Thanks for your concern over the Word Of God. Yes, we’d agree with you here at Walk Worthy that there’s 2 huge issues coloring the action of God’s church here in the West. Of course, we in America export our stuff, for good and evil, to the world.
These issues are popular mistaken notions and they play out like this:
- Jesus never defended Himself so neither should we.
- We just need to let God work in anothers life and be nice to them.
Both of these seem to stem from a New Age philosophy that’s so predominant in the church today of just getting along and letting God do all the work, in addition to all the heavy lifting. It follows then that we shouldn’t get involved. This has been around for some time.
Even Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) got into the game by saying something like, “Preach Jesus, and only use words if necessary.” Of course, he meant live a holy life in all your actions. Agreed. But Jesus was perfect, and He proclaimed the kingdom of God every waking moment orally.
I’m a big fan of Francis’ commitment, but this quotation of his, if quoted accurately, is dead wrong. Sounds good on the surface of our culture, but doesn’t fly in the face of Scripture. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10.17). Of course words are necessary, often for initial redemption and for continued holiness.
Your situation, dear brother, is common, tragically common. You’ve been maligned for being too “harsh and argumentative.” You’re wondering if the problem is you, and have the notion of giving up and just being silent after years and years of opposition. Of course, and this following verse is not “nice,” but you’re not to cast your pearls before swine or give what is holy to the dogs (Matt. 7.6). But we should at least make an attempt until they prove themselves pigs and dogs. What church preaches on this fact and in this graphic detail like Jesus? We need to be certain we are led by the Spirit.
But Jesus wants us to proclaim what we hear upon the housetops (Luke 12.3).
Now, admonishment in general to perfect the saints is not in vogue whatsoever. But if you persist in exposing these escalating travesties since perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1) is the calling of saints, the excruciating tolerance you encounter allows sin to leaven the whole loaf. But we understand and empathize with your bewilderment and frustration, as the opposition and downward slide increases seemingly unabated. Is God really at work? Yes…but His hands are often tied to move like He’d like…to enact His plan A.
I know a few followers of Jesus who rightly but lovingly call unbelievers “fools.” But those lost souls don’t have the equipment to be wise. Yet, these same believers would never call a so-called fellow believer a “fool.” Why not? Too harsh. Not nice. Yet, the very use of the various types of fools in the Word is much more stringent on those who claim to know God. And how much more does God now require since we have the indwelling Holy Spirit…and not to insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10.29)? Besides, Paul used the term as far as we know with at least two of his church plants.
Now we all acknowledge with thankfulness any holiness (right standing with God) that is positionally received is from Christ alone and a free gift. We also know that being holy in all our behavior (1 Peter 1.15) emanates from the power of Christ in us through His Holy Spirit. But nonetheless, without pursing holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12.4). That last part, at least, is not automatic and needs our willful participation.
Let’s look at the first popular error about Jesus that He never defended Himself.
We don’t understand as we should the declarative action that both Paul and Jesus used throughout their ministries to proclaim and defend the true truth to the bitter but joyous end. Nice people who ride the fence and tolerate (even promote) bad behavior in God’s church never get killed. All the apostles met that end. And certainly Jesus was murdered…the most gracious human being to ever walk the planet. But that grace was despised by the stonewallers.
Chuck Colson, the head of Prison Fellowship, is on record as saying if Jesus came again today, the church would kill Him again. Oh boy….
Jesus was silent for a spell before His accusers. It’s the Middle Eastern way of stealing honor from them to Himself. It was a cunning move. He was refusing to give credence to their lives. When He did speak, they were infuriated. Pilate was fearful when confronted with the fact that he would have no power over Jesus if not given to him by the Father.
But what about that “not reviling” verse, we’re told.
“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” 1 Peter 2:23
Notice it says He didn’t revile in return. But He did defend Himself, which was His mission, character, and holiness in the name of God the Father.
Back to Paul now and his wayward disciples in some groups. So, the Corinthians had a fierce independent spirit. They were often irreconcilable. They were thinking themselves super-spiritual, and yet they unloving abused the spiritual gifts, were idolatrous, and served mammon mostly. As in greed. And idolatry and greed always seem tied together.
What did Paul say to them in 1 Corinthians actuality? Praise them for good works? Take a retreat? Fast for 40 days? Get a new pastor? Change churches? Pray in their closet for an indeterminable amount of time for new revelation?
None of those.
