So how many of you would like to know the secret, on how NOT to end up under such severe judgment?
In a city called Corinth, there was a Church, many years ago, where this unfortunate scenario played itself out. As Paul says, many were sick, and some even fell asleep – a beautiful euphemism for the harsh reality of death.
All because the members of the body were dishonouring each other.
The Church at the time was influenced heavily by the Roman government, which was built on a hierarchical system. There were the wealthy, the slaves and the freeman – and these classifications of humans found its way into the Church. These divisions, caused the wealthier Christians to treat the poorer Christians in an unjust manner – and this greatly displeased The Lord.
The end result was that many of them fell sick, and some even fell asleep.
Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 11.17…
The greatest ingredient missing in the life of The Church today is unity.
Christians wage war against each other on many different topics. Then they each run off and decide for themselves what they believe the important things of the Church should be, and somehow still end up spending time trying to find out exactly how they will create unity in the middle of their quite conspicuous disunity .
The situation is so far gone, that almost every church leader you speak to will have a different opinion on how they think we should create unity in a church.
This is such a massive topic and the differing views on how to do this are very scary.
Surely if this is so important, God should have made it clear to us how we can create and sustain unity in a local church?
Of course He did! And he even made it so easy for us to follow.
When I was 11 years old, we had just moved from Potgietersrus, in the middle of the bushveld, to Witbank, the middle of the highveld. In the bushveld many boys grow up on farms, and often times their wrestling opponents are the one-year old calves on the farm. You probably thinking those poor little cows, but they were most certainly not at all pushovers! Us guys who played rugby against these farm boys knew there was something different about those who grew up on farms. Us city boys had to quickly toughen up, or it would not have ended well for.
The situation on the highveld however was completely different! These boys knew zippity doo da about farms, and only developed physically much later. The result was that when I started to play rugby against them, it really wasn’t a very fair match.
I was made Captain of The Team after the first practice and in our first game I scored 6 tries. Everyone was very happy and they enthusiastically cheered me on – it was lovely! Everyone wanted to be my friend – which was actually all I was really interested in.
In the second game I scored 7 tries and to my surprise it was not nearly as well received. The crowds were still cheering, but my team mates grew jealous, saying I was selfish and the game isn’t all about me, and that I needed to pass the ball more because they also wanted to play.
These 11 year old boys from Witbank can be excused for this incredibly immature behavior, but can you imagine if the Lions rugby players start to become jealous over Malcom Marx because he – the hooker – scores more tries than the wings? That would be crazy!! Surely at that level they have just one goal – to win the rugby game. But unfortunately jealousy is not something that is reserved for the younger generation. No matter where you go if you scratch around long enough you will soon find the ugly monster…even in the church.
There is no greater threat to the unity of a church than this very immature jealousy. It comes in and takes away the blessing in many churches because God really despises it.
Christians are meant to be like red wine, becoming more and more mature and more and more pleasant with age. But this is not a given for all. Just like red wine, some Christians do not mature despite how old they are. No matter how much time has passed they still remain immature.
This is a massive problem, but thankfully it is one that Paul addresses next in the book of 1 Corinthians – so that you and I listening today will not have stay immature.
Turn with me in your Bible to 1 Cor 3:1 to see how we can live out the intended Red Wine Christianity…
Foundations Church is currently working through the book of Corinthians, if you would like to follow this series we encourage you to read the book of Corinthians in your spare time to gain a general understand of the book as a whole.
The Church that Paul wrote to was very much like the city of Johannesburg. The city of Corinth was a cosmopolitan port city, with people from all nations, with all sorts of different belief systems living in one geographical area. While Johannesburg may not have a sea-port, this modern fast paced society is bountiful in diversity of people! People from all sorts of places, in all sorts of colours. People with very different belief systems, in a vast range of income brackets all sharing in the same neighbourhood. The extremely wealthy, living right next door to the extremely poor.
But it is not just the city of Johannesburg that shares so much in common with the city of Corinth.
The Church in Corinth is far more like Church you’re sitting in, than you may realize.
See Paul was invited to preach in a synagogue. And not long after he began preaching the Gospel, the people start to really believe in Paul’s message, just as you who are sitting here did when Burger and Cathrin opened their home to teach the Word of God.
As you can imagine – it could not have been pleasant for the leaders of the synagogue when the people were choosing to listen to Paul’s teaching – and out of this controversy came The Church of Corinth.
The biggest problem with this church was that they were extremely divided. The consequences of which were a complete mystery to the people. And so Paul reveals in this letter, not only the consequences of their division, but the phenomenal benefits of the Church getting into agreement and unity. Benefits not only for the Church, but for the entire city!
Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1.10…
I remember when I was growing up, my mother’s biggest concern, was that we all got along with each other. Her favorite saying when things got a bit heated in the backseat was: “Moet net nie baklei nie.” In English: “Just don’t fight.”
Parents always want their children to get along and live in peace with each other, but our heavenly Father doesn’t only want peace.
Many people say they will have peace only when they have a cease fire – But God wants more than just peace – He wants real unity!
The unbreakable kind of unity that is only forged by the very gospel itself. This kind of unity reaches across culture, status, gender, language, personality and whatever else you can imagine and shapes a culture, a people whom God is pleased to dwell amongst, and we here today are going to actively seek to contribute to this gospel culture in this church.