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Worship in the Face of Division

1 Corinthians 11:17-19
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. (NIVUK)

The church of Jesus Christ has seen all too many divisions in the past 2000 years. It has not just been a gradual fragmentation over centuries; the problem was present in Corinth. While Paul tried hard to find some reason to praise the church before applying criticism, in the matter of worship and the Lord’s Supper he had none. The Apostle had heard reliable reports of the church which justified his strong reproach that their meetings did more harm than good. Their worship services were an offence to the gospel and to the Lord.
He describes them as a 'church': that means a collection of 'called out' people. They had been called out from the world, as sinners who trusted in Jesus, to receive forgiveness through His blood and sanctification by His Spirit (Acts 26:18). However, their old worldly habits clung to them. They had brought some of the world into the church. Their discipleship was very immature. Indeed, some who had been accepted into the church may not even have been saved. Differences were inevitable, and Paul recognised that would reflect which people were following Jesus and which were not.
The church attracted a wide variety of people, who might not have chosen to associate together; rich and poor, sober and drunk (1 Corinthians 11:20-22), healthy and sick (1 Corinthians 11:30), Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free-people (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). They regarded the church as a place to get what they wanted in competition with others, and not primarily to honour the sacrifice of Jesus and learn to follow Him.
Wherever any of those patterns exist in churches today, they would also earn the Apostle's rebuke. The church belongs to the Lord, and not to any of us. It is designed to be a holy place, a foretaste of heaven in which everybody honours the Lord and submits themselves to Him and each other. The greedy, grasping, proud, arguing, self-seeking, grumbling and gossiping attitudes which lead to party-spirit and divisions are a foretaste of hell and do not have the Lord's approval (1 Corinthians 10:6-10). They are evidence of the flesh and devil, and not the Spirit being in control. So, if a rebuke is felt please accept it. Decide to repent and ask for forgiveness for despising the Body of Christ, and humble yourself under God's mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). Only then can worship be acceptable and service spiritually productive.

Lord of the church. Thank You for calling me into Your church through faith in the Lord Jesus and in obedience to the gospel. I repent of despising the Body of Christ by my self-seeking attitude and worldly ambition. Please forgive me for using the church for my own benefit instead of for Your praise. Help me to humble myself so that the gospel will be attractive to my friends and colleagues, and that I will become more mature as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams