Takes More Than Gifted People
It takes more than gifted
persons to make
a church function properly in unity. This is not to diminish the
of individuals gifted with God given abilities. However, it takes more
than ability; it takes more than knowledge; it takes more than the
of God, it takes more than sanctification; and it takes more than just
having a solid foundation to support the church as a viable force.
"To the church of
God in Corinth,
to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together
all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus
Lord and ours:
"Grace and peace
to you from
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"I always thank
God for you
because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have
enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your
our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not
any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be
revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be
on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into
with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (NIV).
You can possess all the things
be a church or a Christian and still be carnal minded. Corinth had
they needed to be called the church of God at Corinth, but they still
a key ingredient to accomplish their task as a congregation of God's
Brothers, I could
you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. I gave you
not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are
not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and
among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For
one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not
mere men?" (NIV).
I have seen Christians use their
to render a great service for the church, but how they go about
their service divides the church. They get the job done, but it is done
through the strength and wisdom of the flesh. Sometimes fleshly efforts
are about as graceful as the proverbial bull in a china closet.
One thing has always plagued me
It is amazing how we plead for religious unity and divide through
The church at Corinth serves as a model to modern churches as to how we
must settle our division. Are we willing to listen?
Must Remember Our Calling
In the opening verses of
reminds Christians of God’s relationship to them. They are called by
sanctified through the grace and peace, which only comes through
They are reminded how God has enriched their lives to the point that
lack nothing. It is a subtle but potent reminder of the relational
that should be a part of their Christian fellowship. On second thought
Paul’s salutation may have not sounded that subtle to a divided
fellowship. Paul’s salutation may be more gracious than subtle.
We all have the same holy
God. We are called to be saints. This means that we as a
are sanctified. It is our sanctified relationship with God that should
sanctify our relationships with one another. What sets us a part as
to God should set us a part holy to each other. The word holy sounds
to our modern ears. It just means that God has set us a part as his
to be sanctified. The church is called out of the world through
to the gospel of Christ. We remain in the world but we are no longer of
the world because we have renounced the wisdom of the world as our
in life. We now live in Christ.
"But we ought
always to thank
God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God
chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and
belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you
might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers,
firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of
mouth or by letter" (NIV).
The Spirit of God sanctifies, or
sets us a
part as God’s people as we choose to obey God’s truth. Choosing to obey
God’s truth sanctifies us. When a man and woman marry they are set
for one another; any other relationship outside of marriage is sinful.
Christians are set a part to obey Christ. But it doesn’t stop there.
relationship with Christ affects our fellowship as Christians. When we
sin against each other we also sin against Christ.
God has entered our lives
our relationships with the world. God chose to enter into our
through human flesh, as God incarnate. He did so to enter into a
with us. As God enters into our lives he seeks to sanctify our
with those whom we come to know love. It is God’s relationship with us
must call us to peace with others.
"To the rest I say
not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she
is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman
a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she
must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified
his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her
husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they
"But if the
let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such
God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you
will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will
save your wife?" (NIV).
Obedience to Christ
requires us to abide
in our calling (7:17-25). Obedience to Christ doesn't sever our
relationship to the world; it only changes our relationship to the
This is where our greatest potential as Christians will be found. The
of our calling is to allow God to bring us to maturity so that he might
also touch the lives of those we enter into a relationship with. This
absolutely essential as we relate to one another as Christians.
When we fail to do all we
can to bring
peace to our relationships it hinders our relationship with God.
1 Peter 3:1-12
Wives, in the same
way be submissive
to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they
may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they
see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come
from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold
and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the
beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's
Husbands, in the
same way be
considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as
the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life,
so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
"Finally, all of
you, live in
harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be
and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with
blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a
love life and
see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from
speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and
it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are
to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do
It is the character of our
with those around us that assure us of our relationship to Christ. It
is God's faithfulness to us that makes him desire to permeate every
of our lives with his holiness despite our ability to see things as he
sees them. This is the basis of our relationship with those who differ
with us. Our relationships are sanctified in the fellowship as we
others through the love of God.
