The local church was meant to be a place of worship, fellowship, discipleship and stewardship of God given gifts. Unfortunately, as in the case of the Corinthian and Galatian churches, it becomes a battleground. The problem isn’t the Devil, although he will encourage the conflict. The turmoil is fought out when God’s redeemed people allow their Ego, prejudices and views seek to dominate, not serve.
Almost every letter in the New Testament points to or hints at how some of the saints behave in a very unsaintly manner. Read Galatians and be warned. Acts 15 was the 1st and most important church council. There it was agreed that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised and live under Jewish culture and the Mosaic Law. This didn’t prevent well-meaning but legalistic saints from infiltrating the churches.
These people were sowers of discord and division by smooth talking and insidious undermining of the congregation’s faith and doctrine. They expected believers from other cultures to adopt their Jewish culture to become fully Christian. This was contrary to the Church Council’s decree. Because their tactics were devious they acted similar to the sneaky, creepy approach of the false prophets. Paul unmasked them and called them for what they were, carnal men causing dissension and division. If they had stood on the street corner and heralded their views that would have been acceptable. Open debate allows for good discussion. Ulterior motives are brewed and promoted in the dark corners of the soul.
The Corinthian church had its individuals endeavouring to manipulate and coerce their ways onto the congregation. When Christ isn’t the focus of a person’s affection, devotion and worship some other factor dominates. This can lead, as it did in Corinth, to chaos and loss of integrity and testimony. Were they trying to siphon off some from the church so as to form their own? That still happens. Romans 16:17-18 says mark such people and avoid them.
In one of the churches with whom I ministered a similar tension and conflict was developing. Some of the church members, who were also my friends, had been attracted to a particular view of worship and doctrine. They were intent upon getting others to accept it in an underhand and insidious manner. I talked with them about their approach. I said they could stand outside on the street and raise the ‘flag’ of their doctrine but don’t use the Devil’s methods to do what you consider are God’s words and ways. They accepted that. We remained friends. My sadness was that for those involved some marriages fell apart and loss of faith developed.
The warning of 1 Corinthians 3:17 is still operational. ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy (Greek word means ‘defile’)…’ Such sneaky, creepy saints may seem to prosper and capture an audience but they are frowned upon by the Lord. By the power of their soul their work will be impressive, but it will not be blessed. Such divisive persons may be saved but they will be losers of Christ’s blessing around His judgement.
2 Corinthians 4:2 is a short and simple principle for leadership and worship in the local congregation.’[We] have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God’.
Jesus impresses me with His openness and honesty. Deceit was not in mouth. Deception and infiltration were not his strategies. His words to inquirers included the cost of walking with Him. The local church is most at risk when God’s people try and do the Lord’s work in a sneaky, creepy way. The Saviour calls us to walk as He walked – in the Light. He was transparent in His dealings. So should be His people.
Next week. What are Christian ‘dead’ to?