I Corinthians 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
Paul here is declaring to the Corinthian believers something which might shock believers today. He is declaring that many among them are weak and sick and some have actually died—and it’s not because it’s God’s will or because of something beyond their personal control. It’s rather because they allowed divisions and quarreling in their midst to disrupt the unity which God so great desires in His Church among believers. Jesus earnestly prayed to His Father for this unity in John 17:21— “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Today there are definitely divisions within the body of Christ as reflected by different denominations and doctrines. Indeed some of these differences are extremely difficult to resolve inasmuch as we cannot agree on the correct interpretation of some important Bible passages. We all want to remain faithful to our understanding of Scripture—which we hold to be inerrant and authoritative. And so it would appear that divisions cannot be helped. But according to Scripture there might be consequences for “avoidable” divisions within the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? …16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
When we engage in jealousy and quarreling with others in the body, we might in effect be destroying God’s temple. For example, “I follow the teaching of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate experience along with the nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12”; still another “I follow the teaching of the cessation of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Or, “I follow the teaching that speaking in tongues is of the devil”; still another, “I follow the teaching that if a Christian doesn’t speak in tongues he is not saved.” Or, “I follow the teaching of once-saved-always-saved”; still another “I follow the teaching that it is possible to lose one’s salvation.” Paul says in so doing we are mere human beings. And the consequence of that might be our personal destruction in some way by God’s hand. Ought we not, therefore, to do whatever is possible to be reconciled to one another within the body? In Chapter 11 Paul equates some divisions in the body with despising the Church of God.
1 Corinthians 11:17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 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. …20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me…”
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.
…33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner by not discerning the body of Christ, we are sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. By the context of 1 Corinthians we know that Paul is not only talking about sinning against the body and blood of our Lord Jesus as he was nailed to the cross, but also about sinning against His body on earth—His Church.
Today we can be doing more than is currently being done toward reconciliation and unity within the Church. Yes, pastors of varying stripes do come together weekly or monthly to pray together. But Scripture tells us that we can in fact do more: we can focus on what is central to the Bible and on what we can all agree—the gospel and the Great Commission.
We can focus on learning from the Scriptures how Jesus preached the gospel and how he taught and commanded his disciples to preach the gospel as he sent them out to fulfill the Great Commission. When we do this, we find that there is common ground on which both non-charismatic evangelicals and charismatics can agree—and even work together in unity.
This is what the Lord has called The Elijah Challenge to do during these last days. It is based on the scriptural fact that the power and authority over diseases and demons which Jesus gave to his disciples when he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God to the lost in the gospels is separate and distinct from the “gift of healing” for ministering to the body of Christ which was clearly not available until the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended. While evangelicals may be uncomfortable with the gift of healing which is from the Holy Spirit, they will be much more open to the power and authority which Jesus gave to his disciples in the gospels before the coming of the Spirit—which were primarily for preaching the gospel to the lost and not simply for ministering healing to sick believers.
Charismatic believers will of course have no problem with the teaching of power and authority. By focusing on the weapons of power and authority for preaching the gospel to the lost, especially gospel-resistant people groups in the Third World, both evangelical and charismatic believers can work together in one accord and in unity.
Although on this side of eternity there will be (non-essential) issues on which Bible-believing evangelicals and charismatics may not want to agree, they will at least be able to agree on the essential issue of preaching the gospel in fulfillment the Great Commission. That will be pleasing to the Lord. One wonderful side benefit of this might be better health and longer life for believers. What befell the Corinthian church—“That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep…”—will no longer befall the Church during these last days.