is too bloody – it’s offensive. The gospel is too simple. There must be more to it. The gospel is too easy – just believe? The gospel is too free – by grace alone? There must be something I have to do, something I must contribute. I simply cannot believe that Jesus did it all. If this describes you, you are perishing. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,

but its end is the way to death. (also Proverbs 16:25)

Jesus spoke of only two categories in the final judgment:

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus said:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In John 3, where Jesus spoke of his coming crucifixion, he said:

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. …36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

The cross divides all men absolutely. There are those who believe and those who do not believe. There are those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Where are you?

Why is the Word of the Cross Folly

Paul says that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. What does he mean that the cross is folly? We who are so familiar with the cross as the symbol of Christianity, who adorn our buildings and our pulpits and maybe even our living rooms with the cross, who hang the cross around our neck or from our ears will probably miss what the cross would mean to someone living in the first century. Picture this; a huge mural on the front of our church building depicting the horrors of the Nazi prison camp at Auschwitz. Imagine wearing a miniature silver replica of a gas chamber around your neck. What if you had an image of the electric chair printed on your favorite t-shirt? What if we erected a noose and gallows atop the steeple on our building? Why in the world would we do that? That’s just sick! These images might begin to capture for us the emotional impact that the cross would communicate in the first century.

The cross was an all too familiar symbol of crime and capital punishment and ruthless Roman rule. The cross was a gruesome and shameful form of public execution, where the criminal was torturously executed, suspended bloody and naked for all to see; a graphic reminder of what happens to those who commit heinous crimes or go against Rome. Crucifixion was not talked about in polite society. For Greeks and Romans the mere thought of crucifixion was repulsive and repugnant. But Christians claimed that their God had become human and had been crucified by Rome. They claimed to worship a crucified hero. This makes no sense. The hero is the guy who is strong, fights hard and conquers against all odds; not the guy who is weak and gets himself captured and killed. The cross is a symbol of helplessness, powerlessness, weakness, a symbol of the ultimate loser, the most despised outsider. To align yourself behind a crucified leader would be to declare ‘I am on the losing team, and I am a loser’.

Archaeologists discovered ancient graffiti in Rome depicting a man standing at the foot of a cross. On the cross was the figure of a man with the head of a donkey. Below the caricature is scrawled ‘Alexamenos worships his god’. This is the way that Christianity was perceived in that culture. This is the foolishness of the cross. To those who are perishing, to those who have not had their eyes opened to the beauty of the cross, the word of the cross is folly.

The Word of the Cross is the Power of God

But to us who are being saved, the word of the cross is the power of God. What does this mean? How is the word of the cross the power of God? In verse 21, he says that ‘in the wisdom of God …it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’. In verse 24 he says that Christ crucified is ‘to those who are called …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. God chooses to use the seeming foolishness of the message of the Jesus Christ crucified to save those who believe, those whom he is calling to himself. In Romans 10, Paul outlines the sequence of evangelism as sending, preaching, hearing, believing, calling on the name of the Lord and being saved, and he says:

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ, hearing the word of the cross. If we think back to Genesis, back to the creation account, we see that God’s word has creative power. God said ‘let there be… and there was… let there be… and it was so’. We see this creative active life giving power of the word of God all through the book of Acts. The apostles prayed for boldness to speak the word (4:29). They testified and spoke the word of the Lord (8:25). And the results are described like this:

Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

It’s as if the word of the Lord has a life of its own. It was spreading, increasing, and prevailing mightily. Listen to what Paul tells the Ephesian elders that the word of God’s grace has the potential to do:

Acts 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul will never see these men again. He entrusts them to God and his word. The word of his grace is able! In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes the connection between the effective word of God in creation and in us as new creations; he says:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation; the word of the cross is the power of God. Faith comes from hearing. Luke records for us a beautiful instance of this happening on the river banks near the city of Philippi. He says ‘we sat down and spoke’ and:

Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

They spoke. The Lord opened her heart. The powerful word of the cross creates new life and faith in the heart of the hearers. Faith comes through hearing. There is creative power in the proclamation of this message. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Paul says a few chapters later:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

This is why Paul says that he did not preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom. The word of the cross is the power of God. We dare not empty the cross of saving power by dressing it up, watering it down, altering it in any way. We must not be ashamed. We must pray for boldness to plainly proclaim the powerful good news.

Power to those who Are Being Saved

But does the power of the cross of Christ end with salvation? I believe the gospel and now I have eternal life. I have been saved. But this verse says that the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. In chapter 15 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.

