March 25, 2015

The same God . . .

Numbers 29:1–40, 1 Corinthians 11:17–12:11, Psalm 24:1–10

The God of the OT is the same God in the NT. However, some of what God does and the way He treats sinners changes because of Jesus Christ. For instance, in the OT, forgiveness and grace for the sins of His people were tied to many, many offerings . . .

“These you shall offer to the Lord at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.” (Numbers 29:39)

In the NT and because of Jesus Christ’s offering, we are not required to offer lambs and bulls and grain, but we are required to behave as His people. His instructions for life in His kingdom are specific. For instance, the instructions for sharing communion were given to a church that was rebuked for their carnal behavior. Paul said to them about their problems . . .

“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. 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, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:17–19)

A few verses later, he describes the seriousness of those problems: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27–29)

Some of that judgment involved their health, even their very lives: “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:30–34)

What does it mean to participate in the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner?” Often, in today’s church we are told not to take communion if there is unconfessed sin in our lives, which is considered being “unworthy.” But when I hear that, I think, “Is that unconfessed sin only the sin that I know about? Everyone has unconfessed sin. Does that mean that the sin I don’t recognize isn’t going to make me unworthy? ”

For the answer to that, consider the context. Paul told them that their divisions and factions were being judged and disciplined by God. It seems to me then, that the unworthiness he is talking about is specifically what Paul pointed to; the sin of not getting along with other Christians. If that happens, we are not united around the Table and have no business honoring Christ when we are not honoring each other; the Body of Christ.

Paul is practical; he offered some truth that can help with the factions. He reminded his readers that Christians are not all the same . . . “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good . . .  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7; 11)

God gifts us in different ways, yet there is unity in this diversity because of the Holy Spirit. Learning to rely on Him means experiencing that unity. Relying on myself means seeing only the diversity and often fighting about our differences. This grieves the heart of God.

The OT saints had no instruction about spiritual gifts and about how to find unity. Nevertheless, they were to love one another too. If not, they had to sacrifice more animals to make sure their sins were covered. If that seems harsh, it is no more demanding than the NT call to love and unity. The psalmist agrees and places another marker for what pleases God. His priority is not on offerings for sin, but on a changed life that avoids sin with honesty and integrity . . .

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3–5)

All these words encourage me to persevere. Only Jesus can produce clean hands and a pure heart. Only Jesus can produce unity. Today, I’m being tested (nothing new), but the God of my salvation will bless me and enable me to rely on Him. 

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