by Rev. Tommy Williams, Senior Pastor
After spending two chapters of introduction and presenting a healthy description of Christian community, Paul gets precise in chapter 3 in his concern for the Corinthian church’s unity.
The Corinthians are brothers and sisters in Christ, but they are behaving in “unspiritual” ways with their quarreling and division. With their little allegiances, the people are indicating their immaturity and are acting more as “human people” than “spiritual people” in Paul’s words.
Instead, Paul writes, “we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (vs. 9). Those affiliated with Apollos or with others are not on the outside and those with Paul on the inside. All are brothers and sisters, servants of God together. There are not to be winners and losers in Christian community; this theme will show up again throughout the letter.
Verses 10-17 make clear that pastors, leaders, and others lay a spiritual foundation in Christ. Times of trial will reveal how well that foundation was built.
According to Paul, teachers of the faith will be saved through the “fires” of persecution that come, but their particular work might not survive. It can be wiped away by rulers, powers, forces of dissension or just the passage of time.
If one actively tries to destroy that foundation — the church that Jesus Christ has founded — that is where judgment comes. The foundation of the church in Christ is most important.
And what hurts the church’s foundation, according to Paul?
This is where Paul gets specific and focuses the bulk of the rest of the letter. The following things damage the church at its core: disunity, divided loyalties, sexual immorality, frivolous lawsuits, divorce, practices that tempt other believers (food laws), idolatry, over eating, neglect of the poor, neglect of Holy Communion, being unrepentant at the Communion table, confusion of roles for women and men in each one’s participation in worship, and valuing some spiritual gifts over other spiritual gifts.
Wow! Paul gets into our business here! Each one carries controversy, and you no doubt have a reaction to each, as I do.
In the chapters to come Paul discusses each one and how they are damaging the Christian community in Corinth specifically. Because we believe this to have a holy word to say to us in 2018, ponder with me the ways in which each of these has a corrosive effect on life and relationships especially in the life of the church. I will write about them in the weeks to come and I welcome your reflections.