Today’s selected passage is found in the second epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the Corinthian congregation. More specifically, today’s reading is found in the first eleven verses of the first chapter of the epistle. With these verses the apostles second epistle to the Corinthian congregation commenced as he makes a second attempt to engage them with and through his writing. It’s actually quite interesting to read this second epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation, for this congregation was only one of two such congregations to receive two letters from the apostle Paul. If you journey a little further into the New Testament you will find that the congregation in Thessaloniki also received two epistles which were written by the same apostle. What’s more, is that if you read the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul you will notice that there were two congregations and churches, as well as one particular individual who received two distinct epistles. If you read and study the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul you will notice and discover that he was compelled to write two epistles to the congregation at Corinth, as well as two epistles to the congregation which was at Thessaloniki. In addition to this, you will find that it was unto his spiritual son in the faith, Timothy, whom he wrote two epistles to. If you turn back the pages to the previous epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the congregation of the Corinthians you will notice that it was an epistle that was heavy in both its tone and language. Within the first epistle which was written unto the saints which re at Corinth the apostle Paul sought to address specific reports that were brought to his attention—perhaps in person, or perhaps through individual letters which were written by one or more member of the congregation.
If you read the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth there is a specific hint that suggests certain letters were written unto the apostle concerning the condition of the church and that which was taking place among its members. If you read the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation you will discover that it had been reported unto him that there were divisions and schisms which were present among them, as certain members of the congregation aligned and associated themselves with specific personalities within the early Church. There were those who aligned themselves with Apollos, while there were those who aligned themselves with Paul, and even Peter. When reading the first epistle of Paul unto this congregation it’s worth nothing and pointing out that he could not speak to or address them as spiritual, but rather as carnal, yea, even babes in Christ. The apostle Paul declared unto this congregation that while it was in fact true they came behind in no spiritual gift, they were nonetheless immature in the faith. What’s actually quite astounding is that when you read the apostles first epistle unto this congregation there seems to be every indication that Division and schisms are actually a sign of immaturity within and among the members of the body. The apostle Paul seems to hint at and suggest that if and/or when we allow division to creep in among us, or if we allow ourselves to be given over to division, we are not only acting foolishly, but we are also demonstrating and manifesting immature tendencies before a just and holy God. Perhaps the single greatest tragedy that faced and surrounded this congregation was that while they were a body of believers, they were nonetheless divided within and among themselves.
It is absolutely imperative to recognize and understand that which was written in the apostles first epistle unto the saints which were at Corinth, for without and apart from an understanding of what had previously been written we cannot truly begin to understand what was written in this particular epistle. Within the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation we find him not only addressing fornication that was present within and among the members of the body, but we also find the apostle addressing those among the members of the body who refused to be wronged in any way and sought to take their brethren unto court among the Gentiles. There were certain members of this congregation who refused to allow themselves to be defrauded and decided that they would take matters into their own hands and exact judicial judgment and vengeance against those who had wronged them. As if this weren’t enough we also find within this epistle language concerning the Lord’s table and the Lord’s supper, and how many within this congregation came unto the Lord’s table to gorge themselves on what was present, and even to give themselves to drunkenness. There were those members among this body who would come to the Lord’s table and would show absolutely no regard for those around them, and were out to satisfy themselves and their own desires and pleasures. The apostle Paul addressed those within and those among this congregation who gathered at the Lord’s table to fill and satisfy themselves, and they did so at the expense of their fellow brothers and sisters who were present. What’s more, is that there were those present within this congregation who would love full and satisfied, while there were others within this congregation who would leave hungry, and perhaps even starving. DIVISION AT THE LORD’S TABLE! I am wonderfully and powerfully convinced there is a powerful prophetic truth which can and must needs be examined and explored when reading this particular passage of scripture—namely, division at, division before, and division around the Lord’s table.
Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded within the eleventh chapter of the first epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth beginning with the seventeenth verse—“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For the first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cups, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
I cannot help but be absolutely and completely convicted when I read these words from the pen and spirit of the apostle Paul, for they provide me with a powerful word of caution and warning. I would dare say that this passage needs to be examined and presented among the members of each and every church that is found within this nation, and ultimately within the world. If you read the words which the apostle wrote within this particular passage of Scripture you will find that there were divisions which were present among the Corinthian congregation because of that which took place before, around and at the Lord’s table. The apostle Paul wrote concerning the members of this congregation that when they came together into one place, it wasn’t to eat the Lord’s supper, with one being hungry and another drunken. Pause for a moment and consider the full weight and magnitude of what the apostle Paul is writing and saying with these words, for what he is suggesting is that there are those who can come to the Lord’s table and be full and satisfied, while there are those who can come to the Lord’s table and leave hungry—perhaps having not even been satisfied when they came to the Lord’s table. What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write that there were those who came unto the Lord’s table and were given to drunkenness, while there were others who left the Lord’s table having been unable to drink for themselves. Imagine coming to the Lord’s table and having to leave hungry because those who perhaps got there before you, or perhaps those who were more aggressive than you completely engorged themselves, thus leaving nothing for you yourself to partake of. What a tremendous tragedy it is if men and women gather together to come unto the Lord’s table, and yet there are those who are not only satisfied, but also full beyond measure, while there are others who leave hungry and starving having perhaps partaken of nothing. How incredibly tragic and dangerous it is when reading this particular passage of Scripture, for there seems to be every indication that members of this congregation came unto the Lord’s table expecting to be satisfied, and yet found themselves leaving the Lord’s table hungry, dissatisfied and wanting.
