I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11 Part 1–Hair, Hats and Whose in Charge of all That

In the 1st part of I Corinthians 11, Paul speaks directly to the issue of head coverings, haircuts and the hierarchy of roles among believers. In the culture, men had short hair, women had long hair and women wore head coverings and men did not…Paul’s point, do not cause controversy where it is not needed.  Paul was trying to stabilize a church that was growing but also going off the rails. They were dealing with division, immorality and trying to determine significance and relevance in the church. In Paul’s mind–hair, hats and whose in charge of all that needed not to be a point of contention. Paul made it clear–take the controversy out of this.  Be modest, be humble and let God be in charge.
 
That brings us to the 21st century. In our culture, there are so many issues that divide churches. Issues around worship styles, leadership, political and social justice that cause controversy among church families.  If Paul were here, he would say let’s not cause controversy over things that we do not need to. Be modest, be humble and allow God to be in charge.  He will bless his people–when they are seeking Him with their hearts, and adopting His character.  If we, as Christians, will get over ourselves and have the same attitude as Christ (Philippians 2:5-10); then the Lord will bless us and draw folks to His kingdom through us!  Face it–we are human and do dumb stuff. We get all bothered over things God simply does not see as that significant. The truth is, if we are busy taking care of our Father’s business, we will not have time to worry about hair, hats and whose in charge of all that!
 
God Bless You
 

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was a man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[c] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For a woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

I Corinthians 10 Part 2–Dealing With Sin vs. Preferences

Paul was facing a tough issue. How do we separate grace from practical ministry? To become a Christian, the person needed only to confess the need for Christ and believe God raised Christ from the dead for that purpose.  There were no religious requirements. Still, when one gives his life to the Lord, it is no longer one’s own.  So, Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to understand that their behavior regarding matters of preference still impacted the lives of others.  So in the case of eating meat that was not kosher or that was offered to idols–Paul’s line was its impact on non-believers and young believers.  If their behavior would keep others away from Christ, they needed to evaluate the behavior and decide how important that thing really was.  No meat is as important as the spiritual life of another.  So if eating meat offered to idols caused another to stumble, LET IT GO!
 
The same principle holds true in our lives. If there are things we eat, drink, watch or buy that really impact others ability to trust God–those things need to be out of our lives.  No matter our personal beliefs around whether something is sin or not, if it hurts another’s chance to know Christ–it needs to be out of our lives.  Conversely, we cannot allow religious acts to replace the truth about our heart. If we are trusting God and following the Lord closely, we will be selfless enough to honestly evaluate what is sin and what is a preference. We simply need to be selfless people that do not allow our preferences to control our lives.  If we are seeking God first, then He will make clear the dividing lines for preference and sin.  We have to remain on guard and allow the spirit to guide us away from a life that hinders others from knowing Christ!
 
God Bless You
 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[f]

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

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 2–Being Adaptable and Disciplined

Being a minister of the Gospel was no easy task.  It required adaptability and discipline.  Paul broke the mold.  He was not simply preaching to the Jews in the local synagogue, He crossed Europe and Asia preaching to any and everyone that would listen. He preached to people in a way that met their culture and welcomed into the family of God as they were.  He never was paid for his efforts nor did he expect to be.  He was called by God to become everything he was not to advance the Gospel across the world. So, Paul told the Corinthians that they also needed to be adaptable as they shared the Gospel.  They needed to quit worrying so much on whether people fit the mold for Christianity and start to focus on getting this message out to those the Holy Spirit could touch and redeem.
 
In our day and culture, we also need to be disciplined and adaptable.  The older I become, the more real the idea that I need to adapt to be effective becomes.  My kids are adults and their kids will not respond to the things that drew me over 50 years ago.  We need to keep the message real, relevant and in front of people.  We need to sense the urgency of the Gospel as Paul did.  We cannot be offended or afraid as we tell others about Christ.  He will do the leading and saving– we simply need to be disciplined and adaptable as we spread the message.  Help me, Lord to continue to speak the truth without fear or prejudgement.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

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 8–Preferences and Selflessness

Paul was dealing with an issue that really had little bearing on salvation. Dietary laws.  Many Corinthians were purchasing and eating meat after it had been sacrificed to an idol. It was kind of the Aldi’s of Corinth.  For Paul, it was no big deal, but to some it was idolatry.  They brought their concern to Paul and h made it clear–Meat is meat and idols mean nothing…EXCEPT, if ones partaking of such meat causes another to fall away from the Lord.  That was significant–that changed the conversation from the meat to an attitude of selflessness.  If they participated in the practice knowing it was hurting others, then they were not honoring God and His grace; they were simply being selfish.  Paul drew the line at that point.
 
In our culture, we face these type questions daily. What movies are acceptable, what music is acceptable, how do couples behave during courtship. Smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing, and fashion all have their places in church discourse and division. Like the meat, Most of these issues are issues of preference.  Christians should not judge. When, however, the preference causes another to stumble or reject the gospel; then it is no longer about the preference, it is about the attitude of selflessness. There is no meal or movie that is more important than the eternal destiny of a friend.  We need to have Christ’s attitude of selflessness and sacrifice as it relates to our treatment of preference. If we will, God will honor it and bless us for following his lead. Help me, Lord to seek you first and foremost and allow my preferences to honor you.
 
God Bless You

 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.