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The Sanhedrin was the high court in Jewish life and responsible for laying down judgements regarding religious law. In each town a local court would exist, consisting of 23 members, while in Jerusalem the High Court consisted of 71 members. Among the two groups who composed the court were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were largely comprised of the Jewish Aristocracy and priestly class, while the Pharisees were scribes and scholars from the non priestly line.
...When the first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Israelites were captive in Babylon, they shifted from worship in the temple ( since it was destroyed) to study of the law and meeting in town groups called a Synagogue. From this arose the Pharisees.
There were many theological differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Chief among these was the Pharisees acceptance of the oral traditions of the Jews as well as a belief in the resurrection of the dead and an afterlife for the soul. They also believed in the Writings ( Psalms, Proverbs ) as well as the prophets as divinely inspired.
The Sadducees however did not believe in a resurrection or an afterlife, and only accepted the first 5 books of the Jewish scriptures - the law of Moses.
Paul, once a member of this court when it judged Stephen, now stands accused in it. Paul himself had been a Pharisee and uses that to divide the members of the court against one another. Paul also speaks a word to the High Priest, saying God would strike him, that would later be fulfilled. When Jewish rebels rise up to overthrow Roman rule in AD 66, they will assassinate Ananias the High Priest for his corruption and collusion with Rome, thus fulfilling Paul’s word.
Despite being a court that was supposed to bring fairness and justice, the Sanhedrin will conspire to kill Paul, and the Romans will have to move him to escape the plot.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Jerusalem in Acts 22:30 ; 23:1-35
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=436

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Acts 21:27-40; 22:1-29

Paul has returned to Jerusalem and attends the Temple in order to fend off the false accusations that he discourages Jews from obeying the Law of Moses. Despite his attempts, he is apprehended and more false accusations come his way. Paul is accused of bringing non Jews into the Temple. There was an area of the temple courts for Gentiles to seek God, and an area for Jews. Part of the mystery of the Temple courts was a representation of the separati...on of humanity from God, and the nation of Israel as an intermediary. However, the nation of Israel often failed to see this role and instead saw themselves only as beneficiaries of God’s favor. Paul is falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the Jewish area. It is of note that at this time, as often now, fake news was easy to spread and easily believed by the masses who didn’t bother to seek facts before rushing to judgement. It is sad to note that the pagan Roman government showed more truth and fairness by seeking facts before judgement than the people of Jerusalem who should have been an example of godly fairness, but rather rushed to judgement on hearsay. The pagan Romans demonstrated more righteousness than the people who should have known God in this case.

Paul is spared being flogged because he was a Roman citizen. The city of Tarsus had sided with Augustus during the civil wars of Rome, and had thus been granted status as a “free city” meaning it was allowed self governance and no Roman military occupation, as well as tax exemption. Being born there granted Paul citizenship in Rome. Roman citizens were granted rights not enjoyed by others, including the right of a fair trial before punishment or judgement. A Roman citizen could not be beaten, and could not receive the death penalty except for treason. While citizenship could be gained by non citizens through large sums of money, or awarded for valiant deeds or long military service, Paul was born a citizen.

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This chapter lists Paul’s return journey to Jerusalem. The eye witness details found in scripture like this are testimony to its authenticity as it records places, travel times and distances that only people at this place and time would know.
Paul is warned several times by the Holy Spirit that he will be arrested in Jerusalem. While the various churches try to discourage Paul from going, Paul knows it is God’s will for him to go and face arrest, so he obeys. It seems the ...testimony of the Spirit concerning Paul’s arrest is meant to help the churches to not stumble or lose faith when the event happens. Paul’s arrest, while meant by the devil to stop him, will instead result in him standing before kings to testify about Christ. In addition, it will be from prison that Paul will write his letters that have continued to build the church up until this day. We see in Paul’s story the truth that what the enemy intends for evil, God turns to good. (Romans 8:28)
In Jerusalem Paul will face rumors that he is turning Jewish people away from the law of Moses. Paul shows this is not true. Paul has no problem with jews keeping the jewish traditions. Most Christians who were jewish still kept their jewish traditions. His point however is that those traditions are not a means of salvation. While they may remind and point people to God and their jewish history, salvation has been accomplished by the Messiah.
To the gentiles, Paul does not require them to follow any jewish customs. Rather we see him command them to keep the moral law of God that has been binding on humanity from the dawn of time, and the command God gave Noah to abstain from eating blood. Here we see that as the law that prophesied Messiah is fulfilled, salvation is by grace and the response to that salvation is to follow the moral commands of God, and not focus on traditions and rituals.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Jerusalem in Acts 21:1-26

