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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Divisions – Good and Bad

I’m continuing my series through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  At this point, the apostle begins a new subject.  He starts instructing them about their public meetings.

He opens this section with a statement that’s sure to get their attention.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1 Corinthians 11:17-18

What a thing to say to a church.  You’re worse off when you meet together.  It sounds like he’s saying that if they continue this way, it would be better for them if they don’t meet.  What would cause Paul to say such a thing?

Over the next three and a half chapters, the apostle will explain it all to them…and us.  Let’s start at the beginning.

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19

You might think that there were specific things that they were doing wrong.  There might also be some things that they should have been doing as a church but weren’t.  While these issues were definitely a part of it, the big problem was below the surface.

Paul uses an oxymoron to describe the situation.  What do I mean by that?  He said that when they come together…there are divisions.

On the surface, they’re all together.  They’re one church meeting in one place.  But under the surface they’re divided.  There are different groups and factions that happen to all be present at the same place.

They may seem like they’re acting together.  They pray, sing, and worship the same.  But within each grouping is a different perception and each has its own agenda.

Of course, Paul also makes it clear that not all differences are bad.  The phrase, differences among you, actually refers to differing choices.  Our character is manifest through the choices we make.

Jesus taught his disciples that they could discern people by their fruit.  The choices we make are the fruit that can be inspected.

It’s in this fruit that you can see the difference between someone who has God’s approval, versus those without it.  Unfortunately, God’s approval is something we don’t hear about very often these days.

God loves each of us unconditionally, but His approval is on a higher level.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

The way we show God’s approval is how we handle the Word that God has entrusted to us.  Have we applied it to our lives?  Or is it just a good suggestion?

There are differences between those who walk in God’s approval and those who don’t.  We need to take what we’ve heard, and use it to make the choices that bring glory to God.  That’s the fruit of a life that’s submitted to Christ.

Boldness is a characteristic of an approved believer.  Strive to hear the Word and put it into practice.  That’s the group you want to be a part of.

Question: What are some choices that you’ve made to apply God’s Word in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Law or Tradition?

In my last post, I talked about the need for everyone to be under our God-given authority.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, this principle applies to all of us.

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
1 Corinthians 11:11

This is an important point.  We’re all interdependent upon each other.  It’s not a patriarchy.  Men are not only dependent upon men.  We all need each other.

We’re all different.  We have unique giftings, strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.  That’s why the church is more of an organism than an organization.

For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.  But everything comes from God.
1 Corinthians 11:12

There are no grounds upon which to state that men are more important than women in God’s kingdom.  We may have different roles in the family, but neither gender is a higher order of creation.

We have to realize that we all came from God.  He’s the Creator.  We are His property.  Humans do not belong to other humans – we are never to be seen as objects or property.

That means that in everything, we bow to the will of God.  That even includes the areas of our preferences.  I may prefer a certain style of music in church.  This doesn’t mean that everyone who has another style is wrong, they’re just used to a different culture.

I believe that the Holy Spirit was able to speak through Paul, even though he may not have personally understood what he was writing.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?  For long hair is given to her as a covering.  If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.
1 Corinthians 11:13-16

Paul was inspired by God to preface this section with the exhortation to judge for yourself.  Then he put his preferences down in the form of questions.  He may have thought that the answers were obvious – and they were within the context of his culture.  What he didn’t realize was that the answers might be different in the various generations and cultures that would carry on the Gospel message.

The phrase, the very nature of things, means the observable way things work, whether it be in nature or society.  If you’re talking nature, there are animals that God gave longer hair to the male than the female – I’m thinking about lions for one.  So other cultures may answer this question differently.

Another point I see is that Paul clearly states that he had no other practice.  That’s a word that means tradition.  To the apostle’s knowledge, there was no other tradition in his society or any of the churches he experienced.

His society had a tradition of long hair and coverings for women.  Consequently, the churches in that culture followed suit.  I don’t believe that these questions that Paul asks constitute a spiritual law for all cultures, generations, and peoples.

The key is that everything comes from God.  He has ownership.  If I acknowledge Him and seek His will and pleasure, then the Lord will lead me down the right paths.

Question: How is the blessing of God based upon Christ’s work and not my appearance?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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An Uncovered Society

There are some segments of Christianity where covering a woman’s head is a big issue.  It all centers around a portion of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

You may want to check 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 before reading the rest of this post.  I’m only going to hit some points that I feel are important for us to understand.

Paul said that a man could pray or prophesy with his head uncovered.  A woman could pray or prophesy with her head covered.  Let me just note here that what the early church called “prophesy”, we would call preaching.  So a woman could publically pray or preach in the early church.

About the head covering…we know that it was, and still is, the Middle Eastern custom for women to have a covering.  It’s a sign that they’re either under their husband’s or their father’s authority.  It was also the custom of ancient Rome.

In that society, a woman with an uncovered and shaved head was a sign that they were a prostitute.  They were publically showing that they were under no one’s authority.

That was the only way of life that the apostle knew.  But the Holy Spirit, in writing the Scripture, went beyond Paul’s limited knowledge.  1 Corinthians 11:6b says that if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

The word “if” is in the original Greek verse.  Here’s my question – is it a disgrace in our society for a woman to cut or shave her hair?  A quick walk down any street will answer that.  The length of a woman’s hair has no relation to any sign of authority.

Our problem is that we don’t want to deal with the real issue that this section of Scripture is all about.  It’s so much easier to tell a woman to cover her head and think that’s the end of it.  We need to apply this truth – the need for everyone to be under some authority.  In our culture, we try to be fiercely independent of any authority.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2

This verse clearly tells us that everyone must submit to authorities.  God has established three authority structures – Family, government, and spiritual.  We have to find our place in each of them.

Under normal circumstances, Christians don’t have too much problem with government or spiritual authority.  It’s the family that we have the most issue with.

There’s a prevailing opinion that you’re under a parent’s authority only as long as you live in their house.  Once you move out, you’re on your own and no longer have to listen to them.  But is that what the Bible teaches?

If we want the blessing of God on our lives, then we need to find the place we fit into under the authorities God has given us.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman; you need to be under authority.

Authority flows from the top (God) down.  I believe that the reason we see so little spiritual authority in our society is that so many have unplugged themselves.

We all need to find and accept the authorities God has placed over us.

Question: Who are the authorities that God has called you to be under?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Men, Women, and Authority

As we continue to study Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we now come to another controversial section.  He begins to talk about men and women in regards to the principle of authority.

I think that so much of our debating and anger over this section comes from both a misunderstanding and a misrepresentation of what Paul is teaching.  We need to see this without any preconceived ideas of what’s being said.

Therefore, I’ll try to stick to the simple statements found in Scripture, rather than my personal perspective.  The key word is “try.”

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3

Let me get started by getting everyone mad at me!  This Scripture is a loaded minefield if you’re not willing to take it at face value.  It deals with the issues of authority and submission.

First of all, we’re talking about headship on an individual basis.  Notice that both the word man and woman are singular.  Paul is not saying that all men are the head over all women.

We make submission a very complicated subject.  I’m not going to talk about it much in this post.  I’ll simply give you some homework.  If you do a study of submission, you’ll find that the specific areas in which a woman is told to submit are to her own husband, or to her own father.

Having said that, this verse is saying that the head of a man is Christ.  The head of a woman is a man (either her husband or her father).

Women – Please don’t shut me off just yet!  Wait and see where I’m going with this.

All too often I’ve been flagged down by a husband, dragging his wife along.  He needed to ask me a “Bible question”.

“Pastor Nick, doesn’t the Bible say that the husband is the head of the wife?  Doesn’t she have to submit and do what the husband says?”

Immediately I see a problem in the relationship, and it’s not the wife.  It stems from a total misunderstanding of authority and headship.  Let’s see how Paul explains it.

In the above verse, he makes it clear that even within the Godhead there is headship and authority.  God the Son – Christ – is under the headship of God the Father.  Does that make Christ any less God?  Absolutely not!  He is fully God.

What then is the relationship when it comes to headship?

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Notice what Jesus said here.  He did not say that He does everything the Father tells him to do.  Instead, He tells us that He does what He sees His Father doing.

The head sets the direction for the body.  In my last post, we saw Paul instructing them to imitate him as he imitated Christ.  This is true in any headship – authority relationship.

In my experience, the relationship of a wife to her husband is usually the same as the husband to Christ.  Godly men who are serving Christ faithfully usually don’t complain about lack of authority in their families.  It’s not about trying to get others to obey me, but about me getting my relationship right with the Lord.

Question: How well do you follow the headship of Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Imitation – The Road to Maturity

What do you think it takes to start maturing in Christ?  Would you need to go to Bible school for four years?

In dealing with the Corinthian church, Paul had some advice for them.  They were basically a church full of immature believers.  They had been Christians for years but had never grown up.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2

The phrase, follow my example is actually a Greek word that means to imitate me.  It’s the word from which we get the word mimic in English.  Paul was instructing these believers to imitate his lifestyle in the same way that he was imitating Christ.

The apostle had lived among them for months when he was starting their church.  They saw how he lived and worked.  Now they needed to walk before God in that same way.

In the above passage, Paul commends them for remembering his teaching and the things he told them to do.  That’s great.  But simply remembering what you’re taught is not enough.  At some point, you need to start putting it into practice.

The fact is that we can’t watch Jesus living His life.  We can only see the godly leaders that the Lord has placed before us right now.  Imitation is the first step down the road to maturity.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us the same thing.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:9

This verse gives us a little more detail about who we need to be imitating.  The problem is that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy of being imitated.

The real question is; do you see the fruit of Christ’s ministry at work in them?  They should be walking in love and the blessing of God must be evident in their ministry.

The real challenge is the walk of faith and patience.  Sometimes imitating Christ isn’t evident in someone’s life.  They seem to be doing the same thing every day.  You don’t realize the significance until you see the outcome of what they’ve done.

It’s those who have a track record of spiritual fruit that we need to imitate.  Anyone can be an overnight success that’s here today and gone tomorrow.

In order to have a sustained ministry of fruitfulness, it requires a different kind of walk.  There needs to be a consistent degree of faith in God.  But more than that – faith must be held with perseverance.

If you want your maturity to grow, then you need to seek out those who are walking in a mature lifestyle.  Then, follow their example and apply their principles to your life.

Question: Who do you know that you can imitate their walk of maturity?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Grey Areas – The Final Word

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He had to deal with a lot of issues.  One of them was how to respond to the grey areas of sin – those things that the Bible doesn’t specifically call out as right or wrong.

Paul talks about this subject in chapters 8-10.  In looking at these principles, we covered a lot of ground.  Since this is the concluding post on that subject, I want to review the principles that Paul talked about.

In chapter 8, we’re told that even though Christ has given us freedom in many areas, we’re not to use that freedom if it will have a negative effect on others.  We have to be sensitive to new believers or weak Christians around us.

Chapter 9, verses 1 through 18, tells us that we need to check our motives.  Why do I want to do this activity?  Is it because I want to imitate the world?  Am I rebelling against authority?  Or is my heart pure in this area?

That same section also deals with the issue of personal rights.  When you’re serving Christ, there are times that the Lord asks you to lay down your rights for the sake of others.  Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s God’s will for you.

Then, in chapter 9, verses 19 through 23, Paul tells us that the message of the Gospel is the priority.  We can’t lose sight of what’s truly important for the sake of self-gratification.  My life must bear witness to the truth.

After that, Paul deals with the principle of keeping free from distractions in verses 24 through 27.  Even if something is not sinful, it may still keep you from fulfilling God’s call upon your life.  We have to make sure that we don’t spend all of our time pursuing unfruitful distractions.

Then, in the first thirteen verses of chapter 10, the apostle talks about the things that we set our heart on.  Where you set your heart determines your destiny.  Are you after the things of the world or the advancement of God’s kingdom?

In chapter 10, verses 14 through 22, we’re told to flee from idolatry.  For us, this means the modern version of idolatry.  That’s anything that we put in a position where God should be.  Is there something to which we’re devoting our time, money, and strength, that rightly should be going to the Lord?

Finally, in verses 23-30, the principle of caring for others comes into play.  I can’t be doing something that wounds the conscience of a fellow believer.  I have to be careful not to shipwreck the faith of those around me.

These are the important things to think about when deciding if something is right for you to take part in.  Paul sums it up like this…

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33

The fact is that it’s not all about me.  There’s a bigger picture that I have to take into account.  We must live our lives in such a way that God gets the glory from all that we do.

Question: How does living for God’s glory make the Gospel message more attractive?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Navigating the Grey Areas

We’re approaching the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on the grey areas of sin.  These are activities that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.

The apostle now gives some advice on how to handle these things.  The specific issue he’s dealing with is the eating of food that had been previously brought as a sacrifice to a pagan temple.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:25-26

God has placed His Holy Spirit within each of us as believers.  If the Bible is silent about it, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t activate our conscience, then don’t over-think it.  If it troubles your conscience, then keep away from it.

That’s for you as an individual.  There’s more advice once others are involved.

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
1 Corinthians 10:27

If an unbeliever invites you to an activity, and your conscience isn’t troubled, then you’re free to go.  The fact is that we need to be cultivating healthy relationships with the unchurched.  How else will they be affected by the Gospel of Christ?

That was easy, but what about a mixed crowd of both believers and unbelievers?

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1 Corinthians 10:28-30

This is where it begins to get complicated.  I now have to take my mind off myself and think of the good of others.  I can’t just run rough-shod over another person’s conscience and proclaim, “I’m free in Christ to do what I want.”

We have to be sensitive to the maturity level of those around us.  We don’t want to be the cause of an offense that hinders their walk with God.

“Well, they just need to grow up!”

Try telling that to a three-year-old.  Growth takes time and nurturing.  Take your eyes off yourself, and be a blessing rather than a hindrance.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33a

The bottom line is that it’s not about me, but God receiving the glory from my life.  I should be able to live with a little inconvenience in order for God’s kingdom to advance.  Our goal should be that the name of Christ is exalted.

Question: Why is sensitivity to the needs of others so important to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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