November 29, 2020

There Is Only One Church

"For nearly half a century have I anxiously and critically studied that invaluable treasure [the Bible]; and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new - that I do not receive some valuable addition to my stock of knowledge or perceive some instructive fact never observed before. In short, were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible; and should you renew the inquiry for the best philosophy or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge."[1]
Daily Reading : 1 CORINTHIANS 1 - 4                      
TEXT : 1Co 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1Co 1:11  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 1Co 1:12  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 1Co 1:13  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 1Co 3:3  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 1Co 3:4  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 1Co 3:5  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the LORD gave to every man? 1Co 3:6  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1Co 3:7  So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 
1 Corinthians [Adam Clarke][2]
Preface to the First Epistle to the Corinthians
Corinth, to which this and the following epistle were sent, was one of the most celebrated cities of Greece. It was situated on a gulf of the same name, and was the capital of the Peloponnesus or Achaia, and was united to the continent by an isthmus or neck of land that had the port of Lecheum on the west and that of Cenchrea on the east, the former in the gulf of Lepanto, the latter in the gulf of Egina, by which it commanded the navigation and commerce both of the Ionian and Aegean seas, consequently of Italy on the one hand and of all the Greek islands on the other: in a word, it embraced the commerce of the whole Mediterranean Sea, from the straits of Gibraltar on the west to the port of Alexandria on the east, with the coasts of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor. It is supposed, by some, to have been founded by Sisyphus, the son of Eolus, and grandfather of Ulysses, about the year of the world 2490 or 2500, and before the Christian era 1504 years. Others report that it had both its origin and name from Corinthus, the son of Pelops. It was at first but a very inconsiderable town; but at last, through its extensive commerce, became the most opulent city of Greece, and the capital of a powerful state. It was destroyed by the Romans under Mummius, about 146 years before Christ, but was afterwards rebuilt by Julius Caesar.
Corinth exceeded all the cities of the world, for the splendor and magnificence of its public buildings, such as temples, palaces, theatres, porticos, cenotaphs, baths, and other edifices; all enriched with a beautiful kind of columns, capitals, and bases, from which the Corinthian order in architecture took its rise. Corinth is also celebrated for its statues; those, especially, of Venus, the Sun, Neptune and Amphitrite, Diana, Apollo, Jupiter, Minerva, etc. The temple of Venus was not only very splendid, but also very rich, and maintained, according to Strabo, not less than 1000 courtesans, who were the means of bringing an immense concourse of strangers to the place. Thus riches produced luxury, and luxury a total corruption of manners; though arts, sciences, and literature continued to flourish long in it, and a measure of the martial spirit of its ancient inhabitants was kept alive in it by means of those public games which, being celebrated on the isthmus which connects the Peloponnesus to the main land, were called the Isthmian games, and were exhibited once every five years. The exercises in these games were, leaping, running, throwing the quoit or dart, bowing, and wrestling. It appears that, besides these, there were contentions for poetry and music; and the conquerors in any of these exercises were ordinarily crowned either with pine leaves or with parsley. It is well known that the Apostle alludes to these games in different parts of his epistles, which shall all be particularly noticed as they occur.
Corinth, like all other opulent and well-situated places, has often been a subject of contention between rival states, has frequently changed masters, and undergone all forms of government. The Venetians held it till 1715, when the Turks took it from them; under whose dominion it has till lately remained. Under this deteriorating government it was greatly reduced, its whole population amounting only to between 13 and 14,000 souls. It has now got into the hands of the Greeks, its natural owners. It lies about 46 miles to the east of Athens, and 342 south-west of Constantinople. A few vestiges of its ancient splendor still remain, which are objects of curiosity and gratification to all intelligent travelers.
