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Category Archives: The Church

All About Me

As we continue our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he’s speaking about how idolatry relates to the grey areas of sin.  This is an important issue.  The apostle now lays down the principle of participation.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of participation that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in other places in Scripture.  We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship.  It’s because of our connection to Christ that we’re connected with each other.  We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions.  There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church.  What I do in my private time is my own business.  But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation.  Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in?  That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21

Those are strong words.  In context, he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple.  But this could apply to us as well.  There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry.  Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, sporting events, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry.  No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7.  But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:22-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk.  The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself.  The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level.  The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding what’s right or wrong for me.  What I do as an individual affects the whole.   That’s life in a body.  When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected.   This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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I Have the Right…

In First Corinthians, Paul explains to the church that as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he has the right to ask them for support.  Those who work in the ministry should receive their living from that ministry.

Having laid that foundation, he now makes a very astounding statement.

But I have not used any of these rights.  And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me.  I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.
1 Corinthians 9:15

Paul makes it clear that he absolutely had the right to ask them for support.  But, by his own choosing, he did not ask them for it.  He also wants them to understand that he’s not telling them this to manipulate them into sending him something.

There were some important reasons for this decision.  Paul knew the controversy that his ministry stirred up in the church at Corinth.  It was a church of many factions.  They argued over whether Paul was an apostle or not.

Because of this, he decided not to ask them for support.  He didn’t want to be the cause of strife in the body of Christ.

Of course, that didn’t let the Corinthian church off the hook.  They were called by God to support Paul, even if he didn’t ask for it.  So there were blessings and rewards that they’ll never receive because of their disobedience.

Paul was able to do this because of the position he was in.  Firstly, we know from Acts, chapter 18, that Paul had a trade that he could fall back on.  He was a tentmaker.  Besides that, we know from 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, that Paul was supported by other churches while he ministered in Corinth.

He was able to minister freely in Corinth because God was supplying his need from elsewhere.

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
1 Corinthians 9:16-18

This is the attitude of a true minister of the Gospel.  It’s unfortunate that many in the church use it to hold back support to those who need it.

A true minister is called to preach.  They’ll do it for Christ’s sake.  They’ll do it no matter how hard a church makes it for them to survive.

As a pastor and traveling minister, I understand this.  When God places a message in my spirit, I can’t help but preach it.  I serve Christ, not the church.

There have been times that I knew God wanted me to preach in a certain church.  I obeyed.  Then, whether by oversight or decision, I received no offering from them.  Am I going to be bitter or complain about it?  Absolutely not!  God pays my salary.  Whoever He uses to support me is up to him, not me.

On the other side of the coin, I don’t want to be found guilty of not supporting the Lord’s servants.  If I’m a member of a church, then I want that pastor or minister to be abundantly supplied.  I want their ministry to be a joy, not a constant struggle to survive.

This is an issue that many churches need to come to grips with.  They think that it’s their responsibility to keep their pastor in poverty.  It may not be until the Judgment Seat of Christ that the church board finds out what their greed and desire for control has cost them.

We need to support those in ministry as the Lord leads us to.

Question: Why is it better if the minister is not struggling to provide an income?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Truth in Titles

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the “grey areas”.  Those activities that the Bible doesn’t talk about, but we debate whether or not they’re sinful.  Specifically, he’s talking about buying and eating meat that has been offered in a pagan sacrifice.

So far, he’s given us two principles.  The pagan temples have no power, so the meat itself is not sinful.  On the other hand, there are those who are weak and may feel guilty about it.  They must be protected.

Now Paul begins talking about a third principle.

Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?  Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you!  For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:1-2

To begin this thought, Paul talks about his ministry.  He is free in Christ.  He has had an encounter with the risen Lord.  He works tirelessly for God, and the Corinthian church is a result of that ministry.

It is, however, important that we hear and understand what he says about this ministry.  Paul is very clear that he’s an apostle of Christ.  The important key is that being an apostle is a ministry and not merely a title.

I believe that there are too many people today with the title of “Apostle”.  Paul shows us that it’s the work you’re doing that confirms your apostleship.  If you’re not doing the ministry of an apostle, then you’re not an apostle.

There’s another, deeper issue that we need to see.  Paul didn’t go out and have business cards printed with the title, apostle.  He didn’t introduce himself as “Apostle Paul”.

You have to realize that you’re only an apostle to those who have been affected under your ministry.  Paul understood that he was not an apostle to everyone.  It wasn’t a title of honor, but a description of his ministry to certain churches.

We live in a generation where so many people are title conscious.  If you don’t have a title, then you have no credibility.

“Where did you go to school?  What’s your title?  Who conferred it on you?”

Do you understand that in the body of Christ none of these things make any difference?  Don’t tell me what you want to be called; show me what you’re doing for Christ.  That’s the bottom line.

As a pastor, I’ve submitted to the apostles that the Lord’s brought into my life.  They had an effect on me and my ministry.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their ministry.

The funny thing is that only one of them ever publically referred to himself as an apostle.  The one who did only used it in meetings where those under his ministry were present.

Instead of trying to impress people with our titles, we should be striving to advance the kingdom of God.  It’s the work that distinguishes you as an apostle or any other ministry gift.  It’s by their fruit that you recognize them.

Always keep this in mind as God advances you in your calling.  Let the results of your ministry be the proof of your credentials.  In that way, God receives the glory and not men.

Question: What happens when someone claims a ministry gift that isn’t proved by their walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Believer’s Court

Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining.  Each side tries to prove its claims.  Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury?  You never know until the final verdict.

But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court?  In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do.  In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians.  The Apostle had some things to say about it.

Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6

The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism.  We are a body.  We’re to function as a unit.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye.  In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages?  It may sound foolish to even ask that question.  Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.

According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties.  In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.

But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here.  It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us.  They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy.  We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.

I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right.  I need to check my motives.  Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?

Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy.  The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.

He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ.  But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.

The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us.  There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case.  In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.

Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships.  I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him.  As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.

Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Judgment in the Church

Today I have to look at a very tough verse.  Too often church leadership is accused of being judgmental.  As we continue to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we see the truth about this issue.  Hopefully, by the end of this post, we’ll see the wisdom of God’s exhortation.

Please remember that the goal of an encounter with a rebellious believer is their ultimate restoration.  Paul now gives his bottom line when dealing with carnal Christians.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13

There are so many issues that spring from this one verse.  The first being, that Christians have no reason to judge those who are outside of the church.

Non-Christians are NOT going to act in a Christian way.  To tell your unsaved co-worker that it’s “not right to get drunk” is counter-productive.  He doesn’t need to clean up his act.  He needs Jesus.

I’m going to stop there before I start preaching.  The emphasis of this verse is not about evangelism, but the condition of the church.

What we need to see is that it’s a part of the job description of church leadership to judge the lives of believers.  The reason should be clear.  It’s to protect the purity of God’s church.

Having been in leadership for a long time, I’ve seen a lot.  A drummer on the worship team trying to sleep around with different women of the church.  Someone who wanted to work with our youth whose name was on the local sexual offender’s list.  A person who wanted to counsel young married couples who was in the middle of an affair outside his marriage.

In all of these cases, the response of the offender was, “You have no right to judge me.”  Paul’s statement is clear.  I have no right to judge unbelievers, but as leadership, it’s my duty to judge those in the church.  Then, those who are disqualified must be removed from their place of service.

In my opinion, it’s one of the toughest parts of the ministry.  I wish it didn’t need to be done.  But God’s people need to be protected to worship God in peace and safety.

I’ve been talking about this subject for the last four posts.  If you review them, you’ll find that the last statement in this verse seems to go contrary to what I’ve taught.  Expel the wicked man is a very powerful phrase.

The problem is that the words expel and man, are not in the original.  They were used by the translators to make a point.  But is that point an accurate view of what the Holy Spirit is trying to convey to us?

Bible scholars agree that Paul is quoting the Old Testament law here.  This phrase is repeated a few times in the Law of Moses.  How was it translated there?

Under the Old Covenant, the offender was put to death.  Praise God for the Covenant of Grace.  But I want you to look at the bottom line of this verse.

The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.  You must purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 17:7

The last sentence is the one that Paul is directly quoting.  It’s not about removing the person, but the sin.  Paul is making the same case in his statement.

Why did the translators give us this quote in two very different ways?  I don’t know.  But under the new covenant, we’re to love the sinner and hate the sin.  There’s a greater chance for restoration if we continue to work with someone.

I believe that 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, is a mandate for the supernatural handling of sin in the church.  It needs to be done in the spirit for the good of all parties involved.

Question: How have you seen the power of the Holy Spirit change someone’s life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Keeping Your Distance

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, is dealing with the matter of how carnal Christians are to be treated.  In many cases, we find ourselves off the track of God’s will in our generation.  There are times we either totally ignore sin in the church, or we kick people out of our fellowship.

As we’ve seen through these last few posts, Paul was not endorsing either of these options.  Instead, he tells mature believers to take authority over the situation in the spirit.

Now Paul shows us the way a carnal believer should be treated on a personal level.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Once someone has been identified as a carnal believer who has no desire for repentance, the work of restoration begins.  There must be intercession in the spirit for this person.  But that alone is not enough.

It’s the love shown to them that will draw them closer to God.  That’s why an understanding of this passage is so vital to church leadership.

The word, associate, in the passage literally means an intimate friendship.  It speaks of a mixing together of two lives.  It’s not referring to a casual acquaintance.

Paul is not telling us to cut all ties with this person.  Instead, we’re to love them back to the cross.  We can treat them in a friendly way without being best friends with them.  The goal is for them to desire a closer walk with God without their lifestyle or attitudes rubbing off on us.

The subject of eating together also needs to be addressed.  In our fast-paced society, meeting someone to discuss business over lunch has no intimate associations at all.  When Paul wrote this, eating together was a long process that usually meant a close, intimate friendship.

The key is that we’re not to develop an intimate friendship with carnal believers.  This goes right along with what Christ taught concerning those in unrepentant sin.  Look at what Christ says to do after repeatedly trying to restore this person.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:17

I’ve seen people who use this verse to kick members out of their church.  Let’s understand what Jesus is saying here.

I think that I can sum it up in two simple questions.  How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  Did He shun and exclude them or did He spend time with them in order to bring restoration?  I think the answers are obvious.

The Pharisees judged people for their sins and had them expelled from the synagogue.  Jesus loved people and spent time with them to bring them nearer to God.  Would you rather your life imitate Christ or a Pharisee?

It’s time that the church started to deal with sin in a scriptural, Christ-like way.  Our goal should be healing and restoration for the body of Christ.

Question: How have you seen scriptural restoration exemplified?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Yeast Principle

I’m continuing my study through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  Chapter 5 is very controversial in some circles.  How do you deal with carnal Christians?  It’s an issue that every church leader has to face.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, the key attitude is a desire for restoration in the lives of these individuals.  Unfortunately, in our generation, many leaders simply ignore the issue, hoping that it will resolve itself.  Human nature should warn us that this rarely happens.

In my last two posts, we saw that Paul called for a spiritual separation to take place.  First, lifting up this person before God in prayer.  Then, if no repentance was forthcoming, surrendering the offender over to the enemy’s kingdom, for discipline.

Why did Paul find it so important to deal with unrepentant sin in the body of believers?  Why not ignore what people do in their private lives?  The problem is that we’re not just members of an organization, but parts of a body that need to function together.

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7

To explain this, Paul uses the illustration of the Passover celebration.  During that feast, the Jewish people must remove all yeast from their homes.  Any bread baked during that time must be unleavened.

Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, bore our sin to the cross.  In that sense, the final Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.  We are now in a continual celebration of that feast.

What the apostle is telling us is that sin is like yeast.  It needs to be handled in the same way.

I love bread.  I love baking bread.  There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh loaf when it’s in the oven.

I can tell you about yeast.  Once you add it to the dough, there’s no going back.  It’s not like picking carrots out of your soup because you don’t like them.

In God’s kingdom, He wants us to deal with the sin before it infects the whole body.  As we’ve seen, this involves a work that can only be done in the spirit.

We’re not talking about kicking a member out of the organization.  But, in the spirit, taking authority over the sin.

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:8

Paul is clear that the person is not the yeast.  It’s the sin that infects the church that needs to be dealt with.

I’ve heard the saying that, “we need to hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  That’s a Scriptural attitude, but it very hard to implement.  All too often we end up hating the sinner and ignoring the sin.

I apologize beforehand for my sarcasm, but the following two statements are how some people act.

“It was easy under the Old Covenant.  Kill the sinner and the sin is removed.”

Fortunately, we’re under grace now.  We’ve been given spiritual weapons with which we can deal with the sin without harming the person bound by the sin.  We’re commissioned to “set the captives free.”

It’s time for mature believers to take a stand in the spirit.  Through prayer and intercession, we can start the process of cleansing the bride of Christ.

Question: How does not dealing with sin allow it to spread through the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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