Echoes in the Hills of Alabama

“What were you doing in Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend?” 

People are curious. I assume their curiosity was piqued by the dust being blown off my cobwebbed Instagram account. (I am trying to get with the times.) A steady stream of posts of my son and myself ranging from our stop at the Huddle House for breakfast to us standing with Rick Burgess and Andy Blanks in the foyer of The Church at Brooks Hills. Its no wonder why people were interested in what the Bounds boys were up to.

So, what were we doing? We were growing closer to God and each other! At Christmas, my wife gave us the wonderful gift of tickets to the Make Ready Weekend held at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL.  Make Ready is an “interactive discipleship weekend for fathers and their children.”1 Honestly, I have never been to an event quite like this one.  The goal of this weekend was to see “dads and their children embrace the roles God has called them to and grow closer in Christ as a result.”2The event was sponsored by YM360, Iron Hill Press, and Burgess Ministries.

Make Ready featured a great lineup of speakers. Rick Burgess, from the nationally syndicated Rick and Bubba Show, was the punch-in-the-gut-challenge-you-to-commit-to-discipleship preacher and Andy Blanks, publisher and founder of YM360, was the nuts and bolts how-to teacher of the event. My legal pad overflowed with quotes and ideas concerning discipleship as I gleaned from these two men.

However, my favorite portion of this event was the Dad/Student sessions. The rubber met the road in these small settings. The Make Ready Weekend Event Notebook provided was more challenging than anything. In one section of the notebook, we studied Ephesians 6:1-4, which states,

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.  “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise:  If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 (NLT)

Can you imagine a dad sitting across from his son asking him to share how he may have “frustrated him” instead of empowering him in the Lord? It was difficult to be open but freeing when all our cards were on the table. We found liberty in our relationship to share.

This liberty was not only found by us but by several more. After lunch and our discipleship session, I walked around on the campus seeing multiple holy huddles. Around every corner, a dad and child(ren) were gathered studying and praying together. It was a fantastic sight to see!

This weekend was amazing! I heard some excellent preaching/teaching, I even got to get my picture taken with Rick and Andy, but I have to say my favorite memory was captured at breakfast during one of our discipleship session in the photo below.img_0027-1

Rick and Andy thank you for this moment. I am, and will ever be grateful, for you helping me to refocus on the most important ministry in my life, being a dad. A shout out of appreciation to Iron City Worship for preparing our hearts with song, to The Church at Brook Hills for allowing us to gather in their facilities, and to all those behind the scenes.  Also, thanks to my amazing wife for being a huge Rick and Bubba fan and getting us tickets for Christmas. God bless you all! Finally, my request to God is may the tear-filled prayers, which were uttered in the hills of Alabama echo throughout the land and turn the heart of fathers back to their children.

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  1. Make Ready Event Notebook
  2. Ibid, 4

Gifted for the Common Good

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Summary of the Text: In the passage, Paul begins to address another issue concerning the Corinthian public worship; the use of Spiritual gifts. He discusses the declaration of the Spirit, the manifestation of the Spirit, and the distribution of the gifts.

The Proposition of the Sermon: What are the Spiritual gifts and their purpose? Individuals within the  Body of Christ are gifted for the common good of the whole Church.

 

Introduction

            Have you ever overheard another person’s conversation on the phone? It is a one-sided discussion, or at least it is from your perspective. You could liken this letter to the Corinthians (and other epistles too) to such an eavesdropped “telephone conversation.”  We can hear the Apostle Paul’s statement loud and clear, but the Corinthians’ comments are muffled mutterings from the other end of the receiver.  We can only hope to follow the dialogue by picking up on the contexts clues.

However, we have reached a highly controversial portion of Paul’s conversation with the Church at Corinth. There seems to be more confusion and disagreement about Spiritual gifts in the church today than ever before. What are the gifts? Are they for today? If so, how are they to operate in the church today? These questions are only the beginning of the discussion.