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In this chapter we see Paul journeying back to Jerusalem and passing through several areas on the way. In it we learn several things about Paul. First is his concern for all the churches, as he goes to each of them to see how they are growing. Paul makes use of the little time he has to build and encourage each of groups of believers, even spending full nights teaching without sleep.
We see traveling with Paul many who he has discipled. Paul doesn’t just teach and go, but... rather invests in the lives of others until they grow to a place of maturity. He has raised up leaders to carry on the work after he leaves.
With Eutychus, we see the power of God at work in Paul, working signs and wonders.
At the end, Paul avoids going into Ephesus - partially to save time so he can be in Jerusalem before the feast of Pentecost, but perhaps also to avoid troubles that his presence might cause there. He warns the leaders that false teachers will arise, even from among their own midst, and to be on guard against them. Paul tells them that the Lord has shown him that he will not see them again. Even though Paul knows arrest faces him in Jerusalem, he will still follow the command of God, whatever that calling may lead to. Paul shows an attitude the same as Christ who said to God “not my will, but yours be done.”
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Jerusalem in Acts 20:1-38

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In these next chapters Paul discusses mutual servanthood and service in relationships, between husbands and wives, children and parents as well as those in authority and those under authority. The main value in all these relationships is serving one another in love and respect out of reverence for Christ, rather than seeking only our own good or benefit.
In chapter 6 Paul will remind the Ephesians that our true struggle is against spiritual powers of evil that seek to tear us down and pull us away from a life with God. He gives advice on how to fight that spiritual battle and to stand against the devil’s schemes.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Ephesus in Ephesians Ephesians 5:21-33 ; 6:1-24

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In these next chapters, Paul points out that in Christ we have been freed from sin and darkness, so he warns the Ephesians not to return to the old lifestyle of sin they once followed and were prisoner too.
Sometimes people think that receiving Jesus as savior means that because we are saved by grace, we can live however we choose, since God will forgive us. But this kind of cheap grace is not what Paul is preaching. God’s grace is received through true repentance. Having ...been set free by grace from the power of evil, Paul warns against returning again to those things that once held them captive. He gives a long list of sins and deeds of darkness that they should beware of and be careful to avoid. By grace God has called us into his Holiness, and we should not take it lightly, but rather seek to remain and grow in that relationship with him, by pursuing holiness in Christ. We do not pursue holiness as a work to earn salvation, but rather, in response to God’s calling and mercy, we walk in holiness as a part of our relationship with Him.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:17-32 ; 5:1-21

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In this chapter, Paul speaks about the fulfillment of prophecy in the Old Testament. Hints of God’s purpose had been spoken through the ages by the prophets, but now in Jesus, those prophecies had been fulfilled and the plan of God to redeem mankind was revealed. Israel as a nation had been the caretaker of the revelations from God, and the bloodline through whom the redeemer would come. Now that the Messiah had broken the devil’s hold over humanity, the message of God's ...redemption was to go to all the earth. Both Jews and Gentiles were now one people in Christ, as God sought out from all nations those who would respond to his calling.
Paul then prays for the Ephesians to grow into maturity in Christ, to be unified with one another, even if they had different backgrounds and cultures. The church is like a body with many parts, each with its own purpose from God. God has given many gifts to his people, that while different, work together for the common good.
His instructs them to avoid a mindset of being divided along racial and cultural lines, but rather to realize they are one people in Christ and members of His body.
He encourages the Ephesians to grow in holiness and purity and not be tossed about by false teachings or doctrines, but rather build each other up in truth.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Ephesus in Ephesians 3:1-21; 4:1-16

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Seven Strategies for healthy constructive criticism

1. Pray first and be led by God. Your good intentions don’t mean you are right. Don’t take being a critic lightly. Seek God’s help, clarity and direction as to if you should speak, and how. Use the right attitude and approach when you deliver your criticism.