I am convinced beyond measure that there are countless men and women who come unto the Lord’s table among us within our churches, and who come expecting to be satisfied and filled, and yet are leaving completely empty, dissatisfied, hungry and wanting. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women gather together with others around the Lord’s table, and yet instead of leaving full and satisfied, they leave in the same condition and place they were when they came unto the table in the first place. There were those present within this congregation who took it upon themselves to ensure that they were satisfied and filled—this even at the expense of abusing the Lord’s table and shaming their fellow brother and sister. Pause for a moment and examine the church and house in which you worship, and the table which you and your fellow members of the body gather around, and consider for a moment what takes place before and around that table. When the brethren gather together before and around the Lord’s table in the house and church where you gather together and assemble, are men and women being equally satisfied and filled at the Lord’s table? When men and women gather together before and around the Lord’s table, are they able to not only partake of and enjoy fellowship with the brethren, but are they actually able to be satisfied and filled with their fellow brethren? When I read this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but not only see the reality and concept of fellowship contained therein, but I also the concept of being filled and satisfied at the Lord’s table. It’s actually worth noting and pointing out that within this passage concerning the Lord’s table, the apostle Paul referenced the supper the Lord Himself took with His disciples to celebrate Passover in the upper room which had been prepared specifically and specially for them. In fact, when you read the account of the supper which the Lord took with His disciples that night in the upper room to celebrate Passover, there seems to be no evidence of division or discord among them—save, the devil having already entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot and prompting him to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies, and ultimately into the hands of sinful and evil men.
I can’t help but be completely and totally gripped and captivated by what is recorded within the eleventh chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, for not only did he express divisions which were present among them, but those divisions were present before and around the Lord’s table. With the words recorded in this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul revealing unto this congregation that when they gathered together unto the Lord’s table—instead of their being fellowship and communion among them, there was actually divisions, discord and strife. There is a tremendous need to recognize and understand this particular reality, for I can’t help but wonder how many men and women gather together around the Lord’s table, and instead of engaging themselves in communion and fellowship, they are actually given to division, discord, strife, and contention. If you read the account of the Lord’s Supper which He took with His twelve disciples, you will find that while communion and fellowship did in fact take place within the upper room, the entire mood and atmosphere shifted and changed when Jesus declared that one among them would betray Him. Matthew records how immediately after Jesus declared that one of them would betray Him, all the disciples became exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him, Lord, is it I? It’s actually quite interesting that even after Jesus declared among them that one present that night would betray Him, and even after He would provide a clue as to the one who would betray Him, He still took of the cup and of the bread and partook of the Passover meal with His disciples. We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of what is recorded in this passage, for I can’t help but wonder how much communion and fellowship takes place among us when we gather around the Lord’s table. The Lord Himself took Passover with His twelve disciples, yet there at the head of the table He knew within Himself that one from among them would betray Him. Furthermore, if you read the account which Luke provided concerning the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s table, he presents us with something drastically different which Matthew didn’t record or recount. If you begin reading with the fifteenth verse of the twenty-second chapter of Luke’s gospel, you will find the following words written concerning that which took place that night around the Lord’s table and within the upper room:
“With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goether, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed! And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:15-24).
I absolutely love the account which Luke provided concerning that night in the upper room at the table which was before them, for within Luke’s account—not only do we discover Jesus revealing unto them once more that one who was present among them at the table would betray Him, but He also revealed unto Simon that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. Present at the table of the Lord was not only an account that one among them would betray Him, but also that Satan desired to have Simon that he might sift him as wheat. What’s more, is that there at the Lord’s table you find a strife and contention among them concerning which one among them would be accounted the greatest. Imagine being in the upper room on that night, being one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, partaking of the Passover meal with Him, hearing of the suffering He was about to endure, hearing how one from among you would betray Him, and even partaking of the cup and the bread, and yet allowing yourself to be given to strife concerning which one among you was the greatest. I find it to be absolutely incredible that even at the Lord’s supper and at the Lord’s table in the upper room that night, strife was found among the disciples as they disputed among themselves who was the greatest. I am convinced that what we read in this particular passage and account sheds a tremendous amount of light on to what we find and read within the first epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth, for there was strife, contention and division among them. Though it doesn’t specifically and implicitly state that they debated among themselves which was the greatest, their actions seemed to suggest that such a reality might have been present. You do not give yourself to gorging yourself, and even to gluttony at the Lord’s table unless you account yourself to be great, and/or even entitled. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women gather together before and around the Lord’s table and do so from a place of entitlement, as they consider themselves to be greater than those before and around them. It was undoubtedly a sense of entitlement, pride and arrogance that caused certain members of that body to give themselves to ensuring they themselves were not only satisfied, but also completely filed at the expense of those around them. The apostle Paul sought to address the strife, the contention and division that was present at the Lord’s table when the Corinthian congregation came together in one place, and addressed the fact that there were those among them who left hungry, dissatisfied and wanting because others gave themselves to ensuring that they themselves were filled and satisfied. Oh that we would take from this passage and find within it a tremendous word of warning and caution concerning the Lord’s table among us within our midst, for how many among us gather together before and around the Lord’s table expecting to be filled and satisfied, and yet we end up leaving wanting, hungry and completely dissatisfied?
What we read in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation was only one of the major reports he needed to address while writing unto them. When the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation prepares to close, it closes—not only with a powerful discourse on the resurrection of the dead, but also how the resurrection of the dead is a byproduct of Christ’s own resurrection from the dead when an angel rolled away the stone which was before the tomb, and the Spirit raised Him from death to life. What’s more, is that within the final chapter of this first epistle we find the apostle Paul speaking unto the Corinthian congregation concerning giving sacrificially according to each man’s prosperity, as well as Christian ministry. When the apostle Paul sought to bring the first epistle unto the Corinthian congregation to a close, he called them to a place of response in light of everything he had written within and throughout the epistle. It is absolutely necessary that when we read the words the apostle Paul wrote in the sixteenth and final chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation, he invited them into a place of Christian giving, as well as Christian ministry. The apostle Paul even wrote and spoke of the house of Stephanas and how they had given themselves to being addicted to the ministry of the saints. When this first epistle draws to a close it does so with the apostle Paul speaking of them giving liberally for the ministry and benefit of the church as a whole, and to welcome Timotheus whom the apostle would send unto the congregation. I can’t help but wonder what Timothy encountered when he arrived in Corinth and presented himself among the members of the congregation which were present there. What was Timothy’s perception when he arrived at Corinth, having undoubtedly been informed and advised of the condition of the church from the hand, and perhaps even the mouth of the apostle Paul.
It’s worth noting how the second epistle of the apostle Paul opens and begins, for if you read the first verse of the chapter you will find that the epistle not only begins with Paul’s trademark and signature introduction, but you will also find Timothy’s name mentioned as well. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1). If there is one thing you will notice concerning this second epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth, you will find that it carries with it a completely different tone from that which was previously written in the first epistle. Upon further reading of this second epistle you will notice that Timothy is included in the salutation and greeting, thus possibly suggesting that when this second epistle was written, Timothy was present with the apostle. What’s more, is that the more I consider the language and tone found within this second epistle, the more I can’t help but get the sense that though the first epistle which Paul wrote was weighty, and heavy, and perhaps even strong in its tone and language, it had the desired effect, and true change and transformation took place within and among the members of this congregation. There seems to be every indication when reading this second epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth that the words which the apostle wrote in the previous letter, and even the presence of Timothy among the members of this congregation helped right a ship that could have very easily gone down in a blaze of disaster and destruction. When we read this second epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints—unto the church of God which is at Corinth—we find a completely different tone than that which was previously written in the first epistle. I believe that in order to fully and completely understand what we are reading within the second epistle of the apostle unto the church of God which was at Corinth, we must recognize and understand that something drastic seemed to have taken place, for there seems to be every indication that the congregation not only responded, but responded well to the words of the apostle Paul, as well as the coming and presence of Timothy.
After he opens the letter with his signature greeting and salvation, the apostle Paul immediately transitions to speaking of God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Consider if you will the words and language which are found within the first eleven verses of the first chapter here in this second epistle written unto the church of God which was at Corinth: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be vcomforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing that as ye are partners of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
The apostle Paul opens this epistle by speaking of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and how this God is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. What’s more, is how the apostle Paul transitions to a place where He immediately speaks of how this same God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we might be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, according to the comfort which we ourselves are comforted of God. YOUR COMFORT IS NOT ABOUT YOURSELF! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand what is written within this opening chapter of this epistle, for within this opening chapter we find the apostle speaking of God being the God of call comfort, and and how that God comforts us in all our trouble and tribulation. What is so incredibly unique, however, is that the apostle Paul seems to suggest that our comfort in whatever trial, whatever tribulation, whatever trouble we face is not even about ourselves. The apostle Paul seems to give every indication that the comfort we receive from the Lord our God may not even have anything to do with us, but rather is about all those who are around us. This reality seems to be expressed in the fact that the apostle Paul writes of affliction, and how if he, or anyone with him was afflicted, it was for their consolation and salvation, which was effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which all suffer. The apostle Paul would go on to write that if they were comforted—even their comfort was for their consolation and salvation. How remarkable and intriguing this is—that not only does affliction seem to be for consolation and salvation, but so also does comfort seem to be for consolation and salvation. The more I Read the words of the apostle Paul in this passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but be drawn to the reality that the comfort we receive from the Lord our God is not for ourselves alone, but is actually for those who are around us. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that when you are comforted by the Lord your God, that comfort is not even specifically for or about you, but rather is to be used as a tool with which you are able to comfort those around you. THE COMFORT YOU RECEIVE TODAY IS A TOOL YOU WILL USE TOMORROW! THE CONSOLATION YOU RECEIVE TODAY IS AN INSTRUMENT YOU WILL USE TOMORROW! Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women treat comfort and consolation—even that which proceeds from the Lord their God—as though it was something to be selfishly hoarded and kept to ourselves. Within this first chapter the apostle Paul provides every indication that the comfort we receive, and the comfort we experience is not that which is about ourselves alone, but rather is to be a tool which we use to minister to others.
What we find within the first eleven verses of the first chapter is a powerful commentary on comfort and consolation, and how the comfort and consolation we receive today are actually tools and instruments we may very well be called to use tomorrow. If I am being I would suggest that the trials, the troubles, the tribulation we experience today are instruments we are to use tomorrow. If there is one thing we learn from the words and writing of the apostle Paul it’s that the trials and troubles we face are not isolated incidences or events, nor do they ever happen in a bubble. The trials and troubles we face within our lives have absolutely nothing to do with us, for the same trials and troubles we face are shared by our brothers and sisters across the world among the body of Christ. There is a growing tendency that individuals have that what they face and what they experience are somehow exclusive and specific to them, and have absolutely no concept that what they are experiencing is shared experiences by brothers and sisters throughout the world among the various members of the body. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fifth chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the diaspora of Jews within the world: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). THAT THE SAME AFFLICTIONS ARE ACCOMPLISHED IN YOUR BRETHREN! Please don’t miss the significance of those words, for just when you think you are alone in what you are experiencing, there are brothers and sisters across the globe who are experiencing the very same afflictions, the very same sufferings you are. I guarantee you that right now there is some brother or some sister somewhere across the globe—perhaps you don’t even need to travel the globe, but look to the pew before or behind you to find this—who are experiencing exactly what you are experiencing. What’s more, is that the Scriptures reveal that even Jesus Himself was in all ways tempted as we are and yet was without sin. Moreover, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews writes that we do not have a high priest you can’t be touched with the feelings of our infirmities but has been through exactly what we are going through, and has experienced everything we have experienced.
The words we find in these first eleven verses of the first chapter of this epistle are incredible powerful, for within them we discover the tremendous truth that neither the trials we face, nor the comfort we receive in the midst of those trials are isolated incidences. There is absolutely no trial, no trouble, no tribulation we face and experience that happens in a bubble, for that which we face is being shared by those of our brethren around the world. I am firmly convinced that we must needs treat each and every trial, each and every trouble, each and every tribulation we experience as that which can be used by the Lord at a future time in the lives of those you have encountered. I am convinced this is one of the greatest realities surrounding support groups and groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous, for it is a gathering of like minded men and women who are not only sharing the same struggle, but who are willing to share their struggle with others. Could you imagine if we were able to meet each and every individual who was going through the very same thing we were or are going through? Imagine being able to communicate with each and every individual who was experiencing the very same thing you were going through, or perhaps meeting those who will in the future benefit from the testimony your trial and trouble will have. While we might not meet each and everyone who is sharing the same struggle you are facing, and while it may not be possible to meet all those who will benefit from the testimony of your trial and trouble, Scripture does confirm the reality that our brethren across the world have shared or will share our same struggles, and that our struggles and suffering can and will be used as a testimony for those we will encounter. It may be difficult, it may be tough, it may be difficult to bear, and it may seem that you can’t go on anymore, but you are not alone in what you go through, and your trial and trouble can not only be a testimony which will influence others, but can and will be a triumph you will enjoy and experience when the struggle is over.