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We’ve been on a journey to discovering how to become mature believers in Christ.
In this current climate we find ourselves in as the Evangelical church, it is apparent that there is a distinct lack of spiritual maturity in the body.
Not just in the congregation that fills the pews each Sunday, but in leadership.
Millions are being led astray by strange winds of doctrine preached by those who do not have a true understanding of the Word and who are preaching another Christ.
Others still are leaving behind their faith in disillusionment, confusion, and frustration.
While disturbing and disheartening, it is not surprising. Jesus said this would happen in the last days.
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24
If we want to stand firm in our faith, unwavering, and with integrity we must take the steps necessary to spiritual maturity.
Not just individually, but as a body.
But Paul didn’t write this letter to individuals, he wrote it to the church.
And as we move into the final chapters of this very important letter, he begins to talk plainly about behaviors in corporate worship and how the church functions in maturity.
The Fruit of Maturity in the Church
The overarching message we see in the book of 1 Corinthians is love.
This is culminated in chapter 13, which is commonly termed as “The Love Chapter“, because it so eloquently describes what agape love – God’s love – looks like.
But we see this theme threaded throughout the entire book from the very first chapter, when Paul addresses their sectarianism and pride in their own intellectualism.
He goes on to condemn their carnal behavior that is keeping them in a perpetual state of infancy and their immorality.
Carnality and immorality lack love, because agape love – God’s love – hates sin.
It doesn’t just dislike sin, it doesn’t just find sin distasteful, it hates sin with a white-hot, burning hatred of jealousy, because sin in the life of a Christian distorts and defiles the image of God.
As he moves on in his letter, he talks about love chooses to:
- Surrender his rights in preference to our brothers and sisters in Christ
- Walk in moral purity
- Live in a way that glorifies God
- Show respect and honor to the body of Christ
- Live a disciplined life
Love is the fruit of maturity in the body of Christ.
And this love is not only demonstrated in how we live our everyday lives as individual Christians, but how we conduct church…how the church functions.
1. A mature church operates in a proper chain of command
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
I know this flies in the face of our modern culture that is steeped in feminism, but if a church is going to move into maturity she must acknowledge that culture cannot and should not determine a church’s theology or function.
God’s Word determines our theology and function.
Throughout Scripture – in both Old and New Testaments – God clearly lays out a chain of command.
- First God
- Then man
- Then woman
This chain of command doesn’t determine our level of importance in society or to God, and just because women are under man doesn’t mean they are subservient.
It does mean, however, that we are created to submit to male authority, a structure that God intended to provide protection and honor.
When God’s chain of command functions as God instituted, a woman is cherished and honored in her position of submission to her male authority.
For a great book on this subject, I recommend my dad’s book Made by Design: A Biblical Role of Women In Ministry and Leadership
2. A mature church rejects discrimination and superiority in the body
Paul addressed a serious problem in the Corinthian church that we often see in our churches today: discrimination and superiority.
In the Corinthian church, the wealthy were given more honor, so when they took the Lord’s supper, the wealthy members would go ahead of the poor and eat and drink until there was nothing left for those who were poor.
There was an attitude of superiority toward those who were wealthy while discriminating against those “less fortunate”.
And Paul’s response to this is classic, “What! You don’t have houses to eat and drink in?” 1 Corinthians 12:22
God’s chain of command isn’t a chain of importance but a chain of authority. And those who truly understand authority, and who themselves are submitted to authority (Matthew 8:9), realize that their authority doesn’t give them greater importance, but greater responsibility to the body.
Paul uses the illustration of the body. The body is Christ, and we’re all members of that body that makes up the body of Christ.
There are parts of our body that are larger and some smaller, some that are prominent and some that are never seen.
But every part of our body is vital the function of the body: even those parts previously assumed not very useful: like the appendix, gall bladder, and tonsils.
Yes – we can do without some parts of our body, but that puts more strain on other parts to make up for their absence.
God hates discrimination and superiority because they show a distinct lack of love.
3. A mature church understands the manifestation gifts and their order in the service
One of the things that grieves me deeply in the church today is a lack of operation in the manifestation gifts. But not only that, a lack of desire for those gifts.
There are two theological camps in the church today: cessationsism and continuationism.
Those are just long terms that mean some believe the gifts stopped with the closure of Cannon – or Scripture – while others believe in their operation today.
And there are those who fall at various intervals in between.
I believe Scripture clearly indicates that the gifts still function today, and I believe we see clear evidence of that. Not only that, God wants us to desire those gifts.
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts,” 1 Corinthians 14:1
I am concerned, though, that certain extreme groups of Charismatics, who teach experience and emotion over Scripture and who do not operate in proper Scriptural balance, which has led to a rejection of the gifts as phony demonstrations.
This is shameful and is a mockery of God and the church.
It is also precisely why Paul outlined parameters for the use of these gifts in a corporate setting. (See 1 Corinthians 14)
What are the gifts?
- Word of wisdom
- Word of knowledge
- Gift of healing
- Working of miracles
- Discerning of spirits
- Different kinds of tongues
- Interpretation of tongues
These gifts are not possessed by anyone.
If God has used you to heal someone, you do not possess the gift of healing. Scripture clearly says in 1 Corinthians 12:11 “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
It is the Holy Spirit who does these things through us, individually as He wills.
In other words, He may choose to use you in this moment as a vessel through which He will heal someone. But tomorrow choose to use someone else.
Dr. Hackett from Foundational, also my dad, uses the illustration of water pipes.
When we get a drink of water on a hot, summer day, we don’t enjoy the pipe. We don’t exclaim how great the pipes are in our house. We don’t even think about the pipes. We enjoy the water!
My sisters, we are pipes!
It is the Holy Spirit that flows through us – and when He chooses to use us in one of these gifts, do not be a distraction by drawing attention away from the Holy Spirit to the pipe!
You are nothing apart from Him.
You are a pipe, you are just a vessel, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work and He should get the glory.
4. Declaring the gospel of Christ
Does it seem strange to you that as we near the end of 1 Corinthians Paul begins sharing with them the gospel?
Why would a church of saved people need to hear the gospel?
Have you ever sat through a sermon you thought a little boring and elementary because the pastor was sharing the gospel, something you know already…really, really well?
I have…but have come to realize that this attitude is so displeasing to God!
Dear sisters, we need to hear the gospel every day of our life until the day we die. Why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation!
But not only that, through the gospel God reveals His righteousness.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
Could it be that the lack of righteousness we see today in the church is due to a lack of the gospel being preached?
So many churches today spend more time preaching self-help, motivational speeches, pop-psychology, and sermons that boost human ego but spend very little time preaching the gospel.
And so many times when we hear the gospel, we only hear about how much God loves us, but don’t hear about how much God hates sin.
How much He abhors sin.
We hear about His love but not His righteousness and holiness that cannot tolerate sin.
A gospel that only preaches one side of God’s, but doesn’t preach the other side of His character isn’t a full gospel! Because God’s righteousness, as well as His love, are revealed in the gospel!
It is rescuing the lost from eternal hell and torment – there is nothing more loving than that!
Here is where you can find our online Bible study group: Good Morning Girls in the Word
Here are more posts from 1 Corinthians