1 Corinthians 16:1-24 – Collection and Exhortation

1 CORINTHIANS 16v1-24

Collection and Exhortation!

 

INTRODUCTION.

Chapter 15 is Paul’s wonderful discourse on the resurrection of Christ and its implications for those who are the people of God. Implications not only for the future eternal state in heaven – that there is the assurance of life after death BUT that there is hope and purpose to life in this present age.

 

The concluding verse of chapter 15 draws the implications of what the resurrection means for the Christian in the present age.

Therefore my dear friends, Stand firm.

Let nothing move you.

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,

because you know that you labour in the Lord is not in vain. [15v58]

 

If you are convinced that the resurrection is true then it must affect your life!  BUT if there are no eternal ramifications for what we believe then the motivation for serving God and holy living are gone. The trouble is that many Christians live as if there are no eternal ramifications to their faith. What does the fact of the resurrection do for your living.

 

It seems to me that countless Christians are content to do as little as possible in their service for God rather than as much as possible!  How can we be satisfied with the trivial, insignificant, short-lived things of this world?  How can we take it easy when so many around us are spiritually dead and when so many fellow believers need building up, encouragement and help of many kinds?

 

Paul’s exhortation is to “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord”. Have you? Have I?

But Gray you don’t understand my situation! My home life …. My work ….

Yes I do understand!! I am not talking about being at Church meeting every night of the week. Yes you have a responsibility to your family and to your job and you need time to relax and be refreshed, the Bible makes provision for that! The proper amount of recreartion and relaxation can restore our energy and increase our effectiveness BUT how easily these things become an end in themselves and sap our time and energy and distract us from wholeheartedly following God.

Even family responsibility can be used as an excuse – but that doesn’t mean you can’t give up a couple of evenings a week for Bible study, fellowship and reaching out to friends and neighbours!

 

God has given us time, abilities and gifts, and material goods – How are we using them in his work.

Behold, I am coming soon!

My reward is with me, and I

will give to everyone according

to what he has done [Rev.22v12]

Jesus is taking account of how we use what he has given us? Only what is done for him and his work is of any account!

 

Paul deals with some of these practical matters in chapter 16

 

1. SHARING OUR RESOURCES.

 

It seems a big change from talking about lofty doctrine of the resurrection to the very mundane task of collecting money for the needy. Theology should never be unrelated to living in the here and now. Whenever we are given a glimpse of heaven or the end times it is always with the purpose of helping us live more faithfully in the here and now.

For example Peter in 2 Peter 3v14 [cf.v11] after a full discription of the last days says:-

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this

[ie. Christ coming] make every effort to be found spotless,

blameless and at peace with him.

 

Jesus talked about the same thing when he spoke of storing up treasure in heaven while we are on this earth [Matt.6v20]

 

This collection that Paul is talking about was known about by the Church in Corinth and all the Galatian Churches who had been collecting funds to send to the Church in Jerusalem which was in great difficulty. Besides the persecution that the Jerusalem Church had suffered there had also been a famine which had meant that the Christians in Jerusalem were under great stress.

 

This passage not only teaches us something about giving but also about the interdependence and mutual accountability of local church to each others – not only those in your own village and town but also for those in other cultures and countries.

 

The early church was both international and interdependent. Paul mentions at least five Roman provinces in this chapter Galatia, Judaea, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. These are all very different areas of the Roman Empire – European and Eastern, Jew and Arab, Greek and Roman, rural and urban. Yet inspite of the differences between them they were united in Christ, one in purpose.

If we as Christians lose this multinational flavour of the church we not only become parochial but we miss out on so much the God wants to give us and teach us.

 

ILLUST: “Andrew Murray Consultation on Prayer for revival for mission sending” 1985. English, Afrikaans, Portugese, Zulu, Shona,….. Black, White, Asian,…  BUT a oneness and unity of purpose.

 

Communication within the Roman Empire was very good – roads and postal service – and the early Church used these to spread the good news and kept contact with each other.

 

These verses about the collection show that the Churches cared for each others and shared their resources.

 

When it comes to money – we don’t often like to talk about it – our financial affairs are our own business. Are they??? Why should we be willing to talk about spiritual commitment and not about financial commitment as if the two were divorced anyway. Money matters are not excluded from our Christian life. If Christ is Lord of your life then he is also Lord of your Bank account.

 

WHO SHOULD GIVE? – seems fairly straight forward! [v2 “each one of you”] God doesn’t say “Give only if you are well off” of “If you can afford it”

 

ILLUST: The widow who gave two pennies as opposed to the rich giving large amounts. Jesus said ” She has given more than them all because she has given everything she has”

 

 

HOW MUCH SHOULD WE GIVE?

Many go to the OT and say that we should give a tithe [10%]. In fact if you add up all the required tithes in the OT it comes to about 23% It was out of that portion that the Priest were supported and the nation was run – they really were more like taxes. And it is good and proper for citizen to pay taxes so that they nation can function. [ ie. Give to Caesar – obet the govt.] But there were also freewill offerings and special offerings -eg. for the building of the Tabernacle.

 

NT – no percentage is ever specified in the NT. The believer is required to give from the heart

Give and it will be given to you,

A good measure, pressed down,

shaken together and running over,

will be poured into your lap. [Luke6v38]

Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly

and whoever sows generously will also reap

generously [2 Corinthians 9v6]

 

This does not mean that we give in order to receive. There are some who teach “You give God $10 he will give you $100” That is not what the Bible teaches – you don’t give to get – Rather having received great blessing from God we give in response. Like the chorus says “Freely you have received, freely give!

 

So how much do I give?? v2 “set aside a sum inkeeping with your income” There is no set amount

ILLUST: A person who earns $1000 may be able to give $100 but a person who earns $2000 may be able to give $500

 

HOW AND WHEN SHOULD WE GIVE??

Paul told the Corinthians “every week”. May be it is easier monthly. In cash or cheque or Direct debit. That is not what is important BUT the principle is that we should give regularly and our give should be planned. It should be a habit and it should be part and parcel of our worship of God.

 

Our giving should not be based on periodic emotional appeals and feelings BUT on willing, grateful commitment of our possesions to the Lord, to his people and to his work.

That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have special appeals when there is a specific need – eg. the Burma Plan [loose change] for Bob Pearn. – But that should be extra and over and above our normal planned giving.

 

PERSONAL GIVING!!

The giving was for people – fellow Christians – we have a responsibility to our fellow Christians first. We must of course do good to all men [ the good Samaritan teaches us that] but

Doo good to all men …

esp. to those who are of the household of Faith [Gal 6v10]

 

ALSO those from the churches that had collected the money were sent to carry the gift personally and Paul was hoping to go as well. We are not only responsible to give money but also people – the sent some of their members.

 

ILLUST: When we were missionaries we were grateful for the funds we received BUT when people took the time to write and even visit that was of infinite value.

 

God’s work is not money – its PEOPLE to people – fellowship, encouragement, building each other up, caring.

 

The early Church not only shared it material resources but also its personnel resources. Timothy, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquilla, Paul, Peter…… were all involved in moving to from one church to another to build them up or to establish new churches.

 

It is not only the recipient that are blessed when we give but we are blessed as well.

Therefore when we are involved with other Churches locally, nationally and internationally we need to give but also to receive and to learn from them.

The Western Church I believe is guilty of being to patronizing and we need to learn to receive from other cultures. The centre of the Christian Faith is no longer in the Western world but in Africa, Asia and South America and those churches have a lot to teach us.

 

But finally when there is a giving and receiving among Christians and when we really care in practical, down to earth way it is a witness to the world that Christ does make a difference.

 

ILLUST: Listen to what an Athenian Statesman, Aristides, wrote about the christians in the 2nd century:

They walk in humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them and they love one another. They despise not the widow and they grieve not the orphan. He that has distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and they rejoice over him as if he were their brother. For they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh but after the Spirit and in God. But when one of the poor passes away from this world and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear of any of their number is in prison or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. And if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessity, they will fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with his necessary food.

 

Is that what the community in which we live thinks of us???

 

2. STRENGTHENING OUR RESOLVE.

 

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith,

be men [ people] of courage; be strong.

Do everything in love! [v.13-14]

I want to focus on this one verse as we draw our study of first Corinthians to a close. Paul has dealt with a large number of issues in the letter – he has praised them, rebuked them, criticised them instructed and encouraged them.

 

Chapters 1-3        quarrels in the names of leaders.

4&9      attitude towards Paul and his authority as an apostle.

6v1-11   lawsuits among members

7            Marriage relationships

8&10     Abuse of the weak by the “Know-alls”

11          Abuse of the “havenots” by the “haves” at the Lord’s supper

12&14   use and misuse of the gifts

13          love

15          Resurrection and the hereafter

 

The Corinthian Church had slipped up in many ways – the list we have just read is not very flattering. They had not been on their guard – been alert. They had drifted away from the teaching of the apostles – they had allowed their own opinions and prejudices to determine their thinking and behaviour rather that the word of God. They had allowed the philosophies of the day to have too much sway amongst them.

 

Satan hasn’t changed – he still tries to catch us off guard. And often we seem to go out of our way to make it easy for him. Paul encourages us to stand firm in the faith – “Well how?” – By knowing what we believe and putting it into practice.

But many Christians today are unsure of what they believe – other things have been allowed to crowd out our faith.

‘What difference does your faith make to your life?

Are you on your guard and standing firm in what you believe?

“How keen are you to study God’s Word?’

“How keen are you to tell friends and colleagues and family what Jesus means to you”

If the gospel makes no difference in your life then what is the point of being a Christian. If Sunday morning is the extend of your Christian life then Satan is happy because we have enough religion to appease our consciences but not enough to make any difference to our world.

 

BE STRONG, BE MEN OF COURAGE….

Be men – be adult – “Grown up” The Corinthians were acting very childishly with their squabbling and selfishness. “I follow Paul…. I follow Peter …   My gifts are better than yours …. I know more than you ….”  Paul says  – stop acting like children and grow up.

 

These kind of things usually develop in a church when they loose their vision. When we have nothing to focus on we tend to focus on self and that is when we become ineffective. Or we simply become passive Christians – allowing our families and our work and our home and our hobbies and past-times become all consuming and crowd God out of our lives so that he is confine to a back room where he won’t bother us any more.

 

We can’t be physically strong without self-disipline.

 

ILLUST: How does Linford Christie run 100m in under 10secs. By being a coac potato. Of course not. He has trained for years and CONTINUES to do so. It has taken discipline sacrifice and commitment.

 

Spiritual strength also comes from self-sacrifice, self-denial and self-disipline. Don’t you think there were times when Christie would rather have stayed in bed and not gone running in the rain – gone to the pub rather than to the track.  And he is doing it for a medal that will not last.

[1 Co.9v25] Everyone who competes in the games

exercises self-control in all things. They then do it

to receive a perishable wreath, but we an inperishable.

 

How committed are you to what you believe???

 

ILLUST: Martina Navratilova – at the height of her tennis career was asked “What made you so good?”  “Like the chicken or egg sandwich – chicken involved in the egg sandwich BUT committed to the chicken sandwich? I am committed to Tennis – it is my life?

 

Are you simply involved in your Faith or are you committed to it? God is never content with second best.

 

The supreme strength of our spiritual strength in Christ himself.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength [Phil.4v13]

That does mean that we passively sit waiting for the stength BUT we get on with it and find that God strengthen us in the process.

As we wait for the Lord and yaild our spirits to His Spirit we become “strengthen with power through His Spirit in our inner being” {Eph. 3v16}

 

Paul is not talking about a sterile, stiff-upper-lip, stoically kind of commitment to God. NO!! That is why it is balanced with v14 Let all that you do be done in love”

 

Love compliments and balances everything else. It is the beautiful softening principle. It keeps our firmness from become hardness and our strength from becoming domineering.

It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate.

It keeps our correct doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism.

It keeps our right living from becoming self-righteous smugness.

 

Peter in 1 Peter 4v8:-

Above all keep fervent in your love for one another

because love covers a multitude of sins.

Love like Spiritual strength comes from the Lord [1 John 4v7:-

Dear friends, let us love one another,

for love comes from God and everyone

whom loves is born of God and knows God.

 

Like the Corinthian Christians we have to learn to live between the “already” and the “not yet”. We have already recieved salvation BUT we are not yet perfect, we haven’t arrived. What we must not do is allow ourselves to excuse ourselves form obeying because we are not fully their.

 

The grace of God and the hope of his coming should spur us on to take to heart the words of this letter and to be watchful and to do all things in love.

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1 Corinthians 14:26-40 – How to behave at Congregational worship

How to behave at Congregational worship.

1 Corinthians 14v26-40.

Introduction.

 

In the first half of chapter 14 Paul has dealt with two Spiritual gifts viz. tongues and prophecy. [John B gave an excellent exposition of that text last Sunday] Paul argues for intelligibility and for the supremacy of prophecy over tongues. He is not saying that prophecy is good and tongues are bad but that prophecy is more beneficial because it is more intelligible.

 

V.26 “What then shall we say, brothers?”  – “What is the up-shot of all this?” or “Where do we go from here?

I think it would be fair to say that the Corinthians worship services were anything but dull. There was a tendency towards disorder if not chaos. Bordering on a free-for-all. But dull they were not.

 

Things had obviously got out of hand. Paul has already addressed this in ch.11 where he deals with the abuses at the communion – they were guilty of turning it into a drunken party. Here his concerns are similar; he is reminding them that their worship is not selfish or private – the focus of worship is not “me” but God and “me” is not the only one there. The whole body is what is important – not just the individual or a select few with certain gifts.

 

There seems little doubt that some of the Corinthian Christians exercised their gifts purely for self-development and display rather than for the good of the body – this is contrary to the law of love that Paul was at pains to point out in ch.13.

– he is not trying to stop their participation in the worship, this is clear from v26.

When you come together, everyone has a hymn or

a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue

or an interpretation. All of these must be done

 for the strengthening of the church. [v26]

He is encouraging participation.

He does not mean that everyone must have a hymn, word of instruction etc. but this is an example of what was practised in the churches. It seem that they all came to church expecting to participate and contribute.

 

What about us?? Do you come to church in passive mode? Like a sponge simply ready to receive! How do you prepare for coming to Sunday morning service? Have you spent time praying about our gathering this morning?

If I were to say that I believe God doesn’t want me to preach but for us to have a time of open sharing together would you have anything to share? What has God been teaching you in your private Bible study and devotions this week?

You expect the preacher to be prepared – what about you??

Think about our services – besides singing there isn’t much room for participation, is there?

But aren’t home Groups and meeting with and helping friends Body life? YES But Paul is talking here about when the Church gathers together.

 

Paul envisages that every member brings a distinctive contribution to the worshipping life of the church – not all at nor necessarily all in the same service.

The controlling factor is not personal enjoyment but mutual edification.

 

Having restated this principle of “for the common good” [12v7] Paul goes on to deal with :-           Principles governing speaking in tongues in congregational worship                                      [v27-28]

Principles governing prophetic speech in congregational worship

[v29-33]

Participation of women in congregational worship [v34-35]

Concluding remarks regarding spiritual gifts [v36-40]

 

1.Principles governing speaking in tongues in congregational worship [v27-28]

 

The guidelines for the use of tongues in public worship  are fairly straightforward.     – The number of speakers is limited to 2 or 3;

– They must speak in turn [not all at the same time]

– There must be an interpretation. This final principle is the over-riding one.

 

If no interpreter is present then the one who has the gift of tongues must keep silent. The implication of this verse [28] is that the person with the gift has control over whether or not to speak. He /she can choose to keep it private and silent even in public.

 

It is not an ecstatic, out of control phenomenon. It was exactly this kind of ecstatic, out of control speaking that was evident amongst pagan worshippers. It is this that Paul wants them to avoid so that outsiders will not be put off or misled by unintelligible speech.  Paul lifts Christian inspired speech out of the category of “ecstasy” as such – it is an entirely different thing to the pagan frenzy and mania that is out of control.

 

By saying this Paul is not degrading the gift of tongues nor is he forbidding its use – that is clear from v39 “do not forbid speaking in tongues”  But there must be order and control by the leaders and self-control by the speaker/s.

 

2. Principles governing prophetic speech in congregational worship [v29-33]

 

Read v29-33

 

Again as with tongues – 2 or 3.

Those who do speak are not infallible – their words need to be tested. Just because a person claims prophetic speech and speaks in an authoritative way does not put them above criticism.  The body of Christ needs to constantly be assessing what is being taught. The testing is done by means of comparison to scripture. In Paul’s day before the NT was completed it was compared to the teaching of the Apostles.

 

It is tempting to think that you can leave it to those who have teaching / prophetic gifts BUT that is a cop-out – Certainly those in leadership have a greater responsibility but that doesn’t let everyone else off the hook.  We need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17v11:-

 

… they received the message with great eagerness

and examined the scriptures every day to see

if what Paul said was true.

 

There must always be checks and balances so that no one person becomes the authority –

ILLUST: that is always dangerous and at its extreme can lead to the kind of events we have seen in Switzerland and Canada recently with the mass suicides and murders.

 

We therefore have a responsibility to assess the messages that we receive. Ask questions like:-

Does it glorify God?

Is it in accord with scripture?

Does it build up the body of Christ?

Does the speaker submit to the judgement of others?

Are the speakers demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in their own lives?

Is it spoken in love? …….

 

Any message through prophecy, teaching or tongues and interpretation must be put through the same test!!!

 

The purpose of prophecy, as with all the gifts, is not to elevate the person [speaker] but rather that everyone be instructed and encouraged.

Paul is not addressing just the prophets as if they were an elite group – his concern throughout this whole passage [ indeed the whole letter]  is for all the church.

 

In fact he says in v31 that they can all prophesy – the all is emphatic in this verse “ALL may prophesy so that ALL may be instructed and ALL may be encouraged”

 

The ALL does not mean that everyone has this gift but the implication is that it is potentially available to everyone.  Not restricted to an elite, super-spiritual class of Christian.

Having a message to share with the Church is not dependent on intellectual ability or oratory.

 

ILLUST: Andrew Murray a DRC Dominee in the Cape – his father had prayed for 40 years for an out pouring of God’s Spirit – it began through a coloured servant girl – initially Murray tried to stop it until one of the elders pointed out that maybe this is what they had been praying for – and it was!!

 

We have no right to dictate how we think God should work! He will never go against His Word but we must remember that our understanding of His Word in always limited!!

 

God may sometimes work in strange ways but never contrary to his character. And God is a God of order and not chaos.

Does that mean he will he will follow our patterns of worship?? NO!!  God is not bound by Western Conservative Evangelicalism.

 

ILLUST:  Go to Africa or Asia or South America – the style of worship and their Church practice is very different and we might think it chaotic but there is control by the leaders. Often more that in our individualistic western society. There is an order in their worship but also a spontaneity.

Are we possibly guilty of being too structured and ordered leaving no room for spontaneity – I don’t mean out-of-control emotional frenzy, that seems to have been the problem in Corinth. But maybe more opportunity for sharing and participation in worship.

 

BUT again Paul does reinforce self-control and order – A person prophesying in the Corinthian Church could not plead as some were doing, that they MUST continue speaking because the Spirit compels them to do so, IF there is a reason for them to be silent then they can be silent.

 

“The spirits of the prophets are subject

to the control of the prophets”

 

There is no excuse for disorderly, hysterical behaviour within the Church.

– it is a bad witness to outsiders.

– it doesn’t edify the body .

– it does not reflect the character of God which the Church should do.

 

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace [v33a]

3. Participation of women in congregational worship [v33b-35]

 

Read v33b-35

 

These are very difficult verses to interpret and we must, as with all texts, interpret them in the context of all scripture. This is always true but esp. so with texts like this.

 

THE BIBLE’S TEACHING ON MALE AND FEMALE

 

M and F are created in God’s image  }

God created male & female – different        }  Gen.1v26-28

given joined responsibility for the earth}

 

Man was created before woman and given the position of Headship [come to in a moment] but they are equal and complimentary. When sin entered through their disobedience that changed “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” Loving headship became domination and loving submission became reluctant, even rebellious subjection.

 

Paul has already talked about the distinctive roles of male and female in ch. 11 Male headship is not because Male is superior but because in the creation order that is how God ordained it to be. While there is a distinctiveness there is also an equality and a mutual dependence upon each other.

 

Whenever Paul writes about the roles of male and female it is always against the background of the creation order. [Eph. 5; 1 Co.11; 1 Tim.2]

 

So what about the role of women in the Church?

There were many prominent women in OT & NT.

It is clear from 1 Co.11 that women can pray and prophesy in Church and in I Co. 12 that ALL  [incl. women] receive spiritual gifts, including the gift of teaching.

In 14v26 ‘Everyone’  includes women participate and contribute in the meeting together.

 

1 Peter 2v9 talks about the priesthood of all believers – Are women part of the ALL? of course!!!

Eph. 4v12 – equipping the saints for works of service – ministry. [incl. women] – we are ALL ministers.

Eph. 5v12 wives submitting to husbands is in the context of submitting to one another – sense being “understand and support”

Husband as Head is to love as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her

 

SO > there is a creation order – male headship – not domineering but responsible, caring and cherishing.

there is equality but distinctiveness

the gifts are for all.

 

So what does Paul mean in these verses? Is he contradicting what he said in ch.11 that women could pray and prophesy? That is highly unlikely!! And in ch. 12 they can have the gift of teaching.

 

There were many problems in the Corinthian Church as we have seen and it is highly probable that Paul is addressing a particular situation in the Corinthian Church.

In secular assemblies at that time women were forbidden to speak – but in the Church they were allowed to do so – Paul, far from being a Male Chauvinist, did far more for the freedom of women that any other NT writers. In both Greek and Jewish culture women were greatly oppressed. It is possible that some of the women were abusing their new found freedom and speaking unnecessarily and out of turn – this is a possible explanation!!

 

Also these verses come immediately after his instruction about weighing / testing the prophecies given and so it is also possible that the public testing should be the responsibility of the leadership which was male. This does not mean that women can’t have an opinion but in the testing of prophecy they are not to do that in public – this is a possibility.

 

Whatever the particular problem was in Corinth there seems to have been a lack of discipline among some of the women which was causing confusion and disorder in the worship of the church. And on this issue Paul wants them to keep quiet. It is not a blanket command but one for particular circumstances.

 

Women have a vital role to play in the life of the Church and are recipients of all the spiritual gifts to be exercised in an orderly way [ as are the men]  And the leaders [elders] who are men exercising their God given role of headship are to keep order and control of the exercise of the gifts by both men and women. That is one of the reason why we have Elders here at Binscombe.

 

4. Concluding remarks regarding spiritual gifts [v36-40]

 

Paul now ends this section [ch12-14] with some general remarks about spiritual gifts. One of the problems in Corinth was their claim to be “super-spiritual”  and Paul is pointing out that true spirituality is not arrogant or self-assertive but it accepts the authority of those set over them in the Lord.

The Corinthians had a tendency to think they were right and everyone else was wrong – that is why is always healthy to have contact and fellowship with other Christians and other Church so that we do not become isolationist and exclusive.

 

READ v40 Paul seems to be taking the gift the Corinthians desired [tongues] and the one he favoured  [prophesy] and saying desire and don’t hinder – all gifts are God given and are useful for the building up of the body of Christ. Don’t elevate one gifts to the exclusion of another – don’t forbid the use of any gift – all are useful and God-given.

 

Some in our days consign miracles and “spectacular gifts” to a past age and explain them away. Others focus SO on the “spectacular gifts” that they exclude the so called ordinary manifestations of God’s grace for everyday Christian living.

We need to accept that God is sovereign and transcendent and that He is always at work.

God transcends our world , the Church, our minds and our experience – we should expect him to manifest himself according to his own nature and NOT in terms of our finite limitations.

 

We can’t put God in a box and expect him to always act in accordance with our understanding. We need to focus our attention on the ascended Lord Jesus Christ who longs to see his Church  grow in maturity in regard to the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. We should have the expectation that there is always more to know and more to share.

 

We want God to work with us – We don’t want to mimick what is happening in other Churches – we don’t want to be childishly gullible chasing every new teaching and experience BUT we also don’t want to be guilty of skeptical rationalism, unwilling to move or be moved thus resisting the movement of God’s Spirit.

 

The Corinthians concentrated too much on the dramatic gifts and Paul rebuked them for disorder, division and heresy.

Let us not be guilty of over reaction by boxing God in – a God who transcends our puny, finite minds and often works in ways we least expect  and sometimes find difficult to understand and accept.

 

We believe in the supreme miracles of salvation – the same sovereign God who saved us is the one who wants to continue his work in us  – individually and corporately.

 

” Lord work in us according to you sovereign will. Change us, use us, give to us everything we need to live holy and godly lives, using our gifts to the good of others and for the glory of your great name. Amen.”

1 Corinthians 13 – Love: The best and only way

LOVE: THE BEST AND ONLY WAY.

1 Corinthians 13

 

Introduction.

 

This chapter is one of the most well known passages in the Bible – it is often read on special occassions, esp. at weddings. And simply read on its own it is a wonderful passage of scriptures BUT we must remember the context in which it appears. Ch.s 12 – 14 are all about Spiritual Things [Gifts]. Coming where it does between chs 12 and 14 Paul is saying to the Corinthian Church that no matter how dramatic and wonderful their spiritual gifts are, if love is missing then their gifts are useless.

 

F.F. Bruce “the most lavish exercise of Spiritual gifts cannot compensate for lack of love”

 

A difficulty we have is that we tend to read our present day meaning of love back into the text whereas we need to consider what the Bible considers to be love. In English we have one word “LOVE” in Greek there are a number and the one used here has become well known in Christian circles “agaph” – this word was not in common use but the NT writers adopted it to talk of God’s love and gave it a new content.

 

A love that is above all human ideas and expressions of love. It is a love for those who are unworthy. It is a love that comes from the nature of the lover and is in no way given because of ant merit in the one loved. It is the kind of love that is characterise by God sending his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

 

So for Paul Love is not simply a motivating factor for behaviour; it is behaviour. Love is action.

“God demonstrated his love towards us …” anything short of action is not love.

Paul is not trying to set love over against the gifts. They are in a different category – he is not saying “Gifts are good but love is better” BUT love is the way in which the gifts are to function.

 

SO       Love is essential

Love is eveything

Love is enduring

 

1. LOVE IS ESSENTIAL [1-3]

 

For the Corinthians what was important was “tongues, wisdom and knowledge” and Pride. We have seen from earlier parts of the letter that wisdom and knowledge were important to them and  we will see in Ch. 14 Paul dealing with tongues.

 

With out details tongues briefly. Seem clear from this reference and Ch. 14 that Paul believed in and probably himself practiced speaking in tongues a kind of estatic utterance or angelic language distinct from human languages which is also referred to in the NT.

There is evidence from Jewish writings that the Jews believe the angels spoke a heavenly language [dialect] A kind of estatic spiritual language – possibly what is referred to in 14v2 ‘speak mysteries by the Spirit”

Such an understanding of tongues would be consistent with the Corinthians over emphasis on the super spiritual. Remember in ch.7&11 their rejection of sexual life and sexual roles, their over emphasis on wisdom and knowledge. They considered themselves as “having already arrived”. Thus speaking with the tongues of angels would be consistent with their “having arrived” spiritual state. This would explain the high value they placed on this gift.

 

There are some today who place equally high value on this gift and coerce others to speak in tongues considering those who haven’t “second class” Christians. This Paul takes issue with. Corrects this imbalance in ch.14. BUT Paul is not denying that tongues is a spiritual gift but is trying to correct its misuse.

Those today who hold that tongues [and prophecy] no longer exist today use verse 8 to substantiate their argument:

.. where there are prophecies, they will cease;

where there are tongues they will be stilled;

where their is knowledge it will pass away.

 

I don’t believe this verse can be used in such a way because in the context he is talking about the end of time when we will see Christ “face to face” [v12] that has not yet happened. Also the verse says knowledge will also cease [ special knowledge into revealed mysteries – gospel] and no one suggests that that has ceased and Paul place them all together – tongues, prophecy and knowledge.

 

Paul’s point here is that these gifts or any spiritual gifts are not the hallmark of  spirituality LOVE is.

 

ILLUST: The Greek mystery gods / goddesses were very popular is Corinth – Dionysus [god of nature] and Cybele [ goddess of wild animals]. The streets of Corinth would have sounded with the noisy gongs and clashing cymbal of the worshippers to these gods – rituals involved orgies, tearing animals to pieces and possibly even human sacrifice. The gongs and cymbals were used to invoke the gods or drive away demons or insight the worshippers. The clash and bag were neither melodious nor capable of producing harmony. A heavy beat that caused as much offence and the neighbours heavy metal msuic with its incessant beat or the constant barking of a dog.

 

Those who used the gift of tongues without the motive of love are equally offensive and it doesn’t matter if it is human languages or angelic tongues – if there is no love it is unattractive and insensitive. The same is true of knowledge [pride] wisdom, prophecy and faith. Even if you say to this mountain “jump” and it jumps – that proves nothing.

 

These gifts might impress people – I might get applauded and admired, I might even be successful – but as far as God is concerned I am nothing if love is absent. Without love I am like the hollow sound of the gong.

When gifts produce pride and selfishness they are ineffective. The evidence of a Christians spirituality is not “gifts of the Spirit” but “Fruit of the Spirit” {love, joy, peace, patience…. etc}

“By their fruit you will know them …. ” “if we adide in Christ we will bear much fruit..”[John 15]

 

If there is not love then says Paul there is nothing of any real value in my ministry. Even if I go to the extrent of giving away everything I have even my own life – even then if I have no love I gain nothing. Is there no value in this? Well it might benefit the recipients of my possessions but will be no benefit to the giver whatsoever!! If the motive is not love and the interests of others then the effort is in vain.

 

Without love it pretty well misses the point of being a Christian in the first place.

Juan Carlos Ortis “Love is the oxyfen of the kingdom”

Stephen Olford “Love is the binding power which holds the body of the Christian Church together.”

 

2. LOVE IS EVERYTHING [4-7].

 

Paul now gives a long, but no exhaustive list of what love is

READ v4-7 from “The Message”

 

1) PATIENT AND KIND – two sides of love – passive and active. KJV “long suffering”

Is that how you always respond to others – are you prepared to wait and give time considering their needs and that they are different.

How patient are you with your children, your spouse, your colleague, your fellow Christian.

Paul ‘s view of God is shown in these words. God’s patience is shown by his holding back, long suffering with human rebellion. His Kindness is shown by the 1000’s of expression of his grace and mercy.

Are you and I impatient or do we replace our impatience with acts of kindness.

 

FEE “It is although Paul were saying “You must have love: without it you are simply not behaving as Christians. And what is love? It is to behave in ways opposite to yourselves!”

 

2) .. DOES NOT ENVY. – envy is a very powerful feeling. It is the cause of much strife and even murder.

ILLUST: Cain’s murder of Abel was prompted by envy and jealousy. Joseph sold by his brothers.

 

The Corinthians were guilty of this! A spirit of rivalry was very prevalent – “I am of Paul; I am of Apollos….” Love does not allow rivalry or competition. Love asks “How best can I serve others for the common good of the body, whatever my own desires?

 

3) .. DOES NOT BOAST – [Lit. behave like a braggart or windbag] Jealousy / envy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging wants to make others jealous of what we have. When we are jealous we want to put others down. Boasting wants to build self up!

The Corinthian were constantly vying for attention – they were spiritual show-offs. That is why they all wanted the showy gifts! Boasting always must put self first BUT it is impossible to LOVE and boast at the same time.

Jesus Had everything to boast about but never did. We who have nothing to boast about are prone to do just that. Isn’t it irratating when some blows their own trumpet? Funny though that we can always see it in others but not in ourselves.

 

4) ..IS NOT PROUD. –  to be puffed up. The Corinthian were good at this after all they were the “Having already arrived ones”.

We see it they why people arrogantly strut about. Characterised by a superior attitude and snobbery. Looking down the nose at someone else.

ILLUST: [an incident in the life of Wm. Carey – missionary to India – translated parts of the Bible into 34 differnt languages – was a cobbler in early life – from a poor home]At a dinner party one night was asked by a snob, “I understand Mr. Carey that you once worked as a shoe maker?”

“Oh no your lordship” Carey replied “I was not a shoemaker, only a shoe repairer!”

 

5) .. IS NOT RUDE. – does not behave shamefully or disgracefully. Crude and overbearing. The Corinthians acted abominably at the Lord’s table turning it into a drunken orgy. Christian love cares too much to treat the rest of the body like that.

Are there those we ignore or cut short  – do we turn people off the gospel because of our self-righteous rudeness. If the gospel is going to cause offend let it be the cross not our insensitive rudeness.

 

6)  .. IS NOT SELF SEEKING

 

ILLUST: {Mac Arthur – p345}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7) ..IS NOT EASILY ANGERED.

A further expression of long-suffering and patience.

ILLUST: Telling our spouses that we love them is no good if we are continually angry and upset at what they do and say. Telling or children we love them will not be convincing if we are constantly yelling at tham for irritating us and upsetting our plans.

 

Being in a huff because things in the church are as we would like them is hardly the kind of attitude that will build up the body of Christ and be for the common good.

 

8) .. KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS.  – resentment is careful to kep accounts which it reads and re-reads “forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who tresspass against us” God removes our sin forever. Are you holding a grudge against a fellow Christian. It will make you bitter and unloving.

 

READ V6 –

v6 addresses our attitude to wickedness and evil – there is a perverse streak in human nature that enjoys wickedness and sin. Why is the Tabloid press so popular – it thrives on scandal – it loves gossip. Do we – “I just want to share this with you so you can pray about it.” It is so subtle.

Before we talk about others to someone, ask “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind [for their benefit]

 

READ v7 – Protects and perserves = present. Trusts and hopes = future.

Best summed up by NEB ” there is nothing love cannot face”.

Paul is not saying that love is blind but that because of it source and future hope it has a tenacity in the present no matter what the circumstances.

 

Paul really has encaptulated the life of Jesus – the prime example of love – love personified.

FEE suggests that we should re-read this puting our own nams in the place of LOVE  and then afterward allow time of repentence and forgiveness when we see how far short we really fall .

 

3. LOVE IS ENDURING. [8-13]

 

In case we think that Paul has lost sight of the fact that he is dealing with “GIFTS” he brings  his argument back to show that over agianst the gifts of the Spirit which belong to this age, love is permanent.

 

“Love never fails” – lit. never folds under pressure – it doesn’t collapse and fall down.

He mentions the 3 gifts at the top of their list – rather 2, tongues and knowledge; prophecy he will argue in ch. 14 is more important.

 

He shows that these gifts will become irrelavant  in the perfection of eternity. He doesn’t mean that the gifts are incomplete but that they are only for NOW.  The gifts are partial because the are not permanent. One day they will pass away.

We must not think that CHILD = new Christian and ADULT {MAN} = mature Christian.

Rather CHILD = this present age and MAN = Age to come  – perfection when we will see Jesus.

 

The analogy becomes clearer when we consider the mirror illustration. A modern equivalent would be a photograph. It is not that we now have a distorted view of Christ through the Spirit but we have an indirect view, not complete. What we have is true and good but incomplete.

 

Gifts have an end point, love does not; love is enduring. It is not  that the gift are imperfect, although in a sense they are because we are  but the point is that they are relative and therefore we need to no be preoccupied with them but with what is eternal viz. Faith, hope and love.

 

Faith the we trust God to forgive us through Christ.

Hope for the future, a hope that is not conditioned by the present with it hardships and suffering. A hope that can say “I am on my way home destined to live in the presence of God  – face to face

Love – love for each other as we live out this life of Faith and Hope in the context of community in the body of Christ with our fellow believers who have the same faith and hope.

Love is not like the gifts because iy is for now and for eternity. The gifts are only for the present BUT LOVE never comes to an end!!!

 

Paul is not holding out a choice between gifts OR love. He was correcting the Corinthians misuse of gifts. We can not use this passage to support the cessation of some of the gifts. How would Paul have written to Binscombe Church. Would he commend us for our orthodoxy? Would he be satisfied with of love for each other? Would he criticize our complacency or lack of commitment? Would he tell us our love is too academic and not practical enough?

 

What is you experience of God’s love? of your fellow believers love? of your love for others?

Without love we are nothing!! Only love endures!!!

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 – One body, many parts: Many parts, one body

1 Corinthians 12v12-31

 

One body, many parts: Many parts, one body.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

In the previous section [v1-12] we see Paul dealing with the supremacy of Christ and his sovereignty in giving gifts to his children. The primary function of the Holy Spirit is to gloryify Christ and the gifts are given primarily for that purpose and NOT so that we, the reciptients of those gifts, can boast.

The gifts that are given to individuals are sovereignly given by God for the good of ALL.

 

The issues that Paul is about to deal with he has already touched on in 10v17 “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf”.

The heading in the NIV tells us what is coming. “One body, many parts.”

 

1. ONENESS THROUGH ONE SPIRIT [Unity through diversity] [v12-13]

 

The oneness or unity of the body is mentioned 3 times in these two verses. By v 27 Paul has used the word “BODY”16 times.

 

The human body is the most amazing of God’s creations. It is amazingly complex yet has an unparalleled harmony and unity. You cannot sub-divided the body into several bodies – any part that is cut off ceases to function and dies.

 

ILLUST: From “Fearfully and wonderfully made” – by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. The DNA [the main constituent of the chromosomes of all organisms – in computer language the microchips of the body – it is the language of the body – there are 3000 million sequences.] DNA is microscopic.  “The DNA is narrow and compacted that all the genes in all my body’s cells would fit into an ice cube; yet if the DNA were unwound and joined together end to end, the strand could stretch from the earth to the sun and back over 400 times.”  The sun is 93 million miles away.

 

For all that the medical profession knows about the human body there is still a vast amount that they do not know. Yet even to someone like me who is basicaaly illiterate when it come to medicine, even I know that the body is more that just a collection of hands and feet and hair and skin, and blood and fat. A body is an organic whole put together in the correct order.

 

The Body of Christ is also a unit made up of many parts. There are many denominations, agencies, clubs, organizations and all sorts of groups but there is only ONE church. And every true believer in Christ is a member of that Body. The Church is one because Christ is one.  We can no more separate Christ from his Church than we can the head from the body.

 

When we speak of Christ as the head – we do not mean that he is some kind of disembodied head – it is always in the sense of mind, spirit and control. When the body loses its mind and spirit it ceases to be a living body. It has the structure but it doesn’t have life. It is still organised but is not longer a living organism.

 

How sad when a Church  loses its spiritual life yet still goes through the motions – manitaining the structure but with no spiritual life. Yet the true Church, the real Church – is Christ. He is not simply with his Church but he is in his Church and his church is in him. The Church is a living manifestation of Christ that pulses with his life.

 

That is why we can sing:-

We’re his hands, we’re his feet

we’re his ears, we’re his eyes

He’s the head

through his blood we are supplied

….

We are one because of the one Spirit whom he has given to us.

One Spirit. One Baptism. One Body.

One body is possible because one Spirit has baptised us into one body. It is the Holy Spirit who brings unity.

 

Spirit Baptism – v13 has been at the centre of much debate for many years. There were and still are those who claim that it is necessary for Christian to believe and be saved [we all agree] and then at a later stage, in a second experience receive the baptism of the Spirit.  This gives rise to a kind of two tier Christainity or even a two stage salvation.

 

There are 7 ref.s to baptism of the Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baptiser

 

Subject

 

element [en-in]

 

Purpose [eis-into]

 

Matt.3v11

 

John

Jesus

 

People

People

 

water

Spirit

 

repentance

 

 

Mark 1v8

 

John

Jesus

 

People

People

 

water

Spirit

 

repentance

 

 

Luke 3v16

 

John

Jesus

 

People

People

 

water

Spirit

 

repentance

 

 

John 1v33

 

John

Jesus

 

People

People

 

water

Spirit

 

repentance

 

 

Acts 1v5

 

John

Jesus

 

(disciples)

(disciples)

 

water

Spirit

 

 

 

Acts 11v16

 

John

Jesus

 

(believers)

(believers)

 

water

Spirit

 

 

 

ICor. 12v13

 

 

(Jesus)

 

(believers)

(believers)

 

 

Spirit

 

 

into one body

 

 

It is not the Holy Spirit’s baptism but Christ’s baptism with the Spirit. It is the same word [ei] that is used on all 7 occassions.

in the same v13 we read “… we were all given the same Spirit to drink”

In John 7 Jesus promised to send the Spirit – he referred to the Spirit as HE not IT. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the helper, the Advocate. He is a person – you can’t have a little bit of him. Youe either have the Spirit or you don’t have the Spirit. And Romans 8v9 is clear:-

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,

if indeed, the Spirit of God dwells in you.

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,

he does not belong to him.

It is not possible to be a Christian without the Baptism of the Spirit and there is on;ly ONE Spirit Baptism and that is at conversion. It is the Son of God who places all believers into the sphere of the Spirit’s power and person. We are placed into a new enviroment, a new relationship with God and with all other believers.

 

This does not mean that we can not have subsequent spiritual experiences – we do have highs and lows in our spiritual walk with God. And we need to be constantly be being filled with the Spirit as Paul says in Ephesians.

BUT the purpose of Spirit Baptism is to bring about conversion and place us within the Body of Christ – the Church.

 

And what is clear for this passage so far [vv1-13] is that Paul is NOT emphasizing one Baptism BUT ONE SPIRIT. The goal of our common baptism {immersion} in one Spirit is INTO one Body – the body of Christ. This implies that the Body of Christ already exists and we become part of it by being immersed in the Spirit.

 

In the following verses Paul goes on to explain hos this body should function.

 

2. DIVERSITY IN ONE BODY [V12-19]

 

Unity is the most important charateristic of the body – BUT unity balanced with diversity. Paul’s illustrations are very clear:

READ vv14-17.

