Do your remember, as children, using your hands to demonstrate "here's the church, here's the steeple, open wide and here are the people"?
Well, here is the church and here are the people at Corinth.
Paul, the premier church planter, planted imperfect churches. Because churches are made up of imperfect people at various stages of Christian growth, there are no perfect churches, never have been and never will be.
The church at Corinth was fraught with problems, one of which was their relationship with Paul, who had actually started their church. Some complained that he was harsh, while others complained that he wasn't "Apostle-like". In today's passage Paul goes to great length to describe the side effects of being the first church planter: suffering, and more suffering. Most pastors today would have given up on Corinth years earlier. Few have suffered for the Gospel more than Paul.
Everything Paul did and taught to the Corinthian believers was for their good and their strengthening. Even after years of working with them he feared that his next visit would reveal "quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" among them. In fact, their continual sexual immorality and people problems caused Paul to be concerned over whether some of them had really experienced the Spiritual birth. So, he challenges them to "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith".
So when you attend church this week, remember that it is made up of imperfect people--people like yourself-- working through various problems who need grace, grace from God and grace from others. You can make your imperfect church a better place by praying for grace and showing it toward others.
"All believers in the church, Christ's body, are positionally perfect, but they are all practically flawed." Robert Gromacki, The Holy Spirit, Who He Is, What He Does (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999), 181.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Corinthians 11:16-13:14
- Describe Paul's relationship with the Corinthian believers.
- Because pride has destroyed many great men what does God do for Paul in order to protect him from becoming proud?
- What is Paul's goal in praying for and pouring out his life for the Corinthian believers?
- What does faith in Christ produce in believers?
- How does Paul describe God's relationship with the Roman believers?
- Describe Paul's heart for those at Rome.
- How does Paul describe the gospel?
- What does creation communicate about God?
- Why is what a person thinks about creation/origins of the world so important?
- What is the first step toward godlessness and the first evidence of godlessness?
- Paul describes those who are godless as those whose thinking is futile and minds are depraved. How does that relate to verse 16 where he states "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:"? (Read Prov. 23:7b)
Thank the Lord that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (even as vulnerable and imperfect as the church is). Thank Him for those who have labored in the past as church planters and for those who labor now. Pray for your pastor and pray for your church.