Church: It's not a place it's a person!
1 Corinthians 1:1-31


Message Summary
This message begins a series entitled: “Stop going to church and start being the church!” In these four messages, Pastor Larry teaches the importance of a proper understanding of the concept of “Church.” The church is not a place, a building, an event, or an institution. The church is a person, a body, a lifestyle, a living spiritual organism. Unless we understand this concept, the church will never be an effective change agent in the world, but will be just another social club or group that gathers around common interest. This first message points out the fact that real church is not about a place, but about a person. Church is all about the person of Jesus Christ and what He did when He gave His life in order to establish the church, a people in a personal relationship with God through Christ. The Church at Corinth was in a place that was all about “the place!” The city of Corinth was world famous for being the “place to be!” Paul wanted to make it clear to the people of the Church of Corinth that they were to be different from the world. Their gatherings, their activities, and their reason for being, was not based on a place, but on the person of Jesus Christ!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Growing up, when you heard the word church, what was the first image that popped into your mind?

2. Early Christians didn’t have a physical church building to call their own. They originally met in the temple courts, and Jewish synagogues, but later had to find other arrangements. They met in homes, catacombs, by the riverside, or any place they could gather in order to worship, fellowship, study, and pray. How do you think their situation effected their concept of “church”?
1 Cor 1:1  Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
1 Cor 1:2  To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours:
1 Cor 1:3  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Just going to church won't bring grace into your life, or change the way you speak, or give you the wisdom of God! No, you have to become the church by becoming a part of the family of God through Christ! How does a person become a part of the family of God and establish a personal relationship with Jesus?
Rom 10:8  But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
Rom 10:9  That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rom 10:10  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Rom 10:11  As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Rom 10:12  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Rom 10:13  for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

4. It is the purpose of Northshore Church to see the One who gave His life for us exalted and the ones He gave His life for transformed! How does this purpose statement relate to the true meaning of Church?
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.


Full Sermon Notes

What words!
"I will kneel in the dust at the foot of the cross where mercy paid for me! Where the wrath I deserve it is gone, it is past! Your blood has hidden me!” And the first song today let's us know why we are here...

“In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light my strength my song This Cornerstone, this solid Ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm  What heights of love, what depths of peace. When fears are stilled when strivings cease! My Comforter my All in All Here in the love of Christ I stand, No power of hell no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand, till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!”

Church, it's not about a place, it's about a person and His name is Jesus. Let's pray...
Sweet Lord Jesus, You are indeed why we're here today. You are the reason we can sing. You are the One who has called us to gather together as the church. We don't go to church we are Your church! Teach us over the next four weeks what it means to be the church! I humbly ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit and to hide me behind the cross so people will see You and not the messenger. I praise You for allowing me the honor and blessing to be Your child and to serve Your Church!
In the attitude and Spirit with which our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, Amen!

Paul wrote a letter to the Church at Corinth. It is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9. We don't have that letter. Later some folks at the church wrote Paul with some questions. He wrote back and that letter we know as 1 Corinthians. You need to know a little background about Corinth!

Corinth was the commercial center of Greece and along with Athens was one of the most important cities during Roman times. According to historians, "Corinth was a teeming metropolis with a population of more than half a million people." Broadman Commentary Volume 10, page 287

Corinth's location geographically made it economically important. It was on the sea route between the west and the east. Or as historians put it, between the Occident and the Orient. It was on an isthmus, a small strip of land between two bodies of water, ten miles long and four miles wide. Smaller ships would be placed on a track and hauled across the land to avoid an otherwise dangerous 200 mile journey around Cape Malea. Larger ships would be unloaded and their cargo loaded on the other side to another ship. Corinth was at the bottom of a high ridge of land that rose more than 1800 feet above sea level. That ridge of land was called the Acrocorinth and at the top was the pagan temple of Aphrodite, at times with more than a thousand temple prostitutes, a sad reminder that human trafficking and the sex trade are nothing new. Pray for the people who are trapped in these tragic circumstances even today. Pray for those abused to be set free, and for the abusers to fall under the conviction of The Holy Spirit of God and to repent and turn from their wicked ways!

