Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 15 “The Best Route”

I’m always trying to find the best routes to where I want to go. I don’t like taking too much time to get somewhere when I need or want to get there. Now if I am not in a hurry, I’m fine with taking the scenic route, that’s actually one of the reasons why I love riding a motorcycle. But when I need to be somewhere, I want the quickest possible route. 

So out of my driveway, I usually turn right, because even though it seems to be more stops and gos, it’s about 30 seconds faster. It’s also why, when coming from from highway 95 to the church, I pass the first turn off on Moon Mountain and take the second turn which is North Desert. It’ll save you about 20 seconds, if you follow the speed limit. 

And it’s this idea of going the best way that brings us back to our summer study in 1st Corinthians chapter 13, where we’re going to be looking at the entire chapter today. And the purpose of our summer study series, is to look at whole chunks of Scripture so as to get a larger view of what is being addressed in the books we study.

And so, as we’ve been studying Paul’s first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, we have understood that his purpose writing this letter, is that the Church would be unified.

And as Paul calls the Corinthians to be unified, in the first half of the letter he deals with issues that are causing disunity through the personal relationships that the Christians have with each other

Then in chapter 11, Paul switches from those issues that cause disunity in our personal relationships, to the issues that cause disunity when we meet together for our community time of worship.

And so far, Paul has dealt with head coverings and the Lord’s Supper, with both having at their core a problem with submitting to God’s intended order. Then Paul moves into the bulk of the second half of his letter, which deals with the spiritual gifts. When dealing with the gifts Paul starts off with the understanding that it is the Holy Spirit who is the one that distributes the gifts at his discretion. This is vitally important, because if we reject this biblical reality, then the ones that become the gate keepers of who gets what gift, or what gifts are okay and which are not, falls not on the third person of the Trinity, by on us as flawed humans.

And so, when we understand that the Holy Spirit is the distributor of the gifts, then we can better understand that the gifts are for the benefit and the unity of the Church, and are given to believers, based on what the Holy Spirit decides we need, so as to accomplish that goal.

And so with this fresh in our minds, let us open together to 1st Corinthians, and let’s begin reading in the last verse of chapter 12.

31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

At the end of Paul’s writing on how the gifts are to be unifying the body, and how we each are given gifts to accomplish this, Paul tells us that there is a more excellent way that he desires to show us. That word excellent, means a surpassing way, a way that should be a greater desire for us. This implies that the gifts are a great way to bring about unity, but there is a surpassing or more excellent way to do it. Because, as we’ll see today, it is a way that accomplishes the purpose of the gifts, that can happen now and will be carried beyond where the gifts are meant to go.

Let’s keep reading in chapter 13 verse 1.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Paul’s excellent or surpassing way is simply love. As some of you might know, in Greek there are multiple words for love. But in the passage we just read, Paul only uses the Greek word agape. In the biblical context of the word, it carries with it the meaning of moral rightness and graciousness towards human’s from God, it’s a divine love. In other words, agape is God’s pure love for humanity that comes from his righteous character. It’s this type of love that Paul is saying is the most excellent or surpassing way to unify us. This word is also used in Jesus’ teachings on the two greatest commandments found Mark 12:29-30. Jesus tells us we need to agape love God, and agape love our neighbors. 

The most excellent or surpassing way in which you and I being called to is the Agape Way.

Now in these opening words to his most excellent or surpassing way to unity, Paul puts into perspective of what it would be like to have all the gifts without the agape love.

He says things like, without agape love, we would be like gongs, and clanging cymbals, in other words just annoying noise. But then as Paul continues, he begins to use this word, nothing. He says in verse 2, “but do not love, I am nothing.” In verse 3 he says, “but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 

The word for nothing is the Greek word, outhen (oo-dice’) which has the idea of closing the door on something, so that nothing can get through. Paul is saying that without agape love, we allow nothing in. Without this agape love, the door to the workings of the Spirit are closed. When this is applied to the gifts, Paul is saying that without love the gifts are not allowed to work as they were intended, and they would be useless, because they are purposes-less in the life of the Church. And so, what happens when something or someone has lost it’s purpose? It doesn’t do anything, but takes up space, or cause problems for others. Without agape love, the gifts would do us no good and are not accomplishing unity. And so it begs the question, why should the Spirit give the gifts out to a people that won’t seek agape love?

