Monday, September 2, 2013

Fractious Factions

Today is the first day in our 35th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* this week are:

  •  Isaiah 23-25; 1 Cor 3
  •  Isa 26-29; 1 Cor 4; Psalm 65
  •  Isa 30-32; 1 Cor 5
  •  Isa 33-35; 1 Cor 6
  •  2 Chr 28; 2 Kings 17; 1 Cor 7; Psalm 66
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul deals with disunity in the church.  The problem is that different people within the body follow different spiritual leaders.  Some follow Paul, who claimed apostolic authority, but whose speech was filled with fear and trembling--yet also resonated with divine truth.  Others followed Apollos, who was a fiery and convincing preacher, but who needed to be corrected on his theology at times.  Still others followed Cephas (Peter), who may have been an impetuous and bumbling disciple while Jesus was in the flesh, but who turned out to be a pillar of the church and a great evangelist at Pentecost--and whose apostolic authority was undeniable.  Each leader had his merits, and each had his flaws.  Each had his own following at the church in Corinth, and that made for some fractious factions within the church.

Paul's answer to this was to remind the Corinthians that each of these three men of God had his own gift and purpose for the church.  In verses 5-9, he says:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and eachwill receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
Paul gives a warning to those who would cause trouble and divisions in the church.  In a couple of verses that are often taken out of context (click here to read one way that these are often taken out of context, or click here to read another way that they're taken out of context), Paul reminds them:

16 Do you not know that you [the church] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you [the church]? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
The right context for us to understand is that Paul is talking about the church when he says that your body is God's temple.  He is warning against fractious factions within Christ's body.  He cautions that serious consequences await any who destroy that body through promoting disunity.

Has your church been experiencing disunity lately?  Have you been part of a faction that seeks its own way?  Do you think that you're promoting God's plan for the church, when you insist on having it your way?  Paul says, "Watch out!"  God "catches the wise in their craftiness (1 Cor 3:19)."  It's better to seek the unity that comes from the whole church following the Holy Spirit's lead.  Today, I'm praying for unity in your church.  And I'm hoping that you'll work for unity there as well.


*All scriptures taken from the ESV.

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