In Corinthians Paul tells
us the church
divides because it seeks to use worldly wisdom to solve its problems.
Paul didn't pull any punches with the church at Corinth. Maybe it is
we stopped pulling punches with the modern church and with ourselves.
Corinth's problems revolved
things. Factions. Immorality. Lawsuits. Idolatry. Abuses of the
Supper. False teachers. Problems about marriage, divorce and
Disorderly conduct of assemblies through the abuse of God given gifts.
Woman's part in the church. Heresies about the resurrection.
Does any of this sound
familiar to the
modern church? If it does, remember Paul wrote to the Corinthian
about these problems and they solved their discord. I wonder, should
same instruction to the modern church help solve her problems?
One cause of Corinth's
polarization around personalities. There was a concentration of
groups in Corinth that had formed around certain individuals, which
in conflicting positions.
This doesn't necessarily mean
that the individuals
mentioned intended to cause strife in Corinth. There is a fleshly
to line up behind those who exhibit knowledge or possess wisdom. This
mean that those possessing knowledge seek to create a following. They
sincerely seek to impart knowledge and wisdom to promote the growth of
In Corinth Christians probably
had no central
meeting place. Church buildings didn't become prominent until about 200
years later. There were probably many small congregations within the
each under its own leadership. They simply met in homes of fellow
or in local halls. These groups developed into rival, competing groups
rather than cooperating groups.
Some of these groups claimed to
have a philosophic
understanding of Jesus Christ. They prided themselves in their wisdom
knowledge. They began grouping themselves around one doctrine or
as they rallied as partisans around one leader or another. The church
split into factions seeking to preach Christ with their own personal
that set them apart from others.
There are differing schools of
many modern day issues concerning the church. When we seek to build a
around a particular school of thought we naturally become divisive as
boast of our fleshly knowledge of the issues.
Paul wanted the Corinthian
Christians to test
themselves. He writes, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are
the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in
you-unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5
Maybe it is time for the modern church to test herself to see if Christ
is really guiding her.
Modern day congregations are
often built around
strong personalities that seek to have their own way. How often do
mistake strong personalities for strong spiritual leadership? I think
had a strong personality. That's probably why he accomplished so much
Judaism before becoming a Christian (Galatians 1:13-15; Philippians
It is obvious that when Paul became a Christian his personality was
by the gentleness and meekness of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1,2).
Him Who Boasts
Boast In The Lord."
When you have proud people
adopting a worldly
lifestyle as they depend upon the wisdom of the world to solve their
you are going to have church problems.
What is the focus of your
your worship services focused on Christ or your differences? This is
test! What is it that drives your worship services? Paul says, The
important part of Christian worship is whether we are circumcised in
(Colossians 2:11,12). Paul writes, "Therefore, as it is written: "Let
who boasts boast in the Lord" (1:31). Paul was quoting from Jeremiah.
"This is what the
'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of
strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts
about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who
kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,'
declares the LORD.
"'The days are
the LORD, 'when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the
Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant
For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole
of Israel is uncircumcised in heart'" (NIV).
Boasting over our differences
many issues that divide us does more harm than good. The world sees the
division of Christians. They know Jesus prayed for our unity.
"My prayer is not
alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in
you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have
sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be
one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to
unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even
you have loved me" (NIV).
The world knows that our love
for one another
is the greatest validation of our faith in Christ.
"A new command I
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By
this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one
Message of the
Cross Brings Unity
God did not call us because of
who we are,
but he calls us in spite of what we are. God creates out of nothing.
you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He
makes saints out of sinners.
The Corinthian's were ordinary
were terrible sinners (6:9-11). God chose the foolish, the weak, the
and despised to show a proud world the need of his grace. A lost world
admires birth, social status, financial success, power and recognition.
The world can't understand how God turns sinners into saints. The world
would never choose the people God chose to change the world. We would
to the movers and shakers of our world. This is the very thing that
the wisdom of the wise.