But from here, Paul goes into some detail as to what agape love is and what it is not. He says agape love is patient, and kind. Agape love is not envious, boastful, or puffed up, that means arrogant. Agape love, does not participate in acts that are unbecoming of a believer, in other words, rude or things that would tear others down. Agape love does not seek things of its own to horde, and it is not easily provoked to anger (on a side note, that doesn’t mean agape love does not get angry, but rather it’s first response is not anger). Agape love does not keep records of wrongs, and that word for wrongs is meant to encompass all manner of bad and evil in the widest sense of those words. Agape love does not delight on things that are unrighteous, that means it doesn’t base it’s belief or actions on things that are not of God.

But agape love rejoices with all manner of truth, that includes spoken truth, truth in ideas, truth found in reality, truth found in a person’s sincerity, moral truth, but especially in divine truth. Agape love bears or upholds others, it believes or trusts based on facts, it hopes or expects and trusts in others, it endures or stands behind and with people. And this agape love does all of this in all things, the Greek word here is panta (pas), meaning all the whole of something, every kind of it, it’s totality. Agape love wants all good things of God to happen, and none of the sinful things.

Then in verse 8, Paul again puts the gifts into perspective for us. Paul lets us know that the gifts will eventually cease, or become unneeded some day. For some Christians, this where they get the idea that certain gifts are not for today, or that certain gifts are above others, because Paul only mentions three of them. But is that what Paul’s getting at, or is he giving us an understanding that the gifts, represented by the three here, will all one day be gone? I think that is what Paul is getting at. There will be a day when all gifts, prophecy, tongues, knowledge, helping, leadership, pastoral-ship, apostleship and all the rest, will be gone.

Why? Because the gifts are for the benefit and the uniting of the Church, but as Paul states in verse 11, “11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 

The time that Paul is speaking of, is eternity with God. As long as we’re on this side of eternity, we are like children who need certain things, but in eternity we will be fully mature and we can put away those things. As long as we are here in this sin fallen world, we can never see in perfect sight as the way that God created us to see. We can never know ourselves or the people around us, because the stain of sin corrupts everything. 

So, when God brings us into eternity, the gifts are no longer needed, because we will be perfectly united in Christ.

Then, as Paul transitions to yet another aspect of his talk on gifts, he writes these two words in verse 1 of chapter 14, “Purse love”. Paul is calling every believer to chase love in the same way a hunter chases it’s prey, relentlessly. That is what each of us should purse, the agape love that unites us to each other. That rejoices when another moves forward in their walk with Christ and comes alongside when one stumbles. To purse agape love, is to stand against the things that are not of God and uplifting the things that are. By mourning with those who hurt, and celebrating with those who have found victory. 

It is easy to want the cool gifts of the Christian life, because those gifts can make us feel a sense of spiritual happenings, and maybe even get people to praise us. But God wants us to understand that the greatest thing we can purse in our spiritual walks with him, is to love him and love each other.

So, in our pursuit of agape love, my challenge for you today is to look around this room and pick a couple of people sitting closest to you., you may or may not know them. And while we’re singing our next song, and I want you to take several pieces of paper, and write one encouraging agape love filled sentence to each person around you. Then when we end here today and sing our final song, I want to challenge you to take that note to that person and show them some agape love. 

God has called us to purse love above all things. The gifts are great, and we should desire them, but the love we have and show with each other is better. Amen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 14 “The Gifted”

Let’s play a quick game of Family Feud. Instead of the top ten, we’ll just do the top three. In 2018, the publication Popular Mechanic released the top 100 skills everyone should know ( So, take a few moments and write down the three skills that you think made the cut. Ready?
The third most important skill was…build a camp fire.
The second most important skill was…parallel park.
And the number one skill was…being able to escape from a sinking car. Now I don’t know how often you’ll need that number one skill, but if you did, that one time it could literally save your life.

