What is the center of your life? What do you live for?

Some of us might say, "I live for my grandchildren! My grandchildren are the center of my life! There is nothing I would not do for my grandkids!"

Some of us might say, "I live for my children! My children are the center of my life! There is nothing I would not do for my children!"

Some of us might say, "I live for the person I am married to (husband, wife)! My spouse is the center of my life! There is nothing I would not do for my spouse!

Some of us might say, "I live for my career! My career is the center of my life! There is nothing I would not do for my career!"

Some of us might say, "I live for my country! My country is the center of my life! There is nothing I would not do for my country!"

Are you a Christian? If you are a Christian, there is one true center of your life.

This evening we will study some statements from I Corinthians 1 and 2. Please take your Bibles and read with me 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. I am reading from the New American Standard translation.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

  1. Let's begin by noting my understanding of the context.
    1. Though the city of Corinth was located in Greece, the city was a Roman colony and its society was regulated by Roman perspectives and Roman systems.
      1. One the key systems functioning in any Roman city (and Corinth was not an exception) was the patron and client system.
        1. The patron typically was a wealthy person who paid clients on a regular basis for their loyalty and support.
        2. Politics, society, and commerce functioned using this hierarchy system.
        3. At the top of the system was the patron, and above all else a client must be loyal to his patron.
      2. Another key system was examining all situations and occurrences on the basis of human wisdom.
        1. It was ridiculous to accept perspectives or conclusions that defied human wisdom.
        2. Society in general concluded that believing that there was only one God was ridiculous.
        3. Society in general concluded that believing in an invisible God was ridiculous.
        4. Society in general concluded that believing that this one God used a human death to produce an eternal redemption and an eternal forgiveness was ridiculous.
        5. Society in general concluded that was especially true if this death was produced by the most degrading form of Roman execution that existed in the first century.
    2. In any city that was primarily controlled by Roman customs and systems, people who belonged to Jesus Christ would continue their lives under these influences.
      1. 1 Corinthians is written specifically to Christians living in Corinth.
      2. At the foundation of their problems is the fact that the city's culture had far too much influence in their lives.
      3. The culture's influence in their day to day lives created all kinds of problems in the congregation of Christians in Corinth.
        1. Within the letter there are indications they were meeting in wealthy Christians' homes.
        2. They looked at these Christians in the same way the Corinthian people looked at secular patrons.
        3. What they considered loyalty was a major issue in the congregation.
        4. By the standards of their current human wisdom, a teaching based on a crucifixion death was ridiculous--declaring a Savior who was executed as a criminal was just plain foolish.
        5. The result: Christian Corinth's message was centered in human wisdom instead of being centered in Jesus' crucifixion.
    3. I want you to keep something important clearly in mind.
      1. This letter was written specifically to Christians living in the city of Corinth.
      2. It is not an evangelistic letter written to people who were not converted to Jesus Christ.
      3. It is a letter of admonition written to Christians; these are baptized believers who have placed the trust in Jesus Christ.
      4. Paul said the spiritual antidote to their spiritual problems was placing their full confidence in Jesus' death.
        1. That is the message we often tell people who are not Christians.
        2. Paul said active confidence in Jesus' death is a message needed as much by Christians as by people who are not Christians.

  2. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
    1. Jesus' crucifixion produced different responses in the first century world of the Roman empire.
      1. To those who did not believe that God was at work in Jesus' death, the concept was complete foolishness--it defied human wisdom to such an extent it was stupid.
      2. To those who trusted as fact that this was God's means of giving us a Savior, it was incredible, believable, and beyond comprehension.
        1. God created our salvation in a way that was neither dependent on or obligated to human wisdom.
        2. The wise God knew that humanity would never grasp Him, His concern for us, or our primary needs through the vehicle of human wisdom.
        3. So God utilized a foolish message (to humans) to call humans to salvation.
      3. What God did in Jesus' death defied all thinking.
        1. The Jewish unbelievers, who were God's chosen people for centuries, wanted signs, miracles which would affirm God's accomplishments in Jesus' death.
        2. The general population, who were not Jewish, demanded that God's salvation be perceived by human wisdom, and that did not happen.
        3. Only to those who have confidence in God's actions in Jesus' death, to those who recognize God's call in Jesus' death, whether they are Jews or from a non-Jewish people, see God's power and wisdom in Jesus' death.
    2. Paul's highest appeal is to God's nature.
      1. God is not a product of human creation.
      2. Human wisdom did not bring Him into existence.
      3. Human wisdom has no power to measure him.
      4. Even that which humans would regard as foolishness in God is wiser than humans.
      5. Even that which humans would regard as weakness in God is stronger than humans.
      6. God and God's actions are superior to human wisdom or strength.

  3. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
    And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
    1. First note this: the emphasis that called them into Christ is the same emphasis that will sustain them as people who are in Christ.
      1. What is that dual emphasis? Jesus' crucifixion.
      2. Paul challenged them to remember carefully.
        1. You were not converted because you were impressed with me.
        2. You did not respond to my message because you were impressed with my speaking ability.
        3. Nor did you respond to my message because you were impressed with my human wisdom.
      3. I was determined that your motivation for responding to my message was in no way to focus on me and your positive impression of my ability.
      4. I was determined to center my message to you on Jesus Christ and his crucifixion.
    2. Remember clearly the time you decided to come to Jesus Christ.
      1. As you remember, remember me.
      2. You saw my weakness; we shared weakness in common.
      3. You saw my fear; we shared fear in common.
      4. You saw my trembling; we shared trembling in common.
      5. Consider what Acts 18:9,10 says about Paul while he was in Corinth:
        And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city."
      6. You did not respond because I was so persuasive.
      7. You responded because you saw God's Spirit and God's power demonstrated.
        1. What you saw was not demonstrated in me.
        2. What you saw was demonstrated in Jesus' crucifixion.
      8. The foundation of your faith is not an expression or form of human wisdom.
      9. The foundation of your faith is the power of God revealed in Jesus' death.

  4. If they understood that their faith was firmly planted in what God did in Jesus' death, if they allowed Jesus' crucifixion to be the center of who and what they were, they have the foundation for solving the problems among them.
    1. That is the foundation for solving their problems of Christian division.
    2. That is the foundation for solving their problems of sexual immorality among Christians.
    3. That is the foundation for solving their problems of injustice among Christians.
    4. That is the foundation for answering their marital questions.
    5. That is the foundation for solving their fellowship issues.
    6. That is the foundation for solving their worship problems.
    7. That is the foundation for learning to love and respect each other.
    8. That is the foundation for placing their confidence in the reality of resurrection.

We Christians need the same understanding and perspective Paul shared with Corinthians Christians. The beginning point for facing all our problems and challenges is the same beginning point: Jesus' crucifixion.

The center of Christian existence must be Jesus' crucifixion. We need to be very careful to convert people to Jesus' death, and not to the church. If we do not do that, problems among Christians will continue to increase.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 January 2003

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