This is the third sermon from our preaching series titled “The Church: God’s Dwelling Place” based on the study of 1 Corinthians.
To recap, our goal in studying 1 Corinthians is to lead our hearts to love God and love people.
Last Sunday, Jinson preached a sermon called “Defining Church,” where he emphasized that “The Church is a People.” In today’s sermon, we will explore who these people called the Church are, as we examine the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.
To provide some context, Paul is writing this letter to a troubled church dealing with conflicts and problems. Soon, you will see him using strong language to correct their wrong behaviors and attitudes towards God and each other.
However, in his opening statements, he uses remarkably positive words to identify them in a way that I believe provides insights into the individuals he refers to as “church” in this letter.
I imagine that the letter was possibly read in a church where there was a mixed crowd listening to it. Therefore, the way in which Paul addressed the crowd with few specific indicators suggests that he was filtering out the people he actually wanted to talk to.
He could have simply said ‘the believers in Corinth,’ leaving room for speculation that he was addressing everyone attending service that morning or evening. However, he chose to specifically call out those he identified as true believers and followers of Christ.
This letter was not a mass communication intended for a large group of people, but a very specific letter written for a specific group of people. Jesus would do the same whenever he saw large crowds following him for the wrong reasons and motivations. He would say something off-putting, such as “unless you hate your mother, father, brother, wife, children, and even yourself, you cannot be my disciple.”
Friends, just as filtration was necessary in the past, it is equally important in our churches today. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many churches are afraid to speak the truth to people. These important indicators are either completely ignored or misinterpreted, which ultimately leads people astray for personal gain. I believe that such actions would not be approved by God.
These indicators help us identify and verify true believers for several reasons: spiritual accountability, fellowship and community, discipleship, church leadership, church discipline, unity and doctrine, worship and communion, and more. While we can delve into specific details on each of these aspects, today I want to focus on how they can enable believers to examine their hearts, affirm their faith in Jesus, and find encouragement. For those who are not yet believers, these indicators can help open their hearts to God, allowing Him to forgive, save, and welcome them into the wonderful family of God.
The first indicator we notice in Paul opening statement is that the people called church are the ones to whom…
1. Grace is granted in Christ & enriched in all speech and all knowledge
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 1:4-5
1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (ESV)
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”
Of course the people called church are the ones who have received the saving grace of God that enabled them to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ.
Let’s also read Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV):
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
These verses from Ephesians highlight the foundational truth that salvation is a result of God’s grace, not our own efforts or works. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we receive this gift of salvation. This aligns with Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians, where he emphasizes that the people called the Church have received the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
But Paul also goes on to say, “that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”
If you are wondering what that statement means, let me explain. In those days, the ability to speak clearly and express ideas about faith with clarity and articulation was highly valued in Greek and Roman culture.
Around 600 BC, a new way of thinking emerged in Greece, before Christ was born. Prior to that, people believed in various mythical stories to explain life and the natural events that occurred around them.
In the nomadic culture, they believed in Thor as the God, and it was believed that his hammer protected them from all evil. However, a group of people started questioning such stories and became curious to find the real truth. As a result, reasoning became quite popular.
Around 500 BC, a great philosopher named Socrates appeared on the scene in Athens, Greece. He would meet people and engage in reasoning with them, especially on the topic of faith, which eventually led to his death. His disciples, Plato and Aristotle, continued his legacy.
In this context, Paul is stating that believers not only receive saving grace in Christ Jesus but are also enriched in speech and knowledge, enabling them to articulate their faith to others.
The articulation of faith does not refer to the ability to deliver an eloquent speech, but rather to explain one’s understanding of the Gospel. This involves answering questions about who we are as sinful humans, unworthy of God’s love due to the disobedience of our forefathers in the garden of Eden. It also involves understanding who God is, a loving and gracious Father who loves the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us. Through repentance of our sins, putting our faith in Christ Jesus, we can be reconciled to God.
Just as it was important for people in the past, it is also important for us today. Imagine asking someone who regularly attends church about their faith and receiving vague responses such as “it feels good at church,” “the people are cool to hang out with,” or “I go because my parents or relatives go.” Would these answers be sufficient to confirm that the person is a true believer in Jesus? The answer is no.
Why? Because unless they can clearly explain their understanding of the Gospel, it is difficult to confirm or affirm them as a true believer in Jesus Christ. A true believer is someone who can express their faith through speech and knowledge. The second indicator which we see in Paul opening statement that helps us identify the people called church are the ones …
2. Confirmed & Approved by others
Look with me 1 Corinthians 1:6
1 Corinthians 1:6 (ESV):
“even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you”
In this verse, Paul mentions that the testimony about Christ was confirmed among the people he is addressing. This indicates that the people called the Church have received and affirmed the testimony of Christ and of the faith community.
Anyone can explain things in theory, but is it possible for a person to say all the right things and hold exactly opposite views? Yes, it is possible, not only in the past but also in the present. Therefore, the testimony of such a person needs to be confirmed and approved by others in order to consider him or her a true believer of Christ.
There are two ways in which we can do that. Firstly, by observing him walking in obedience, and the first step to that is the public profession of their faith through Water Baptism. The second way is through discipleship.
A true follower of Christ, the people called church are the ones who are confirmed and approved by others. The thirds way Paul mentions a true believer is that fact that he or she has been …
3. Gifted by the Spirit to Serve
Look with me at 1 Corinthians 1:7 and see what he writes
1 Corinthians 1:7 (ESV):
“So that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus
In this verse, Paul assures the people called the Church that they are not lacking in any spiritual gift as they eagerly await the return of Jesus Christ. This indicates that believers are endowed with various spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to serve and build up the Church
Also look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV):
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
The people called the church are those who are gifted by the Spirit to serve God and others.
Our act of service, regardless of the manner or scale, is an indication of the impact of the Gospel in our lives. A true believer can never claim to have no gift to offer and therefore should not remain idle and useless.
We should all use our God-given gifts to serve, edify, encourage, and motivate one another, bringing glory and honor to God.
The fourth and the final indications of true believers are that they are …
4. Sustained by God
Look with me at verse 1 Corinthians 1:8-9
1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV):
“who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In these verses, Paul assures the believers that God will sustain them until the end, keeping them guiltless on the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. He emphasizes the faithfulness of God, who called them into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
As true believers, we can find comfort and assurance in the fact that God is faithful and will provide the strength and support needed to remain faithful until the end. It is through His grace and faithfulness that we are called into a deep and intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 40:29 (ESV):
“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”
A genuine follower of Christ will always cling to this truth and rely on God’s sustaining power as they continue their journey of faith.
When life becomes difficult and we encounter trials, temptations, wounds, and various forms of suffering that ultimately bring us closer to God, a false believer of Christ will quickly flee. However, a true believer will remain steadfast and hold onto Jesus, knowing and believing that it is God who sustains them.
In light of what we learned today, I want to encourage you to be willing to do these two things, not just today, but for the rest of your lives:
- Acknowledge and appreciate God’s work in our lives through Christ.
- Fully surrender and commit to His will and purpose for our lives.
At the same time, be attentive to those around us who may be struggling in their faith. They might find it challenging to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives, or they might be on the verge of taking the step of obedience through water baptism and confirmation by others. They could also be struggling to identify their spiritual gifts and utilize them for the glory of God, or they might be finding it difficult to completely trust God during challenging times. Offer them encouragement and support, helping them to grow closer to God on their journey of faith.
May God bless you.