And it’s this idea, of knowing what something is, or how to use something that brings us back to our summer study in 1st Corinthians chapter 12, where will be picking it up in verse 27. And as we get back to 1st Corinthians 12:27, let’s bring ourselves up to speed on where we are.

We started this series with the understanding that Paul was writing this letter so that unity would happen within the Corinthian Church. After his first half of the letter focused on those thing that cause disunity through our personal relationships. In his second half, Paul changes his focus to look at those things that were causing disunity in the corporate worship time of the Church.
And so we looked at two ways that submission plays a role in worship when we looked at the controversial topic of head coverings and how we partake as an individuals in Communion.
After this, Paul moves into another controversial topic, that of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s in these gifts that Paul has called us to understand two things: first, we must understand who the Holy Spirit is and that it is he that gives out the gifts at his own discretion. Secondly, we must understand that each of the gifts are equal and necessary to the overall health of the Church.

With this now in our minds, let us continue our study in the letter of 1st Corinthians chapter 12, verse 27.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

After two weeks of talking about how we are going to talk about the gifts of the Spirit, we are finally going to talk about the gifts of the Spirit. But as we do, we must understand that there are several different passages where Paul brings up these gifts. One of these, is the passage we just read from 1st Corinthians chapter 12 verses 27-30. 
And in order to really tackle the topic of the gifts, we need to address those other passages. So the way we’re going to approach this, is by making an alphabetical list of the gifts starting with the passage we just read and then adding to that list by looking at the other three passages that contain the gifts. 
So let’s look at those gifts here in 1st Corinthians 12:27-30. We have Administration/Guidance (depending on your translation), Apostles, Healing, Helping, Miracles, Prophets, Teaching, and Tongues. 
Alright, let’s move to the beginning of 1st Corinthians chapter 12, and look at our second passage that deals with the gifts of the Spirit. Chapter 12 starting in verse 8 reads, “To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

So now in our list we can add, Distinguishing of Spirits, Faith, Interpretation of Tongues, Prophecy is similar to Prophet so I want us to jot that down as a side note, so all that’s left is Word of Knowledge, and Word of Wisdom.

Alright, two down, two to go. Let’s move over to Romans chapter 12, where we’ll be looking at verses 6-8. 

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

From this passage, we can add Exhortation or Encouragement (again depending on your translation), Giving, Mercy, and finally Serving. We’ve already wrote down prophecy and teaching, so we don’t need to again.

Okay, so one more passage, which is Ephesians 4, starting in verse 11.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

We already wrote down apostles, prophets, and teaching, so we only have two to add from this passage, which are, Evangelist, and Pastor/Shepherd (depending on your translation).

Really quick, I have been asked, why is Ephesians 4:11-13 a part of the gifts, when the word gift is not in the passage? And the answer is, first, there are overlaps with the other gift passages. These would be apostles, prophets, and teachers. Second, the use of the language of the Church being Christ’s body is in both 1st Corinthians 12, which is the most exhaustive gift passage, and Ephesians 4:11-13. And third, the whole point of the gifts are to bring unity to the Church, and here in Ephesians, Paul is saying that these five things where given to bring unity to the Church. So there we go, those are the top three reasons why this is a gift passage.

But now that we have our list of the gifts, let’s briefly explore what each of these gifts are through the words that Paul uses. And here I must emphasize, that we are not looking at the gifts from a particular denomination or tradition’s view of the gifts, but rather from the words that Paul uses when he tells us what the gifts are.

First, Administration/Guidance - the Greek word is kubernésis (koo-ber’-nay-sis) meaning governance or leadership. (1st Corinthians 12:28) This gift is given to those leading the Church bodies as coordinators of the work of God. An Elder, a Deacon, a secretary, a treasurer or someone who is getting things in order for an event could have this gift. 

Next, Apostles - the Greek word is apostolos (ap-os’-tol-os) meaning messenger, or the commissioned. This word is used in the New Testament almost exclusively of those directly sent by Jesus. (1st Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11) There’s some controversy here, with someone people saying that this gift was only given to those first century men who were directly sent out by Jesus. Which it is true that a distinction is made between those who were Apostles directly sent by Jesus, and other Christians. But the word that is used here means one who is commissioned for a purpose. Jesus in Hebrews 3:1 is called an apostle. In Philippians 2:25 Paul calls Epaphroditus an apostle. And so, this gift looks to be closer to those who today we call missionaries, or church planters. The idea is one who is sent out to start a new ministry.

Third, Distinguishing of Spirits - the Greek word for distinguishing is diakrisis (dee-ak’-ree-sis) meaning an act of judgment; and the Greek word for spirits is pneuma (pnyoo’-mah) meaning spiritual beings or spiritual situations. Together it is implied that this gift is able to make judgments in spiritual happenings around us. Whether that be knowing a false teacher or brother, or the circumstances of the situation that someone might find themselves in. (1st Corinthians 12:10)

Fourth, we have Encouragement or Exhortation  - the Greek word is parakaleó (par-ak-al-eh’-o) meaning to encourage or give comfort in times of grief. A believer with this gift has in their presence and in their words the ability to speak words that will encourage someone in their discomfort or grief. (Romans 12:7)

Next is Evangelist - the Greek word is euaggelistés (yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace’) meaning a bringer of good news. Every Christian is to share the Gospel (good news), but an evangelist has a special calling to it. This is most evident when someone has the ability to speak the Gospel in such a clear way that when people hear, they understand, and accept it. (Ephesians 4:11)

The sixth gift is Faith - the Greek word is pistis (pis’-tis) meaning an unshakable confidence through God’s divine persuasion, which is another way of saying God’s self revealing work that causes us to believe. This is usually manifested in a believer’s life when they step out when everyone else says stop, and then God does something amazing through it. They trust God enough to know that when they move forward, he will be there. (1st Corinthians 12:9)

Next is Giving - the Greek word is metadidómi (met-ad-id’-o-mee) meaning to give a share of something or to part with something. Usually people think of money when they think of this, but this could be anything of worth, but specifically it is material possessions. So money yes, but also real estate, vehicles, and more. And it’s not related to donating something to the Church, but rather seeing where God desires it to be given. This type of giving goes beyond every Christian’s regular giving. This doesn’t include our time or meals, because there are other gifts for those areas. (Romans 12:8)
Our eighth gift is Healing - the Greek word is iama (ee’-am-ah) meaning to cure of an alignment. We’re not talking about natural or made made cures, like aspirin, surgery or other such things. No, we’re specifically talking about divine healing that occurs through the power of God himself, where a body is cured of an alignment without the help for natural or human means. (1st Corinthians 12:9, 28)

Then there is Helping - the Greek word is antilémpsis (an-til’-ape-sis) meaning to give one aid, this is where we get the word of minister or ministry. This might happen when a person is stranded on the side of the road and we work all day to get them going. It is going beyond what is required of us in a given situation to help another. (1st Corinthians 12:28)

Next is Interpretation of Tongues - the Greek word is herméneia (her-may-ni’-ah) meaning to give an explanation or a summary of the message. This one walks hand-in-hand with the gift of tongues, which we’ll be going more in depth in a couple of weeks, so we’ll just leave it there. (1st Corinthians 12:10)

The gift of Leadership is similar to the first gift on our list - the Greek word used here is proistemi (pro-is’-tay-mee) meaning to be early, but was used in Paul’s day as a colloquial term to talk about those who are the first to move forward among people, i.e. leadership. In other words, the gift of leadership happens when a person takes the first step to lead others. David in his fight with Goliath shows this gift of leadership. (Romans 12:8)

Our twelfth gift is Mercy - the Greek word is eleeó (el-eh-eh’-o) meaning to take pity on another, or to be loyal to someone by acting on previous agreed upon terms. In other words it’s not feeling sorry for something alone, but being true to someone even as they have not been true to us. (Romans 12:8)

Next is Miracles - the Greek word is dunamis (doo’-nam-is) meaning divine power, might or strength. We tend to use miracles as an umbrella term for all things supernatural, but the gift of miracles speaks directly to divine power with things like, parting a sea, calming a storm, bringing someone back from the dead. In Paul’s distinguishing of the gifts, miracles and healing are separate, even though they are similar in divine power, miracles are grand shows of that power, whereas gifts such as healings are more intimate. (1st Corinthians 12:10, 28)

In our fourteenth spot we have the Pastor/Shepherd - the Greek word is poimén (poy-mane’) meaning a caregiver, feeder, protector, and ruler over a flock. This is someone who is the spiritual protector of the Church, it’s their responsibility to be the gate keeper that allows the things of God in and to keep the things not of God out. It is why we use the Pastor title of those who we call to be the main overseers of our local congregations. (Ephesians 4:11)

After that we come to the gift of Prophets/prophecy - Now in the two places that we saw these two different words used, there are in fact two different Greek words. The Greek word for prophet is prophétés (prof-ay’-tace) (1st Corinthians 12:10; Romans 12:6) meaning an interpreter or forth teller of divine will, one who gives a message from the mind of God to the people. Whereas the - the Greek word prophecy is prophéteia (prof-ay-ti’-ah) (1st Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11), which means communicating or enforcing revealed truth. Now, even though there are two different words, the gift is the same and comes from the Hebrew word for prophet which is nabi [naw-bee’] and means a spokesperson. Now we usually think of prophecy or prophets as those who speak to future events, and there is that aspect of the gift. But that aspect is more in keeping with how to know a false prophet when they come. See in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 Moses lets us know that a false prophet will be known in one of two ways. First their prophecy will not come true, or second they will call people to worship other gods. But the gift of prophecy spoke here is more in keeping with the main work of the prophets in the Old Testament, which was about 20% future telling and 80% calling people back to God’s divine will. This was usually to keep with the Old Testament Law, but after Jesus, it would be in keeping with the Gospel.

Our sixteen gift is Serving - the Greek word is diakonia (dee-ak-on-ee’-ah) meaning service and here we can think of a waiter or waitress. This gift is similar to the gift of helping, but is different because this is someone who sees things that need to be done and does them without being asked. We sometimes see this when people clean up after a potluck, or set up chairs for an event. (Romans 12:7)

Then comes Teaching - the Greek word is didaskalos (did-as’-kal-os) meaning an instructor in the way of the Scriptures. This gift is seen when someone opens up the Scriptures in new ways to help us see the different layers of God’s Word. But this one comes with a warning, in James 3:1-2 we’re told that not all should seek to be teachers, because they are held to a higher standard. (1st Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7, Ephesians 4:11)

Next is Tongues - the Greek word is glóssa (gloce-sah’) meaning a language. This word is used of both human and angel languages in 1st Corinthians 13:1. We’re going to discuss this one more in a couple of weeks, so we’ll leave it there. (1st Corinthians 12:10, 28)

At our nineteenth spot we have Word of Knowledge - the two Greek words used here are logos, meaning word and gnósis (gno’-sis) meaning experiential understanding. This gift is given to a believer when they recognize that God allowed them to walk through certain situations as a learning experience, so as to relay that experience of trusting God to someone else as they walk through a similar time. This isn’t as someone have understood it, being educated, but rather real life and the ability to apply God’s truth to it. (1st Corinthians 12:8)

Our last gift seems similar to our previous one, this is Word of Wisdom - the two Greek words here are logos, again meaning word, and sophia (sof-ee’-ah) meaning insight into human or divine affairs. This would be an insight that the Holy Spirit gives someone into a situation that God is working in, and most likely speaks to another person’s inner thoughts or struggles. (1st Corinthians 12:8) This happens when someone says, have you been listening to my thoughts?

There we have it, twenty gifts quickly summarized and analyzed. Each of which are given at the Holy Spirit’s discretion and for the building of the body of Christ in unity.

Now it’s easy to dismiss certain gifts as not being needed for today, and there are Christians that do believe that. In our study today, we do not have time to go into why that is not a biblical stance. But then there’s the other side of the topic that believe that certain gifts are above the others. Again, in our study today, we do not have time to go into why that is not a biblical stance either.
Instead, we must agree with Paul that the gifts are the Holy Spirit’s department. It is his job to deal out the gifts when and as he sees fit. To constrain, or dismiss in any direction the Holy Spirit’s work, even in the gifts, is to flirt with Jesus’ warning of the unpardonable sin in Matthew 12:31-32, which is the denial of the work of the Holy Spirit.

And so, instead, we must seek the Spirit and the gifts, for his purpose. That purpose is the building of the Church in unity. So, even though I may want the really cool gift of miracles, or to speak the Gospel in such a clear way that many people come to Christ, my desire must instead be, that the Spirit would give me the gifts that would do the most good for my brothers and sisters. Not the ones that I desire, but that he desires. 

But with all of this talk about gifts, Paul gives us this word in verse 31 of 1st Corinthians 12, “31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

And it’s this more excellent way that we will talk about next week. But for the challenge this week, I want to challenge you to realize the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you. Take what we have studied here today, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal which gifts he has given you. Then next week, on the wall I’m going to have all the gifts categorized, and I want you to pin your gifts to the wall so we can see what gifts God has given us for the building of this body of believers.

Let us each walk in the Spirit as he administers the gifts, so that the body of Christ can be built, and the glory of the Father can be seen. Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Summer Series on 1st Corinthians: Week 13 “Bodybuilders”

For me, I believe that the all time greatest sports movie is Remember the Titans. There are others that I love, Hoosiers, A League of Their Own, Sandlot, but Remember the Titans is the one that I think has so much going for it that makes it the best for me. If you haven’t seen the movie, it has a historically based story. It’s set during the time of southern integration in the 1960s. Black and white students were compelled to attend public school together. The story revolves around the football team that is not only newly integrated, but is forced to have a black man as it’s head coach. These events do not sit well with either side, and we see anger and hatred come out in full contacted fights. One of the best scenes for me, happens when the team is attending preseason camp. Herman Boone, who is played by Denzel Washington, takes the team on an excruciating run where they end up at the Gettysburg cemetery. Boone then gives a motivational speech about how the battle that those lying in those graves fought, was the same battle they were fighting at that very moment, and that they must come together to stand. Take a look here for the scene -
It is a moment that changes the young men on the team, and leads them to create a bond that carries them to the championship game.

This idea of coming together and realizing that we need each other to succeed, is what brings us back to our study in 1st Corinthians, where we will be picking it back up in chapter 12 verse 12. 

And as we pick up in 1st Corinthians 12:12, let’s review where we’re at in this letter.

This letter was written from the Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth, because the Church was moving into chaos. So Paul writes this letter, to bring the Church back into unity. And so for the first half of the letter, Paul focuses on those things that cause disunity on a personal level between believers. Things like, “the guy I follow is better than yours”, or “I’m free to do anything so I’ll just sin it up”, or “I’m smarter than you so I can belittle you”. We walked through all of these and more, but now we are in the second half of the letter. In this half, Paul turns his attention to what happens not just between believers, but what happens when believers come together in corporate worship.
We saw that the first two things Paul dealt with were based in submission; these were head coverings and the Lord’s Supper. Both dealt with God’s created order and our need to be willing to submit to it.
Then last week we began talking about one of the most controversial topics for today. This topic deals with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But, as we saw from Paul’s opening, we must understand the Holy Spirit in order to understand the gifts he gives. And so last week we spent a good amount of time on a crash course of who the Holy Spirit is, and what he does.

Now, with that fresh in our minds, let us now move on to the second thing we need to understand when talking about the gifts of the Spirit. Let’s read, starting in verse 12 of 1st Corinthians chapter 12.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

What is Paul’s point here? Paul is using the idea of a human body to help us understand the role of the gifts within the Church. I want us to realize something before we move forward, have we noticed what Paul has not yet done in the 26 verses we’ve read between last week and this one? He hasn’t explained to us what the gifts are. Yes he has mentioned them, but not all of them, because he writes of still more in other letters, but he hasn’t explained to us what those gifts are. No, instead he has focused on the Holy Spirit being the one that gives the gifts, which we saw in the first 11 verses, and now he is focusing on the gifts role in the body. 

So let’s break that down. What is Paul saying about the role of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

First, Paul compares the Church to a human body, and in verse 13, we are given how and with what this body is constructed. First, the body is constructed with those who have been baptized into Christ. Side note, this is a reason why, if we say we have put our trust into Jesus for salvation, if we call ourselves a Christian and yet have not been baptized, we need to be baptized. Baptism is not a saving act, you don’t need to be dunked in water to be saved; when you accept Jesus as your Savior, you’re spiritually dunked in Christ’s blood. But the physical act of baptism says I join with the Church to be a part of it. Physical water baptism is a sign that we will walk the narrow path that Christ has saved us to walk. It is a visible sign that says, I am willing to die as one of Jesus’ followers and with my fellow believers. And so, if you have not been baptized, I strongly encourage you to do so, because it is one of those things that unites us with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let’s keep going. The body that Paul talks about is constructed first by the believers who are baptized into Christ. Then, Paul use the terms no Jew nor Gentile; these two words encompass all of the ethnic, political, and national barriers between us and tears them down within the Church. Then Paul uses two more terms, no slave or free; these two words encompass all economic and  social, barriers, and tears those down as well within the Church. In other words, our identity is no longer first as a Jew or Greek, or slave or free, but rather our identity is a member of the body of Christ. And so, we must treat each other as much. 
It’s hard to live this reality though, and there have been times throughout the Church’s history where we have fallen in this area. Before founding the Alliance, A.B. Simpson was the Pastor of one of the most prestigious church’s in New York City. He was being paid $5,000 a year; in today’s money, that’s almost $145,000. He felt God leading him to preach to the poor immigrants, mostly Irish, that were coming into the city. When Simpson brought these new Christians to his upper middle class church, the congregation didn’t want them to meet at the same time as they did. And so Simpson left his well paying job to minster where there was no Jew nor Gentile, no slave or free.
In the early 1900’s a movement was sweeping through the nation, that would eventually become known as pentecostalism. A black man by the name of William J. Seymour was invited to come out to preach in Los Angels. As he did, the Azusa Street Revival began, with those in attendance being black, white, hispanic, and asian. A man named Charles Parham, who was once a mentor to Seymour, wrote of his experience at the revival, “Men and women, white and blacks, knelt together or fell across one another; a white woman, perhaps of wealth and culture, could be seen thrown back in the arms of a big 'buck [n——word],’ and held tightly thus as she shivered and shook in freak imitation of Pentecost. Horrible, awful shame!”
Now, say what you will about the movement, but one things for sure was the idea of the “mixing of races” and economic standings, was looked down upon by even the preachers of the day. Even though this has always been something that the Church has been called to do, and has a tendency to fall into not doing.
When I first arrived in Quartzsite, our youth group was divided into whites and hispanics with animosity between the two. So one week, we all put paper bags on our heads and made our way through a maze and ended up at the cross singing songs. No one knew who stood next to the other, because we couldn’t see each other and the bags muffled our voices. Did that fix the division, not entirely, but it did get better. 
But we must strive, as the body of Christ, to put away divisions and to check ourselves when we get that little voice in our heads that says, they shouldn’t be here, and respond to that voice with, they are my bother or my sister in Christ.

