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The Shape of the Church

1 Corinthians 12:27-28
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (NIVUK)

The church in Corinth was riddled by division, stemming from pride. That attitude exalted some and displaced others. So Paul affirmed that everybody who had come to Christ was equally a part of His Body. However the church was not a random collection of individuals. They had not come together because of their mutual self-interest, but because they had responded to God's call. It was His church. He designed it to please Him: and He had the right to shape it by using key people to lay its foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
 
Although no person had greater merit than the others, and Paul called himself the 'worst of sinners' (1 Timothy 1:16), God appointed the founding apostles to define the shape of the church, and preachers to announce God's plan and disciple His people (Ephesians 2:20). All those apostles (including Paul) had met the Lord Jesus. They were guided by the Holy Spirit to define all doctrine and pass it on to others. The New Testament is their work, which is continued as teachers are faithful to the apostles' doctrine. That is why the Bible is the essential tool to guide every part of the church.
 
Although the more spectacular gifts of miracles and tongues had gained a lot of attention in Corinth, Paul was clear that those abilities were secondary to the authority of apostles, the inspired preaching of prophets, the gospel call of the evangelists and the steady discipling by pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Without them, the church had no authentic foundation.
 
That is still true. Although God gives a wide variety of gifts, it is crushingly foolish to ignore what the founding apostles laid down. A church leader who invents a different gospel is under condemnation (Galatians 1:6-9). Churches are not primarily moral therapeutic social units for the benefit of the members. They represent the Body of Christ, of which He is the Head, bringing sinners to the Saviour and enabling them to change into the character of Jesus. So do not ignore, evade, deny, or substitute what the apostles taught, because they have Christ's direct authority. Instead, run away from false doctrines and worldly habits and be disciplined in obeying God's Word through the apostles, until Jesus Christ returns (1 Timothy 6:3-15).

Prayer 
Holy Father God. Thank You for appointing the Apostles to define the gospel and the shape of the church. Forgive me for the times I have ignored their instruction or substituted a more convenient teaching. Please help me to freshly grasp the importance of maintaining the clarity and purity of what they taught, in my own life and when teaching others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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