I Corinthians 12 Part 3–Unity in our Diversity

Continuing the thoughts from  Church Families, It is important not only to realize that different people have different gifts and one should not be considered more or less important; it is equally important to utilize and hold accountable the body to do its part.  In Corinth, everybody wanted to be showy roles. I want to be on stage, I want to get the handshakes and pats on the back. Paul wanted the Corinthians and Church in general to realize two things. If you are a hand, pick things up. If you are an eye, look at things if you are a foot, then step lightly. Whatever God has gifted one to do, He did for a purpose and that purpose is grand. 
 
Second, The Church need not focus on the gifts, jobs or elected positions given to its members…they need to focus on Christ. If a church focuses on the gifts, then people, not Christ, get the glory. That always leads to division, destruction of the family, inevitable favoritism, and disenfranchising. Churches lose valuable members doing amazing work simply out of neglect and selfishness. If the body would focus on the Savior, them its members would do all they could to use their giftings to support and build up the rest of the members. Then, like a well-trained athlete, the body would work together to achieve awesome results. 
 
In our day, the goal is the same. Let us use the gifts the Lord has given us and do so for His glory, not caring about praise for ourselves. If we will, then we will see the church at its best and we will be a major part!
 
God Bless You
 

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I Corinthians 12 Part 2–The BODY of Christ

As a church, Paul likened the family of God as parts of a body.  This was an especially keen example for the people of Corinth because, as a port city, it was a fashion hub. The Corinthians were all about how they looked and what the had.  They all wanted to keep up with the best and the elite.  So, when Paul was explaining spiritual gifts, it probably resonated that like a body, not every part could be attractive.  But, there was so much more. In reality, the attractive parts of the body, hair, height, eye color are not what keeps the body alive. It is the pancreas, the liver, the colon. It is teeth, kidneys, and feet. So many of our unattractive parts are vital to the survival of the body.  
 
Paul wanted the people to grasp the idea that it takes all the parts to make the body function properly. What is more, if parts are not healthy, the entire body suffers. One need only have a toothache or ear infection to realize how it affects the entire body. It makes as little sense to minimize the different roles within the church, as it does to minimize the importance of the different parts of the body. 
 
In our day, we are so much more aware of the critical nature of the ugly parts of the body. Hopefully, we are also aware of the critical nature of the different working parts of the church body. In my various roles within churches, I have seen the invaluable work of those not on stage or in elected leadership. The childcare folks, the trustees, the deacons and AV folks. those that mow lawns or help those in need.  All the people behind the scenes are what help a church body to remain alive and healthy. When those people are not functioning, the rest of the church body suffers greatly.  I can tell you that I am forever devoted to a guy that fixes electrical problems, builds shelves, teaches kids and makes coffee. Week in and week out people all over the church benefit from his quiet and humble devotion to the family, to Christ and to walking humbly with our Lord. He is a critical part of the church and if he is gone or ill, it is like an organ failure–life-threatening. 
 
We must be willing to realize the vital help those behind the scenes give and be willing to fill the less attractive roles knowing that it is those roles that keep a church alive.  Lord, help me to fulfill the role you have for me in the body–even if I am to serve in a role no one ever notices–Make me a liver for You, Lord!!!
 
God Bless You
 

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it

I Corinthians 12 Part 1–The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts

Next, Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts.  The first thing that Paul wanted the people to understand was that the Holy Spirit distributed the gifts, and, as he did, it was never done to become an issue for the church.  The Spirit of God did not operate as a tool for division, nor did the Spirit ever do things that would take glory from God or tear God’s family apart.  So, Paul wanted the people to understand that the distribution of spiritual gifts was never done to divide the church or to make one person a spiritual superstar.  The gifts of encouragement, teaching, prophecy, speaking in tongues, discerning spirits were all distributed to the people for the purpose of making the church stronger.  They were not given out to divide the church or highlight any one person.  So, Paul wanted the people to stop acting as if one gift was more spiritual than another. What Paul hoped to see was that the group used their unique gifts and talents to honor and glorify God!
 
God still distributes the spiritual gifts to his people. The gifts each possess are given to support and build the entire body of Christ. Christians cannot begin to wear their spiritual gifting as some sort of badge or trophy to glorify themselves.  The church should remain submitted to God and humble.  They should use their gifts to help glorify God and build up the entire church. One’s gifts should never point to themselves, but, should always point back to God. As that remains the case, the Church becomes strong and makes an impact on lives and communities. There is no place for division among the Church, and the Spirit would never do anything that would cause such division. Simply put, God gladly distributes the gifts for the edification of all of us in God’s family. If the use of our gifts does anything else–we need to take a look at our hearts and motives.
 