As we have seen that Corinth was well situated for trade, and consequently very rich, it is no wonder that, in its heathen state, it was exceedingly corrupt and profligate. Notwithstanding this, every part of the Grecian learning was highly cultivated here; so that, before its destruction by the Romans, Cicero (Pro lege Manl. cap. v.) scrupled not to call it totius Graeciae lumen - the eye of all Greece. Yet the inhabitants of it were as lascivious as they were learned. Public prostitution formed a considerable part of their religion; and they were accustomed in their public prayers, to request the Gods to multiply their prostitutes! and in order to express their gratitude to their deities for the favors they received, they bound themselves, by vows, to increase the number of such women; for commerce with them was neither esteemed sinful nor disgraceful. Lais, so famous in history, was a Corinthian prostitute, and whose price was not less than 10,000 drachmas. Demosthenes, from whom this price was required by her for one night's lodging, said, "I will not buy repentance at so dear a rate." So notorious was this city for such conduct, that the verb κορινθιαζεσθαι, to Corinthize, signified to act the prostitute; and Κορινθια κορη, a Corinthian damsel, meant a harlot or common woman. I mention these things the more particularly because they account for several things mentioned by the Apostle in his letters to this city, and things which, without this knowledge of their previous Gentile state and customs, we could not comprehend. It is true, as the Apostle states, that they carried these things to an extent that was not practised in any other Gentile country. And yet, even in Corinth - the Gospel of Jesus Christ prevailing over universal corruption - there was founded a Christian Church!
Analysis of the First Epistle to the Corinthians
This epistle, as to its subject matter, has been variously divided: into three parts by some; into four, seven, eleven, etc., parts, by others. Most of these divisions are merely artificial, and were never intended by the Apostle. The following seven particulars comprise the whole: -
I. The Introduction, 1Co_1:1-9.
II. Exhortations relative to their dissensions, 1 Corinthians 1:9-4:21.
III. What concerns the person who had married his step-mother, commonly called the incestuous person, 1Co_5:1-13, 6, and 7.
IV. The question concerning the lawfulness of eating things which had been offered to idols, 1Co_8:1-13, 9, and 10, inclusive.
V. Various ecclesiastical regulations, 1 Corinthians 11-14, inclusive.
VI. The important question concerning the resurrection of the dead, 1 Corinthians 15.
VII. Miscellaneous matters; containing exhortations, salutations, commendations, etc., etc., 1 Corinthians 16.
In the year 1054 A.D., there was a split in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Known as the "Great Schism,"[3] the two branches that formed out of this rift are known today as the Eastern Orthodox Church (or simply - the Orthodox Church) and the Roman Catholic Church.  Each claimed they were the "original" Church of Jesus Christ among other disputes and disagreements they had.  Then, about 500 years later the Church of Jesus Christ was divided (however unintentional) even further by the Protestant Reformation.  Since then, the many varieties, variations and distinctions of denominations, fellowships, sects, etc. and so forth; have multiplied to an innumerable extent.  Thus, today we have a plethora of Churches and a multiplicity of beliefs.
However unintended the split between the eastern and western Churches may have been, and no matter how important and necessary the Protestant Reformation was, the result is what you see today - confusion and contention.  Once again, this was an unintended effect of these two monumental movements and decisions in the Church.  Yet, it nonetheless left us with a fractured Church world and much rancor and debate.
Thankfully, in every branch of Christendom, there is universal agreement on the essentials of the faith of Jesus Christ. Codified in various Church councils and creeds through the years, the fundamental teachings of the New Testament in particular, have remained intact.  For instance, the Apostles Creed - sometimes referred to as the "creed of creeds," succinctly states these fundamentals of the faith.  The same may be said of the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.   Although the Athanasian Creed elaborates more on the doctrine of the Trinity - a doctrine always considered essential to the Christian faith and salvation, I submit here only the Apostles Creed.
