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When You Come Together

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2022 2:00 am

When You Come Together

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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August 29, 2022 2:00 am

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What is my privilege tonight to share the word of God were going to pick up where we left off in the book of first Corinthians, you would turn with me please to first convince Chapter 11.

Looking at verses 17 through 22, Paul is answering questions that the Corinthians had asked him in a previous letter is responding to various verbal reports that he has heard about the church at Corinth and in our text tonight begins addressing their practice of fellowship meals and the Lord's supper.

In particular, lists read together first Corinthians chapter 11 versus 17 through 22 ask you to stand. If you would honor God's word as a read it tonight, but in the following instructions. I do not commend you.

Because when you come together. It is not for the better for the worse. For the first place. When you come together as a church. I hear that there are divisions among you, and I believe in part, for there must be factions among you, in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized when you come together is not the Lord's supper that you eat for and eating each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry. Another gets drunk. What do you not have houses to eat and drink in or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing what shall I say to you, so I commend you in this know I will not the word of the Lord's prayer together or you have declared that unity in the church is a beautiful beautiful thing, something to be diligently pursued and preserved. We also know that the enemy hates Christian unity and is constantly seeking to destroy it through through self-centeredness and pride through doctrinal error and disobedience. So we pray that you establish in the church of our generation, or an abiding unity that is genuine and that will stand the test of time or we know that unity will only come about as we walk in obedience and humility before you soak. Help us to do that and made the word before us tonight made us in that pursuit. Open our eyes to understand your word. Often our wills to embrace your word. I pray in Jesus name, amen. You be seated our text tonight is part of a larger section in which Paul is going to deal with several matters pertaining to the corporate gathering of the church at Corinth. This larger section runs from Chapter 11 all the way through chapter 14. Paul will deal with a number of different issues related to the gathering of the church how they ought to conduct themselves how they ought not to conduct themselves to what they should be spending their time together doing, and so on.

In the verses before us tonight Paul begins addressing some problems in how the Corinthians were observing the sacrament of communion. The Lord's supper.

He calls it.

In verse 20 he will address Corinth's problem in verses 17 to 22, and then later he will describe the way they ought to be observing the Lord's supper. In verses 23 to the end of the chapter really just deal with that first section tonight versus 17 to 22 as we consider the problem the abuses the Corinthian believers were indulging in abuses that were evidently dividing and damaging the church and hopefully hopefully we'll see some principles that will inform and direct our own practice of Christian fellowship and communion with Paul begins with a general assessment of things and then moves on to a more specific rebuke later in the passage must begin in verse 17, where Paul gives a general assessment of Corinth corporate gatherings. Verse 17 he says, but in the following instructions. I do not commend you. Because when you come together is going to repeat that phrase several times when you come together so that the context of this is the corporate gathering of the church when you come together. It is not for the better but for the worse when the church gathers there ought to be fruits there ought to be spiritual and emotional and even physical benefit from the gathering together of the saints are interaction with each other as fellow followers of Christ ought to make us richer in the things of the Lord not poorer. It ought to strengthen our faith and deepen our love and solidify our resolve and increase our joy and so on. If instead we apart from one another worse off than when we came in. Something was wrong. Something is amiss because God intends our fellowship and communion and gathering together to produce fruit not to destroy it.

So what was the nature of the problem at Corinth verse 18 tells us from the first place.

When you come together as a church.

I hear that there are divisions is the Greek word schisms among you that a schism is a tear within the body of Christ. It occurs when Christians fail to work out their differences and and decide to part ways are separate rather than than concede we see this all too often in the church. Don't wait someone says something that hurt someone else's feelings or does something that someone else disagrees with into a seed of contention begins to grow in that relationship. Time passes and the contention is never dealt with to the point that the molehill becomes a mountain. Eventually this mountain of of contention is so huge that it's practically insurmountable and it becomes easier to just part ways than to deal with the broken relationship.

Notice that the two people in the scenario who are at odds with each other are both professing believers. It's not as if they've abandoned the faith they just abandon the relationship with another brother or sister in Christ.

