The church at Corinth was hardly a model church. Preoccupied with all sorts of matters that led these early Christians astray, it is easy to see why Paul is matter-of-fact, rebuking and correcting them in his letter. However, the church at Corinth was God's church, and that, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, is why it matters to God very much indeed.
In these studies on 1 Corinthians 1-7, we will learn to see church the way that God sees church, and why, therefore, church matters.
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Church can evoke different feelings for different people. For some, church is boring, stifling and full of awkward people. For others, church is wonderful; they can’t wait to jump out of bed on a Sunday to be with their church family.
Whatever we may feel about church, it’s important that our behaviour and attitudes are shaped by the way God feels about church. 1 Corinthians is a very helpful book because it shows us how precious church is to God and therefore how we should treat it with great care.
At one level, it’s a bit strange to be looking at this subject in 1 Corinthians because out of all the first-century churches mentioned in the New Testament, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as troubled as the church at Corinth. It was fractured by factions and divisions. It suffered from elitism and open hostility, with members taking each other to court. The rich looked down on the poor and ignored their needs. People were indulging in sexual immorality, with one congregation member having sex with his stepmother without qualms. There were those who were getting drunk at church meals. There were those who were bickering over spiritual gifts in the church. During meetings, prophets would leap up with a ‘word from the Lord’ while others would leap up to speak in tongues, much to the irritation of those who weren’t into those sort of things. In addition, even though Paul was the founder of their church (Acts 18), the Corinthians didn’t seem to think much of him and his ‘foolish’ message!
Yet despite their flaws and difficulties, Paul still described the church at Corinth as precious and blessed, for it was no less than the church of God (1:2). The Corinthian Christians have been cleansed, sanctified and justified, enriched with the blessings of God’s grace, endowed with every spiritual gift and brought into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Their new identity as God’s people could not help but change the way they relate to one another and the world—particularly as they gathered together before God.
Is this how you view yourself? Is this how you view your church?
In these studies, we’ll work through the first seven chapters of 1 Corinthians and take a closer look at all the different ‘church matters’ that Paul raises with the congregation he fathered. It is my prayer that as you learn more about how God views his church, you will grow in your appreciation of what it means to be part of it, and in turn understand how it is to be valued. For church really does matter!
— Bryson Smith, June 2006