Regardless of the fact of the one-sided nature of the “conversation,” the discussion is complicated even more because many people do not view the following verses in their complete context (1 Cor 12-14). PLEASE HEAR THE WHOLE OF PAUL’S DISCUSSION ON THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS! (This is not to mention Romans 12.) The following series of sermons will follow the progression of Paul’s letter concerning the matter, so please understand, I may not answer the question you are longing to hear in this sermon. However, I hope to give clarity to the debated topic of Spiritual gifts by analyzing the letter’s contents and allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. The Holy Spirit is plain-spoken through the pen of Paul, “I do not want you to be unaware” (12) (or ignorant) concerning Spiritual gifts.

Now, in 1 Corinthian 12:1-11, Paul begins to speak to the Corinthian congregations’ concerns about Spiritual gifts. It appears there is complete chaos in the public worship service at Corinth. The gifts were being used in competition against each other; instead of helping one another. Would it be surprising if the Corinthians were dividing up in the “spiritual elite,” which operated in the more spectacular gifting, as opposed to the ones who did not possess a magnificent gift? I believe that is the case!

Therefore, Paul explains that all gifts (flashy or understated) are given for the common good of the church. In this sermon, we will investigate the declaration of the Spirit, the manifestation of the Spirit, and the distribution of the gifts to reveal that all are given for the spiritual welfare of the Church.

The Declaration of the Spirit vv. 1-3

In vv. 1-3, Paul makes known the declaration of the Spirit, which in turn allows us to see the Spirit’s role of testifying of Jesus. In these verses, I would like to make three points. The first point is concerning the word “gifts” in v.1. Paul states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware” (1).  This verse could be rendered, “Now concerning spiritual brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” In most translations, the word gift is italicized. This indicates that in the original manuscripts this word is not there but has been inserted by translators to help the modern reader grasp the gist of the passage. Could this reveal insight into the dilemma at Corinth? Could there be certain “Spiritual brethren” which the Spirit manifest more mightily through and thus cause attention to be drawn to them? It is possible. However, regardless of the rendering, Paul is clear that he did not desire the church to be ignorant.

The remaining two points are drawn from vv. 2-3. Paul writes, “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (2-3).  The second point deals with why Paul mentions “mute idols” and “Jesus being accursed.”  D.A Carson writes,

Pagans believed that the gods were capable of influencing their objectives against others in areas of life such as athletic competition, matters of the heart, business and politics. This was done in pagan worship through the use of curses against their opponents. Sometimes they were written on lead, deposited in the temple and wells and sworn in the name of a god. A curse tablet found in the temple of Demeter in Corinth read, ‘Hermes of the underworld [grant] heavy curses.’ Jesus be cursed can be translated ‘Jesus [is] a curse’ or ‘Jesus [grant] a curse’ for the two words are lit. ‘anathema Jesus.’Cf. 16:22 ‘let him be anathema’ where the verb is in the present tense. Were the Corinthian Christians using the name of Jesus as a curse against opponents in the same way pagans did with there gods? Is Paul saying that no person speaking by the Spirit of God curses others with ‘anathema Jesus’ in order to disadvantage them? Only those led by the Spirit will affirm that Jesus is Lord. Christians were meant to be using their gifts for the blessing and the welfare of others 1

This ‘anathema Jesus’ statement may have been formulated by a misunderstanding of how Jesus was accursed for us.

The final, and most significant, point is located at the end of v. 3. Paul states, “…and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (3). In this statement, Paul reveals the revelatory role of the Spirit of God. It does not matter how grandiose a manifestation is if it does not point to the fact that Jesus is Lord. It is not the Spirit. For further clarification, the Apostle John records Jesus’ teaching concerning this testimony of the Spirit in his Gospel. First, he writes, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” (NASB Jn 15:26).  Later it is recorded,

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 16:14  “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (NASB Jn 16:13-14)

The biblical role of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Christ. He will magnify and glorify Christ, not any other. If the attention is given to a man or any other, no matter how supernatural the occurrence, it is not godly. Christ alone is to be honored!

In summary, this portion of the passage, Paul explains it is not his desire (I also believe the Spirit’s desire) that believers be unaware (or ignorant) of the gifts of the Spirit. If a supernatural manifestation occurs, it will only point to Christ and His redeeming work. No exceptions.

