Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically today’s passage is found in the eighth and ninth chapters of this New Testament book. “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:1-6).
“Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make thy brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:7-13).
“Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? OR I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? OR who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou s halt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be a partaker of his hope” (1 Corinthians 9:1-10).
“If we have sown unto you spiri9tual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1 Corinthians 9:11-17).
“What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without the law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might be all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be a partaker thereof with you” (1 Corinthians 9:18-23).
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring is unto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
When you come to the eighth and ninth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will encounter some incredibly unique and powerful language. What makes the words found in these two chapters so incredibly intriguing is when you consider how the eighth chapter centers entirely upon the concept of conscience, faith and offense. You cannot read the words found in the eighth chapter of this epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding an invitation to be cognizant and mindful of the faith of another. What’s more is that you cannot read the words found in this passage and not come face to face with a powerful declaration made by the apostle Paul to be mindful of the condition of the faith of others. Upon beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse of the eighth chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking as touching those things which were offed unto idols and how all had knowledge. Immediately following this the apostle Paul goes on to declare how knowledge puffs up but charity or love edifies. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth surrounding those words for there appears to be a stark contrast between knowledge and charity or love. In fact the words the apostle Paul uses hear are undoubtedly a precursor to that which he writes in the thirteenth chapter of the same epistle. Not only this but if you direct your attention back to the words found in the first and opening chapter of this epistle you will encounter the apostle Paul declaring unto the Corinthian saints how they were enriched in every thing by the living God—in all utterance and in all knowledge according to the testimony of the Lord Jesus which was confirmed among them. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first chapter beginning with the fourth verse:
“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye came behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
If you take the time to read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth the Corinthian congregation was given grace by the Lord Jesus Christ. As a direct result of that grace given unto and bestowed upon them they were enriched by him in all utterance and in all knowledge. What makes the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first and opening chapter of this epistle so incredibly unique is when you consider the words which he would write unto them in the fourth chapter. We know that upon reading this epistle the Corinthian church was not only a divided church but they were also a church that was at war with itself and at war between and among its own members. You cannot read the epistle written by the apostle Paul and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the Corinthian congregation and how it was indeed a church that was at war with itself. Beginning with the first and opening chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them concerning divisions which were among them. The sole purpose and reason behind this particular truth is when you consider how the apostle Paul spoke unto them concerning divisions among them upon and across lines of personality and celebrity-ism. In the first and opening chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them concerning the divisions which were among them as some spoke of themselves as being of Paul, while some spoke of themselves as being of Apollos. As if this weren’t enough there were others who spoke of themselves as being of Apollos while there were others who spoke of themselves as being of Christ. Because of this the Corinthian congregation was indeed and in fact a church that was deeply divided.
I am absolutely and completely convinced that if you read this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you must needs understand and recognize it as an epistle which was written unto a church that was deeply divided within itself and one that was at war within itself. It is undeniable when reading the words found in this epistle that the Corinthian saints were such that were at war with themselves across multiple fronts and encountered a tremendous amount of discord and division. The first epistle written by the apostle Paul is one that contains a tremendous amount of language which highlights and brings to the forefront the tremendous dysfunction that was present in their midst. Despite the fact the grace of the living God was bestowed upon them and that they were enriched by the Lord Jesus Christ they allowed themselves to be divided with each other and even at war among themselves. What’s more is I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints there is a great need to consider the words which were written in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by James. It is in the fourth chapter of this epistle we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth of that which causes fights and quarrels—not among the heathen or among Gentiles but among those who name the name of Jesus Christ and those who calls themselves disciples and followers of Him. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by James beginning with the first verse:
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteress, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).
If you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find James writing unto Christian saints and believers and asking them a very pointed and powerful question. The question James asked them point blank is where wars and fightings which were present among them came from. What makes the language in this passage so incredibly unique is when you consider the fact that James initially asks where wars and fightings came from among those to whom he was writing but then goes on to answer the question. What’s more is that the answer James provided is perhaps not one which they wanted to hear—perhaps not even one they agreed with. It would have been very easy for those to whom James wrote this epistle to shift the blame and pass it off on someone else when considering this question, however, James would go on to answer and declare that wars and fightings came forth from their own lusts which war in their members. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this for it strikes at the very heart of what we find in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. Undoubtedly when reading the words found in the epistle written unto the Corinthians we find a church that was not only deeply divided but also a church that was at war with itself. What’s more is that it might very well be safe to say that the church of the Corinthians did not necessarily know how to live in community with each other. Oh the more I read the words found in this epistle the more I am brought face to face with the fact that this church was such that either did not know how to live in community and fellowship with each other or if they did know how to live in community and fellowship with each other they didn’t act upon it.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words and language found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which he wrote in the second chapter of the epistle he wrote unto the saints of Philippi. Not only am I reminded of the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints but I am also reminded of the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. Moreover I can’t help but think about the words which are found in the second and fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts which is a book that is centered upon the community and fellowship of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Church. You cannot read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not find at the very heart and center of it a powerful picture of what community and fellowship among the saints and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can indeed look like. In fact, I am convinced that before we shift back to the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints we must needs consider each of these passages to get a powerful and deeper understanding of what community and fellowship does indeed and should in fact look like. In addition to this I would also dare say we must needs consider the words the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of you faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our minister: or he that teacheth, on teaching: Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord, Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:4-20).
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
With each of these passages it is now necessary to consider what community and fellowship looked like during the days of the early church in the days immediately following the day of Pentecost. If you turn and direct your attention to the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will find what I believe and am convinced is perhaps one of—if not the greatest miracles and works of the day of Pentecost. There would be those who would argue that the greatest miracle and testimony of the day of Pentecost was speaking with other tongues as the Spirit granted utterance, however, I am convinced that the greatest miracle and testimony of the day of Pentecost and the arrival of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit was indeed the unifying of the believers which first began with one-hundred and twenty and before the day was out had increased by three-thousand. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely tremendous the work of the Holy Spirit would have had to be to unite the hearts, minds and souls of more than three-thousand souls that they would live in community, harmony and fellowship with each other. What’s more is consider how many churches in our generation with a hundred members struggles to maintain and develop unity among its members. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is that unity among man—even unity among those who name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and claim to be disciples and followers of His—is absolutely impossible without and apart from the inner working of the Holy Spirit.
It is with this at the forefront of our minds I now invite you to consider with me the following words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. The words which we find in each of these chapters bring us face to face with the absolutely incredible and powerful picture of what community and fellowship truly should look like among the saints of God and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is I am absolutely and completely convinced the words we find in these two chapters serve as a powerful picture of what was desperately needed in the midst of the Corinthian saints. I firmly believe the Corinthian church was a church that was deeply divided, one that was at war with itself and one that struggled with truly living in community and fellowship with each other. The words and language found in the New Testament book of Acts bring us face to face with the tremendous and powerful of what community, fellowship, unity and harmony could and should look like. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles; doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-7).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles as surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
Pause for a moment and consider the words and language found in each of these passages for not only do we read how the early church gave themselves to doctrine and fellowship, but we also read how all who believed being together and having all things in common. Moreover they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. The early church continued daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house with singleness of heart. The New Testament book of Acts goes on to describe how the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and of one soul and there was none of them who said concerning the things they had that such was their own. Once more in the fourth chapter we find and read how those in the early church had all this in common and there was none among them that lacked. As many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles’ feet that distribution might be made unto every man according as he had need. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we think about the Corinthian congregation we must needs recognize how they were a church that was sorely divided, was at war with itself and really didn’t know how to live in community and fellowship with each other. In fact it is when you come to the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthians you find the apostle Paul reminding and teaching them concerning the unity and fellowship of the body. Not only this but within the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth we find the apostle Paul speaking unto them concerning charity.
In the eighth chapter of this first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth we find and read the apostle Paul declaring unto them that knowledge puffs up and in fact makes one arrogant while love edifies. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close and careful attention to this for when you read the words found in this epistle you will clearly see that although the Corinthian congregation was enriched in all knowledge that knowledge puffed them up and caused them to be arrogant boasters. If you read and consider the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto them about their reigning as kings and essentially living large while the apostles were considered to be those of the dregs of the earth. The words and language which we find in the fourth chapter of the epistle draw and call our attention to this reality beginning with the sixth verse of the chapter. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of this first epistle beginning to read with and from the sixth verse:
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yt have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye: Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-21).
Pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for here again we find the apostle Paul speaking of those among the Corinthian congregation who were “puffed up.” In the sixth verse the apostle Paul instructed them that there ought to be none among them who think of themselves above that which is written so that there be none of them who were puffed up for one against another. Moreover, the apostle Paul would write in the eighteenth verse of this chapter how there were some who were puffed up as though he would not come unto them—language that was also found in the eighth chapter. Oh it might very well be said that humility and meekness was something that was greatly lacking and missing in the midst of the Corinthian congregation, for when you read the final verse in the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Paul asking if they should come to them with a rod or with love in the spirit of meekness. It is very much visible and present within this epistle the Corinthian saints were such as who were puffed up in pride and arrogance and how that pride and arrogance kept and prevented them from truly living in community, fellowship and unity with each other. We must needs recognize and understand that it is incredibly easy to be those who are unable to live in community, fellowship and unity with others when we are not only puffed up but also those who are given to much arrogance, pride and boasting. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear when writing the words found in this epistle that there were many among the Corinthians who were puffed up—those who thought more highly of themselves than they ought to that they would consider themselves as better than others.
With all of this in mind I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to consider the words which are found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of this epistle for within these chapters we not only read of the unity of the body of Jesus but we also read of the tremendous truth surrounding love being the ultimate need among the saints of God and the body of Christ. It is in the twelfth chapter of this first epistle we are brought face to face with the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto the Corinthians concerning the unity and fellowship of the body while in the thirteenth chapter we find what might be considered the glue that holds the body together. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture for within them we are brought face to face with the awesome beauty of community and fellowship within the body as well as the beautiful reality of love among the saints of God and body of Christ. Consider the following words which are found in these two chapters beginning with the first verse of the twelfth chapter:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether were be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were the hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
The words which we find in the twelfth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints brings us face to face with spiritual gifts—and not only spiritual gifts but also the tremendous truth surrounding the unity and makeup of the body. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the words the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints, the words the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome, as well as the words which were written in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints it’s the unity, fellowship and community of the body of Christ. We cannot ignore or dismiss the reality surrounding the unity, fellowship and community of the body of Christ as is evident within these chapters and yet when we come to the thirteenth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints we are brought face to face with perhaps the single greatest truth surrounding the body of Christ—charity which is also known as love. It is in the thirteenth chapter of this first epistle the apostle Paul speaks unto the Corinthian congregation after having addressed a number of issues that were presently plaguing and paralyzing the church. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs recognize and understand this for what we find in this passage of Scripture strikes at the very heart of everything that was written before it. From the first chapter all the way through to the eleventh chapter we find some of the struggles which the Corinthian congregation grappled and wrestled with at the time this first epistle was written. The words presented in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints paint a powerful picture of how incredibly important love is and how it is at the very heart and center of the body of Christ in the earth. Read now the following words the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints beginning with the first verse of the thirteenth chapter:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth. Not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, be rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all thigns, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I. know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize the words presented here in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here strike at the very heart of the eighth and ninth chapters of this first epistle. In the first seven chapters of this epistle we have read about division, strife, envying, fornication and even brother and sister taking others to court in judgment and now in the eighth chapter we read of brothers and sisters offending the conscience of others. What’s more is that within the eighth chapter we read of brother and/or sister offending the conscience of those whom the apostle Paul considered to be “weak” in the faith. The subject and nature of this “offense” as mentioned in the eighth chapter of this epistle is centered upon the truth of those things which were offered unto idols. The apostle Paul emphatically declares unto the Corinthian saints that idols are nothing in the world and that there is none other God but one. This would immediately be followed by the apostle Paul describing how there were those which were called gods in heaven and in earth but unto those who name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ there was only one God who was the Father and of whom are all things. Not only this but the apostle Paul also emphatically declared that there was one Lord Jesus Christ by whom were all things and we were by and through Him.
With all of this being said, however, the apostle Paul would go on to write unto the Corinthian saints how men possess within themselves this knowledge and yet there are some with conscience of the idol who view meat which was offered unto an idol and as a direct result of their conscience being weak becomes defiled. The apostle Paul writes unto the Corinthian saints how meat does not commend us to God for neither if we eat are we the better nor if we eat not are we the worse. What the apostle Paul goes on to write in the eighth chapter is incredibly important for the apostle Paul instructs them to take heed lest by any means the liberty which was perceived and enjoyed by some becomes a stumblingblock to those who were weak. The apostle Paul then goes on to write concerning those who would see individuals who were perceived as having a certain liberty sees them in the idols’ temple would have their conscience emboldened by those things which were offered unto idols. In addition to this the apostle Paul would go on to speak of the brother perishing as a direct result of this knowledge and their own faith which was weak. The apostle Paul goes on to write how when we should so sin against the brethren in this manner and wound their conscience we sin against Christ. This would be followed by the apostle Paul declaring that if meat made his brother to offend he would eat no flesh while the world stands lest he make his brother to offend. Oh we must needs recognize and understand how incredibly important and powerful this truly is for the apostle Paul clearly and boldly declares that if we cause our weak brother to perish for whom Christ died we don’t merely sin against them but we also sin against the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the first verse:
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:1-14).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the eighth and ninth chapters of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints for within it we find the apostle Paul not only speaking of offense but we also find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of becoming all things unto all men that he might save some. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in these two chapters is the direct and present contrast between offending many and saving some. In the eighth chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul speaking of sinning against the brethren and against Christ by offending them in matters of conscience while in the ninth chapter of this same epistle we find the apostle Paul speaking unto the Corinthian saints about becoming all things unto all men that he might save and win some. The apostle Paul had absolutely no issue with condescending and abasing himself that he might be a witness unto those to whom he was sent to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredible reality for it flies directly in the face of us as the disciples of Christ and saints of God—namely, whether or not we are willing to abase and condescend to those to whom we have been sent to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all reality this is at the very heart and center of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and what we have been called to engage ourselves in while being ambassadors in this world for and unto the gospel of the Lord Jesus. There is a great need for men and women who are willing to abase themselves and esteem others as better than themselves. This is precisely what the Corinthians struggled with for they were not such who would or even could esteem others as better than themselves. This is what was so evident in the words we find in the sixth and eleventh chapters of this first epistle concerning those in the midst of the church who would and could not suffer wrong and those who approached the Lord’s table with absolutely no regard for others.
I am convinced that it is necessary to leave you with the following words found in these two chapters for what we find in them are the Corinthian believers who were all about themselves, who were puffed up and who focused on themselves and their own needs. What we find in the sixth and eleventh chapters of this epistle bring us face to face with the struggles the Corinthian saints had—not only with accepting and taking wrong and suffering being ill-treated but also abusing the table of the Lord while focusing on themselves and their own needs. We must needs recognize the words found in these two chapters for when we come to the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of this epistle we find the apostle Paul calling them to recognize they are the body of Christ and to start acting like it. Not only this but we also find the apostle Paul speaking unto them concerning love which is at the very heart and center of esteeming others as better than themselves. It is only love that allows one to condescend themselves before another and truly esteem others as better than themselves. The words found in these two chapters are incredibly powerful words of caution and warning unto us who are the body of Christ in this generation as those who dare not and ought be such who are puffed up, arrogant, boastful and are all about themselves. The words in these passages confront us with the tremendous need for us to be such who recognize the dangers and snares of being those who not only live out of community but also those who are unable to live in community because of our own pride. Oh that we would read the following words and recognize the great and present need to be such who commit themselves to being such who are able to truly humble and abase themselves that they might be able to not only be a witness unto others but also live in community and fellowship with others:
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? IF then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceive: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).
“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 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 cup, 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 of 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).