The Corinthian church was in desperate need of preaching. Every chapter seems to open one more sore, one more conflict in need of healing—troubles the church members often did not recognize.
The church was inundated with members that considered themselves spiritual giants. How fortunate Paul was to have them for advice! Their great “knowledge” would gladly be imparted to the masses, and their great wisdom was the antidote to baby Christianity and its problems. When looking in the spiritual mirror, they were quite awed with what they saw.
Paul, however, was not so impressed. In mighty plain language, he would boldly tell them the truth. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). If that weren’t convicting enough, he told them their vast storehouse of knowledge only succeeded in puffing them up—so much for their “knowledge.”
When the list of Corinthian failures is published, it is not a pretty thing. There was rampant carnality. There was the matter of fornication so base even the pagans wouldn’t go there. They were taking the brothers to court over petty matters. There was a faction convinced their “liberty” was more important than the testimony of Christ, and speaking of “factions,” nobody did it quite like the Corinthian church. The word divide and its forms are found repeatedly in the book and for good reason.
When American hunters of past centuries feared an encounter with the brown bear, they would make sure they carried their most powerful weapons, guns unnecessary for smaller game. On such occasions, the hunter would prepare himself for a violent encounter, and it was said that he was “loaded for bear.”
Paul was loaded for bear. He had sixteen chapters worth of material, with a second epistle not far behind. It appears there was at least one other letter trying to fix the mess of the church at Corinth. The man of God was about to let them have it!
Yet, there is a significant lesson for a preacher in 1 Corinthians 1. In the midst of the disaster, Paul found a way to be positive, something in which to rejoice.
We have all heard the story of the man about to jump off a bridge and end it all. The police officer begged him to wait. “Give me ten minutes! Just ten minutes! Talk to me!” The jumper agreed, so he and the officer talked. Ten minutes later, they both jumped off the bridge.
As an evangelist, I know the feeling. On some occasions, I have flown into an airport to preach a revival meeting. The pastor drives up, I toss the bags into the trunk, shake his hand, and then it starts. We are not off the airport property, yet the torrent of church trials and tribulations erupts. There have been meetings where the downpour doesn’t stop until I am back at the airport.
It really is hard for a church to be positive when the pastor is negative.
Paul was a great example of a positive preacher. Though it seems the human tendency is to head to the negative, Paul found a better way.
Paul Looked for Things to Be Thankful for
He went there first. “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4). There are obvious motives for the letter, yet an honest Paul wants to find reasons to rejoice. Negative people are always looking for something to complain about. Positive people are always looking for things to be thankful for. We will ultimately find what we look for.
Paul Was Thankful for Their Enrichment
The church at Corinth was a very large church by New Testament standards (some one hundred members). Later we discover that some were wealthy and some were not, but Paul understood that they were all rich: “That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:5). God made them rich in utterance—an ability to speak powerfully. God made them rich in knowledge—an ability critically important in such a city. It was a personal blessing to Paul when he realized that God had empowered and equipped them for the work. They could be successful Christians.
Paul Was Thankful for the “Testimony of Christ” Confirmed in Them
That testimony was so special they came behind no one—they were “second to none” (1 Corinthians 1:6–7). There was a lot to be encouraged about! Everything necessary for victory was already there! With the return of Christ in focus, Paul saw the opportunity to fortify them for the battle. He believed they could change. He believed that God could and would work in their lives so that despite the issues, they would be “blameless” when they stood at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Like never before, God’s preachers are facing enemies without and within. It may seem as if the war is lost and hope is gone, but Paul had it right. “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9). He was faithful when the wheels were coming off in Corinth, and He is faithful today. When friends have disappointed us, when a church has let us down, when financial pressures seem insurmountable, there is someone who never fails.
“God is faithful!” That is something to be positive about!