2. Be Objective. Being objective means having opinions based on facts, and not influenced by personal feelings, assumptions, prejudices. Don’t be BAPER, don’t over...react.

3. Use facts, not gossip or hearsay. Don’t risk discouraging someone or destroying them because your criticism was wrong, not based in facts, or simply an an emotional overreaction.

4. Truth; not partial truth. A constructive critic cannot stack the truth in his favor to make a point and then ignore the inconvenient truths. Honesty demands that we concede where the facts are wrong. If you end up criticizing and find your criticism is baseless in light of the facts; in Humility admit your mistake and back off.

5. Based on love, to help not destroy. Constructive criticism values a person more than being right or being justified. It even values people more than the end goal because you don’t get to the end goal without people.

6. Seek to build people up. The constructive critic values people and wants to see them win. This cannot be faked. The person who you approach with your constructive criticism will know if you mean it or not. If they do not believe you value them, they will not receive your criticism. Authentically value people when you are delivering constructive criticism.
Constructive criticism is delivered like a sandwich. The first layer of our constructive criticism is where we validate and encourage the person and communicate that we believe in them. The middle layer of our constructive criticism, meat if you will, is where we address the problem. The final layer, the outer layer of bread is where we again validate, encourage and communicate our belief in the person.

7. The constructive critic points people to God. This can be done by simply saying: “I’m praying for you and I believe that God will help you.” Then sincerely pray for them.

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Paul’s first two chapters to the church in Ephesus cover several aspects about God and his plan toward humanity. The first thing Paul establishes is the omniscient (all knowing ) and omnipotent ( all powerful ) nature of God. From before the dawn of time He has known all that will be, and is able to ensure that his purpose and plan for humanity unfolds. From before creation he has known our name and destined us for relationship with him. In Christ God has now fulfilled all... his promises of redemption He spoke through the prophets.
Paul speaks of the Messiah as God’s rightful king on earth, whom God has seated at His right hand, above all things. Originally, God created mankind and placed them over his creation. When man chose sin, he became subject to death, and thus the world did as well. However, in the same way Adam brought sin to world, and allowed the devil to usurp him, so now Christ has brought righteousness back and restoration to the fallen race of man. The throne over the world has been reclaimed. Because we are in Christ, we too are seated with him - meaning God has in Christ restored mankind’s place over creation that was lost when Adam, the first man, fell into sin. As Christ is the head, we are the body. The authority the devil gained over mankind, and thus over the world, has now been broken, and man has been restored to the place God originally intended for him over creation.
Paul then speaks that now all nations and peoples become one as they come to Christ. God has broken down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, and the divisions between peoples as all are reunited in Him.
As we once were prisoners to death and darkness, and under sin’s authority, we are now citizens of God’s kingdom, with all the benefits of citizenship. As such, the kingdom of darkness no longer has authority in our lives. We have become the temple of God, a place where he dwells by His Spirit, and through whom God works in the world.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Ephesus in Ephesians 1:1-23, 2:1-22
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=434

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Ephesus was a major city on the coast of Ionia, in modern day Turkey. It was famous for the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world, and brought in a lot of money due to pilgrims visiting the temple and buying idols in her image.
Paul begins his ministry by praying for some believers to receive the Holy Spirit. They had only heard John the Baptist, but now on learning about Jesus, they were baptized in his name and filled with the Spirit. The book of Acts ...shows the infilling of the Spirit to be an experience often separate from water baptism, and that involved the manifestation of gifts of the spirit, such as in Acts 2.
Ephesus is a city involved in many occult activities. We see in this story some men attempt to use the name of Jesus to drive out a demon, without having a saving relationship with Jesus themselves. It doesn’t go well. The name of Jesus is not a magic charm to be manipulated, it is the authority of Christ working through his servants who follow him that accomplishes deliverance.
Seeing this many people in Ephesus burned their magic books and amulets and turned to Christ. The way of salvation is first through repentance. To follow Christ we must also abandon willful sin and evil. Only in this way is the devil’s hold broken from a person’s life.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Ephesus in Acts 19:1-41
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=434

