How You Can Make the Church Perfect Better? 1 Corinthians Chapter 1
“In the following instructions I do not commend you,
because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” 1 Corinthians 11:17
"15I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. Rev 3:15-16
You Can Make the Church Better By Understanding That:
Ú The Church is a People Not a [PLACE]
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” Verse 2
Ú The Church is a People with a [PURPOSE]
“…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus…” Verse 2b
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:37-38
“19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Ú The Church is a People with [Positives]
“4 I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verses 4-7
Ú The Church is a People with [PROBLEMS]
“11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Verses 11-13
You Can Make The Church Better By Committing To
Ú The [CROSS] of Christ.
“17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Verses 17-18
Ú Always [CONSIDER] Why God Chose You.
“26 For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; 27 but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Verses 26-29
Ú Focus Your Life on [CHRIST].
“30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31 therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” Verses 30-31
I heard a man once say, “The problem with the church is people.” I thought at the time and still do that his comment was profound. I can’t remember who said it, but I do remember his words. His seven words in my opinion are clear and right to the point. The problems of the church do not come from God, or Jesus, or His Spirit. Church problems do not arise because of what the Scripture teach. To be sure church problems don’t arise from any other place than us.
We might blame Satan, but to say, “The Devil made me do it,” seems to me, to be a way to abandon our responsibility. There should be no doubt, in any of our minds that during this year, Satan will use whomever he can at Vaughn Hill to cause problems. And whenever those problems arise they do so because we allow him influence in our hearts. We are responsible for our thoughts and behavior. Jesus has disarmed the Old Deceiver, and through the cross we are free of him and his power. The Devil cannot make a saved redeemed child of God do anything. God wants all of us to be responsible for our own thoughts and actions.
Church problems are not unique to the modern era. In the First Century there are many examples of churches with problems. One example is The Church of Corinth .They are a divided church. They are a church with gross immorality. They are a church whose members are suing one another. They are a church that is confused about sexual purity. They are a church in the middle of a pagan culture, and they are not sure how to deal with it. They are a church whose worship service is marred by selfishness and drunkenness. They are a church whose members are playing one upmanship with spiritual gifts. They are a congregation that struggles with a very serious doctrinal conflict about the resurrection of the dead. So Paul rebukes them for not making things better. He says, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”
The basic reason why things get worse rather than better in congregations is that we become comfortable with self. Paul tells the Corinthians that he could not address them as spiritual men because they are carnal or selfish. He could not commend them, because their self-centeredness made them at best mediocre and at worse disobedient children of God. And as a result of their carnality the circumstances at Corinth were getting bad.
Another example of a congregation in Scripture getting bad is the church of Laodicea. Jesus tells them, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” They thought they were rich and prosperous and didn’t need a thing. But Jesus tells them they were blind, wretched, objects of pity, poor, and naked. You’ve heard of Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. He writes, “One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.”
Because no one including the Emperor would admit to seeing that the emperor had no clothes on, less they expose themselves as unfit or simple, they convinced the Emperor that he was splendidly dressed, in clothes of unimaginable beauty. Because of our selfishness we too convince ourselves that we are clothed in Christ. That we are doing the will of God, but the truth can be that Jesus is ready to spit us out of his mouth. We have become blind to commitment, faith, grace, and relationship. That leads us to become a tepid lukewarm church which is very offensive to the tastes of Jesus.
Clearly the Holy Spirit expects us to help to make things better. Please note Paul did not say perfect, nor was Jesus disgusted because Laodicea wasn’t perfect. If it is true that the problem with churches is people; until there are perfect people there will be no problem free churches. People cannot be perfect, but they can make things better. And this is our constant goal at Vaughn Hill. If you are a guest, a regular attender, or a member your help is needed to make things better not perfect. None of us have to stand before Jesus with lukewarm hearts and mediocre service. There are two ways that we can prevent that and make things better here at Vaughn Hill. First through understanding the church is really meant to be, and second by committing ourselves humbly to the cross of Christ. First Corinthians chapter one will help us to understand these two ways to make things better here.
