Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. 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 ore 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, 9as 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. 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 stumbling block 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 my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
“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 y e 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 shalt 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 -loveth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual 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 9:1-17).
“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 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 by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (1 Corinthians 9:18-23).
“Know ye not that they which run a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the master is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainty; so fight I, not as one that beareth the air: but I keep under m y 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 find the apostle continuing to exhort these saints on how to live in community and fellowship with each other. If you take a close look at this epistle and the words and language that are contained within it you will find the apostle Paul spends a considerable amount of time describing unto them how to live in proper community and fellowship with each other. As I sit here writing these words I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s language in this epistle and how there are many of us within our churches today who don’t know how to live in community and fellowship with each other. In all reality I would dare say the extent of our “community” and “fellowship” exists during the couple hours we are gathered together in the church on Sunday mornings and perhaps even during a midweek service. I would dare suggest that many of us within the church are entirely and absolutely clueless on how to live in community and fellowship one with another outside of that which is comfortable and convenient during a Sunday morning service. What’s more is I would dare say there are many among us who don’t have the capacity for fellowship and community outside and apart from that which takes place on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. In addition to this I am absolutely convinced that part of living in community and fellowship cannot and must not exist outside of and apart from prayer. Despite how many men and women would like to think and believe they can live in community and fellowship without prayer I would dare say that true biblical community and fellowship has never and will never exist outside of and apart from prayer as men and women gather together in one accord and give themselves to prayer.
As I write these words I am confronted with the incredible truth that there are many within our churches today who have absolutely no clue nor do they have any understanding on how to live in community and fellowship with each other the way the Holy Spirit intended them to. The body of Christ and the true church of Jesus Christ is about so much more than simply gathering together for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, singing a few songs in worship to the Lord, giving of one’s tithe and offering, hearing and listening to a preacher deliver the sermon and perhaps even responding to an altar call and then spending a few minutes after service “greeting” one another and engaging in causal conversation one with another. Having spent my entire life in the church and having grown up—both in the church as well as in a pastor’s home—I have seen this “greeting” time take place during the service (usually after the worship was finished and perhaps before or after the offering was collected) just before the preaching of the word begins. This is usually a time when men and women get up out of their seats and shake the hands of others and perhaps engage in minimal and casual conversation with those around them. In most cases it’s shaking the hand(s) of the person to the right, the person to the left, and maybe the person in front of or behind you. What’s more is that since this time is so limited because most ministers don’t want it taking place for an extended period of time the preacher or minister has to call and corral the people back to their seats.
The more I think about and consider this particular truth the more I can’t help but think about the fact that it is even possible for men and women to engage in some form of conversation time after the church as they spend additional time talking with those in the midst of the service. For many this is the end of their “community” and “fellowship” as once they have spent some time speaking and fellowshipping with people after the church they don’t think about the body the rest of that day and not throughout the entire week. Many people do not think about the body of Christ nor community and fellowship outside of and apart from Sunday morning and during those two specific times during and after the service when there is opportunity to spend time talking and speaking with others. In all reality I would dare say that many men and women (I also include myself in this statement) have absolutely no clue how to live in fellowship and community with each other. There are many within the church today (including myself) who wouldn’t know what community and fellowship looked like if it presented itself to them and hit them upside the head. There are many men and women who have absolutely no idea what true biblical community and fellowship truly is and as a direct result of this they sell themselves far too short of that which the living and eternal God has ordained and appointed for them. There are countless men and women among us in our churches today who may very well know what it’s like to gather together with each other in a church building, to worship together as they sing a few songs and sit through the preaching of another sermon and yet they have absolutely no clue how to live in true biblical community and fellowship one with another.
It is with this in mind I am reminded of certain passages which are found in the New Testament beginning with the book of Acts written by the beloved physician Luke. I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words which are found in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. I am also reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture for I am convinced they help form a foundation and understanding of what it truly means to live in community and fellowship one with another as the body of Christ in the earth:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have m any 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 prophecy according to the proportion of faith; or minister, 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” (Romans 12:1-8).
“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 condescended 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 12:9-21).
“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 Gods, and sham 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 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 sculpt. 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).
“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 of 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 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 we 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? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, 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 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 bodyA. And the Eshe 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 bestowe 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 laced: 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 honored, 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).
Before transitioning to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints as well as the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the thirteenth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. I do not believe that we can have an honest conversation about living in community and fellowship one with another without examining this chapter for within this chapter we are brought face to face with a chapter that is entirely and altogether dedicate to love and what love looks like and how love is demonstrated and manifested among us and within our own life. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse:
“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; chariot 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, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, 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, charity, these three: But the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
Having presented unto you the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome as well as the words the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle unto the saints which were at Corinth I now invite you to consider the following words which are found in the epistles written unto the saints which were at Ephesus and Philippi before bringing you to the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints as well as in the second chapter of the Philippian saints:
“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; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace. There is one body, and 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, evangelist; 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 fullness 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 of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
“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 likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; 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 your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
Having examined now the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus and seeing how the whole body is fitly joined and compacted together and having read the words words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints describing the mind which ought to be in us I find it absolutely necessary to now call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. Here in the second and fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find how on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit not only added unto the number of those who were in the upper room three thousand souls were believed and were baptized but the Holy Spirit created a community and fellowship among those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus. On the day of Pentecost those who had walked with Jesus while He was in the flesh and who were witnesses of His resurrection and of His ascension were joined together with those who believed in Him and called upon His name on the day of Pentecost. When those whose consciences were pricked and who believed the word which the apostle Peter preached asked what they must needs do to be saved the apostle would instruct them to repent and be baptized every one of them in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. What’s more is the apostle Peter would also declare unto them that they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost for the promise was unto them, and to their children, and to all that are afar off—as many as the Lord shall call. This is something we must needs understand for that which the apostle Peter instructed those whose consciences were convicted was simply to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and when they did so they would receive the Holy Spirit. Luke goes on to write how those who gladly heard and received his word were baptized and that same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
I am absolutely convinced that we must needs at this juncture consider the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book of Acts which was written by the beloved physician Luke. I am convinced that what began on the day of Pentecost was the beginning of men and women learning how to live in true community and fellowship one with another. What’s more is I am also convinced that the single greatest miracle which took place on the day of Pentecost was indeed the unifying of the hearts and souls of those three thousand souls who were added unto the number of those who were present in the upper room. There would be those who would like to think and profess the greatest miracle which took place on the day of Pentecost was the sound of a rushing mighty wind and even the cloven tongues of fire which rested upon each of those who were present in the upper room. There are others who would like to argue and contend that the greatest miracle of the day of Pentecost was speaking with other tongues as men were given utterance by the Holy Spirit. Still there are others who would dare say that the greatest miracle which took place on the day of Pentecost was three thousand souls being added unto the number of those who were present in the upper room. I am convinced that each of these were indeed miracles in and of themselves, however, there is a miracle greater than any of these which have just been mentioned. I firmly believe that the greatest miracle which took place on the day of Pentecost was indeed the uniting of the hearts, and minds, and souls, and spirits of all those who were added together unto those who were present in the upper room. Lest you think this is somehow irrelevant or inaccurate I would like for you to describe and detail—regardless of how big the church is you’re a part of—if what was said about these saints mentioned in the book of Acts is being and can be said about the members thereof.
In recent months and over the past two plus years we have seen men and women unite themselves together in protests in the streets, we have seen individuals unite themselves together to riot and incite violence and looting in the streets. We have seen men and women unite themselves together over a common cause such as protesting the vaccine, protesting the vaccine mandate, protesting masks, protesting the lockdowns, protesting the shutting of businesses and the like. We have seen men and women uniting themselves in defense of abortion, in defense of the LGBTQ community and even in defense of climate and the like. With all of this being said, however, I would dare say that even in the midst of all of this we have not seen nor did we see true unity among men and women. It can be said that even though there have been the protests which have taken place in the streets of our cities it falls significantly short of true biblical unity which can only be produced by the Spirit. In all reality I would dare say that it is only the Spirit of the living God that can foster and create true unity within the hearts and souls of men and women. Man has never and will never be able to create that unity and community that is approved by God in and of themselves and lest you think this is somehow inaccurate I would invite you to consider the narrative of what took place after the days of the flood when the inhabitants of the earth were gathered together in one place and were united together in building a city and tower that stretched toward and unto heaven itself. It would be during the days after the flood when the Spirit of the LORD would come down to see this thing they were seeking to do and would not only scatter those who were present in the land of Shinar but would also confuse their languages. What we find on the day of Pentecost is the reverse of what the LORD did during the days after the great flood came upon the earth. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament book of Genesis as well as the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts:
“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builder. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORd scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:1-9).
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:1-13).
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 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 2:37-47).
“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 was 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).
I am absolutely convinced it is necessary to have this background and foundation about what it is like and what it means to be in true biblical community and fellowship for the entire first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is centered upon a church that had allowed themselves to shift and transition away from and outside of such a reality among them. The more I read the words which are found in this epistle the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that these dear saints had allowed themselves be entirely and altogether brought out of community and fellowship with each other. The apostle Paul had spent a year and a half laboring among them before departing from them and coming unto the city of Ephesus which is in what is today called the modern nation of Turkey. What we find within this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints is something which warrants strong consideration for there were multiple examples of how this church and congregation had allowed themselves to shift outside of true biblical community and fellowship. From the first and opening chapter of this epistle you are brought face to face and confronted with the fact that there were certain things which were seriously and drastically wrong with this church. Despite the fact they were called to be saints together with all those who call upon the name of the Lord they had allowed themselves to become carnal rather than spiritual. In the third chapter of this first epistle the apostle Paul emphatically declared that he could not write unto them as spiritual but as carnal—even as babes in Christ—because of that which they had allowed to creep in among them. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality of just how this church and congregation of believers—although they believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and although they were baptized—had allowed carnality to creep in among them. What’s more is not only did they allow carnality to creep in among them but they also allowed fornication to creep in among them as well as what the apostle Paul writes of in the sixth chapter concerning their taking one another to court among the Gentiles.
I firmly believe that if you want to truly understand the words and language that is found in the eighth and ninth chapters of this epistle there is a great need to recognize and understand the words which are found in the first, third, fifth and sixth chapters of this epistle. Within these chapters we find many of the issues which were plaguing this church and that which the apostle Paul set out to write this epistle that he might address and correct among them. The apostle Paul wrote this first epistle unto the Corinthian saints as a means of correcting and rebuking them based on reports which were brought unto him and to his attention. Although the apostle Paul was absent in body from these saints he had received report concerning their actions and behaviors among each other. While they should have been living in true biblical community and fellowship they had allowed themselves to become carnal in the sight of the living God. The apostle Paul declared unto them that he could not write unto them as spiritual but as carnal because of what they had allowed to creep in unaware among them. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of just how necessary and vital this epistle truly was. In all reality I would dare say this epistle was indeed an intervention to some degree because the apostle Paul was seeking to correct patterns of thinking and patterns of behavior which had taken place among them. The apostle Paul had received reports concerning divisions, contention, strife, schisms, fornication and the like which was present among these dear saints of the living God. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this first epistle beginning with the first and opening chapter:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (1 Corinthians 1:10-16).
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labour ears together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:1-9).
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or devious, or an idolater, or a raider, or a drunkard, or an extortioners; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I do do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person’ (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do not ye 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 faulty 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 deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adultery, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetouensss, nor drunkards, nor revivers, 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).
There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for they speak of those issues which were plaguing the Corinthian congregation. Beginning with the first chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul highlights and underscores the schisms and divisions which were present among them as they allowed themselves to be caught up and consumed with a party spirit. The Corinthian saints had allowed themselves to be caught up together in an offense and affront before and in the sight of the Lord as they were not of the same mind nor were they of the same spirit. What’s more is that when you come to the third chapter you will find the apostle Paul going on to write how he could not write unto them as spiritual but as carnal for it was reported to him that there were contentions, strife and division among them. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul also goes on to write concerning these saints and how they had not only allowed fornication to be present among them but had also chosen not to mourn and weep over such fornication. The apostle Paul wrote unto them how such fornication that was present among them in the church of all places was such as had not been reported even among the Gentiles. Rather than mourning and weeping over such wickedness and rather than putting it away from them they were puffed up about it and allowed it to remain among them. The apostle Paul wrote in the fifth chapter that they needed to purge themselves of this fornication, this wickedness and this immorality that was present among them—almost as though it was removing a cancer that threatened to spread throughout the church. The apostle Paul did speak of leaven and how if this fornication and immorality was not removed from the church it could very easily spread as leaven would spread throughout bread would spread throughout the church. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for as if the contention, the divisions, the strife and the schisms weren’t enough the Corinthian saints had also allowed themselves to entertain fornication among them.
When you come to the eighth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle continuing to write unto them concerning living in community and fellowship with each other. What we find within the eighth and ninth chapters of this epistle, however, has absolutely nothing to do with contention, or strife, or division or even fornication but rather matters of conscience. Not only this but when you read the words found within this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul writing along the lines of conscience as well as offense and offending one another. You cannot read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding offense and being offended among the saints who call upon the name of the Lord and are part of the body of Christ. There is absolutely no denying and no mistaking this particular truth when you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need we as the saints of God have to guard ourselves against being offended—and not only guarding ourselves against being offended but also guarding ourselves against offending others in word, in deed and in matters of conscience. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words presented in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need for us to be incredibly mindful of matters of the conscience and that which we say and that which we do that might very well lead to others in the body of Christ to being offended. In fact I would dare say that even Jesus Himself was well aware of this matter of offenses for He would speak to it when speaking to His disciples and those who would gather together unto Him. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning to read with and from 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 ofo 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 offenses! For it must needs be that of fences 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” (Matthew 18:1-9).
“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 18:10-14).
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:15-20).
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus with unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debit. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-35).
If you turn and direct your attention to the eighth and ninth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him beginning by speaking of things offered unto idols and how the Corinthians had knowledge of those things. The apostle Paul would go on to declare how knowledge puffs up but charity or love edifies. This would be followed by the apostle Paul further declaring that if any man think that he knows any thing he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. With this being said, however, any man who loves God is one who is known by and known of God. Perhaps one of the greatest question is not only whether or not we love God but also whether or not we are known of Him. Can you honestly and truthfully say that you love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength? Can you truly speak of yourself and say that you love the LORD your God and are truly, deeply and intimately known by and known of Him? This question is such which we ought to be able to truly ask ourselves and recognize for it strikes at the very heart of our existence for we have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who love God and those who are known of God. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that those who love God are in fact known of Him and I would dare say that those who are known of God are also those who know Him. We must needs recognize and understand this for it brings us face to face with that which strikes at the very heart of our existence and at the very heart of everything we do—namely whether or not we love the LORD our God. Jesus, His disciples, the religious system and leaders of that generation and the Jews themselves knew the greatest commandment was to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind and with all their strength. They also knew the second commandment was likened unto the first which required them to love their neighbor as themselves—thus they were called to love God first and from and out of that love they would in fact love others which is the fulfillment of the royal law.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we think about offense and offending others we must understand that if and when we allow ourselves to truly love others we live our lives esteeming and preferring them above ourselves. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to recognize that if we truly love others the way we have been commanded in the sacred Scripture then we will be those who will guard ourselves from that which offends others—regardless of whether that it is what we say, what we eat, what we drink, what we wear and the like. One question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are in fact aware of whether or not what we might say or do could possibly offend others. I have spent so much time saying that I don’t care what other people think, however, such a statement is so counter and contrary to Scripture I need to reconsider continuing to make such a statement. By declaring that I don’t care what other people think what I am really saying is that I am a selfish and self-centered person who is not willing to esteem others as better than myself. By making such a statement I am emphatically declaring that I am unwilling to place others above and before myself and am willing to say whatever and do whatever I want without any consideration for others. With this being said I find it important to declare that there is a vast difference between not pleasing others (everybody) and esteeming others above ourselves. We have not been called to please others and there is not a single person on the face of the planet who can and has pleased everyone. What’s more is that not even Jesus could please everyone during His time among us as the Word made flesh. With this being said we must needs recognize that we have indeed been called to be those who are willing to live our lives in careful consideration of others as we esteem others as better than ourselves. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul focuses on that which we say and do within our lives which might not offend or convict us, however, it might very well offend someone else.
In bringing this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to recognize that within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul spoke of eating those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols and how idols are nothing in the world and there is none other God but one. The apostle Paul goes on to declare that though there be those that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth there is unto the Christian but one God who is the Father of whom are all things and one Lord who is Jesus Christ. What the apostle Paul writes and speaks of in this passage of Scripture must needs bring us face to face with the incredibly significant truth of whether or not we are willing to conduct ourselves in such a way that what we say and/or what we do does not offend another who is weak in conscience. What’s more is that directly connected to and associated with this is our judging others for how they live and how they choose to conduct themselves. Notice the apostle Paul admonished the Corinthian saints to take heed lest by any means the liberty which they have within themselves in their own mind and conscience become a stumbling block too those who are weak. The apostle Paul further declares that if and/or when we sin against the brethren in matters of the conscience and conviction and wound their weak conscience we sin against Christ. The apostle Paul goes on to further declare that if meat makes his brother to offend he will eat not flesh while the world stands lest he makes his brother to offend. This is important for us to recognize for we must ask ourselves whether or not we are those who are willing to so live our lives and guard ourselves in such a way that we do not offend others in matters of conscience and conviction. If we are those who truly live our lives esteeming others as better than ourselves then we are indeed and are in fact those who love our neighbor as ourselves. This love is indeed an outworking of and from the love which we have for the LORD our God which is the foundation of who we are and everything we do. Oh that we would indeed be men and women who not only love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength but also that we would love others even as ourselves.