The Bible has been compared to Christ’s seamless garment, which cannot be divided without ruining the whole. God’s truth is unified: truths that are first revealed in the Gospel message are then developed in the principles and practices of the Church. She is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), reflecting Christianity’s core doctrines and displaying the living God’s character. First Corinthians’ main themes demonstrate this reality.
The Church’s Identity
God calls all types of people to become new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). The Corinthians were struggling with sectarian division, evidenced by denominationalism. They identified with their favorite teachers, rather than with their Lord. But no preacher – however gifted – may claim the right for Christians to identify with their name. After all, neither Paul or any of the other apostles were crucified for them; nor is any believer baptized in the name of a fellow-saint (v. 13). Paul boasted in Christ’s cross and identified with Him as His Lord (Gal. 6:14). Happily, all human distinctions are secondary to the Christian’s primary identity as redeemed ones saved through Christ’s sacrifice (1 Cor. 1:18-31); therefore, the church should not glory in mere human beings. The proper recipient of our worship is the triune God, who conceived of and created the church through the Lord Jesus’ incomparable ministry.
The Church Is Spirit-Dependent
The Lord Jesus defined eternal life in relational terms (John 17:3), and the church is designed to give believers unobstructed access to God and His truth. It is the product of divine revelation, and as such depends on divine wisdom. As 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 describes the Spirit’s indispensable role as the Church’s teacher, who reveals all truth, and guides each assembly in their earthly pilgrimage.
The Church’s Recompense
The Gospel frees us from the condemnation that we deserve (John 5:24-29). Whereas people living for this world seek present fame and reward, believers look forward to receiving their praise from God Himself at the Judgment of Christ (1 Cor. 4:5). Our service will be perfectly assessed and properly recompensed. God’s church is built of spiritually incombustible materials that bring glory to Him, rather than to humans (3:9-15). Even faithfully giving a cup of water will result in due compensation (Matt. 10:40-42). We greatly err if we approach church meetings primarily thinking of ourselves. An old chorus delineates the correct order: “Jesus and Others and You – what a wonderful way to spell JOY.”
The Church’s Loyalty
The Lord Jesus came to save us from sin and destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8); accordingly, the Christian life demands separation to God for His good pleasure. This holiness produces purity (1 Pet. 1:13-16), righteous behavior (Titus 2:11-14), and repentance when one falls into sin (1 John 1:9). Sadly, the Corinthian church was tolerating sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5:1-6), probably reasoning that it was “love” to not interfere with other’s choices. But they were actually undermining the great gospel truths of redemption and the subsequent holiness that the Almighty produces in believers’ lives. By calling Christ our passover lamb, the Bible emphasizes that believers are saved to live “unleavened” lives (1 Cor. 5:7-8). These names recall the feasts of the Lord that typify redemption and the ensuing sanctification that flows from it (Lev. 23:4-8). God saves us to live for and like Himself – not to continue in our preconversion way of life (Rom. 6-8; Eph. 2:8-10).
New life in Christ is one of loyalty to Him, and instructs Christians to love one another. They should not fight one another in the world’s gaze – especially not in her courts (1 Cor. 6:1-8), knowing that the local assembly is the training ground for believers’ future administrative duties in the Lord’s millennial kingdom (v. 3, 9-11)! It also demands that they loyally use their bodies for Him, while maintaining purity by abstaining from immorality (vv. 12-20; 1 Pet. 2:11-17; Rom. 12:1-2). Issues surrounding marriage and singleness must involve holiness (1 Cor. 7). Believers must preserve their testimonies by avoiding compromise (1 Cor. 8) with or participation in idolatry (1 Cor. 10).
The Church’s Approach To The Lost
The Trinity commands the Church to join in evangelizing the world and teaching disciples to obey the Lord’s words (Matt. 28:18-20). This mandate influences them to live selflessly by voluntarily giving up material provision that would muddy the gospel waters (1 Cor. 9:1-18; see also 1 Thes. 2:3-12). What is more, they imitate their Savior in accommodating themselves to nonessential cultural beliefs – varying among the Jews and Gentiles – without altering the glad tidings (1 Cor. 9:19-23). The message’s divine provenance demands that the worker’s life is self-disciplined and therefore will not end up as a spiritual shipwreck (vv. 24-27). God’s love that sent the Christ to die and rise again, impels saints to labor in disseminating the good seed and build God’s house in this age (Eph. 2-4; 1 Pet. 2:4-10).
The Church’s Head
In a world that erroneously affirms that humans are the most important beings, the Gospel calls people to submit to the Lord and own His headship (1 Cor. 11:2-16). The lost confuse the meaning of humanity, the reality of gender, and the history of mankind. By preaching and teaching the Gospel’s principles, the Church asserts that God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. This establishes divinely appointed roles, rather than a hierarchy of worth – for after all, the Father and the Son are coequal (John 5:17-30). The church must model “gospel-sanity” by imitating God’s own perfect order. The Church is a place where He is supremely honored, and males and females submit to Him and serve one another in the manner that He prescribes. Today’s humanistic confusion over human sexuality is rebuked and corrected by her doctrine and practice.
Similarly, the Lord’s supper calls believers back to salvation’s foundational truths: the remembrance of Christ’s person and work, which established the New Covenant with His people. He is their God and they are His people; He is writing His principles on the hearts and minds – training them to think and act like Himself. He promises never to judicially recall their sins against them. Best of all, this covenant entails a personal relationship with the Lord (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-12).
The Church’s Service
First Corinthians 12-14 detail the source and purpose of spiritual gifts: they are from God, for His glory and His people’s edification, and the saints are to exercise them in love. They are not egocentric or to be used with unrestrained ecstatic abandon; rather, they must use the gifts with their reason intact, as led by the Holy Spirit.
The Church’s Hope
The Gospel provides assurance of a blessed eternal future on account of Christ’s resurrection (John 14:19). The Church’s fatiguing labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58), and even death will not have the last word over her life and service. The risen Lord will raise believers to live with Him in immortal and incorruptible glory, sealing His ultimate victory and granting them an inheritance in His kingdom (vv. 50-57).