To begin we make things better by understanding what the church is. In chapter one Paul explains that the church is a people not a place, with a purpose, with positives, and with problems. Clearly understanding these things allows us to avoid the pitfalls of trivializing God’s church, or making our expectations so high we frustrate God’s goals for his family. Having the correct Biblical concepts enhances our appreciation of God’s plan, and leads us to a deepening commitment to Jesus.
Paul in verse 2 says the church is a people not a place. Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” Naturally a group of people occupy a place when they are together. However, they can be a part of a group that exists in every place on earth. And that means that no location can define those people. This is true of God’s family the church. It comprises everyone who calls on the name of Jesus for their salvation. It does not matter about their location but their relationship to God. When the New Testament wants to identify a specific group from the total church it naturally mentions its location. But that location and what sits on it cannot be the church. It is important to understand that this principle means that our property, our church buildings, denominational organizations, or their names do not define the church of the living God.
The church is defined by it relationship to God. That is what makes it the church. Paul says the church is a people who belong to God. It is his possession paid for by his eternal love expressed in the blood of Jesus. The church is defined by being set apart in Jesus Christ. That’s the idea of being sanctified. Our relationship individually or corporately is special because Jesus separates us from every other group or person to be his body. That is why we are called to be saints or holy people. We are not defined as his church by our sign on this building that says church of Christ. That is not what makes our family God’s church. No! it is the lives that are changed to be like Jesus to be holy, pure, and loving. The call of God is the key to understanding the definition of the church as a people and not a place. God like he did with Abraham calls us out of the rest of humanity to serve him. His call goes to every one who is willing to hear, and those who do are added to his church. So that Jesus is Lord or possessor of every one w ho obeys the gospel by faith. The most basic defining of the church is those who recognize Jesus as Lord.
The next thing we need to understand is that the church is a people with a purpose. Once again in verse 2 we learn that the church is “those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” God set apart or sanctified us, and we should ask this question, “set apart or sanctified for what?” God is never without purpose when he acts in his divine wisdom. When we grasp why God chose us, then we are motivated to make things better. Without knowing our purpose we will become imbalanced and unfruitful in our service to Jesus.
So why does God, beginning with Adam through the present, work so hard to have a people sanctified in Jesus Christ? It is because he loves you, and wants you to love him with the same intensity. Jesus told a lawyer, “37 and he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Without love for God and our neighbor our words are meaningless, our faith makes us worthless, and our actions make us gain us nothing. We become like Jesus said “salt that has lost its saltiness good for nothing only to be thrown out and trodden down by men.”
Since we are set apart for the purpose to love God and our neighbors His mission for us is to call others into his family. That’s why Jesus commands us “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” We are given the instructions to go wherever we can and make followers of Jesus. We are to make disciples who love God and pledge their lives to that love by being baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Those disciples who answer the call with a clear conscience in baptism, are added to the church by the Holy Spirit to love God. They love him by observing all that Jesus commands. And he promises to be with those set apart in this manner forever. So why are you here today? It could be for some very fine and noble reasons. But God says the one that is most meaningful to him is because you love him and you love your neighbor. What sacrifice then becomes too great for those whom you love? When you understand love is the purpose then mediocrity and lukewarm hearts can make you feel ill too.
Next we need to understand that the church is a people with positives. Paul in verses 4-7 gives thanks for all the positives we have as members of God’s church. He says, “4 I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul tells this problematic Corinthian church because they are in Christ they have God’s grace, riches, and gifts. These undeserved favors are bestowed on them freely without them meriting such divine attention. He wants them to know that through the spoken word and knowing the testimony of Christ they are enriched in everyway. Every part of their lives is made better by Christ’s testimony. And finally that Christ’s testimony is confirmed among them so that they lack no spiritual gifts from God. They have grace, spiritual riches, and gifts lavished into their lives. They possess the grandest positives of any group of humans on earth. And, what really ought to excite us, is that God continues to give those positives to those of us who receive his testimony by faith. God’s positives are in you, and they set you above the world.
His church is described as a city of light on a hill in the gospel of Matthew, and also as a city of light on a mountain in the book of Revelation. It is a city in this world but above it, and utterly other worldly. This picture marks the church’s contrast to the world. In the world there is darkness, but in the church there is a light. In the world there are negative and destructive powers, but in the church we enter into a new world of restoring positives that transform our lives. The church is where God’s light shines and where God blessings make a positive difference.
