Friday, 14 November 2014
For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 1 Corinthians 11:18
Beginning with the word “for” connects this thought directly to what he just said – “…I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For…” The issue he will mention is one which does not justify praise because their coming together is “not for the better but for the worse.”
What seems a tad bit odd is that he says “first of all” but never explicitly states “secondly” or some other word to define a subsequent point. This isn’t a problem, but it does imply that the issues he will raise were known to be separate issues. This is merely the first and most important of them. A second, separate, issue is that of the improper exercise of spiritual gifts, particularly that of speaking in tongues, which he will address starting in chapter 12.
For now though, the matter is something that occurs “when you come together as a church.” This then isn’t referring to a specific building which would be “in a church,” but rather as a congregation wherever they happened to meet “as a church.” Different locations would have been used instead of a single, regular meeting place. What was probably a common closing statement of the times would be something like, “Next week we’ll meet at the house of Flavius Dwyerinius over on State street. The Lord bless you and keep you. See you then.”
It was in such gatherings that Paul notes, “I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.” The word used for “divisions” is schisma. It is the same word he used in 1 Corinthians 1:10 when pleading that such divisions wouldn’t exist among those in the church. A schisma, or schism, can be equated to a tear in a piece of cloth. It is something which completely divides. Paul had been informed that such tears in the fabric of their fellowship existed, but he graciously adds in, “and in part I believe it.”
By including that, he is using tact. He knows full well that they exist because of the reports, but he is also showing them that evil reports are always to be taken with a grain of salt unless they are confirmed. And this is true even when they come from someone of high integrity. He is therefore allowing in his words the thought that maybe things were actually not as bad as presented.
Life application: The Bible shows us in many instances and in various ways, that we should not listen to those who divide the church on purpose. Murmurings and grumblings must be backed up with evidence and those who present untruths need to be called out for their actions. If necessary, they should be expelled from the church. However, true reports need to be addressed and corrected as well.
Lord, help my tongue to be one which heals wounds. Keep me from using it to tear apart others or to inflict harm. When I speak, I pray that those around me will believe my words at face value as words of integrity. And this, not because of my name, but for the sake of Your name, which I bear. The honored and distinguished title of “Christian” is of the highest value, and I pray that my words will always reflect honor upon it. Guide me in this each day as I walk in Your presence, O God. Amen.