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Bringing Our Sinfulness to God with Confidence


1 Corinthians 1:1-9; 6:9-11


Jim Davis


We often superimpose our ideas of church upon the Scriptures. In Acts 12:3-4 in the King James Version we find the feast of unleavened bread referred to as Easter. The translators obviously imposed their seventeenth century practice of Easter upon the Jewish feast of unleavened bread. There is no correlation between the feast of unleavened bread and Easter as it was observed in the seventeenth century. The feast of unleavened bread is merely mentioned as a reference point in time. The mention of the feast of unleavened bread provides the context and background of what is happening in the events Luke wrote about. It had nothing to do with the observance of Easter by first century Christians. The translators imposed their ideas on the feast of unleavened bread.


This doesn’t mean we can’t set aside special commemorative days. But we shouldn’t superimpose our ideas on the Scriptures to do so. Imposing our ideas upon Scripture prevents us from seeing those first Christians as they were. Too often we don’t see those assemblies as they were but as we are or would like to be. We seek to reshape our fellowships accordingly. In doing so we lose sight of the Person of scripture.


There was nothing churchy about the Christian fellowship at Corinth. The word church as we know it didn’t exist in their vocabulary. The Greek word “ekklesia” described the assembling of believers. The word described their coming together in a common place. The connotation of the word simply meant an assembly. We translate the word “ekklesia” as the word “church” in many of our modern translations. The word “Ekklesia” certainly didn’t conjure up in their minds all the ideas and practices of our modern day churches.


The word “Ekklesia” is only found 19 times in the original text of both Corinthian books. The name Christ is found 104 times. Paul sought to place Christ in the center of the Corinthian assemblies. Christ was the one to whom Paul pointed to solve their internal conflict—of which there was plenty. It was the only way the fellowship could hope to survive.


I dream of going back to the Scripture to catch a raw glimpse of the impact of Christ’s life upon the problems of the imperfect fellowships of the first century. I dream of modern day fellowships solving their problems as they did. Something is amiss when Christians can’t agree on how to give an orphan a piece of bread. The question is not whether we can agree, but can we be Christ-like in our disagreements. Only Christ can solve such problems.


Corinthians Spiritual Condition


The fellowship of the Corinthians epitomized the characteristics of many first century fellowships. The following verses Paul penned to the Corinthians provide a glimpse into the actual lifestyles of the Corinthian believers as they came to Christ.


1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. NIV


Paul doesn’t blush when he writes, “And that is what some of you were.” Paul doesn’t hesitate to mention the sins of the pagan world and remind the Corinthians that is what they were before they came to Christ.


Ray Stedman recalled an occasion when he read these verses before an assembly. Following the reading of the verses he asked, “Has anyone in this assembly ever lived like these Corinthians were living before you came to Christ?” Initially the assembly became very uncomfortable. Then a little old lady down front stood up and admitted she had. Then numerous people throughout the assembly stood up with her. There was a young visitor there for his first time to ever visit that congregation. He stood up and said, “This is my kind of people.”


1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.   31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." NIV


Initially, there was only one difference in the Christian assembly in Corinth and the pagan temples. It was the ONE whom they sought to worship. They brought many of their pagan practices and attitudes into the assembly. Initially revelry reigned in the fellowships. Some even continued to visit the temple prostitutes. Their egos reigned in their fellowships. Paul sought to place Christ in the center of every issue. He became the center of every discussion of the Corinthian believers. Eventually HE made all the difference.


Corinth had a broad range of members from the halls of the elite philosophical orators to the male and female prostitutes who worked in the pagan temples. The fellowship was made up of those living between every extreme—from the noble to the ignoble.


Romans chapter one describes the world from which the Corinthian believers were emerging. It was a self-absorbed world. No passage gives a better backdrop of the environment and the circumstances of their lives. No passage gives us a better understanding of the attitudes and difficulties of the Corinthians as they came to Christ.


Romans 1:21-32

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.


24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.


26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.


28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. NIV


When the Corinthian believers came to Christ they brought their religious practices and attitudes from the pagan temples into their fellowship. Initially, they met religiously to partake of communion, but Paul had no praise for them.   


1 Corinthians 11:17-22

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! NIV


According to Paul they continued to eat meat offered to idols, to get drunk and embrace the revelry of the pagan temples. All of this was happening in the midst of their Christian fellowships. Some continued to live in the sexual immorality, which they had practiced in worship to their idol gods. There was at least one man enthralled in immorality even the pagans condemned.


I remember asking a question in a Bible class, “If there is anyone here who has never sinned raise your hand?” One young lady in her thirties raised her hand. I really wasn’t expecting it. She actually made many of us church members uncomfortable. No one else raised his or her hand. The lady who raised her hand had only visited the congregation a couple of times.  It was the only times she had ever been to church in her life. She had three kids attending our Christian preschool. They all had different fathers. None to whom she was married. She was living with another man at the time. As for the young lady who raised her hand, she honestly didn’t know what sin was.


It would be exciting to be a part of such a fellowship. Imagine witnessing the power of the gospel on a fellowship so powerfully influenced by the pagan world. Imagine seeing problems resolved with the advice Paul gave them in the Corinthian letters. Imagine, witnessing God through his Holy Spirit working upon their hearts to impact them with the life of Christ. Image, experiencing the raw impact of the life of Christ on their attitudes and actions in that pristine fellowship.


Spiritual Standing of Corinthians


Walking into a group of believers straight out of this environment would be paramount to walking into Egypt to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. You would expect to encounter all the problems Moses faced in the wilderness. The only difference would be the number of people involved.


The Corinthians were sold on Christ but didn’t understand the impact Christ was to have on their lives. They were sanctified in Christ—set apart for God’s holy calling. Paul speaks of them in the highest terms.


