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HOW TO IMPROVE THE IMPERFECT CHURCH

HOW TO IMPROVE THE IMPERFECT CHURCH

By Jim Mullican




The church of Christ in ancient Corinth was a church with many problems and imperfections. A study of the two letters to Corinth that are preserved in the New Testament quickly impresses us with that fact. They were divided into cliques that refused to welcome outsiders. They idolized certain preachers. They were filled with pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness. Some were guilty of immorality. Some weakened the influence of the church by participating in the false religions of their neighbors. Women were usurping authority God didn't give them. Some were not giving as they should. They were focusing their attention on unimportant things and failing to show the kind of genuine love for one another they should have. As a matter of fact, they were very much like most congregations today!


Even their meetings on the first day of the week to participate in the Lord's supper, to give, to pray, to sing and to hear the word of God were occasions when some seemed to go out of their way to hurt the feelings of others. Paul reminds them that Jesus instituted the supper on the night before his death, and then he says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself" (I Corinthians 11:27-29).


On occasion, some have declined to participate in the Lord's supper, feeling themselves to be "unworthy," but the fact is that all of us are unworthy. We are all guilty sinners, saved only by the grace of God shown in sending Jesus to die in our place (Ephesians 2:8-10). Paul is not saying that those who are conscious of personal sins and shortcomings need to abstain from participation in the supper. In fact, he's saying just the opposite. Many in the Corinthian church saw themselves as the spiritually elite. They were convinced that they were right on everything, and they were upset with those who failed to measure up to their standard. They made their point by their refusal to speak to others or to fellowship with them. But Paul reminds them that those others whom they criticize and exclude are members of the body of Christ too, and probably are even more acceptable to Christ because of their humility in contrast to the arrogance of the "judges." He says, "Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup." No one is told to abstain. We are simply told to focus on our own attitude, correcting that. Then we are all to share in the Lord's supper as imperfect but equally valued members of the body of Christ.

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