We are being saved by the gospel. In believing the gospel, there is a once for all decisive finished act;

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And there is also a present continuing aspect of the gospel. How is the power of the cross now at work in us who are being saved? An illustration might help. Your home is on fire. You are sound asleep in your bed, oblivious to the danger. Suddenly a fireman crashes into your room, shakes you from your sleep, and announces ‘your house is on fire – come, I will get you out’. You believe him, and he picks you up, wraps you in his fireproof coat, puts his oxygen mask on you, and carries you in his strong arms. You are depending on him, and you are now in his care. You have been rescued. But you are not out of the house yet. He will carry you through the door and along the smoke-filled halls and down the stairs, or out the broken window and down the ladder. You are being saved. How is this power of the cross at work in us who are being saved?

The power of the cross is at work freeing me from slavery to sin.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

…14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The power of the gospel gives me everything I need to live a godly life

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

The power of the cross is awesome resurrection power

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know … 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

The power of the gospel is the power of the Holy Spirit in you enabling you to know and experience the love of Christ for you

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The power of the cross sets us free to live for the glory of Jesus

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Is the power of the cross at work in you today?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:17b; Emptying the Cross of Power

02/17 1 Corinthians 1:17b Emptying the Cross of Power; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130217_1cor1_17b.mp3

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν.

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. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

In addressing the divisions in Corinth, Paul brings them back to the centrality of the cross and applies the simplicity of the gospel message to heal their broken unity. Paul goes back to his primary purpose as an apostle in order to undermine their divisive party spirit. He was not sent out to baptize; he was sent to proclaim the message.

Emptying the cross of power

1 Corinthians 1:17 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.

Paul was sent out to evangelize, to ‘gospelize’, to herald the message of good news. Paul and the other Apostles had a unique and unrepeatable role in history as eye-witnesses, but we are all called to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ (2Tim4:5). We are all called to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). Paul tells us that it is important how we proclaim this message, and he warns of a significant danger to proclaiming the message wrongly. He says, that if preached wrongly, we could be guilty of emptying the cross of Christ. I could be guilty of gutting the cross of its ability to save, of rendering it useless, worthless and ineffective, of actually preventing salvation by my presentation? That is a terrifying thought. I don’t ever want to be guilty of emptying Christ’s cross of power. I want to understand what Paul is saying so I can heed his warning and allow the cross of Jesus to have its full saving effects on all who hear my voice.

Baptism Cannot Save

So what is it that empties or neutralizes or makes void the cross of Christ? First, Paul claims he was sent to evangelize not to baptize. If we put a saving emphasis on baptism, we would become guilty of emptying the cross of power. If we say that water baptism is necessary or required for salvation, we would be turning people’s focus away from the cross and toward the waters of baptism as their hope for salvation. Trusting in the wrong thing will not save you. Trusting in a rite, in an ordinance, will not save you. Only Jesus will save you. Not Jesus plus baptism, but Jesus alone. Dividing your faith between Jesus and something you do takes faith away from Jesus. Jesus alone, Jesus – plus nothing – will save you.

Wisdom of Words

Paul says that he was sent to proclaim the gospel. And he says that he did not preach with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be made hollow. How do words of eloquent wisdom empty the cross of power? What would it mean to preach the gospel with wisdom of words? The word translated ‘eloquent wisdom’ is sophia [σοφια]; it is the root behind our English words sophistry [an argument that sounds plausible but is actually invalid or misleading] or sophisticated [refined, cultured, educated, complex, pretentious, superficially wise]. Here we can put to use what we know about Greek culture. The Greeks were famous for their pursuit of wisdom. They sought to formulate a coherent system of thinking that would make sense of the universe. Sophists were often itinerant intellectuals that hired themselves out to teach their views of reality and the universe. Athens was less than 50 miles northeast of Corinth, and this is where Paul conversed with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers before coming to Corinth (Acts 17:18). Epicureans believed that pleasure is the greatest good; Stoics taught self-control as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; those who followed Protagoras taught relativism and atheism and that man is the measure of all things. These sophists were experts in rhetoric and were often more concerned with their ability to debate and persuade (and of course make money) than they were with truth. They were entertainers, masters of language and able to captivate an audience with their rhetorical prowess. In Corinth, you could gain social status by hiring the best teacher at the highest price. When Paul came to Corinth, he didn’t play into any of this. He refused to accept money for his teaching, working as a tent maker until support came from other churches that allowed him to devote himself to the preaching of the gospel. This was an insult to those who wanted to build status by hiring philosophers at exorbitant prices. Paul warned Timothy of this danger:

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

And he solemnly charged him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. … 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

