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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
King David wanted to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and a footstool of our God. But God said to me, “You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.” – “He said to me, ‘Your son Solomon is the one who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be a son to Me, and I will be a Father to him. (1 Chronicles 28:1-3, 6)
Before there was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem there was a “tent” called the Tabernacle.
Moses received instructions from the LORD God specifying how this portable tent was to be constructed (Exodus 25-30). It was built by free-will offerings donated from the Jewish people. (Exodus 35-38). The Tabernacle housed the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark were three items: a golden pot of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been written. It provided a place for the LORD to dwell in the midst of His people and it gave Israel an authorized place to worship God, per His instructions (Leviticus 17:11). All the materials used in construction of the Tabernacle and in furnishing it are symbolic of God taking up residence with sinful man (John 1:1-18). Ultimately, the purposes of the Tabernacle was to point to the coming of the promised Redeemer (Genesis 3:15), in whom all object lessons were fulfilled (John 5:46).
Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of (King) Solomon’s reign over Israel… he began to build the house of the LORD (1 Kings 6:1). He ordered vast quantities of cedar wood from King Hiram of Tyre, had huge blocks of choice stone quarried, and commanded that the building’s foundation be laid with hewn stone.
King Solomon appointed 3,300 officials to supervise this massive construction project and he imposed forced labor on all his subjects, drafting people for work shifts that sometimes lasted a month at a time. (1 Kings 5:13-16).
Where am I going with this? I’m glad you asked.
It took 7 years to build the 1st Jewish Temple and required the effort and skilled workmanship of about 180,000 laborers. King Solomon spared no expense in building a “house” for the LORD God. Consequently, he amassed an enormous debt in constructing and furnishing the Temple. He paid it off by giving King Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee (1 Kings 9:10-11). When completed the Jewish Temple was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Now fast forward to today, to the Dispensation of Grace, and God Himself is putting together His church, the Body of Christ. Ask yourself, is He using silver, gold, and the finest hardwoods; huge slabs of hewn granite and marble? Nope, men have been known to use items such as these in constructing colossal structures such as cathedrals.
However, this book says God the Father has opted to use alternative building materials. He’s using damaged goods; flawed people, i.e. sinners like you and me: in whom you (and every true Believer) also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
God’s church is NOT a building; it is made up of regenerated, imperfect people. Therefore it should come as no surprise that every church group, no matter the denomination or location, is going to experience problems. Undoubtedly, when you bring a group of Believers together in one place it won’t be long before people start tripping over each other’s shortcomings (Romans 12:9-11).
We see evidence of this in the Corinthian Church. These folks were saved, the Holy Spirit dwelt within each Believer, but they were treating their bodies like a “tent” instead of Temple of God - they simply weren’t acting Christ-like.
Our Apostle Paul pointed this out to them: …do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have from God, (1 Corinthians 6:19).
What’s Goin’ on in Corinth?
After Paul left Corinth, this group of Believers forgot some of Paul’s teachings and misapplied others. Because of this a number of significant conflicts arose between the members of this church. The other church-related issues they were experiencing stemmed from a misunderstanding of eschatology, i.e. the body of religious doctrines concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Many of these Corinthian Believers assumed they had already received the “ultimate” blessings of God – this caused them to be prideful among other things.
Their misinterpretation of God’s Truths related to the Grace Age led to four distinct problems: #1: different types of damaged relationships within the church. #2: sexual misconduct. #3: abuses in worship. #4: a rejection of Paul’s apostleship.
The problem of rival factions (relational conflict between church members) is the first issue we encounter because it is the most grievous. The world-at-large is perishing on its present path without a Savior. God’s church with its message of God’s free gift of Grace, its power, and its Spirit is the hope of mankind. Therefore the problem of relational conflict in a church or between churches becomes a matter of great concern for every Believer who is more than a little interested in offering to the world a united testimony - to the grace and glory of God.
Prior to writing this letter, Paul received a report from Chloe’s people that the Believers in Corinth had “split,” forming cliques, and turned against each other. Each sect had chosen for themselves a different leader they held in high esteem.
Let’s look at verse 10.
1 Corinthians 1
10: 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. (1 Corinthians 11:18; Romans 12:16)
Note Paul addresses this church as brethren and for good reason – the title brethren is both an argument for and a call for unity - by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, - or all that our Lord Jesus Christ means to you!
… that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you – the word divisions in the Greek language is Schisma (pronounced: skhis’-mah) meaning: a rent, or open break. Paul’s saying God’s Church should not be “fractured.” Splits within a church usually occur when God’s imperfect children engage in sinful activity such as: arguing, boasting, criticizing, envy, gossiping, and hatred.
… but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment – Paul gets “down to business” here. The word complete in the Greek language is Katartizo (pronounced: kat-ar-tid’-zo) meaning: united; to fit or frame together.
I want to take you to one other place in the New Testament where this word appears because I find it fits what Paul is saying: Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; (Matthew 4:21 – here the word Katartizo is translated mending).
What does this passage have to do with God putting together His church? God desires that all Believers be as completely mended and sturdy as a fisherman’s net is. Why? Unsaved people are not saved in a church plagued with divisions and social unrest simply because “the net is broken” and they can slip away (Luke 5:4-6; John 21:10-11).
So, when Paul says, but that you (Corinthians) be made complete, he means to say “you need to restore or mend that which is rent or broken;” to correct that which is morally incorrect: Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted (Galatians 6:1; Mark 1:19; Matthew 4:21).
The Corinthian’s disruptive spirit was the greatest fault of the church, the one affecting the largest number of people, and would cause the most damage. It threatened the very future of the church itself, so Paul had to manage it. When Paul established this church, there were to be no barriers of nationality, sex, or position in society. Male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, all were to belong to “one” brotherhood of Believers.
… in the same mind and in the same judgment. The overall idea here is unity.
To be biblically one requires more than church attendance on a regular basis, more than emotional experiences, and more than attending a Bible study every now and again. As we learned in our study of the 12th chapter of Romans, it includes a life of self-denying service to the saved and the unsaved and the willingness to suffer for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also includes speaking the same thing, having the same mind, and the same judgment. This can only come about if we understand and believe God’s Word.
This is where the majority of the Corinthians ran afoul. They weren’t speaking the same thing and they weren’t of the same mind. Not much has changed over the years; people still can’t “agree” on what this book says. This is why there are hundreds of church denominations across this land and I’m certain the Lord Jesus Christ is not pleased. A house divided against itself cannot stand! (Mark 3:25)
Confusion and disagreements abound within God’s church today. For instance, there are two aspects of unity in the church which go unrecognized for the most part. One is related to prophecy; and the other to the mystery (or secret).
The unity which our Lord urged upon His disciples basically concerned the heart and the soul. For example, they were exhorted to love each other, forgive one another, and to share with each other. This is confirmed by Jesus’ own words:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34);
As to forgiveness: Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22);
As to sharing: “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42); and: “Give, and it will be given to you…” Luke 6:38).
In essence, this is the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. In the kingdom that is to come, our Lord is saying all will live instinctively for each other. Scripture gives us a glimpse of this promised lifestyle on the day of Pentecost. It began with this event: they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4a).
Scripture also says: They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…. And all those who believed were together **and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. (Acts 2:42-45, 4:32.34)
Scripture gives us a word-picture of about 5,000 men (not counting women and children) who are living a spontaneous lifestyle for each other. By that I mean to say, if someone had a need it was met unconditionally. No one lacked for anything. Wouldn’t that be a delightful way to live your life? If you had a need, someone stepped up to meet it and vice-versa. Well, that’s how it’s going to be once the Lord Jesus Christ returns and sets up His kingdom here on earth. But let’s not overlook the fact that they lived this lifestyle because they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by Scripture at Ezekiel 36:27: “I will put My (note the capitalization – this is the LORD God speaking) Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
This prophecy was fulfilled 50 days after Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Pentecost), and when, due to the nation of Israel’s rejection of God’s Son and His kingdom, that operation of the Spirit ceased (Matthew 10:5-7). God’s chosen people, as they are now, failed to live together with “one heart and with one soul.”
Fast forward to this present evil age and who has heard or seen for that matter 5,000 Christians wholly of “one heart and one soul?” How about 500? How about 50? Have you heard of 5 people in a church completely of “one heart and one soul?” I believe you’d find it challenging to find two people, who love one another dearly, to be completely “of one heart and one soul.” After all, marriage today is no longer a life-time commitment – is it? People aren’t “sticking” together in marriage much anymore; today they’re “sticking it to one another,” even in Christian marriages.
Believers today are not “all filled” with the Holy Spirit. Let’s get that thought out of our heads because Scripture didn’t put it there. I say this because Acts 2:4 is a statement of fact! It’s in the book how could it be otherwise? All the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and not because they were super spiritual or because they prayed some prayer, but because “the day of Pentecost had come” as prophesied.
If you examine Paul’s writings, the N.T. churches founded by Paul and his co-workers, were not filled with the Holy Spirit. The Corinthian church was leading lives unbecoming of Believer’s. The Galatians “bit and devoured one another” and desired to go back under the Law. The Colossians admitted false doctrines among them. The Philippians were divided and the Thessalonians had troublemakers among them who needed to be told to work for their living.
To be sure there were some “high notes” in these churches, and Paul, always the encourager, found reason to “sing their praises.” But we can’t dismiss what this book says. Acts 2:4a says Jesus’ disciples: were all filled with the Holy Spirit whereas in Paul’s writings to the churches he exhorts them: … But be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b); and he exhorts and prays that they all may be filled with fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:11); and he prayed that they be filled with the knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9). There’s a mighty big difference between being filled and having someone praying that you be filled.
These are Paul’s goals to be attained by grace through faith. The Truth is I haven’t attained them; none of us are ever going to attain them fully. I can say this because not even the Apostle Paul himself attained them. (Romans 7:22-25; Philippians 3:12-14).
Unity of the heart and soul among God’s children is important (Psalm 133:1); I’m not saying it isn’t. But too often what’s overlooked is the purpose of God. There is a particular place for His “Gospel of the Kingdom” message in Scripture, which was specifically directed to the nation of Israel (Romans 15:8); with a few Gentile exceptions, and that’s exactly what they were – exceptions (Matthew 8:5-13, 15:21-28; John 12:24-26). God has purposed that All Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). God has not forgotten them or forsaken them. The last book of the Bible explains that the “Gospel of the Kingdom” will once again be the gospel that saves as He once again deals primarily with the nation of Israel during Daniel’s 70th week.
But, today in the Church Age, God has higher purposes for the Body of Christ than just living in harmony – i.e. wholly of “one heart and one soul. 1 Corinthians 1:10 gives us the most important aspect of unity in this present evil age. While the emphasis in the “Gospel of the Kingdom” is upon the “heart and the soul”, the greater emphasis in Paul’s epistles is upon “the mind and the spirit,” and a united testimony (our belief in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection plus nothing else) (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:15).
In the following verses, Paul emphasizes the mind and the Spirit in this age.
6: For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
17-18: So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
23-24: and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
The message of 1 Corinthians 1:10 means more than just a group of Believers coming together and being “happy” in each other's company. Paul’s talking about presenting a united testimony to this God-hating world, specifically concerning the gospel committed to Paul and to each one of us (Romans 2:16, 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; 2 Timothy 1:12-14).
Again, in his letter to the Philippians Paul emphasizes this aspect of unity among Believers: Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of (what) the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; (note: Paul did not say “faith in the gospel” but “the faith of the gospel.”
Do words make a difference? Oh yes. God’s Gospel must not be diluted or polluted and it certainly must not be perverted and by that I mean altered. Just last evening I turned the T.V. on to watch some Christian programming. I do this from time-to-time because I have a teaching responsibility and I need to be “in the know,” as they say.
I landed on a talk program. Evidently, one of the guests had written a book and he was promoting the sale of same. So, the two hosts spent a half-hour talking to two guests about health-related issues which he covers in his book. I’m getting to my point.
At the end of the program, the host of the show asked the wife of the guest speaker to “evangelize.” He suggested this because she had been a “side-walk” preacher at one time in her life. She immediately began to pray out loud a “sinner’s prayer.” She began by saying Jesus Christ is “All you need.” “He’s the answer to all your concerns and all your prayers.” She then went on to say, “If you don’t know Jesus Christ, ask Him to come into your heart right this very minute. Ask Jesus to come into your life to show you how to live your life in a way that’s pleasing to Him…” She ended her prayer with this: “If you prayed this prayer with me, you’re a child of God right now and we’d like to hear from you… please contact this program.”
If any of you see any reference to the gospel, committed to Paul and to us, referencing Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in the paragraph above, I want to hear from you. Words make a difference!
God the Father didn’t send His Son to die a horrible death on the cross for the sins of all and commit it to the apostle Paul, and to every Believer in this age, so that people can believe whatever they want to believe or find their own “stairway to heaven.” This book says the day is coming when, according to my (Paul’s) gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
God’s Gospel must be proclaimed as it is, along with its free offer of justification and reconciliation; its glorious Truths about “one body, one faith, one baptism,” our heavenly position in Christ Jesus, and all that this includes. And it must exclude any attachments such as doctrines, religious rites, and traditions belonging to former dispensations (Galatians 1:13-14).
Let’s move on to verse 11.
11: For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
Scripture gives us no information as to the identity of Chloe or her people. She may have been a deacon; leading a house church in Corinth, but this is only guesswork. One thing’s for certain, we know that she and her people cared enough about the church and the conflict-ridden activity taking place within it to bring it to Paul’s attention, and they are to be commended for this.
Sinful behavior within the church is not to be ignored or “winked-at.” Does God “wink” at sin? I think not. (Proverbs 6:23; Matthew 18:15; Hebrews 12:11)
(To be continued)
[Published weekly on Friday]
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