That's what division is that schism. It's a tear within the body of Christ. And it's ugly and is hurtful and it doesn't honor the Lord. This sort of thing isn't unique to church. Is it we we see in the workplace between colleagues. We see it between neighbors. We see it in marriages.

When couples let disagreements and contention build up over years and eventually come to the conclusion that their differences are irreconcilable.

It's easier just to cut their losses and and and bail than to work things out division it's schism, it's a tearing into of a relationship that ought not be broken.

So Corinth was to some extent going through the right motions. They were gathering together for worship and fellowship they were doing their church thing, but it was fruitless and it was even harmful to the body of Christ. Paul goes on in verse 18 he says, and I believe these reports I'm hearing, in part, verse 19 for there must be factions among you, in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized by the word factions is different from the word divisions.

It's a stronger word than the word divisions in verse 18 it's it's a Greek word for heresy. In fact, that's how the King James version translates verse 19 says there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you, so I heresy.

Unlike mere division in verse 18 is a belief or behavior that is incompatible with the Christian faith is not just a difference of opinion. It's a difference of religion. It's a different faith. It's a truly irreconcilable difference schisms are unfortunate and should be worked out.

Resolve but heresies by definition are unresolvable because they represent a division of such depth that what has been torn into cannot be mended now notice Paul does not condemn the church at Corinth for the presence of these factions. These heresies, he says. In fact, there must be heresies among you. That's how it works.

At least until Christ comes back as long as there is a church being salt and light in a fallen world, there will be heretical ideas and heretical practices and heretical people making themselves a nuisance by resisting the gospel in the true church.

It's to be expected. So just because someone says you Christians are always arguing and divided amongst yourselves doesn't necessarily mean we've done anything wrong. Why because there is a sort of division that is necessary and unavoidable fact. If heresies are not being exposed and rejected in a far worse problem is happening in the church. Heresies will happen within.

Paul gives an explanation as to why they must happen.

Heresies happen so as to expose who the false teachers are and who the true followers of Christ are in fact the New Testament makes this point rather frequently. First John chapter 2 verses 18 and 19 says children. It is the last hour and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.

Therefore we know that it is the last hour they the antichrists of whom John speaks of deniers of the faith they went out from us, but they were not of us or if they had been of us, they would've continued with us, but they went out that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Heretics eventually leave the church. That's not a bad thing.

John is essentially saying good riddance.

We didn't want you here anyway because your lies are distorting the gospel and obscuring the true church from these pretenders who were within the church.

This is the kind of church split you want to happen, the kind that gets rid of cancer and enables the body to grow and function as it ought in acts 20. Another example of this sort of thing.

Paul predicted that this sort of division would occur as he said farewell to the elders at Ephesus. He said to them, I know that after my departure fierce wolves heretics will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves will arise. Men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Therefore, be alert. Be alert so as not to allow that sort of thing to take root deal with heretics by calling them out and removing them. So I using these two different terms Paul is saying that not all division is created equal. There's bad division and there is good division schism is bad in that it amounts to essentially nothing more than than holding a personal grudges and self-centeredness being expressed between believers, but heretical factions are inevitable and happen in, and by God's providence in order that those who truly belong to him might be evidence and made manifest to all think what this means, among other things, is that unity and truth in the body are not at odds with each other. Sometimes our our pursuit of the truth might appear to be upsetting the unity of the church, but it's really not it's it's simply pruning the church of fruitless branches that were really never part of the church. Sometimes we might excuse disunity on the grounds of pursuing truth, when really were just dying on some hill of personal preference. We should be deferring to our brothers and sisters in Christ point is we don't have to choose between preserving the unity of the church or preserving the truth of God's word. It is the truth that creates and defines our unity and so we can and should be pursuing both of these things are two sides of the same coin. Unity needs to prevail in our attempts to overcome differences of opinion and preference and culture while truth must always define the boundaries that dictate our faith and obedience. We don't compromise truth to achieve some pretend unity but conversely we gladly yield our preferences and inclinations for the sake of unity we would do well to ask ourselves whenever we notice division in the body.