So when Paul says he did not preach the gospel with words of wisdom in order to not empty the cross of power, he is saying that he did not preach in a way that seeks approval from men, he did not preach in a way that would feed anyone’s ego or build them up. His goal was not to sound intellectual and impress them with his skill and learning. Nor did he preach in a way that would be emotionally manipulative. He says in the next chapter:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

In his later letter to this same church he says:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Open statement of truth; not underhanded, no cunning, not adjusting God’s word in any way, not lofty speech or wisdom, not catering to one group or another. Do not empty the cross of power. If you proclaim the gospel in a way that draws attention to yourself, you are in danger of emptying the cross of power. If you are preaching the gospel in a way that strokes the ego of your hearers and makes them feel good about themselves, you are in danger of nullifying the transforming power of the cross. If you are tempted to adjust or distort the message of the cross in any way, to add to it or take away from it, you are being tempted to preach something other than the true gospel, and it will be worthless.

Examples of Emptying the Cross

At the risk of offending, I’ll give you some examples that may help to clarify what it might look like to empty the cross of power. These examples are not meant to condemn anyone; I have been guilty of using some of these methods myself. Our goal is for us all to abandon any method that would nullify the power of the cross.

The gospel is sometimes preached with high-pressure sales tactics or emotional manipulation. There is an emphasis on pushing for a decision and making the sale or closing the deal. Music is sometimes employed to set the mood and sway the hearer. Sometimes a celebrity testimony is used, to show that even popular people are following Jesus. Sometimes there is a push for a physical response; raise your hand, walk the aisle, put your name on the card, repeat the sinners prayer. The goal is to secure a decision from the individual before the service or the conversation is over. Walking the aisle or writing your name on a card or praying the sinners prayer never saved anyone. Trusting in Jesus is what saves. This kind of method may secure a ‘decision for Christ’, but it may not result in genuine conversion. It may even give someone a false sense of security that they did what was required to ensure that they go to heaven when they die without ever having a real relationship with Jesus.

Some methods of preaching the gospel appeal to what you will gain from believing. You will get your sins forgiven. You get to escape hell and secure a piece of property in heaven. Your marriage will be better, your health will be better, your finances will improve, your depression will go away, your family will be blessed, overall things will just be so much better and you will find the joy you have always been looking for. Some who have responded to this kind of message end up leaving disillusioned, feeling that the gospel did not meet their expectations or deliver the goods promised. It is absolutely true that you will gain much more than you lose, but Jesus pushed people to count the cost. Following Jesus may cost you your family, your marriage, your possessions, even your life. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The gospel is sometimes preached with an emphasis on how reasonable and logical it is to follow Jesus. Evidence is mustered, logic is appealed to, the rational nature of Christianity is highlighted. It just makes so much sense to be a Christian. Only a fool would pass up an opportunity like this. You would be really wise to follow Jesus. No intelligent person could come to any other conclusion once presented with the facts. This kind of preaching may secure intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel, an agreement that the claims of Christianity are historically accurate, that there is evidence to support the facts, but it may not result in the kind of turning and faith that saves. Christianity is true and if you know your stuff, you can argue someone into a logical corner, but you can never argue someone into the kingdom, into a relationship with Jesus.

Man-Centered or God-Centered?

All of these methods center on the person. They appeal to the emotions, they target the intellect, they seek to persuade the will. They say that following Jesus will make you feel good, or that following Jesus is wise, or that following Jesus is the best decision you can make. These methods tend to shift the emphasis of the gospel from God to the person. The good news is primarily a message about God. Paul says here that preaching the gospel is ‘the cross of Christ’. In the next verse, he calls it ‘the word of the cross’, which ‘is the power of God’. Down in verse 23, he declares ‘we preach Christ crucified, …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. The cross of Christ, the word of the cross, preaching Christ crucified is the power of God. The nature of the gospel message is news. Paul was called to evangelize, to proclaim the gospel. He was not called as a rhetorician or an orator or a salesman; he was called as a news boy. He was given a message; his responsibility was to declare it faithfully. Don’t distort it; don’t spin it; don’t edit it. Announce it with clarity; proclaim, herald the news. Response to the news is not your problem.

Think of the guy in front of the pizza joint advertising hot pizza’s for $5. He can stand there quietly holding his sign, or he can jump around waving his sign in the air and doing everything in his power to capture your attention. But he doesn’t have the liberty to alter the message. He can’t try to tempt you with a pizza for $2.50. He can’t offer you a sit down steak dinner at that price; they only serve pizza. And he can’t control your decision. If you’re hungry and that sounds like a good deal, you might go in. If you’re not interested you might shake your head and wonder how much they pay that poor guy to stand out there and make a fool of himself, but you will probably ignore him and drive by.

The gospel is news. Good news. We are called to proclaim it, to announce it, to herald it. The gospel is good news about a person; good news about God. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified – God become flesh, the promised one, executed in our place as as a substitute. This is not my message; I did not come up with it; Paul or Peter or James didn’t come up with it. It is God’s message. It is not ours to adjust or adapt. We are entrusted with the message and expected to proclaim it faithfully. If we examine Paul’s practice through the book of Acts, we see that he went, as instructed to the Jewish synagogues and reasoned with them from the scriptures and proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. When the Jews rejected the message, he would turn and proclaim his message to the Gentiles. He faithfully proclaimed the message. He trusted God to use the message in the hearts of his hearers however he chose.

Is it a Sin to Speak Well?

Is it a sin to use logic, persuasion, or rhetoric in proclaiming the gospel? It is interesting to note that in this very passage in arguing for the centrality and efficacy of the cross, Paul employs persuasive rhetoric to make his point. As we study Paul’s letters, we find that he was a master communicator. But he never compromised the message in order to make a convert. And he did not depend on his own oratorical abilities to persuade. God has gifted some with amazing abilities to argue and persuade and defend, to communicate his truth. I would never want to imply that by using the gifts God has given them they are emptying the cross of its power. Use your gifts to the glory of God. The question is, what are you relying on? As you proclaim the good news, what are you trusting in? Your persuasive methods? Your polished presentation? Your impenetrable logic? Or are you relying on the power of the gospel message itself to save sinners? Are you relying on the Holy Spirit of God to use his truth to transform lives in a supernatural act of sovereign power?

Our objective is not to see how many souls we can save. We cannot save any. That is not our job. That is what God does when we are faithful to proclaim his message. We are not interested in coercion; we are interested in conversion; we are not interested in securing a commitment – we want to see a work of God happen in the heart of our hearers; the supernatural miracle of spiritual rebirth. So when we speak, we must simply depend on God the Holy Spirit to do his work.

Not About Us!

This is good news for us! This is so encouraging! This is very humbling but it is also freeing! Praise God that even when I have preached in ways that empty the cross of power, God can still use that to do his work. This means that there are no special skills or training required to do the work of an evangelist, to tell the good news to your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your family, your children. God is not looking for a polished rhetorician but a town crier. Any schoolboy, any idiot can be employed as a herald. The impact of the message does not hinge on my ability or my presentation at all. Paul says ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth’ (1Cor.3:6). The gospel is power, God’s power to save sinners. Proclaim it! Proclaim it boldly. Proclaim it faithfully. Proclaim Jesus Christ crucified as the only remedy for our severed relationship with the God who loves us. Believe the gospel. Believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Believe that God can use you in simple obedience proclaiming his truth to bring supernatural transformation to sinners. Preach the cross!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

1 Corinthians 1:13-17; The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism

02/10 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130210_1cor1_13-17.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

After giving thanks to God for the evidences of grace that he sees at work in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins to address their problems. The first issue on his list is quarreling. It had been reported to him that the Corinthians were dividing over non-essentials, aligning themselves behind their favorite teacher, creating competing fan clubs. Paul would have none of this. He points them back to Jesus and the the centrality of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided. When we divide up those who belong to Christ over trivial matters, we lie about Jesus and are not telling the truth. Jesus is one. His body is one. If you belong to Jesus, if you have been bought by his blood and transformed by trusting in him, then you are part of his one body, the church. If you belong to Christ, if you have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, then you are a part of the larger body of Christ, in fellowship with his people, the church. We are one. Paul is not sacrificing truth on the altar of unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, but he also taught that there would be some who claimed to follow him but in reality had no relationship with him. The people Paul is addressing knew and loved and believed the true gospel, or he would have attacked and dismantled their false teaching, as he does in other letters. But their conduct was not in line with the truth they believed. This is often our problem. We know the truth; we believe the truth, but so often our conduct, our daily life, our Christian walk is not in step with the truth of the gospel. We need daily to be reminded of the gospel, challenged by the gospel, transformed by the gospel. Moment by moment our conduct needs to be brought in step with what we believe. Paul takes their conduct and describes the belief that would go behind that conduct to help them see how incongruous their lives had become. You are acting like Jesus is chopped up into little pieces and each group clings to a piece over against the other group. Jesus is not divided! Don’t act like he is!

You are acting like your favorite teacher died on the cross for your sins. None of them believed this. But it was how they were acting. They were clinging so tenaciously to their preference, their favorite that you would think that Paul or Apollos or Cephas was their savior. The cross is central to all of the Christian life. Our life finds its source in Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus took our place, died in our place, bore our guilt and shame, so that we can now enjoy a healed relationship with the all-holy God. Focus on the one who was crucified in your place, not on your style or preference or favorite.