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Paul speaks in this chapter about the Resurrection. Jewish beliefs had always held hope in the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age, during the reign of the Messiah. In John 11:25 Jesus calls himself “ the Resurrection and the Life” and that whoever believes in Him “shall live, even though he die.” Since the time of the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has been bound to death. But the promise of the Messiah was victory over death. In this victory, all who hope in... him will be resurrected at the end of the Age in bodily form.
Jesus is referred to as the “first fruits of the resurrection.” Among the Seven feast days of Israel, Yom habikkurim - the feast of First Fruits - was celebrated at the beginning of the harvest when the first fruits of the harvest were brought in. At the end of the harvest there would be Yom Teru’ah, the feast of Trumpets, where the harvesters brought in the last of the harvest and trumpets were blown to call the workers to stop working and come in from the fields to enter the temple. In verses 52-53, Paul refers to this trumpet when he says “we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed…..the perishable will clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
The feast days of Israel were given to them as prophetic signs of what God was going to do through the Messiah. Jesus rose from the grave on the jewish day of First Fruits. He himself is therefore the first of the resurrection. Now comes the time of the harvest, where the gospel is shared to the world, bringing in the harvest of souls to be saved. At the end of the harvest, when Christ returns, all who believe will be raised to life in Christ, even as Christ was raised.
While the greeks believed in the afterlife of the soul, the Hebrew teaching is a full resurrection of the body, transformed from mortal to immortal, of whom Jesus himself is the first. Paul demonstrates to the Corinthians that if Jesus is raised, then the promise of their own resurrection is also confirmed.
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Dig deeper into Paul's explanation about The Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=434

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The story of the Bible is the tragic story of the separation of mankind and God by sin - and the hope of restoration. In the beginning, God dwelt together with mankind. But when man chose to know evil, God could no longer dwell with him. Creation fell into death and decay, but God from the beginning made a promise, that one day he would restore fallen humanity.
When Jesus came, he came to fulfill all the promises of God given through the ages, and to give his own life to... pay for sin and bring healing and restoration between mankind and God. In Christ, the union and fellowship God once had with humanity can be had again, and God’s spirit, once separated, could now dwell with humanity again.
In the time of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit of God would anoint certain people for certain roles or tasks, such as kings and prophets. By the Spirit they were enabled to speak for God, or receive power to perform their role. However, the prophet Joel foretold a time when God’s spirit would indeed be poured out on all people and that salvation would be available to all who call on God. (Joel 2:28-32)
Now that this time had come, and the Spirit of the Lord had begun to be poured out, the gifts of the Spirit were at work in God’s people. In chapter 12 Paul begins to teach how these gifts work to help serve and build the church and to minister to the world. As Jesus was empowered by God’s Spirit, so now God’s people are empowered, and by His Spirit, God is at work in the world through His people.
Paul describes the members of God’s church as parts of one body. Each part of our human body has a different function, but all parts matter equally. In the same way, each of us have different gifts, service and talent in God’s community, but together we fulfill God’s work on earth as the Spirit moves in each person.
In Chapter 13 Paul writes one of the most well known chapters in scripture. In it he focuses on the greatest work of God in our life, which is not power or knowledge or even spiritual gifts, but rather love itself, the very character of God that he seeks to grow in us and that binds us together. While many gifts like faith, knowledge, healing and others have use in this life, when God’s kingdom comes, these things will no longer be needed. Love, however, will be that thing that will endure long into the ages, binding us together, and is itself the highest calling and pursuit we can have.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31;a 13:1-13
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=434

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In these chapters Paul is trying to help those who have newly come to know God and were still dealing with how to live in a Roman world. He is also instructing Christians on how to live around others who are still young in their faith. Specifically, these believers had come out from the Roman pagan religion, and as such had been accustomed to worshipping many gods and idols. Now, they were choosing to serve the One God.
Their issue arose with whether it was ok for them to buy... meat from the market. The reason is that in Roman times, much of the meat sold in the market would have first been offered up to a god before being sold. As such, many new believers feared that by eating it, they would be participating in the worship of those gods - since sacrifice and the eating of the meat of sacrifice was a part of pagan religious practice.
Paul instructs them that all the earth belongs to God, and that it’s ok to eat meat from a market. However, he also instructs the Christians that if something they are doing causes others who are young in the faith to misunderstand and fall back into sin, then it’s better to give up doing that thing, especially while around those people. Sometimes we are called to sacrifice a freedom or activity, even if its not wrong, simply to protect others who it might be a confusing issue for. The main principle is to walk in love toward others and not do anything that might cause them to stumble.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 8; 10
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=434

