Thankful for a Carnal Church?

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  1 : 1-9
Subject: Church, Gratitude for the; Church

Thankful For A Carnal Church

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, editor,

1 Corinthians 1:1-9: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul is writing here to the Church at Corinth, a church that he established there while he was on a missionary journey there some years before he penned this letter we are reading. Most of the members of the Church at Corinth were Gentiles, although a few of the converts to Christ were Jews. This church was fraught with conflict, divisions and sinful habits, so Paul wrote to them in this first letter to correct their behavior and encourage them in the service of Christ. It is most interesting that Paul opens the letter with a rounding, joyful, uplifting note of thanks. When we look further into the nature of this church, we will see some of the problems that existed within the congregation. The Church at Corinth is known as the carnal church. The word carnal means that the people were living mostly in the "flesh" rather than in the "the Holy Spirit." In other words, the Church at Corinth had members who were living too much like the world - too much like the flesh, rather than living in submission to the Holy Spirit.

Why did Paul begin his letter with words of gratitude for a carnal church? It is important to note that God expects us to look for the good, wherever it exists in a church, even in a church that is far from what our Lord means for it be. Why? The Church belongs to Jesus. Yes, we ought speak correction and judgment, but we must also appreciate some specific elements that are in the lives of faithful people in a local congregation. After all, no church on earth is filled with perfect spirit-filled members.

We can learn a lot about what God expects of us in church-life by reading this Book of the New Testament, and by applying the lessons to our lives. We learn in this letter from Paul about many issues that confronted the Corinthians and still confront the modern church today. We can also learn something about the foundation of the church - the roots that live below the surface in a church, even if some of the branches are ready for divine pruning.

So, let’s get started tonight by looking at the first nine verses in chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians. Note than Paul says several things about the Church at Corinth that we ought to remember when we are talking about modern churches around us, or the modern church family of which we are members.

I. Thankful for the Worship in the Church

1 Corinthians 1:1-4

Paul mentions in this opening statement that there are saints in the Church at Corinth, and that many of them call upon the Lord Jesus Christ. So, wherever there is worship of the Lord by believers there is room for gratitude.

A. He Appreciates their Salvation

Note that Paul mentions the “grace of God given to you by Christ Jesus.” This directly points to the salvation that came to the Gentiles and Jews who placed their trust in Christ as Lord and became a part of the church family at Corinth. How did they come to this redemption and salvation? They were not saved through Paul but were redeemed through the grace given by Jesus Christ. Paul was a minister to them but only Jesus could save them. Grace and forgiveness from sin is available to a person only when that individual places faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is when “amazing grace” is experienced. Paul was grateful that he had the opportunity to see so many of them come to saving faith in Jesus under his own ministry.

B. He Appreciates their Confirmation

Note that Paul speaks here of prayer concerning them, and in his prayers for them he always thanks God for them because they confirmed their faith through testimony. It is important for believers to have a testimony of their salvation.

When I was in England preaching some years ago, I was in a church that held a baptismal service. It was interesting to note that every person being baptized were required to give a personal testimony of their salvation experience before being baptized. They were not just asked if they were saved but were calledupon to give a full oral testimony of when and how they came to know Christ. You know that in most of our churches in America the minister will ask the person being baptized a question like this: "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" The person to be baptized answers, sometimes so softly it can hardly be heard, "Yes." Then the individual is baptized. But, in the Baptist churches in England, at least at that time, every person was expected to state how and when they were saved and had to share their confidence that the redemption they claim is real. Anyone not willing to give such a testimony was not allowed to be baptized. I really liked that step before baptism. Speaking in front of a congregtion can make one very nervous, however, it is important that every person who is being baptized has a solid foundation of faith and salvation. I listened as individuals who never spoke in public stood before the crowded church to tell the story of their life before Christ, how they were the gospel and how they came to trust Jesus as Savior. Indeed, every Christian ought to be able and willing to give a testimony of salvation. Paul was grateful that he had seen and heard the testimony of many of those in that church.

I think it is a good thing when occasionally a member of a local congregation is asked to give a salvation testimony. Not a testimony of all the sins they committed before they were saved, and not a testimony of how much they have done in the church through the years since salvation, but a testimony of how they came to know Christ and how they came to be gloriously saved. That is something we seldom hear in our churches today. Perhaps that is one reason we are not seeing as many people come to Christ in this generation.

C. He Appreciates their Anticipation

Paul also rejoices in the opening part of this letter to the Church at Corinth that the members there were anticipating the coming of Jesus for them. He points out that they are watching for the revelation (the return) of Jesus. This is something sorely missing in our modern churches today. We are so busy with our smart phones, Twitter accounts, smart tablets, social media and entertainment that we are far too much in love with this world to be truly interested in the world to come. Yes, some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good, but today we can say that many people who are so earthly minded that they are of little heavenly good.

So, Paul is thankful for this church, even though the church has many internal problems. We ought to consistently thank God for the Church – it was purchased by Christ through His blood and belongs to Him. It is never OUR church but rather is always HIS Church.

Note next …

II. Grateful for the Wealth in the Church

1 Corinthians 1:5-9

Now I’m not speaking here of the money that the members of the Church at Corinth had, or the money that was held in the treasury of the church, rather we need to see how Paul thanked God for the 'spiritual' wealth in the Church at Corinth. The greatest wealth a church can have is in the spiritual riches that God gives those who love Him and serve Him faithfully.

A. The Gifts They Had in the Spirit

Paul stated that the Church at Corinth came short in no gift. In other words, God had given the church members spiritual gifts, thus making them capable of doing all the work that God required of them. As a minister of the gospel now for more than 50 years, it has been my joy to pastor churches and speak in congregations that never fell short in regard to the gifts needed to do all that God required. How precious are my memories of those dear beleivers who worked, witnessed, taught, sang, went on mission trips, gave financially and did so many wonderful things as God had gifted them through the Holy Spirit. That is what Paul is doing in writing this portion of the letter - he is remembering the gifts of God's Spirit in God's people. We must never take for granted the gifts of God in the church and the people who avail themselves to the Spirit to do His Work.

It is amazing how God provides people to do all sorts of ministry in and through the local church. A church requires a lot of work and needs many different types of people in order to accomplish all the tasks God places before it. Yet, in every case, when a church is willing to do God’s will, God’s way, the Lord provides the people and the spiritual gifts required to carry on the work successfully.

Corinth was no exception, in fact they had an abundance of people to do God’s work through God’s power. Of course, this presented its own problems, since people competed to be first in the eyes of the congregation. This is a major problem in many churches, even to this day. Someone thinks that the presence of a gift makes him or her better than anyone else in the local church. Some lady or gentleman may feel more important because they are doing something no one else can or will do in the church. Every preacher has seen this among his members and it creates conflicts and makes the work of God so much more difficult to complete. In fact, at times preachers can be just as guilty as church members when it comes to pride. Someone once said of a preacher, "That man can strut while he is sitting down." Shameful? Yes. Whether in the pulpit or the pew, pride is a dangerous evil. The gifts we have are not because of how good we are, but are due to God's grace and His desire to complete the work in His Kingdom and His Church.

Even though some of the members at Corinth were filled with pride, Paul was still grateful for the gifts God had given His people. They had what they needed to do God’s work because the Lord provided it through His Holy Spirit. We have that in our church today, if only each of us would yield to God and use the gifts He supplies.

Note also that Paul was grateful for ...

B. The Message They Shared by Testimony

In verse 6 Paul refers to the testimony that was confirmed in them. What a wealth there is in a church when the people who claim to know Christ live out the message of Christ and thereby give a living and oral testimony of God's goodness and grace. Our lives in the community are a living testimony of that which the Lord has done and is doing in and through us. It is a wonderful thing when our testimony is confirmed by our living. That was not true of all the people at Corinth, as Paul revealed later in his words to this church, but it was true of many.

Sometimes you will hear a person speak of a Christian person saying, “If ever a person lived the true Christian life, she did.” What they are speaking of is a life that backs up a spoken testimony through a living demonstration. All of us are thankful for someone like that, and all of us ought to desire to live that kind of Christian life. Only One person was perfect, but surely all of us can seek to live more like Him.

Now, note that Paul was grateful for ...

C. The Grace they Received through Jesus

When Paul began his words of gratitude for the Church at Corinth, He wrote, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Jesus Christ…” In the end, that is what really matters about a church. Every true member of God’s family has entered by way of a new birth achieved through the grace of God in Christ. Grace is the unmerited love of God made available to us. No one deserves to be saved. No one can enact his or her own salvation. Every person who is part of the family of God has reached that state of salvation because of God's amazing grace. Unearned and undeserved, salvation is ours nonetheless because of God's love, kindness and grace. Salvation is the gift of God, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Some churches boast of their numbers, others of their pastor, and some of their music. I read about one church whose pastor had been very sick. The people had prayed faithfully for him and his health returned. The secretary, seeking to show gratitude to God for His healing power put a note in the bulletin - but her sentence of choice left much to be desired. She wrote; "God is good - Our Pastor is Better!" She did not mean to make it sound as if the church considered the pastor better that God, but some boasting by Christians can actually sound that way at times. In the end, the one thing for which every church must be thankful is the salvation we have through the grace of God in Christ. Where would we be without Him?


Paul meant every word he penned in the words we have read; however, he had some other things to say to this church. In verse 10 he begins by pleading with them in the name of Jesus to make some changes. Listen carefully, we are children of God, if indeed we have trusted Him as Lord and Savior, but there is not one of us who can boast that we are all God saved us to be and desires us to be.

Ty Cobb, of Georgia, was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. During his career he set over 90 records and was voted by the Sporting News at third among the top 100 baseball players to ever play in the major leagues. He played major league baseball for 24 years. He won 11 batting titles and batted over 400 three times. The multi-million-dollar players today often bat less than 300 for a season. Cobb stole 892 bases and stole home 54 times – a record that will likely never be equaled. He scored 2,246 runs and had over 4,000 hits. His batting average for a 24-year career was 366. Many of the greatest players in our day will never bat 366 for a single season in their entire career. Shortly after he retired from baseball, Cobb was interviewed on the radio about his career. He was asked if he missed baseball. Cobb replied, “No, not at all.” The interviewer was surprised and asked almost in shock, “Why don’t you miss it?” Cobb said, “I won the batting title my first year in the major leagues. After that, I was under pressure to do it again – every year.” Cobb went on to explain that he felt like he had been let out of jail when his career ended.

It would be wonderful if those of us who are saved were so intent on doing our very best that the Lord's coming for us would feel like being taken out of the prison of this world. What a life for Christ it would be, if we sacrificed and worked so diligently that leaving here to go home to the Lord would happen without us feeling any remorse or sadness at our call to meet Christ through death.

Dear friends, you and I are to live for Christ in this world and we were never told that this was meant to be easy. We are to work and pray, share and worship, fellowship with and love one another all the way to the end. We are to give and go for God. We ought to work so hard for Jesus, that when He comes for us we will feel like we’ve been removed from a sinful, cursed world - as if we have been let out of prison.

Now, a presssing question and I’m through - is God proud of me in my service to His Church? Is God proud of you? After all, it doesn’t matter what someone else says about us – it matters what God thinks of us and knows about us. So, let us recommit our lives to Him this very evening.

And, if by chance a person is here who has never turned from sin to trust the Lord who paid the price for your sin on the cross, now is the time for you to come to Him.