Is this a division that's over nonessential matters of culture or taste or preference, or so on, or is it over essential matters of Christian belief and behavior. Decision divisions of the former sort should be mended divisions of the latter sort should be encouraged because as old ones and second Corinthian 614, being unequally yoked with unbelievers is never a good thing now before we move on to verse 20 limit is point out something that occurred to me as I study this distinction between schism and heresy. I've noticed that Christians, myself included, sometimes have a tendency to excuse or justify a schismatic attitude by elevating a division or a dispute to heresy status. In other words, we may not like what another Christian is doing or believing or the direction that their heading, but rather than taking the time and energy and humility to work it out would rather just assume the absolute worst and that person with whom we disagree would rather I guess for the sake of ease and expediency and pride. Suppose that their motives are wrong or or what they're really espousing doesn't merely contradict me, it contradicts God we assume the worst and the other person so that we won't have to humble ourselves or die to our own preferences or figure out how to be more more winsome in how we articulate and defend what we believe. So we privately mentally excommunicate them because excommunication is easier than loving someone with whom I disagree seen a similar thing in marriages that are going through difficult patch of Christian wife maybe is hurt by her husband, the Christian husband is tired of his wife. There just seems to be no end to marital strife and conflict and so divorce is contemplated as a possible solution. The problem is Scripture is very clear about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce and so if legitimate grounds are not met as a spouse easily begins to redefine what constitutes adultery or redefine what constitutes desertion. We we make our opponent toe the line, while simultaneously giving ourselves 100 passes we become skilled at convincing our minds that are conflict with the spouse with the sibling with a fellow saint is certainly not ungodly schism. It's heresy that needs to be dealt with swiftly and severely which is always the other person. It seems that is the heretic beloved. Let's be zealous and unswerving in our commitment to God's truth. Let's also be careful not to conceal our stubborn pride behind a pretentious mask of loving the truth will call the news on his general assessment of courts corporate gatherings to a specific condemnation of Coren's communion practice specific condemnation of how they practice communion. Yes, it's true that some types of division in the church are necessary and yield good fruit, but in Coren's case there different there division was sinful, carnal schism.

He says in verse 20 when you come together. It is not the Lord's supper you eat for and eating each one goes ahead with his own meal one goes hungry. Another gets drunk, understand what's going on here. We need to take a look at a practice that occurred somewhat regularly in the early church, but gradually became less and less normative. Eventually, it was almost never practiced except by just a few sects within Christianity. I'm referring to what the early church called love feasts, we can look at various documents from the first and second centuries and learn a great deal about what these feasts entailed. In fact, do 12 makes a direct reference to them. Speaking of imposters in the church do you do 12 says these are hidden reefs at your love feasts so the Bible acknowledges that these feasts were happening merely church but to discover the specific practices that occurred in these gatherings requires, piecing together of various clues both from inside and outside of of Scripture scholars have done that they've pieced it all together. We can't have a good idea of what first century. Love feasts entailed. We learned that Christians would gather on the first day of the week for worship, usually at at wealthy members home since wealthier families homes were typically large and well suited to accommodate most people often times before the worship service began the assembly would enjoy a full sitdown meal together a love feast will at the conclusion of these love feasts. These these fellowship meals bread and wine were distributed and eaten in commemoration of Christ's last supper with the disciples before his crucifixion. We call this the sacrament of communion. The Lord's supper. It's a religious sign acts commanded by Christ that points Christians to the atoning work of Christ. So the meal before the sacrament came to be known as the love feast and then the Lord's supper followed the love feast was not the sacrament of communion. It just preceded the sacrament. And so the two became closely associated with each other in the early church lease feast began to garner quite the attention and reputation of participants in the love feast were sometimes prone to overindulgence to gluttony to it to drunkenness. Also, following the custom of the time posts would most likely have observed a hierarchy with regard to the seating of the guests. This was normal in first century Roman culture. The most prominent guests were seated nearest the host, while less prominent guests were seated in other rooms throughout the house as space allowed in the best food was served course in the hosts presence while the other rooms at received the leftovers. It was common for the manual labor or for a slave to arrive late to these meals. Due to their work obligations. Thus, it was often the case that guests with the lowest social class were seated furthest from the host and received the least food, if any at all will eventually perhaps as early as the second century.