Our world and life are difficult and tragic for us at times, so God gave us these positives to see us through them to His eternal day. In the musical “Little Orphan Annie” there is a song entitled “Tomorrow”. The words and music of this song are so overly optimistic that we can’t get it out of our minds. The image of little Annie singing her song in the midst of that terrible orphanage is such a stark contrast, that we shake our heads, and want to tell her to get real. That is exactly what the world is telling the church: They tell us to shut up, because there is no pie in the sky. But we experience God’s positives and we say, “no we can’t stop singing”, because we are already eating the pie in the sky. We are not waiting till tomorrow. So the next time you hear the words, “The sun'll come out Tomorrow Bet your bottom dollar That tomorrow There'll be sun! Just thinkin' about Tomorrow Clears away the cobwebs, And the sorrow 'Til there's none! When I'm stuck a day That's gray, And lonely, I just stick out my chin And Grin, And Say, Oh! The sun'll come out Tomorrow So ya gotta hang on 'Til tomorrow Come what may Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya Tomorrow! You're always A day A way! Remember if you are a part of God’s church then tomorrow is very real because of the positives of God have made it today.
With all our positives from God we cannot escape difficulties. Not only is the church a people with positives, but also the church is a people with problems. Paul says to the Corinthians, “11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Unfortunately, a church whose members quarrel is not rare, and is probably universal. Have you ever known a married couple to tell you that they never fight? That statement is so incredible that instinctively you know something is wrong. Maybe they are lying. Or one of them is the perfect doormat. Or they really deeply love one another, and quarrelling so loathsome, that they refuse to do it. Paul is not going to lie about the Corinthians and their problems because they really are quarrelers. And he’s not going to expect them to be door mats. We simply were not created to be walked on. So what he does is to remind them with a question about God’s redeeming love. And it is simply “Is Christ divided”.
When we have church problems, and we will, the solution is never divorce. In 1886 a man name Daniel Sommers produced the first divorce paper in our brotherhood. It is called the Address and Declaration. It called for the division of Christ’s body over our quarrels. That’s not the way Paul say’s to handle our problems. We must work through them because Christ is one. Just to be clear I’m using marriage as an illustration for the unity of the church. Divorce means to divide the church in my context. If God expects Shirley to stay with me till I die, then he expects me to work through our problems, and not divorce her. In the same way he expects us to be united because Christ died on the cross. No one but Jesus died for your sins, and in no other name can you be baptized into one church to receive God’s redeeming love. If Christ made us one through the cross then he expects us to be united through out eternity. And there are no problems that we should not endeavor to make better.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 helps us to understand that the church is a people not a place, a people with a purpose, a people with positives, and a people with problems. How can we take what we know and make the church better? Paul begins by reminding us of what he is committed to. He says, “17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Like him you can make the church better by committing to the cross of Christ.
This truth is powerfully simple. The church is what it is because of the gospel. You are made a member by God’s grace because of the gospel. You are right before God because of the gospel. And neither of those blessings is yours because of the churches style of music or correct applications of examples from the book of Acts. It is the good news that has the power to save as well as the power to make us righteous before God. Baptism is how we obey the good news, and it is never an issue when the gospel is not emptied of its power by human wisdom. God is very direct and serious about the gospel. Pervert or twist it and Paul in Galatians damns the pervert with eternal loss. He defines the gospel as the word of the cross. In other words the gospel is all about Jesus dying to save sinners. And nothing more or less can save your soul.
Nothing else makes you right with God or changes your life. And that is certainly true of our arguments about who is right or wrong which do nothing. To commit to the cross is to center your heart on the work of God, and not on your own work, or your own intelligence, or your position in the world. It is silly to those who perish because something so simple could not be what God had in mind. Yet it is the cross that saves and not signs or wisdom. It is the cross that draws us to God. It is the cross that demonstrates his love. It is the cross that is your bridge to heaven.
