“What then, brethren? 'Whenever you assemble, there is not one of you who is not ready...” –1 Corinthians 14:26a Weymouth
What could happen if every member in a local church came to its gatherings “ready?” This is so rare in modern Christianity that you will seldom hear the question asked, yet it was posed by the Apostle Paul to the church he founded in the Greek city of Corinth, in a quite matter-of-fact, rhetorical way. In other words, he wasn’t even really asking, he was simply stating the fact…a fact that had not only changed lives but had also influenced the way a major Roman era center of cultural activity thought about spirituality.
Imagine those possibilities. The people there were ready and, as a result, things happened in their midst which required corrections and guidance. That was such a good thing for them that the entire church received what we know as one of the great books of the New Testament in letter form, complete with pointers on why spiritual things were working in their midst along with a few reprimands necessary to keep them working. As with most rolling vehicles, spiritual turns or corrections are always easier to make when you are already in motion.
Now, “readiness” as Paul meant it here is defined for us in the rest of this letter and specifically in the verse we are looking at. In this verse you will find the impressive list of spiritual preparations these believers were making before they came to a church gathering which leant to an incredible amount of spiritual activity among the congregation. In the context of the letter we also find several other things very unspiritual thing listed which some of the Corinthian believers openly practiced. These worked against this church by opening doors of opportunity for temptation and sin. The overall picture of this group was that they were zealous of spiritual manifestations and seemingly quite adept at the practice of them. At the same time, they were also very lazy about allowing God’s Spirit the space in their lives necessary to develop many aspects of their character.
Like us, they had good points and bad points but it seems that the good surprisingly outweighed the bad on some scale foreign to our religious ways of thinking. After spending large portions of the letter confronting their sin, Paul then specifically commends them for the ways they were ready. There is no perfect Christian and there is no perfect church. There is, however, a perfect Savior and Lord at work in each of us to build His Church. The good news is we can win if we simply want to. Even a little preparation goes a long way. In its smallest amounts it can often be the separation between those who make a big difference and those who don’t. When we are willing to give God what we have, He has a way of turning it into more than we need (see Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes)!
The Corinthians did not have an overwhelming abundance of several things. Godly thought patterns (chapter 2), maturity (chapter 3), unity (chapter 3), humility (chapter 4) moral stability (chapter 5), financial scruples (chapter 6), and even genuine love (chapter 13) were all questionable areas of their individual and corporate character. By comparison, most of us would seemingly measure up well, so how could God’s own12th man,THE apostle who carried the revelation of the ‘Church’ call this kind of local church ‘ready?!” In chapter 6, verse 9, Paul himself says in no uncertain terms that anyone practicing outright (habitual) sin cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. This truth is carried throughout the rest of the New Testament as well.
Corinth was a robust center of trade and commerce, known for both its philosophy and art as well as for its vice and immorality. The mistake of the church there was they let too much of the culture come unchecked into their meetings through their own personal inconsistencies. They were in the same process we all go through, learning to put off the old man and put on the new. At many points, when push came to shove they were reverting to the world’s naturally human ways of handling things. If we are not careful we can make the same mistakes but miss the answer. Our biggest advantage is never in the extent of what we don’t have, it is always in what we do!
As crazy as the Corinthians seemed, they had Jesus and they wanted more. Sometimes you may have had to examine closely to see it, but they had a heart for God that eventually overcame everything they weren’t. Its the same with us. If we have a genuine desire for Jesus and a willingness to act on it even a little, the big problems will work themselves out, especially as we get the guidance we need. The imposing Law with it’s ‘Ten Commandments’ become simply a list of increasingly obvious things God is working out from the inside of us by his Spirit. The most important things in life naturally spring from the heart of a actively passionate believer. God is not overlooking the sin, it is just that the heart of a person who knows Jesus bore that sin for him is where God is looking the closest.
We started this year at Connections talking about a 5-Point plan to help people push beyond barriers they have not been able to penetrate in their past. These five steps are a simple guide to following God further into your heavenly call. They also help the church create a goal of reaching its potential as its individual members dig deeper. You will have to come to our services to hear about those but the rationale is similar, I think, to what Paul was doing in verse 26. He was pointing out a plan based on what they possessed which would serve to help them possess even more.
When the Corinthians came to church they had 5 things in hand:
“What then, brethren? ‘Whenever you assemble, there is not one of you who is not ready either with a song of praise, a sermon, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Let everything be done with a view to the building up of faith and character.” 1 Corinthians 14:26 Weymouth
In Corinth, they may have let a lot of the world inside the church but they also let a lot of God in! The congregation there came to church with both songs for worship and sermons for instruction! The leadership conducting the performance of those two things is the extent of most religious services today but the members in Corinth had much more! They evidently prepared ahead of time with spiritual insights God had given them in both prayer and the study of His Word. Beyond that they were proficient in the practice of praying in the tongues poured out on the church by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). They had not let these things slip in their personal lives even to the point of honing the spiritual skill of interpreting or translating what those tongues often expressed so they could be understood (as the equivalent of a prophetic word) by the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:1-5, 13-16).
Paul says at the beginning of the letter what I will end with here. In 1 Corinthians 1:4-10, he opens by reinforcing what I have attempted to share with you. There can be some serious issues in a church but the believers will be free of blame in the end simply because they have accepted God’s invitation to enter into intimate fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. For this basic reason the Corinthians had been able to tap into every spiritual gift necessary to keep moving forward and Paul knew they would continue to do so even after he pointedly chastised their carnal behavior. He even went on to give them the single greatest in depth teaching on both spiritual manifestations found in the entire New Testament (chapter 12-14). He linked them all to the highest spiritual expression a person can make, LOVE. They could take it because they had what it took – a heart to press into the deeper things of God. When we do that the surface things tend to usually get skimmed off in the process. Be a Corinthian at heart Connections and stay ready – the Lord will use you to reach the darkest of corners in our area too! Be blessed!!