This sacrament of communion became less and less associated with these love feasts scholars have speculated that this may have been due to the abuses associated with the love feast. Or maybe associate may be due to the growing tendency to view communion as a re-sacrificing of of Christ took on more of a reflective sacrificial kind of an atmosphere rather than a celebrated atmosphere of the course that re-sacrificing viewers is still the view held by the Roman Catholic Church today what I want us to notice is that love feasts were not commanded by Christ, but the observance of the sacrament of communion was. I'm not saying the love feast was inherently wrong just making the point that it was church tradition that associated the feast with communion, not some scriptural command but also notice that the overindulgence that Paul condemns with regard to the love feast had a direct impact on the legitimacy of the sacrament that followed he said to Corinth your self centered indulgence at meal time and negligence of the poorest among you is so egregious that the this token not you give to communion after feasting is not even worthy to be called the Lord's supper your disregard for each other in the one meal renders the significance of the other meal meaningless, regardless of what you think you're doing is not the Lord's supper that you're eating. This is not the first time, God's people had turned a good and biblical act of worship into an empty godless ritual in Malachi 110 we read about the exiles who returned to Israel, only to be rebuked by the Lord for their worship practices. Malachi says all that, there were one among you who would shut the doors of the temple.

You might not kindle fire on my altar in vain.

I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, I will not accept an offering from your hand. Isaiah 1 gives a similar rebuke to the covenant community of Isaiah's day, God says to Israel what to me is the multitude of your sacrifices. I have had enough of burnt offerings of Rams and the fat of well fed beasts. I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs or of goats when you come to appear before me who has required of you, this trampling of my courts bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me. I will hide my eyes from you even though you make many prayers, I will not listen sobering sobering words later on.

Isaiah condemns Israel for their selfish motives and fasting. He says in Isaiah 58 Holden the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure in the press all your workers fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high something. There's a principal embedded here and it's this.

The church exists for God's purposes, not for her own purposes.

And when we gather we ought to be gathering to do that which God tells us to do. We know that the church is to gather for teaching prayer for singing or observing the sacraments for for various exercises of of piety and devotion and service and yes for fellowship that is moderate and pure war. But if and when we allow things other than these to truncate and obscure the main things. Where were succumbing to the same tendency as Corinth, we are substituting things that we like and enjoy the things that God commands it is been a danger for the church for as long as there has been a church. We need to be on guard. Paul has given his apostolic criticism. He then concludes with what can only be called apostolic sarcasm. Verse 22. What do you not have houses to eat and drink in well. Of course the Corinthians had houses to eat and drink in. They didn't have to bring their gluttonous appetite to church with them. They could have eaten at home before the gathering.

Paul uses sarcasm here to drive home the fact it warrants abuses were uncalled for and unnecessary. It did not require a gathering of the church to satisfy their inordinate hunger and so this excessive feast was all the more shocking and in poor taste and expose the fact that they really did love their bellies more than they love the church no matter what they were telling themselves. Paul continues he says or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing. The meal at the church had become more important than the church itself. The enjoyment of a good time become more of a priority at Corinth than the needs and value of its poorest members and so what was purportedly an indication of great love for the church was really nothing more than an indication that the church was despised by these gluttonous self-centered believers. So Paul concludes with a stern rebuke, what shall I say to you, shall I command you in this. No I will not and we could entitle the sermon when going to church hurts because that's exactly what was occurring at Corinth. They were gathering.

They were meeting for worship.

They were observing communion or least something that appeared to be community. They were getting together for Christian fellowship again. At least something that appeared to be Christian fellowship.

The problem was that all of their meeting in eating and worshiping and fellow shipping was not only not bearing good fruit.