What one thing is capable of
of differing races, cultures, languages, customs, religious ways,
social status, levels of intelligence, levels of maturity, differing
and different factions? We know from Judaism that it takes more than
and regulations. We know from the world that it takes more than the
teaching of worldly wisdom.
Newsweek religion editor
"Clearly, the cross is what
Christ of Christianity from every other Jesus. In Judaism there is no
for a Messiah who dies, much less as a criminal as Jesus did. In Islam,
the story of Jesus' death is rejected as an affront to Allah himself.
can accept only a Jesus who passes into peaceful samadhi, a
who escapes the degradation of death. The figure of the crucified
says Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘is a very painful image to me. It does
not contain joy or peace, and this does not do justice to Jesus.’ There
is, in short, no room in other religions for a Christ who experiences
full burden of mortal existence—and hence there is no reason to believe
in him as the divine Son whom the Father resurrects from the dead….
That the image of a benign Jesus
appeal should come as no surprise. That most of the world cannot accept
the Jesus of the cross should not surprise, either. Thus the idea that
Jesus can serve as a bridge uniting the world's religions is inviting
may be ultimately impossible. Citation: Kenneth L. Woodward,
Other Jesus," (Newsweek 3-27-00, p.50)
We understand from this quote
that the world
expects Christians to unite upon a truly benign Jesus. It is utterly
to unite around anything other than message of the cross that
in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This is the theme of the
It is plain to see that it is the very wisdom of the cross that
us from the world.
It is the message of the cross
as the wisdom and power of God to bring about unity (1:30,31). The
destroys the wisdom and intelligence of our world by revealing the mind
The message of the cross
is the mind of Christ. Paul pleads with us to be of the same
(1:10); we can only be of the same mind as each of us develops the mind
of Christ. Paul reveals the characteristics Christ's mind.
"If you have any
from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any
with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy
by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility
others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your
own interests, but also to the interests of others.
should be the
same as that of Christ Jesus:
"Who, being in
very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made
nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became
to death- even death on a cross!
exalted him to
the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that
at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father" (NIV).
The mind of Christ means
giving up our
rights. This means putting the needs of others first. It means
suffering loss so as to bring glory and honor to Christ rather than
We are to consider the needs of others greater than our own needs. We
give up our entitlements as a service to others. We become less
about how others respond to us, and more concerned about how God can
us in our relationships with others. To do otherwise is destructive to
the health of the church.
An attitude of meekness
penetrates every word
of this passage in Philippians. It reminds us of Jesus' words on the
are the meek, for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5
This is why the preaching of the cross becomes a stumbling block to the
world. This is why it sounds like foolishness to a world bent on
its own wisdom.
"I am persuaded that much of the
and conflict which besets the Christian church today is not due to
issues of theology. Instead, it is because brilliant leaders have not
willing to act with meekness. Instead, they have gained a following and
then, to maintain this following, have felt obliged to discredit those
who would oppose them." (Hudson T. Armerding, Leadership, Vol.
The message of one who died upon
a Roman cross
seemed to be at cross-purposes with the message of a world that thinks
that God could never succumb to death on a cross. The Jews knew that
hanged on a tree was accursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:23). The concept
a suffering Messiah was the thing that disproved Christ as the Messiah
to the Jews. Yet, taking up our cross and following Christ as we suffer
the loss of our rights is the one thing we must do to maintain the
relationships and the unity of the church.
Christ gave himself up for the
he is asking each of us to give ourselves up for the sake of the church.
just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her
holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to
present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or
any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands
to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for
just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body. "For
reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his
and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am
talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must
love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her
Paul is speaking of what Christ
has done for
the church as a basis of our relationship with each other. When the
of Jesus Christ is the focal point of our relationships with others our
sacrifices for others pale into insignificance. This is why Paul wanted
to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2).
The only thing that will sustain
of Christ's body is lives transformed by the sanctifying work of God's
Spirit. This can only be done as we preach Christ and him crucified.
Christ causes members to put their trust in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the only who can
to the body of Christ as we trust him to guide us.
1 Peter 2:23-25
"When they hurled
at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins
in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for
by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going
but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls"