Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Read or watch the sermon below!
To recap Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth in around the year 54AD while he was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaea. You will remember that the letter was written to this church because Paul had received reports that the church in Corinth was suffering under factionalism and placing great emphasis on the gifts certain members had over others. Others claimed superior knowledge and wisdom. While others were living immoral lives while still claiming membership of the church.
You will recall we read in our first week about Paul setting out who the Corinthians were in the eyes of God, and emphasising that though their knowledge and gifts are wonderful things they are all from God. They enable us to see that we are called into a whole body of believers, that we are set apart – sanctified by God, that the spiritual gifts we have are from God, that our knowledge and abilities in the faith are from God. Paul wanted them to understand the great truth that it is God at work in us that redeems us – that it is God’s grace – his unmerited, or unearned favour towards us that is what saves us – that is the very key to the Gospel!.
Having set the scene for his letter to the Corinthian Church by letting them know that it is God who is at work in them, and their salvation, their knowledge and their gifts are all from God, and that they are all one body of believers – the body of Christ – Paul moved into discussing factionalism and division in the church.
Paul called the church to unity, to be of one mind. Now remember Paul when he says that we as the church should all be of one mind wasn’t calling us to blind faith or conformity – rather he was calling the church to focus on the core thing – the Gospel. He was also emphasising that what we do and how we behave matters and effects how we are able to promote that Gospel – that is important!.
Remember he also gave us that model of evangelism – that being straight forward and honest about the Gospel without embellishment and without compromise.
Then we focussed heavily on how the cross of Christ is foolishness to the world. We focussed on how it is through that cross we are reconciled to God. That it is at the cross where the consequences for our sins are dealt with.
It is at the cross where God incarnate says – even though you may think it is foolish, here I show you my love, here I do what I must to bring us back together. It is at the cross that the bill we owe is paid.
Two weeks ago we readLast week in chapter 2 Paul continued talking to the church in Corinth about how the Gospel does not conform to the wisdom of the world. Paul explainedIn the opening five verses of our reading today Paul continued to explain to the them how he didn’t come to them trying to appear wise and distinguished – he didn’t come to them trying to look and sound like someone who would be deemed respectable by the standards of the world - rather he came to them from a place of weakness – with a story that would seem implausible to them.
Then he explained to us that it is through the spirit that we begin to fully understand what God has done for us. It is through God’s Spirit working through us and guiding us that we begin to comprehend the magnificence of what God has achieved through becoming a human being and taking upon himself the consequence for sin.
Through opening ourselves up – being willing to hear God’s call, being willing to let the Spirit guide us we begin to understand that what seems like foolishness to the powers of this world – is actually the very thing that will overthrow them. When we are willing focus on what God’s spirit leads us to – we find ourselves drawn into an understanding of God that is astonishing.
Then we also learnt that while there are those who Paul calls ‘unspiritual’ those who reject God and thus face the full consequence of sin. God never stops calling us. He never gives up– it is not to late, for anyone - He is there waiting for us, calling us – all we need do is turn back to him.
Last week we read Paul chastising the Corinthians for making him and Apollos idols – placing them in front of God. Paul called the church in Corinth back to fidelity to the God – and he calls us to the same. We were reminded to search out the idols that we erect in our own lives – whether it be money, or reputation or our favourite sporting team – We need to identify anything that is in our lives that gets in the way of our relationship with God and set our priorities straight – because none of the things of this world mean anything next to the incredible love of God which saw him willing to die on the cross for us.
Today Paul is beginning to sum it all up for the church in Corinth – and for us! You see what Paul has been trying to explain to the the Corinthians all along is that their salvation is not something that is built upon their own skills, or abilities. It is not something that is built on their own intelligence, their own knowledge or wisdom – you see no matter how knowledgeable, wise, skilled or able we are – we can never come close to God.
So Paul continues our section today having just finished explaining that he and Apollos and all the other preachers and teachers (including me) aren’t the ones who need adulation and thanks – but God is.
Paul says what he did in building a foundation of faith in the church at Corinth, was all through the Grace of God. That word is important – Grace – we have heard it a lot over the past few weeks, have you noticed?
The word means unmerited favour. What Paul is saying is that what he did in establishing the church in Corinth, wasn’t done through anything special about him. Rather he says that it was God at work – that he was a builder – yes a master builder – but a builder none the less, using the materials he had been given for free – the Gospel.
Paul is saying to them – don’t you get it? You guys are arguing with each other, and getting caught up in petty squabbles, but the truth is that even Paul – the one who introduced you to Jesus, is no more special in God’s sight than anyone else. Even Paul is completely reliant on the Grace of God.
Brothers and sisters we so often get so caught up in the things of this world that we forget what God has done for us. We so often get so focussed on the things that we want or that we think we need that we forget what God has already given us.
Paul in this section of the letter is calling us back to God. He is calling us to remember that it is actually God who gives us all. It is God who is creator and sustainer of the universe – it is God who calls us to live lives of love and care and compassion. It is God who forgives us when we fail. It is God who became one of us and died on that cross in order to take upon himself the consequence of sin. It is God who rose from death and forever conquered it – granting us eternal life.
Paul then says the most fundamental of things. Jesus is the foundation. It is upon Jesus and what he has accomplished that everything else is built.
Brothers and sisters we are called to be the very temples of God – each and every one of us – we are called to build upon that strong foundation that we have – that foundation that is Jesus Christ. We are called to build upon that lives that are worthy of the foundation.
We are called to put aside the things of this world and instead be shining examples of love and generosity and care and respect. When Paul spoke to the people of Corinth about them being the temple of God, they didn’t have images of a modest church building like this one – no they had images of the Temple is Jerusalem – towering over its surroundings, seen from vast distance from any direction, adorned with Gold and silver.
Paul was saying to the people of Corinth and to us that we are called to stand out – just as the Temple in Jerusalem was sanctified – set apart as a dwelling place of God– and drew people from all nations, races and cultures to seek to know more of God – so too are we called to be set apart.
We are called to set aside the wants and desires – the idolatries of this world and instead to be those who like the Temple of Jerusalem draw others to seek to know God.
So let us seek to learn from the mistakes of the Corinthian Church of 2000 years ago. Let us be the church that God has called us to be – a church which is truly set apart, sanctified – with Jesus Christ as or foundation. Let us be a church of people who are truly Temples of God’s Holy Spirit – who are adorned with the Gold of love, care and compassion. Above all let us be the church that acknowledges that it is the grace of God – and nothing more – that has set us free and redeemed us. Let us be the church that is willing to share that hope with others.
The Lord be with you.