It was damaging the body of Christ church. It is quite possible for us to outwardly do all the right things and convince ourselves that what were engaged in in the name of church gatherings is good and right. All it is actually all pretense, and even a harm to ourselves and to the saints around us. It's a sober warning for us should drive us to take our participation in the life of the church seriously and to conduct our interaction with the saints in a wise and biblical and selfless manner. We just mention a few points of application as we close tonight.

Verse 17 says when you come together and this assumes that the church is coming together.

It assumes that the gathering of the church's importance. The question then is this am I participating in the corporate life of the church as I should.

I realize I'm preaching to the choir tonight. Let me just say this, we had about 250 people in worship this morning.

Tonight we have about 80. I don't know where the other 170 people are that were here this morning on what they're doing. Certainly don't assume that everyone who is here this morning doesn't have a legitimate reason for not being here tonight. But since this is a typical phenomenon on Sundays. I suspect that there is a lot of negligence of the corporate worship going on in the body of Grace Church.

I am so grateful that you were here sharing this worship is fellowship together tonight.

We have sweet fellowship in our evening services. I just wish the rest of the body were here to enjoy it with us. Our zeal and faithfulness in participating in the life of the church doesn't just affect ourselves.

It affects the whole body, and my present MI involved in my eager to be a part of the body over 17 continues when you come together. It is not for the better but for the worse. This means that merely gathering is not enough because there is a right way and a wrong way to gather is spiritual fruit being produced as a result of my participation in the life of the church participate. Participation in body life.

It is not merely a quantity thing. It's also a quality thing. It matters how we do it.

Verse 19 says there must be factions in this means is we've Artie pointed out that some division is to be expected. The question is what kind of division do I find myself embroiled in is it the harmful spirit of schism, or is it out of a purifying resistance to heresy. Let's be willing to resist the heretic, but let's not excuse schism under the banner of purifying the church. Verse 20 says it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. This means that it's possible to go through the motions of participating in the body without truly worshiping or fellow shipping is my participation in the life of the church governed and prioritize, not by my wishes and ideas and vision for what the church ought to be, but by the commands of Christ. If it's not it's it's really nothing more than self worship is just empty religion. Verse 21 reprimands Christians by saying each one goes ahead with his own meal and this of course is a condemnation of self-centeredness of self focus of self-serving self exalting attitudes and behavior. MI properly aware of the needs physical, emotional, spiritual, of my fellow saints NMI, eager to meet those needs. Even at personal sacrifice when necessary.

Verse 22 was perhaps the most scathing rebuke. It says do you despise the Church of God. It may look like I'm holding the church in high esteem simply because I enjoy the gathering in the activity of the body. If I'm doing it for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways. It's actually a despising of the church enjoyment of getting together is not an accurate measure of my love for the church. If it's not tempered with the commitment to conduct myself, according to God's instruction.

I don't to give us pause and cause us to evaluate our motives and actions in the body of Christ you know to end on a positive note, the opposite is also true.

If you are eager to gather with God's people and engage in all the wonderful means and measures of grace that he has given us to busy ourselves with until he returns it. If you're eager to hear the word of God and eager to encourage other saints and be encouraged by other saints to walk faithfully to that word. If you take delight in praying and befriending and caring for others within the body and if you anticipate the joy of proclaiming the Lord's death, together with the saints as we take communion together.

If these things are your delight. Then, far from despising the church you are building up church for whom Christ died. In so doing you were honoring the head and bridegroom of the church by loving his bride wrist in the next several chapters thinking deeply about what this fruitful faithful participation in the body of Christ. Looks like will stop here for the night.

Just leave you with this thought, if Christ loved the church enough to die for her. We can certainly love her enough to make it our aim to honor and edify all of her members from the greatest of the least may that be our goal is that the reality Grace Church spring while you're good to give us one another. Thank you for the church. This family of redeemed sinners who together have come to understand and experience your amazing Grace, would you please or preserve the unity of the spirit here at Grace Church in Harrisburg.

You even increase the the love and affection and service and sacrifice that we give and receive, and are dealings with each other or we don't deserve a family like this, but we thank you for the sweet gift of it. We know that this gift is ours because and only because of the redeeming death of your son, so it is in his name we make these requests of unite men

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