A Study on Sanctification through Paul’s Two Letters to the Corinthians

 

The books of First Corinthians (16 Chapters) and Second Corinthians (13 chapters) are almost as long as the book of Romans (16 chapters), but Romans has historically received much more attention from the Church. Perhaps it is because Romans focused on Salvation, whereas the Corinthian letters focused on Sanctification. While it is essential to know how to be saved, it is also important to know the “what now” that follows salvation. The Bible provides guidance through “First Corinthians: Sanctification through the Beatitudes” and through  “Second Corinthians: Faithfulness through Ministry.

 

Pastor Daiqing Yuan, Ph.D.

 

Sermon #1: Introduction to the Book of First Corinthians (1 Cor 1:1-9)

Preached on Sunday, September 8, 2019

 

Paul visited Corinth in AD 50-51 and founded the church. In the epistolary opening (1:1-9), Paul affirmed that the church was indeed saved through faith, positionally sanctified, having a secure relationship with God. But while the church was vibrant, energetic, and richly blessed in financial resources and spiritual gifts, the believers lacked maturity and faithfulness. They needed to work on practical sanctification, i.e. on the fellowship with God. This letter revealed the lacking the eight blessings of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-10), in order, taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). The book is an application of the Beatitudes as the standard and guide for practical sanctification.

Sermon #2: The Problem of Pride and the First Diagnosis: The Gospel Is a Folly to the World (1 Cor 1:10-31)

Preached on Sunday, September 29, 2019

 

The Church of Corinth was divided into parties and factions, each claiming to follow one famous person (1:10-17). This reveals a severe problem of pride or the lack of humility, missing the first blessing in the Beatitudes: the recognition of being “poor in spirit.” Paul diagnosed that because of two misunderstandings of the gospel, thinking that it is a new philosophy taught by able teachers. The first correction is: The gospel cannot be understood by the world (1:18-31). The message of God is a folly to the world (1:18-25), and the people of God are fools to the world (1:26-31).

Sermon #3: The Problem of Pride and the Second Diagnosis: The Holy Spirit Is the Cause of Faith (1 Cor 2:1-16)

Preached on Sunday, October 6, 2019

 

The problem of pride in the Church of Corinth was due to two misunderstandings to the gospel. Not only is the gospel totally despised by the world (1:18-31), it can only be understood through the work of the Holy Spirit (2:1-16). The gospel is centered on the death of Christ (2:1-5); it is the eternal plan of God (2:6-9), and it is revealed by the Holy Spirit (2:10-16). So if anyone understands it and believes, it is the work of God, to which men should only be grateful and have nothing to boast.

Sermon #4: The Problem of Pride and the First Prescription: Reject Carnality and Be Spiritual (1 Cor 3:1-23)

Preached on Sunday, October 13, 2019

 

“Follow the spirit and not the flesh” is the first advice from Paul for the Church of Corinth, helping them solve the problem of pride. He used four illustrations. (1) The Church Is like a person: It needs to grow into maturity (3:1-4). (2) The Church Is like a field: It needs planting and watering (3:5-9). (3) The Church Is like a building: It needs quality material (3:10-15). And (4) the Church Is a temple of God: It needs the true gospel (3:16-23).

Sermon #5: The Problem of Pride and the Second Prescription (1 Cor 4)

Preached on Sunday, October 20, 2019

 

“Start a ministry and become faithful” is the second advice from Paul to the Church of Corinth -- to help them solve the problem of pride. He gave three goals for believers to strive toward: (1) True servants of God are faithful stewards of God’s Word (4:1-7); (2) True servants of God are horrible spectacles to the world (4:8-13); and (3) true servants of God are like loving fathers of believers (4:14-21).

Sermon #6: The Problem of the Toleration of Sin: The Biblical Solution (1 Cor 5:1-13)

Preached on Sunday, October 27, 2019

 

One member of the Corinthian church committed an egregious sin, taking in his stepmother, something even the pagans do not approve. The Corinthian church not only tolerated the sin, but also became proud of their tolerance. The second blessing of the Beatitudes says that only those who mourn for sins can be comforted by grace. Paul denounced this lack of mourning for sin and commanded a church disciplinary action. By excommunication, the member is no longer in the church, the realm of God and Christ, but in the world, the realm of Satan. Without the protection of God and Christ, a true believer will be tortured by Satan. The suffering of the body is for the saving the soul.

Sermon #7: The Problem of Trigger Happy Litigation: The Need of Meekness (1 Cor 6:1-8)

Preached on Sunday, November 3, 2019

 

Some members of the Corinthian church were trigger happy to sue fellow members in secular court concerning the issue of property rights. Paul condemned this tight holding of rights and ownership and urged them to learn meekness, taking a loss for the sake of Christ. It is the third blessing of the Beatitudes that the Corinthians were lacking: it was the proof of having been born again.

