Fear and Trembling on Wednesday Night
A door has been opened before me. Bryan Dill, our preaching minister at Holly Hill, happened to go on vacation and has left me to teach 1 Corinthians 1:10-4:21 in our Wednesday night series teaching through the New Testament. We’re using a book by a respected brother that shall remain nameless here. How on earth the timing of our quarters and Bryan’s vacation conspired to drop the basic anti-sectarian text into my lap, only God knows.
I have watched (read and heard, actually) the examples of Godly men (3 in particular, you know who you are) scorning the shame of the judgments of men in order to preach the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Jay Guin, a shepherd of God’s people, issued a general challenge (specifically the next to last paragraph… generally the entire Scary Lessons from Galatians series), and my dear brother in the faith Darin Hamm made it personal for me.
I really do not know what will happen tomorrow night, how my teaching will be received, but I know that whatever happens, I am God’s beloved child and He will never leave me, nor will he ever slumber when I am in danger. Our God is an AWESOME God! I am publishing my thoughts here before teaching them, so no one can say I have worked in secret. If some of my readers and teachers recognize their own thoughts here, please recall the words of James Joyce: “Good writers borrow; great writers steal.” Thank you for the loan 🙂 and please keep me in your prayers
Solving the Problem of Division – 1 Cor 1:10-4:21
Hi, everybody! Hi, family! I’m sorry, I’m just not a ‘Good Evening’ kind of guy. I grew up in Alabama. I don’t know if we even HAD evening in Alabama. We didn’t have lunch. I know that. Sometime between the sit-ins in the ’60s and my arrival in Birmingham in ’81, lunch vanished! We had breakfast, dinner, and supper! No lunch!
Anyway, you know I’m happy to see you. If anyone doesn’t know who I am, my name is Nick Gill and I am a sinner. Welcome to an assembly of saints in Frankfort! That’s what Paul calls our spiritual ancestors in Corinth, isn’t it? And they were one messed-up, upside-down, broken bunch, weren’t they?
Who can tell me some of the problems in Corinth?
- 1) Factions
- 2) Sexual Immorality
- 3) Weak Leadership
- 4) Unhealthy, Unworthy Worship
- 5) Polytheism (8:4,7)
- 6) Idolatry (10:20-21)
Anyone want to take a swing at the difference between polytheism and idolatry? Think about it in terms of action! What do POLYTHEISTS do? They think that there are many gods. Now, what do IDOL worshipers do? (And no, I don’t mean “Rush home after services to watch Simon Cowell!”) They worship demons in disguise!
Okay, so the church in Corinth has PROB-LUMZ! Tonight, we’re tackling factions/divisiveness/sectarianism. I’m trying to lay out tonight’s material well, because I think that every week we’re going to notice how all of Corinth’s problems stem from a lack of unity in Christ.
Speaking of which, what is our congregational theme for this year? Unity – The Power of ONE. Someone read our theme verse:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2 ESV)
Now, listen to THIS!
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12 ESV)
Fully 1/4 of this letter is Paul DIRECTLY confronting heretics – schismatics – those who would divide the Body of Christ, and like I said, I believe this whole letter is confronting (directly or indirectly) the spirit of divisiveness. Did you know that Satan is a divider of brothers?
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10 ESV)
The word ‘accuser’ is the Greek word kategoros, from which we get CATEGORY. It’s a legal term describing what the attacking party in a legal case does to the other party. Rather than seeking reconciliation, an accuser labels you, tries to cut you down to size, tries to cut away part of your identity, to divide you from your family and community so that you will fit their CATEGORY for you. And THAT is exactly what Satan has been up to in Corinth.
Do you remember where these categories are showing up MOST clearly in the Corinthian church? That’s right! At the Lord’s Table. I imagine it looked something like a high school lunchroom, with each clique at its own table, ostracizing all the others and making life TOTALLY miserable for the poor kids with nowhere safe to sit.
Now, how do you think things got that way? Any ideas? Here’s the evil potential in the phrase, “The Power of One…” Did everyone in Corinth just wake up one morning thinking, “OOH OOH OOH! I was baptized by ‘so-and-so’! I’m HOT STUFF!” Or did one proud person get carried away by their sinful desires (James 1:14) to LOOK approved, to look BETTER, and started something like this:
- “Hey! I belong to PAUL, and he started this church, so I’m a REAL Christian!
- “PETER is the leader of the Twelve! He’s the ROCK! I belong to HIM!
- “You idiots think the P & P boys are something special? APOLLOS is the REAL DEAL, and he’s my man!
- And then someone sidles up to this group and hisses, “You groupies! You ‘respecters of men’! I follow JESUS!”
There is the DEADLY Power of One, one proud and foolish Christian ripping a family apart.
What does Br. __________ say are the three or four causes of division in Corinth?
