As you all know Paul was a prolific letter writer. Here’s a story about another letter and letter writer:
A father was amazed to see that his son’s bed was made and everything was tidy, no discarded socks or clothes anywhere. Something was obviously very wrong!
Then he saw an envelope, on the pillow. It was simply addressed: ‘Dad.’
The father opened the envelope fearing the worst. He read:
It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mum and you. I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.
But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercings, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than me and works as a lap dancer.
But it’s not only the passion…Dad she’s pregnant. Stacy said that we will be very happy. She thinks that it could well be my child. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children. We hope to get married as soon as her divorce comes through.
In the meantime we are praying that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.
Don’t worry Dad. I’m 14 and I can take care of myself. Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.
Your loving son John
P.S..Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Andrew’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the report card that’s in my desk drawer.
I love you. Call me when it’s safe to come home.
Paul wrote at least four letters to Corinthians. 1 Corinthians is actually the second letter.
Paul evangelised Corinth on his second missionary journey – he stayed there for about 18 months. The story is told in Acts 18.
Corinth is a major Greek city and it was a major trade city. It was a Roman colony in Greece and so Roman laws and customs were important.
It was mainly a non-Jewish church, most had a background in paganism. This letter was written in response to a letter written to him and some issues raised by others.
We can see the outline of the letter here: all beginning (sort of) with the letter D:
introDuctio, Division, Discipline, Difficulties, Division, Doctrine and enDings. (See slides)
It was written by Paul around 53-55AD at the end of his time in Ephesus.
The passage we are looking at this evening looks at some of the divisions that seem to have split the Corinthian church.
This time the outline if bought to us by the letter P:
Plea for unity,
Parties of division,
Principle of being one in Christ and the
Priority of preaching.
It seems they had split into different factions or cliques: Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ followers
The first group: I follow Paul
If I was Paul I’d be pretty chuffed at that – I could probably justify why they should follow me (for example, I’m always right! Ask my wife!!)
But Paul isn’t – he has more in view than self-glorification; his desire is for the glory of the risen Lord (a theme he picks up later in the letter)
What is it that motivates us? Who are we seeking to glorify in what we do?
I follow Apollos
I follow Cephas
I follow Christ – here are the 'super-spirituals' – but it’s said in a way that is condescending, they follow Christ because they can get one over on the others! It’s like playing the trump card.
But Paul is not having it – even such an attitude is divisive.
That was first century Corinth – what about 21st century Bristol? What has that to do with us? There are just as many factions today – if not more:
What about I’m for Rob Bell, or I’m for Tom Wright?
Or even I’m for Spring Harvest, I’m for Greenbelt or I’m for New Wine?
Or dare I say it. I’m 9.00, I’m 10.30 I’m 6.30 service?
We have a tendency to compartmentalise or label people to put them in boxes! We should label jars not people!
Now diversity is good – but if those diversities divide us then that’s sin. And sin needs to be repented of.
Whose church is it? Is it the 9 o’clock’s, the 10.30’s or the 6.30’s? No – it’s Jesus’! let’s not forget that!