It was a pitiful collection of “Christians.” They hardly displayed any of the expected characteristics. Embarrassing immorality was tolerated, maybe even with a wink and a knowing smirk. See, you can come here and never change a thing. To call this a church seemed to be an insult to the Lord. They were a pretty ragged bunch.
Squabbling found a comfy home there. Criticism and division fragmented the congregation. Everybody was in somebody’s camp. They imagined themselves to be spiritual giants when they were in reality infants. Childish vision saw adults in the mirror. Gifts were sprinkled throughout their number, but they had never grown up. They only thought they had. Growth is always stunted for those who believe that they have already reached maturity.
We might rub elbows with such a group for a minute, but genuine Christians would never have fellowship with them. After all, they had sin and division right there in their midst, and that was just the beginning of the problems we would find in these babies. They could not possibly be a real church, at least, not a faithful one. The descriptive words of the Lord come unexpectedly.
“To the church of God which is at Corinth to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling…(1 Corinthians 1:1)” Huh? He claims this ragged collection of sinners as His church? And they are sanctified? That means “holy,” right? They hardly appear that way. Saints, you say? That’s what he called them. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to assess them very differently.
Yes, they were riddled with problems. The world had seeped in to stain the saints, but the Lord had not rejected them. The rest of the letter addresses their many issues, but they were not consigned to the trash heap because of them. Their history would make a politician blush, but our Lord is compassionate and forgiving. Jesus died to forgive us of our sins, even the worst of them, but that isn’t the whole story.
Jesus was once confronted with a situation in which a woman had been caught in adultery, and the penalty for that was death (Where was the man?) (John 8:1-11). That incident reveals not only the compassion and forgiveness of the Lord, but also His direct order: Stop sinning! The same was said in different words to the Corinthians (6:9-11). They had been cleaned up. Don’t go back to the mud.
We all have a history of sin. Some are bad. Others worse. A few are unspeakably horrible. None are unforgiveable. Faced with the prospects of killing the Christ, guilty Jews were told to repent and be baptized in the name of the one they had murdered (Acts 2:36-38). Jesus offers hope for everyone, even the worst of us.