At a certain children's hospital, a boy gained a
reputation for wreaking havoc with the nurses and staff.
One day a visitor who knew about his terrorizing nature made
him a deal: “If you are good for week,” she said, “I'll give
you a dime when I come again.” A week later, she stood
before his bed. “I'll tell you what,” she said, “I
won't ask the nurses if you behaved. You must tell me
yourself. Do you deserve the dime?” After a
moment's pause, a small voice from among the sheets said, “Gimme
a penny” (Copeland in Swindoll)! There was a
congregation in the New Testament that had gained a
reputation for wreaking havoc as well—it was the church in
the Grecian city of Corinth. Now if Paul had made a
similar deal with this church, they were so proud and
arrogant that when he would ask them, “Do you deserve the
dime?” They would have replied: “No way, man, we're so
spiritual, we deserve a quarter!” Corinth was
that commercial, intellectual, and immoral “Las Vegas” of
the ancient world. The city was known: for its port
with its lucrative transportation business, for its
philosophers who debated at Poseidon's temple, and for its
thousands of sacred prostitutes who worked at its numerous
temples throughout the city. The main idea today is:
Be a surrendered church! Let's make a quick review and
show the context leading up to this theme. Our text
today is closing out the first major section within the
letter to the Corinthian Christians.
The apostle Paul had heard about problems in this
congregation from two groups of people. He also had
received a letter from them asking for his help on many
issues. So he dictates a letter to them in 54 A.
D. Immediately in the opening verses, he tried to help
them get their focus back on Christ (note how He is
mentioned in almost every verse). When Paul gets down
to business in his letters, he usually states, “I beseech, I
plead, I urge, or I beg you to do something.” He often
talks about God's goodness before making such an appeal, but
this is not the case in 1 Corinthians. After trying to
get the focus back on Jesus, notice what he writes in 1:10:
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that
there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly
joined together in the same name and in the same judgment.”
Now look at 4:21-22: “Therefore let no one boast in men.
For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
[or Peter], or the world or life or death, or things present
or things to come—all are yours.” Just like those in
their culture who exalted a certain philosopher over the
others, so some the members at Corinth were exalting one of
their Christian teachers over the others, and they were
forming cliques around them and claiming their group was the
best. Paul wants this divisive practice of ranking
teachers to stop, so all throughout the first four chapters,
he is addressing this issue. He says that their focus
should be on unity, on Christ crucified, and on divine
wisdom (ch. 1). Then Paul exhorts these divisive
brethren to have the Spirit's wisdom (not their culture's),
to be maturing and peace-loving, and to exalt God and trust
in His power (ch. 2). Then he reminds them that the
congregation is God's field, God's building, and God's
temple for His Holy Spirit (ch. 3). Your teachers are
servants and stewards, and they are not be judged according
to worldly standards of eloquence and fine speech making but
according to God's standard of suffering for Christ.
Now Paul is ready to conclude this appeal to unity by urging
the Corinthian brethren to be a surrendered church.
“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved
children, I warn you. For though you might have 10,000
instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for
in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.”
“Even after the fiercest rebuke, Paul can revert to the
tenderest appeal” (Halladay). As their spiritual
father, his affection for them was great (Morris)! The
appeal begun in 1:10 has been one of exhortation—urging them
and instructing them toward unity (Halladay). He is
“setting up his spiritual authority over them in the matters
that he is addressing” (Oster). The word “warn” is a
term for a father who admonishes and advises his children
(Barclay). It is like the same word in Col. 1:28: “Him
we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all
wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [or mature] in
Christ Jesus.” What is our disposition towards
warnings, especially God's warnings? Are we like the
boy on the bike? There was boy who had a paper route
in Jr. High. One day as he was coming home after doing
his route, he thought it would be easier to take a shortcut
across his neighbor's yard instead of going to the end of
the block. He felt guilty at first since he knew the
owner really prided himself on his yard work. Each day
became a little easier to take the shortcut. Then the
neighbor put up a sign: “Keep off the grass—no bikes!”
The boy's reaction was this—now it was an official dare and
the sign's fascination all the more caused him to want to
use the shortcut (Swindoll2). So, he basically ignored
it, and later suffered the consequences of his neighbor's
wrath! Here are some labels on products to warn the owners.
Litigation must force such labels, but are they really
needed (Larson/Elshof)? On a Batman costume was this,
“Warning: Cape does not enable user to fly.” On a car
sun shield, “Don't drive with sun shield in place.”