Okay, back to our history lesson. "At the center of the city was the marketplace or agora, surrounded by shops, basilicas, and monuments. The 'bema' (speaking platform) was located near the center of the agora." Isn't that interesting? It's almost like a church building. Places to fellowship, and then a speaking platform in the middle. Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaia and was the residence of the Roman proconsul. Let me read you a few more things about Corinth from Dr. Raymond Bryan Brown...
"Culturally, Corinth was the home of Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Jews, and Orientals. Naturally, persons of various races brought their cultural heritage with them to Corinth, including distinctive social customs and religious beliefs and practices…In a Roman colony such as Corinth, primary place had to be given to worship of the deified Caesars, the goddess Rome, who was a personification of the city, and the gods of the Roman State: Jupiter, Mars, and Venus. On the site of Corinth today stand seven columns of the temple of Apollo, which was built probably in the sixth century B.C." The Broadman Bible Commentary Volume 10 Pages 287-288.

Now what does this have to do with today's message? A lot! You see, Corinth was the place to be back in Paul's day. And you can see why it was all about the place; Pagan's had their temples, Socialites had their parties, politicians had their platform to speak and business people had their markets.

But in that place there was also a Jewish synagogue. It probably seemed to most people, just another religious place among many! However, there were, as Dr. Brown puts it, "some Gentiles, attracted by the lofty monotheism and ethics of the Jews, who attached themselves to the synagogue without becoming Jews." These gentiles were known as God-fearers." You must also remember, that early followers of Jesus, were mostly Jewish and still met in synagogues when they could. Paul's ministry in Corinth started in the synagogue, where he preached and taught. Some Jews and gentiles believed.

However, a dispute arose between Paul and the Jews, so he moved his ministry into the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile God-fearer. He remained in Corinth for a year and a half. When Paul wrote the Corinthian church he was probably living in Ephesus where he ministered for around three years after leaving Corinth.
This background information is vital if you are to understand the context of Paul's letter.
As we read Paul's opening words to the people he had grown to love and care about so much, the backdrop of this letter should help you see why Paul wanted the people to know, the church is so different from the world! The Church is not about a place, but a person! It's what makes the church unique!

Over the next four weeks, and culminating with our Northshorientation on Friday the 30th, I pray we will begin to see...
The church...
It's not a place, it's a person!
It's not a religion, it's a relationship!
It's not a building, it's a body!
It's not where you go, it's what you are!
It's not where you go, it's wherever you are!
It's not where you go, it's what you do!

Now I'm going to read the first chapter of Paul's letter, and help you to see why the church is not about a place, but about a person. 1 Corinthians 1:1-31...

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

Called: It's personal. God called Paul. God reached out to Paul. Paul, who was a persecutor of the church was to become an apostle, an emissary, an ambassador, a personal representative for God! You see God had forgiven Paul for his past, and had adopted Paul into the very family he had once tried to destroy! Paul discovered that true church is not about a religion, but a relationship. And he dedicated his life to helping others make the same discovery. In fact, Paul mentions Sosthenes, and calls him a brother. Why does he mention Sosthenes in his opening remarks? Because Sosthenes was one of the Jewish leaders who had discovered the hard way, that religion without a relationship with God becomes a monster.

It happened back when Paul was in Corinth...Acts 18:5-17 Remember, I told you an issue developed between Paul and the Jews… Here's the way it went down...

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.
6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.
8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard
him believed and were baptized.

(Evidently, it's at this point, Crispus leaves, or looses his job as synagogue ruler and Sosthenes, gets the dream job of his life, or so he thinks!) let's read on...

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.
10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.
13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”
14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you.
15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law —settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.”
16 So he had them ejected from the court.
17 Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Religion without a relationship with God, becomes a monster. This was evidently enough for Sosthenes to realize the truth of what Paul had been preaching and now you know why Paul calls him a brother and brings him up in his letter to the church at Corinth.

