What You Need to Know Before Sunday

Sermon Graphic - 1 Corinthians 2016This coming Sunday morning I will start a new preaching series in 1 Corinthians titled, “Becoming Who You Are.” The Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth at the end of his second missionary journey. Even though they had genuinely responded to the gospel, the Corinthian Christians had a hard time living out the gospel in their everyday lives. They were shaped more by their cosmopolitan culture than their connection to Christ. Like the believers in Corinth, you and I need to become who we in Christ.

Paul’s salutation (1:1-9) is surprisingly optimistic when compared to the rest of the letter. In verse 2, Paul describes the Corinthian believers as “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and “saints by calling.” The term “saint” is derived from the Greek verb hagiazō, which means “to set apart,” “sanctify,” or “make holy.” In order to understand this first passage and its connection to the rest of the letter, you need to know what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification explains how a holy God can come to have a relationship with sinful people. Sanctification includes two distinct aspects: positional and progressive sanctification. Positional sanctification means that believers are set aside as God’s possession and declared holy by faith in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  This is the kind of sanctification that Paul is referring to in 6:9-10.

Progressive sanctification denotes the believer’s advance towards spiritual maturity and practical holiness.  Sinless perfection is not possible this side of eternity (1:8), but it is the goal Paul has in mind for his readers as he encourages us all to become who we are in Christ.

Please join me at Unity Baptist Church this Sunday if you are in the Ashland area as we kick off this series together.

Devotional Thought for Leaders: The Cult of Personality

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1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:4-9

One of the issues the ancient church at Corinth struggled with was division.  In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that church he wasted no time in identifying one of the main sources of their conflict.  Apparently, the church had been influenced by a cult, the cult of personality.  The people in the church had divided their loyalty among several key church leaders.  Some people had aligned themselves with either Paul or Apollos, while others claim exclusive allegiance to Peter or Jesus Christ.  It would seem that the last group had the right idea, but lived it out in a divisive way.

 Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that every human leader in the church is just that – a human leader.  Compared to God the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ. we are all just “workers” in God’s field.  Some may plant and some may water, but it is “God who cause the growth” (3:7).

Unfortunately, the cult of personality didn’t end with the first century church.  Power, fame, and influence are big values in our culture today, and they slip easy into the church.  Sometimes it’s a pastor who is secretly (or not so secretly) set on becoming more popular than Jesus.  Sometimes it’s an up-in-coming staff member or lay leader who wants to make a name for him or her self.  Sometimes it’s a long-time member who enjoys exerting their influence and control.  Whatever form it takes, this passage warns us that the end result of the cult of personality is division, and ultimately distraction.

Here are some questions to help you stamp this cult out in your church or organization:

Is the conflict in your church or organization issue based or personality based?  If it is personality based, what are people doing to create the problem?  Are you part of the problem?

How can you humbly engage with the divided parties and turn their attention back to God and His mission?