Forbearance and the Corinthian Church

God's Message on the Web - My earliest podcasts.

Please permit me to begin our study tonight with an apology and a correction. First, the apology: I apologize for trying to cover too much material last Sunday night and going through some material too quickly. I have two basic objectives when I teach. First, I want to challenge you to think. Second, I want to increase your understanding. You do not have to agree with me. I know that I am not inspired. I understand better than anyone else that my knowledge and insights are limited.

Second, the correction: Last Sunday evening I said that God did not have to be forbearing after the death of Jesus. The context of that statement dealt with the fact that, in the death of Jesus, God paid for the sins He ignored in the past. When Jesus died, God did pay for the sins that He passed over prior to the death of Jesus. In doing that, God was true to His just nature. But that did not end the need for God’s forbearance. God satisfied justice, He paid for the right to be forbearing by sacrificing the pure blood of Jesus. But God is still forbearing; you and I are dependent on that forbearing.

  1. I want to begin tonight with a point I covered too quickly last week.
    1. I cited Adam and Eve as the first manifestation of God’s forbearance.
      1. Some of you asked me about that example, and your questions made me realize I covered the material too quickly.
      2. Remember what forbearance is.
        1. Forbearance is holding oneself back.
        2. It is restraining oneself.
        3. Commonly, in reference to God, it is God restraining His wrath, holding Himself back from executing justice.
    2. Let me show you why I think Adam and Eve is an example of God’s forbearance.
      1. Turn in your Bibles to Genesis 2.
        1. In verses 8, 9 we are told that God planted a garden and placed Adam in that garden (and we know that Eve was to join Adam there).
        2. That gardened contained every food producing tree and they could eat the fruit of all those trees.
        3. It also contained the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden for food.
        4. In 2:17 Adam is specifically told that “in the day” that you eat from it you shall surely die.”
        5. Both Adam and Eve clearly understood what God said; in 3:3 Eve informed Satan that she was not to eat from that tree because God had said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.”
      2. Before I understood forbearance, this situation presented a problem for me.
        1. They ate the fruit, consequences were pronounced because they rebelled, they were forced out of the garden, but they did not die.
        2. It was in violation of other Bible teaching to conclude that God lied, because the Bible clearly states in several places that God cannot lie.
        3. For a long time I concluded that God meant something by the word death other than would be the common understanding of the word in that situation.
          1. Death means separation, so He meant that they would be spiritually separated from him.
          2. He meant that they would be spiritually dead to him.
          3. I certainly agree that they destroyed their original relationship with God and that the result was spiritual death.
          4. I wonder if we understand that because we look back as Christians; I don’t think that would be the conclusion of the early readers.
      3. Look in chapter 4, and becomes evident that the separation between God and people at this point was not total.
        1. In verse 1 when Eve gave birth to Cain, she said, “I have a son by the help of the Lord.”
        2. Abel pleased God with his sacrifice; he did well.
        3. In verse 25 when Eve gave birth to Seth, she said, “God has appointed me another son in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.”
        4. Verse 26 tells us that when Seth was an adult, a father, “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
      4. In 5:24 we are told that Enoch had such an extraordinary relationship with God that God took him from this earth without his dying–he must have been an incredibly good man.
      5. 6:2 tells us that for a while there were a group of people who were so devoted to God that they were known as the sons of God.
        1. My own personal judgment is that these were the descendants of Seth, the people who called upon the name of the Lord.
        2. It is also my personal judgment that the daughters of men referred to the descendants of Cain who wanted no contact or relationship with God.
    3. All of this information leads me to conclude that God was forbearing, that He held Himself back, that He restrained His wrath when Adam and Even sinned, and God, in His forbearance, permitted them to continue to live.
      1. That is my conclusion.
      2. I do not insist that you hold my conclusion.
  2. Now I want you to examine a case of New Testament forbearance that, to me, is more astounding than Adam and Eve: God’s forbearance in the church at Corinth.
    1. First, examine their astounding congregational problems.
      1. Problem one: they were a deeply fractured congregation, and their factions were quarreling (1:11-17).
        1. Some professed loyalty to Paul.
        2. Some to Apollos.
        3. Some to Peter.
        4. Some to Christ.
        5. At the foundation of their disagreement was what to emphasize when presenting the gospel to other people.
          1. Some found proclaiming a Savior who was executed by the Roman government disgusting–people would think they followed a criminal.
          2. They preferred to teach the gospel that emphasized Greek philosophy in the area of wisdom instead of talking about the crucifixion of Jesus.
      2. Problem two: they ignored open immorality in a family by pretending the problem did not exist (5:1-13).
      3. Problem three: They were taking each other to civil court to settle their problems and differences (6:1-11).
      4. Problem four: there was an enormous disagreement about marriage (7).
      5. Problem five: there was serious confusion and disagreement about eating the meat of animals that were killed as a sacrifice to idols (8).
      6. Problem six: there was serious confusion and disagreement about hair and veils in worship assemblies (11:1-16).
      7. Problem seven: they were taking communion in a manner that hurt fellowship and divided the congregation (11:17-34).
      8. Problem eight: they were using spiritual gifts in worship assemblies to compete with each other and creating major confusion (14).
      9. Problem nine: some were teaching that there was no resurrection from the dead (15).
    2. Look at the types of problems they had:
      1. Open congregational division (the factions).
      2. Sexual immorality problems (the man living with his father’s wife).
      3. Relationship problems (taking each other to court).
      4. Fellowship problems (discrimination in abuse of the Lord’s supper).
      5. Personal conviction and conscience problems (the question of meat offered to idols).
      6. Cultural problems (the hair and veil questions).
      7. Worship problems (using the assembly for competition).
      8. Doctrinal problems (rejection of resurrection).
    3. As a Christian, what is your reaction to that mix of problems in that church?
      1. Should they be disfellowshipped as a congregation?
      2. Should certain groups in the congregation be forced to submit or leave?
      3. Should they no longer be considered either Christians or in Christ?
      4. Should they no longer be considered Christ’s church?
  3. Do not form your conclusion until you consider all the evidence.
    1. In the letter, twenty-one times Paul called them “brethren.”
      1. Once it is “my brethren,” and once “my beloved brethren.”
      2. The only chapters in which he does not refer to them as brethren are chapters 5, 8, 9, and 13.
    2. He called them his children and said that he was their father (4:14, 15)–Paul spiritually claimed them.
    3. He repeatedly affirmed their continuing relationship with God through Christ.
      1. 1:2–He called them the church of God in Corinth.
      2. 1:3–He bade them grace and peace from God and Christ.
      3. 1:4–He thanked God for them and the grace they received.
      4. 1:30–He said, “By God’s doing you are in Christ.”
      5. 3:16–He said they are a temple of God (as a congregation) and that the spirit of God dwells in them (as a congregation).
      6. 6:10, 11–Paul stressed the fact that they had been ungodly, but now they were washed, were sanctified, were justified.
      7. 12:12-27–They did not understand what it meant to be Christ’s body; they did not understand that they were not supposed to be duplicates of each other.
        1. Even though they did not understand that they were Christ’s body and did not act like Christ’s body, Paul said, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (vs. 27).
      8. 16:1-5–Paul included them in a cooperative benevolent effort that included all the churches in the area.
      9. 16:6–He planned to come stay with them and hoped that they would support him in the future (Paul had no doubt that this congregation had a future).
      10. 16:10, 11–He was sending Timothy to them and asked them to take care of him.
      11. 16:12–He promised that Apollos would come back.
      12. 16:19,20–He sent them greetings from other Christians.
      13. 16:23–He declared, “The grace of Jesus be with you.”
      14. 16:24–“My love be with you.”
    4. This is obvious:
      1. With all their problems, they were not out of Christ.
      2. With all their problems, they were not out of the brotherhood.
      3. With all their problems, they were not out of fellowship with other congregations.
      4. With all their problems, they were not out of fellowship with Paul.
    5. Not once does Paul suggest:
      1. That they should drive a part of the congregation away.
      2. That the “faithful” should take over the congregation and defeat the “unfaithful.”
    6. Paul is insistent in his instructions.
      1. “Address your problems:
        1. “With love for Jesus Christ.
        2. “With a better understanding of Jesus Christ.
        3. “In a manner that will bring healing.”
      2. He pointedly discussed the spiritual damage their problems created, and he held them responsible to open their eyes and address the problems.
    7. That is a powerful example of God’s forbearance with those who are in Christ Jesus.
  4. To me, two enormous, powerful, practical understandings leap out.
    1. Lesson one: there is too much concern in congregations today about capturing and exercising control.
      1. “We know best; our way is the best way for the congregation.”
      2. “We know best; our way will save the congregation.”
      3. “Our way is the direction the congregation must go in.”
      4. Too many things are done in congregations today because people want control.
      5. Too many Christians have the ambition to be in control.
    2. Lesson two: too much energy is wasted in congregations trying to assign blame.
      1. There often is a powerful drive to assign blame and to determine fault.
      2. Assigning blame and declaring who is at fault never solves a problem–not in a family, not in the church.
      3. Commonly, blame has two ambitions.
        1. Getting the focus on anyone but me.
        2. Exonerating me or excusing me of responsibility.
    3. Forbearance:
      1. Is not concerned about exercising control.
      2. Is not concerned about assigning blame.
      3. Is concerned about promoting peace and unity through love.
      4. Is concerned about being forgiving, kind, and gentle.

God was infinitely forbearing with the Christians at Corinth. God is infinitely forbearing with us as a congregation. God is infinitely forbearing with each of us as individual Christians. Thank You God, for your forbearance. Without it everyone of us would be spiritually dead. God, please help us learn how to be forbearing like You are–with our brothers and sisters within the church, and with all those who are outside Christ.

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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