Monday, August 19, 2019

Overview of First Corinthians - Divisiveness

Is there a good purpose for Troublemakers? 

1Ki 18:17-18 When Ahab [the king of the northern kingdom of Israel] saw Elijah [the prophet of God], Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop and put the whole country into a three-year drought. In Ahab’s mind, Elijah was causing trouble. He called him a troubler or troublemaker.

Elijah said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. The trouble Elijah caused helped expose the trouble Ahab was in with God.

God uses troublemakers to show the difference in His will and man’s will. How He deals with troublemakers becomes a deterrent to others who might also consider rebelling. The consequence of the troublemakers’ actions warns others not to go down the same road they went down. 

Corinth was Paul’s trouble church. Corinth was a highly pagan city, a Roman city, a sensuous city, a freewheeling, do your own thing city. So, when Paul came in, the Good News was embraced but the old, natural way of doing life was deeply imbedded in the hearts of the people. Instead of eradicating the old ways, they compromised the new ways and that compromise spilled over into the church. 

When they came to Jesus, instead of disconnecting from their old lives, they brought their baggage with them. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians more to correct their behavior than teach doctrine. He wrote to expose the troublemakers and then give the solution for change. 

His theme: 1Cor 1:9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

God’s objective was to make them acceptable for fellowship. They were called out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of sin and into righteousness so they might have fellowship with Him. But they didn’t see how their activity was interfering with that fellowship.

This problem was widespread in the early church. John wrote: 1John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Fellowship isn’t an attitude. We don’t create fellowship; it is the result of living right with God. Relationship is the result of being right with God. Fellowship is the result of living right with Him.

But Paul said their behavior was preventing that fellowship, causing trouble in their lives and manifesting that trouble in the church. He believed: If he could get them to understand God’s faithfulness, they would turn away from that behavior and return to fellowship with the Lord. How could he do that? By pointing out the troublemakers, those doing what he wants the people not to do, and helping them change their behavior.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll expose the troublemakers. Today, the divisive troublemakers. He wants them to know that God is faithful even in disagreement.

1Cor 1:10-11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. 

Division is unacceptable to Paul. It defeats the imagery of the Body of Christ. He writes later: 1Cor 12:20-25 But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 

Unity and agreement are signs of a healthy body. A broken body can’t function well.

In Philippians, Paul simply told them what he expected and how to do it: Phil 2:2-4 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 

But apparently the Corinthians needed more than him just saying this division is wrong so quit it. They needed help, power to fight against the natural tendencies of self-centered opinions. Paul says God has provided for that.

1Cor 2:12-15  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

In fighting against their brothers, they were actually fighting against God’s intentions. A house divided against itself will not stand.

This is a hard thing to grasp, that we are connected to God and interconnected to each other. We can’t be right with God and wrong with one another. Neither can we be wrong with God and right with one another. Paul said our struggles are spiritually based. Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

If I divide from you, I divide from the body. Remove a burning log from the fireplace and soon it will lose the flame and grow cold. What once burned hot with the other logs, now is just a burned-out piece of wood, its benefit waisted by dividing from the whole.

Because, some within the Corinthian church rejected what God said in order to defend their divisive opinions, they were acting like what they weren’t - natural men – self-driven, unsaved persons.

1Cor 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 

Paul uses the terms natural and spiritual to distinguish between those who are saved and lost. He uses the term fleshly to describe someone who is out of fellowship with God. The natural person and the fleshly person are seeking to live life on their own terms. The Spiritual person is seeking to live on God’s terms.

1Cor 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

If the natural, unsaved person cannot understand the things of God, why would the Corinthians choose to think like a natural person to try and figure out the things of God?

The word hypocrite gets thrown at church folks a lot. The word comes from the Greek stage when an actor, needing to play a different role, would place a mask in front of his face. He may be young but to play an older man he holds up the mask of an older man. He isn’t an older man, but he is acting like one.

That became the foundation of the word hypocrite: someone acting like something they aren’t.
Christians aren’t hypocrites for trying to act like Christians. That’s what they are. But, the Corinthians were hypocrites because they were acting like they were natural, unsaved people. That’s not who they were but it was how they acted when they divided themselves.

What’s the solution: Looking at the faithfulness of God and seeing what He has provided. The sign of a good planner is the ability to anticipate problems down the road and prepare accordingly. To be faithful to the project, he must be ready for whatever may come. He plans for contingencies.

Paul says: God is faithful. Anticipating divisions, disagreements, arguments, selfish opinions, He has placed within the Christian’s mind the Mind of Christ so we might know the things freely given to us by God. How? By the [indwelling] Spirit who is from God, helping us know the things freely given to us by God.

The Spirit helps us discover what God wants us to know. Rom 8:26-27 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

God within us is working to direct our minds and hearts toward His best. Placing the Mind of Christ within each of us, the mechanism for agreement if already in place. Here’s my opinion. Well, here’s my opinion. Wait, what does God say? The desire to want to know what God says is evidence of the mind of Christ.

This is one of the advantages of the Christian marriage: Both seeking the Lord in order to be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

1Cor 1:30-31 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 

Division is based on self-asserted boasting. This is what I think. Here’s what I know. I’m right and you’re wrong. My way’s best. I’m the sharpest knife in the drawer. Your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. 

The boasting that benefits the body is: this is what I believe the Lord wants. The only place to find that, is within the Mind of Christ. And we will discover it when we pray: God, not my will but Your will be done.

Wherever Jesus went, He faced the opinions of others. John 9:16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
What caused the division? People who only wished to express their opinions rather than ask God for an answer. 

If we both or all want what He wants, there is no division. God is not divided in His intentions. We yield our opinions to God’s ultimate good. 

When the Hubble Telescope was first deployed, it had a problem. It couldn’t focus. The images were blurry and useless. Engineers designed a corrective lens to clear up the problem. 

When things are blurry, the faithfulness of God can bring clarity. That’s why Paul corrects us by reminding the Corinthians of how faithful God is to provide what they need to live God-centered, God-filled lives. 

God’s goal: He wants fellowship with us. Whatever is blocking that fellowship is rebellion against Him. He calls it sin – the separating element of a natural life. 

If we can’t find fellowship with God, if there is no joy, if we sense a divisive spirit, we may be compromised by our sin. 1John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

That cleansing restores fellowship with God and each other and connects us with all God has provided.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches the right way by showing us the consequences of the wrong way. In correcting the troublemakers, he provides a deterrent for not doing what they did so we can avoid the same consequences they experienced. 

1Cor 10:11-12 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 

  1. Disagreements are natural and expected.
  2. They can help sort through a variety of ideas to come up with the best.
  3. But, when disagreements create division, they hurt the body.
  4. Knowing that would happen, God faithfully gave us the resource for resolving disagreements before division happens. 
  5. The Mind of Christ within us will direct us to God’s best if we seek it.
6.     Seeking that best promotes healing not division.

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