Matthew R. Perry

When God’s Gifts Lead to Selfish Pride

In Church Life on February 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

For all too many, selfishness within individual church members spreads out and affects the whole church body. I remember growing up in churches where the business meetings would be so contentious due to the selfish agendas of many.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church in Corinth which was a very cosmopolitan area. Many different philosophies and religions were in place there, leading many people astray. These mindsets were creeping into the church. First Corinthians is about dealing with the area of pride in the life of a Christian.

These are notes I had for a chapel service at which I preached on Thursday, February 5, 2009 at Blue Grass Baptist School, Lexington, KY.

  1. “My preacher is better than your preacher.”

Look with me at 1 Cor. 1:10-17

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. [11] For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. [12] What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” [13] Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? [14] I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, [15] so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. [16] (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) [17] For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

In Corinth, the citizens identified themselves with a particular orator or philosopher–and this mindset bled into the church. Some identified with Paul, others Apollos, others Cephas, or those who rose above it all (sarcasm intended) saying they follow Christ.

We do that even now. Some people find themselves identifying with a particular pastor, minister, or ministry. Our church had a pastor who served for 33 years (1940-1973). Those who came into the church under his ministry still hold to his views and convictions. After him, another minister came in whose heart was very missions-minded. Those coming into the church under his ministry were of this mindset as well.

Do you see how the devil can use even godly men as a means to stir up the pride and arrogance of the most well-intended Christian? We must beware of exalting the messenger above the message and thus causing division.

2. “My standard is better than your standard.”

In 1 Cor. 2:1-5, we read:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. [2] For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. [3] And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, [4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The Corinthians like the rhetoricians and the orators who spoke fluently. Their words mesmerized. Yet Paul did not come with this type of “lofty speech and wisdom.” These attributes impressed the people of Corinth, and even impressed the Christians in the Corinthian church.

We all find ourselves impressed as well with politicians and even preachers who may have a gift of oratory and rhetoric, even though they may not have much to say. They are all style, and no substance.

Here comes Paul saying that he only came with one overriding factor: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” How did he come? “In weakness, and in fear and much trembling.” What did he seek to convey? A “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul’s desire was to have people trust in God’s power, not in the fallible wisdom of men.

3.“My freedom is greater than your freedom.”

First Cor. 5:1-7 says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. [2] And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
[3] For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. [4] When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
[6] Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [7] Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

These heinous sexual sins were not only condoned, but were done with arrogance and boasting! They felt their freedom in Christ gave them freedom to sin—after all, wouldn’t God’s grace cover it? They were in Christ–but their theology was off. They thought they had freedom to sin rather than a freedom from sin and a freedom to obey.


4.
“My knowledge is greater than your knowledge.”

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-4, we read:

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. [2] If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. [3] But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. [4] Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We are to have knowledge about not only the things of God but also other religions, philosophies, and worldview. This “knowledge” can be used as leverage to exalt one’s reputation. You may know enough to win every Trivial Pursuit game on the planet, but like 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 notes, you will just be noisy.

What are we to do with the knowledge we have? We are to use it and not be a stumbling block. Many realized there were no power in the idols, but some who were new in the faith and still immature in the gospel still felt the pull in their flesh to that old lifestyle. We may have knowledge, but we must also have compassion on those who are ‘there’ yet.

Harold Best in his book “Music Through the Eyes of Faith,” told of a young man who was converted from a Satanic religion, came to church where the organist began playing “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by J.S. Bach (a Christian)–but this tune was used in some of their Satanic rituals. His system couldn’t handle it, so he ran out. We may have knowledge that Bach was a Christian, but we still need to realize ways we may cause others to stumble in their faith.

5.”My status is better than your status.”


In 1 Cor. 11:17-22, we read:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. [18] For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, [19] for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. [20] When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. [21] For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. [22] What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

What does the Lord’s Supper represent? Christ establishing a New Covenant in His blood for the forgiveness of sins. He loved us and gave Himself for us. Yet, these Corinthians were seeing who could come to the Lord’s Table (where a full meal was offered, by the way) for meat and drink–leaving those who are last without anything. Their actions were the exact antithesis of why they celebrated the meal to begin with. They had not gripped the gospel!

6. “My gifts are better than your gifts.”

In 1 Corinthians 12:28-31, Paul write:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? [30] Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? [31] But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Some bragged about their gifts–gifts that God graciously gave them to spread His glory and to serve His church. They used a God-given gift to exalt themselves!! The more excellent way? Read 1 Corinthians 13. While certain gifts may be more on display in front of the assembly, each Christian has a gift to contribute to the body and culture for the Kingdom. These gifts must not given a reason for pride and boasting, but for worship in that God equips us for His use!

What a wonder it is that God saves poor sinners by His grace and uses us for His glory.

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  1. Thanks for posting these notes, brother. The Corinthian letters seem more and more to be the focus of my ministry during these days. I really appreciate your helpful insights.

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