- Allegiance to personalities – preacheritis
- Immaturity and carnality
I suggest that Pride should be the overall heading, with three subdivisions like in 1 John 2:16
- Lust of the Flesh – Carnality
- Lust of the Eyes – Chasing after every new thing we see (Eph 4:14-15) – Immaturity
- Pride of Life – Allegiance to Personalities – VISIBLE approval from men – 1 Cor 11:19
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1 Corinthians 11:17-19 ESV)
Church, I have a hard thing to say. Some of your brothers and my brothers will take this passage and say, “See! Paul says there MUST BE division in the church, so genuine Christians stand out!” Mark my words. That is a SICK, AWFUL LIE! Division among God’s people is a grievous sin! God HATES division! Division between people bought by the blood of Christ:
- COMES FROM SATAN (Rev 12:10)
- LIES ABOUT JESUS (Jn 17:21)
- CAUSES THE NAME OF GOD TO BE BLASPHEMED BY A WATCHING WORLD! (Rom 2:24)
I think the translation ‘genuine’ in 11:19 is terrible, and if your translation says ‘approval from God,’ you should take your pen and mark out the words FROM GOD. They are not there in Greek – they are stuck there by overzealous translator-interpreters. The word means ‘proved’ or ‘tested’ and the context must help us to define it. WHO has been doing the testing in Corinth? The divisive ones! Paul PLEADS with them that there be NO divisions among them (1:10). He can’t flip-flop in 11:19 and approve of divisions! Scripture doesn’t work that way! These people aren’t being manifested as approved because of GOD’S approval (which is in secret 4:3-5) but by their own actions! By rules being laid down by other believers, while Paul clearly says, “The only thing that counts is faith working – operating – expressing itself in love.” Gal 5:6
If PRIDE is the cause of division in the church, what does Br. ________ tell us is the cure?
- Carnality? Stop acting like MANLY MEN (3:3) and start acting like GODLY MEN! (1:10)
- Addiction and Allegiance to Personalities?
- Has Christ been divided?
We Proclaim Christ Crucified!
The Cross is the Power of God!
God is the Source of your life!
Christ is for us Wisdom from God
Let him that boasts, boast in the Lord!
The cure for allegiance to personalities is the common thread running through each of those statements from Paul to the church at Corinth.
Now church, I have another hard thing for me to say. I do not want to hurt anyone, but I have to say what I believe. Discern for yourselves if what I say is true. Look at page 15 of your books. Someone read aloud the sentence in italics in the first paragraph.
“Loyalty to personality and not to principle will still divide the church!”
Now, someone read the next sentence, please.
“Our allegiance is to Christ alone, not to any favorite or prominent preacher, periodical editor or university president.”
Is Christ a person or a principle? CHRIST IS A PERSON!
Loyalty to the wrong person will divide the church. Loyalty to spouse, loyalty to children, loyalty to bosom friends, loyalty to a preacher or college or anything else… any of these loyalties can be twisted by Satan in order to rip a church apart! BUT SO CAN LOYALTY TO IDEAS AND OPINIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS.
Our loyalty is to Christ alone. Turn with me to 1 Cor 3:11-17.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 11:13-17 ESV)
The Foundation is Christ.
What is the work of each builder? 1 Cor 9:1 says that Paul’s work is the Corinthian believers themselves. He is an apostle, and churches are the fruit of the apostolic ministry. So the “work of each builder” is the fruit of each member’s service to God.
vv.14-15 – Bad building IS bad, make no mistake! but what does Paul say will happen to the builder? What does Br. ________ say will happen? “The nature or quality of his converts will be revealed during periods of hardship, persecution; or, at the judgment. If his work does not pass the test, such will have no bearing on his eternal salvation. However, “he will suffer loss” in that some capacity of his joy will have been lost.”
vv.16-17 – Y’ALL are God’s Temple (Alabama translation of second person plural) and God’s Spirit dwells in Y’ALL! This is not like chapter 6, where Paul says that each individual Christian is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (promoting personal holiness). This is talking about the church! The church in Corinth, the church at Holly Hill, the church around the world and throughout time! IF ANYONE DESTROYS GOD’S TEMPLE, GOD WILL DESTROY THAT PERSON.
Paul is not joking around here, and he is not pulling punches! Apart from Galatians, this is probably his most forceful warning against apostasy, and it concerns unity! We must understand what he is saying, because those are SCARY words.
There are not TWO types of work being depicted here (as in good vs. bad, true vs. false). There are THREE.
Those who take it upon themselves to categorize and accuse their brethren, those who say “My Way or the Highway!” those who tell baptized, believing, penitent people that those three things are not enough to be a Christian…. THEY are tearing apart and destroying the Temple of God, and I fear for them because Paul just blows the doors off. IF ANYONE DESTROYS GOD’S TEMPLE, GOD WILL DESTROY THAT PERSON. God’s Temple is destroyed when unity in the foundation (Christ) is sacrificed on the altar of selfishness.
Paul said it, and I will say it in conclusion…
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.Do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh, but through love become slaves to one another.
(Galatians 5:1, 6, 13)
THAT, brothers and sisters, is the Power of One when the One is Christ!
in HIS love,