 

There were many problems in the Corinthian Church. Some thought thaey were aiser than other, – some more knowledgable, – some higher social status, – some thought ythey were more gifted …

They were divided over Leadership, “I am of Peter, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Christ…”

 

Division like this usually arise because of envy – “I am not happy with who I am or with the gifts and abilities I have, I want……”  The end result of such an attitude is “Well if I can’t have what I want and the way I want it then I will take my toys and go home and I will never play with you again.”

If we were all the same it would be very boring.

 

ILLUST: If all like me – no music – no flowers – no decent cups of tea – no sound system …..

If the whole body were an eye – hand – leg -…. – what a grotesque monstrosity it would be.

 

God has gifted us all differently and if there is disunity among some over the Things of the Spirit it is certainly not the Spirit’s fault. Our common fallenness and sinfulness unfortunately often causes both pride and envy. It is our lack of sensitivity to the Spirit that often causes us to seek unity on other grounds.

What we desparately need at all times is a work of the Spirit to do among us what our programmes for unity can never do.

 

3. GIFTED BY THE SOVEREIGN GOD. [V18-19]

 

ILLUST: Invited to Buckingham Palace – the Queen gave you a priceless treasure – you say, “Well I do not want this one I want that one over there”

 

By discontent and coveting what others have been given we are in fact questioning God wisdom and goodness implying that he has made a mistake.  Emphasized all through this chapter – we do not receive our gifts by accident but they are given to us by a wise and loving God.

 

God knows what is best for us and he gives us what we need – individually and corporately. If we were all eyes we would not hear or walk or touch – all other functions would be lacking.

 

The Corinthian Church had an over emphasis on the gift of Tongues [ch.14] and Paul is pressing home this point of diversity before he come to deal with tongues specifically..

 

4. INTERDEPENDENCE, NOT INDEPENDENCE. [V20-27]

 

Paul continues the theme of oneness while stressing mutual dependence on each other. Individuality is important to God – each life is valuable. God knows how many hairs you have on your head [or in my case how many I don’t have] BUT modern western individualism is opposite to biblcal interdependence.

 

Individualism is appealing to natural man because we are inclined to want to do our own thing our own way. Ever since Cain renounced responsibility for his brother in Gen.4 mankind has generally been thought more about “ME” than about others.

 

The philosophy that teaches that we are self-sufficient and don’t need anyone else is Satan’s lie and opposite to God’s plan and desire for people.

 

ILLUST: Insurance Co. in RSA – advert -“Your destiny is in your hands your path is yours to choose”

 

Even Jesus is not independent – there is a community within the Trinity. He prayed to his Father in Heaven – he did his Father’s work – He sent the Spirit. Father Son and Spirit work together. One God.

 

Paul always worked with partner/s. Barnabas, Silas, Mark, Luke, …..  to the Romans he writes:-

 

I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift –

[he explains]

that is, that you and I may be

mutually encouraged by each other’s faith [Rom.1v11-12]

 

There are to kinds of individualism that break down unity and cause division in the Church.

The first we have seen in vv.15-17. “I hav no gifts and abilities that are worthwhile so I will sit back and let others do the work”  It is the kind of individualism that says “THEY DON’T NEED ME!”

 

The second kind od individualism is those who think that they are so highly qualified and gifted that they don’t need anyone else to help them

The first is “THEY DON’T NEED ME1” while this second one is “I DON’T NEED THEM!”

 

This attitude is bad enough in the world but it is much worse in the Church.

 

READ v21-27

 

Without getting into the detail of what the weaker gifts/people less honourable people/gifts are Paul point is that every part of the body is necessary. Some parts are more visible and we are more aware of them but that does not mean thay are more important.

 

ILLUST: What is more important, your hand or your heart? Your tongue or your toe?

bones or skin?

 

You see how ridiculous it is!!

 

ILLUST: Computer – one microchip broken/ missing and the whole system fails.

 

God has placed each member where he wants them and gifted each one in a specific way. It is our responsibility to use the gifts we have been gift for the good of others and to help others and allow others to use their gifts.

 

Whether we like it or not we are part of the body – we are related to each –

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,

if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it [v26]

 

The first part is easy to understand If you have toothache you can’t study –  How you honour your hand and not your foot is difficult to know BUT the point is clear. What affects one affects all BECAUSE  You are the body of Christ, EACH ONE OF YOU  is part of it [v27]

 

5. UNITY, NOT UNIFORMITY [28-31a]

 

READ 27 -28

 

Paul ends this chapter by illustrating again the diversity of the gifts and people within the Church by giving an ad hoc list of gifts. The lsit includes personal ministries – apostles prophets and teachers; charismata – miracles and healings and tongues; deeds of service – administration and helps. Unity but not uniformity.

 

He then drives home the point by asking a series of questions to which the implied answer is NO. In Greek the way a sentence in structure can determine whether it has a positive or negative answer. These are all negative answer questions.

Are all aposltes? [no!]

Are all prophets? [no!]

Are all teachers? [no!]

Do all have gifts of healing? [no!]

Do all speak in tongues? [no!]

Do all interpret? [no!]

 

CONCLUSION.

 

God has given us much and gifted each one – we have much to be thankful for. BUT we need to ask “Are we in anyway restricting some from using their gifts?”

The so called “charismatic” Churches may over-emphasis tongues and healing and prophecy and we are sometimes critical of that  – BUT do we err on the side of the cerebral gifts like preaching and teaching to the exclusion of some of the others.  Are we balanced or is our body unhealthy because of an over-emphasis in certain areas.

 

BUT also gifts are people – and we need to be careful not to made some more impotant that others. No one should ever say “They don’t need me ” or “I don’t need them”

We all need each other because that is how God in his wisdom and love has designed his Body  – the Church.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – One Lord gives many gifts for the good of all

One LORD gives many gifts for the good of all.

 

1 Corinthians 12v1-11.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

“Now concerning spiritual gifts,….” these words indicate a new section in Paul’s letter. {Ch.12-14} We need to be aware of this section within the context of the whole letter and the Corinthian situation. Also because of the translation and the popular view of this section we tend to focus on the gifts, however, a more accurate translation would be “Now concerning the things of the Spirit…” Of course this includes the gifts but is not exclusively about the gifts.

 

Remember that the Corinthian Christians had come from a pagan background where the Greek-mystery religions dominated their lives and where spiritual experiences were everyday occurances. They were used to seeing supernatural phenomenon – trances or ecstatic behaviour or some other kind of inspired action. If these things were not evident then the authenticity of the relavant god or godess was suspect. These were the things that proved their power.

 

In our Western anti-spuernaturalistic society we find this kind of thing difficult to believe – if something is not tangiable or scientifically verifiable then we tend to question its reality. But for those who have lived and/or worked in non-western countries where the spirit world – esp. ancestors – have a dramatic influence on the everyday lives of the people, we know that it is a reality.

 

ILLUST: Many Zulu people in RSA won’t sleep on a bed that is not raised high off the ground  because they are afraid of the TOKALOSH – the evil spirit.

The Sangoma [witch-doctor] is usually the most powerful person in the tribe and when they put a curse on someone they often do get sick and sometimes die.

 

It was a similar society in which the Corinthian Christians lived – were the gods had a lot of sway. Ecstasy was the highest expression of religious experience and the more dramatic and bizzare the experience the more it appealed to the natural man.

 

It is not surprising therefore in view of the Corinthian Christians background that Paul is concerned that they are informed about the things of the true Spirit, the Holy Spirt of God and are not led astray by the counterfeit “signs and wonders” of the Satan himself.

 

Paul is not for one minute suggesting that these “dumb idols”  [v2]are [DK1] real but that behind these gods are the demons themselves. [8v4-6; 10v18-22.]

 

Satan is a genius at counterfeiting God’s work. People do not counterfeit what is NOT valuable – Satan counterfeits the Spirit’s gifts because he wants to confuse and destroy and undermine the work and worship of the only true God. If Satan can enduce false manifestations or sidetrack Christians to seek the gift rather than the giver than he has succeeded in weaking the Church and making it ineffective. That is Satan’s goal – to destroy the work of God.

 

Paul knows that before their conversion to Christ many were led astray by these “Dumb idols” behind whom is the power of the evil one himself.

 

1.  MANY “gods” BUT ONE LORD. [1-3]

 

Therefore I tell you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says,

“Jesus be cursed”,

and no on can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit [v3]

It is only the Holy Spirit of God who is committed to proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord”.

Jesus said of the Holy Spirit:

He {the Spirit}  will bring glory to me … [John 16v14]

 

It seems hard to believe that even the Corinthian Christians could say “Jesus be cursed”  – it is difficult to known whether or not they were actually saying this or whether Paul was simply using it as an anaolgy in order to shock them. Whatever the case Paul’s point was not to establish a means of “testing the spirits”. Paul’s concern in this section [ch.12-14] is to remind them that “inspired utterance” as such is not evidence for being led by the spirit.

 

no on can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit [v3]

 

Reading these words in the 20th century, we can loose the impact of what they really meant. Surely it is easy to say these words at will. To the 1st century Jew this was blasphemy and to the pagans there were many gods and many lords. Such a statement was equating Jesus with Yahweh ot the OT and declaring Jesus supreme over every other cosmic and demonic power.

 

In the early Church many died under Nero and other for believing thet “Jesus is Lord”. It was not just uttering word but a public confession of personal faith – this is what baptism meant to the early Christian. “Jesus [the crucified one] is [by his resurrection] LORD [of all the universe]. No one could confess this in fromt of a hostile world and maintain such a stand even in the face of death except by the power of the Spirit.

 

ILLUST: Many died with this confession on their lips. Still today in many parts of the world many die for their faith. In Sudan many have died, even been crucified, because the believe and confess that “Jesus is Lord”

 

We must come to this section about “spiritual things” with this in our minds. The primary activity of the Spirit is to exalt Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from this even if they are legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself.

 

Paul now moves on to deal with these Spiritual things about which he is concerned.

 

2. MANY GIFTS FROM ONE SOURCE [V4-6]

 

READ vv4-6

 

4 DIVERSITIES of gifts       there are, but the same Spirit;

5 DIVERSITIES of service    there are, but the same Lord;

6 DIVERSITIES of workings there are, but the same God,

who works ALL THINGS IN ALL PEOPLE.

 

Within the Church there is a rich diversity of people and every member is different. We are not mass produced to be exactly the same. The body of Christ is rich and multi-coloured even as the grace of God is multi-coloured [1 Peter 4v10].

 

ILLUST: When a diamond is first dug out of the ground it is no very attractive but only when it is cut by a mater-cutter does its true beauty show. The secret of a diamonds beauty is that it is multi-faceted – God’s grace-gifts are multi-faceted.

 

God doesn’t make copies – each one is a new creation – [Satan is the mimic – counterfeiter]

“If anyone be in Christ he is a new creation …. {unique} [2C0.5v17]

 

Paul uses 3 different words: GIFTS; SERVICE; WORKINGS;

 

GIFTS:  [carismata] hence Charismatic – gifts, grace-gifts, love-gifts.  It is the modern Greek word meaning “Birthday present”. You give people presnts because you love them and Pule wants the Corinthians to know that it is not a matter of earning God’s favour BUT it is out of love that God gives gifts to all his children. Purely grace {caris}.

 

SERVICE:  [Diakoniai] the gifts are given, not for selfish possession, but for the service of others, our neighbours, and God. Maybe theCorinthian Christians thought that the Church was an arena for demonstrating their talents. Maybe thay saw the church as a stage rather than a place of service.

That temptation still exists – when we see preacher and gospel singers performing on platform and before TV camera it is easy to see Paul’s concern. The opportunities for service are endless and they are gifts from God.

 

WORKING: [energhnata] energy – God not only gives the gift and the desire for service but he also given the energy, the power to carry it out. Paul is stressing the sheer power and inherent energy within the Christian because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is this spititual energy that tranforms lives and restores relationships and enables us to do things we never thought possible.

 

We must not make too sharp a distinction between these words but Paul uses all of them to show the broadness of God activity.

 

Noticed the activity of the Trinity SPIRIT, LORD, GOD.  Just like we can’t compartmentalise the work of God so too we can’t compartmentalise God. The sovereign Triune God is the one who determines the gifts and to whom they are given.

v11 …. even as he wills

v.18 … God arranged..

v24 … God has combined …. and he has given ..

v.28 … God has appointed …

 

For beginning to end the whole scope of Church life is under God’s control and he is always working to demonstrate his love and truth. We can never manipulate God to give us what we want.

 

ILLUST: Children may be able to manipulate their parents to get what they want. We may be able to manipulate other for our own ends .

 

BUT God gives to all his children and he is always fair – he has no favourites.

 

3. MANY GIFTS FOR THE GOOD OF ALL [7-11]

 

READ 7-11 [OHP]

 

7 TO EACH is given the manifestation          of the Spirit

                                                                                    for the common good.

                        for

8   TO ONE is given   a message of wisdom,             through the Spirit;

            9   TO ANOTHER     a message of knowledge,        by the same Spirit;

                 TO ANOTHER     faith,                                        by the same Spirit;

TO ANOTHER     gifts of healings,                     by the one Spirit;

            10 TO ANOTHER     workings of miracles;

TO ANOTHER     prophecy;

TO ANOTHER     discernments of spirits;

TO ANOTHER     kinds of tongues;

TO ANOTHER     interpretation of tongues;

 

11  ALL THESE THINGS works the one and the same Spirit,

DISTRIBUTING to EACH ONE,

even as he wills.

 

Each child of God has the Holy Spirit –

… if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ

he does not belong to Christ [Romans 8v9]

The Holy Spirit is manifest in the life of every believer that is why every believer has a part to play within the Chruch. If you are saying “I have nothing to offer – there is nothing that I can do”  then you are not using – even abusing – the gift that God has given you. Every Christian contributes to the rich diversity within the Church. TO each one is given…..

 

Paul now give 9 examples of this rich variety. Other gifts are mentioned in Romans 12, Eph.4 and 1 Peter 4. There is some overlap between the various lists. This list here is not comprehensive nor is it graded – some gifts superior to others. It is representative and illustrative.

 

NB> NOT DEAL WITH EACH – FOR EVENING DISCUSSION TIMES.

 

What is the difference, if any, between natural gifts and supernatural gifts.

Are these spiritual gifts simply natural ablities that are harnessed by God and used for Him

Or are they only those that are manifestly supra-natural.

 

ILLUST: Does it follow that because a person is a good public speaker he will be a preacher.

OR a school teacher a good Bible teacher.

OR and accountant a good treasurer.

 

NO! but of course they may very well!

Sometimes a person needs to become a more mature Christian before they use their talents in God’s work. Maybe the Lord knows that such a person would rely on their own ablities ans self-sufficiency rather than on God’s enabling.

 

ILLUST: well-known story of actor visiting catherdral – recited Ps.23. Asked the old caretaker to read it – he did so haltingly. The actor was in tears. I know the Psalm but you know thw shepherd.

 

A highly trained singer may not feel free to use her voice in the Church until she is free from the driving ambition for personal recognition and public acclaim.

 

So God can use our natural abilities and give us new ones. He is our creator and our redeemer and he works in many ways to produce mant examples of his grace. And he is constantly there to provide whatever we need. As circumstances change and churches grow God gives them all they need to serve him and each other and the community.

 

In this passage the tendency, in recent years, has been to focus on the list of gifts whaereas they are really illustrative and the focus of Paul is on the ANOTHER and the SPIRIT.

HE distributes as HE WILLS.

 

God is sovereign and he is not taken by surprise at our conversion or at any other stage of our Christian development so that he has to make hasty decisions about what spiritual gifts he will give us. In his foreknowledge he has known all along what our situation is and what we need.

 

Jeremiah 1v5:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you

Before you were born I set you apart

 

 

Ephesians 2v10:

For we are God’s workmanship

created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

WHICH GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR US TO DO

 

There is a tendency within some Christian circles today to ask for or claim or even demand from God certain spiritual gifts as if having a particular gift will make one more spiritual. Or having a particular experiance will make you more spiritual. This passage makes quite clear that it is God who gives these gifts. And he chooses which gifts he will give anf to whom.

 

Their is nothing wrong with asking for or desiring a certain gift as long as we don’t demand from God or as long as we don’t think that we will be higher up the spiritual ladder if we had it. Spiritual gifts are not given for our own selfish, private use BUT are always given for the COMMON GOOD. Yes we benefit but that is not the primaty reason.

 

Spirituality and maturity are not measured by the gifts of the Spirit but by the fruit of the Spirit that is why Paul says in the next ch. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angel but have not love, I am nothing.” Gifts are for the building up of the community and not primarily for the individual’s benefit.

 

 

Paul’s point in this passage is to demonstrate that JESUS IS LORD  and the church owes its allegience to Him. The Spirit glorifies Christ as Lord and gives gifts to his people so that they can glorify Jesus as well. Even though there is so much variation and diversity within the chruch there is a unity through common purpose viz. the glory of God and the common good of all. AND the Spirit is sovereign in his giving of gifts.

 

We dare not box God in saying “He must do this or he doesn’t do that”  We must be open to what God wants to do in our midst. It might mean that we will be shaken out of our comfort zones. It will almost certainly mean repentence. It will undoubtedly mean change BUT if we claim that JESUS IS LORD then we must be willing for him to be just that, LORD, and to do what he pleases.

 

ONE LORD GIVES MANY GIFTS

                    FOR THE GOOD OF ALL

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

 

 

 

1.  MANY “gods” BUT ONE LORD. [1-3]

 

Jesus [the crucified one] is [by his resurrection] LORD [of all the universe].

 

 

 

2. MANY GIFTS FROM ONE SOURCE [V4-6]

4 DIVERSITIES of gifts         there are, but    the same Spirit;

5 DIVERSITIES of service     there are, but    the same Lord;

6 DIVERSITIES of workings there are, but    the same God,

who works ALL THINGS IN ALL PEOPLE.

 

7 TO EACH is given the manifestation of the Spirit

                                                                   for the common good.

 

 

 


3. MANY GIFTS FOR THE GOOD OF ALL [V7-11]

 

for

 

8   TO ONE is given    a message of wisdom,       through the Spirit;

          9   TO ANOTHER       a message of knowledge, by the same Spirit;

               TO ANOTHER       faith,                                   by the same Spirit;

TO ANOTHER       gifts of healings,               by the one Spirit;

          10 TO ANOTHER      workings of miracles;

TO ANOTHER       prophecy;

TO ANOTHER       discernments of spirits;

TO ANOTHER       kinds of tongues;

TO ANOTHER       interpretation of tongues;

 

11  ALL THESE THINGS works the one and the same Spirit,

DISTRIBUTING to EACH ONE,

even as he wills.

 

 

[Fee pp.584-585]


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[DK1]

1 Corinthians 11:23 -29 – The Lord’s Supper: remembering & proclaiming “until He comes”

I CORINTHIANS 11v23 -29. 

The Lord’s Supper: remembering & proclaiming “until He comes”

 

INTRODUCTION.

ILLUST: The Voortrekker Monument – The Battle of Blood River – 16th December -“The Day of the Covenant” A Memorial representing a Covenant.

It served to remember the dead and to perpetuate the idea in the minds of some of the Afrikaner Nation that they were God’s special people to the exclusion of other nations. Simply because on one day in their history God save a few of them from massacre by the Zulus. Their monument is a memory to the dead.

God’s covenant with Israel in the OT was not to the exclusion of others and in the New Covenant of the NT it is positively opened to all people. Also the memorial of communion is not in memory of the dead but of the living. Yes we remember his death BUT he is not dead.

Some Corinthian Christians were abusing the Lord’s supper – the rich were going ahead with the meal without waiting for the poorer ones and they were also eating better food. They had apparently lost touch with the meaning of the supper itself.

Paul here in the words of institution reminds them that the reason for celebrating this meal goes back to Jesus himself.  The Lord’s Supper is precisely that THE LORD’s – in his honour and proclaiming his death – it is a witness to the salvation available to sinners through the death of Christ.

Paul also reminds them that the Lord instituted this “on the night he was betrayed”. A reference to Judas and a warning to the Corinthians and to us that attendance at communion is no guarantee of salvation. Judas had been with Jesus for 3 years – he had gone through all the motions but in the end he was following his own agenda and not Christ’s.

You can be a Church member – maybe even very active in the Church – The issue is not “Are you religious?” BUT “Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?

The Lord’s Supper reminds us that at our best we are just sinner and when we have done all we think we should we are still “unprofitable servants” YET it is the same Table that shows us that by God’s grace we can also be God’s new covenant people – part of the family of God.

The whole purpose of celebrating the Communion is to remember the Death of Jesus and to Proclaim the facts and significance of his death “until he comes”

 

 

 

1. REMEMBERING HIS BODY AND BLOOD.

1.1 The bread.

“This is my body which is for you

do this in remembrance of me”

What are we remembering when we break bread? It is not just recalling historical facts. It is taking part in a Spiritual reality. The Lord’s Table is not like a monument that we walk around and admire. It is here that we have fellowship with the living Lord. We have fellowship with him because he is our Saviour and he died to give us life.

When we talk of the bread representing Jesus’ body we don’t only mean his physical body – to the Jewish mind the body represented the whole person. The body of Jesus represents who he is – his life, his teaching, his ministry and his work – all he was and all he did!!

The death of Jesus – the cross – is the central point of our faith – it is the central point of history. It is here where sinners become saints. It is here where God takes my life and all my weakness and sinfulness and places it on Christ and say to me “FREE” “FORGIVEN”

Isaiah foretold this centuries before Christ:

For he bore the sins of many

and made intercession for the transgressors.

[Isa.53v12b]

Peter quoting from Isa.53 reminds his readers …

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,

so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness.

For you were like sheep going astray

but now you have returned to the Shepherd

and overseer of your souls. [1 Peter 2v24-25]

Without Christ’s death there is no hope of salvation. There’s is no hope for eternity. If the only hope we have is in this life then we are to be pitied. If all you are living for is to have a nice home and a good job and financial security – or to be successful or famous. What is fame or success – well it depends on other people. You are only famous if people know who you are – how quickly fame fades – how quickly stars fall.

ILLUST: Financial security – what about all those who thought their pensions were safe……What about those who put their trust in the stock market? RECENT ECONOMIC NEWS IS NOT GREAT!!!

Security – there is no security in this life. You can be insured for millions. But illness and motor accidents don’t take too much notice of insurance policies. You can invest in a Personal Pension Plan and never live to enjoy it.  {NOT SAYING – you should NOT make provision for your retirement if you are able to – we have to be responsible citizen} Where is your final security?? In human institutions?? Or in GOD?

Jesus Christ died in our place to destroy the thing over which we have absolutely no power. SIN and DEATH. With all our scientific knowledge and all our cleverness we have no answer to the moral vacuum in our society!! We have no answer to death – doctors can sometimes prolong the life but the can’t stop the inevitable! Mankind has no answer BUT GOD does and his answer in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross!

Jesus said “This is my body which is FOR you”

FOR – in our behalf – “Jesus Christ died for our sins” [1 Cor.15v3]

–  ” You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. … God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us [Romans 5v6&8]

FOR – in our place – He is the substitute.

ILLUST: Passover – Jews exodus from Egypt – the angel of death Passover the house because the blood covered the doorposts. The lamb died in place of the first-born. The blood symbolised the cover and protection from death.

And so Jesus died in our place – to protect us from the judgement of God. It is not popular these days to talk about Hell. The Bible speaks about hell and says that the person who rejects Jesus Christ as Lord will go there. You may not like that and you may choose not to believe it but that is what the Bible says.

“Oh But I thought God was a God of Love” He is!! That is why Jesus died on the cross.

For God so loved the World that he gave His only Son

the whoever believes in him should not perish but

have eternal life {John 3v16}

There is no greater evidence for the love of God than the cross of Christ. And whoever believes will be saved / live!!

1.2 The Cup.

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this,

whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.

A new covenant presupposes that there was an old one. In the OT when God gave the law through Moses they were sprinkled with blood to ratify the covenant.

[Using blood to seal a covenant was a normal everyday way of coming to a binding agreement]

It was agreement between God and Israel, the people of God – obey God and keep his law and there will be consequences – He will bless you BUT disobey and there will be consequences – God will punish you. Your choice!!

BUT they didn’t keep it because they couldn’t and God knew that therefore his plan was always to make a new way through his SON, Jesus Christ.

A new way, which says God will do it and give it as a gift to those who will receive it! The new covenant is not dependent upon us but upon the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The new covenant, like the old, is sealed in blood. The blood of Christ. And it creates a new people of God who are in a covenant relationship with God. We belong to Him. We are his children. The terms of this covenant are not dependent on our abilities but on God’s promises.

The Promises:-     “..a new creation …”

” and full life [purposeful]”

” eternal life” [life not ending in death]

” sins forgiven..’

” Peace with God” [Not no stress or trouble but peace even in the midst of trouble and strife]

“.. a new family.” [The family of God]

2. PROCLAIMING THE BODY AND BLOOD.

Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you PROCLAIM the Lord death until he comes.

This communion is a witness to the death of Jesus. Every time we do it we are proclaiming a message – the message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on a cross to save sinners.

What we have received from him is only a taste of what is still to come.

Jesus said to his disciples on the night of the Last Supper:

I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine

until the kingdom of God comes. [Luke 22v18]

“UNTIL HE COMES” tells us two things.

1) To the Christian it is a reminder that the best is yet to come.

ILLUST: When your loved one goes away you have a photograph to remind you of  her/him.

When he/she returns you don’t sit staring at the photo.

So to with Christ – the communion is a symbol – a reminder – when he returns we will not need it any more because we will see him and we will be like him.

2) To those who have not yet committed their lives to Jesus Christ its an opportunity – the ‘”UNTIL HE COMES” says there is yet time! Don’t delay!

God is patient and long-suffering BUT there will come a time when God Says, “ENOUGH” and after that it will be too late.

ILLUST: A a communion service a pastor noticed a lady who he knew to be a Christian refuse the bread as it came by – knowing her struggle and her feeling unworthy he went to her with the bread and said ” Take it , my dear, its for sinners”

The Communion is not for the perfect. If that were so none of us would be able to take it! The communion is for sinners – for those who acknowledge that Jesus Christ died to save them. For those who have repent and believe in Jesus. If you have never done that – Why not today – NOW? Jesus loves you and showed that by dying for you.

For the Christian the communion is a constant reminder of and witness to the death of Christ for us. It also reminds us that we are God’s people in a New Covenant relationship with him AND that we are family – related to each other.

If you claim to be a Christian what difference does it make to the way you live your life. It is no good coming to church on Sunday if you live the rest of your life as you please. The death of Jesus for you demands more than Sunday lip service.

Does you faith make a difference to the way you treat your spouse, children, family and friends.

Does it make a difference to the way you do your work – relate to your colleagues? Do they know that you are a follower of Jesus?

In other words how are you PROCLAIMING HIS DEATH UNTIL HE COMES?

I am not talking about being a bible-baser.

I am not talking about being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly use! You have got to have your feet on the ground! Your faith must affect your life in the nitty-gritty everyday affairs of life.

The communion reminds us of what Jesus did for us and challenges us to examine our lives in the light of that.

I Corinthians 11:17-34 – The abuse of power at the Lord’s supper

1 CORINTHIANS 11v17-34

 

THE ABUSE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

[The “Have’s” discriminating against the “Have not’s”]

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Preaching on a passage of scripture like this does have difficulties. The problem is that we read this passage so often when we come to communion – we generally read only vv23-29[or32] – it becomes so familiar, many could probably quote it by heart. Now there is nothing wrong with reading this passage at communion BUT we must always remember to understand it in the context in which it was written.

 

It is not just about the Lord’s supper but it is in the context of the ch.11-14 in which Paul is dealing with the public worship of the Church. In the first half of ch.11, as we saw last week, Paul deals with the distinctiveness of male and female esp. in regard to the woman’s role in public worship. In the first half of the ch. he uses quite soft language BUT when we come to this present section his language is fairly harsh.