But then Paul says something very interesting in verse 14, Kai (Kahee). It’s Greek for “Even so” as the NIV puts it. Paul says even though there are no divisions due to ethnic, political, national, economic, or social standing, there are roles to which God has placed us. This where Paul starts talking about the foot, the eye, the ear, the hand, and even very carefully talks about the parts of the human body that we cover up. In other words, there is no division by human means, but there are roles in which are divinely given for us to play. We have been created in such a way as to aid the body of believers, and we cannot say I don’t want to play my role, or that someone else’s role is not worthy. These roles are the outworking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and goes back to everything Paul has talked about, which has at it’s root the simple word of submission. We are to submit to the role we were created for, and we must allow others to do the same. We must use and allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used as he sees fit. 
Not disparaging the gifts of others, nor elevating certain gifts over the rest. The eye is just as important as the ear, the hand is just as important as the foot, so too are each of the gifts of the Spirit.

And so in verse 24 Paul writes, “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

God put this body together, and there should be no division in it, because we are to have equal concern for each other, and when one part either suffers or is honored, then we all are.

But is that really the case? Do we really suffer when the rest of the body suffers? Are our hearts being broken for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and other places who are being killed? Do we suffer with those in our own congregation as they go through hard times with family, finances, or their spiritual walks? Or do we push it our of our minds, saying things like, I’m glad I’m not in their shoes. 
Do we rejoice when other churches, say in our town if they start growing? Or there are Christians that seem to be doing better than us? They have that better house, or the more stable income, or the ability to talk with others about the Gospel, or teach, or their spiritual walk seems to be going better than ours. Do we say, “God, bless them more”? Or do we complain that we’re not being blessed as they are?

There is to be no division in the body. You know what the Greek word that is used of no in verse 25 is? It’s mé (may). You know what that means? It means no. No exception, never, devoid, nothing, without, cannot, or simply no. No division in the body of Christ. Can their be disagreements, sure, but division, never. We are not allowed, by the blood of Jesus that saved us, to have division in the Church. The only time there can be division is on the essentials of the faith, but then we are not talking about divisions in the Church, we are talking about those that seek to divide the foundation of it.

But it can be really easy to fall into division within the body of Christ, especially over the gifts of the Spirit, because each of us struggles with sin in our own body. And it is easy to allow that sin to seep into the body of Christ, because we are not on guard for it. Yet, God calls us to no division in his body. And so, we must repent. We must repent of the division we ourselves have caused. I know there are times when I have said words, or done actions that have led others to be dived, and I have to repent of those things. Each of us must go before God, seeking his forgiveness in this area. Not that this will separate us from our salvation, but rather it is seeking right standing with our brothers and sisters. 
And so, we must seek it to be right before God and man. Not for the sins of those that walked before us, but for ourselves. 

And here, I think we can speak to the situation in our society. As I have said before, I do not speak on current events often, because I would be allowing the world to dictate what should be God’s leading. But here the two meet.

In the history of the Church, we have seen division occur, on all of the areas in which Paul tells us it wasn’t to happen. And so, we must repent of that. But the way forward is not to look at our forefathers sins, but rather the path that moves us forward in forgiveness. This world seeks to hold the sins of the past to every generation in a never ending cycle of subjugation, but Christ doesn’t. All punishment for sin was laid on him at the cross, and has been forgiven. We, as the Church must stand up and say, I repent of the divisions I have caused as an individual, and those that were caused by those who came before me. But they were sinners saved by grace, and so am I, and I will seek God that, as far as I am concerned, there will be no division on my part. 
This understanding of taking individual responsibility is summarized in the book of the Bible we studied last year. In Joshua 24:15 Joshua says this, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
That is all we can do. Many parts of the body, working as individuals, as they were created to by God, in their role, to make the body of Christ strong.

And so my challenge for you this week is simple, go before God with a prayer like this: “God reveal in me any division that I would have caused or am causing. Help me to repent of it, asking forgiveness both of you and those that I have caused it with. Give me the strength and purpose to seek unity in the body of Christ. Amen.”
Jesus prayed that we would be one, let us truly fulfill it. Amen.