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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Aug. 17, 2007

  • 2007 Aug 17

The Lord’s Supper of Communion

Part 2 Continued from August 16th







The Divisions of the Corinthian Church (Verses 10–16)


As one of the principal objects of this letter was to correct the evils that had arisen in the Corinthian church, the apostle first mentions the divisions that existed there. He exhorts the members of that church to unity (verse 10). The reason for that exhortation was the information he had received concerning their dissensions (verse 11). These divisions arose from their ranging themselves under different religious teachers as party leaders (verse 12). The sin and folly of such divisions are manifest, in the first place, because religious teachers are not centers of unity to the church. They had not redeemed it, nor did its members profess allegiance to them in baptism (verse 13). These divisions, therefore, arose on the one hand from a forgetfulness of the common relationship that all Christians bear to Christ, and on the other from a misapprehension of the relationship in which believers stand to their religious teachers. Paul expresses his gratitude that he had not given any occasion for such misapprehension. He had baptized so few among them that no one could suspect him of a desire to make himself the head of the church or the leader of a party (verses 14–16).


10. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.


There is only one exhortation in this verse, which is expressed first in general terms, that all of you agree with one another, and is then explained in the negative form, that there may be no divisions among you, and then positively, that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.


In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, out of regard for Christ (Romans 12:1; 15:30; 2 Thessalonians 3:12). Their reverence and love for Christ, and regard for his authority as their Lord, should induce them to yield obedience to the apostle’s exhortation. It was not out of respect for Paul, but out of regard for Christ that they should obey. This makes obedience easy and elevating. Agree with one another is a phrase that occurs frequently, and the following clauses are explanatory.


That there may be no divisions among you. Literally, “schisms.” The Greek word for “schism” means (1) a tear, as in a garment (see Matthew 9:16); (2) a difference of opinion (see John 7:43); (3) alienation of feeling, or inner separation; (4) in its ecclesiastical sense, an unauthorized separation from the church. The schisms that existed in Corinth were not of the nature of hostile sects refusing communion with each other, but such as may exist in the heart of the same church, consisting of alienation of feeling and party strifes.


And that you may be perfectly united. The Greek word for “unite “ means “repair” or “mend” (as in Matthew 4:21, kjv), “restore to place,” as a dislocated limb, “render complete or perfect,” and figuratively, “restore” or “set right” those in error, or “prepare” or “make perfect.” Hence in this place the sense may be, “that you may be perfect,” as the Vulgate translates it; or, “that you may be united,” as in our translation; or, “that you may be reduced to order.” The context shows that the idea of union is what the apostle intended. They were not to be divided but united. This union was to be both in mind and in thought. The former term may refer either to the intellect or to the feelings. The latter in the New Testament always means judgment or opinion. When the words are united, the former is most naturally understood as feeling, a sense in which the word mind is often used by us. The unity that Paul desired was a union in faith and love. Considering the relationship in which Christians stand to each other as the members of Christ, dissensions among them are as inconsistent with their character as conflict between the parts of the human body.


The Principle: Oneness in Christ


Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1:13)


The central principle of Paul’s argument is that believers are one in Christ and should never do anything that disrupts or destroys that unity. No human leader, no matter how gifted and effective, should have the loyalty that belongs only to the Lord. Paul began his letter by establishing his authority as an apostle. But he wanted no part of the faction named for him. He had never been crucified for anyone. No one was ever baptized in his name. His authority had been delegated to him and was not his own, and his purpose was to bring men to Christ, not to himself.


A Christian church that is divided is a contradiction. “One who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (12:12–13) “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4–6). To be divided in Christ’s Body is a violation of our redeemed nature and is in direct opposition to our Lord’s will. In His longest recorded prayer, Jesus interceded for those who were His and who would be His. Included was His beautiful appeal for their unity, “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:21–22).


When the Lord’s people quarrel and dispute and fight, they reflect against the Lord before the world, they weaken His church, and worst of all they grieve and put to shame the One who bought them—who died to make them one in Him. The Father is one, the Son is one, the Spirit is one, and the church is one.