Duh? On a baby-stroller, “Caution: Remove baby
before storing.” Now do we need labels like these for
our spiritual lives? “Warning: Missing worship can
cause faith to shrink.” “Ignoring prayer creates
weakness.” “Caution: Failure to invite others can cause
church to fold.” Now here's a serious warning from
God's Word in Revelation 21:8: “But the cowardly,
unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral,
sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in
the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; this is the
second death” (Revelation 21:8)! Mark Twain met a man
in Boston who said that nothing could stop him when he had
his mind made up about something. He was going to
Israel, climb Mt. Sinai, and read the Ten Commandments
aloud! Twain was unimpressed and said, “Know what?
Here's a better idea. Why don't you stay in Boston and
keep all ten of them each day” (Swindoll “Disobedient”)?
Ezekiel 33:5 tells us something important about warnings:
“He who heard the sound of trumpet, but did not take
warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who
takes warning will save his life” (Ezekiel 33:5)! Take
a concordance and read all the verses where you find the
words: “Take heed!” You might be surprised at
how many there are! Listen to warnings. Be a
“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I
have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son
in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I
teach everywhere in every church.” “Remind” is a
polite way of saying, “You must have forgotten something.”
“My ways” are those of a sufferer, not of an orator.
What Paul says to the Corinthians he also says to other
churches; so they aren't being singled out. How absurd
to push all these cliques and rank teachers when all of them
are really the world's most despised people (Oster)!
“Imitate me!” Notice what is just before this in 10-13
where Paul speaks somewhat sarcastically: “We are fools for
Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are
weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but
we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger
and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and
homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands.
Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being
defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of
the world, the off-scouring of all things until now.”
“All of these terms refer to genuine bitter hardship [given]
by enemies of truth [to] apostolic preachers. The
false teachers at Corinth suffered none of these injuries or
discomforts” (Coffman). “Instead of retaliating, Paul
returned good for evil ...” (Ibid.). The contradiction
in the values of the true Christian and Grecian culture is
clearly seen (Ibid.). How about us? Are we
willing to suffer for Christ’s sake? What is our CQ?
That's our contemptible quotient? How much ridicule
and pain can we endure for Christ from our wicked culture?
One commentator made this good observation: “He reaches the
climax with two very impressive terms: scum and refuse.
Scum refers to the debris thrown out after a cleanup job.
Refuse refers to the filth left after rubbing something
clean. ... Paul's point then is that the apostles were
regarded as the most contemptible of people” (Morris).
Maybe our prayer should be like this one made by someone
after they read about the actions of Paul and Silas when
they were imprisoned for Christ's sake: “In this musty
midnight of my life imprisoned in a dungeon of confusion
bound by chains of anguish, help me, please help me to pray,
to sing, to praise until the foundation shakes, until the
gates fling open, until the chains fall off until I'm free
to share the good news with other chain-bound prisoners” (Calkin
in Swindoll “Trials”). A church leader in 1659, wrote
this good observation: “As our mercies, so our crosses
seldom come single; they usually come treading one upon the
heels of another ... it's mercy that every affliction is not
an execution, every correction is not a damnation. The
more the afflictions, the more the heart is raised
heavenward” (Swindoll “Trials). Here's a good example
of suffering for Christ that comes from China. Chinese
officials from the Public Security Bureau raided a Sunday
school in 2005 and herded 30 children into a van to take
them to a police station for further investigation.
One boy started singing, so all then chimed in too.
They were singing as they entered the station. They
were told to write 100 times, 'I do not believe in Jesus.'
Instead, they wrote 100 times: 'We believe in Jesus today,
tomorrow, and forever.' The officials then called the
parents and would try to get them to renounce Christ before
giving them back their children. One widow came for
her twins, and she was urged to renounce Christ. She
replied: “Keep the boys, for without Jesus, I couldn't care
for them.” The exasperated officials finally said,
“Take your sons and go!” (Eclov in Larson/Elshof). 2
Timothy 3:12 affirms: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly
in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Suffer for
Christ. Be a surrendered church!
“Now some are puffed up as though I were not coming to you.
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I
will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the
power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in
power.” The leaders of the cliques in the Corinthian
church are acting arrogantly. Since Paul is sending
Timothy, they jump to conclusion that Paul is not coming.
But Paul corrects that by saying he will come as God allows
it. Then Paul shows that the proud leaders may be
eloquent in their speech, but they aren't showing lives
filled with God's power. One commentator puts it this
way: “They had big mouths but could not support their
claims. They could 'talk the talk,' but they could
not 'walk the walk.' He challenged them to prove their
boasts” (Roper). The kingdom is based on God's power,
not human talk (Oster). There's a challenge for us
too. The surrendered church will go beyond words.
