Moral values, and a culture and a religion, maintaining these values are far better than laws and regulations.
Introduction: The church is the ecclesia, the called out of God. In the days of the Apostle Paul anytime a Roman city had a town meeting the ecclesia would gather together. These were the ones called out to decide the business of the town. The word is carried over into the NT to designate the church.
This is not the only way the church is designated in the NT. It is called ‘his household’, ‘salt and light of the world’, ‘Christ flock’, ’the bride of Christ’ and the ‘body of Christ’.The word ecclesia is used three ways in the NT in reference to the church.
1) It is used to designate all the redeemed that belong to Christ. Easton’s Dictionary says, ‘It denotes the whole body of the redeemed, all those whom the Father has given to Christ, the invisible catholic church’. Catholic being used here in the sense of the universal church. In the book of Ephesians the Bible says Christ is the head of the church and He is the savior of the body.
2) It is also used to designate a small group of believers for example in Romans 16:5 we read ‘ Likewise greet the church that is in their house.’ Every Christian is a part of the church, the body of Christ.
3) It was also usedtodesignate all the believers in one city, whether they gathered in one place to worship or not. For example we might, if we lived in that age, received a letter from the Apostle Paul which might be addressed to the churches in Concordia parish. It would be for all of us who believe on the name of Jesus Christ. That is in reality what the Holy Spirit of God meant for us as He inspired the writing of the NT. The Bible is for every believer in all places. Yet sometimes the church runs into trouble just as it did in Corinth. She finds herself embroiled in the midst of something which threatens to divide her membership. What is the church to do when it encounters these divisive issues.I. Must Focus on the MessiahA. Where must our focus be?
As Paul begins to address the Corinthian church and some of the problems of division they were faced, he began by asserting the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why does he use the phrase ‘by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’? Paul was speaking in His place as the apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the role assigned to him by God, Paul spoke with authority to the church. It wasn’t Paul’s authority, but the authority of the word of God.
He wants to refocus their attention on the one to whom their devotion and true allegiance lies, Jesus Christ. The allegiance of the church does not lie with the pastor, although the pastor has a unique role and responsibility assigned to Him by the call of God upon his life. The allegiance of the church does not lie with a few select members of the body but with the Lord Jesus Christ as the head of the church. In verse 13 three probing questions are ask. One, is Christ divided? Two, was Paul crucified for you or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The answer to these three questions is the same, no. No Christ is not divided and no Paul did not die for us and we were not baptized in the name of Paul, meaning that we in our baptism identified with Jesus Christ.
B. What happens when we lose sight of the Savior?
1) We can get our eyes onto other people. That’s what happened at Corinth when they lost sight of the Lord Jesus. They began to focus in the personalities around them rather on the Person who saved them.
2) We can get our eyes onto other problems.
They began to focus on the problems they were having with each other. They began to argue and fuss and even began to take each other to court.
3) We can get our eyes onto other priorities.
Even in church we can often get our eyes on the wrong priorities. The priorities of the Corinthian believers began to be what they desired. They began to live according to their appetites thus becoming carnal rather than the spiritual people they were supposed to be. This lead to the abuse of spiritual gifts and the abuse of the Lords supper.
In the case of the Hebrew Christians to whom the epistle to the Hebrews was written they were exhorted to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us and looking unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, they were to run the race set before them with patience following the example set by the Savior who for the joy set before Him endured the cross despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Let us take this same exhortation to heart so that we might also run the same race before us, having laid aside the things in our hearts that hinder us and the unbelief and the apathy that entangles us. Let us, in our race of faithfulness, keep our eyes on the One who is the eminent example of faithfulness, who is comparable to no other. Look at His faithfulness to the will of God as our example. Among the legions in the hall of faith in chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews no one comes close to Jesus example. Whether you speak of Moses, Abraham or any other prophet you find none of these, no matter how tremendous their walk with God, match our Lord. If you ever feel that the race is to much look upwards at Jesus. Never set another person on a pinnacle. Never set a pastor or preacher up as the one you ultimately look for your example but let your eyes be on Jesus. I know that we who are pastors and preachers and leaders are supposed to be examples, but you will always find fault with me and with other mortal men’s example of faithfulness to Christ, but you will never find a flaw in the Savior.
The truth is, as the book of Hebrews tells us plainly, there will never be another to match our Lord. He is the finisher. They say Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player that has ever lived and that may be true. They say that Mohammed Ali is the greatest boxer who ever lived and that may or may not be true. Some say the greatest preacher who has ever lived aside from the Lord Jesus, is a man named Charles Spurgeon.
The point is that there will probably come along some basketball player who is better than Jordan or boxer better than Ali or preacher better than Spurgeon but there will never be anyone better than Jesus. Always, always, always our focus must be on Jesus our Savior. We owe no other greater allegiance than we owe Him.
II. Must Focus on the Mission
In the 1st chapter Paul exhorted the Corinthians to focus upon Jesus. If their focus was upon Jesus then their focus would also be upon the mission Jesus had given the church. One of the problems in the Corinthian church was that some were identifying with certainleadersrather than with Christ. The apostle Paul, while not diminishing the importance of believers baptism, which identifies us before the world with Christ, points out that his commission was not to baptize but to preach the gospel. (17) In Matthew 28:19 we find the passage known to us as the great commission. Jesus said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching themtoobserve all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen. The Peoples NT commentary says, ‘The structure of the sentence in the original Greek shows that it is the disciples and not the nations who are to be baptized; according to the commission, therefore, one must be made a disciple before he can be baptized.’ Baptizing does not save you, but one must be saved or made a disciple before he is baptized. If you are not committed to Christ in your heart before the outward rite of baptism is administered then what makes you think you will be a disciple after you are baptized. If a man marries a woman but he has not been committed to her before they wed, then he is not likely to be faithful to her after they wed is he?
Paul states his mission in precise terms. His mission was to preach the gospel. His mission was to gospelize not baptize. The gospel is the death of Jesus according to the Scriptures, and the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus according to the Scriptures.
We are to keep our focus on our Messiah, on ourmissionand also we…III. Must Focus On The MessageThe mission of the church is not to proclaim the latest and the greatest fad or fashion of the world but to preach Christ crucified. That is the only message that will do the world any good. Paul may have been looked up as a fool by the world for preaching Christ but he would have rather been a fool in the eyes of the world and wise in the eyes of God, than have been considered a fool by God for adhering to the vain and pointless philosophies of the culture around him. The world may consider us morons friends for believing the Bible and preaching that Jesus is the one and only way for a person to be saved and go to heaven but that is OK because it will be better to enter heaven a moron than go to hell being considered wise by the world.
The same is true for you and I. Are we going to transform our culture or is our culture going to transform us? In Corinth the entertainment choice of the day was to hear an eloquent speaker. This was someone who could tickle your ears with his fancy speech. Paul’s task was not to entertain and wow the crowds with his fabulous oratorical skills but to proclaim the cross. He did not want to do anything to draw attention to himself and to take away from the message. May it never be that we do anything that takes away from the message of the gospel. May we never distract someone from looking upward at Jesus Christ and being gloriously saved. May we never proclaim anything else to this lost and dying community and world than the salvation through Jesus Christ.
The age in which we live has a message of its own. In large part the message of our age is moral relativism which says there is no absolute truth. If you are sincere in what you believe then that is enough. There is no real right or wrong answers, just what you conceive of as right and wrong.
This relativism has even entered Christian circles. I see it when someone says that it really doesn’t matter what you believe as a Christian just as long as you are sincere. I want to ask you a question. I don’t want you to answer this question out loud but in your heart. Which statement is true. It is more important that you are sincere in your beliefs than it is that what you believe is right? Or is it more important that what you believe is right?
The answer is that it is important that what you believe is right according to Scripture. You can wrong and be sincerely wrong. The Bible says study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed.
The church has one Messiah, one Savior. The church has one mission to win and disciple our world and the church has one message. It is the message of the cross. The key verse in 1 Corinthians is found in chapter 2 verse 2. ‘For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ Let that be us, nothing except the living Jesus and Him crucified. That’s what our neighbors need and that’s what we need as our focus, as our mission in this year.