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Category Archives: The Church

Too Far for the Sake of Relevance

I’m continuing to look at First Corinthians, chapter 15.  Paul is talking about the concept of resurrection.  He started by reminding them of his Gospel message.  This is, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he then appeared to many credible witnesses.

Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:11

This is the foundation of faith that the Corinthian church was established upon.  Unfortunately, they were now trying to become more acceptable to the society around them.  Belief in someone rising from the dead was a little far out.

Greek society prided themselves on their intellect and knowledge.  It’s a lot like where I live, in the Boston area, where there’s a college or university everywhere you look.

Because they wanted to be “relevant”, they downplayed the resurrection.  Sometimes even telling people they could become a Christian without believing in it.  They were probably well-meaning and though that once they came in the door, someday they’d “see the light.”

What does Paul think about this?

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14

Paul is very clear.  There’s no salvation without the resurrection.  If God isn’t powerful enough to raise the dead, then what was the purpose of the cross?  What Christ did on the cross is meaningless without the resurrection.

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.  But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:15-17

Changing the truth of God’s Word in order to make it more palatable to society only removes the very heart of the message.  It’s no longer the Gospel.

Many in our generation need to understand this truth.  The Scripture says what it says.  It will offend some people.  We can’t change that.

This being said, we can change the way we handle it.  We can be more loving and less judgmental.  When Jesus ministered, He found a way to show God’s love without compromising truth.

We need to take stock of our message.  Does it line up with Scripture?  Once you leave the clear path of truth, the doctrines of faith begin to fall like dominoes.

Paul shows these Christians the end result of a belief in no resurrection.

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Corinthians 15:18-19

The bottom line is to never compromise the truth of the Word to win people to Christ.  You can change the method, but not the message.

Question: What was the message that you believed when you were saved?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on August 28, 2019 in Faith, Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Silent Women?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  As he talks about prophecy and tongues in worship, he makes a statement that upsets and confuses a lot of people.

Women should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35

We have to realize that the context of this passage is so that the greatest number of people get to hear, understand, and receive the Word of God.  It’s NOT a teaching about the role of women in the church.  It’s unfortunate that some people use this as a proof text to erect a spiritual glass ceiling in the ministry.

First of all, we need to understand what they meant by the church.  A church wasn’t a particular building where they had their meetings.  In this context, Paul is not even referring to the entire community of believers on earth.  (If that were the case, then a woman could never speak because they would always be in the church.)

In this chapter, the church is the gathering of believers in a worship service.  This method of worship was based upon the structure of the Jewish synagogue meetings.

This brings me to the next point – the freedom of women under the New Covenant.  Under the Old Covenant, women were not allowed to participate in synagogue worship.  Even today, in many synagogues there’s a women’s gallery that is separated from the main hall by a glass window.

In that gallery, women can do whatever they want.  They can knit, check their email, chat with the other women, etc.

Now, in Christ, women were brought into the main body of worshippers during the church service.  But, because they had never been a part of this before, they were unfamiliar with the protocol of the meeting.

In the synagogue, only the main speaker was allowed to say anything.  It was improper to interrupt what they were saying.  Even when Jesus and Paul spoke before synagogues, the gathering waited until they were finished before trying to drag them out and stone them!

Women, who were unused to this format, would interrupt by turning to their husband and saying, “What did he mean by that.  I don’t understand what he said.”  That was the disgraceful thing that was happening.

The passage explains that this exhortation is to be followed, as the law says.  There is nothing in the Old Testament about women being silent.  So the law Paul is referring to must be the social law.

Among the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were treated as pets; at worst, like slaves or personal property.  Very few women were treated as equals by men.

Now, in Christ, women are co-heirs of the blessings of God (1 Peter 3:7).  Women could prophesy (Acts 21:9).  After His resurrection, Jesus assigned a woman to go and direct a group of men to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:10).  Women are in no way second class citizens of God’s kingdom…at least in the eyes of the Lord.

The reason for the above verse was so that the people of that culture would be more open to the Gospel of Christ.  If they came to a meeting and saw the women breaking social protocol (interrupting the meeting), they would leave thinking that the church had no relevance.

In our society, women and men are on equal terms with God.  They can go as far in ministry as the Holy Spirit leads them.

Question: Why do some ministries have a “glass ceiling” mentality for women?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Supernatural Church

I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church concerning the public use of prayer in the spirit (tongues) and prophecy.  The apostle now gets into some technical guidelines for their worship service.

What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26

This verse gives us some insight into the early church.  It seems that they were a lot like us.  There was music, preaching, and prayer.

The difference is that they looked for the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit in their services.  They wanted to hear a revelation from God either through prophecy or tongues and interpretation.

I don’t know why there are people today who feel that the supernatural has no place in a church service.  Paul says that all of these need to be done for the strengthening of the church.  Does the church not need strengthening anymore?  Of course, it does!

But on the other hand, Paul doesn’t want there to be so many unexplainable things happening that outsiders are scared off.  There needs to be spiritual decorum.

So, Paul continues with his advice.  He starts with the gift of tongues and interpretation.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Please remember, this verse is referring to when there’s one main person praying in tongues.  Everyone else is focused on them.  In that case, there must be someone with the gift of interpretation.  If there’s no one to interpret, then no one should be leading out in their prayer language.

But there’s more to this passage.  It also tells me that I can pray in the spirit silently – within myself.  That’s a good thing to know.  There are times that I need to build myself up in the spirit when it’s not appropriate to pray out loud.  These could be times when I’m at school or at work.

Paul also talks about prophecy.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  As in all the congregations of the saints…
1 Corinthians 14:29-33

We need the revelation of God in our church gathering.  But the key is that it’s for our edification.  Therefore, the Lord wants everything done in a decent and orderly way.

There is never a time when anyone will be “out of control.”  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He never takes you over and makes you do things against your will.  You always have the choice to flow with Spirit or ignore Him.

I believe that God wants to show up in our worship services.  Our generation needs to be more open and receptive to the move of the Spirit.

That requires God’s people to spend more quality time in His presence.  The more time we spend with the Lord in private, the more prepared we are for His public appearance.

Question: What experiences, good or bad, have you had with the spiritual gifts in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Public Prayer in the Spirit

As we continue going through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we’re learning about some of the usages of the spiritual gifts.  What we need to remember is that Paul’s not writing a complete teaching on the gifts of prophecy and tongues.

He was dealing with specific problems that were in this church.  His goal in this letter is to help the Corinthians to expand their love-walk.  Their goal should be to bless others.

So what shall I do?  I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
1 Corinthians 14:15

Because Paul doesn’t want to exclude anyone with his gifts, he makes sure that everyone can understand him.  There are times he prays in the spirit and also prays in his native language.

That being said, this verse is very important in understanding the usage of the gift of prayer in the spirit (tongues).  Some people erroneously believe that absolutely every time you pray in an unknown tongue there must be an interpretation.  This verse explains why that’s not true.

Paul uses the exact same word for both prayer in the spirit and with his mind.  So the keyword is prayer.  Prayer in the spirit is another form of prayer.  This means that all the normal protocols for prayer apply.

There are times when we’re at a prayer meeting and everyone is praying all at the same time.  I’m not listening closely to what you’re praying; we’re simply all together, praying.

However, when someone prays loudly enough to get everyone’s attention, we begin listening to them and agreeing with them in our hearts.  It’s the same with tongues.

It’s perfectly acceptable for a group of believers to all be praying in the spirit together with no interpretation.  But if someone “takes the floor” and their tongue becomes the central focus, then there must be an interpretation.  This is so that everyone, not just the speaker, can be edified.

This also includes singing in the spirit, or as some call it, the song of the Lord.  We can all sing in the spirit together.  Actually, some of the most powerful moves of God that I’ve seen began as God’s people sang in the spirit together.

If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?  You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
1 Corinthians 14:16-17

Paul keeps reminding them that the goal of the church gathering is mutual edification.  It’s never “every man for himself.”

We have to realize that everything Paul’s written so far is about the public use of this gift.  In our private prayer times, we’re free to pray in the spirit as often and as long as we desire.  It’s a powerful tool for our own strengthening.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:18-19

Paul makes it clear in this passage that everything he said was concerning their public gatherings.  Outside of the church meeting, Paul had a rich spiritual prayer life.  I believe this is what prepared him to write so much of the New Testament.

As we pray in the spirit, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us in a very strong way.  Spend as much time as you can in this pursuit of the Spirit.

Question: How have you seen prayer in the spirit strengthen your walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Passion for the Spiritual

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s exhortation to build up the church.  That’s found in his first letter to the Corinthians.  We’re now in chapter 14.

So it is with you.  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12

This verse strikes at the heart of one of the biggest misunderstandings that we can have as believers.  I’ve heard many people speak out against the usage of the Gifts of the Spirit.

Some say that these gifts ceased with the original 12 apostles.  Others teach that we have no say in what gifts we receive.  God’s sovereign choice is the only determining factor in the giving of these gifts.

I was very careful in the above two paragraphs to use the word “gifts”.  That’s an important point that I want to make.  The word, gift, has a certain connotation in our society.

When I think of what a gift is, I think of something that somebody picked out just for me.  The giver determines what the gift is, who it will go to, and when it will be given.  That’s the problem addressed by this verse.

Scripturally speaking, the “Gifts of the Spirit” are not gifts.  That’s a term that man has come up with for tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc.

Even in the above verse, the English translation uses the word gifts twice.  But the word gift is not in the Greek original of that verse at all.

The Bible calls these things workings or manifestations of the Spirit.  They’re the functions of the Holy Spirit through the church.  It’s how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the world.

That’s why it’s foolish to say that the “Gifts of the Spirit” have ceased.  That’s like saying that the Holy Spirit has ceased doing His job.

We need to hear what the above verse actually says in its original language.  It reads, “Since you are passionate about spiritual things, be passionate about super-abounding at building up the church.”

The Holy Spirit wants to work through us.  He’s looking for people who are willing to be used.  These signs, wonders, and miracles are how He operates.

I believe that when it comes to these workings, it has more to do with our willingness than God’s sovereign choice.  That’s why we’re told to passionately pursue those spiritual workings that build up the church.  It’s something I can strive for.

I think it’s funny that the word passion appears twice in the original of this verse, and not once in English.  Passion is something I can cultivate.  The more time I spend with the Holy Spirit, the more passionate I become towards Him and His work.

Spend time in the spirit.  Develop a passion for His work.  Then, expect to see the miracles that can only come from the Holy Spirit working through you.  Make it your desire to use this spiritual work to bless and build up all those who the Lord brings into your life.

Question: Why is our willingness to be used by God so important?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Supernatural Orchestra

In the last few posts, we’ve been looking at how the church should be built up through prophecy, and tongues and interpretation.  God wants to strengthen us by His power.

Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?  Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
1 Corinthians 14:7-8

In talking about the need for understanding, Paul uses the example of musical instruments.  When we gather together, God has a purpose for what’s being said.  If someone is speaking, then it should be useful to build others up in the faith.

In an orchestra, everyone doesn’t just arrive and start playing whatever they want on their instruments.  They all play the same song together.  Even if some play melody and some play harmony, together they make a cohesive whole.

When we gather together, we need to speak with purpose.  The Holy Spirit is the great Conductor.  He should be orchestrating the whole so that all who attend are touched by His presence.

So it is with you.  Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?  You will just be speaking into the air.  Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.  If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.
1 Corinthians 14:9-11

I understand that the context of this passage is about the need for a message in tongues to be interpreted.  However, in our generation, there’s another point that needs to be made.

In the modern church, we’ve come up with our own particular culture and language.  I sometimes wonder what the unchurched think about when they hear what we say in church.

We question why they don’t respond when we call them to be “washed in the blood” or “come to the cross”.  Those phrases have great meaning to us as believers.  But to the world, they mean nothing.

I’m not saying, like some do, that we need to stop preaching the blood of Christ or His cross.  No, instead, we need to be explaining the significance of these words.  We can’t just assume that everybody knows what we mean by these church terms.

Since I’ve already started going there, let me make a few more people mad at me.  I think that this also applies to those who insist on only using the King James Version of the bible.  That’s a foreign language to most people today.

It’s perfectly fine to use the KJV if those you’re speaking to were raised hearing it.  But in my case, a great number of people that I minister to don’t have English as their first language.  They need to hear the Word of God in a way that they can grasp and apply to their lives.

We need to stop being self-centered in our view of church ministry.  It’s not about what I want.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s desire that should be central.

When we come together as believers, we need to be in prayer as to how the Lord wants His service to flow.  It’s not about the songs I want to sing or the sermon I want to preach.  Christ is the head of the church and He should set the direction for each meeting.

Only in that way will we be assured that everyone in attendance, who are expecting to receive something, will meet with God.

Question: How do we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our church gatherings?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, Revival, The Church

 

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What’s the Point?

In my last post, I talked about the importance of a Word from God in the church.  When we gather together, there should be an expectancy that we will receive an impartation from the Lord.

In First Corinthians, chapter 14, Paul continues with this thought.

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?
1 Corinthians 14:6

Having already told the church that he desires everyone to pray in the spirit, the apostle now talks about his own ministry.  He, personally, has a rich spiritual prayer life.  And he will continue it when he comes to the Corinthian church.

When Paul prays in the spirit, he’s speaking to God.  When he comes to the gathering of believers, he wants to speak to them.  That’s how the church will be built up.

This statement is not an either/or proposition.  Paul prays in tongues so that he will be built up.  Then, when he comes to the church, he’ll have something to impart from the spirit.

He says there are four things that you can expect from his ministry.  They’re the same four things that should be the earmark of a healthy church, even in our generation.

Revelation.  The word, revelation, means an uncovering.  There are times when the preaching of the Word will uncover things that have been hidden.

We’re told to be the light of the world.  There are times when people don’t want to come into the light because it exposes the things that they’re hiding.

Anointed preaching has a way of opening people’s mail.  That’s a step in setting them free from their sin nature.

Knowledge.  Knowledge is simply the understanding of facts.  It’s learning something that you didn’t know before hearing it.

Godly preaching will expose you to facts about the people and places in the Bible that you hadn’t heard about before.  The more knowledge we receive, the stronger our faith in God will become.

This is a very important aspect of preaching.  Unfortunately, there are churches where knowledge is just about the only thing you get from their ministry.

Prophecy.  I’ve talked about this one before.  Prophecy is speaking a message that God wants to be delivered.  It doesn’t always deal with the future.

I believe that all preaching should be prophetic.  Personally, I don’t want to stand before a congregation unless I know that I’m saying what God wants them to hear.

But it’s not just preaching.  It could be a word of encouragement that the Lord wants you to share with a friend at work.  It doesn’t always have to be spoken before the whole church.

Word of Instruction.  This is specifically teaching that applies to your life.  It’s an instruction on how to live for Christ.

We have lived in the world, according to its rules, for our whole life until coming to Jesus.  Now, we’re a new creation, in a new kingdom, with a new destination, and therefore have a new lifestyle.  We need to be instructed on how this new life works.

When I come to a church gathering, there’s an expectation that one or more of these four aspects will impart God’s power to me.  Prayer in the spirit equips those in ministry to walk in this anointing.  It also prepares me to receive what the Lord has for me.

Question: How would the body of Christ look if this were in place in all church meetings?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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