Someone in this congregation asked a good question in an
e-mail: “Are we just going to talk loudly or really get
involved?” Only each one of us individually can answer
that question. There was a wealthy Christian who lived
in Texas who invited a preacher to eat with him. After
the meal, they walked to the back yard, and to their left
were 25 oil rigs, straight ahead were fields of grain, and
to their right were herds of cattle. “I didn't have much a
few years back, but now look!” He thought the preacher
would compliment him, but he put one hand on his shoulder
and pointed the other toward heaven, and then asked: “How
much do you have in that direction?” The man replied
hanging his head: “Not much, I haven't thought too much
about that direction” (website). One member here
shared a resolve, and they are following through! They
are going beyond their words! That's what we need.
There was a black officer in the army who came from a family
of eight raised by a mom on welfare in New York. His
grandmother often took him to church. After one
service, they were walking home, and there was a drunkard
hugging a lamp post. She said to her grandson: “See
that man? He’s always bragging about his big plans,
but he never has done anything. Talk is easy,” she
continued. “but it’s the doing that counts. ... Remember,
Maxwell, Monday doing is better than Sunday talking"
(sermoncentral.com). James 2:16 encourages us to go
beyond mere words: “If a brother or sister is naked
and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them,
'Depart in peace, be warmed & filled,' but you do not give
them the things which are needed for the body, what does it
profit” (James 2:16)? James is right: what does our talk
profit? Jesus told us that deeds would tell the tale
of one's authenticity: “You will know them by their fruits”
(Matthew 7:16). Someone has rightly remarked: “One
deed is worth a 1000 words; we are known by our deeds”
(Barclay). Go beyond words. Be a surrendered
“What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or
in love and a spirit of gentleness?” “Paul's love was
the love which shows that sometimes it has to hurt in order
to amend” (Barclay). “Paul concludes this particular
admonition with a suggestion that it would be far better if
they amended their behavior to enable Paul to come to them
in loving affection, rather than for the purpose of
punishing their wickedness” (Coffman). “He is,
spiritually speaking, threatening the disobedient
Corinthians with a whipping if they do not accept his
parental authority over them in the Lord” (Oster).
Paul doesn't command them, but gives them the options and
leaves it up to them to decide. “[The cliques’
leaders] are alas, the foolish son who brings grief to his
father” (Halladay). How mature are we acting?
Someone has observed that you are only young once, but you
can be immature all your life (Rowell). Another
proposes that God's primary interest is His children's
spiritual maturity (Smith in Rowell). Notice how James
describes maturity in 4:16-18: “For where envy and
self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are
there. But the wisdom that is from above is first
pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of
mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without
hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.” Someone else has noted that this
maturity involves accepting Jesus' instructions and His
seeds: “So here's One who wants to help you live your life
in joy, and love, and true freedom ... The more you think
about, the more appealing it gets. Bring all of your
life and put it down before Him, for His instruction. ...
Plant His seeds in your heart, and you'll grow to be a
productive and joyous person. That's His promise”
(Saunders)! Paul wanted the Corinthians brethren to
give up their cliques and be united around Christ.
Surely, we need to practice the same admonition as well!
We need to give up our cliques and make all feel accepted!
Let's act with maturity! Be a surrendered church!
“All to Jesus we surrender, all to Him we freely give.
We will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
We surrender all, we surrender all; all to You, our blessed
We surrender all!”
“At first, Lord, I asked You to take sides with me.
I cried with David the psalmist: 'Lord, let me stand above
my foes ...'
But with all my pleading, I lay drenched in darkness until
in utter confusion I cried: 'Don't take sides, Lord, just
And suddenly it was morning” (Calkin in Swindoll).
Let's be a surrendered church!
Let's pray: God, we thank you for Your Word and the lesson
that we can learn from it. Help us not to be proud.
Help us to be a surrendered church.
“Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Seven simple words.
Seven simple words of total surrender! Has this been
our collective prayer or have we been as arrogant as the
Corinthian brethren? Are we listening to God's warning
and suffering for Christ? Are we going beyond words
and acting with maturity? Are we ready to give up our
cliques and work to be more united? All these things
require changes in behavior, and God can help us to make
those changes if we will but ask Him. Can we pray for
you, that you will do God's will? If you are a member,
will you show that you are willing to be a surrendered
church? If you are not a member, will you show that
you are willing to confess Christ and to put Him on in
baptism? Think seriously & respond visibly to this