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Boasting

We’re continuing our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s dealing with the factions that are dividing their fellowship.  He now asks some questions that are particularly important.

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7

The first question he asks could be asked in our generation.  It literally says, who or what is it that makes you different and causes you to separate or withdraw from everyone else?  This is a question that should be asked of most denominational leaders.

Think about the thousands of Christian denominations around the world.  What is it that makes them so different from each other that they have to remain separate?

I like the study of church history.  I read stories of the great men and women of faith who have done mighty things for the Lord.  Many times, a following arose around their teachings.  Eventually, it formed a new group or denomination.

I wonder sometimes, what these ministers of the Gospel think about the direction those who followed them took.  Would they even recognize the organization that evolved into what we see on today’s church landscape?

“My denomination is better than yours.  We’re closer to God.”

Are you?  Is it the organization that brings you closer to God?  Or is it about a relationship?  Paul’s next questions bring that to light.  What do you have that you didn’t receive?  And if you received it, why do you boast as if it was you that did it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We have received an absolutely, over-the-top salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was something that we could have never accomplished on our own.  That’s the bottom line of Christianity.

Human beings are the ones who have added the denominational distinctives.  These are the things that divide and separate us.  Most of these things are spiritual insights that a minister received and taught.  Then, an organization was built around it.

Actually, if you read the history of denominations, you’ll find that many groups separated over some of the most foolish things.  Many of these have nothing to do with God but are simply preferences in the style of worship or who they’re comfortable worshipping with.

Having said that, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with being a part of an organization.  My church is a member of a denomination.  What I am saying is that it’s not the organization that brings you closer to God.

Your personal relationship with Christ is the most important thing.  This needs to be cultivated through your walk with the Holy Spirit.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Whatever your particular brand of Christianity is, let your walk with God be the most important part.

Question: What do we have in common as believers in Jesus Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Paul and Denominations

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s rebuking them for using church politics instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:4

This is the sign that they’re acting just like the world.  In our self-serving society, we find the person who best represents our opinion.  Then we back them with our agreement and resources.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work in the body of Christ.  Paul and Apollos may have different types of ministry, but both are preaching the Word of God.

“I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

To me, that sounds like the start of denominations.  It’s something that Paul didn’t want to happen in the church.  Our goal should be that everyone follows the example of Christ.

As a matter of fact, Jesus had to deal with this issue when teaching His disciples.  I posted about it at the beginning of last year, but it bears repeating.

At one point He was teaching them about welcoming people into the kingdom.  That brought up a question.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

The disciples remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  From reading the Gospels, we know that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

The Lord is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter who you follow – Luther, Wesley, the Pope, or any other Christian leader.  The goal is that our ultimate standard is Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Who Are You Following?

As we continue in our study of First Corinthians, Paul has begun talking about agreement in the body of Christ.  We’ll now see why he brought up that subject.

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:11-12

When will we learn that among the followers of Christ, there’s only one true God?  There may be a multitude of teachers and methods of teaching, but we serve the same Lord.  2000 years later, and we still fall into the same trap.

Different denominations within Christianity still quarrel over the small details of the faith.  We all have a brand of teaching that we enjoy.

There’s nothing wrong with being different.  That is, as long as we believe in the fundamentals – Jesus Christ, God made flesh, the One who died, rose from the dead, and is Lord of all.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, but my teaching is not the only way to know Christ.

Paul had to deal with this in the Corinthian church.

Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
1 Corinthians 1:13-16

In these questions, Paul is asking about a fundamental truth.  Who is the focus of our faith?  Is it our teacher, or Christ Himself?  The answer should be obvious.

Paul now makes one of his most powerful statements.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 1:17

The impact of this verse is all but lost on many in the church today.  In effect, Paul is saying, “God did not call me to simply convert people to Christianity.  I am not using my superior wisdom to get people to make a logical choice to follow the teachings of Christ.”

Paul was commissioned by God to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Hearts were to be convicted.  Lives were to be changed and made new.

The Gospel is not about convincing people that they need to begin following the teachings of Christ.  It’s giving them the choice to become a new person in Christ.  It’s a call to leave the kingdom of this world to become a citizen of the kingdom of God.

Human wisdom has no power to change a life.  But in the cross, we find the power of transformation.  Paul makes that abundantly clear.

It’s unfortunate that the cross is preached so rarely in our generation.  It’s actually the foundation of life on a higher level.  In the next few posts, we’ll see how Paul describes it.

Question: What is the place of agreement for all believers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2018 in Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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