Relationship to Other Believers ( Rom. 12:3–16)


Paul was writing to Christians who were members of local churches in Rome. He described their relationship to each other in terms of the members of a body. (He used this same picture in 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7–16.) The basic idea is that each believer is a living part of Christ’s body, and each one has a spiritual function to perform. Each believer has a gift (or gifts) to be used for the building up of the body and the perfecting of the other members of the body. In short, we belong to each other, we minister to each other, and we need each other. What are the essentials for spiritual ministry and growth in the body of Christ?


Honest evaluation (v. 3). Each Christian must know what his spiritual gifts are and what ministry (or ministries) he is to have in the local church. It is not wrong for a Christian to recognize gifts in his own life and in the lives of others. What is wrong is the tendency to have a false evaluation of ourselves. Nothing causes more damage in a local church than a believer who overrates himself and tries to perform a ministry that he cannot do. (Sometimes the opposite is true, and people undervalue themselves. Both attitudes are wrong.)


The gifts that we have came because of God’s grace. They must be accepted and exercised by faith. We were saved “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8–9), and we must live and serve “by grace through faith.” Since our gifts are from God, we cannot take the credit for them. All we can do is accept them and use them to honor His name. (See 1 Cor. 15:10 for Paul’s personal testimony about gifts.)


12:3-5. A believer’s consecration to God and his transformed lifestyle is demonstrated in his exercising his spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. As an apostle of Christ (by the grace given me; cf. 1:5; 15:15-16) he warned his readers individually (every one of you), Do not think of yourself more highly (hyperphronein, “think higher”) than you ought. An inflated view of oneself is out of place in the Christian life. Then Paul encouraged them, But rather think (phronein) of yourself with sober judgment ( sōphronein, “sound thinking”), in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. God has given each believer some faith by which to serve Him. By his involved word play on various forms of the verb phroneō, “to think,” Paul emphasized that human pride is wrong (cf. 3:27; 11:18, 20) partly because all natural abilities and spiritual gifts are from God. As a result every Christian should have a proper sense of humility and an awareness of his need to be involved with other members of Christ’s body. As Paul explained, a parallelism exists between a believer’s physical body which has parts with differing functions and the community of believers in Christ as a spiritual body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 4:11-12, 15-16). The point is that each member functions to serve the body, not the body to serve the members. The diversity of the many accompanies the unity of the body. Therefore it is important to think soundly about oneself and to evaluate properly God’s gifts and their uses.


12:6-8. Paul then applied what he had just said (vv. 3-5) to the exercise of God-given abilities for spiritual service (vv. 6-8). He built on the principle, We have different gifts (cf. v. 4, “not all have the same function”; cf. 1 Cor. 12:4). The grace-gifts (charismata) are according to God’s grace (charis). He listed seven gifts, none of which—with the possible exception of prophesying—is a sign gift. The Greek text is much more abrupt than any English translation; let him is supplied for smoother English. One’s “prophesying” is to be done in proportion to his faith; a better translation would be “in agreement to the (not ­his¯) faith.” That is, prophesying—communicating God’s message, to strengthen, encourage, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3)—is to be in right relationship to the body of truth already revealed (cf. “faith” as doctrine in Gal. 1:23; Jude 3, 20). The other six gifts mentioned here are serving . . . teaching . . . encouraging . . . contributing . . . leadership, and showing mercy. Contributing to people’s needs is to be done with generosity ( en haplotēti), not skimpily (cf. 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13). Managing, leading, or administering (proistamenos, lit., “standing before”; cf. proistamenous, “who are over,” 1 Thes. 5:12) is to be done diligently ( en spoudē, “in eagerness, earnestness”), not lazily or halfheartedly. And bestowing mercy is to be done cheerfully ( en hilarotēti, “in gladness”), not with sadness. Three of these seven gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (prophets, teachers, administration); two (prophets and pastor-teachers) are included in Ephesians 4:11; and two (administering and serving) are listed in 1 Peter 4:10-11. Whatever one’s gift, he should exercise it faithfully as a stewardship from God.


This sermon will be continued tomorrow August 18th.


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