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CHRISTIANITY - CHURCH 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

THE CHURCH

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

The Church formed in the New Testament is the central purpose of God in the present age. In Matthew, Jesus spoke about building the Church, and much of the remainder of the New Testament is about the activities of the Church. The word "Church" is a translation of a Greek word "ekklesia" meaning "called out ones." The concept of the Church falls into two major categories:

The principal emphasis is the Church as a living union of all true believers in Christ. This truth is presented beginning with the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit appeared and will conclude when Christ comes for His Church at the Rapture. The Church then will be caught up out of the world and taken to Heaven. The other concept is that of the local Church or the organized Church.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 states three major divisions of the human family: the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God.

  • The Jews, or the children of Israel, are that nation which sprang from Abraham in the line of Isaac and Jacob. According to divine purpose and promise, they are the chosen earthly people of God and have been miraculously preserved to the present time. Although now scattered among all the nations of the earth, they will yet be gathered and blessed. Prophecy in Isaiah 62:1‑12 indicates that Jews will be the dominant, glorified people in the coming Kingdom Age. These eternal promises of Jehovah to this people cannot be altered:  

a national entity, a land, a throne, a king, and a kingdom

In the faithfulness of God, these promises, which are primarily earthly in character, have been fulfilled to the present hour and will be fulfilled to all eternity.

  • The Gentiles are that vast unnumbered company of everyone except the Israelites. Old Testament prophecies predict great earthly blessings to come upon the Gentiles in the future kingdom on Earth. In the present age, they partake alike with the Jews in the privileges of the Gospel.
  • The Church of God refers to the whole company of the redeemed who will have been saved in the present age. They are a distinct people because:

 - All individuals are born again, will enter the kingdom of God, and are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ. They are no longer in Adam partaking of the ruin of the old creation.

 - In the sight of God, their nationality is changed. There is neither Jew or Gentile, but Christ is all in all. They are now citizens of Heaven. All their promises, their possessions, and their position are heavenly.

God, during the present age and for the purposes of grace, has placed both Jews and Gentiles on a common ground. At the death of Christ, the change in the divine program from the recognition of a favored nation to an appeal to individuals, Jews and Gentiles alike, was most difficult for the Jew to understand. He did not understand that his covenants were set aside for a time, but not ended. The Jew is unadjusted to this age‑program to the present time. He will remain blinded in part until the Church is called out. Through the preaching of the Gospel, both Jews and Gentiles are now being saved, and the Church is being completed.

People ask, "Could a person be saved and not be a Church member?" The answer depends on the meaning given the word "Church." When a person is saved, he automatically becomes a member of the Church, which is Christ's own body. It is obviously true that a person may be a Christian and not be a member of a local organized Church. In fact, all should be saved before they join a Church. Church membership is not a requirement for a believer. However, a new believer requires spiritual nourishment to grow in faith (1 Peter 2:2).

A part of the divine work in salvation is the uniting of the saved one to Christ by baptism with the Holy Spirit as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. The meaning of "baptize" is more than the outward ordinance of water baptism. It represents that ministry of the Spirit for the believer which is more far‑reaching in its effects than any other divine undertaking in salvation. It is not surprising that Satan has undertaken to distort the plain meaning of the baptism with the Spirit and the divine ministry it represents.

On Earth, the Church is a pilgrim band of wit­nesses. Ephesians 3:10 says that, through the Church in the present age, God is making known His wisdom and manifesting His grace to the angelic host. The divine commission of the Church is given to individual believers rather than to the corporate body.

In Matthew 13, Jesus describes three major characteristics of the present age:

(1)        Israel's place in the world would be as a treasure hid in the field.

(2)        Evil would continue to the end of the age.

(3)        The children of the kingdom are likened to wheat, to a pearl of great cost, and to good fish to be gathered out.

The supreme purpose of God in this age is not the conversion of the world. It is the calling out from the world those who will believe in Christ to form the body of Christ which is the Church. Evil in the present age will continue, though restrained, until the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is removed. The Holy Spirit will depart only when He has completed the calling out of the Church. Israel's covenants will yet be fulfilled. Evil will be banished from the earth.

The early Church was comprised largely of Jews. They were confused with regard to their own national position in the light of the fact that the new gospel was flowing out to Gentiles. In the present age, neither the individual believer nor the Church is appointed of God to a world‑improvement program. In Corinthians 5:17-20, Paul describes the believer’s new life and new ministry, that of reconciliation to God.

  • The Gospel may be presented to the unsaved through sacrificial gifts.
  • The Gospel may be presented to the unsaved in answer to prayer.
  • The Gospel may be presented to the unsaved by word of mouth.

All are commissioned to this task, but certain imperative conditions must be observed.

  • The messenger must be willing to be placed where the Spirit wills.
  • The messenger should be instructed in the precise truths which constitute the gospel of grace which he is appointed to declare.
  • The messenger must be Spirit‑filled, or he will lack that impelling passion for the lost which alone prompts one to be involved in fearless and tireless soul‑winning service.

The Gospel may be also presented by

  • various mechanical means: literature, the radio, television, and sacred music
  • educational institutions where men are trained to preach
  • missionary aviation which transports men who carry the Gospel

Regardless of means, the truth must be presented in such a way that the Holy Spirit can use it. Every Christian bears a portion of the responsibility of seeing to it that the Gospel is preached to every creature. “Service” is any work performed for the benefit of another. When we trace this theme through the Bible, we see similarities and contrasts between the Old and New Testaments. Almost every doctrine of the New Testament is anticipated in the Old Testament. Almost every doctrine of the Old Testament is incomplete until perfected in the New Testament.

Service which God appoints is committed primarily to a divinely fitted priesthood. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was a hierarchy over the nation. Priests were under the authority of the High Priest. In the New Testament, every believer is a priest. The whole ministering company of New Testament priests is under the authority of Christ, who is the true High Priest.

In the Old Testament, service consisted only of the performance by the priests of the divinely appointed ritual in the Tabernacle or Temple. The New Testament priestly ministry is much broader in its scope, including not only a service to God and fellow believers, but also to people everywhere.

The service of sacrifice is strikingly similar in both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament priest was sanctified or set apart both by the fact that he was born into the priestly family of Levi. At the beginning of his ministry, he was ceremonially cleansed by a once‑for‑all bathing. The New Testament believer-priest is wholly and once for all cleansed at the moment he is saved. By virtue of his salvation, he is set apart unto God into the family of God. In addition, he willingly dedicates himself to God and will experience a transformed life by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

According to New Testament order, priestly service in sacrifice toward God is fourfold:

  1. The dedication of self which is a "spiritual worship."
  2. The sacrifice of the lips which is the voice of praise and is to be offered continually.
  3. The sacrifice of substance.
  4. The sacrifice of good works.

The service of worship is part of the service of every believer‑priest in the present age, just as it was also a part of the worship and service of every priest in the Old Testament. In service unto God, the believer's worship may be the offering of oneself to God, the offering of praise and thanksgiving from the heart to God, or the offering of sacrificial gifts to God.

The service of intercession is different for the believer‑priest. The High Priest in the Old Testament was the only one who was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once a year. Christ as High Priest has through His own blood entered into the heavenly sanctuary and is interceding for His own who are in the world. When Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn signifying that the way into the holiest is now open, not to the world, but to all who come unto God on the ground of the shed blood of Christ. With unhindered access to God because of the blood of Christ, the New Testament believer-priest is privileged to minister in intercession.

According to the scriptural use of the word, a gift is a ministry of the indwelling Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit performing a service and using the believer as an instrument. Every believer possesses some divinely bestowed gift (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11;Ephesians 4:11). Because gifts are diverse,  believer-priests are not all appointed to do the same thing. Gifts are bestowed so the servant of God may be "profitable."  This implies that service begun in the flesh is not profitable. Christians are not Spirit‑filled because they are active in service. They are active in service because they are Spirit‑filled.

The Christian’s responsibility in stewardship involves three phases:

  1. Earning money
  2. Possessing money 
  3. Giving money

Earning money for a Christian must be in a manner worthy of the Christian’s relationship to God. To the believer, labor is more than merely earning a living. It is doing the will of God. In human relationships, there are agreements and salaries (Luke 10:7). Possessing money becomes a great responsibility for any sincere Christian. Giving money which a Christian has earned becomes an important aspect of any believer’s service for God. The Christian is expected to stand upon a grace relationship to God in his giving. This relationship means that he has first given himself to God in unqualified dedication, including all that one is and has: his life, his time, his ability, his ideals, and his property.

The grace principle involves the believer’s recognition of God’s sovereign authority over all the Christian is and has in contrast with the Old Testament legal system of tithing which was in force as part of the Law until the Law was done away with. Certain principles of the Law were carried forward and restated under grace, but tithing and Sabbath observance were never imposed on the believer. The Lord’s Day superseded the legal Sabbath and is adapted to the principles of grace as the Sabbath could not be. Tithing has been superseded by a new system of giving which is adapted to the teaching of grace as tithing could not be. Christ’s giving of Himself is the pattern of all giving under grace. He did not give a tenth. He gave all.

Under Mosaic Law as illustrated through the end of the book of Malachi, and only for the nation of Israel, giving of a tenth of their income was required, and its payment was a necessity. Christian giving under grace was not by commandment, nor of necessity. Under grace, God is not taking the gift but an expression of devotion from the giver. Under grace no law is imposed, and no proportion to be given is stipulated.

God works in the yielded heart and finds pleasure only in the gift given cheerfully. If a law existed stipulating the amount to be given, some would fulfill it, even against their own wishes. Their gift would be made grudgingly and of necessity. To support the work of the Gospel, it is not the amount which is given but the divine blessing upon the gift that accomplishes the desired end.

The early Christians gave of themselves. Acceptable giving is preceded by a complete giving of oneself. Tithing was never imposed by God on any other than the nation of Israel. So Christian giving is limited to believers and is most acceptable one given by believers who have yielded their lives to God. Christians in the early church also gave systematically as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 16:2. Giving is to be from that which is already in store. Those who give as much as a tenth usually prospered in temporal things.

It is evident that this prosperity is the fulfillment of the promise under grace, not the promise under Law, since according to Galatians 5:1 the believer has no relationship to the Law. No blessings are dependent on exact tithing. Blessings are bestowed because a heart has expressed itself through a gift. Gifts made to God from the heart He will graciously acknowledge. Giving must be from the heart. God may be respond by bestowing spiritual riches or temporal blessings as He chooses.

True riches are from God. In Christ Jesus, the believer receives the riches of His grace and the riches of His glory. Concerning self‑dedication, we read in Romans 12:1 of God's mercy, which refers to the great facts of salvation. The presentation of the body as a living sacrifice is the self‑dedication to the will of God of all that the believer is and has. God accepts yielded believers and places them  in the field of service (Ephesians 2:10).

According to Scripture, this divine act of accepting and placing is “consecration.” The believer-priest dedicates himself, but only God consecrates. In connection with the divine act of consecration, the present work of Christ as High Priest receiving, directing, and administering the service of believers fulfills what was the involvement of the Holy Spirit. From Pentecost on, as each believer became saved, he became a member of the body of Christ. Once the Church is complete and caught up into Heaven in the Rapture, the divine purpose will return to the normal distinction between Jew and Gentiles who are saved in the seven-year period of trial following the Rapture and in the Millennial Kingdom.

THE INVITATION

You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16). To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).

You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:

Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on. I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.

                             Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.