He's reminding them, true church is not a place, but a person.
Now back to Paul's letter...

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

Did you notice how quickly Paul defines the word church after he uses it?

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

It's not just our little group! It's true believers everywhere who make up the church. Those who are sanctified, that means those who have trusted Jesus, been forgiven, and embraced a personal relationship with Christ! Those who are called to be holy, set apart, different.

Holy, not self-righteous, but made righteous because of the sacrifice and precious blood of Jesus poured out on the Cross. All who call on the name of Jesus. That's personal! Call on His name and He'll become your Lord, your Savior, your best friend!

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Religion won't bring you grace or peace, but a personal relationship with God through Jesus will. By the way, Jesus is the greek name for the Hebrew name, Joshua, which in means Savior or Messiah! And Paul is about to share a little bit about the difference a relationship with God makes...

1 Corinthians 1:4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge —
6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.

Just going to church won't bring grace into your life, or change the way you speak, or give you the wisdom of God! No, you have to become the church by becoming a part of the family of God through Christ! And when you do, the resources are unlimited. Listen...

1 Corinthians 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through your faith in Jesus, God's provision and protection becomes a part of your life! Whatever you need to live your life as a member of God's family will be provided. And you won't have to worry about your salvation any more! Jesus takes care of that.  

You see we don't go to church to get saved, we are the church because we've been saved and we gather as the church to celebrate that salvation which came to us through a person, Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son, who Andrew, Jay, and Jeff so wonderfully spoke about the last 3 weeks!

And you can count on God to keep His promises. Why?

1 Corinthians 1:9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

That's good news! God is faithful! And what a privilege to have been called into fellowship with Jesus. That means we can talk to Him. Spend time with Him. Ask Him questions. Get Him to teach you. Ask Him to be your defender in life's trials and tribulations. He'll do it. Now, if church is not a place, but a person, then we should be united around that person. However, just because you have accepted God's grace, and forgiveness and have been called into fellowship with His son, doesn't mean you won't be tempted to sin, or to be prideful, or to pursue your own agenda! The church is made up of people and we have to constantly be reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus, the person church is all about! Paul has to remind the Corinthian church...

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ’”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.
16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Some of the saddest times in history is when the church forgets it's purpose and it's members start fighting amongst themselves. When church stops being about the person, Jesus Christ, and starts being about something else, or someone else, the church has lost sight of it's purpose.

Let me remind you of our Purpose statement. It's Biblical...

It is the purpose of Northshore Church to see the One who gave His life for us exalted and the ones He gave His life for transformed!

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

(Paul then brings in a little dose of reality to help the church of Corinth to find a little humility. It might be good for us as well...)

1 Corinthians 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Who could have imagined that through a tool of torture, the cross, Jesus would change the world, and change eternity? It didn't make since. Jesus seemed so helpless on that tree, but He was everything but helpless, He was defeating death and the grave and winning the battle of the ages!

1 Corinthians 1:28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are,
29 so that no one may boast before him.

Have you ever heard this?
The ground at the foot of the Cross is level! No one at the foot of the cross is above anyone else. No one is better than anyone else! No one is more loved than anyone else! All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved and will be given the right to become the children of God! Even the losers! The outcast! The wretches! The discouraged! The broken! The weak! The poor! But what about the wealthy, the successful, the winners, those who seem to be on top of the world? Those who are wise will realize wealth and success and being on top, can quickly change, and that money can't buy happiness or forgiveness or eternal life. And if the wealthy man or woman is willing to stand by the poor man at the foot of the cross and admit their need for a Savior, then yes, they too can become a child of God and like the poor man who no longer depends on getting rich to be happy, the rich man will discover true riches are not material!

Paul ends chapter one of his letter by reminding everyone that God is the One who has made our salvation and personal relationship with Him possible...

1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”