1Cor 12:25 In Love Accepting One Another 8/1/2010 ßą
#1. We Do Need One Another (1Cor 12:12-26, John 13:34-35)
#2. Members of Christ (John 15:1-8, 14:6, Rom 10:17, Matt 7:21-22, Jer 33:15, Zec 3:8, 6:12)
#3. Covet Earnestly the Best Gifts (1Cor 12:27-31, Rev 22:18)
Please open your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 12:1 (2X). We were here before two weeks ago, but we did not finish this chapter. You may have forgotten the first part of this chapter, since we celebrated the Lord’s Supper last week. God wrote this letter to the church at Corinth because they were not very kind to one another. There was much envying amongst them because God had distributed various spiritual gifts unevenly within this church. What should have united them was actually the source of much division among them. And now, God wrote this Epistle with the intent to bring them together. The tenor of this Epistle is God’s command to accept one another in love. Therefore the title of this sermon is, “In Love Accepting One Another” (2X). The Lord Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And then He said in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (2X). Wow, that is a tall order. How much did Christ love us? He loved us so much that He gave His life for us. Compare this command from God to love one another in the church with Eph 5:25 where He commanded us husbands to love our wives. We read in Eph 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” In other words, we are commanded to love one another as much as we love our wives, and we must love our wives as much as Christ loved the church, whether they deserve it or not. You see, this is a love that knows no boundaries; this is an unconditional love. And so, let us pick up the context of this admonition of the Lord about our lack of love for one another, beginning in verse 1. We read in 1Cor 12:1-11,
1Co 12:1-11 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
In other words, these nine gifts of God the Holy Spirit were given to various members of the church at Corinth for the purpose of edifying the whole church. These gifts of the Spirit were not just for the individuals to be proud of, but these gifts were given so that we can love one another for the service that we can give to one another. These gifts were given so that we can teach one another what we read in the Bible, and that we can teach one another what salvation is, and that we can inform one another if there is a need for physical and spiritual healing somewhere in the congregation, and that we can inform one another of the physical needs for food or clothing among the poor, and that we can inform and teach one another about the various forms of worship that are going on in the churches around us, and so on. And for the Corinthian church it meant that they could inform one another of the special messages that God gave to them in a dream, or in a vision, or in a tongue. This was necessary, because they did not have the Bible. As far as the travels of the apostle Paul went, they were located in the farthest corner of the world. And so, the gifts from God the Holy Spirit were for the benefit of the whole church, and if they would have shared the benefits of those gifts with one another they would have strengthened the bonds within that church rather than cause divisions. But now the Lord explains to them in a parable why:
#1. We Do Need One Another (1Cor 12:12-26, John 13:34-35)
1Co 12:12-26 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Therefore, since all the members of that body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ, and so also has Christ made the church. Just like there are diversities of gifts in the human body, so also are there diversities of gifts in the church. God designed it that way so that it will be obvious that we do need one another. We do not need to be joined in church denominations. In fact it is unbiblical to have church denominations where many churches are lorded over by one headquarters. But within one church all the members do need one another, because God has designed the local church just like the human body. You would not volunteer to have one part of your human body to be cut off, since that would hurt your entire body. And likewise, if one member of the church would be insulted, or would be put down, or would suffer persecution, then all the members of that church would feel bad, and try to help his family.
Why should there be such a reaction throughout the entire congregation? It is because we have been commanded to love one another. Please put a sticker here in 1Cor 12 and please turn to the Gospel According to John, John 13:34 (2X). These words the Lord Jesus spoke right after He and the disciples ate the last Passover meal, right after Judas was pointed out as the betrayer, and Judas left, and the wheels leading to His atonement on the cross were put in motion. Then He gave the last sermon to the disciples, which is contained in chapters 14,15,16, and 17. But these words in chapter 13, verses 31-38 also belong to this last sermon that Jesus gave. And would these last messages of Jesus not be the most important words for them in their future life. Of course these would be the most important words the Lord spoke. The Lord Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (2X). What did the Lord mean by that?
Why did the Lord Jesus call this a “new commandment”? This commandment He gave them as He was about to leave them, to be a badge of discipleship, by which they might be known as His friends and followers, and by which they might be distinguished from all others. It is called “new”, not because there was no command before which required them to love their fellow man. For one great precept of the law was that they should love their neighbor as themselves (Lev 19:18). It was “new” because it had never before been used for any class or body of men by which they might be known and distinguished. But in the case of Christians they were not to be known by their wealth, or learning, or fame; they were not to aspire to earthly honors, but they were to be distinguished by tender and constant attachment to each other. This was superseding all distinctions of country, or color, or rank in society, or of office. Here they were to feel that all were on the same level, that they had common wants, were redeemed by the same sacred blood of Christ, were going to the same NH&NE, and they were going to receive the same reward of eternal life. And when I say “reward of eternal life” I do not mean reward for work done, for our reward is freely given to us by grace, and by grace alone; by which we understand that the definition of grace is unmerited favor. Christians were to befriend each other in trials, be careful of each other’s feelings and reputation, and deny themselves if it is profitable for their fellow Christian. But look at the extent to which this love was to be carried out. The Lord Jesus followed up this command with the words “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”. And now He was about to show His love for them by His death on the cross. And it is a well documented fact that this eminently distinguished the first Christians, and that they said among the heathen, “See how they love one another. They are ready to lay down their lives for each other.” And rightfully so! This gets down to the heart of the Gospel.
Why are we here? We are here because Almighty God had mercy on us. We messed up, and we deserved the penalty for our sins, but since we have a merciful God, He had mercy on us and gave us a second chance. And that is the Gospel; that is the Good News! Do we realize that there would be no Gospel without the existence of sins? We could not know the Gospel if we had not sinned! We messed up, and we must pay the penalty that was due for our sins. But since our sins are very great, for we have slapped God in the face, the penalty is also very great, and we are not capable to pay the penalty in full. God says that the wages of sin is death, and the death that God has in view is an eternity in Hell. We are not capable to pay that much, for an eternity means that we would never be done paying the penalty But we heard God say in the Bible that He would forgive us our sins if the Lord Jesus Christ would pay our penalty, and He is able to pay the penalty in full. He is able to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell on our behalf. What could we do to have the Lord Jesus Christ pay this great penalty on our behalf? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! God chose to give this great substitution freely. And how free is free? If we would be required to DO anything for it, then it is no longer free. But God is very emphatic about it, for God said in Eph 2:9, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”. No one should be able to say, “I chose to believe in Jesus, and that is why I am saved”. No one is saved in that way. NO, NOT ONE!
We are all here in the same boat. We all messed up. We all have led a sordid life in the past. By the grace of God we also have been given a second chance. And what is this second chance? Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to Titus, Tit 3:5 (2X). And while you look that up, let me remind you of the words the Lord Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3:3, where He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, “If we are not born again”, or better “If we are not born from above”, we cannot even see the kingdom of God. In other words, there must be a change within us which characterizes that we have been born again, or born from above. Let us read Titus 3:5 which refers to the same thing in different words. We read in Tit 3:5,
Tit 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
God saved us according to His mercy; He did not save us according to our works. None of our works could qualify to offer unto God. We cannot say, “He saved me because I have believed”, for then we put our trust in what we believe, which is what we have done. It was only His grace by which He chose to pour His mercy on us; and this is how He saved us: “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” What does that mean? It means that He washed our sins from our soul. Our souls were dead in trespasses and sins, for God says in Eph 2:1, “And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” And this washing occurred at the time our dead souls were regenerated, meaning they were made alive and were renewed by the Holy Ghost. And the reason the Holy Spirit could wash our souls is because the Lord Jesus Christ has paid for our sins on Friday, April 3, in the year AD 33. There was no other day in the history of mankind that sins were paid. And thus, only if God the Holy Spirit has washed our souls at the moment He regenerated our dead souls, are we able to live a life that can be pleasing to God. All those who have not been born from above cannot do anything that is pleasing to God. But we must remember that we were not present when Christ went to the cross on our behalf, and thus there was nothing that we could do to influence His decision almost 2000 years ago. The payment that Christ made on the cross, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, was done for us entirely by grace, and it was not earned or deserved. And here we are. We are in the same boat, we all messed up, we all were saved by the same matchless grace, receiving the same instructions to grow in grace until the second coming of the Lord, receiving the same destiny in the life hereafter, and receiving the same commendation from our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And so, how can it be that we do not love one another? Would it be possible that we do not love one another, even though we realize that we are of the same family? No, that is not possible! If we do not love one another now, we shall also not love one another in the life hereafter. God says in 1John 3:14, “1Jo 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (2X). And God says in 1John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” These are not verses that are loosely distributed throughout the Bible; these are verses to put in our memory, and to make them practical in our daily life. We who are saved are all in the same family, which is the family of Christ, and thus we are also members of Christ.
#2. Members of Christ (John 15:1-8, 14:6, Rom 10:17, Matt 7:21-22, Jer 33:15, Zec 3:8, 6:12)
Let us look at this from another vantage point. Please turn in your Bibles again to the Gospel of John, John 15:1 (2X). We have here a passage which emphasizes that we all belong to the same family, the family of Christ. Through Adam’s sin we were separated from Christ and we were grafted into a strange vine, which is the vine of Satan. If we remain there we would be judged on the last day with Satan. But by the grace of God we are taken from that strange vine and are grafted into the true vine. We read in J,
Joh 15:1-8 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
What is this parable teaching us? It teaches us first of all that Christ is the only vine that we should be part of. Christ is the only one who can bring us to heaven. Turn your eyes to the left of your Bibles, to John 14:6 (2X), and there we read, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” And so, turning our eyes again to John 15:1, we see that Christ is the only true vine, and we are branches of this vine, and God the Father is the loving Husbandman who loves and cherishes this vine with all its branches. All the branches were chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, for the wisdom of God is infinite, and thus He does not graft someone in the nick of time. Every branch that truly is in Christ, but that does not yet bear fruit, is someone who was chosen to be in Christ but has not yet been born from above. In verse 2 we read that these are the branches that the Father cleanses so that it also may bring forth fruit. This cleansing refers to being born from above. Newer translations of the Bible have changed it to the Father pruning those branches. But the original Greek text does not allow that. The Greek text says plainly “cleanse”, using the same word that is used in verse 3, where it is translated “clean”. But when Bible translators are not saved, they will not recognize the sovereignty of God; and they will not believe the concept of being “in Christ” from before the foundation of the world, as is so clearly shown in Eph 1. Now in verse 3 when we read “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you”, the Lord is not saying that words have the power to atone for sins. Instead the Lord is referring to Rom 10:17, where the Lord says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It means that saving faith comes by physically hearing the true Gospel, and the spiritual hearing or the understanding, comes by a spoken word from God. Like God spoke the world into being, so He exercises His creative power to speak a dead soul into life. But there is more. When we consider the timing of events, we realize that the Lord Jesus atoned for our sins in AD 33, but He cleanses our souls from sins in this century. There are many souls in this century which He will not cleanse. And thus the question arises if the Lord Jesus will atone in AD 33 for the souls of those whom He knows that they will spend eternity in Hell? The answer is obviously NO! for the works of Christ cannot be frustrated. And so we see that the Lord’s atonement was a limited atonement, or a particular atonement, only for the souls of all the elect who are destined to go to heaven. Then in verse 4 the Lord Jesus explains that the only way to stay alive unto God is to continue to be grafted in Christ, and He in us. If we consider a grape-vine where one of the branches is cut off, this is a branch that will die if it remains on the ground. Likewise, we cannot boast that we bear fruit of ourselves, for our fruit is produced because we are spiritually fed from the main vine, for if we are cut off from the vine we will no longer bear fruit, but we become a prey for Satan. Therefore it is only by the grace of God if we persevere in the faith that He has given us. Now in verse 5 we discover three main points: #1, We are the branches that He has elected to be in Him. If we find that we are abiding in Him, if we find that we love His Word, it is very likely that we have been elected from before the foundation of the world. #2, If we remain in Christ we will bring forth much fruit. But what is the fruit that we will bring forth? From the words of Matt 7:21-22 we know that doing wonderful works are not necessarily pleasing to God, but preaching and teaching the Word of God faithfully that is pleasing to God. And herein we will bring forth much fruit. #3. The Lord Jesus said, “for without me ye can do nothing”, and here the word “nothing” indeed means “absolutely nothing”. In other words, anyone in the world, saved as well as unsaved people, are dependent on Christ to do anything at all. For without Christ they can do nothing. Even Satan must ask permission to do anything on this earth. When we turn our eyes on verse 6 we must keep the correct translation in mind. The literal translation of
John 15:6, “If anyone abide not in me, he is cast forth as THE branch, and is dried up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
The primary omission in verse 6 was the particle THE, which precedes the word “branch”. Who is THE Branch in the Bible? Let me just list here three verses, and from these we draw our conclusion:
Jer 33:15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
Zec 3:8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
Zec 6:12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Unquestionably, “My Servant THE Branch” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus, John 15:6 tells us that anyone who does not abide in Christ, will be cast forth as Christ was cast forth, and had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. If God’s own Son had to endure Hell for our sins, then any-one who is not a child of God must be expected to suffer the same Hell for his own sins.
And so, what we see develop here in John 15 is the harmony that exists in the group of people who are grafted into Christ. We are all one family, and we are all bearing fruit that reflects the one and only Gospel of salvation. We are all at peace with God, for we are all grafted into the one vine which is the true vine. And after we have been cleansed, which means after we have become born from above, we are all bearing fruit. And now that we have seen that we are all members of Christ, let us recognize that
Please turn again to 1Cor 12:25 (2X) and let us now see for what purpose God designed the church this way, that we need one another, and that we should love one another, and that we are all members of Christ, of the same family of Christ, and members of one another. 1Co 12:25, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” God does not like it when there will be a split in the church. Such divisions are usually the result of selfish motives from one or perhaps from both sides. Here in the church at Corinth the schisms that God is referring to arose from two parties: those who spoke in tongues and those who do not speak in tongues. And that is also where we see schisms today. Next week we will address the legitimacy of tongues. Today we will simply lay the groundwork. And what is the groundwork? We read in 1Co 12:26, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. If a church would operate according to God’s plan, loving one another, then we can clearly see “the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The idea is that no member of the church should be overlooked or despised, but that the whole church should feel a deep interest for all its members. If one is tempted or afflicted, the other members of the church should feel it, and bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law. If one member is poor, and I mean physically poor, the others should come to his aid. Let me digress here a little. No one in these United States of America is really poor. We may develop some pity for those who are relatively poor, but no one in America is really poor. Most people in this country do not know what poor is. As you know, I spent my first 18 years in Indonesia. My Mother was widowed twice. My mother was very poor when she became a widow the first time. I am speaking of the period in time between 1935 and 1945. She was so poor that she had to watch one of her children die, because she had no money to go to the doctor. No one in America is that poor. She had no money to feed all her children, so she sent three of her children to orphanages operated by the nuns and by the Jesuits. The invasion by Japanese troops in 1941 put an end to this stay in orphanages. Joseph and Mary were also very poor. They were so poor that they used a manger for the crib of their newborn baby, the Lord Jesus. No one in America is that poor. But let us remember that those who are relatively poor in America may be tempted by self-pity, and that would be a pitiful situation. So let us have patience and pity for those who should be pitied, and if they are within our church let us help them as much as we can. Let us also have pity with those who did not have much education and let us be patient to help them out whenever we can. If I would be living in the Netherlands I would have four titles behind my name. But when Christ comes again I would be raptured with some who have not even finished elementary school in all their life. And they would be my equals, my partners in glory. Should I then prop myself up to a higher status than they presently are? NO! If they are my brothers and sisters in Christ in the life hereafter, then they should also be my brothers and sisters in Christ in this life. The caste system that is so prevalent in Europe and in Asia is a system that was developed by the Devil for the benefit of propping up the pride of foolish men. Let us not fall prey to that kind of sin again, for the sin of pride is the basic sin. It does not belong to us here. Rather than pride, let us have compassion on those who have been less fortunate than we have been. And let us always think of the church in analogy with the body. If even the smallest of the members hurts, let us feel the hurt with them. And if the most unimportant of our members rejoices, let us rejoice with them. For this was God’s design for the church. This was God’s plan. And this is just for starters. This is the minimum we can do. But now God tells us:
#3. Covet Earnestly the Best Gifts (1Cor 12:27-31, Rev 22:18)
Now God tells us to consider again the analogy of the church with the body. We read in 1Cor 12:27-31
1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
1Co 12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
1Co 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
God has given gifts by which some are apostles. Let me again digress for a moment. The word Apostle has been translated in Latin to Missionary. And since Corinth was really the farthest corner in the mission field of the apostle Paul, it is unlikely that there were other apostles in the church at Corinth. What is in view are missionaries. In the English language the word Apostle has different connotations. There were 13 apostles, and not more. John was the last of the living apostles, and when he died there were no more apostles. Barnabas was not an apostle but a missionary. What is presently touted as the Apostolic Church is a fake, and is a total mis-understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. Moreover, Prophets are those who proclaim a divine message. The office of a prophet refers exclusively to people who are appointed by God to reveal a new message. But for our days God ruled out this possibility by declaring in Rev 22:18 that no more new revelations will be coming from God. And thus, what is left is the function of a prophesying. The function of prophesying simply means that we read aloud the words God spoke in the Bible. And these are God’s words, word for word. And so, when we see the various ranks in the church, we may ask the Lord to supply us with a more excellent gift. And God did not say that it was wrong to ask for greater gifts of the Spirit. Without question, Covet Earnestly the Best Gifts But now, at the end of the chapter God tells us “And yet I will show you a more excellent way”. And what is that more excellent way? Then the Lord shows us chapter 13. This is the more excellent way. God knows that we have much to learn in the area of loving one another. This is earnestly the best gift that we can ask for. Learning to love the unlovables is something we all can pray for. They too are people who are in need of salvation. And let us remember that we all were there at one time; or is it possible, Lord, that we too still belong to the unlovables? If that is so, we pray that You will make it clear to us.
AMEN Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.