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ his only Son our LORD; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN."[4]
From the beginning, the Church was corrupted.  There were false teachers, false prophets, and even false brethren ever since the Church began.  You can read of these matters in the letters of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  In fact, the reason many epistles were written - such as 1st Corinthians, was to correct false doctrine as well as immorality and general confusion as to what Christ required and taught.  In other words, the New Testament reveals what it means to be a Christian.  However, it is certain no matter what the appearance may be, there is only one Church of Jesus Christ.  On the surface, this does not seem possible based on the history of the Church.  Yet, the New Testament makes it clear - there is only one LORD, one baptism, and one faith.
Eph 4:3  Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:4  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; Eph 4:5  One LORD, one faith, one baptism, Eph 4:6  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
As you start with the New Testament, and then search Church history, you discover the sinful nature of man.  Many times the desire for power and influence (today we must include money and fame) has turned the Church away from Christ.  At least, this is true in a manner of speaking.  In reality, the Church is, always was, and always will be in the hands of the LORD Jesus Christ.  Still, men have corrupted the teachings, the doctrine, the morality, and ultimately - the truth, of Jesus Christ.  This is what we see in the New Testament, in the Bible, as well as Jewish and Church history combined.  We see men, ambitious men, perverting the words and of the ways of the Most High God.  It is an unfortunate reality.  Still, the Spirit of the LORD calls men and saves them by his own power and will.  If it were not for the sovereignty and direction of the Most Holy God, surely truth would be permanently fallen in the street and beyond repair.  Truth would be unknowable and past finding out due to the sinful ways of man.
Thus, you have the exhortation given in our text.  There should be no divisions in the local Church.  In addition, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that you are not to unduly exalt the local Church, fellowship, or denomination that led you to the LORD or continues to teach you above the universal (catholic) Church.  That is, the Church as defined by the New Testament and the Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.  The Apostle Paul relates that to separate yourself by [exclusive] identity with a preacher, or prophet, or denomination etc. is not true spirituality.  That is, you must not put yourself or your particular, personal, or peculiar beliefs above the unity of the brethren as we see in the Ephesians 4:3 above. 
However, the essentials or fundamentals of the faith must remain intact.  As noted, these salient and foundational truths are contained in every (or almost every) branch of Christendom.  Wherever there is a departure from these fundamental truths, you have a heretical cult or sect that merely the uses the Bible or Jesus name.  They are not a true part of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Again, reading the New Testament as well as the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and early Church Fathers, you will observe the repudiation of foreign doctrines that oppose the doctrines of the New Testament.
Endeavor to love the brethren.  Only God knows who are his and who are not.  You can make judgments, including sound, reasonable, and accurate judgments as it pertains to false doctrines and false teachers and brethren.  This is accomplished by knowing the Holy Bible.  However, if you know the Holy Scriptures, then you also know the epitome of true spirituality is love, because love is the fulfilling of the will of God.  Therefore, as you exercise yourself to keep the peace and unity of the local Church, you advance the universal Church founded by Jesus Christ.  You may judge how unfortunate it is in Christianity that so many have so little concern for anyone outside his or her local Church.  Further, you may lament the confusion and consternation, fostered by self-centered and unspiritual leaders in the Church.  Yet, the LORD prophesied as well as the Apostles, that this would happen.  Namely, there would be "tares sown among the wheat."
Remember, no matter what the appearance - there is only one Church.  When Christ returns, he will separate the tares from the wheat, and the goats from the sheep.  This is his prerogative and responsibility that he will carry out when he returns.  Even so, come LORD Jesus.

  • [1] Elias Boudinot, The Age of Revelation, or the Age of Reason Shewn to be An Age of Infidelity (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickins, 1801), p. xv, from his "Dedication: Letter to his daughter Susan Bradford."
  • [2] Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
  • [3] Also called  East-West Schism;  event that precipitated the final separation between the Eastern Christian Churches (led by the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius) and the Western Church (led by Pope Leo IX). The mutual excommunications by the Pope and the Patriarch that year became a watershed in Church history. The excommunications were not lifted until 1965, when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their historic meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, presided over simultaneous ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees. ; 1054, Schism of.  (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition.  Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • [4] Creeds of Christendom;; accessed November 28, 2012
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