The Twenty-First in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
First century Corinth was dominated by paganism. The church to which Paul is writing his first Corinthian letter had been founded by Paul just a few years earlier, and most of the members of this church were new Christians, struggling to live the Christian life in the midst of a pagan culture. From the things we have seen throughout our study of this letter, apparently the Corinthians understood the gospel–they were justified before God through the merits of Jesus Christ received through faith alone. But the Corinthians were struggling with leaving behind those pagan ways of thinking and doing which saturated their culture and which characterized their lives before becoming Christians. Their struggle and their culture were surprisingly very much like our own. The Corinth of 55 A.D. was very much like contemporary Southern California.
We now turn to 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul addresses the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and its members. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:11, certain members of Chloe’s family (who were members of the Corinthian church) had arrived in Ephesus, where Paul was staying when he wrote this letter. Chloe’s family reported to Paul that a number of troubling things were going on back in Corinth. Sadly, there were factions and divisions forming within the church. Some were claiming, “I follow Paul.” Others, “I follow Peter.” Others still, “I follow Apollos.” There was even a group boasting, “I follow Jesus.”
Paul condemns this behavior in no uncertain terms. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he had proclaimed the gospel to them–in which the wisdom and power of God were clearly revealed. The gospel exposed the so-called “wisdom” of Greco-Roman paganism for the foolishness that it was. Paul explained that it was the Holy Spirit who brought the Corinthians to faith in Jesus Christ, and then formed these individual believers into the living temple of God in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Because the church is the living temple of the Holy Spirit, no one should seek to divide it. This means that the factions which had formed in Corinth were not the work of the Holy Spirit, but a manifestation of that sinful behavior the pagans considered to be “wisdom.”
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