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The Church Called Out of and Into Culture: 1 Cor. 1:1-9

We started a new sermon series this week: The Church & Culture—A Study of 1 Corinthians. This past Sunday we considered both how the church is called out of and called into culture simultaneously. 

The Question we are considering: How should the church relate to culture?

The Church Defined: (ekklesia): the “called out ones” of God, gathered together for the worship of God and the mission of God.

Culture Defined: the values held by the majority of people in a place, and the choices made on the basis of those values.

Corinth & Orange County:

The prevailing culture in Corinth was strikingly similar to the prevailing culture of Orange County:

  • Economically, Corinth was an extremely wealthy city.
  • Socially, Corinth was the Vanity Fair of the contemporary world.
  • Spiritually, Corinth was a very pluralistic place.

Sound familiar?

Five Ways Christians Interact with Culture

In his foundational book on this topic, Christ and Culture, Richard Niebuhr breaks down the way he has observed the church relating to culture throughout history in five categories:

  1. Christ Against Culture: a withdrawal model where we remove ourselves from the culture into the community of the church
  2. Christ Of Culture: an accommodating model that sees God at work in the midst of culture and looks for ways to affirm it
  3. Christ Above Culture: a amalgamation model that wants to supplement and build on the good in the culture with Christ
  4. Christ And Culture In Paradox: a two-cities model that sees Christians as citizens of two different realms, one sacred and one secular
  5. Christ Transforming Culture: a transformational model that wants to transform every part of culture with Christ

Throughout our study of 1 Corinthians, we’ll be advocating and aiming for the most balanced approach in all of these categories to the church’s engagement with culture. The Corinthian church did not have a very balanced approach. In fact, they took what we might call a sixth approach to culture—Christ consuming culture or Christ copying culture.

Maybe you feel like you could be one of the Corinthians?

Maybe you feel like you have taken a Christ consuming or Christ copying approach to culture—you’ve been influenced far too much by the prevailing culture, and you know it, and you’re seeing the effects of its osmosis in your life and in your relationship with God. If that’s you:

The Good News: Even though we are sinners in a sinful culture, Jesus calls us out of that culture, to that culture, and to the culture of heaven.

Jesus Calls Us Out of A Culture Corrupted By Sin

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)

The church of God (ekklesia): There is a group of gathered people in Corinth that are set apart from their culture and for God alone.

Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus: This reveals that we have become God’s people by God’s activity alone. 

Called to be saints: They were called to be God’s holy people. Called to live their lives in a new way because of the new identity they had been given because of Jesus. They were no longer considered sinners but saints. (The same is true for us today).  

Jesus Calls Us To Our Culture, Even Though Its Corrupted By Sin

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, ….. (1 Corinthians 1:1 ESV)

Apostle: one who is sent

Paul is called to be an apostle by the will of God. It is the will of God that we are sent back into a culture that is in need of Him. Paul is an example of the way God cares for every culture, as He sends Paul all over the known world.

Jesus Calls Us To The Culture of Heaven, Uncorrupted By Sin

….. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9 ESV)

Its incredible that Paul can express such confidence about a community who’s current behavior is anything but confidence-building.

But ….. its possible because Paul’s confidence is not in the Corinthians, BUT in Jesus, the One who will sustain them to the end.

Even though we struggle to not contribute to a culture corrupted by sin, and to contextualize the Gospel to a culture corrupted by sin, Jesus gives us the hope that one day we will contribute to a culture that is completely free from sin.

A Culture Uncorrupted by Sin

The Corinthians are like us. Even though they long for a culture that is uncorrupted by sin, they find themselves longing for too many things in their culture that are corrupted by sin. And what Paul is saying is that someday, their truest and deepest longings will be satisfied in heaven, a culture uncorrupted by sin. This is the hope we have to look forward to:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21:1-8 ESV