1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,


2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours:


3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. NIV


Placing these verses along side all the problems of the Corinthian fellowship is eye opening. They were enriched in knowledge—lacked no spiritual gift. Christ had been confirmed in them. Their knowledge and spiritual gifts were evidence of God’s presence. But the fellowships were anything but cohesive and peaceful.


1 Corinthians 3:1-4

3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? NIV


There is a beautiful thing about the believers in Corinth. They came to Jesus just as they were. Ignobility and all. They came to Christ completely ignorant of many of their personal problems. Yet, they were sanctified—they were justified through the blood of Christ. God through Christ accepted them without reservation. They didn’t have to waste time or energy worrying about their standing before God. Although their past continued to impact their relationships, God continued to reconcile them to himself. They stood on solid ground with Christ.


I was talking to a fellow Christian from Honduras. He asked me how many years I had been preaching. I responded, “35 years.” He responded, “Your account in heaven must be full because of all your work for God.”  I simply said, “The only thing in my account is Jesus Christ. Your heavenly account has the same amount in it, Jesus Christ. He is all we need.” He seemed to smile with relief.


In reality every person living today had Jesus Christ placed into his or her account—yea, their personal trust fund--before they were born. The account has unlimited funds. But only those who trust in him can draw upon his benefits.


It is the message of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ provides the foundation for our lives. It is secure. It is eternal.


1 Corinthians 15:1-8

15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.


3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. NIV


The death, burial and resurrection of Christ are the foundational principles of Christianity. His eternality provides the foundation for building a life. You can’t build a life without a solid foundation. There is no foundation more solid than Christ upon which to build a life—a fellowship. Christ’s life withstood the assaults of hell and death. He is still standing. He is the Rock of our salvation.


It’s only natural for believers to have problems. We should expect problems. Problems are a natural outcome of bringing sinful people together out of a sinful world. It is no wonder that we read about the problems of the first century believers throughout the New Testament.


The believers in Rome were seeking to continue to live in sin. Paul points them to the purpose of the death burial and resurrection of Christ.


Romans 6:1-14

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.


5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.


8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.


11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. NIV


The death, burial and resurrection don’t just provide a foundation for our lives. The   death, burial and resurrection of Christ challenges how we live.  The Corinthians met this challenge as they turned to Christ to solve their internal conflict. Knowing they had a solid relationship with God through Christ gave them the courage and confidence needed to solve their problems.




Paul assured the Corinthians of their sanctification and justification. Paul’s instruction to the believers at Corinth teaches us that God does not abandon us because of our sinfulness. We stand on solid ground with God as he works to salvage our lives. We are encouraged knowing we are sanctified, justified—accepted by God just as we are. 


A few months ago I baptized a very base person into Christ. He was reared in a bar room atmosphere—Hells Angel’s type of fellow. He had a foul mouth. My family was praying earnestly for him to be saved. We prayed for him, but often discussed whether we would ever reach him. Several times I went to work early before my scheduled time just so I could talk to him. I knew he always arrived very early. As we were working with him, he discovered he had advanced liver cancer, which was complicated even more by his advanced stage of diabetes. We prayed for his health, but most of all for his salvation.


One morning, as I was visiting with him at work, he told me that wherever he went after he died would have to be a lot better than what he had here. I simply told him, “If we miss heaven we will miss everything this life was meant to be—so much more than we can ever imagine.” I gave him scriptures to study and he began searching on his own. His emails changed from off colored emails to emails with spiritual messages. One afternoon while we were at work we ask him if he was ready to become a Christian. He responded with such joy—it was unbelievable. It was as if he didn’t think we would ever ask him. We left work that afternoon and baptized him into Christ.


Although he was seeking to change, his old lifestyle still had a grip on him. As he stepped down into the baptistery he retorted “Damn this water is cold.” By this time we were great friends and I simply ask him, “Do you know what you just said.” He replied, “NO.” I simply repeated it for him. He said emphatically, “I didn’t say that, did I?” I turned to my son-in-law who was present and ask him to confirm it. He did. He shook his head and said I can’t believe I said that, and then we baptized him into Christ.


As I stood there in the water with him, I simply thought “Lord, if he has to stop cursing before he is baptized he will never be saved. It was not something he could accomplish without the help of God’s Spirit. Even with His presence it wouldn’t happen over night. He was baptized just as he was; there was no other way to do it.


He was baptized on a Friday afternoon. Over the weekend he suddenly took a turn for the worse. I only had a chance to see him once more before he died. We went to see him at the hospital on a Sunday afternoon a week later. It was the only time he had been lucid enough to carry on a conversation since he was baptized. He was happy—was he ever. We had a prayer with him. He died in less than two weeks after he came to Christ.


God used this person to bless our lives beyond measure. He reminded us that God can save the worst of us not because of anything we bring to the table. He was saved because God’s Spirit brought him to life in Christ as he worked through our prayers and our efforts with him. We mourned at his funeral, but it was the most joyful mourning we’ve ever done.


We often laugh about our friend—saying—just think he is already enjoying heaven while we are still down here working. He is probably laughing about it as well—it is a laughter of unbelievable joy—he is not laughing at us—well on second thought, he might be. We prayed for a person we thought may have been the most unlikely person to be saved. We worried about how we could fit him into the fellowship of Christians in a meaningful way—if he were saved. Undoubtedly, God didn’t have any trouble fitting him into heaven just the way he was.


I mention this experience because my friend’s life before becoming a Christian reminds me of the kind of lives the Corinthians were living as God saved them. They brought nothing to the fellowship. In fact, God had to give them spiritual gifts to make them useful.


I don’t have anything to offer God for my redemption. God is the one offering his Son. He also offers his Spirit who desires to live in me to guide and empower God’s efforts through me. What else do I need?