“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. ”
I can see Paul with his hand upon his heart, stand at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 10, have addressed division after division; in chapters 1, 3, 6, 7, 8 to 10 with an aspiration resonating at the same pitch:
‘One Body under Christ Indivisible’
Mind you the apostle Paul has a job on his hands!
We have previously noted the outline and themes of 1 Corinthians:
Almost every commentator will point out that 11:1 is really the conclusion to chapter 10
EACH of the previous 3 chapters concludes with a personal application of the truth to Paul himself; 8:13; 9:27; 10:33
The truth of 10:33 is a truth / a way of life which Paul has received from Christ; cf. 2 Co 8:9; Phil 2:5ff, and so having taken his lead from Christ (10:33) Paul can conclude 11:1..
Yet 11:1 is not only a fitting conclusion to 10:33 it is also a suitable commencement to 11:2.
We can have confidence in following the traditions and teachings given by Paul (11:2) in so far as we have seen the kind of person he is (11:1); following the Lord with the souls of men his concern.
The evidence that Paul follows Christ is seen in his priorities (v33); “that they may be saved”
Notice in 11:1:
Pauls Desire which informs the whole of the chapter is that in his leadership they might see past him and past all distractions, past the man, past the ministry, past the minister, to Christ (11:1)
Christ brought Paul to them, that Paul might bring Christ to them, that Paul bring them to Christ.
Maybe we fail in bringing men to Christ because we fail in bringing Christ to them! Paul has the same mindset as John the Baptist, just a sign post pointing to Christ, just a voice in the wilderness; ‘prepare ye the way of the Lord’.
2. Headship (11:3-16)
Notice for being slighted as a peripheral subject, unimportant issue, something which some feel free to dismiss on the transient whims of changing culture, that this teaching is founded on one of the most fundamental themes of the Bible:
Themes underpinning not only 1 Corinthians chapter 11 but the administration of God throughout the Bible:
Note the Order of Genesis chapter 1:
Separation of day and night
Separation of land and sea
Creation of plants
Creation of aquatic life and marine life
Creation of mammals
Creation of man
Notice not only order but authority
Genesis 1:16: “to rule the day… To rule the night”
Genesis 1:18: “to rule over”
Genesis 1:26 “let them have dominion”
2. Human government
1 Samuel 24:6
David 2:37-38; 4:17
3. Service and commerce
1 Corinthians chapter 11 vs 3 not only teams us about the reality of headship; the system of Headship which is integral to all of Gods structures and administrations but 1 Corinthians chp 11 vs 3 goes beyond that and gives us the reason for these structures of headship:
Headship is part and parcel of the character and nature of God Himself.
What God does is a reflection of who God is!
This truth of headship, presented in verse 3 is not not simply there as a general introduction to the subject of head coverings and head ship.
This truth of the headship of Christ, over all, is the goal and object of the chapter!
That each member of this divided, dysfunctional and split assembly might be brought to perfect unity under Christ, as head, that they may be as a church, United, one body under Christ Indivisible.
Verse 3 presents:
1. System of Headship
2. Source of Headship
3. Structure of Headship
4. Symbol of Headship
What is headship?
‘head’ : ‘kephale’ is used in 3 / 4 distinct ways in the NT:
1. Physical head – majority of uses
2. Place / Position / Power / Dignity / Authority – Matt 21:42; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; 5:23-24
3. One one definite occasion of origin (Colossians 2:19)
Headship is not dictatorship (11:3)
Note the inherent protection of: “head of every man is Christ”
Headship is not restricted to the church “head of every man is Christ”
Dreams can easily become a sycophantic refuge for the apathetic and hypocritical. The ‘good old days’ of Gods blessing can be safely left there, in the past and with it past passions, past power and past progress. The Corinthians, perhaps not uniquely amongst Christians were happy to place men on a pedestal and praise those who had been a help to them in previous days. They lived their Christian life in the dreams of Joel 2:28. What God had done in the lives of others in days gone by was not the issue. Of primary concern to the apostle Paul was what was hindering the work of God in their life in the here and now. Carnality had eaten cancer like into their spiritual life. They were divided by schism, petty jealousies and compromised by the pursuit of personal lusts. For their dreams of others in the past to become a vision for their own future, repentance from their schismatic sins was required and once that had been acted upon, what was wrong with a little Service?
We noted last time the significance of the sin of schism.
That despite the many sins of Corinth:
Moral (chps 5-6)
Material (chp 6)
Marital (chp 7)
Meat offered to idols (chps 8 to 10)
Meetings (chps 10 to 14)
Miracle of Resurrection (chp 15)
Money (chp 16)
That it is schism which is identified as both the:
Of their failure to thrive and lack of spiritual appetite (3:3)
We noted that this was due to the:
Cause of Schism – the flesh, carnality
Character of schism – looks at people and fails to see the Person of Christ who is the real source of spiritual food and growth and maturity
Consequence of schism – it cuts us off from the very people who may be a help to us.
What could motivate believers to work together like seeing the blessing of fellowship with the fruitfulness of that fellowship flowing out.
The irony of the situation at Corinth is exposed in 3:6 – the secret of Paul and Apollos success lay in their fellowship with one another
Principles of service:
The Position of the Servant:
“who then is Paul? ”
What about position and place?
No Prime Minister here.
The servant loses his reputation in that of his Lord and masters.
We are unable to really see Paul and Apollos in their service because they hide behind Christ, they point to Christ
Like John the Baptist of old – just a voice crying in the wilderness
Paul is ‘just a servant’
There are lots of ‘just servants’ in the Word of God.
Have you noticed them?
Possibly not!!! They do it very well!
Rebekah was just carrying some water for Eliezers camels when she stumbled into her destiny as the mother of a nation of Gods chosen earthly people, just a servant carrying water!
David was just a message boy carrying some cheeses, and parched corn to his brothers in the valley of Elah, when he was drafted into Gods destiny to slay Goliath and deliver a Kingdom and claim a Princess for his bride.
Widow of Zarephath was just collecting a few sticks when she was met by Elijah, and had her life and that of her family was miraculously preserved, and she became a type of Gods future dealings in grace with the gentiles and the recipient of the Grace of resurrection in her home! She was just out collecting some sticks.
The little Hebrew maid was just serving in her masters home in Assyria when she became the missing link between Naaman the leper and the prophet Elisha.
Ezra the scribe spent his time, very impractically, just studying his Bible, when he was identified by Artaxerxes as the ideal candidate to add content and substance to the newly constructed temple in Jerusalem.
Don’t despise a little Service!
Some are too big to:
Carry some water – What Rebekah did when she stumbled into her destiny as the mother of a nation of Gods chosen people.
Deliver some cheese – That kind of a service is a stepping stone to slaying a giant, delivering a Kingdom and claiming a Princess as a bride!
Pick up a few sticks – That is what you pick up before God reaches into you heart and raises your son from the dead
Serve in the home – The kind of cleaning task that precedes the cleansing of the leper
Nehemiah was just bearing the cup to the King when he was called to
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Purpose of the Servant
So what’s wrong with a little Service then?
I’ll tell you what, it’s ‘little’
I want big!
The service may be little indeed but notice that all of these ‘little’ services have something in common; they encourage and produce faith in a great God!
To carry a little water? – Genesis 24
“And the man bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord”
That’s quite a result from carrying a little water.
To deliver a few messages (1Samuel 17)
“That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17:46)
“all this assembly shall know that the Lord safety not with sword and spear for the battle is the Lords” (1 Sam 17:47)
To pick up a few sticks (1 Kings 17)
“And the woman said to Elijah now by this I know that thou art a man of God and the word of the Lord in the mouth is truth. ” (1 Kings 17:24)
To do a little house work: (2 Kings 5:15)
” Behold now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel. ”
Not bad for a little below the minimum wage service in Nathan household (2 Kings 5:2)
All of these small Acts of service have something in common; they all draw out praise and worship to the Lord, they all bring Glory to the Lord.
No praise for a great servant!
That’s what 1 Co 3:5 is about
Maybe sometimes that can be a problem!
Maybe I want to be the greatest water carrier in the whole of history?
Maybe I want someone to say, look at the way that boy picks up the sticks, you’ve never seen a stick picker upper like that stick picker upper!
That’s not what service is about, it’s about pointing others and drawing others to Christ.
Purpose of the servant is not thus to:
Keep the camels happy
Build a big roaring fire with the sticks
Leave his brothers well fed and content
Have the cleanest house in Syria
This all may sound a touch absurd but how easy is it to very off on the purposes of God and get side tracked with issues that don’t really matter?
For Gods work to become dominated by entertaining carnal Christians, maintaining buildings, sustaining service and services?
Easy to miss the point: “by whom ye believed” (3:5)
Provision of the Lord (3:5)
There is a plan
Pieces of the jigsaw for which we are individually fitted
God is in control, giving to each sovereignly and bringing together the plan.
“as the Lord gave” (3:5)
“God gave” (3:6)
“God that giveth” (3:7)
There is a theme here!!
God gave – Just as in Salvation, so in Service, it is of Grace!
Productivity of Service
Let us avoid 2 errors:
The mistake of trying to do everything
The mistake of endeavouring to do nothing
There is diversity in service
It can be just as disastrous to undertake a service we are not fitted for (cf. King Uzziah and his attempt to do priestly service) as it can be to fail to undertake a service we are fitted for!
Gods fits His servants for complementary service
So often the Lord will bring 2 men (or more) together to do His will and accomplish His service:
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul
The Word of God is full of such great partnerships, not by accident but by design.
Could God not have used just 1 man to accomplish His tasks from beginning to end?
Surely with the calibre of men at His disposal that should have been feasible?
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul
If all that was done for God’s Glory was achieved by His Spirit; “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech 4:6). Then surely the servant becomes an object of Gods Grace rather than a means to assisting the Lord.
Was Moses not sufficiently in touch with God to bring the people into the land : “whom God spoke to face to face”
Was David not close enough to Gods heart? “a man after Gods own heart”
Did Ezra not know his bible well enough?
Did Paul lack understanding of Divine truth?
Why split these tasks?
God certainly in Grace uses the diverse talents and gifts He gives to His distinctive servants.
Brought up in the palace by Pharaohs daughter (Heb 11:24)
Educated in the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22)
He had access to Pharaoh
He knew how the Egyptian mind worked
He understand their language, learning, culture and protocols
Who better to go in before Pharaoh than one brought up in a royal Egyptian household?
Who better qualified to lead the people out of Egypt than one who had left Egypt himself?
Mind you it would be hard to lead the people of God out of Egypt if you were still living there in heart or in body yourself.
Who more suitable to bring the people into the land than one of only 2 faithful men who had already been into the land to spy it out?
The qualification for leadership; “be strong and of good courage” (Josh 1:6); “be thou strong and very courageous” (Josh 1:7) is a qualification already shown by Joshua as one of 2 faithful spies who endeavoured to inspire the people to take the land, (Numbers 14:6-9)
Mind you it would be hard to inspire the people of God to go where we have never been, nor where we do not go ourselves.
God used a man to lead people out of what he had already left himself.
God used a man to lead people into where he had already been himself.
I don’t believe that was a coincidence.
Will we ever Lead anyone out of a world we are not prepared to leave ourselves?
Will will ever Lead anyone into blessings we have never come into ourselves?
Not because of any harsh nor arbitrary rules regarding this imposed by God but simply because leading is that; leading!!!
All of this was too much for one man.
David and Solomon
David laid out the resources for the temple (1 Chronicles 17:4; 22:2-4)
It was given to Solomon to do the building
David with his conquests was ideally placed to gather wealth from subjugated people
Not only was WEALTH needed for this temple but there was a need for someone who understood pi – WISDOM (2 Chronicles 4:2)
Nehemiah and Ezra:
Who better to start the building work at Jerusalem than a man who has Cyrus the emperor as his contact and who has the confidence of the throne? Here is the man who can muster the resources to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Interestingly a glimpse into the answer to a question recently asked of me and one which the OT is not written to specifically address; ‘what about the gentile / non Jewish nations in the OT days, did God have any dealings with them?’
Yes He did:
Rahab the Harlot
Ruth the Moabitess
Widow of Zarephath
Nathan the Leper
Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar
Daniel and Belshazzer
Daniel and Darius
Nehemiah and Cyrus
Jonah and Nineveh
Ezra and Zerubabel
Ezra was no Mason nor joiner nor builder
Ezra was a scribe, who had spent his time studying the Word of God:
“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. ” (Ezra 7:10)
Ezra knew his bible
Ezra had wisdom (Ezra 7:25)
Zerubabel and Joshua built the temple – CONSTRUCTION
Ezra brought content to the building – CONTENT
Zerubabel and Jeshua built the STRUCTURE of the temple
Ezra brought SUBSTANCE to the temple
When we come to serve let us not feel that we must do it all ourselves
Moses and Joshua
David and Solomon
Zerubabel and Ezra
Peter and Paul