Here at Bearwood Chapel, we’re just coming to to the end of a fantastic Bible teaching series looking at Paul’ first letter to the Corinthians. It’s great when you get to the end of a series to look back and see some of the things God has been teaching the church.
Here are some highlights.
We could divide the teaching into four mini-series covering the following themes.
Chapters 1 – 6 “What kind of church?” What does it mean to be a church and what sort of church should we be? How does our local church measure up? Paul writes to a church that is gifted but divided. People think that they are more important than each other and squabble over status and identity.
Chapter 7-10 “Life Together.” Practical teaching about life as part of god’s community. What are the Gospel implications for the circumstances we face whether single, married toa believer or married to an unbeliever. How do we deal with different approaches to practical life questions? How do we care for those who are weaker in faith?
Chapters 11-14 “Worship Matters” What happens when we come together for corporate worship? What are the gifts of the Spirit and how should they be used? What should happen at the Lord’s Supper? How do men and women serve together in the Church?
Chapters 15-16 “We have Hope.” Knowing that Jesus is raised from the dead shapes our lives, our beliefs and our practices. These last few chapters are so important because the sense in Corinth is that some of the believers want to enjoy all the privileges of God’s Kingdom, now in this life, on their own at the expense of other believers before they have been made available to all. The Resurrection gives us a right eschatology that guards against the prosperity gospel.
Although we started by talking about life within the church family we saw that these lessons had wider life application because as one of our preachers put it right at the start, we “track things in” from the world into church life (negative) but we should be “tracking out” from church good practice that is a faithful witness.
Here are some of those themes and lessons we have learnt along the way.
God has equipped us with everything we need. We are called to be holy. This means we start with the status God has given us -we are justified and we are encouraged to grow in godliness. God gives us the gifts we need to grow and to serve him together.
We should be marked by humility and unity. We will think of others as better than ourselves and prefer their needs to ours. There will be no place for celebrity worship in the church. This humility will overflow into how we treat people in the community and the workplace.
We are Spirit filled. This isn’t about going around looking at the amazing things we can do or looking for the weird and the wonderful. It is about knowing God’s presence with us. His power is made perfect in our weakness. This means we can face challenging situations knowing that we are not alone. It means we will have assurance that we belong to God and are loved by him.
We should be working for what will last -for what is fire-proof. This means working for what has eternal value. We will prioritise the Gospel but we will also prioritise relationships characterised by love.
This means that we must love the local church. This is something that has come up a few times here. It is so important. We love each other because Christ first loved us. We love the church, even knowing it is imperfect because it is the bride of Christ. We must learn to see Christ’s bride as he sees it.
This also means that we should not rely on the church for our security, value or identity. Nor should we rely on our own position, role, status whether in the church, family, workplace or community. Our identity, security and value come from Christ alone.
We are to be pure -as a church and individually. We saw that this means there is no place for a divided mind where we compartmentalise aspects of our life. It also means we will have a right understanding of Christian freedom distinguishing what is permissible from good. We are free to serve Christ. This right sense of freedom links into another lesson we’ve been learning as a church. Often we (individually and together) can be driven by guilt and shame. When this happens we will bounce between
Legalism – trying to keep strict rules
License – just not caring
Magic – Hoping that the silver bullet or magic wand will turn up (the Spiritual experience, the pastor, the self-help book, the celebrity preacher/worship leader ….)
Instead, we keep getting called back to God’s Grace and full dependence on him. This Grace is “past grace” looking back to the Cross, “Present Grace” knowing God is with me right now and “future grace” which looks forward to Christ’s return and our eternal reward.
We’ve seen that corporate worship is about:
Glorifying/praising God -which includes witness to others
Encouraging each other
Hearing God speak to us
This means that we will use the gifts God has given us to help each other praise him and to make sure we hear what God is saying to us so that we can all be built up and encouraged. It means that we will use the gifts God has given us, that we will be discerning and that we will also be ready to sometimes refrain from using our gifts if it enables to stop, listen and hear God.
We’ve seen the importance of love for one another. We are to “discern the body.” We are not consumers. Church membership is not about having your platinum card for a club or a society. It is about being part of a body or a family. When one hurts, we all hurt, when one rejoices we all rejoice. If we fail to love and care for each other properly then we will see the consequences when people are hurt or neglected.
We must treat the Good news that Jesus died for us and was raised for us as our priority. The evidence for The Resurrection is clear and so we must believe it and proclaim it. Th Resurrection means that we also will be raised and so we have hope that carries us through suffering and pain now.
We’ve seen that what we believe affects how we live and that because our relationship with God is transformed, our relationships with each other should also be transformed. This means that our lives should change. We should grow in love, let go of bitterness, forgive, accept forgiveness and put to death sinful desires.
I’m encouraged when I see those lessons being learnt in a local church like ours. It does not mean that the church will be perfect, none of us will be this side of glory. However, when these lessons are being put into practice, then we will see growth in the health and life of the church. We will be encouraged. We will hear God speak to us. When those things are happening then God is glorified.