In the following directives I have no praise for you,

for your meetings do more harm than good. [v17]

 

That is pretty straight talk!!

So what is Paul complaining about – Why is their meeting doing damage?

 

1. SNOBBERY – ABUSE OF THE POOR. [17-22]

 

We need to understand how the Christians celebrated the Lord’s supper in the early Church. It was not the way we do it. The normal practice in the early Church was that the believers came together for a meal and then usually at the end of the meal they would take bread and wine and remember Christ’s death. Sometimes it was called a “love Feast” [Jude v12].

 

Problems arose because there was a significant gap between the rich and the poor. They would meet for these meals in someone’s home, presumably the home of a rich person as theirs would be the only one big enough to accommodate a large number of people. {Remember that there were no church buildings in those days}.

 

Instead of it being a family meal where they all ate together remembering Christ’s death and demonstrating Christian unity, it ended up being a free-for-all with gluttony and drunkenness characterising the occassion.

 

 

Paul’s main point is not the gluttony or drunkeness – NOT that he approves of either – BUT rather in their coming together it is in fact not a coming together at all – but divisions are very evident amongst them. NOT the kind of divisions that were talked about in ch.1 – those were about personalities.

 

Their divisions were not that they failed to gather together but that when they did gather they failed to demonstrate that they were truly the new people of God, neither Jew nor Greek, rich nor poor, slave nor free ….

 

What had crept into the Church at Corinth was an obnoxious kind of snobbishness. It would seem that the rich – the “have’s” – were meeting either before or separately from the poor – the “have-nots”.

 

In a situation where you have rich and poor – slaves – there was disparity in the kind of food and the amount of food eaten.

 

BACKGROUND: The houses in that time often had a “dining room” which would seat a few people and then a “courtyard” which would accommodate a larger group of people.

 

The rich were eating before or eating in the dining room and eating good food and lots of it and leaving the poorer ones to have the inferior food and wine. So the rich had earlier starting times and privileged portions.

 

These kinds of social divisions are not acceptable. Paul is not saying that everyone will be of the same social class BUT that in the Church social class in NOT a reason for division.

 

It is not acceptable in the Church of Jesus Christ for there to be division on the basis of social class. How do you and I treat people who are not as well off or not as well educated. BUT class consciousness is not only a problem in the upper class.

 

WHAT DOES HE MEAN BY “..to some extent I believe it” [v18] Well Paul is not naive – he knows that those who are whinging about their treatment are not simply disinterested observers.

 

ILLUST: When I first came to England I was working as a carpenter at Sotherby’s in the West End. Sotherby’s caters to the rich and famous. The workers used to take home paint and wood and all manner of things from the workshop to use at home. The reasoning was, “Well, they can afford it!”

 

It is all to easy for those who are poor – or less well off to have a chip on their shoulder! AND in UK there are few – if any poor – Anyone can get food and medical care! I am not justifying the class distinction in society but it is a fact of life! BUT when that same attitude is exhibited in the Church and makes some Christians superior to others – that is unacceptable!

 

Paul is a realist and he knows that differences within the Church are inevitable!

No doubt there have to be differences among you

to show which of you have God’s approval. [v19]

 

In any Church we have different people, with different personalities, from different backgrounds. Christians are not yet perfect, even if some may think so, and therefore divisions will result. BUT God uses these things to test the maturity and genuineness of his disciples. It does not mean that he approves of the divisions but he uses them.

God is at work in all things for the good of them that love

 him and are called according to his purposes [Rom.8v28]

 

Paul has no praise for the Corinthian Christians in this matter. They have abused the poor and have abused the Lord’s table.

 

He says, “You may gather together but it is not the Lord’s supper you are celebrating.”

 

The Lord’s supper = the meal in the Lord’s honour! Communion is supposed to symbolise the death of Christ in whom all are equal and in whom there in no distinction with regard to race, sex or social standing. What the Corinthians were doing was exactly the opposite! How can it be in the Lord’s honour if the practice destroys what he died to bring about??!

 

Paul raps them on the knuckles with a number of rhetorical questions.

 

– Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? In other words if you want to be greedy and get drunk them do it at home NOT at the Lord’s table.

 

– “..do you despise the church of God an humiliate those who have nothing? The poor had little or nothing to contribute to the meal and felt ashamed, wrongly but understandably. The rich man’s action should have been controlled by love and NOT greed.

 

– What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!! –

God has accepted us as we are – rich or poor, weak or strong Christians are to accept one another. We should have such an attitude at all times BUT esp. at the Lord’s Supper which in itself is a symbol of our unity and equality in Christ.

 

2. SACRILEGE – ABUSE OF THE LORD. [v23-26]

 

Paul now moves on from SNOBBERY  to  SACRILEGE. This kind of behaviour at communion is not only abusive toward the poor but also towards God.

 

By the rich – the “haves” – going ahead with their meal and humiliating the poor -“have-nots” they had lost touch with the real significance of the supper. Paul repeats the words of institution to remind them of why they celebrate this meal in the first place – viz. they are “remembering his death” & “Proclaiming his death until he comes”

Their actions were not in keeping with the essence of that proclamation!

 

NB> going to deal with this in more detail next week at Communion!!!!!

 

Paul has already hinted at this problem in Chapter 10.

 

READ 10v14-17

 

ONE BODY – the bread signifies the one body of Christ into which we have been brought. It signifies unity and oneness with Christ and with each other. How dishonouring is it therefore when there are division. It is abusing the Lord – slapping him in the face.

 

THE CUP – it is the cup of the NEW COVENANT. Drinking the wine shows the new covenant relationship we have with God – but at the same time we enter into covenant with each other.

 

Whether we like it or not we are related! “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family” – Well in Christ we are family and he chooses us and brings us together as his body. And we have to learn to love one another, speak to one another, put others first, forgive one another — How can we be unforgiving when we come to communion which symbolizes Christ’s forgiveness of us.

 

The Lord’s supper is not only a memorial of the last supper, nor just of Christ’s death – it is that. BUT it is also a repeated and constant reminder of the efficacy of that death for us. BUT more than that it is not only personal and introspective. Salvation through Christ’s death creates a new community of people who bear HIS name. We miss the point of communion if we think of it only in terms of our personal needs and not also in terms of the needs of others.

 

Paul now moves on to the solution with on of his famous “THEREFORE’s”

 

3. SOLUTION – DISCERN THE BODY [v27-32]

                         -[wait for one another – v33-34]

 

v.27 has probably been one of the most misunderstood verse in Protestant pietistic circles.

“Unworthily”{KJV} – coupled with v.28 “a man ought to examine himself” led to deep introspection as to whether or not one was worthy of the Lord’s table. If you were unworthy you would come under judgement. There was great foreboding in coming to the table and a sense of guilt in case we had partaken unworthily.

 

NOW of course, we need to be open with God and ourselves and confess our sin but the point of this passage is not to instill in us a self-absorbing introspection. It is precisely because we are unworthy that we need Christ and what better place to come to him in confession and repentance than at communion.

 

The danger is that there are those who come to the Lord’s table without exercising even the slightest self-examination.

 

Paul is addressing believers – the communion is for believers only – the context implies that the self-examination should be esp. directed to ascertaining whether or not I am living and acting “in love” toward my neighbour.

 

Paul has harsh words to say to the Corinthian Christians who were mistreating their fellow-believers.

Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord

in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against

the body and blood of the lord [v27]

 

Paul is saying that when you come to the Lord’s table with this kind of attitude you place yourself not in the company of those who are sharing the benefits of his passion, BUT in the company of those who are responsible for his crucifixion.

 

The behaviour of the Corinthian Christians belied the gospel the claimed to embrace.

 

ILLUST: To trample the Union Jack underfoot does not dishonour the piece of clothe but the country of Great Britain it represents. To come to the communion in an unworthy manner does not simply dishonour the ceremony but dishonours the one in whose honour it is celebrated. [MacArthur]

 

VV.30-32. speak about judgement. NOT eternal judgement but temporal as v32 makes clear – discipline. Paul is not speaking about losing your salvation. Paul is telling the Corinthians that God has disciplined them with sickness and even death because of their abuse of the Lord’s supper.

 

What he is not saying – That every time someone abuses the Lord’s table there will be sickness and death.

– NOR that those who get sick or die prematurely have abused the Lord’s table. There are some today who teach that Christians should never be sick or die before 70 and if they do it is because of sin in their lives – Rubbish. That is not what this passage is saying.

– ALSO Paul is not identifying the sick and the death as the guilty one’s – When there is sin in the camp the whole community suffers. That is why we need to live holy and godly lives NOT only for our own good but also for the good of the body.

 

ILLUST: Army – if one in the squad messed up we ALL ran. We ALL suffered together.

 

The Lord’s table is not a table of condemnation but of grace. It is a place where we affirm who we belong to – Jesus. It is the sinful, the weak, the weary who are the very ones who need the assurance that this table affords – and that is all of us. We do not have to get rid of our sin before we come to Christ and partake at his table. It is here by faith the we receive the assurance that “Christ receives sinners”

 

On the other hand, Christ receives REPENTANT sinners so we dare not come arrogantly or presumptuously without discerning the Body. We come by Grace, recognising the need to be gracious to others otherwise we miss the point of the table altogether!

 

 -[wait for one another – v33-34]

 

Wait for [welcome] one another.

– if you can’t wait eat at home. Lit. “If anyone wants to gorge let him do it at home” Where you will not humiliate those who are not so well off. Don’t flaunt the fact that you have more than someone else.

 

Rather WELCOME  one another – consider them important enough as brothers and sisters in Christ to give up your luxurious meal to demonstrate the unity and oneness of the Body of Christ.

The attitude to the fellowship around the Lord’s table is in microcosm what the body of Christ should always be. It is the attitude of considering other first – of putting the good of the community of believers first, before our own wants and desires, so that Christ, who is the Head of the Body, can be honoured.

 

I thank God for the spirit of love and care that there is at Binscombe – we are far from perfect but God has been good to us. This passage comes as a reminder not to take what we have for granted and as a challenge to do better.

 

Let’s make the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi our prayer as we sing #124

Make me a channel of your peace…

CHORUS:………….

O Master grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console

To be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love with all my soul!

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 – The Distinctiveness of women from men

1 Corinthians 11v2-16

The Distinctiveness of  women from men.

[And the behaviour of women in public worship]

INTRODUCTION:

 

This passage that we come to today is a relative mine-field when it come to interpretation. It has been used by anti-feminist to support their position. It has been used to insist that women should wear hats to church. Also that men should have short hair and women should have long hair. There are probably others issues as well. To used this passage to uphold ones traditional position has been a common practice.

 

Let recognise that this is an extremely difficult passage of scripture to interpret simply because there are some phrases and words that are unclear and we simply do not know that original meaning. BUT there is enough for us to be able to draw out some principles.

 

This passage of scripture has nothing whatever to do with hats!

 

Paul is dealing here with the distinctiveness of male and female, and the headship or leadership of the male, and with the behaviour of women in public worship. This is not to say the he is not concerned with how men behave in public worship!

 

BUT REMEMBER he is writing in response to a letter which he had received from the Corinthian Church. SO he is replying to a specific difficulty within the Corinthian context AND what he says here, as with the rest of the letter,  must be understood against the background of the Corinthian situation. When we take it out of its historical setting we can end up with distorted beliefs and practices or even with heresy.

 

We must distinguish between the cultural practices  of the time and the cardinal principles that emerges from that.  Cultural practices are local and not binding WHILE cardinal principles are universal and are binding.

 

1. THE PRINCIPLE STATED [v3]

 

Paul begins his argument by declaring a principle “Now I want you to realise that the HEAD of every man is Christ, and the HEAD of every women is man, and the HEAD of Christ is GOD”

 

Now clearly Paul is not using the word HEAD literally but metaphorically!

 

BUT what is the metaphorical meaning?

Whether on a divine scale or a human scale, subordination and authority are indispensable elements  of God’s order and plan.

 

CHRIST THE HEAD OF EVERY MAN – Most of the human race do not acknowledge that Christ is in authority over them BUT that does not change the fact that all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to him [Matt.29v19]. In a unique way he has authority over the Church. He is the Saviour and Lord of the Church; He has redeemed us and bought us as his own.

Unbelievers who are on rebellion against God ignore him – God in his patient forbearance allows them to continue but one day they will acknowledge him as Lord. He is in ultimate control of all men, now and forever.

 

THE MAN IS THE HEAD OF A WOMAN –

The principle of man being the head of woman is the basic order of creation. This is the way God planned and created mankind to be. Now I know that this doesn’t sit too well with feminists!

And feminists appeal to passage like Gal.3v28 “there is neither male nor female” and 1 Peter3v7 “And grant her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life” to support their case – and they accuse Paul of being a male chauvinist.

BUT Paul makes no distinction between men and women i.t.o. their self-worth, intellect abilities or spirituality.

 

ILLUST: Their are many women who are stronger than me, more mature, more intelligent, have greater ability and are more spiritual.

 

God has established male headship for the purpose of order and not because of some innate male superiority.

 

ILLUST: An employee might be more capable than her boss, but a company cannot run without proper authority, even if the employee is more intelligent and capable than her boss.

 

Elders are chosen from amongst the spiritual men of the congregation and there may be others in the Church who are more spiritual BUT because the ARE more spiritual those NOT in POSITIONS of leadership will submit to those who are!!

 

A wife may be better educated than her husband, she may know the scriptures better, she may be more competent in many areas, She may be more spiritual but because she is , she will willingly submit to her husband as the head of the family.

 

Paul now ties this submission – equality principle to the Godhead.

 

THE HEAD OF CHRIST IS GOD – Jesus made it quite clear from his teaching that he was equal to the Father – “I and my Father are one” “What even the Father does, I do” In no way is Jesus inferior to God the Father. YET he willingly submitted himself to the Father to fulfill the divine purpose.

 

The 3 aspects of this principle are inseparably tied together. If you reject the one then you reject the other. E.G.- IF you reject the principle of women’s submission to man then you must also reject the principle of Christ’s submission to the Father and the believers submission to Christ.

 

LOVE – The authority and submission in each of these cases in based on love, not tyranny!!

The Father sent the son out of love.

Christ submitted to the Father out of love. He rule the church in love.

In response the Church submits to him in love.

Likewise men, Husbands in particular, are to exercise their authority in love, NOT lording it over.

Men do not have authority because of greater worth or ability BUT simply because of God’s wise plan. It is not a matter of worth or dignity but of task and responsibility.

 

2. THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED [to Corinthian culture] [v4-6]

 

READ v4-6

 

Background before we can understand these verses.

First century Greek dress was very similar except for the women’s head-covering. [Which only covered her hair and not her whole face as the Muslim veil] This was the normal everyday dress of the women of Corinth.

Some women did not cover their heads – the high class mistresses of the influential men of Corinth; And possibly the high class women of the Temple to the goddess Aphrodite. Also, slaves often had their head shaved and so did convicted adulteresses.

 

The Christians did not get specially dressed to go to Church meetings, which were not in Church building, they when along in their everyday clothes. It would seem that some of the women, with their new found freedom in Christ would throw back their head-coverings allowing their hair to fall loose.

This was no doubt a distraction to those around her esp. the men – the only women they normally saw with uncovered heads were immoral or slaves.

 

Thus Paul argues that for a women to have her head uncovered while praying or prophesying in public worship is shameful and dishonouring to her head – to herself, to her husband {and fellow male believers} and to Christ who is Head of the Christ.

The Christian women of Corinth were to keep their heads covered otherwise there was no freedom to worship, but much distraction. They shared equally in the ministry of prayer and prophecy.

 

So, says Paul, if that is how you behave outside the church. your head covered there is no reason to change that practice inside the Church.

 

The men MUST NOT cover their heads otherwise they bring dishonour to Christ their head.

 

Why was it a disgrace for a women to have her hair cut off [short] or shaved? It was a symbol of an immoral woman. Women who were lesbians would have short hair to look like men [remember they wore similar clothing] There must be no blurring of the sexes. God made men and God made women and he wants each to keep their distinctiveness.

 

In our society where the roles of men and women are increasingly blurred we need to hear this.

Transvestism is becoming increasingly popular. Men who get sexual pleasure from wearing the clothes of women and women from wearing men’s clothes. Homosexual and Lesbian couples who consider it normal. They might think it normal BUT God does not.

 

ILLUST: Radio Sussex and Surrey this week – a woman from an adoption agency arguing for Lesbian couples and homosexual couples to be able to adopt children so they can have a normal upbringing.

 

When we reversed our God-given role we are on the slippery slope to disaster. Both individually and as a community.

The devil is always active in trying to turn God’s order of things upside down That what was happening in Corinth and so Paul tells the women to keep their head-coverings on – because that was the accepted practice of the prevailing culture. If she did not have her head covered then she may as well shaved all her hair off because the conveyed message was the same – immoral!

 

3. THE PRINCIPLE EXPLAINED [i.t.o. the creation order] [v7-10]

 

READ v 7-10

 

Paul has given the cultural reasons why the Corinthian women should cover their heads in public worship. Now he give a reason from Creation.

 

The man was created first and was created in the image of God and for his glory He  was the crowning glory of God’s creation. Adam was created for God alone. for His pleasure, His joy and His glory. In a similar way woman was created to be the glory of man. Deriving her being from man – she was created from Adam’s rib – and finding her fulfilment in being his helper.

In this sense then the woman is the “Better half” being man’s glory

 

Let us make man in our image …

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them [Gen.1v26-27]

 

Male and female are to compliment each other. Paul concern is that God is glorified in the worship of the Church and that only happens when men and women jointly fulfill their God-given roles and responsibilities.

 

Paul must have been reflecting on the creation account when he wrote this.  Man by himself is not complete, he is alone and needs a companion. The animals were not good enough – he needed someone who was like him but different – who is uniquely for his own glory.

She is man’s “glory” because she “came from him” and was created “for him” NOT be to subordinate to him, BUT because she is necessary for him. She was the only one suitable for him so that he might be complete and together they could form humanity.

 

So men and women have a unique relationship to each other and stand equally before God, made in his image so that he might be glorified.

 

N.B. Don’t miss what freedom women received when the gospel came. Women had been subservient to men – their chattels and playthings – the gospel had brought women a before unimagined freedom. Paul is simply warning that this new freedom is not abused or taken beyond the bounds that God set.

 

Through this maze that is difficult to interpret  – [because of the angels – it is almost impossible to know what this means] – one thing is clear – Paul wants the Corinthians Christians to know that God wants worship to be orderly and descent with no hint of immorality or the blurring of sexual distinctiveness.

 

[REMEMBER Temple worship to the gods involved cult prostitution and gross immorality – What would an unbeliever have thought if they had come into a worship service to see women with uncovered head when in the culture of the day that symbolized an immoral woman]

 

In our culture women’s head coverings have no moral significance and therefore the practice is not an issue but the principle of maintain her femininity is. A woman must be feminine and a man must be masculine. And in the Church those roles must be treated with honour and love with no hint of immorality between fellow believers.

 

4. THE PRINCIPLE BALANCED / QUALIFIED [v11-12]

 

READ v 11-12

 

Just so that the men do not get the wrong idea about what he has been saying he qualifies it in these verses!

The key phrases in these verses are “in the Lord” and  “all things from God”  While it is true that the woman is man’s glory having been created for his sake that DOES NOT mean that she was created for his purposes into some kind of subordinate position for his aims and desires.

 

God has arranged things so that “In the Lord” the one cannot exist without the other. Woman was created from man BUT every man since then is born from woman. There is an interdependence that makes in impossible for one to consider him/herself superior to the other.

 

There is no room for male chauvinism or for feminism. Both are perversions of God’s order.

In order for the Church to be strong we need each other and we need to relate to each other in the way God has set out.

 

“All things originate from God” – Men and woman have different role BUT NOT different importance. They are equal to each other in the world, in the Church and before God

 

5. THE PRINCIPLE OBSERVED [v13-16]

 

READ v13-16

 

In the Nature of things men have short hair and women long hair!

 

Paul now argues from the logic of How things are! How this is culturally universal is difficult to answer!!

ILLUST: African women can’t have long hair

 

BUT Paul’s major point is undeniable – God has made men and women different! You may have noticed!!!

 

Different cultures and societies express the masculine and feminine roles in different ways – the kind of jobs they do and the kind of clothes they wear. But God intends that men and women have different but complimentary functions.

 

Men must be truly masculine and women truly feminine – allowing the Bible to define those terms and not cultural stereotypes. In a society where the “unisex” theme is high on the agenda, Christians need to express themselves according to God’s pattern.  God has created us and redeemed us and our worship needs to glorify him as we fulfill our God-given roles within the church as we meet together and in society as we relate to believers and to unbelievers.

 

Paul is not laying down in these verses [2-16] universal practices – He is applying the principle that we look at last week “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.

 

And so the principle for Christians at worship [and for life in general] are that modes of dress are to be appropriate – not conveying an immoral message [sexually suggestive or flirty]. That things need to be orderly –

AND the distinctiveness between the sexes must be maintained. So that as we fulfill the roles God has given male and female we can compliment each other and help each other to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:23-11v:1 – Free to serve God and benefit others

1 Corinthians 10v23-11v1.

Free to serve God and benefit others.

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

These verses, 10v23-11v1, are the concluding remarks of a long section of Paul’s letter dealing with the matter of food sacrificed to idols and the whole practice of idolatry. It is clear that the problem is not the idol itself. It was simply an inanimate object that had no inherent power. BUT Paul warns that it is what lies behind the idol that is the danger. The idol is nothing. But behind the idol is a power that is anti-God.

 

It is tempting in our western, 20th century culture to think that idolatry is not a modern problem. After all we don’t have strange statues around our houses to which we offer food or prayer. Behind the statue or idol was a demonic power that was anti-God AND we in our Western society need to learn that the demonic is not as remote as we would wish to believe it is.

 

ILLUST:  Did you know that there are more practising witches in the UK than there are Clergy!!

 

We have grow up in a scientific age that is anti-supernaturalistic. There has been a move away from God and from belief in a supernatural Creator God. The miracles of Jesus are explained away and the virgin birth and the resurrection are questioned. This anti – biblical stance has left a spiritual vacuum that Satan is only too willing to fill. The Bible is clear that we are involved in a spiritual battle. And we don’t have to be actively involved in witchcraft and idolatry and black magic or Voodoo to be idolatrous.

 

When God is sidelined and something or someone else takes his place then we are guilty of idolatry.

 

ILLUST: Thus your home or your job or a sport can be an idol – these things are not wrong in themselves and God wants us to have them [he gives them to us] – BUT when the become substitutes for God then we have gone to far.

 

Not only do these things become our idols BUT we become their slaves. We have to have this or that!! We must do this!! We must achieve that!! All of which may be perfectly legitimate things in themselves BUT with the wrong attitude can be enslaving.

 

So Paul warns the Corinthian Christians that while the idol itself has no power, what lies behind has the power to enslave. Therefore they need to be very careful in their dealings with people so as not to communicate a wrong message.

 

YES, as a Christian these powers no longer have power over you because have been freed from this bondage by the power of Christ. However DON’T endanger yourself or mislead others.

 

 

1. HOW TO USE OUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM.

 

Most of the Corinthian Christians had come out of a Pagan background where food was offered to the idols and including in the worship of the many Corinthian gods was drunkeness and sexual orgies. Many of the Temples to the gods had cult-prostitutes.

 

With their new freedom in Christ, some of the Corinthians had misunderstood Christian liberty. And their slogan was “Everything is permissible”

 

“Hey, I am free! I can go to the temples whenever I like! I am free to eat the food offered to an idol! And if there is drunkeness and orgies going on around me , Well, so what, I am not involved!”

 

Paul has already forbidden this practice of going to the temples.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord

and the cup of demons too;

you cannot have a part in both

the Lord’s table and the table

of demons. [10v21]

 

The Corinthians had tried to make attendance at the temples a non-essential but for Paul it was an absolute because it was idolatry.

 

For them it was a question of Knowledge and rights. “We know that an idol is a nothing therefore we have the right to exercise our freedom”

BUT for Paul it is not a matter or knowledge and rights but a matter of love and freedom.

 

There are some things about which the Bible is clear and there is little room for debate. But there are many areas of life and behaviour that are not always clear – the grey areas.

 

It is the grey-areas that Paul is addressing in these last verses of Chapter 10.

 

Yes the Christian is free but that does not mean license to do as I please!!

 

“Everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial;

“Everything is permissible” but not everything is constructive

1.a. Constructive behaviour and not self-gratification.

 

Because something is allowed it does not automatically follow that it is right or profitable.

 

We live in a society in which the rights of the individual are upheld and defended. That is itself is not a bad thing. Everyone is of value. BUT very often people use their individual rights for purely selfish reasons which are destructive to society and impinge on the rights of others.

 

ILLUST: “Do reporters have the right to invade others lives and destroy them?”

 

“Do people have the right to make claims far in excess of the wrong suffered?”

 

“Do we have the right to gossip about another and cut them down because it may make us look more important or satisfy our desire for scandal?”

 

There are some things that we are free to do but are not necessarily beneficial for others or for us.

It is easy to cut down BUT GOD wants us to put others first.

 

1.b. Others first!

 

Nobody should seek his own good,

but the good of others [v24]

 

This kind of thinking is foreign to our society in which we are told and taught to be aggressive and assertive. In the work place employees are sent on assertiveness training courses. You must fulfill your potential, you must reach your self-actualization. SELF is the preoccupation; MY life, MY job; My target figures; MY potential …. AND if others get in the way and need to be trodden on well that just too bad!!

 

What is the bottom line for marriage break-down, for corruption, for sexual immorality …… the bottom line is selfishness! What is in it for me!

Did you ever hear a woman say “I am leaving my husband because he is gentle and kind and considerate and he really puts me first and loves me!” NO!! NO!!  It is because he is insensitive, inconsiderate and selfish and I don’t think he really loves me any more!!”

 

1.c. Liberty before legalism [v25-26]

 

READ v25-26.

 

Paul in these verses is asserting that a Christian is free from legalistic rules and regulations. He uses the example of the food sacrificed to idols which has been the subject of the Corinthians inquiry.

 

The Temple Priests in Corinth received many sacrifices from the people and much of the meat brought for sacrifice went out the back door of the temple and was sold in the meat market. Some of the Christians thought it was wrong to eat such meat because it had been offered to an idol.

 

Paul reject eating in the temple, not because of the food but because of the location. Here he says that all food comes from the Lord.  God is the creator of all things; He made the food so “BUY AND EAT”

 

In others words, don’t create problems were their aren’t any. Eating meat or not eating meat is a non-issue. The implication is that God doesn’t care about this so then neither should you. It is not an issue for conscience so don’t worry about it.

This was a radical position for Paul to take. Remember that he is a Jew – the Jews would only eat “kosher” food. Paul says “Don’t ask all kinds of conscience questions – just eat it”

 

1.d. Act graciously and don’t take the moral high ground.

 

READ V27-29 – an example of the issue!

 

When you go to another house don’t ask questions about the food, just eat it! If they tell you it comes from the meat market and you know it will cause them problems if you do eat it then don’t eat it. The issue is not the food it is rather the person in whose presence you will eat THEREFORE the principle of putting others first takes precedence.

 

Our personal freedom is not absolute it is always conditioned by the rule of putting others first and seeking their good.

 

ILLUST: In the Christian community in which I grew up in RSA it was not the done thing for Christians to drink wine etc. So I did not! When we lived in Portugal and we went to Portugese homes it was acceptable to drink wine, it was expected! For them it was a non-issue! I drank the wine the gave me!

 

You see in the Bible the issue is not whether one drinks wine or not! The issue is not to get drunk!!

 

ILLUST: If you attend another Church, or even if we have things in this church that you don’t like – certain types of music – The outward form is not the issue – God is concerned with the attitude of our hearts.

 

We have no right to condemn another for something which is a non-essential and is God given.

So Paul is telling us that we are free – but we are so free we are free not to exercise our freedom. We are free to given up our freedom if it for the good of others!!

 

2. THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM.

 

READ v31-33

 

Paul now opens it up to include all aspects of life and not just food and drink – Whatever we do The goal is GOD’S GLORY. That is what we live for – to bring praise to him and to honour Him!

 

What brings glory to God? What pleases Him? When we put the good of others first! What is the best thing that we can ever do for another person? It is to point them to Jesus Christ!!

 

For I am not seeking my own good

but the good of many,

SO THAT they may be saved

 

When we live the kind of lives that are turned away from ourselves out towards others putting their good before our own in the hope that God in his grace will bring them to himself THEN God is please with us.

 

He does not want us to be a hindrance to others – a stumbling block. To either the believer or the unbeliever! Doesn’t this curtail our freedom! How can we live without offending someone? It is not possible.

 

Paul’s point is related to intentional behaviour! He says that we must not purposely pursue a path that is to the detriment of another. So we are not simply talking about hurting the feelings of an over-sensitive person who is difficult and who is never pleased with anything. NO!! We are talking about behaving in such a way so as to prevent a person from hearing the gospel.

 

We are talking about alienating a fellow Christian by insensitive behaviour!

This does not mean that we water-down what we believe because others don’t agree and may be offend by the message of the gospel NO! The gospel is an offence to other who reject it. We saw that in the opening chapter of this letter.

 

But we need to be sure that people are not put off or hurt because of our stupidity of insensitivity.

 

ILLUST: “Are we willing to open our homes to people” To invite them in knowing that they will infringe on our privacy – they might spill coffee on the carpet – the children might put dirty hand on your chair or damage your china.

 

May be your home is a bit shabby and you don’t have nice furniture and you don’t want people to know that – Are you willing to swallow your pride for the sake of others.

 

We can learn a lot from other cultures – Asian in RSA – always welcome in spite of poverty.

wooden boxes and no carpets. Dirt floors. BUT a smile and a glass of water.

 

3.THE EXAMPLE OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM.

 

READ 11v1

 

There are some things that are altogether incompatible with life in Christ and they must be shunned. BUT there are other things that are of no consequence. We are free in regard to those things – free to give up our rights for the good of others.

 

Jesus set the example for us, Romans 15v3:

For even Christ did not please himself;

but, as it is written “The insults of

those who insult you have fallen on me”

 

Jesus Christ had the rights to the glories of Heaven but he was willing to give that up for our sakes. He did not die for himself – he died for us to make it possible for us to be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven.

 

He is the example – giving up his right for the good of others! That is what he is asking us to do! We can’t do it until we have come to Christ for salvation and come into a living relationship with him.

 

Then he calls us to follow him – to live for him – putting others first and thus bringing glory to God.

 

We can’t do it in our own strength BUT whenever God asks us to do something he ALWAYS supplies the resources to accomplish it.

Though we are weak his grace is everything we need , –

we’re made of clay, but this treasure is within:

he turns our weaknesses into his opportunities,

so that the glory goes to HIM {Graham Kendrick}

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – Freedom to be free or freedom to love!

FREEDOM TO BE FREE OR FREEDOM TO LOVE!

 

1 CORINTHIANS 8v1-13

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Chapter 8:1 – 11:1 is dealing with the one overall subject of food offered to idols. As we have seen so many times – we can’t really understand the what Paul is saying unless we understand the historical setting in which he wrote. Food sacrificed to idols is not really something that you and I deal with in our everyday lives. It might be in other parts of the world but not in the part of 20th century England that we live in.

 

It seems clear from v.1 that Paul is writing in response to one of their inquiries in the letter they sent to him “Now about food offered to idols”  Why was this such an important issue in Corinth?

 

Corinth was a city that worshipped many gods and there were many temples dedicated to these gods. The eating of a cultic meal was a regular part of worship. These meals were sometimes State Festivals and at other times were private celebrations.

 

There was the preparation of the meal, the sacrifice itself and then the feast.  The sacrifice was divided into three portions, part burned before the god, part given to the worshipper and part place on the table before the god. This last portion was often taken out the back-door of the Temple and then sold in the public market place so that you could unwittingly be eating food that had been offered to an idol in someone’s home.

 

It does seem however that Paul is not deal in Ch.8 with the meat bought in the market but with the issue of eating at the temple itself. Most of the Gentile Christians in Corinth would have eaten in the Temples before their conversion. Bear in mind that the Temples were the basic restaurants of the day. They would eat there as we would eat at a restaurant or local pub!

 

There were two extremes to which the Corinthians were going in regard to Food offered to idols

– 1) the legalists who said “Don’t have anything to do with this meat because it is not pure.”

– 2) the libertines who said “ We are free from legalistic rules – offering food to a statue doesn’t change the meat in any way so we are free to eat what we like and eat it where we like.

 

It is the second group that Paul is addressing in this chapter – those who are free – the libertines who consider those not like them to be the “weak”.

 

Before Paul actually deals with their questions about food offered to idols he lays down some important foundational truths.

 

 

 

 

1. THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE: “LOVE BUILDS UP”. [v1-3]

 

The word “Know” or “Knowledge” appears in this chapter a number of times. “Knowledge” was one of the “in” words at Corinth. We know that we all possess knowledge was possibly one of the slogans of the Corinthian Christians and Paul; is not disagreeing with that. BUT they were going further!

 

Their attitude becomes clear in v.2 The man who thinks he has arrived at knowledge [NOT NIV. knows something] Remember from previous chapters how the Corinthians thought the they Had already arrived. Their emphasis on the already as opposed to the not yet which affected their view of wisdom also here affects their view of knowledge.

 

These Corinthians had an inflated view of themselves and their knowledge. And as a results they thought of themselves as being better and stronger than those who did not share their view!

They considered themselves to have received a special kind of knowledge and it was possessing this special knowledge that made them super-spiritual and a cut about the rest!

 

“We know that this meat is not affected by being held up in front of an idol and therefore we are free to eat it when and where we like!

 

Paul does not disagree that We all possess knowledge but he warns of their misuse of that knowledge.

Knowledge PUFFS UP,

but

love BUILDS UP.

 

On its own knowledge is inflated and empty. Christians need to be filled with love  because it is love that builds up.

 

ILLUST: If you prick a puffed up balloon it will burst. Lean on a built up wall and it will hold your weight.

 

It is so easy for us to think that we have all our theology all wrapped up and neatly packaged and to be able to articulate the niceties of Christian doctrine and we might even impress people by so doing. BUT how much closer are people brought to God??

 

Paul warns that the one who thinks he has already arrived at knowledge does not yet know as he ought to know [v2]. It is not simply that his knowledge is incomplete, although that is true, NOR is Paul point that “a little knowledge is dangerous”, although that is also true, BUT Paul’s point is that the one who “thinks he is in the Know” is in fact showing that he doesn’t yet have the real thing. i.e. LOVE.

 

It is not knowledge that makes us spiritual BUT love

the man who loves {God -NIV}

This one truly knows {or  is known}

 

Not “loves God” NIV but loves his brothers and sisters – which is of course an outworking of our love for God.

The basis for Christian behaviour is not knowledge BUT love. By this Paul does not mean that knowledge is unimportant. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. We need to study and come to grips with the deep truths of scripture. BUT if that knowledge does not have an outworking in our love and care for each others then it has only served to puff up and not build up.

 

So we need to ask questions like, “Are people brought closer to God? Are Christians strengthened in their faith? Is our knowledge of God radiated and passed on by Love?”

 

There is a warning in this passage about those teachers or systems that entice to receive “special insight” or “deeper revelation” that will put us one-up. This leads to pride and alienates rather than building up. Knowledge without love is a dangerous thing. The way of love supersedes the way of knowledge

 

2. THE FOUNDATIONAL TRUTH: ONE GOD, ONE LORD! [V4-6]

 

Paul now returns to the matter of food offered to idols.

This group of Corinthians Christians who had no conscience about eating food offered to idols and eating it in the temple reasoned thus: “We know that there is only one God and one Lord and that these idols are nothing but dumb pieces of wood, stone, gold and silver.”

 

We read Ps.115 which describes these gods.

 

Therefore they reasoned that if this idol is not a god then it can’t effect the meat therefore we are free to eat it.

 

Paul readily with their theology but not with their practice as we have seen and will come to again in the last few verses of the chapter.

 

If we simply took the catch-phrase of the Corinthians “There is no God but one” we could argue that everyone is really worshipping the same God. We might give them different names and we may worship in different ways but really it is all the same.

This syncretistic/universalistic mood pervades the society in which we live. That is why inter-faith worship has become so popular and you can stand alongside a Hindu and a Muslim and any other kind of religious adherent and be quite happy. BUT in so doing you side-step or reject the central message of the Christian Faith.

 

Paul is adamant in these verses that we worship the one God – Father – the creator and sustainer of all things AND Jesus Christ who is also creator and sustainer and therefore equal to God. NOT just a prophet as the Muslims believe or a good teacher as some teach.

 

The foundation of the Christian Faith is that God the Father is the ONLY God and that Jesus Christ is Divine and the Only Saviour and the Only way to God. And the Holy Spirit is the ONLY one who can give spiritual live and that these three are ONE GOD. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

All these other god are simply “so-called gods” and exist only in the minds of their worshippers.

 

It is not the wood or stone that has any power but rather what is behind it! In 10v20 Paul gives a warning about this very thing “…the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons”

 

ILLUST: Hindu boy worshipping Monkey god – jumps into tree and chatters. No power in the monkey but power behind is Satan

 

Muslim Saint worship – trances – young skinny teenager throwing off 4 grown men – no power in dead saint but power of the Devil .

 

Satan in the Prince of This World and he will substitute anything to deflect us from worshipping the One true God.

 

Paul now goes on in the remaining verses to explain how the Fundamental Principle of “Love builds up” and the Foundational Truth of “One God and One Lord” Have there outworking in practical Christian behaviour.

 

3. THE FOREMOST CONSIDERATION: OTHERS FIRST! [V7-13]

 

READ v7-8

 

Whether they eat the idol food or not really has no spiritual value and is of no consequence to God ultimately.

 

BUT while all know at a theoretical level that an idol is nothing it had been so much part of their lives and so dominant in their lives for so long that it was difficult to possess that knowledge at an experiential and emotional level. While they were pagans these “gods” and “lords” had been very real to them and it would take time to break away from that for some of them.

 

Remember that Paul is addressing the “Strong” or at least those who consider themselves to be strong – those who think of themselves as “free”.

 

READ v9-13

 

For the “weak” – “weak of conscience” – eating in the temple food that had been offered to an idol could well be the thing that would cause them to slide back into paganism and away from God. And says Paul to the “strong”, “If you are encouraging them to do that then you will be guilty of destroying them by your so called knowledge!

 

1) Those who are the “strong” were going to the Temples and eating food offered to idols.

2) They were also encouraging the “weak” to do the same and indeed putting them under pressure.

3)  The problem with the “weak” is NOT so much that they are offended by what  the “Knowing-ones” are doing BUT it was going to the temple and eating – What was simply FOOD to the strong was to the weak Food sacrificed to idols and it was not the food that would destroy them BUT the idolatry inherent in eating in the temple.

 

Again it is not the food or the idol but what is behind it that has the power – Satan.

 

So Paul here brings in what has become know as the stumbling block principle. The stumbling block principle is not simply offending some overly sensitive person who has a hang up about some particular non-essential:

 

ILLUST: We must not move the pulpit because so-and so will be offended.

We must not have drums or guitars in church because only a piano or organ are worshipful.    SOME are simply TOUCHY and will always be offended by something.

 

That is not the stumbling block principle. It is actively encouraging someone to do something that will destroy their faith. And doing it because we feel that we have the right knowledge and should have the right to exercise our freedom.

 

When we insist on OUR freedom and OUR rights at the expense of others then we are on dangerous ground. We live in a society that is very individualistic. My rights and my freedom – what I feel is my due is all that is important and if that impinges on another’s rights well too bad!!

 

We must not allow that thinking to predominant in the Church of Christ.

 

ILLUST: A Christian who had an alcohol problem before being saved! It would be wrong for a fellow Christian to pressurize him to go to the pub and encourage him to have a drink Knowing that it could cast him to fall back into alcoholism!

 

The strong Christian is not the one who insists on his/her rights as the Corinthians were doing BUT rather the strong are those who because of the knowledge and love for God and their fellow believers are willing to give up their rights for the sake of others.

If you are in bondage to exercise your freedom then you are not free.

Christians are so free that they are free not to exercise their freedom!!

 

ILLUST: Muslims friends when missionaries – did not eat pork in front of them. Not because I don’t like pork but it is an offense to them.

 

V.11 – Christ died for the weak brother – If we are going to love like Christ loved which is the goal and what God wants from us then we, like Christ must be willing to give up our rights and our freedom for the sake of the other.

 

If we cause another to stumble we are sinning against him / her and also against Christ. Love builds up the body of Christ, the Church, when we by our behaviour cause another to fall we are in danger of damaging not only the individual concerned but also the body of Christ.

 

ILLUST: Church where I grew up – split because a group became preoccupied with [obsessed] with a particular theological view and when the rest of the church would not go along they left cause great damage to the church.

 

The principle therefore is v.13 [Paul’s example]

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to sin,

I will never eat meat again, so that I will not

cause him to fall.

 

The issue is not offending someone in the church simply because they are touchy BUT it has to do with our conduct that others would emulate and cause them hurt.

Or worse actively urging people to do certain things because of our so called superior knowledge.

 

The other danger that needs to be avoided and which would be an illegitimate use of the stumbling block principle is this: Those who feel that they have been offended trying to force others to conform to their own idiosyncrasies of behaviour.

 

ILLUST: I thinks it is wrong for women to wear makeup trousers therefore it is wrong and I will try to force others to follow my ideas.

 

Paul’s whole point in this passage is that as God’s people living in community with each other we are to build each other up in love – putting the needs of others before our own rights. Without one group demanding their own behaviour of others.

 

True knowledge is not academic but practical – expressing itself in acts and attitudes of love and kindness so that others can be built up and God glorified.