Sermon #8: The Issue of Sexual Purity: Absolutes in Righteousness vs. Relative Wisdom (1 Cor 6:9-20)

Preached on Sunday, November 10, 2019

 

Sexual purity is one of the most important signs of holiness. Believers have been made positionally holy; it is time to become practically holy. While there are relative issues under the rule of wisdom, sexual purity is a matter of absolute righteousness because sexual immorality is desecrating our body as the new temple of the Holy Spirit.

Sermon #9: Issue of Marriage and Divorce: Combining Holiness with Wisdom (1 Cor 7:1-16)

Preached on Sunday, November 17, 2019

 

Marriage is good for resisting fleshly temptation. Believers must not divorce the unbelieving spouse, for the whole family has been regarded as clean by God because of the believer. Salvation of the beloved ones are the works of God, but through the believing family member. However, if the nonbeliever wants to abandon the believer, it is a legal divorce.

Sermon #10: Issue of Singleness: The Pursuit of Perfection (1 Cor 7:17-40)

Preached on Sunday, November 24, 2019

 

Marriage is not a calling for all believers just as being Jewish or a freeman is not. In the spiritual kingdom of God, the physical and social conditions are not essential, so believers should not expect changes to those conditions directly because of faith. If there is a calling for singleness because of a calling for missions, it really is a blessing, especially when then the end time is expected to be close. If there is no such calling, then seek opportunities to marry a good person. Widows and widowers are free to remarry as long as both are in Christ. If there is not a suitable person, count singleness as a blessing. This revelation is from the Holy Spirit.

Sermon #11: Issue of Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols: The Need of Mercy (1 Cor 8:1-13)

Preached on Sunday, December 1, 2019

 

Theologically, idols are nothing but human arts and crafts, not higher than humans. Those who worship idols are silly, knowing not their position in the household of God. Therefore, unknowingly eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol would create no ill effect on spirit-filled believers. However, there are real demons that hide behind idols in order to establish human worship, and some former pagans had personal experiences with demonic interference. Those persons might have thought that they could be repossessed, or that it was ok to fellowship with both God and the demons. Strong believers must think for the sake of the weak believers, even though it might cost them the opportunity to eat meat. This is the fifth blessing in the Beatitudes at work: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Sermon #12: The Issue of Payment for Service: The Need of Pure Heart (1 Cor 9:1-27)

Preached on Sunday, December 8, 2019

 

Paul has genuine apostolic authority and the right of being supported by the church that he served. However, he chose not to use all his rights in order that his ministry motivation might not be accused of greediness. He is living for others, seeking for receiving all the potential rewards God prepared for him. By putting God’s interest over self-interest, he is practicing the sixth blessing in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Sermon #13: The Issue Holy Meal: The Exclusiveness of the Fellowship with Christ

and the Inclusiveness of the Fellowship with Men (1 Cor 10:1-33)

Preached on Sunday, December 15, 2019

 

The Israelites, even though “baptized” and “taking communion,” fell to temptations; their flesh craved evil in four areas: (1) idolatry, (2) sexual immorality, (3) complaining against God’s provision [doubting His character and goodness], and (4) grumbling against God-ordained leadership [claiming “all congregation is holy”]. Paul says that Christians do not have to fall to temptations because we have the Holy Spirit. Resist temptations by God’s power and for His glory; victory belongs to the redeemed. Holy meal at the pagan temple is fellowshipping with the demons behind the idols, and is forbidden, but eating meat that might have been sacrificed to idols is a gray area to be determined by the principle of seeking right conduct for the profit and edification of others.

Sermon #14: The Issue of Women’s Head Covering: The Goodness in Differentiating Roles (1 Cor 11:1-16)

Preached on Sunday, December 29, 2019 ◦ No YouTube Video This Week

 

The book turns to a group of topics related to peacemaking, the seventh blessing of the Beatitudes. The first topic is the peace between the men and women in the church. The secret of peace is in the recognition of the Trinitarian mystery: the difference in roles with the equality of position. It covers the relationship between the persons in the Trinity, Christ and the church, and man and woman in the church and family. The physical head covering of women may be only necessary in the first century cultural context at Corinth, but the spiritual covering (recognizing God’s intention at the creation to distinguish the roles) is still necessary universally and everlastingly.