Baptism

His third question introduces the subject of our study today. Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Today we will look at verses 14 – 17, where Paul gives us some insight on the significance of baptism.

This question, like the others is intended to show the readers how out of step their conduct is with what they believe. It is ludicrous to think that we were baptized into the name of Paul, because that is not what baptism is about. What is baptism about? What does baptism mean? It might be helpful to start with a simple definition of the word itself. Our English word ‘baptize’ comes straight over from the Greek word [βαπτιζω] ‘baptizo’. It is a transliteration, where Greek letters are replaced by English letters. The word ‘baptizo’ means to submerge or immerse, to soak. Around 200 BC Nicander used this word and a related word in a recipe for making pickles. He said the vegetable should first be dipped [bapto] into boiling water, then baptized [baptizo] or soaked in the vinegar solution. Both words refer to dipping or immersing into liquid, but the first is temporary, where the second, baptizing, produces a permanent change [Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989; cited in Online Bible note on Strongs #907] What kind of change is produced will depend on what you are immersed into. Paul is outraged that some are acting like they have been immersed into Paul. Christian baptism is being immersed into Jesus, being saturated with Jesus, being changed and transformed by Jesus. Paul is saying ‘I don’t have the power to transform anyone. Don’t get immersed into who I am; get immersed into who Jesus is!’

John’s Baptism

John the baptizer pointed to the essential difference between his baptism and Jesus. He said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John’s baptism consisted in immersing people in water. John pointed to Jesus, who would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing people to Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance; those who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins, turning from their old way of living, from what they had been trusting in, from their dead works, and turning to the coming Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus, to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who would take away sins. Jesus is the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Paul highlighted this when he came across some disciples of John in Ephesus.

Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Who Baptized Whom?

Notice in this text that it doesn’t say that Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t say who baptized them at all. It simply says that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but that is the very thing Paul highlights in the next verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:13 … Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 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.) 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.

Reflecting on his experience in Corinth, Paul gives thanks that in the providence of God he only baptized a very few of the first converts, probably before his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived (Acts 18:5). Paul was eager to clear himself from the potential allegation that he was making disciples of Paul, baptizing converts into his own distinct form of Christianity. The point is it doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference who did the baptizing. What matters is who your were baptized into. We can see how people could make a big deal out of this. ‘I was baptized by the hands of the Apostle Paul himself. Oh yeah, well I was baptized by Peter, the first Pope! I don’t feel very special; I was only baptized by deacon Dan’. From this passage we see that Paul intentionally avoided baptizing people himself and delegated this responsibility to others, in order to avoid this very thing. This seems to be the practice of the early church. When Peter went to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel, proclaiming that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, and while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them, he said

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

These Gentiles had believed in Jesus and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Since they had already experienced the inward reality, they should also be allowed the outward sign. Baptism with water was the outward picture of what was an inward reality. And Peter commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t do the baptizing. Apparently, some of the brothers from Joppa who were with him did the baptizing. In John 4, we see that this was Jesus’ practice as well.

John 4:1 …Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

Believers are baptized into Jesus, immersed into a relationship with Jesus, saturated with, permeated by Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference. Who does the baptizing makes no difference. Paul is thankful to God that he didn’t baptize many in Corinth, so there would be no room for people running around with t-shirts that said ‘I was baptized by the Apostle Paul’.

Inspiration

From this passage, we can glean a beautiful insight into the process of the inspiration of scripture.

1 Corinthians 1:14 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.)

Paul is dictating this letter, as is his usual practice, maybe to Sosthenes, the former synagogue ruler. Paul dictates that he baptized no one but Crispus and Gaius, and Stephanus, who we know is with Paul at the end of the letter (16:17), starts waving his hands and says ‘Hey Paul, what about me? Have you forgotten?’ Or maybe Sosthenes politely reminded him. The bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and that means it is without error. We do not believe that the authors of scripture were granted infallibility or omniscience or even fully understood everything they were writing (1Pet.1:10-12). But we believe that God was sovereignly at work in the writing of scripture, so that what was written was protected from error. God may have very naturally used one of the guys in the room to remind Paul of something he had forgotten and so preserve the text from error.

The (secondary) importance of Baptism

1 Corinthians 1:17 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.

Paul goes back to his commission as an apostle, and claims that Jesus sent him to evangelize, not to baptize. Paul recounts this in Acts 26

Acts 26:15 … the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul was appointed to be a witness, to open people’s eyes to the truth, so that they might believe, receive forgiveness of sins and enter the kingdom of God. There is no mention of baptism. In the commissioning of the twelve apostles at the end of Luke’s gospel, there is likewise no mention of baptism.

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The focus is on the message proclaimed; repentance and forgiveness of sins. The primary role of Apostle was that of eye-witness. That is why when they chose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was someone who had been an eye-witness with them from Jesus’ baptism by John up through his ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Matthew’s account makes baptism an explicit part of their charge, but a secondary part.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary command in this text is ‘make disciples’. ‘Going, baptizing, and teaching’ are all things that go along with the primary call to make disciples.

Baptism is important, but it is of secondary importance. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but the New Testament does not imagine an unbaptized believer. Jesus taught that whoever believes has eternal life. He never said ‘whoever believes and is baptized’. But when someone believed in Jesus, they were baptized. That was their public pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ, and their public reception into the family of believers. Believing and being baptized went together. Baptism was looked at as a privilege, even a right for those who believed in Jesus. When Philip explained the good news about Jesus from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

When Peter visited a Gentile’s house and proclaimed forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Jesus, when these Gentiles believed, Peter responded:

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….

The physical sign should follow the spiritual reality. Paul taught in Romans:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul doesn’t undermine the importance of baptism; rather he brings our focus back to where it should be. The picture means nothing without the spiritual reality it is intended to represent.

1 Corinthians 1:17 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.

The proclamation of the gospel is primary. The cross is central. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Christ as my substitute on the cross. Eternal life is given to everyone who believes, everyone who repents, turning from what they were trusting in, and clinging to Christ as their only hope for rescue from hell. Everyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are saturated with Jesus, who he is, everything he is. We are immersed into his death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of being immersed into all that Jesus is, being connected with Jesus. But it is a symbol that means nothing and accomplishes nothing apart from this spiritual reality. Don’t come to the symbol hoping to gain any spiritual benefit. Use the symbol to point to Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Come to Jesus, trust Jesus, be united to Jesus, immersed into Jesus, pledge your allegiance to Jesus, follow Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Say the Same Thing

02/03 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Say the Same Thing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130203_1cor1_10-13.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Paul is addressing the church of God in the city of Corinth, those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, part of the wider body of Christ. Paul gives thanks to God for the good things God is doing in this church; God’s grace is evident, and God is not giving up on these believers. Jesus will sustain them to the end guiltless in the day of Christ Jesus. God is faithful, and Paul’s confidence lies not in the character of the Corinthians, but in the character of the faithful God who called them into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Having created an atmosphere of gratitude, having laid the foundation of Jesus, that it is all about Jesus and the faithfulness of God, Paul is ready to tackle the first major problem in this church. It is interesting where he starts. He doesn’t start with the sick and twisted form of immorality that was being accepted in this church (ch.5), he doesn’t start with the public litigation among believers (ch.6), he doesn’t start with their questions over marriage (ch.7) or their questions about eating food sacrificed to idols (ch.8-10), he doesn’t start by addressing their drunkenness and self-centeredness at the Lord’s Supper (ch.11), he doesn’t immediately address their abuse of spectacular spiritual gifts and lack of love (ch.12-14), or even their confusion over the resurrection (ch.15). Look at the first problem Paul addresses in this messed up church:

1 Corinthians 1:10 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.

Paul spends the bulk of the first four chapters addressing this issue of division. This issue takes front and center in the letter.

If you remember back to his greeting in the first verses, he pointed them to the fact that they were a church; the church of God in Corinth, and that they were part of the wider body of Christ, that they were called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole thanksgiving is addressed not to you singular, the individuals, but to you plural, the whole group. And he says that you all have been called into the fellowship of Jesus. Division is the polar opposite of fellowship. You were called into fellowship; fellowship with Jesus and fellowship with one another. What in the world are you doing tearing apart Christ’s body?

An Earnest Plea

Do you hear the earnestness of this plea for unity? Paul says ‘I appeal to you’; I urge you, I beg you, I implore you, I entreat you. Brothers. He doesn’t address them as converts or troublemakers or inferiors, but brothers; brothers and sisters. He comes along side them with brotherly affection and appeals to them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for there is no higher name to appeal to. He is our Lord, our King, our authority, both yours and mine, so we are both under obligation to obey him. By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, coming in the authority of that name, being under his authority, appealing to all that he is, his character, his desire, all that his name stands for, for his sake, for his benefit, for the fame of his name.

1 Corinthians 1:10 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.

Say the Same Thing

Paul’s earnest appeal is that they all agree. Literally, that you all say the same thing. What does this mean? In many cults, there is a creepy form of unity where everyone robotically uses the same words and phrases, and even dresses the same and acts the same and thinks the same. Is it this kind of cult-like uniformity that Paul is calling us to? It cannot be, because he will go on to teach in this very letter that there is much diversity in the body of Christ. There are different gifts given to different members of the body; there are different situations each person finds themselves in; there are different levels of maturity; different people have different strengths of conscience – and Paul does not condemn these differences, rather he encourages unity in the midst of diversity, seeking the advantage of others, being characterized by love toward others, all for the glory of God. This is not the monotone unity of each individual playing the same note, but each having our unique instruments tuned to the same master key, and playing our distinct parts from the same piece of music so as to create harmony and not just noise. To say the same thing does not mean that we all use exactly the same words; we can use different words to express the same thought. But if someone interviewed each of us about what was most important, would they come away impressed with the truth that each one has his own story, but we are all saying the same thing? Do we all agree on what the main thing is and do we all agree to keep the main thing the main thing?

No Rips; Knit Together

Paul goes on to clarify what he means. He appeals that we all agree, or say the same thing; that there be no divisions among us, that we be united in the same mind and the same judgment. To say the same thing means that there be no divisions among us. Jesus uses this word divisions in his parables to describe a tear in a garment (Mt.9:16; Mk.2:21). John’s gospel uses this word to describe difference of opinion on who Jesus is (Jn.7:43; 9:16; 10:19); some said he must be the Christ, while others said he can’t be the Christ; some said he can’t be from God because he breaks the Sabbath; others said he must be from God; some said he has a demon and is insane; others said that a demon-oppressed man doesn’t speak like he speaks or open the eyes of the blind. These are watershed issues; is Jesus from God or not from God? A difference of this magnitude will create an irreparable rip in the fabric of the community.

Paul appeals that we say the same thing; that there be no divisions that tear us apart; that we be united in the same mind and the same judgment. This word ‘united’ is used in the gospels of repairing or mending fishing nets (Mt.4:21; Mk.1:19). It is sometimes translated ‘restore’, ‘knit together’ or ‘perfectly unite’. When there are rips in relationships, they need to be sewn back together. In our thinking and in our purpose, we must be united, functioning as a team, working toward the same goal.

Quarreling

In verse 11, he communicates the source of his information, and more insight on what kind of division he is concerned about.

1 Corinthians 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 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.”

We don’t know who Chloe’s people were. Most agree that this is a woman’s name, possibly a businesswoman with connections both in Corinth and in Ephesus, where Paul is writing from. Obviously the Corinthians would have known who this was, and it would demonstrate that Paul was not speculating. It is interesting that he doesn’t keep his source anonymous with something like ‘I have heard’ or ‘some people are complaining’. There is accountability in this. If Chloe’s people are lying, they will have to answer for it. If it is the truth, they will have a harder time denying it. We don’t know if this report came from believers or unbelievers. If it came from believers, we understand it to be out of care and concern for the health and well-being of the body of Christ in Corinth. If it came from unbelievers, this would bring serious shame; even the unbelieving community is aware that there is quarreling in the church, to such an extent that they felt they needed to inform the Apostle.

This word ‘quarreling‘, sometimes translated ‘strife, rivalry, or dissension’ shows up frequently in lists of things that should not characterize Christians, alongside things like envy, murder, deceit, maliciousness, drunkenness, sexual immorality, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, fits of anger, divisions, slander, and evil suspicions (Romans 1:29-31; 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:19-21). Quarreling may sound like a minor issue, but to Paul it was deeply disturbing and demanded immediate attention. Quarreling, strife, or dissension would undercut the essential unity of Christ’s body, and undermine their effectiveness in the world.

