Messy Church Series
  • The local church has had problems from her inception. The local church is about people from all different background trying to discover unity in Christ and enjoy an amazing fellowship with one another through the Spirit's power. But, it is not automatic nor is it easy. In many ways it is very messy. Yet, God promises that His church will overcome and even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. In the local church is the personification of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ. He will insure that the local church will flourish into eternity.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God has called a people to be His. – I Peter 2:9 & 10 
    • God's called people are set apart (holy) to Him. – Romans 12:1; II Timothy 1:9 
    • God’s holy people are to live for Him all the time. – Ephesians 4:20-24; 5:1, 8-10
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does it mean to be part of a called out people who belong to God? 
    • What does it mean to live a holy life? 
    • What does it mean for you to live for Him all the time?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What does it mean that the Corinthians are “set apart” in Christ Jesus?
    • How should being set apart affect our every day lives?
    • Why did Paul mention that the Corinthians were “called to be saints together will all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?  Why did Paul write what he wrote in verses 1-9 to the Corinthians?
    • “Grace and peace” was a typical greeting used by Paul and the New Testament church, “grace” being a standard Greek greeting, and “peace” being a standard Jewish greeting.  How are those two greetings made more meaningful if they come from God the Father?
    • Make your own list of what the Corinthians have in Christ as set out in verses 4-9.
    • What does it mean that God will sustain the Corinthians to the end?
    • What does it mean to be “enriched” in Him (v. 5)?
    • How is it that the Corinthians will be “guiltless” (or, “blameless”) in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ?  What is the day of our Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • Why is it important to build up and encourage one another with the reality of what God has done for us in Christ?   
    • How are you “enriched” in every way?  Make a list; then thank God for all those things you just put on your list. 
    • What does it mean for you to “wait for the revealing” of the Lord Jesus Christ?  How are you doing at it?
    • How does God “sustain” and “establish” you?  
    • Do you feel “guiltless” (or, “blameless”)?  If not, why not?  Has God forgiven you from your sin?  If so, what does that mean to you and for you every day?
    • Would you say your life is “messy” in the sense that you don't have everything turned over to the Lord Jesus?  Well, join the club!  Thank God right now that He is still working on you to make you more like His Son!
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
These Notes begin a series entitled “Messy Church” which is about problems facing the believers in the church at Corinth. These problems were addressed by the Apostle Paul in a letter denominated I Corinthians in out New Testament. What we will find in this study is that the believers in Corinth loved Jesus Christ; but in the midst of their love for Jesus there existed the good, the bad, and the ugly. In short, the church at Corinth was a “real” church, with “real” people and “real” problems. In that way, the Corinthian church was not unlike churches today, and we can learn from this letter how to grow individually and as a church in Christlikeness.

First, a little background. Corinth was a Roman colony located on the isthmus at the south of the mainland of Greece. Because of its location, Corinth was effectively on trade routes and consequently was a city of some significant means as well as being a cosmopolitan city, but made up principally of inhabitants from the Grecian and Roman cultures. Many foreign and pagan religions were present in the city because of this nature as a city of trade and the various people groups who traveled in and out of the city for business. It had a reputation as a city of low morals and much promiscuity. There was a wide range between the layers of social strata of its inhabitants, from the very wealthy at the one end to the very poor at the other end, and these differences in status affected one's relationships and views. The church at Corinth was founded by the Apostle Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (cf. Acts 18) which was approximately 51-52A.D.

Paul stayed in Corinth for at least 18 months (Acts 18:11), so he had a lengthy time to get to know the believers there and to teach them the principles of the Kingdom and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Despite the great foundation laid down by Paul, the Corinthians had problem after problem, including problems dealing with their daily lives and lifestyles, and problems with how they acted when they were together as the body of Christ. The letters to the Corinthian church that are in the New Testament are likely the 2nd and 4th letters Paul wrote to them, though there is scholarly disagreement on the point. It appears that the first letter is referred to in I Corinthians 5:9 and is missing. Our I Corinthians is thus likely the 2nd letter. After that letter, there were more problems in the church, including the influx of Judaizers, which brought about another visit from Paul (cf. I Cor. 16:5-9; II Cor. 2:1). After that visit, Paul wrote a “severe” letter which is not extant (cf. II Cor. 2:2-4, 9; 7:8-12).

Titus was sent to the church with such letter and later reported back to Paul. That report brought about another letter from Paul, which is our II Corinthians (though some take the position that there are actually two more letters – II Corinthians 1-9, and II Corinthians 10-13). In sum, the believers in Corinth were saved out of a highly secular culture, and had “old habits” and life practices which were part of their every day lives. As they came to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their entire lives, problems arose as you might imagine. Should we still do this? What about this or that matter? With whom should I associate? And on and on. Real life problems in a real church, including factions and divisions, immorality, marriage, meat offered to idols, worship practices, spiritual gifts, and the meaning of the resurrection. This series will deal with the foregoing problems.

I Corinthians 1:1-9 is essentially the opening greeting to the Corinthians, and is typical of letters written in Paul's day. The greeting included words of thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter, intended to reflect favorably on them in part so they would hear the hard words from Paul which were to come. But Paul does not simply use the format or template of the letter of his day; rather, he infuses the greeting with content particular to the gospel and faith as it relates to the Corinthians. First, he identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” (I Corinthians 1:1) The Corinthians knew that Paul was an apostle, but he reminds them of his position, as it were, to underscore the authority with which he writes.

Note that his authority is not self-proclaimed; instead, he is an apostle “by the will of God.” It was God who called Paul to follow Jesus and into his ministry (Acts 22:6-16, 21), and therefore, Paul now writes with the authority of Jesus Himself. In verse 2, Paul writes of who the Corinthians are in Christ. They are not merely the recipients of his letter, and they are not “Paul's” church; they are the ones “set apart” (the meaning of the word otherwise translated “sanctified”) by God, meaning that they have been separated out to be “in Christ Jesus” and belong to Him. This is the same phrase used over and over again in the Old Testament to describe the Jewish people who were set apart by God to be His possession and to live for Him. So, the Corinthians are set apart, and “called to be saints” meaning that their lives are to reflect who they are in Christ, namely, holy ones.

A paraphrase of this part of verse 2 might be, “To the people of God in Corinth, who are set apart in and by Christ to be His holy ones ...” And Paul goes on to note that they are called out “together with” everyone everywhere who is in Christ and who name Jesus as Lord. Thus, the Corinthians are but one assembly of believers who are part of the great assembly of the entire Church of Jesus. They are not alone, but are an integral part of the Church Jesus is building (cf. Matthew 16:18). To these set apart ones, Paul writes “grace and peace from God.” He in effect prays that the Corinthians receive God's grace (unmerited favor and blessing) and His peace (welfare and freedom from disturbance), noting that these come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, thus emphasizing Jesus' divinity.

So, in verses 2 and 3, Paul has reminded his recipients who they are in Jesus, and what he prays they have from God. In verses 4-9, Paul then thanks God for the Corinthians, but goes beyond that to thank God for (and by so doing to remind the Corinthians of) what they have in Christ. And what do they have? Seven things are identified: one, God's grace freely given them in Jesus; two, spiritual riches, especially in speech (the Greek word used is logos which is more than a mere word, but an idea or a concept, in this case including the gospel) and knowledge (literally “knowing” as in possessing wisdom, for example); three, all the spiritual gifts; four, the hope of Jesus' return; five, God's sustaining power, meaning that which will establish them in Him both in the present and in the future; six, blameless, meaning not called to otherwise account on the day of judgment; and seven, spiritual fellowship with Jesus Himself. All of the foregoing are possessions the Corinthians not only have, but cannot lose because God is faithful to do what He says He will do. (cf. I Peter 1:4 & 5; 5:10; II Peter 1:10 & 11)

By reciting these things, Paul is building up the Corinthians in their faith, underscoring the great gift of life that they have received in all its fullness in Christ. No signs of a messy church so far! But the messiness is there nonetheless, as the ensuing lessons in this series will reveal. How wonderful it is, though, that in our messiness, we still belong to Jesus; we are fully His; we have already been set apart (even as we are being made holy) by Him and for Him, enriched, assured, sustained, kept strong, made blameless, and in fellowship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And all of this made sure and certain by a faithful God. With who we are and what we have in Christ, we should be giving thanks to God just as Paul gave thanks for the Corinthians. And we should stand ready then to give ourselves wholly to His, fully submitted to becoming more and more like Christ in our every day lives. After all, it is to God that we owe everything both in our present and for eternity. Praise be to God for His immeasurable grace!