He basically told them, “Stop it. And do this…”
They supposedly had the Holy Spirit. They had Paul’s teaching. He left them in good shape. And in the space of a few short 3-4 years, they had drifted away into no man’s land, and were in eventual danger of being shipwrecked in regards to their faith. Serious stuff.
Paul’s apostleship is under attack. His gospel is under attack. House church leaders are causing the sheep to embrace weird, demonic ideas and lifestyles. They think, as previously said, they’re much more spiritual than Paul as told them by false leaders. The gospel of Jesus Christ is under siege. Nothing new under the sun.
Gordon Fee, our brother who wrote one of the best commentaries on this crucial Bible book, puts it this way:
Paul is taking them on at every turn. There is little to suggest that he is either informing or merely correcting; instead, he is attacking and challenging with all the weapons in his literary arsenal. If 1 Corinthians is a response to their letter, in which they are asking Paul to arbitrate their differences, then one must judge him to have misread their letter rather considerably.
The letter in its entirety is addressed to the whole church, with no suggestion that he is speaking now to one group, and then to another. Nearly everything is in the second person plural, except for a few instances where he shifts to the second singular, perhaps with some specific person(s) in view. If Paul were settling differences among them, one would expect at least some word to that effect. But there is none.
Let’s take a jet tour of Paul’s approach toward the Corinthians. Be especially sensitive to line up his tactics with the current “religion of niceness” in our church body. Does he try to win friends and influence people like we’re taught to do? Is he catching more flies with honey than vinegar?
We do know that 2nd Corinthians has a bit more open to Paul’s heart, although much (most?) of it is still argumentative and demeaning as we would define it. Why is he different in this piece? They repented of a few things and began following again his ways in Christ. At least a bit. So, then…does the end justify his means?
How, then, should we act with a church like this? And it’s people? What is God’s prescription, His Rx if you will?
Now, dear brother, it’s my personal opinion that the Western church is much more feisty and religiously sinful than Corinth in its day. We hardly ever hear these days of corporate repentance after being openly admonished by another group or a modern day apostle. So, if Paul gives us a clue here with the Corinthians in how to act for the best result, and is he wasn’t in sin for this direct approach, then how then should we act with each other?
You must be the judge. Before we meet the Judge…
- v 1-9: normal customary mid-east greeting even like in Galatians 1.1-5 to a real messed up situation once again
- v 10: all must agree
- v 11: Chloe’s people “tattled” on the church
- v 17-31: gospel is the cross and not clever in speech like the leaders vilifying him
- v 1-15: his preaching is not in wisdom (like the others) but in the power of God, insinuating theirs is not
- v 16: we collectively have the mind of Christ…if we’re united
- v 1-4: he calls them infants, fleshly men for the strife among them, derides them for calling themselves by denominational names and having a party spirit
- v 5-15 defends his apostleship and past work with them since they’re listening to their own press that they’re more spiritual
- v 16-23: God will destroy them if they destroy the body God is building through Paul’s efforts, he tells them to stop being worldly wise for that makes them fools
- v 1-7: Paul defends himself again this accusers, as much as calling them arrogant since they regard themselves as superior when clearly they aren’t
- v 8-13: he uses deep sarcasm contrasting his life with theirs (we’d call this “prideful” of Paul to say he was better than them)
- v 14 -21: he says he desires to admonish them, they should imitate him and stop all the words but show action, and warns them he could come with a rod vs. loving gentleness (Brother Fee wisely points out the rod is love too – but not to foolish people)
- v 1-13: Paul tells them to turn over the immoral believer to Satan to destroy his flesh (wow – talk about not nice), calling them arrogant again, and not to associate with so-called believers who practice sin, even the covetousness and greedy so prevalent in our own churches today
- v 1-8: don’t take other believers to court – no praise here – just more admonishment
- v 9-20: Paul tells them to stop the adultery with prostitutes, and that all sorts of listed sins will cause them to end up in hell – oops…
- V 1-9: he says for the married to have frequent sexual relations since it seems there are certain women who were freezing their men out by being super spiritual
- V 10-40: the dysfunction and divorce rate in the church was epidemic much as ours today, he gives bold instructions on widows, the unmarried, and essentially setting this church straight from their own “wisdom”
- v 1-13: he decries their practice of causing other weak believers to stumble by eating meat sacrificed to idols, the weak here are actually trying to walk as holy as possible by not associating with their past idolatrous practices, he says he’d never eat meat again if causing anyone to stumble – which is the whole point of love and carried on for the rest of the letter