The Manifestation of the Spirit vv. 4-10

            In this section (vv. 4-10), Paul addresses the manifestation of the Spirit. I would like to divide these verses into two subsections. The first part can be identified by Paul’s use of the word varieties (διαίρεσις or diairesis) 2 in vv. 4-7.  The second section is vv. 8-10 and is a list of supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

Varieties of Gifts, Ministries, and Effects vv. 4-7

In vv. 4-6, Paul makes three enlightening statements concerning the spiritual gifts.  In these three comments, Paul explains there are varieties of gifts, ministries, and effects. In this portion of the sermon, these terms will be investigated for insight into Paul’s understanding of the gifts of the Spirit.

First, what does Paul mean by varieties? The NLT rendering of the passage brings clarity to what is meant by varieties. It states,

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us” (NLT 1 Cor 12:4-6).

In short, Paul is giving a set of divisions or categorical list of the gifts. This list in 1 Corinthian 12 is not an exhaustive list. The reason these types of gifts are mentioned here is, more than likely, due to the situation at Corinth.

Secondly, Paul states, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (4).  What does Paul mean by the word “gifts?The word translated “gifts” is the Greek word χάρισμα (or Charisma). It means, “a gift of grace, a free gift” 3  For Paul, these gifts, regardless of type, are given by the Spirit of God through the means of grace. They are not earned or learned. (Again, please remember this Corinthian list is not a comprehensive inventory of all the gifts. See Romans 12:3-8 for more gifts).

Furthermore, Paul writes, “And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord” (5). “Ministries” comes from the διακονία (diakonia). It means “service, ministry.” 4 It is where the word “deacon” originates. I believe Paul is here alluding to the five-fold ministry gifts listed in Eph. 4:11-13. There he states,

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”  (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (NASB Eph 4:7-12).

God gives gifted people to the church. (Could this sway the translation debate on v.1?)

Furthermore, Paul writes, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons” (6).  The word rendered “effects” (ἐνέργημα or energêma) 5 is rendered as activities, operations, or workings in various translations (see ESV, KJV, and ASV).  Energema is where our English word “energy” is derived. Therefore, these spiritual “activities” are energized by the Spirit of God for the purposes of God within the Church. The use of this word by Paul paints a picture of what is happening at Corinth. Could it be the Church at Corinth were enamored with these supernatural effects (or manifestations of the Spirit)? Absolutely, it is evident in later passages that Corinth has an issue with the supernatural signs.

Finally, Paul argues, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (7). No matter what “category” the spiritual gift falls in, it is given for the betterment of the community of faith. Also, it is important to note, that the “manifestation” or display of the Spirit is not to say the Spirit was absent without an exhibition of the gift. The Spirit is always present in the life of the believer, but at times of manifestation, the Spirit is more apparent.

In summary of this subsection, Paul uses three informative words, which shed light on the gifts of the Spirit. There are a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects all given by God to the Body of Christ. These grace-endowments are given to the Body for the welfare of the entire Body and not merely individual members (although they may be beneficial to the individual). Also, regardless, of the manifestation, if it is of the Spirit, it will testify to Christ and His work. The Holy Spirit will not speak against the Christ and His Word.

Supernatural Manifestations of the Spirit vv. 8-10

In vv. 8-10, Paul gives nine supernatural gifts given to the church by the Spirit of God. They are recorded as follows: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. We will examine each in the order Paul presents but it may be useful to note that some categorize these nine into three groups. There are the revelation gifts (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and distinguishing of spirits), power gifts (faith, healings, and miracles), and utterance gifts (prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues). In this section of the study, I would like to give attention to the definition of these gifts and if possible give examples from Scripture. (I will only survey these gifts, especially tongues  and interpretation of tongues, because the utterance gifts will be dealt with in detail later in 1 Cor 14.)

