Sermon Briefs: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
C.H. Spurgeon approaches this text with a verse-by-verse analysis. Here is a sampling.
(v.1) The reference to Sosthenes shows that though he had suffered dishonor, he had been redeemed such that he is mentioned by the Apostle Paul himself. "God will honor those who bear dishonor for his name's sake."
(v.2) Though the epistle is written to a particular church, it applies to all.
(v.3,4) Notice how "thanks follows grace." Paul is full of Christ, constantly mentioning the name which is, "honey in the mouth, music in the ear, heaven in the heart."
(v.5) The Corinth church had many talents, but there was an "absence of humility and love."
(v.6,7) Corinthians showed some wisdom by looking for the second Advent of Christ.
(v.8,9) Though we are unfaithful, God is faithful still.
Al Winn uses a portion of this text to preach on "the holy catholic church" from the Apostle's Creed.
After soaring on the wings of the Trinity, the Creed brings us down to earth with the church. "The church is earth-bound, housed in a building, supported by a budget, run by committees, a very human, very visible, very concrete institution." It is such an institution that we are to believe in, not just by acknowledging its existence, but putting our trust in.
Some have trouble trusting any institutions. Likewise, the church has made and continues to make mistakes—from condemning Galileo, to blessing slavery, to warfare between Catholics and Protestants. The "holy" aspect of the church means we are set apart for God. The church is called by God for a specific purpose.
Some have tried to explain this paradox of a holy church which makes grave mistakes, with a distinction between the "visible" and "invisible" church. The visible is the institution, the invisible all who are genuinely converted to Christ. This distinction is refuted by this text and others. It is the visible church, with all its faults, that is called for a special purpose. Paul faces this reality with the Corinthian church which was warring, splitting at the seams, with drunken libertines running around confusing doctrine and committing idolatry. Still, they belong to God, and God has a purpose for them.
James Harnish echoes this theme. "The church is like Noah's ark—the only way to stand the stench on the inside is to remember the storm outside." To say the church is holy is to say that ordinary people are called out for some special purpose. Being chosen is not a privilege but an opportunity to serve.
Harnish then issues a challenge for today's believers, claiming: "We will never fully discover who God has called us to be until we discover it in relationships with people of other nations, cultures, and political or economic systems."