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In these next two chapters Paul elaborates on handling issues of immorality as well as conflicts and disputes. Paul points out that those who practice sexual immorality will not inherit the kingdom of God. While Christianity speaks grace and forgiveness toward the truly repentant, there is judgement stored up for those who persist in practicing sin. Paul exhorts the Corinthians that their bodies are vessels of God’s Spirit, and that they should honor God with their bodies....
Paul will then address the need for discipline within the church toward those who persist in sin, in order to hopefully correct and restore the person. Paul will also touch on the importance of resolving conflicts within the church in a way that honors God, and doesn’t cause His name to be slandered by unbelievers. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not seeming to have the ability to make mediation for even simple matters between one another, and their willingness to harm or sue one another publicly in order to receive what they felt was due them. As the people of God, our life choices should seek to imitate the character and holiness of Christ.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 6:1-20
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=433

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In this part of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul introduces the concept of maturity as a Christian. Maturity is not a matter of how long a person has been in the faith, but rather how like Christ in character they are becoming. He scolds the Corinthian church for boasting about human leaders, when in reality they already had Christ, who is much greater than any other leader they might boast about. By doing this, they are showing themselves “immature” by participating i...n pride and jealousy over worldly issues. Paul says that leaders are merely servants of God undertaking a duty, but it is God who actually brings growth in the life of believers. All people and leaders will eventually stand before God and their work will be judged by God alone, who sees the motivation of the heart.
Paul warns the Corinthians agains having pride in unimportant matters and allowing such pride to make them arrogant towards one another, instead of being united as one people in humility. Such things can tear down unity in the people of God. Since the people of God are the dwelling of God’s Spirit, they are his temple. Paul warns that tearing down God’s temple in order to build your own ego will meet with judgement by God himself.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:1-23, 4:1-21
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=433

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Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth was likely written between 53-54 AD while Paul was in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. Receiving reports of many problems occurring in the Corinthian church, as well as questions they had concerning theology, Paul pens this letter.
He opens the letter with a greeting from himself and “Sosthenes” who may be the same as found in Acts 18:17 who was the leader of the synagogue in Corinth, and was beaten by the jewish crowd...s there before the proconsul Gallio; apparently for his relationship to Paul.
In these first two chapters, Paul warns the people against forming divisions within the church. The people of Corinth held good speakers in high esteem, and the church was beginning to form groups that identified with their favorite speakers. Many were identifying themselves as “followers of Paul” or “followers of Apollos”, who was another prominent preacher. Paul warns them not to identify with a particular preacher, or to form groups based on such things, or divide themselves based on unimportant things, but rather to identify as “followers of Christ” and to be one people. They are exhorted to agree with one another and have unity.
The city of Corinth was a place that highly regarded the art of rhetoric and debate, and there would be competitions among people as to who was a better speaker or debater. Paul recognized that persuasiveness could be used to convince people of both truth or falsehood, and being a good speaker did not mean a person was also a good person, or correct in what they said. As such, Paul avoids getting involved in trying to compete as “ a great speaker” and rather points the church to focus less on the style of a speaker and more on the content of his message. He wants people to follow Christ based on the truth of His claims, not the persuasiveness of the speaker. He reminds them that his message did not come with earthly wisdom or style, but rather by the demonstration of God’s power among them.
The people of Corinth were often focused on style over substance, and drawn to entertainment and skill in speaking over content and truth. Paul exhorts them to focus on truth and substance over style, and to strive for unity.
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Dig deeper into Paul's story in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:1-31,2:1-16
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If you missed out on ICA sermon from last Sunday, you can download our podcast or listen to it online at http://icasby.com/sermons/?sermon_id=433

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