I believed that I am saved. I don’t believe I am perfect, because the cross never saved a perfect man yet. There is no need of the cross for perfect men. Jesus did not die for himself. He died for me. He died because I have sinned, I am sinning, and I will sin. And the only way I can make the church better is to glory in the cross, to preach the cross, and to live the cross. I glory in the cross because I don’t have the intelligence to save my self or anyone else. I preach the cross because I’m not perfect nor is any one I know here at Vaughn Hill. I live the cross in repentance because I make so many mistakes along with all the other sinners here at Vaughn Hill. What else could any of us do?
The church gets better when we are committed to cross because it is the power of God to make us better. Through it we are changed to be like Jesus in his death. We drink it depths to do the will God in our Gethsemanes. We meet the abuse of selfish men with goodness and love because of the cross. We become courageous when falsely accused. And we forgive because Jesus forgives us at Calvary. The cross makes us holy not our building on the name or our wisdom or how right we are. The cross gives us our purpose and our positives not some American religious movement of the nineteenth Century. And the cross solves our problems with divine love and forgiveness that we extend to saved and sinner alike.
Paul also says you can make the church better by committing to always consider why God chose you. You know my whole life I’ve wanted to be special and have people like and love me. But I’ve learned that not every one is like that. Some of us like to blend in with the crowd and not be noticed. So why does God chose extraverts and introverts? Why chose slaves and common people along with the rich and powerful? The answer according to Paul is to turn the world upside down. I don’t think he means make a big splash. God means to turn the world’s wisdom on it end and do the opposite. He says “26 For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; 27 but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
He says consider your call to the cross. Not many were wise by the world’s standards, or powerful, or were born into nobility. God choose the foolish in the world to shame the wise. Now let me be very careful here. Am I saying we are fools for following the call of God? No I am not saying that, but by the world’s standards we are fools, we are weak, we are low, and despised. God chose each of us because of our foolishness, and weakness, and lowness, and being despicable. He calls us not because we have anything to offer him. He calls us because we have absolutely nothing to bring to the table. As extravert or introvert I am called because it foolish to be that way. And God does that because no human being can then boast in his presence.
We make the church better when we consider our call because we realize none of us are chosen because of our own worth. We were saved because honestly we are worth nothing to anyone except God. There is no place for pride. No place to beat our chest and say look we are better than everyone. We can’t crow about how right we are because God chose us because of how wrong we are. You simply have to fall on your face with humility, because that is the only proper place for us who are foolish, and weak, and low, and despised.
You see the church is not a people in a proud organization, but a people who are a humble organism. The church is not a people whose purpose is to proclaim their own righteousness. Their purpose is to share the gospel with humble love. The church is a people who positives come from God’s grace and not their self worth. The church is a people with problems are met not with threats and power, but with making others better than themselves. It is all upside down now. And that gives God the glory.
In conclusion you make the church better by committing to focus you life on Christ. Paul says, “30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31 therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” .Eternal life is to know God and Jesus. And God is the source of that life. That is why God gave you the precious gift of Jesus in your heart. It is God who makes him our wisdom. Whatever wisdom we have is because Jesus lives in us. God makes him our righteousness, so that whatever good is in me is because Jesus is in my soul. God makes him my sanctification so that if I am different and special it’s because Jesus changes me from the inside out. I am redeemed because the Redeemer paid the price for my slavery, and I’m free because He’s broken the chains through his blood price.
Having the wrong focus is why we get comfortable with self. How can we not when our lives are focused on Jesus try to make the church better? Do we think Jesus is not trying to work through us? He has imperfect clay jars to use, and he does it to show God’s power. This is not the way my human wisdom would have chosen to do it. But God’s foolishness is so much wiser than my wisdom. He knew to change the world he needed men and women focused on His son and not themselves. That is why we cannot boast. We cannot for a moment think we’ve achieved God’s perfect church. It never exists except in the grace and mercy of God.
As I close this morning I want to read to you a children’s book. You will see on the screen as I read. And here’s the point of this message. The gospel is what defines the church and not my human wisdom. None would choose the cross as the means of saving and redeeming man. Yet this is exactly what God did, and we must humbly focus on the cross in order for God to make the church better through us. (Read the Book)