God Bless You

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Accountability and Faith

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand–God set standards and kept his people accountable. Israel literally followed God for 40 years prior to taking the promised land. Each day they followed the cloud, each night they saw the pillar of fire.  In the midst of the journey they saw seas parted, manna provided water shooting out of rocks…Still, they grumbled, they sinned and they worshipped idols–WITH GOD RIGHT THERE!!!  As a result, God made the people accountable, they died, they wandered in the desert they never experienced the blessing God intended for them.  Still, He loved them and wanted for them to have all they were promised.  Paul summed it up this way–There is nothing that they or you face–that is not common to everyone. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. Also, all temptation is a choice, and with it comes a way out to not fall into sin.
 
Nothing has changed.  We are a blessed nation. God has provided us freedoms and opportunities few have ever seen. With that comes the temptation to worship idols, to selfishly take without giving back to be prideful and haughty and to forget that it is God that provides and be grateful for what we have rather than being bitter for what we lack.  We have opportunities each day to trust and follow God–in both good times and bad.  We can never forget that we do not have to choose to sin, to be ungrateful or to forget that HE is Lord and I am not.  The struggle is real–every force in the world draws us away from God. We do have the glory of God displayed throughout creation to remind us of God’s supremacy and presence–much like the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire Israel followed. We must continue to trust God–even when it seems impossible. We must remain faithful to the end, just as HE has!!!
 
God Bless You

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I Corinthians 9 Part 1–Giving to Ministry Opportunities

In a world of bi-vocational ministry, Paul speaks out and calls the Corinthians to task.  It was important to Paul not to let anything take away from the message. He did not mind working as a tentmaker to support himself if that meant the word would be spread.  But, Paul made it clear–Ministry is a job, a career a life pursuit.  Those that go after that life pursuit, should be compensated.  It is not wrong as a pastor to expect the folks that you pastor to support the ministry. It was not wrong then and it is not wrong now.
 
In modern ministry, there are so many places to serve. Churches, missions, para-church organizations, foundations and a host of ways to serve. People are bombarded with requests to give and to serve and people become weary and skeptical about giving to causes.  The truth is, however, God calls these men and women to serve and to minister.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:24 it says, “He who calls you is faithful and He will do it!” Those in ministry cling to the hope and truth of that verse. We who are not in professional ministry have to be ready to accept God’s call to give and allow God to use what we give to advance the Gospel. Do not allow the enemy to rob you of the blessing of giving by making you skeptical of the ministry.  Be sensitive to God’s lead and allow Him to bless your gift and you as the giver.
 
God Bless You

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

I Corinthians 4 Part 1–The Meaning of Serving Christ

Paul is trying to help the Corinthians to understand the true value of following Christ.  They were in the midst of a full-on church division. The basis of the division was which apostle they considered their leader…Was it to be Paul, Peter, Apollos or someone else altogether? Paul simply put it into perspective.  The apostles were not some sort of rock stars to be followed by groupies. They were instead servants of the Lord that were being persecuted, rejected, martyred and destroyed. Meanwhile, these people were simply living their lives and paying lip service to follow God and some apostle.
 
Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus upon Christ. He was the reason for the apostles’ persecution. Their lives were singly focused on teaching the truth in love.  They simply wanted to spread the gospel of Christ across the world. They were not seeking fame nor were they building a fan club.  Their sole intent was to provide the message that would truly change lives and change the world.  
 
In our lives, we follow Christ for the same reason. We have no desire to use our faith as a marketing tool.  We are not seeking facebook friends or twitter followers.  We are striving to become like Christ and to share His good news with anyone that will listen. That has never been and will never be a way to build one’s personal popularity.  It is, however, the way to live a truly meaningful and purposeful life. It will provide peace and a true legacy.  That is why we should honor our Lord’s great commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
 
God Bless You

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour, we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

I Corinthians 3 Part 2–It Is Simply About Christ

As Paul was dealing with the church at Corinth, it became apparent that they would substitute anything with skin on it for true faith in God through Christ. It is difficult to simply trust God and take Him at His word.  People wanted to trust Paul, Peter, Apollos…and the list goes on. If that was not enough, they wanted to trust in their accomplishments, souls saved, meetings attended, good deeds that were done, contributions that were given.  Paul was trying to help the Corinthians and Christians in general to know–It is always Christ and Him crucified that justifies our faith, our salvation and our relationship with God.
 
In our world, little has changed. It is still difficult to walk in this life simply trusting God to lead us and to save us.  We want to help, somehow.  We want to join the right church, do the right activities and be the right people in order to justify our faith.  Paul and God say no! It is simply not about who we are, where we attend church or what achievements we have accomplished.  We are justified by our faith in Christ. It is all about who He is and what He has done.  We are saved by faith, through grace. If we will simply trust Christ, follow Him and rest in his provision, protection and preparation, then He will transform us into his image and prepare us for an eternity with Him. There is no greater gift, nor is there any easier formula.  Help me Lord to follow You!
 
God Bless You

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b] 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas[c] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.