- v 1-23: Paul gives up his right to $ from preaching the gospel so as not to be accused as being under the thumb of a patron, again not wanting anyone to stumble
- v 24-27: he amplifies his argument by saying he beats his body into submission so he himself might not be lost – or disqualified
- V 1-33: Paul gives the somber recount of God’s awful dealing with the Israelites in the wilderness, telling us all we can escape every temptation, not to cause others to stumble by eating idol sacrificed food, and not to slander those who are playing it squeaky clean…for that is fleshly and unloving
- v 1-34: he takes them on for poor meeting behavior, they must hold to his traditions and not others, deals with women and head coverings, many divisions that must exist to show those who are approved, taking the Lord’s Supper (a full meal every time they meet in the homes) unselfishly so the Lord won’t have to bring sickness to kill them – wow, some are even drunk – sounds like real wine to me, folks
- v 1-31: Paul slams their overemphasis on tongues at the expense of true love in the body, all parts are crucial to God’s design especially the non-flashy, they’re selfishly calling attention to one gift and foolishly calling it the most anointed and wise, and he then leads them to the real love
- v 1-13: he again slams the tongues and others gifts when not practicing love and unity – when they make themselves out to be foolishly superior with their tongues, bearing all things does not mean (as Gordon Fee states) thinking the best about everyone and everything – but God’s love means never losing the faith and hope that God will work in routing sin from lives.
- v 1-40: he commands them to pursue prophecy and use tongues properly vs. their foolish overemphasis on tongues, in group meetings secrets of the heart are be disclosed, all participants in meetings are to be involved and not allow tongue speakers to hijack the meetings, group tongues without interpretations (like today’s church) is rampant in certain circles and is not to happen unless an interpreter is present for one speaker at a time, if not they will continue to be out of order and fleshly
- V 1-58: as if that was not enough immaturity, foolishness, and lack of love, Paul then attacks their new thinking that downplays and disbelieves the resurrection, he tells them to don’t hang around with bad company, to be sober (not “full of fun” as we hear so much today), he calls them fools to their face (the top “not nice” tactic I presume), and accentuates Christ’s triumph in the resurrection
- v 1-9: he instructs them to start collecting $ for the needy saints in Jerusalem (which we know by 2 Corinthians that they didn’t do)
- v 10-24: he tells them to take care of the saints that pass through, be alert – stand firm – act like men (since they seemed not to be practicing this well), and ends by saying if no one loves the Lord – he is to be cursed or damned…wow, what a note to end on…come quickly Lord Jesus – Maranatha
So, dear brother, what can we say to recap? Both Jesus and Paul certainly and definitively defended their right and credentials in front of sinful unbelievers and believers.
This book is not the only example we have of this type of frontal assault on sin to purify God’s church. Most of the Scripture is corrective….that is, don’t do that but do this. Paul, like Jesus, was not vague!
When dealing with sinful churches and their leaders, up front and deliberate action that certainly looks like aggression to us is the order of the day. Certainly they’re believes in these churches hard after God, or at least one! But the atmosphere of the book is dicey…and argumentative.
Loving, selfless, thoughtful unity is the theme in 1 Corinthians. Paul seems to spare nothing with them as both guns are blazing. He loves them and wants them to make it. They’re in significant trouble as it stands now. Woe to him if he doesn’t preach the Gospel.
And Paul loves and fears God more than the hurt of rejection and persecution.
How about us? Do we love as Paul loved? Or as Jesus? Or do we need to begin?
The grace of God is more than sufficient to equip, enlighten, embolden, and accomplish the Word that He wants to send through us. Let us be imitators of Paul and each other as we follow Christ. Let us be identified as a little Christ, a Christian, first and foremost…and as a active member of the Kingdom of God. Not primarily with our country.
Let us open our mouths and speak the very words of Life. Let us no longer believe the words of the enemy. Let us display holy boldness in fear and trembling. Do we really hate sin and love mature righteousness that pleases Him and puts the devil to flight?
Here we are, Father. Send us. Jesus, by Your Spirit, we pray God’s will be done on earth…with us first.
Take care, dear brother…keep going…preach the word in season and out…be ready to always ask other brothers about your message…and make adjustments and amends when the Spirit confirms.
And let’s remember we’re in this together…until the end of the age.
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org