Calvary, Not Sinai: The (Basket) Case of Corinth and the Sufficiency of Christ’s Gospel for Every Situation.


So Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” – 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ESV

At the time of Paul’s writing, the ancient Corinthian church was a fellowship in crisis. Divisive hero worship among the people, the abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts, rampant sexual immorality, taking one another up on charges to the pagan authorities, and even lapses into outright idolatry provide just a sampling of how far the church had slipped in Paul’s absence. By all accounts, the Corinthians were in real trouble. And they stood guilty of each and every accusation. Were they divided into factions, each thinking their favorite teacher preached a superior Gospel? Yes! Did they abuse one another in the local court system? Yes! Did they practice rampant sexual immorality? Yes! Did they corrupt the Lord’s table into a feast for the rich while the poor went hungry? Absolutely. This fellowship was covered head to toe in the mire of scandal, abuse, and spiritual lethargy. The situation was so dire, that Paul wrote to exhort and correct the Corinthian fellowship.

How does an apostle of the Lord begin to unwind a twisted mess such as the Corinthian church? How do you correct a hopelessly erring church fellowship? Did Paul threaten hellfire and brimstone to fall on their heads? Did he question their salvation in the first place or urge them all to get saved anew? Did he prescribe a list of new laws to be followed under the penalty of spiritual death? Did Paul go to Mt. Sinai for fresh tablets of stone?  No. Paul did not bring so much as one new requirement or Gospel condition to bear against the Corinthians. He understood the true and saving Gospel of Christ has no need of alteration, no need for additional conditions. Christ had satisfied God’s wrath on behalf of His church, even the notorious Corinthian fellowship! Paul would deal with the Corinthians using the very message he delivered to them when the church was founded. He would once again tell the truth of Christ’s precious Gospel, the Power of God unto salvation! Paul went back to Mt. Calvary.

With all of the issues facing the Corinthians, Paul reminded them of the sufficiency of Christ and His Gospel work. He wrote, “let no one boast in men.” The true source of righteousness is not found among the fallen, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The righteousness from above, Christ’s righteousness imputed to His people, makes us “acceptable in the beloved,” giving us rock solid assurance that “we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” And it is in the face of such glorious truth that the many petty divisions and factions among God’s people are seen for what they really are: sinful distractions. Again and again, it is the Gospel that draws us back into right fellowship with God. It is the Gospel proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit which causes the stiff necked and rebellious believer to put away childish things and rest at the foot of Calvary.

Paul understood the Gospel to be much more than a mere entrance ticket into the kingdom of God. The Gospel makes the crooked paths straight. The Gospel rights all the wrongs, makes bright day from the utter darkness of night, turning away all wrath. It is the Gospel that makes the dead live anew. It is the Gospel that settles for all time the question of righteousness for God’s people! It is the Gospel that reminds God’s children of the great love He has for them, of the better way, of the clearer path, of a life to be lived in appreciation of God’s grace in Christ.

As the Corinthians divided among themselves into factions, Paul reminded them that Christ was not divided and that His work on Calvary brings His people together under His name alone. The Gospel calls for unity in truth and not division. As the Corinthians dabbled in sexual immorality, Paul reminded them that for these exact same sins, the wrath of God would soon be poured out on the world. Sexual sin is an affront to the physical body as well as to Christ Himself, who loved His church and died to save it. As Christians, they were washed, they were sanctified by the blood of Christ. And it is the Gospel which calls the church away from the pitfalls of sexual sin and toward godly sexual love in the context of loving marriage, the very imagery used of God to describe God’s relationship with the church!

Paul exhorts the Corinthians to put away childish things by following in the footsteps of He who knew no sin, yet became sin for us. Love is the better way. Who but Christ could teach so perfectly what it means to love? So then, as Paul so ably exhorted the Corinthians, “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”

How do you correct a hopelessly erring church fellowship? Not only is there no need to laden the people of God down with legalistic conditions and laws, it would be an implicit denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s Gospel work to do so! The Gospel of God’s Sovereign Grace in Christ is the all-sufficient message of the all sufficient work of the altogether lovely Savior, Christ the Lord. Nothing more is needed because “you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” And, praise God, it is the love of God in Christ that teaches us a better way. It is the love of Christ which motivates us to help not hurt our brothers and to see our utter helplessness and total need for His grace and mercy. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” And truly in their day as in ours, love is the better way!

Jason K. Boothe is Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit

4 thoughts on “Calvary, Not Sinai: The (Basket) Case of Corinth and the Sufficiency of Christ’s Gospel for Every Situation.

  1. William Rushton, A Defense of Particular Redemption

    If the people of God are united in the bond of truth, it is evident that nothing is so effectual to scatter them as the influence of erroneous doctrine, especially such as effects the righteousness of Christ which is the ground of their unity, concord and hope. Hence the zeal of the apostle against legal doctrines and false teachers. Hence the connection between unsound doctrines and divisions in the church. “Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them.” [Romans xvi. 17, 18.]

    The effect of a legal ministry is not only to produce divisions among the people of God, but also to exalt the preacher. The apostle abased himself, that the brethren might be exalted, 2 Cor. 11:7; but the false teachers exalted themselves, and brought the saints into bondage, 2 Cor. 11:20.
    Wherever the precious doctrines of grace are kept back in the public exposition of the word, there, though carnal professors may be pleased, the saints will be deprived of that rich provision which God hath laid up for them. The communion of saints will degenerate into formal worship. That this is the sad condition of many of Zion’s children in the present day is beyond a doubt. Many who sit under a legal ministry are in a lean and famishing state for want of the pure word of the Lord.


    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman… 24 These things are illustrations, or the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery—this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

    John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The Sinai covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants

    John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith.”. 10:26

  3. I Corinthians 10 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness.

    6 Now these things became examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did. 7 Don’t become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. 8 Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day 23,000 people fell dead. 9 Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes. 10 Nor should we complain as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.12 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall

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