In the light of the songs about the glory of God’s creation and the revelation of His love, revealed in His act on the cross, I decide again to take up my cross and follow Him.
“Yes Ian, that is the only logical response to My revelation of Myself and My glory; to make the active decision to take up your cross and take the first step in following me – it is only then, as you lay aside you’re selfish desires, motives and program. Your petty likes and dislikes, your grumbling and complaining. It is only as you put that all aside and instead take up your cross putting all that to death, that you can fully see Me and My glory. That you can fully appreciate Me and may I say that your life and your words will be a worthy contribution to My glory. That is what I seek in our relationship, to have all of you and in the process the benefit to you will be immeasurable. So yes, do that every day – take up your cross – make that decision even on a moment by moment basis.”
We come now to 1 Cor 12. This is an important chapter in understanding the message of 1 Corinthians. The key verse lies here. Why don’t you read the chapter and see whether you can identify that verse?
It was at a weekend camp in 1980 that I came to know the Lord. The subject of the teaching was all from 1 Cor 12. However, despite the fact that the Lord used that teaching to reveal Himself to me, they was a serious deviation from the truth as revealed in this chapter.
Let us step back and remind ourselves of the scene in Corinth that Paul was addressing. There were a number of questionable behaviours going on in the church there, which reflected the immaturity of that church. However perhaps the main one was reflected in the divisions in the church tearing it apart. Divisions of class and divisions in theological understanding. This was fired by claims as to special spiritual gifts and experiences by various members, which made them feel more important than others in the same community.
The key verse is verse 13. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit”. Note the repeated emphasis on the word “one”.
Paul then explains this statement with the beautiful example of the human body. I think the analogy is self-explanatory. Which can be described by the phrase “unity in diversity”.
The basis of the teaching of my weekend was that being a Christian was all good and well, but if one wanted to serve God effectively one had to be baptized in the Spirit. Through this act the Spirit would endow one with supernatural gifts. That was the basis of the Charismatic teaching, focusing on the Charisma or gifts. This two staged Christian experience clearly led to the sense of some being haves and others have-nots.
It took me some time to realize that this key vs was exactly what proved their teaching wrong. Baptism is essentially an act of initiation and shows that you are NOT a Christian until you have been “baptized in the Spirit”. I won’t go into the reasons for this teaching arising in the first place, but essentially I discovered eventually that this phrase described the same act as being “born again”, “converted”, “receiving the Lord”, “being saved”. All these descriptions describe the same thing. Ultimately you are not a Christian until you have been transformed by the Spirit. At the same time let it be said when you have received this baptism you receive everything God has for you.
let me get back to the important teaching of 1 Cor 12 by making a few remarks.
- Every Christian receives certain endowments or gifts which are unique for him/her. Equipping them for the service within the church and that is required to make the church function smoothly. Sometimes these gifts only manifest themselves later when they are required.
- Every member of the church is equally vital to the full function of the church, no matter how unimportant they may appear or feel. The body needs its thumb as much as it needs its eyes.
- God endows these gifts for a specific purpose that the church may fulfil its function effectively. This function is for the benefit of the church members that they may grow effectively and be supported in their lives and service of the Lord. It is also essential in God’s plan to extend His kingdom throughout the world. He sets up the make-up and gifts in the church so that it may function to His glory and as a witness of His love and power to the world.
- Taking all this teaching together it shows God’s care for each individual and a great part of that is our interdependence. This flows logically into the conclusion that there is no room for Christians living in isolation, not wanting to join a church or commit themselves. There is also no room for church-hopping and tasting various churches.
- In summary then: The church is a vital part of God’s plan for us and the world. This teaching is very underemphasized. Many see the church as a place where they can benefit rather than serve. The challenge is to take this seriously for each one’s own benefit as well as the kingdom’s sake.
- God bless for this week.