Sermon #15: The Issue of the Communion and Agape Feast: Wisdom in Differentiating Goals (1 Cor 11:17-34)

Preached on Sunday, January 5, 2020

 

The early church practiced the Communion (Lord’s Supper) and the Agape Feast together. Some in the Church of Corinth were not serious in taking communion and became sick or dead apparently because of it. Paul relays the true meaning, purpose, and ministry of the communion as a renewing of the New Covenant and prompting for repentance - a ministry of the vertical dimension. It is different from Agape Feast, which is to practice love and fellowship - a ministry of the horizontal dimension.

Sermon #16: The Issue of Spiritual Gifts: The Need for Differentiating Ministries (1 Cor 12:1-31a):

Preached on Sunday, January 12, 2020

 

The next issue on peacemaking in the church is between the people with distinct spiritual gifts. As one God has three persons, one family has a man and a woman, and one church has people with spiritual gifts that differ from one another. The gifts are sovereignly distributed by the Holy Spirit, and the differences are meant to serve one another and unite the church. People with different gifts are like members of one body, in need of each other and serving one another. It is not meant for establishing divisive ranks.

Sermon #17: The Issue of Love: The Greatest Gift to Receive and Give (1 Cor 12:31b—13:13)

Preached on Sunday, January 19, 2020

 

The greatest, everlasting spiritual power is love. Spiritual gifts are abilities to do the works of love, but without love, they are nothing. Love is the way God deals with us, and the way we should be dealing with others. Some spiritual gifts will stop by themselves; some will be stopped by God at the second coming of Christ. Love, however, is everlasting -- together with faith and hope. Even among these, love is the greatest.

Sermon #18: The Issue of Tongues: Its Nature and Ministry (1 Cor 14:1-25)

Preached on Sunday, January 26, 2020

 

Spiritual gifts equip people to serve one another. In this sense, prophesying is more beneficial than speaking in tongues. In the situation of the Pentecost, the disciples preached the gospel in languages that they never learned but were the hometown dialects of someone in the audience. The gift does not leave even the situation changed. When no one in the audience knows the language, tongue speaking should become a private act of praying in tongues. Public speaking of God’s word in an unknown foreign language was originally a sign of judgment to the Jews. So it has a limited time of availability.

Sermon #19: Issue of Prophecy: The Need of Order and Peace (1 Cor 14:26-40):

Preached on Sunday, February 2, 2020

 

Prophesying is speaking the mysteries of God in a known language to men either by direct revelation from the Holy Spirit or by illumination from the Spirit to cause a deeper understand of the Bible. In a church gathering, many spiritual gifts could be used to benefit one another, but over all, they must be utilized in an orderly and Biblical manner. True spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit promote the order of heaven on earth, in the church called the “Kingdom of Heaven.” Disorderly conduct reveals the flesh or dark spirits other than the Holy Spirit. No one filled with the Holy Spirit will lose self-control or promote women teaching publicly over adult men in the church. The latter are against the Biblically established order.

Sermon #20: The Issue of the Resurrection: Its Reality & Necessity (1 Cor 15:1-34)

Preached on Sunday, February 9, 2020

 

The book moves to the application of the eighth blessing of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Being willing to suffer (even losing one's life) for the sake of righteousness is the deepest level of sanctification because it means that the person is unfit for the world but ready for heaven. Believers of Jesus Christ are not afraid of death because we know that Jesus died but resurrected from the dead. He is the first fruits of the resurrection. All who are in him by faith will go through the same glorified body.

Sermon #21: The Issue of the Resurrection: Its Nature & Power (1 Cor 15:35-58)

Preached on Sunday, February 23, 2020

Note: We briefly lost the YouTube Live Stream, so there are two links; go to 1:18 in the second video for audio.

 

The resurrected body is spiritual in the sense of being holy and free, not subject to sin, death, or even to space and time. However, it is not just a spirit but a corporal body. It is a glorified body in agreement with a regenerated spirit and sanctified soul. It is fitting for heaven, with everlasting life, and victorious over death because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

Sermon #22: The Issue of Donation: Pattern and Importance (1 Cor 16:1-24)

Preached on Sunday, March 1, 2020

 

Being willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness includes the willingness to give life and money for God's sake because for many, money is life. Paul asked the gentile-majority churches to collect a donation for the Jewish majority mother church in Jerusalem because it ha d a financial burden of taking care the many people who had come to Jerusalem for the specific purpose of waiting for the second coming. Many of these people wished to remain in Jerusalem rather than return home. The donation was meant to soften the tension between the Jewish and gentile factions within the early church. It was collected each Sunday, which indicates

that worship on Sunday was an apostolic tradition rather than a later invention of the Romans.

 

Sermon #22 concluded the first half of ABC's study of the sanctification process as understood

through I Corinthians. Please click HERE for the second half of this series. Thank You!

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