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The believers at Corinth were discovering that this was all too true. Paul rebuked them for practices that were inconsistent with the New Covenant. It came down to this: they were eating wrong. Their worship fell short of God's standard of worship, in Spirit and in truth. The way they ate the "love feast" or common meal among the local saints that Jesus established as a symbol of their fellowship with Him and each other was not in agreement with the truth. Paul gave them a sobering warning about sharing the bread and cup that represent our Lord's body and blood, broken and shed for us. Volumes have been written about whether the wine and bread we eat really turns into the body and blood of Christ. We will not even try to address this here, but we would like to address something that we feel is more important.

For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God's judgment upon yourself. (1 Corinthians 11:29 NLT)

Remember the context of this scripture. The Corinthian believers loved to feast, "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." Though they may have thought they were eating the Lord's Supper, Paul quickly pointed out that the manner that they ate was all wrong (1 Corinthians 11:20). "For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others." Nothing could be further from the truth of the New Covenant than coming together to feed our selfishness. The Corinthians did not discern the Lord's body. Each one put his own interests ahead of others. Paul continues, "one is hungry and another is drunk" (v.21). Sounds like the world, doesn't it? Something was missing, and that was body-awareness. They were egocentric rather than body-centric. They were still thinking like individuals and not like a body thinks. They were not eating a common meal that reflected the care and unity of the body as the Lord commanded, but each one ate to themselves, to the total disregard of the hungry among them.

So how do we think like a body? Paul wrote that in a spiritual body, whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it (1 Corinthians 12:26 KJ2000). If you drop a hammer on your toe, you don't merely look down and say, "Poor toe. Too bad you got in the way. I will pray for you," and then go on your merry way not giving it another thought. Yet this is how we tend to react in Christendom when we hear about the misfortune of another member in Christ's body. When someone is shown honor, do we sit in our pew and say to ourselves, "That should have been me!" Worse, these very things are perpetuated by the attitude of today's church leadership. If you are in need of a month's rent and you go to the church benevolence committee (if it even has one), they give you a twenty dollar bill and send you on your way. You get a band-aid to put on your bullet hole because most of the money in the church coffers is for the construction and furnishing of the new church building project or the pastor's trip to Hawaii. As it was with the Pharisees 2000 years ago, all church monies are corban (see Mark 7:7-13). In the church today we like to appear to be concerned for others, but in reality we are not about to loose any sleep (or money) over their misfortune. Yet, it was not this way in the infant church in the book of Acts. They were moved by the Spirit as a body and on one lacked, for no one said what they had were their own.

Corruption and stinginess seem to permeate church leadership today. It is all over the news. Jude gives us a better idea of how the Lord views such inequity. He wrote of certain men who crept in who were defiling their love feasts. He called them "defilers that turned the grace of God into lasciviousness." He likened them to "the angels that kept not their first estate" but rather rose to claim preeminence (1:6). Who were these defilers? Jude explains,

These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. (Jude 1: 12, WEB)

As we look around in Christendom today, what do we see? We see men failing to discern the Lord's body, taking their own super ahead of others. To them the whole idea of ministry is to gain prominence, not lay down their lives for others. So we hear the language of self -- my ministry, my gift, my calling, my church, I, I, me, me, my. They call themselves "shepherds" and "ministers" but they despise the ekklesia of Christ, His called out ones, and defile the love feasts by not correctly appraising (not rightly discerning) the other members of the Lord's body. Failure to discern the Lord's body is tantamount to despising them. Therefore Paul asks, "Do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?" (verse 22). The implied answer was, yes they did. But what exactly did they do?

"dispise" kataphroneo means literally, 'to think down upon or against anyone' (kata, 'down,' phren, 'the mind'), hence signifies 'to think slightly of, to despise, think little or nothing of'" (W.E. Vine).

Pride is a two-edged sword. It cuts two ways. An over-appraisal of yourself causes you to despise others. You cannot think too highly of yourself without thinking little or nothing of your brother and sister, defiling all that Christ hoped to accomplish by His broken body and shed blood in them.

Paul explains further, "For I received from the Lord. . ." What Paul had received from the Lord was something entirely other than what these Christians were involved in.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

This love feast is a representation of the spiritual unity and fellowship of the body of Christ as Paul had earlier explained. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (fellowship, sharing, participation) of the body of Christ?" Paul is not merely talking about the physical body of Christ as he went on to explain, "For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (See 1 Corinthians 10:16).

As we are partakers of the Broken Bread, we collectively become bread to be broken and given to a starving world by Christ! As we discern the body of Christ, accurately apprising each member and relating to them according to the love of God, we participate in the life of Christ that flows through each member of that body. We cut ourselves off from body-life by considering only ourselves, turning the love-feast into a gluttonous party for megalomaniacs.

Paul continues, "He who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." Discerning the body is foremost the discerning of the place and condition of others in the body of Christ and doing something about it (verse 11:29). This has everything to do with us finding our true place in the body. The lack of body awareness is the reason for so much sickness and death among God's people. "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (11:30). The disruption of the flow of life and health in the body is in no small part related to our failure to discern the measure of grace that each member possesses.

God has created the body to be mutually dependent. A hand is no good without an arm to get it to a place it can do something. An arm is no good without a torso to pivot from and so on. Some are given gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:28). If we do not discern these members we will despise them and not receive from them in a joint to joint relationship. We will not benefit from the measure of grace that God has given to them. We will live out all that is implied by the words, "I have no need of you." We are sick and dying because we have cut ourselves off from God's source of healing. This applies to all the gifts. Just as a revelation of Christ is required before we can be saved, we must likewise have a revelation of His Body before we can discern its members and enjoy the fullness of Christ. Without proper discernment of Christ's body we will assume too much, and run the risk of usurping both His headship and displacing the members of His body.

Now let's take a look at a passage of scripture that reveals how the body members should function in relationship to God and each other. The gates of hell tremble at the very thought of it!

New Covenant worship in Spirit and truth, and the hindrances to it, are well laid out in Romans 12:1-21. Please read the entire passage to follow full thought of what Paul is sharing with the Saints.

1I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.
4For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;10love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
11Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.
12Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
13Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
17Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
18If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.
19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
20No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

By the grace given to him and through the mercies of God, Paul called believers to a higher form of spiritual worship. He begins by addressing the primary obstacle to that worship. The first condition for proving God's good, acceptable and perfect will is to present our bodies to Him as living sacrifices. The second is to refuse to give in to this world's pressure to conform us to its way of thinking. It is extremely important that we understand Paul's definition of conformity to the world.

Paul is not referring to outward, fleshly sins like smoking, chewing and drinking but to the world's values and attitudes. The opposite of conformity to this world, in this context, is the renewing of the mind. We must receive from the Lord renewed minds and this comes through His working of the cross deep into our lives. Only as our thinking is renewed can we see what is good and acceptable to God and see His perfect or full grown will come to fruition in our individual lives and together as viable members of Christ's body.

The average worldling thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think. Christians are conformed to the world by regarding themselves more highly than they should. The Greek word here is huperphron, to over-think. The second requirement for spiritual worship, after we have presented our bodies to God as living sacrifices, is sober-mindedness. To think soberly is to think without exaggeration. "We will be sober if we do not take that upon us which we do not have" (Geneva Bible Notes on Romans 12:3).

When sobriety has gone by the way, exaggeration is ever present. The drunkard is the perfect example of this. He walks into the bar, inhibited and melancholy; one insignificant man on an overpopulated planet. After a few drinks he is transformed into an intellectually and physically superior giant, gloriously distinguished from all other living beings. Just ask him. He'll tell you. And if you don't, he'll tell you anyway. An exaggerated self-appraisal is a sure mark of conformity to the world and is the greatest hindrance to spiritual worship. Why? With one trifling exception the body is made up of other members. There are many members in the body and we need to apprise (discern) each of them correctly, recognizing that "God has apportioned to each a measure of trust" (Non-Ecclesiastical New Testament). We will not make place for other members of the body if we feel that what we have is all that is needed for ministry and what we want to say is more important than what any lesser member has to contribute.

In Romans 12:15, Paul describes the depth of interconnection and interdependence that should exist in the body when he writes, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." In a healthy body, what happens to one affects all the members. When Peter was arrested and imprisoned in the book of Acts, the church did not go off to their jobs and offer up a little prayer for him. No, they gathered and prayed until Peter came knocking on the house door where they were meeting after an angel had released him. "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him" (Acts 12:5 KJ2000).

All are members of one another, passionate for one another's health and wellbeing. Hence the exhortation in Romans 12:16, "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." In Acts we see this mutual interdependence being lived out. "And with many other words he [Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.' Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:40-47 NKJV).

Paul reminded believers in Rome that their place in the body was relative to the other members. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (see Romans 12:5). To men unity is based on similarity. If we are alike then we get along. Body unity is completely different because it is based on divinely orchestrated diversity. Everyone is different and yet all are one. We are members one of another and the common bond is Christ and His all consuming love. The proverb, "Physician, heal thyself" does not apply here because the gifts that God gives to the members of the body are not for them personally but for the edification of the other members. "Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. . .Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality... Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited..." As it is with Christ so it is with His body. We are called to fill up the measure of His suffering, laying down our lives in service to others.

God is seeking worshipers who will worship Him in a manner consistent with His being! Millions today are sensing this heavenly call and, like the Christians of old, are going unto Jesus outside the orthodox religious camp, with its fixed structures and man-made traditions. Through years of struggle and suffering they are learning to discern the body of Christ and yielding to the flow of the Spirit. Some of them used to despise the body by thinking of themselves more highly than they should. They saw themselves as special, a cut above the rest. God is teaching them to be co-equal members, proving that good acceptable and perfect will of God as it was meant to be manifest in Christ's body. Their focus is no longer only on their "ministry," but they are learning to appraise themselves correctly, seeking and building up the measure of the gift of Christ in others. This is the reform that Christ's Church desperately needs before she can ever see the perfection of Christ here on earth. Without this witness of Christ in a heavenly body working in total unity, the world will never know that He and the Father are one (See John 17). When His saints possess the life of Christ and share it, everything else will take care of itself. Satan is not all that concerned when Christians attempt to change the outer form of things, embracing new forms of external discipline. Just as long as they are not touched and changed by the life of God which manifests in a generous, selfless heart change seen by all.

Chapter 1 | Table of Contents | Chapter 12

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