conversations, conduct and communion

1 Corinthians 10-14, Paul gets to a very important part of his “admonition letter” to the Corinthian church. Being carnal as they were, they had distorted much of the “communal practices.”  Paul addresses their conduct with each other, inside and out of the congregation. Since the Corinthians were so bent on “Giftedness” they developed an attitude of superiority of gifts between each other. The normal path for most Christian importance is the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” or as in this case the loudest voice gets the most notice. Paul uses the example of rebellion in the life of Israel as a nation to remind the church not to fall into the trap of thinking that they were more important than the God the served. The church displayed arrogance and stubbornness towards righteousness and holiness. Churches today are more about the individualism of the Gospel instead of the Corporate Church mission. Many times the topic of the Lord’s Supper is thought of only in chapter 11, but Paul speaks to the ordinance in Chapter 10 – of how the Church in a communal way celebrated together the Eucharist. As Paul indicated that there were division and cliques in the church, it became evident in how they looked at spiritual gifts and rated the public gifts as superior, while other more private gifts were looked upon as inferior. The church also took a stance on people of wealth and prominence over the poor and lower class. Churches today do the same thing, giving precedence to the prestigious according to man than the godliness of the lowly. Churches want the money and the prominence over those that are seen as the undesirables. This prejudice shows up in how the observed the “agape or love feast”  – those of stature were having a “questionable” banquet before the Lord’s Supper with a predetermined guest list. After a riotous type of meal, they church would come together, some being drunk from the previous feast, now tried to appear holy by affiliating with others in the church. Paul exposes the nature of the Lord’s Supper as mockery and hypocrisy because only at the Lord’s Supper table did some members have any association with those seen as inferior.

The conduct of the church was deplorable allowing open sin and idolatry to govern the day. The women of the church must have been very vocal, to the point of disruption, for Paul tells them to “shut up” and talk to your husbands at home. The issue of tongues and gifts of the Spirit are topics that dominate these chapters. There is even today question about whether the Spirit Gifts are cessation [current for today or only for the time of the Apostles]  or not. The question of tongues today finds great controversy or whether Paul is talking about languages or ecstatic utterance. I understand that Paul is talking about both. In public though Paul lays down specific guidelines for the display of “Tongues.” the tongues gift had developed into a “spiritual elitism” among those that exercised the gift. Paul however, brings back the argument that tongues are for the edification of the Church and the Lord. If a unsaved person is in the midst, they would be overcome by confusion at the erratic display of tongues. Paul talks of this issue both in Chapter 12 and 14. It is interesting that he bridges the topic with the “love chapter” – I show you a better way. In chapter 12, Paul addresses the priority of the “body” to function. It isn’t those parts that are always on display publicly that are most important, but the hidden parts [behind the scenes] doing the work. Something that is paramount for believers, the Holy Spirit is the gift giver, men should not seek gifts, but accept the position that  the Spirit has placed us in the body. Christian conduct is not a “holiness ladder” to climb. In other words, people don’t necessarily go from new christian to teacher to deacon to preacher. God has His ministry for each of us.

The correction in Lord Supper observance, ties directly into the “gifts” controversy. The point Paul states in Chapter 14 – for times he says “for edification” [3, 4, 12, and 26]. In America I think we have fallen into the “spiritual individualism” syndrome as well. We adopt a philosophy that we are the most important thing – our individual needs out weigh the needs of the congregation. This is so wrong. Jesus died for the Church – we must find our roots back to the original intent of the Church.  The Church as the Bride of Christ, must show itself to be chaste, pure, without spot or blemish before the world and the Father. John 13:34-35 is repeated, by this all men will know that you are my disciples – in the love that you have one for another. The Corinthian church had forgotten that they were the church with a mission, the church with its various and different parts was and is the organism that Jesus will use to bring the lost to salvation and glory to the Father.  This is a message every church needs to practice today. We can’t be prejudice to others, especially in the Church. We are His Church, He is the designer, our willingness to accept people unlike us will be the testimony in the community – people all people need to know that the Church is a “safe place” where they can cast their burdens and baggage down, without ridicule or judgment.

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