In v. 8 Paul writes, “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;” (8).  Since there is controversy over what these two gifts are, I will begin with what is not debatable. First, the wisdom (σοφία or sophia) is defined as “skill, wisdom.” is defined as “a knowing or knowledge” 6 and knowledge (γνῶσις or gnosis) 7 Apparently, there is a difference between the two gifts just because of their separate listing. An important consideration is that knowledge is the accumulation of facts and wisdom is the application of that knowledge. However, this is wisdom and knowledge given by the Spirit of God. I do not believe Paul is speaking of mere human mental acquisition and application here, but spiritual endowments.

Therefore, the word of wisdom is the supernatural ability to speak forth the wisdom of God. One writer states, “This gift describes someone who can understand and speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skillfully apply it to life situations with all discernment.” 8  This gift is not limited to the New Testament era. For Old Testament, examples think of Solomon and Daniel. For New Testament instances look to  Stephen in Acts 6:8-10.

Furthermore, the word of knowledge is the supernatural ability to know facts, which are humanly impossible. We see this gift operating within the New Testament. First, with Jesus. For instance, Jesus knowing Nathaniel was under the fig tree (Jn 1:45-51) or the coin in the fish’s mouth to pay the temple tax (Matt 17:24-27). But that was Jesus, right? What about Philip’s knowledge about the whereabouts of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8? Or the announcement of Cornelius’ arrival in Acts 10?  What about the Apostle Paul’s revelation of the shipwreck in Acts 27? Again this is not book-smarts, this is revealed supernatural knowledge given by the Spirit of God for the purposes of the Gospel.

In v. 9, Paul states, “to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit” (9).  First, all believers have the gift of faith (πίστις or pistis) 9, but this would be understood more clearly as “water walking faith” (Matt 14:22-33) or “mountain moving” faith. A great endowment of faith given at the specific time for a particular purpose. A modern-day example would be George Mueller. The gift of faith is the ability to believe God regardless of situation or circumstance.

Furthermore, the “gifts of healing” is given to some members of the church. Adam Clarke writes,

Gifts of healing simply refers to the power which at particular times the apostles received from the Holy Spirit to cure diseases; a power which was not always resident in them; for Paul could not cure Timothy, nor remove his own thorn in the flesh; because it was given only on extraordinary occasions, though perhaps more generally than many others. 10

Is there any need to review all the healings in the Gospels and Acts? Also, attention should be given to the plurality of the word gifts.

In v. 10, Paul gives the remaining five spiritual gifts under consideration. Paul writes, “and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues” (10).  First, what is the “effecting of miracles”? This gift often gets lumped in with the gifts of healing. However, it is a separate grace endowment. The word rendered miracles is δύναμις (or dunamis). [11, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1411”] This term is synonymous to “explosive power.” Some have stated that this is etymologically linked to the word “dynamite.” Second, is the gift of prophecy (προφητεία or propheteia) 11  In the Bible, there are two types of prophecy; forth-telling and foretelling.  Forthtelling is more akin to preaching and proclaiming the Scriptures. However, there is the prophecy which falls into the foretelling category (See Acts 11:28; 21:11). Third, the “distinguishing of spirits” is the ability to discern whether a spirit is demonic or godly. Finally, then there is “tongues” and “interpretation of tongues.” The gift of tongues is the ability to speak in a language, which is unknown and foreign to the speaker. Therefore, the gift of interpretation is the ability to understand the tongues as mentioned (see Acts 2). (As stated previously, more attention will be given to prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues later in 1 Cor 14.)

In summary of this section, Paul lists a group of supernatural spiritual gifts in vv. 8-10. The fact these are supernatural “effects, activities, or workings” of the Spirit should imply these are not regular everyday occurrences. However, God does in His sovereignty distribute the gifts to serve the church in its global mission. It would be erroneous to expect these incidents as normative, but also as much incorrect would be the view of them never happening. This thought brings up the next section of consideration from the test; the distribution of these gifts.

The Distribution of the Gifts v. 11

            As mentioned above, God dispenses these gifts at His sovereign pleasure. This statement is not to negate the factor of human volition in operating of the gifts (See 1 Cor 14:32). If human error were not a factor, then Paul would not have needed to write on the subject. However, the gifts are given by God for His purposes.

            Does everyone possess all the gifts? No. Paul writes, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (11). God is the is the Giver and chooses to who receives what gift. God alone knows what we have need of and gives the manifestation of the Spirit as He desires (v.7). It is erroneous to assert that all believers should possess a particular gift.

Conclusion

In conclusion, what are the Spiritual gifts and their purpose? Individuals within the Body of Christ are gracefully gifted by the Spirit of God with endowments for the common good of the Church.  We have witnessed the declaration of the Spirit of God in vv. 1-3, the manifestations of the Spirit in vv. 4-10, and the distribution of the Gifts in vv. 11.

 

 

  1. D. A. Carson et al., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 1180.
  2. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1243”.
  3. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “5486”.
  4. , New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1248”.
  5. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1755”
  6. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “4678”
  7. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1108”
  8. GotQuestions.org, “What are the spiritual gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge?” GotQuestions.org, January 04, 2017, accessed February 03, 2018, https://www.gotquestions.org/word-wisdom-knowledge.html.
  9. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “4102”
  10. Adam Clarke , Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke: 1 Corinthians: 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, accessed February 03, 2018, http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/co1012.htm.
  11. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “4394”.

Table Manners: Coming ‘Together’ for the Lord’s Supper

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Summary of the Text:  In this passage, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian congregation for having divisions and factions, which were becoming obvious during the Lord’s Supper; a meal which should reflect the selfless attitude of Christ and the unity of the believers.

The thesis of the Sermon:  How should the church behave during the Lord’s Supper? The church should ‘come together’ in a time of self-examination during communion while celebrating the unity found in Christ.

Introduction: 

No East or West 

In Christ there is no East or West,

In Him no South ot North,

But one great fellowship of Love

Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere

Their high communion find

His service is the golden cord

Close-binding all mankind.

Join hands then, Brothers of the Faith,

Whate’er your race may be! –

Who serves my Father as a son

Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,

In Him meet South and North,

All Christly souls are one in Him,

Throughout the whole wide earth. 1

What a lovely poem about Christian unity! The audience of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians would, more than likely, given lip-service to this verse. However, their actions around the table of the Lord painted a scene of disunity and selfishness.

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul scolds the Corinthians for having divisions [schismas or schisms] and factions [hairesis or heresy], which were evident during the Lord’s Supper; a meal which should reflect the selfless attitude of Christ and the unity of the believers. This sermon will explore the factors surrounding this passage and endeavor to reveal the proper approach the church should use while celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

To do this, the sermon will consist of three sections. First, we will examine the problem of disunity at Corinth. Second, the pattern of communion delivered by Paul to the church. Third, we will consider the purpose of the Holy Meal in the life of the believer today.

The Problem at Corinth vv. 17-22

In this section, Paul shifts to another issue with the Corinthian public worship services. A point Paul is obviously annoyed by. He writes, “…I do not praise you” (17) … “Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you” (22).  Paul is profoundly disturbed by the Corinthians.

What is the issue Paul being unhappy with? He writes, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse” (17).  Instead of being an edifying assembly the Corinthians worship services are driving a wedge between them! Paul elaborates

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; an in part I believe it. For there must be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be evident among you (18-19).

These divisions (or schismas) and factions (or Hairesis) were dividing the believers at Corinth into competing parties rather than complementary members.

First, the statement “when you come to together as a church…” needs some explanation. Although we have sanctified the term “church” (or ekklesia), in Paul’s world the term could be used for any type of gathering of people. However, the Evangelist Matthew use the word ekklesia in a new way in Matthew 18:20. He writes, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (NASB Matt 18:20). The presence of Christ within the gathering made it a sacred assembling.

During this sacred gathering, the Early Church practiced having a love-feast or agape meal (think of a spiritual potluck) and the Lord’s Supper was the pinnacle of the meal. The first half of the gettogether would consist of a shared meal (see Acts 2:42), which lead up to sharing of the Communion meal. However, the Corinthians were divided at a meal, which was meant to reveal the unity in Christ. Ben Witherington III writes,

These divisions seem to have created been created by some of the well-to-do members of the congregation treating the agape meal like a private dinner party, perhaps a banquet followed by a drinking party (convivium). The result of this was that the social stratification of the congregation was overemphasized and exacerbated. A serious division between the haves and the have-nots was thus threatening the fragile unity of the Corinthian community. 2

Witherington further explains customary etiquette at such dinner. He states,

It was the normal practice to rank one’s guest in terms of social status , with those of higher status eating with the host in the dining room and others eating elsewhere an getting poorer food. 3

It is easy to see if this were the case at Corinth that these practices were an affront to the Gospel’s message of unity among the classes!

Furthermore, in verses 20-21, Paul paints a picture of the situation at Corinth. He writes, “…for in your own eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk” (21). There is a debate to which is the proper interpretation of these verses. Some argue that the well-to-do member were not waiting for the poorer members to arrive before they began the feast (see verse 33). On the other hand, some say it was merely that the wealthy members were consuming what they brought instead of sharing with the less fortunate congregants. (In my opinion, it could have been a bit of both!) Whether the individuals are eating before others have a chance or eating what they brought, it is equally disgracing to the purpose of the gathering. This meal was an opportunity for all to share a common meal without distinctions of a class being drawn. We can witness Paul’s disgust in the Corinthian division by looking at the rhetorical questions he leveled at them in v. 22.

For clarity, let’s put it in the modern vernacular. The Corinthian congregation was full of social cliques. The haves was not sharing with the less fortunate. They were even having a big potluck (or church social) to rub it in! Should this be? God forbid! Paul states earlier in the letter, “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (NASB 1 Cor 10:17).

On a side note, Paul has a positive point about the divisions and factions. In verse 20, he writes, “…so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” These schisms and heresies allow for the true believers to rise the surface.

The Pattern of Communion vv.23-26

In verse 23-25, Paul recounts the Last Supper shared between Jesus and his Disciples. Paul states he has, “…received from the Lord…” this pattern of communion. He also has shared this with this congregation in the past at some point in time. They know better than to partake in this sacred meal like they are doing.

Although selfishness was witnessed in the Corinthians meal, Paul directs them to the most unselfish act of Christ, which is commemorated in the Lord’s Supper. As Baptists were practice two ordinances, believers’ baptism and communion. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His Second Coming. 4

Of course, the matter of how Christ is present in the communion meal has been a subject of heated debate. Catholics adhere to the doctrine of transubstantiation where it is believed the element physically change into the body and blood of Christ. Luther suggested consubstantiation where the elements, although not changed, are the literal body and blood by faith. David Guzik offers some great commentary on the intense argument over how Christ is present in the Eucharist.  He writes,

John Calvin taught that Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine was real, but only spiritual, not physical. Zwingli taught that the bread and wine are mere symbols that represent the body and blood of Jesus. When the Swiss Reformers debated the issue with Martin Luther at Marburg, there was a huge contention. Luther insisted on some kind of physical presence because Jesus said this is My body. He insisted over and over again, writing it on the velvet of the table, Hoc est corpus meum – “this is My body” in Latin. Zwingli replied, “Jesus also said I am the vine,” and “I am the door,” but we understand what He was saying. Luther replied, “I don’t know, but if Christ told me to eat dung I would do it knowing that it was good for me.” Luther was so strong on this because he saw it as an issue of believing Christ’s words, and because he thought Zwingli was compromising, he said he was of another spirit (andere geist). Ironically, Luther later read Calvin’s writings on the Lord’s Supper (which were essentially the same as Zwingli’s) and seemed to agree with Calvin’s views. 5

As Southern Baptists, we align more with Reformers like Zwingli. Zwingli states,

We believe that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper; yea, we believe that there is no communion without the presence of Christ. This is the proof: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). How much more is he present where the whole congregation is assembled in his honor! But that his body is literally eaten is far from the truth and nature of faith. It is contrary to the truth, because he himself says: ‘I am no more in the world (Jn. 17:11), and ‘the flesh profiteth nothing’ (Jn. 6:63), that is to eat, as the Jews then believed and the Papists still believe. It is contrary to the nature of faith (I mean the holy and true faith), because faith embraces love, fear of God, and reverence, which abhor such carnal and gross eating, as much as anyone would shrink from eating his beloved son…We believe that the true body of Christ is eaten in the communion in a sacramental and spiritual manner by the religions, believing, and pious heart (as also St. Chrysostom taught). And this is in brief the substance of what we maintain in this controversy, and what not we, but the truth itself teaches. 6

The Purpose of Communion vv. 26-34

The Apostle Paul has already acknowledged the unity expressed through the meal in 1 Cor 10:17. However, there are individual responsibilities for every communicant. The first responsibility is capture in v. 26.  Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (26). While partaking in this meal, the believer is look back to Christ’s death (“…which is for you…v.24) acknowledging the sacrificial atonement Christ has provided them for there sins. Not only is the believer to look back with grateful hearts but also look forward with hope for the Second Coming. Both looking back, and forward are done in faith. The purpose of the ordinance is for reflection of both realities. The believer’s eschatological state of “already/but not yet” is captured beautifully in the communion meal.

The second responsibility of the communicant, it to not only observe the past sacrifice and future hope but to look internally at oneself. Paul states, “But the man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat the bread and drink of the cup” (28). Communion should never be taken in a state of rebellion to God’s word. It is a time to reflect inwardly in repentance. Once this inward examination is complete, the believer is to look outwardly. Not in judgment but in a spirit of unity and brotherhood. Brothers lovely correct each other, if and when it is needed. This time of eschatological reflection and examination is the purpose of communion.

What if you neglect these responsibilities? Paul writes, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthily manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (27). Paul is clear that God chastises irreverent believers who take lightly the Lord’s Supper (see vv. 27, 29-30). What does Paul mean “in and unworthily manner”? Does this mean you have to be perfect or sinless? No. D.A. Carson explains,

In this particular context, the unworthy eating of the bread and drinking of the cup has to do with their attitudes and actions towards each other, especially the needy who have suffered acute embarrassment. Attention is being drawn to their status and circumstances in the meal, in a community where these social divisions were meant to be abolished in Christ (cf. 1:30). They were guilty of sinning against, or possibly the grounds of, the body and blood of the Lord. All must test of examine themselves before they participate. In this context, the examination has to do with attitudes of a party spirit and lack of compassion towards the ‘have-nots.’ 7

If you are guilty of this nonchalant attitude while partaking of the Lord’s Supper the penalty can be severe (see 30-33).

Conclusion

In this passage, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian congregation for having divisions and factions, which were becoming obvious during the Lord’s Supper; a meal which should reflect the selfless attitude of Christ and the unity of the believers. The Corinthians possibly acknowledging the brotherhood of Christians with their words but not their deeds. Let us not follow their example, but Christ’s model.

We, as believers, should reflect backward to Christ’s death on the cross and forward to His triumphant return. As well as, look inward for self-examination, while embracing the unity in Christ as we partake in communion. Let us have Table Manners: Coming Together in Unity for the Lord’s Supper.

 

 

 

  1.  Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes (Nashville , TN: Thomas Nelson , 1998), 598.
  2. Ben Witherington, Conflict and community in Corinth: a socio-rhethorical commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 241.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Baptist Faith & Message 2000, www.sbc.net
  5. David Guzik, “Enduring Word Bible Commentary 1 Corinthians Chapter 11,” Enduring Word, , accessed January 27, 2018, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-corinthians-11/.
  6. Zwingli’s Distinctive Doctrines, accessed January 27, 2018, http://biblehub.com/library/various/creeds_of_christendom_with_a_history_and_critical_notes/_52_zwinglis_distinctive_doctrines.htm#1.
  7. D. A. Carson et al., New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 1179.

The Prayers of Two Papas

Happy Thanksgiving! As I write this, my family is preparing for the circuit of Thanksgiving festivities to begin. First, we travel to the home of my wife’s maternal grandmother (aka “Nurny”) to eat some of the south’s finest food. After eating and fellowshipping with this side of the family, we leave Nurny’s to attend my wife’s paternal grandparents’ feast. Both visits are filled with faith, family, fun, and of course food. To say we are blessed is a tremendous understatement. Our heavenly Father has been good to us (and you too!).

I realize my sentimentality concerning small things has grown as I have grown older.  These little things often make an indelible impression on our lives. My life has been impacted tremendously by the blessings sent up by both of my Papas at Thanksgiving feasts (and other holiday meals too).

First, Papa Bryan (my wife’s maternal grandfather) always thanks God for his family being able to gather together and the provision of food that God has graced us with. I am still struck by how much this humble man loves his family. Often, I imagine life when our roles have switched, and I am the patriarch of the family. Will my family be able to feel the love of God and family in my blessing of the meal? I certainly hope so!

Secondly, Papa Burke (Amber’s paternal grandfather) often blesses the meal. Although the love of family is present in his prayers too, the humility in the conclusion of the prayer to God is what impresses me. He concludes with the words, “…in blessed Jesus’ blessed holy name and for His sake, Amen.” To be honest, the first time I heard this prayer ending, I snickered to myself, because I found it verbose. However, I understand now it is merely an aging man desiring to give Christ the honor deserved. Although I may not add this conclusion to my prayers, will (or does) my family appreciate my reverence for Christ? I hope.

Well, I am confident my wife is ready for me so I will end this post here. These two men have influenced my life with there humble prayer more than they will ever know. Two ordinary men, giving thanks to the Lord of heaven for His blessings. What little things are you thankful today? Please comment below.

Rinse & Repeat: The Key to Church Growth

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I am privileged. Privileged not in the sense of arrogance but honored by God’s grace to shepherd the flock, which gathers at West Green Baptist Church. This congregation rests in the heart of my hometown community, and its people have a heart for Christ. This passion manifests itself by the people’s interest in the lives of other; both within the walls and without. You don’t have to attend our services to be loved by our fellowship.

West Green Baptist is a traditional Baptist church. Some wanna-be church growth gurus probably shuttered at that last statement. For many, words like “traditional” are synonyms for stagnation and complacency. (To be honest, I used to think along these lines, but I have been pleasantly surprised at West Green.) I would like to go on the record saying; IT IS A MYTH THE TRADITIONAL CHURCH CANNOT GROW!

Of course, if a church decides to remain traditional simply for the fact of resisting change then cue the funeral taps because death is on the way. Yes, change is inevitable. But we don’t have to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. A church solidly grounded in historical tradition can still reach forward into the future harvest and be effective.

So, how are we to decide what needs to change in a traditional church (or any church for that matter)? I would like to restate three simple guidelines. Use these guidelines to consider your methods of ecclesiology

  1. Love God – How do we show our love for God? By keeping His commandments (John 14:15). We are commanded to love and worship God with every fiber of our being (Matt 24:36-40). Are we in a worship rut? Are we going through the motions during worship gatherings or are you inspired to offer God our very best? Also, Christ commissioned the church to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Are we doing church with making disciples in mind or are we merely satisfying saints?
  2. Love People – Of course, there is some overlap from the first principle because you cannot love God if you do not love people. Paul writes, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (NASB Rom 12:10). This love should cover all those in fellowship and those outside of the walls of the church too. The church is not about our preferences in worship as much as it is our service to God and others!
  3. Rinse and Repeat – What I mean is everything thing done, whether in the traditional vein or contemporary stream, should be washed thoroughly with the previous two commandments from Scripture. Once our motivations for ministry are washed by the water of the Word of God, then we need to only repeat what stands the test!

In conclusion, I know this information is not new, but that doesn’t negate its value. That is a great deal like many of the old faithful traditions many have left behind. Please do not hear me as stating one style of worship is better than the other because both have their benefits. In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is that as long as it is true worship (Jn 4:24), then God will bless our ministries. High church, low church, contemporary, or traditional are various flavors we offer up to God in worship. Be who God has wired you to be. Love God, Love people, and rinse and repeat!

 

Sincerely,

A Young Man in an Old Church