Sermon: “Sanctified, Enriched, and United in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:1–17)
The church at Corinth was a mess. The Apostle Paul had planted this church (cf. Acts 18), but the reports he was receiving indicated that the church had drifted far from where they were when he left them. They had become proud, rebellious, schismatic, scandalous, and individualistic. In this letter, Paul must address many sensitive, painful issues, exhorting the Corinthians to return to the simple purity of the gospel, and to reform their lives accordingly. Still, while most of us may have been tempted to launch into criticisms, correction, and rebuke, Paul models apostolic love and wisdom. Instead, he begins in the salutation and thanksgiving of his letter to remind the Corinthians of the gracious work that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in their lives.
Only after reminding them to the holiness to which they have been called through their union with Jesus Christ does he exhort them, beginning with their divisions over teachers and baptisms. In this first section of his letter Paul begins with a call back to holiness in Christ that expresses itself through unity in the church. Indeed, Paul writes, personal fellowship with Christ demands nothing less than relational unity with Christ’s people. Or, to put this another way, in 1 Corinthians 1:1–17 we see that you cannot have the whole Christ without the whole Church.