Living Spirit

Living Spirit

The Holy Spirit and the Church: Living Spirit
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-22, 50-58

In our series looking at how the Holy Spirit worked through the Early church, we have come to the Church at Corinth. Despite living in a cosmopolitan city, the first century people of Corinth were finding the worship offered by the usual religions unsatisfying. It was in to this context that Paul established the church with talk of the Holy Spirit that can bring life! In our reading for this Sunday we explore how the Spirit can not only bring life now – but through the resurrection of Jesus, the life that the Spirit brings is eternal. We will also be sharing together in communion.


Before we get to our bible reading today … I just wanted to catch you up with what we are doing and to put the reading into come context.  In these weeks leading up to Pentecost we are looking at the Spirit and the Church.   Each week, we are asking two simple questions of the reading. 

  1. How did the Holy Spirit help the early church in …?  and
  2. What does this teach us about how the Holy Spirit can help us here at TUC?

Today and for the next few week we are particularly looking at the Early Church in Corinth (or the letter to the Corinthians).  Kevin gave you a short intro to Corinth last week that I just wanted to remind you of before we hear the reading:

I showed you this map before when we were looking at the church at Thessalonica … today we are staying in Greece but moving down to the bottom to the church at Corinth.  Corinth was built on this skinny strip of land – an isthmus – which connects the main land mass of Greece with the Peloponnese – a smaller bit underneath.  Corinth is build on isthmus between two large bays … meaning everyone trading north south via land and everyone trading east west by water had to come through Corinth – making it a very popular city. 

However, In 146BC, the Romans completely destroyed Corinth, but 100 years later, Julius Ceasar rebuilt and by the time of Paul it was a large teeming city, full of sailors, merchants, travellers and a whole bunch of transient people.  It was a described as the Los Vegas of the Mediterranean world A place of idolatry and immorality – what happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth.    Getting the picture?

And as Kevin talked about last week, it was also a place of religious diversity – with temples to the Greek and Roman God, a Jewish synagogue and interestingly a strong community which worship Ra and the ancient Egyptian Gods. 

But by the time Paul came through, there was a lot of disillusionment with the institutionalised religion at Corinth.  Their worship practices were flat and meaningless.  Their priests answer to the questions of life seem to be empty and unsatisfying.  People were looking for more. 

So it was into this place of spiritual disillusionment and hunger for real answers that Paul arrived.  Paul preached on how the Good News can transform lives; how the Holy Spirit can come and actually make a difference; and how Jesus can bring life, not just now but life after death. 

Let’s hear this passage of Paul’s from 1 Corinthians chapter 15

READING

Sermonette

What a great passage – lets unpack this a little … but remember the context.  Corinth is the Los Vegas of the Mediterranean – a place where anything goes and yet people were feeling empty and disillusioned and looking for answers … answers about life, about relationships and about death and what happens after death.

Most of the religions and temples in Corinth had some theory about life after death but there was no clarity and lots of disagreements … which was leading to people becoming disillusioned and apathetic.  Many were starting to think that maybe there is nothing after death … when you die, that’s it.  No more.  Nothing. 

Paul enters this debate and comes out swinging with three clear, distinct and transformational points.

Firstly, In verse 1 Paul says “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached… in which you have taken your stand.  I want to remind you of this gospel because by this gospel you are saved”.  And in simple, straight-to-the-point words … Paul lays out what is most critical, of first importance:

  • Christ died for our sins, he was buried
  • and raised on the third day
  • and appeared to Peter, the twelve and more than 500 other people. 

This is the truth that saves.  This is the truth that is transformational.  And if this is the truth … Paul says … then (leading into his second point) … how can you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  That there is nothing!

IF … Paul reasons … that there is no resurrection

THEN … Christ was not raised from the dead

ANDIF Christ was not raised from the dead

THEN my preaching is useless and so is our faith

… and we are still trapped in our sins

… and those who have died are lost

… and … and we are complete suckers for falling for this con.

BUT!  Paul loudly exclaims.

BUT! Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. 

(Remember the first point … the one of upmost importance).

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.

And if Christ has been raised from the dead

… then we too will be raised from the dead.

In Christ, we are all made alive.

But how can this be?  Paul leans into this third point (albeit using way to many words … but that is Paul).

How can this be?  It is a mystery. 

But what was perishable will raised imperishable.

What was mortal will be raised immortal

Long story short … death will be defeated; the chains of sin will be broken and we will live forever.

Wow – did you hear Paul’s answer?

I told you it was a great passage.

But it didn’t really answer our key two questions that we have been asking of each passage in the leadup to Pentecost?  Do you remember what they were?

  1. How did the Holy Spirit help the early church in Corinth? 
  2. And what does this teach us about how the Holy Spirit can help us here at TUC?

The passage didn’t even mention the Spirit. Well, it did, but just not directly.  Maybe, I can borrow three verses from another similar answer that Paul gave to the church in Rome to answer our two questions.

Reading from Romans 8:9-11

9 You are no longer ruled by the power of sin, but by the Spirit, who lives in you … 10 If Christ lives in you, you will live. Though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life. The Spirit does this because you have been made right with God.

Are you getting this… when we invite Jesus into our lives, we find life.  Not only are we made right with God … the Spirit comes to us and gives us life. 

But wait… you want more … Paul goes on in Romans 8

11 The Spirit of the God who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you. So, the God who raised Christ from the dead will also raise you from the dead. God will do this because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Let me be clear … the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will in the same way, raise us from the dead.  The same spirit that brought Jesus life will also bring us life … both now and eternally.

So… back to our questions… How did the Holy Spirit help the early church in Corinth? 

They were asking about what happens after we die.  Paul gave them a direct, simple answer.  If Jesus was raised from the dead then we too will be raised from the dead.

But … for the church in Corinth … they were looking for more than a reasoned answer.  They wanted to experience that answer … they wanted to break through their disillusionment and be transformed by that answer … and the Holy Spirit makes this answer transformative. 

It is of utmost importance that Jesus was raised from the dead because if the Spirit raised Jesus was raised from the dead, then the spirit will also raise us from the dead, AND if we invite Christ to live in us, if we have turned from our way and turn to the way of Jesus,  THEN the Holy Spirit who has the power to raise people from the dead LIVES IN YOU.

This is not just a good logical answer … it is real because if the spirit lives in you, then the spirit can / will bring you life … and this life is eternal.

That is why Paul says that death has lost is sting – that death no longer has power over us because this good news brings us hope … and the spirit brings us life.  And that changes everything.

What does this teach us about how the Holy Spirit can help us here at TUC?  If you are feeling a bit flat, or disillusioned – then open yourself up to the Spirit this morning because the spirit can bring you life.  If you are worried about death and what comes next … open yourself up to Jesus and the spirit because we can be confident that the same spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us as well.  The spirit brings life … both now and forever.  If you are not sure if you have Jesus in your life … then simply ask this morning.  Say – Jesus I want you in my life.  I want your spirit to work within me and transform life.

And if you do pray that prayer … tell me afterwards so that I can celebrate with you and support you.

So … would you life to experience more of that transforming life right now?  Let’s approach the table of the Lord.