Obviously this was not a major theological or doctrinal issue, or Paul would have addressed it head on, as he does in other churches who had deviated from the simplicity of the gospel. Apparently these people got the gospel right, but they had personality conflicts and opinions and preferences that were causing division in the body. They each picked their favorite teacher or apostle, and developed a personality cult around that individual. Some claimed to belong to Paul, the church planter in Corinth and the apostle to the Gentiles. Some claimed to belong to Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt whom Acts describes as ‘an eloquent man, competent in the scriptures, fervent in spirit (Acts 18:24-28). After Paul had planted the church in Corinth and moved on, Apollos was sent to Corinth with the blessing of the believers in Ephesus, and ‘he greatly helped those who through grace had believed’ (Acts 18:27). Some claimed to belong to Cephas, the Aramaic name of Peter, the rock, the apostle to the Jews. Some claimed to belong exclusively to Christ. This seems to be a super-spiritual group who claimed to have an exclusive direct connection to Christ, and didn’t need any human to teach them. There was either an over-emphasis or under-emphasis on the human instrument God used to minister to them. They had an ‘I’ problem; I follow Paul; I follow Apollos; I follow Cephas; I follow Christ. This was pride. This was not a doctrinal dispute; Paul claimed to be on the same team with both Peter and Apollos (1Cor.3:6; Gal.2:6-10). They were all teaching the same gospel. They each had distinct personalities and backgrounds and teaching styles, but they were co-workers for Christ. And it is clear that they did not elicit this kind of party spirit. Paul condemns his own fan club first. We could bring this up to date, and say ‘I follow John MacArthur; I follow James MacDonald; I follow John Piper; I follow Beth Moore; I really don’t need any teacher; I study my bible and pray and the Holy Spirit is my guide’. All of these are great! Listen to all of them! Learn from all of them! But don’t pit one against the other. They are all preaching the same gospel. Don’t over-emphasize the teacher and don’t under-emphasize the teacher. They are all God’s gifts to you for your good. Don’t in arrogance toss them aside as if you have no use for them. And don’t idolize them or become overly dependent on them. This is an issue of style over substance, personality over character. ‘He makes me laugh. He really brings it down to earth. I love the way she digs into the original languages. He communicates with such passion. His illustrations really make it stick’. Here’s another way to bring it up to date. ‘I love the old hymns. I really connect with contemporary worship music’. These are issues of style, of preference. Paul crushes all of this divisive party spirit.

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

These are ludicrous questions designed to demonstrate the absurdity of the situation. Is Christ cut up into pieces? Does this group over here have a piece of Jesus, but that group over there claims to have more of Jesus? Do you think you have a corner on the truth about Jesus? Do you think that you have more access to Jesus than the next guy? There is one Lord Jesus Christ, we all want to get to know him better, to follow him more closely. Paul uses himself as the example. The way some of these people talk about their hero, you would think that Paul was their savior, that Paul bore their sins and was crucified in their place. You would think that they were baptized into the name of Paul and became followers of Paul. This is blasphemous! Only Jesus, the divine Son of God could pay for our sins! Only Jesus is worthy to be followed. Through baptism, we are being identified with Jesus, not some other person.

Centrality of the Cross

Notice what Paul is doing here. He is bringing our focus back to Jesus, back to the cross. Who is Jesus? What has he done for you? What have you become a part of?

This points us to how Paul viewed the cross. He asks ‘was Paul crucified for you?’ The obvious answer is ‘no, Jesus was crucified for me’. Crucifixion was a means of carrying out the death penalty under Roman rule. To take up your cross was a way to say you embraced your guilt. I deserve to die. Paul is introducing the concept of dying for someone else. A crime has been committed. Justice demands the death penalty. Can someone voluntarily stand in for someone else? Can an innocent party suffer the penalty of the law and allow the guilty party to go free? In a very real way Jesus died for a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a convicted criminal, a murderer (Mr.15:7) on death row. There was no hope for him. The night before the execution, the Jewish leaders bring in someone they are accusing of blasphemy and demand his execution. Pilate examines him and declares that he has done nothing worthy of death. Pilate, in a desperate attempt to get out of a difficult situation, puts forward Jesus and Barabbas as the two candidates for mercy. One will go free, and one will die. The crowds demand that Jesus be executed and Barabbas be released. Jesus does not speak a word in his own defense. He is executed and a notorious murderer goes free. Barabbas was guilty; Jesus was publicly declared as innocent. He died in the place of Barabbas. He took Barabbas’ punishment.

And he took my punishment. Although I am not an insurrectionist rebel, guilty of murderer, and I am not on death row with the government of this land, I have committed high treason against the King of kings. Although I knew God, I did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. I exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom.1:21-25). I refused to live under the rule of God, determined to be my own ruler. I was foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to passions and pleasures, I passed my days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating others (Titus 3:3). I, a sworn enemy of the throne, was captured, convicted, and ready to hang. I was without hope. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me (Eph.2:4), while I was still his enemy, he sent his only Son to die for me (Rom.5:6-10). No, Paul was not crucified for me. Jesus was crucified for me, in my place, bearing my divine and eternal punishment. It is to Jesus I owe my undying allegiance, affection, and devotion. I stand, side by side with every other pardoned sinner, on the same footing, with the same standing, deserving nothing yet having been given all things, an eternal debtor to my only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have been called into the fellowship of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. I am part of Christ’s one body, undivided.

Let us all with our unique voices, say the same thing. Let us put to death quarreling, dissension, and strife. Let us be knit together in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 3, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment