In addition to what we have here in 1 Corinthians, there are other texts that deal with church discipline. One of the key texts is Matthew 18:15-17. There we find what Jesus Christ said about how to deal with a fellow believer who is living in sin. He said that the first thing to do is go to him with admonishing words. If he won't hear you - that is, if he won't acknowledge the offense, turn from it, repent of it, and seek reconciliation - then take two or three witnesses back to confront him with the events. That follows the Old Testament legal principle.
We have come in our study of 1 Corinthians to a section that deals with Christian discipline. This is a hard subject for churches to face. And yet, as we come to such passages, we need to deal with them. We are faced with two problems in this matter of Christian discipline in our time. One is the disposition to take it too lightly, and the other is the disposition to overdo it, both of which unfortunately occur in some Christian circles. We need God's wisdom in each case.
Yesterday we saw that the Corinthian church seemed to be thriving - at least in worldly terms. But we find, given his tone, that Paul is being sarcastic. He is saying, "You already have what you want. You have become rich. You have become kings and you have done it all without us. Good for you! I wish that you really had become kings so that we might become kings with you."
In the second portion of chapter 4, beginning in verse 8, Paul makes an ironic contrast. He compares what the ministry has been like for him and Peter with what the Corinthians obviously thought it meant to succeed spiritually. What does he say about those in the Corinthian church? He says they are satisfied. "You have all you want. You have become kings." They are ripe, rich, and reigning. That is their status, and no doubt they were quite satisfied to be that way. That is what they wanted. They thought that was good.
In the passage that we are studying, Paul mentions a number of areas in which we are to be faithful. One is handling the mysteries of God rightly, the secret things of God. When Paul speaks of mysteries, he is not speaking of mysteries as the Greeks would have understood them. The Greeks had various religions that in certain forms have even been revived in modern days. They were called "mysteries" because the things the worshippers did and believed were hidden from everybody else. Paul, here, is not talking about mysteries in that sense. He is talking about that which the mind of man would never have imagined if left to itself, but which God has revealed in the Gospel.
Another word Paul uses here conveys the idea of stewardship. We read the translation "those entrusted," and it actually means "a steward." We get our word economy from the Greek word Paul uses. The steward was the one who managed the household economy; that is, he took care of the business for whoever owned the house. Paul was explaining that his responsibility included management - managing for Jesus Christ, his master, to whom he would one day have to give an accounting.
Paul described the church at Corinth as being enriched with all spiritual gifts and with a great deal of theological knowledge and other good things but also as being divided over loyalty to one leader or another within the church. There were people who said, "We follow Paul." There were others who said, "We follow Peter," and still others who said, "We follow Christ." The central point Paul makes as he deals with this problem is that ministers are servants of the church and that such divisions are foolish.
Paul is saying, "Look, if you have any responsibility as a minister, as a teacher, as a parent, be careful to build well. You do not have to build in a flashy manner, but you do have to build with solid material. You have to take time to do it. A person can throw up a straw building in a hurry, but then strong winds come and blow it all down. It takes much more time to lay bricks and to do it well."
We ended yesterday’s lesson by looking at an unbiblical view of living for Christ. That view states that you can be saved without any visible evidence of the grace of Christ in your life. I was appalled to have anybody suggest that. I was appalled theologically because regeneration has to mean that you are different. It is true we are justified by grace through faith, but nobody is justified who is not also regenerate. Jesus said, "You must be born again." If you are born again, there must be differences. The very fact that you are born again is one difference, and certain things have to flow from that new life of Christ.
There have been reactions against clericalism which John Stott calls "anticlericalism" - that is, if the clergy messes things up, as they do when they try to take over in a way they should not take over, then the proper thing to do is get rid of the clergy. So, there have been movements in the church that have done that. They have said, "We don’t want to have ministers - it's not biblical. We are all ministers." But that is not good either because the Bible has established the clergy for certain roles.
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