1 Corinthians 1:18-31 “Identity”

January 6, 2019 we heard from Guest Preacher Jon Lowery.


Last week Bryan asked us “are we people who are authentic?” he talked about the scars that exist in our lives- spiritual, emotional- basically our past…and how we must not try to hide those scars, but- in following Jesus- we minister from our scars because Christ has rescued us from them.  

I want you to ask yourself a similar question today, but with a little different perspective.  “What is your identity?”- what do you ground yourself in? and what do you display? For how are you to know if you are being authentic unless you know what it is that is actually true,?

BUT I want you to consider this question with this dichotomy:  are you in Christ? Or do you try to establish your identity in someone or something else, chiefly yourself? How does that demonstrate itself in your life? In the way you interact with others? 

Again…where is your identity. 

To help you consider this question, I am going to take you to 1st century Corinth, where Paul is dealing with the same type of issue in a fractured Corinthian church. The Corinthian believers had, among other problems, an identity problem.   

This isn’t a history lesson, but it is helpful to understand a few things on background about Corinth… 

  1. Corinth was a huge city, it was a rich city, and it was a morally corrupt city.  Corinth was a roman province, situated with a huge port which drew people from all corners of the globe to trade and interact and pursue pleasure in its streets, theaters, and pagan temples. 
  2. The predominant cultural influence was greek culture.  In Greek culture, wisdom and rhetoric were king.  These things permeated every aspect of fine greek culture- even theology.  Remember Paul in Athens (Acts17)- when Paul began preaching the gospel and the resurrection from the dead, it was the philosophers that actually took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus to explain himself. (17:21) “now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” 
  3. So just like Athens… this wisdom and rhetoric culture permeated Corinth.  Even to the point that at the Corinthian games (their version of the Olympics in Athens) had contests for debate and rhetoric. It wasn’t just physical feats, but impressive displays of logic and philosophy that drew crowds.  
    1. It wasn’t just the Olympics:  it was actually considered a full-time job in Corinth to debate things.  Like talking heads today.  If you were eloquent or a good speaker or your “new” argument was intricate and logically plausible, you were celebrated and you would gain followers.  Followers meant money…so the more you could attract, the better you presented yourself, the richer you were.  
    2. These followers weren’t just fans…they would identify themselves with speaker or “patron”.  “team …”  and by identifying themselves with the best philosophers and debators (sophists), they would actually increase their own stature in the community.
  4. Unfortunately, this culture and this practice of identification with a sophist Patron had infiltrated the church at Corinth.  The Corinthian believers began identifying themselves with those who had come to found the church- Paul, Apollos, Peter (Cephas)… and the issue was so deep that it was causing divisions in the church to the point that they were fighting over which “Patron” they identified with.  

Into this context Paul wrote them a letter…and the very first issue that he brings up is this patronage identity issue and its threat to the unity of the church.

1cor1:11-12 “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas” or “I follow Christ”  

Then he asks in v13 “Is Christ divided  was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” … these 3 rhetorical questions lead to the implication by design that THEIR IDENTITY IS IN CHRIST…AND ANY DEVIATION FROM THAT IS WRONG. 

Our text today is basically the first volley of Paul’s 4 chapter argument concerning why, as believers, your identity must be in Christ…and why any deviation outside of that is dangerous.  

So as we go through this today, I want you to keep that identity question in the back of your mind: – not just in words, but practically… “where is my identity?” and “do I display authenticity to that identity?” 


18 For the word of the cross is bfolly to cthose who are perishing, but to us dwho are being saved it is ethe power of God. 19 For it is written, 

f“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, 

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

20 gWhere is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? hHas not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach2 to save those who believe. 22 For iJews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ jcrucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ kthe power of God and lthe wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

26 For consider your calling, brothers: mnot many of you were wise according to worldly standards,3 not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But nGod chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; oGod chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even pthings that are not, to qbring to nothing things that are, 29 so rthat no human being4 might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him5 you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us swisdom from God, trighteousness and usanctification and vredemption, 31 so that, as it is written, w“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 

 “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God, the Power of God, and the Glory of God.”


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