My Thoughts. . .
Monday, October 14, 2019
Have you ever made a list of what you believe must be included in a congregation for it to be the New Testament church? Will your list have the same things as mine? Will you include things that I haven’t? With each statement, is there a passage in the New Testament that explicitly outlines what you have? When finished, will any congregation in the New Testament live up to your finished product? The two worst ones are Laodicea and Corinth. I’ll refer only to Corinth to keep this short. Paul established this assembly around 49-50. He was with them for about eighteen months (Acts 18:1-18). In 3-4 years after that, they have developed the error Paul writes to correct! The Chloe family brought Corinth’s many problems to Paul’s attention (1 Corinthians 1:11). That information was not treated as gossip by Paul. Most who gossip don’t want their name attached as part of “everyone is concerned”!
Paul wrote to “the church of God.” He does not write to a group of people who, due to their error, are no longer recognized as “the true church.” The church has not been withdrawn from by an apostle, prophet, congregation, nor God. The letter is void of any action of withdrawal being contemplated by anyone.
In three years, four personality groups have been created. 1) Paul, 2) Apollos, 3) Cephas, and 4) Christ. All four of those individuals were excellent teachers. None would have agreed to Corinth’s denominating. Unity was Jesus’ prayer (John 17:20-21). Division is disruptive and causes disbelief (v.21). This Corinthian pattern continues to prevail in the 21st century, although neither Jesus nor Paul are condoning such divisiveness as scriptural.
The assembly tolerates a man who is in an incestuous relationship. They refuse to discipline that individual. Not even pagans are engaged in such debauchery (5:1-13). They shame the name of Jesus by going to law against one another rather than settling their differences “in house” (6:1-8). They have allowed themselves to be infected with their former way of life (6:9-20).
They are having marital problems and not fulfilling their responsibilities one toward the other (7:1-16). There is a problem between those who are circumcised and those who are not (vv.17-24). He gives his judgment to virgins and suggests it would be best, due to persecution, to not marry. But if one does, it is not wrong (vv.25-40).
Those who are strong in the faith should not offend those who are weak in theirs (8:1-13). It might be hard for us to classify anyone at Corinth as “strong” in the faith. Yet, Paul’s letter found it despite our blindness. Paul had to defend his apostleship since some were denying it (9:1-27).
Some were apparently fellowshipping idolatry and confusing the table of the Lord with the table of Satan (vv.1-22). He encourages them to follow what is right (vv.23-33).
Women are refusing to present themselves properly when they pray and prophesy. So are some men (11:1-16). They refuse to partake together. Some eating too much of the communion while others going hungry. Some are drinking too much and getting drunk. Some are making the Lord’s supper into an act of condemnation (vv.17-34).
Chapter 13 is a solution to all of their problems. Loving one another is God’s answer, but divisiveness has blinded them, even as it continues to do today (13:1-13).
Paul has to reiterate the correct use of spiritual gifts (12:1-31). He continues by regulating how many prophets and tongue speakers may be active during an assembly. He also tells them when to shut and open their mouths to speak. He tells some women they cannot speak to “ask” “in church,” but must do so “at home.” Paul warns that all things are to be done without confusion (14:1-40).
Paul saves his correction of their unbelief in the resurrection for the last part of his letter (chapter 15). This disbelief was also divisive, pitting the rejectors against those who believed in the resurrection of the dead.
Paul ends by giving them a command and encouragement to provide for the needs in Jerusalem. He speaks of Timothy’s work. He closes out with greetings from other assemblies (16:1-24).
Paul rallies the entire assembly to withdraw from ONLY one individual (5:1-13). He refers to the congregation as “the body of Christ” (12:27). He speaks of them as “brethren” 25 times. He tells them that they are “the temple of God” and that the Spirit dwells IN them (3:16). The Holy Spirit continues to work through the prophets, language speakers, and interpreters (12 and 14). The congregation is not spoken of as an apostate, a former “church of Christ,” or a false church. If their errors would remove them from our modern lists today as a true church, why does Paul refuse to identify them as such? Is Paul’s refusal an indictment of spiritual weakness?
Does Corinth match the list you have created of what a true New Testament church must be in order to wear the label “church of God”? If a congregation falls short of your list, wouldn’t that prove that it is not now nor can ever be the “Temple of God” in that imperfect condition? Since Corinth fails in meeting such lists, isn’t Paul being presumptuous in recognizing them as “the church of God”? If our lists would not include Corinth without them correcting all their errors, wouldn’t Paul’s recognition be erroneous too? The first letter did not return them to being “the church.” A second letter with its warning was needed (2 Corinthians 13:2). Until they perfected everything, would your list allow them to be restored as “true” without it? If you haven’t made that list, now is a good time to do so. When you do, you might find your present membership isn’t valid! Would that not be so because of your lack of perfection?