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“Church Business”

January 1, 2023 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Growing in Grace

Topic: Church Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Sermon Text:


Good morning, Lord willing, today we will finish up our series Growing in Grace, where we have worked our way passage by passage through the book of 1 Corinthians. We have seen two major themes throughout this powerful letter. First, that we are called through our relationship to Jesus to love one another, submit to one another, and serve one another. Second, that believers don’t become angels when we die, or sit on clouds playing harps, but will be raised to share in the glory of Jesus Christ when he returns to establish his kingdom on earth.

Having finished the teaching portion of the letter Paul will now turn his attention in this final chapter to several practical matters. There are practical lessons for us even in these final instructions. We get a glimpse of how some of these great truths were put into practice in the regular life and business of the Church. Let’s pray the Holy Spirit will renew our minds with the truth of His holy word. Let’s pray we will leave this place empowered to live out these truths in our own lives.

The main idea I hope you will see in this example from the church in Corinth is that profound faith translates to practical action. That is the key observation and is the main point of the message this morning. Throughout this letter Paul has been sharing profound truths about Jesus and the gospel and applying them to our everyday lives. As he finishes the letter, we will see four examples of how this profound faith translates to practical action.

  1. Faith is expressed through grace-guided giving.
  2. Faith is expressed in encouragement and fellowship.
  3. Faith is expressed with selfless humility.
  4. Faith is expressed through love.

As we look at this last chapter, we need to keep in mind everything Paul has said in the previous 15 chapters. None of these things earn God’s favor. In fact, none of these things are even possible for one who has not been born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. These are not requirements in the sense that through them we obtain God’s blessing. These are merely illustrations of what happens in the life of those in whom God is at work. As Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones once said,

“Holiness is not something Christians are called upon to do in order that we may become something; it is something we are to do because of what we already are.”  

The first practical outcome of faith I want us to see is that faith is expressed through grace-guided giving. Paul says,

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Believers support each other and the ministry of the church financially. In this case, they were raising money to support the church in Jerusalem. Paul says each believer is to put something aside on the first day of the week. Three things jump out to me about this giving. First, giving was part of the regular fellowship of the church. It was assumed everyone would participate in some way. Paul says to them, “each of you is to put something aside”.

Next, although everyone participated there was no obligation regarding the amount to be given. The principal Paul applies in this case is not the tithe from the Old Testament. He says, “each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” A tithe, or 10%, is a guideline many find helpful but there is no command anywhere in the New Testament requiring believers to tithe. In fact, we are not to give out of obligation. Christian giving is not governed by law, but by grace.

The principal for giving shifts from something external, to something internal. Giving is shifted from mere outward obedience to a reflection of our faith. It is determined by our love for God and our trust in him to meet our needs. 19th century pastor Andrew Murray captures the idea powerfully when he observed,

“How different our standard is from Christ's. We ask how much a man gives. Christ asks how much he keeps.”

God promises blessings to those who trust him by investing in his kingdom. We are given what we have for that purpose and are to sustain ourselves from among those resources. When we are selfish in our giving, the only one we ultimately rob is ourselves. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Paul says,

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

The motivation of a believer to give generously is simply that God has filled our heart with a love that causes us to use what he has blessed us with see him glorified among the nations. There is no doubt that the Lord has blessed his children with every resource necessary to accomplish the commission he gave his church. If the family of God struggles with resources, it is only because so many of his children squander what has been entrusted to them for his work on their own selfish and foolish desires.

Doubt and fear and unbelief chip away at our spirit of generosity making us forget Jesus’ reassurance that the Father knows we need clothes and food and the like. The question becomes one of us asking what we trust him for. Only a very wicked heart would ever consider using God’s grace to justify its own selfishness in thinking that since the external requirement is removed our giving becomes less important as if God is content with us tipping him from time to time.

The truth is there is nothing in our life that is a more accurate indicator of our spiritual health than our attitude toward giving. If we want to know what we truly love, we just need to read through our credit card and checkbook statements. Jesus frequently links our attitude toward money to the condition of our heart.

In Matthew 6:19–21 Jesus says,

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And in verse 24 he adds,

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Each of us will give an account for how we have managed what God has entrusted to us. We are not to give out guilt, thinking we can somehow buy God’s favor. We are not to give out of greed, thinking that by giving we can manipulate God into giving us other blessings. Giving should come from faith. God does not want our money; he wants our hearts. He wants us to be invested in his kingdom with all our heart, mind, and strength.

The last thing I want to notice about giving is that Paul does not allow the mechanics of funding the ministry to interfere with the ministry itself. He says,

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Unlike so many swindlers that pass themselves off as religious leaders, Paul’s primary concern is not the money. He does not want the collection to interfere with him spending time with them, praying, and preaching. He is not afraid to address the need for giving but this is not the central message. People gave out of love and Paul doesn’t pressure them as if he is managing a fundraising campaign. Churches are families not businesses. People are not giving units or revenue streams. We are to trust God to provide for our needs and for him to motive his people to support the preaching of the word.

That is why we do not have bake sales or game nights or in any way rely on the support of unbelievers to sustain our ministry. God promises to provide for his people and his ministry. We are confident that the Holy Spirit will work in those who are blessed by the word to produce a generous heart in them that desires to support God’s work. We trust God to provide for the church in the same way that each of us should trust God to provide for us.

The next practical expression of faith is the encouragement and fellowship with other believers. We see this in several ways. Paul says,

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul begins by expressing his desire to be with them. He doesn’t want to just pass through but wants to spend time with them and he wants them to have a share in the work he is doing. He wants to fellowship with them, but he also desires to stay for a time in Ephesus to encourage the believers there. These two desires, to fellowship and encourage are expressions of God’s work in our hearts.

I truly do not understand those who claim to be believers and yet do not feel a tug to be in the fellowship of a local body of believers. It is a great burden to me because I think the Bible is clear that this desire is one of the marks of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. If therefore, you are not drawn to others in Christ either you do not have the Spirit, or you are depriving yourself and others of his blessings.

There is a reason the enemy loves division and disunity and discouragement. It is because those things separate us from our brothers and sisters and that makes his job so much easier. Do we suppose that we have such spiritual strength that we are not in great danger from an enemy who prowls around like a lion and was more than a match for the apostle Peter.

In what way do we imagine we would be stronger separated from those who love and pray for us? There is a reason the shepherd keeps the sheep together. There is a reason why even the birds and fish swarm together in the face of danger. There is a reason gazelles and antelopes cross rivers and fields lurking with predators in groups. We all know that the one who is separated from the pack is in great danger and it is the same for us spiritually. We are designed to encourage one another and fellowship with one another and so it is neither possible nor advisable to walk with Christ alone.

I get so excited when I get to spend time with mature brothers and sisters. What an amazing thing it is to talk about the gospel and pray for each other and encourage each other. Those are golden moments when you are fellowshipping with other believers and everything else just fades into the background. You can be in loud, crowded restaurant and yet the only thing that occupies your mind is the glory of Christ which you get to share with another.

Those times are precious and yet I also recognize that those folks are not the ones who need the most attention. Spending time with those who are new believers or those who need encouragement is equally important. My greatest desire in this ministry is that I wish I had more time to pray with those who need encouragement. Not because I am anything, but to reassure them in Christ and point them to the truth of the word and his promises.

The world is often hard and a great part of our ministry as believers is to encourage others. Paul planned to stay in Ephesus to encourage them and he encouraged the Corinthians to encourage Timothy. He said,

10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

He wants to be sure that Timothy is strengthened in his ministry. Even Paul himself needed this kind of encouragement, which we can see from what he says in verse 17-18,

17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours.

We all need this balance. We should spend time with those who recharge our spiritual batteries and encourage us to elevate our thoughts in Christ. If you do not have a friend like that you should make it your business to find one. And we should all seek also to be that person for someone else. We are all to be disciples and disciple makers.

That brings us to the next practical expression of faith, which is selfless humility. Paul points to this a couple different ways in this chapter. First, humility is demonstrated in how we disagree within the family of God. Look at what Paul says beginning in verse 12,

12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity. 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

Paul’s phrase “now concerning” indicates this was something they had asked about. It seems they wanted a visit from Apollos. Paul strongly urged him to visit them. It seemed to be something important to the Corinthians and also to Paul but look at what it says,

but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity

It was “not AT ALL his will to come”. Apollos wasn’t having it, not going to happen. We have no idea why Apollos didn’t want to go but Paul makes it clear didn’t want to come just then. Years earlier Paul had a sharp disagreement with Barnabas over John Mark going in a different direction, but here there is no hint of frustration. Paul is an apostle and yet he defers to Apollos regarding this issue.

We are not always going to agree on every detail of how ministry should be done or what the best next steps are within the church. We can still exhibit the humility that Paul shows here. He did not force the issue. He informs the Corinthians that Apollos will come when he can and encourages them to stay focused on those things that are important saying,

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

We also see faith expressed in humility another way. Beginning at verse 15,

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul points out several people who have a track record of serving in the church and says that we should recognize and submit to such people. He talks about Stephanas and his household, who were the first converts in Achaia. This family had served faithfully for many years and Stephanas appears to be a leader in that church. We get the impression that Stephanas was one of those people you could rely on to do whatever needed to be done. He had a history of devotion to the family of God and was an example to others.

When I read this, I think of many who long served to lay the foundation for the ministry we relaunched last year. I think of men like Huston James who many here have never met, but without whom it is difficult to imagine we would be here today. There are many in the family of God like that. What a blessing it is to sit at the feet of those who have walked with the Lord for many decades. We are blessed in this congregation to have several brothers and sisters like that. Paul says we should submit to those whose life demonstrates a commitment to loving and serving the body of Christ. Paul says we should give recognition to such people. These kinds of people are great blessings in the church. They are God’s gift to us.

In your bulletin you will find a thank you card and an envelope. What I would like each of you to do is to pray for the Lord to bring to your mind someone that he has used to refresh your spirit and to bless you and encourage you on your walk in Christ. Not necessarily a pastor or leader, but a brother or sister that has been a blessing to you. Fill out that card and send it to them. Let them know how much you thank God for them and the impact they have had on you. As Paul said, give recognition to those God has used to bless you. We glorify God when we humble ourselves by recognizing the gifts he has given to others in the body.

That brings us to the final practical expression of faith I want to look at this morning, which is love. This has been the great theme of the whole letter and is really the essence of the other three expressions of faith we looked at in this chapter. Paul explicitly mentions love in verse 14,

14 Let all that you do be done in love.

Verse 22,

22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

And Verse 24,

My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

But love has been behind everything we are talking about. It is love that binds together all believers with Jesus and thus every good thing we do is the overflow of the love of Christ in our hearts. We see how all this comes together in the final greeting…

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The love that binds believers to Christ also binds us to each other. When we are first saved, we may think that this love is our love for God. We feel this affection and new believers are often taken by it and zealous for it. We look to our own commitment and think that it leads to all these blessings and so we then try in our own power to connect this love to others knowing that this is what God wants.

Over time, however, we realize that it is not our love for God that secures these blessings, but his love for us. If we were depending upon our own strength to hold on to him, we would be lost. It is then we come to rest in knowing that we are held not by our feeble grasp of him, but by the omnipotent sovereign power of his hold on us.

Every one of us has rejected God and left to our own we would do it again. But God sent Jesus as a savior. Not in response to our love, but as an expression of his. Jesus lived a life of perfect faith, without sin and then died for the sins of all those who would ever put their faith in him. He gave his life for his enemies so we could be adopted as sons and daughters.

He paid that price, spending three days in the grave but proved that it was paid in full, by walking out of the tomb and ascending into heaven. It is the love of God that draws us to Christ. It is the love of God that transforms our hearts, and it is the love of God flowing from the Spirit of Christ in us that expresses itself in love for our brothers and sisters.

It is the business of believers and therefore of the church to show Christ to the world. Jesus gave all he had so that sinners could be brought to God. He left the glory of heaven and took on flesh, becoming one of us, entering fellowship with us so that we might know God. He sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of encouragement. He demonstrated the greatest love of all by laying down his life for his friends.

Martin Luther once said that God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. This is how God works in us and through us. He transforms us so that we are made like him and so that others see him in us. Remember our main point? Profound faith translates to practical action. That is just another way of saying that those who have truly met the risen Christ are changed from having done so. This is the business of the believer and of the church, to love as Jesus loved.

I want to finish this morning with the words of the apostle John from 1 John 4:7–12,

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

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