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The Sunday Sermon – The Perfect Church? 1 Cor 1:4-8


The Perfect Church
1st Corinthians 1:4-8

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m sure that you have heard the story about the man who was searching for the perfect church. He had told his friend that he could join no church at all, for he had found no church that was perfect. His friend then gave him some very good advice. “When you do find the perfect church, don’t join it! For when you do, it will become imperfect.

In this passage you would almost think that Paul had truly found the perfect church – at Corinth! He has already described the nature of the church, showing that the local church was a complete entity, that it was a called-out entity and a connected entity. Now, in glowing terms he praises the church, highlighting all the good points of the church at Corinth. But this church was far from perfect, as we shall see! It was seriously compromised, in practice, in morality and in doctrine. It was not perfect, but it was still the church, and Paul will later deal with its problems, as one who loves the church and wants to see it prosper in spiritual matters, to grow in Christ, and to draw closer to him. So he begins by issuing some encouragement!

Paul’s Encouragement.
Paul thanked God for this church! This church which was to be so troublesome and so heartbreaking to him! He was thankful, and he wanted to express his thanksgiving to them, so that they in turn might be encouraged. We see:-

1) Paul’s Thanksgiving Expressed! He was thankful that these people had received the grace of God! How thankful we would be this very evening, if some dear friend in this service would simply reach out to the Lord and receive his Grace! Take him as Saviour and Lord! We would rejoice, and the angels in heaven would rejoice with us! Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Luke 15:10

2) Paul’s Thanksgiving Explained! This grace had been given to them as a gift. There is an interesting and important combination of words here. Grace is always received as a GIFT of God. The word for grace is (charis), and the word for gift is (charisma), and so they are inseparable, they both have the same root. God’s grace is always God’s gift! You cannot earn grace, or it ceases to be grace! It is by definition, God’s unmerited favour, and without that grace, we cannot hope to be saved, and to have fellowship with God. Here is what Paul says about grace to the Ephesiansians, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians. 2:8-9. There is no other word that so expresses the depth and the riches of God’s mind and God’s heart than this word! Men do favours for their friends, and thereby are said to be gracious to them. God has done something, which is unheard of among men. He has given His only begotten Son to die for those who are still his enemies. It was while we were YET SINNERS that Christ died for us! Romans 5:8.

People often have the wrong reaction to the wonderful free gift of salvation offered in Jesus Christ. We ask, “What must I do?” God answers, “Just believe!” Salvation is God’s free gift!
Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
1 Cor. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Rev. 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Grace can never be earned; it can only be received through faith as God’s free gift! And it is the only way that a sinner can be saved!

The People’s Enrichment
1) Christ enriches every part of our lives! Christianity is not just an intellectual exercise or a set of theological propositions, or even a nice moral code, which help us to live good and decent lives. Christianity is a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ! It is experimental! The psalmist expressed this very well indeed. He said, O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalm 34:8. We cannot ‘argue’ a man into faith in Christ! A person will only become a Christian when he realises that he is a sinner who needs the Lord, and puts his trust in Jesus for salvation. When that happens, there is a great enrichment of our lives! Paul gives us two examples of that here:-
b. Christ enriches our speech! Is it not amazing the difference that conversion makes to the speech of a believer? Have you seen this at work? How the foul mouthed individual can suddenly become one who’s speech is flavoured with the sweetness of the Lord? How the man or woman who once spoke only of the things of the world, of filth and of evil, now speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His church and His work?
c. Christ enriches our knowledge! Our knowledge may at one time have been a simple acceptance of the facts that were presented to us, but now we see through different eyes, and our knowledge is based upon the revelation of God in His Word, and we see things differently!
Now there is an interesting combination here. Why did Paul choose these two aspects of our lives to illustrate the enrichment that the Christian faith will give us? Speech and Knowledge. Now in the early church there were operating, certain ‘gifts’. Speech gifts, like prophesy and an ability to speak in languages that had not been learned, and gifts of knowledge, wisdonm and so on. Nowadays, the Scriptures are complete, and these gifts are no longer in use, but the Greek gives us an indication of just what was in Paul’s mind. These gifts are summed up in the Greek words used here, logos and gnosis. These were two very important concepts in the early church and in the church at Corinth in particular. There were people in Corinth who believed that they had heard directly from the Lord. They had a peculiar ‘word’ from the Lord, and therefore they had a ‘knowledge’ that other people did not have. Later in church history these two concepts would become what we now know as ‘gnosticism’ an early church heresy, which disseminated the theory that its adherents had a knowledge that other ‘ordinary’ Christians did not have. WHAT PAUL IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH HERE IS THAT THE LOCAL CHURCH AT CORINTH AS A BODY IS ALREADY ENDUED AND ENRICHED BY CHRIST IN ALL WORDS AND IN ALL KNOWLEDGE. Let no-one say that they have a monopoly of speech, or of knowledge! Let no-one claim to have some private, extra-biblical revelation from God for us! Christ has already given us, the church in its completeness, all that we need in His Word! Our knowledge is already enriched by his word!

2) Christ’s enriching confirmed their faith! God always confirms the faith of a true believer! The Bible teaches us that he will seal a person’s decision for Christ with the Holy Spirit! When a person accepts Christ’s salvation, the Holy Spirit calls that person, regenerates their dead spirit, baptises them with the Holy Spirit and sets his seal upon them! 2 Cor. 1:21-22 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.. It is this sealing which ESTABLISHES THAT PERSON IN THE FAITH! So the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them!

Their Powerful Endowment
The church at Corinth was powerfully gifted from God!
1) They lacked no gift! There was nothing, spiritually speaking, that this church did not possess. Do you know, that everyone in the church has some gift from God? Every Christian has, of course, the gift of His grace. But what other gift has God given to you? And more importantly, what are you doing with that gift?
We lack no gifting! Collectively the Church has great talent. What a diversity of gifts He has bestowed on believers to equip them for service! How are we using our gifts?

2) They expected the Lord’s Return! This was another positive aspect of the church at Corinth. They eagerly awaited the day when the Lord would come again! The more spiritually active we are, the more we work for the Lord, using the gifts that He had given us, the more we will eagerly await the return of the Lord! Look at what we expect when he comes to receive us:-

• We know that we will receive a home in heaven! John 14:2-3
• We know that the sufferings of this world will end! Romans 8:18
• We know that we will inherit a body like His glorious resurrection body! Philippians 3:20-21
• We know that we will be reunited with believing loved ones gone on before! 1 Thess. 4:14-18
• We know that we shall receive a crown of glory! 1 Peter 5:4
• We know that when he appears, we shall be like Him! 1John 3:2

They waited for the revelation of the Lord! So should we, and we would, too, if we could simply walk with the Lord, and serve Him!

3) They trusted in His Sustaining Grace! This is another great spiritual endowment: Eternal Security! Verse 8 says that He will confirm you to the end! In V6, the testimony of Christ WAS confirmed in these believers. He, who confirmed it, will continue to do so, right to the very end of our days! Philip. 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

There is a glorious reason for this! One day, we shall appear blameless before the Lord! On that day, we will stand before Him, and we shall be clothed in his garments of righteousness, and we shall be declared not guilty, for we are washed spotless by his shed blood! Jude 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

All this will be the more remarkable, when we come to consider the faults and flaws of this church! It was full of human imperfections, some serious imperfections, but it was the Lord’s church! And with all of its flaws and problems it was still His church, and it would one day be stood spotless and blameless before Him and would be His bride! We are often critical of our churches. Sometimes we look at them and we see nothing but problems and faults and disappointments. Let us be more like Paul, and when we look at the visible church, let us remember that what we see is a group of men and women who are not yet perfect, but who one day will be changed, to be like the Lord, and to be His glorious bride!

Rev Robert K McEvoy

From → Sermon Notes

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