Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"One Head, One Body ..."

Day #322

Scripture Reading:  I Corinthians 11 - 12 ...

Sometimes I wonder how God puts up with us ... then I remember His love for those whom He has chosen, and His amazing grace and patience.  It would be foolish, however, to presume upon God's patience and to think that dishonoring His name and causing problems in His Church go unnoticed.  Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body, and He gave Himself up for her.  The Church is Christ's bride and He desires to make Himself known through the witness of the Church, those who are “called out” of the world to be ambassadors of His kingdom.  Needless, senseless, foolish divisions within the Body hinder the work of the Spirit among us, and hamper our witness to the world.  How then, can we improve the oneness of the Body of Christ?  By listening to and understanding and obeying God's Word!

While I don't claim to have the last word on understanding I Corinthians 11 and 12 (and chapters 13 and 14), there are some obvious truths revealed that make the purpose of these chapters clear - to bring a greater oneness to Christ's Church.  The church in Corinth had a reputation for being divided.  Paul had already addressed their divisions in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 3.  But their divisiveness had even affected their worship and especially the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

There must have been an issue of the roles of men and women in the church as well, because Paul addresses it in Chapter 11:3-16 and again in Chapter 14:34-40.  Paul's comments about a woman covering her head when she prays has been debated for some time, but he gives an explanation in 11:15:  "For long hair is given to her as a covering."  It is doubtful that Paul was talking about any other covering, but rather that he was speaking against the shaving of the head by women, which was a part of the culture for some of the religious rituals of the non-Christians who lived around them.

His point is made in verses 3 and 10, that God has established roles in the Church, as He has in the family, and that male headship is a biblical principle intended to be lived out in Christ’s Body.  It is important to see the connection of this subject with what follows:  the oneness of the Body.  Male and female roles in the Church continue to be an issue to this day ... but they shouldn't be.  Neither should the other issues mentioned in these chapters.  God has spoken.  "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God" (11:16).

The Lord's Supper, of all things, points to the sacrifice of Jesus for His Body, the Church.  That they had divisions among them between the rich and the poor as they came together to worship, to share a meal together and to celebrate the Lord's Supper was disgraceful.  It revealed that their minds and hearts were on themselves and NOT on Christ.  Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of ME!"  Going through the motions of worship brings God's discipline.  How few people take these things seriously today? Instead, I have seen congregations torn apart because of self-centeredness on the part of some within the Body of Christ.

The BODY is important to Christ, and it must be important to US!  This brings us to “spiritual gifts.  This could fill many pages, so I will just point out a few points in the context of God's desire for the oneness of the Body of Christ.  First, and most obvious, there is ONE Spirit!  In the past few decades there has been unnecessary division created in the church by a "movement" called, "Pentecostal."  While it is true that the church long ignored the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal movement OVER-emphasizes the Holy Spirit and OVER-emphasizes certain gifts of the Spirit.

Look at 12:13:  "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body."  Every believer has been baptized, immersed in, the Holy Spirit.  In verse 3, Paul writes, "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit."  Everyone who has been born again by the Spirit has been baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Everyone who has been baptized by the Holy Spirit says, "Jesus is Lord!"  Working from that foundation, the same Spirit gives gifts to every part of the Body to be used "for the common good" (12:7).  Not everyone receives the same gifts.  The idea that one gift, the "speaking in different kinds of tongues," has been made THE mark of a born again believer is false teaching.  If verse 10 is understood as "different kinds of tongues," and Acts 2 is taken into account, that others heard the apostles speaking "in their own languages," then this particular gift is NOT a sort of "babbling,” but rather, a spoken language.

All of the gifts are intended to unify the Body of Christ, not divide it.  The ability to speak in a language not learned brought the ability to bring different people together who spoke different languages.  This was important in the early church, and in some places it is important today.  As for the other gifts, some were more prevalent than others.  Remember, this was a time of transition in God's plan of salvation.  As for the miraculous ... "gifts of healing and miraculous powers" ... Paul writes in II Corinthians 12:12:  "The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance."  God still does miracles, but apostles were foundational to the church and the ability to do miracles was given to confirm the message of salvation.  Hebrews 2:3-4:  "This salvation was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will."

When you take all of God's Word together you discover the will of God for His Body.  "As it is, there are many parts, but one body ... God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other" (12:20,25).  That's pretty clear, isn't it?  Why all the division from these chapters of God's Word that are intended to bring ONENESS?  Pray that God would give you wisdom to hear HIS voice and to see the Church as HE sees it:  ONE body, united in Christ Jesus and filled with His Spirit.  Then do YOUR part to make her beautiful!!

"OUR Father in heaven, teach us to love Your Church and to labor together to exalt the name of Jesus, her Head.  Pour out Your Spirit with power that we may set our minds on Christ and not on ourselves.  Make us of one heart and one mind so that You may be glorified in our midst and we may declare Your salvation to the world!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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