Loyalty: A Four Letter Word

Do you desire loyalty in life? I do. I don’t know if, today in America, we experience any significant degree of brotherhood or sisterhood for the most part. This morning, the text leads us to consider Christian loyalty.

Last week, we took time to basically define the church—the bride of Christ. This week, we read about the faithful groom—God. The church at Corinth not only forgot what it meant to be the church. She forgot who God was; she traded sound doctrine for strange doctrine. Our theology, though, is the most important thing about us. What we believe about God determines how we live, love, and serve others. In a sense, everyone is a theologian. Paul first reminds the Corinthians about the doctrine of God’s sovereign faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Confirmation (v. 4-8)

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus

The believers in Corinth don’t care much for Paul. They are living in sin. Paul is writing 1 Corinthians because the church has given herself over to unsound doctrine and practice. Concerning the unhealthiest church we see described in the New Testament, Paul writes that he thanks God always concerning the local congregation. The teachings of the apostles are ignored, people are treated badly, and the Holy Spirit seems absent. Yet, Paul always thanks his God concerning the congregation at Corinth. Why?

Paul does not thank God because of any inherent thing about the church at Corinth. He thanks God because the grace of God was given to the congregation at Corinth in Christ Jesus. I have had my fair share of negative experiences with unhealthy local churches. I have been forced out, asked to leave, condemned as a heretic, and told that I have the spirit of Satan and Jezebel. I am aware of local churches and denominations in which the false teaching is egregious. I know about local churches that intentionally condemn people because of their sin, appearance, or status. It is so easy for us to get caught up complaining about one church or another, even asking God to practice His righteous indignation against a church because the people seem so terrible. I wonder how often we thank the Lord for those congregations because He has chosen to show mercy by grace, which is given in Christ Jesus?

Have you ever thought about what God’s sovereignty means with regard to our thanksgiving? The Christian demeanor is not one of complaining or being uncharitable. The Christian demeanor is one of thanksgiving in all things—even when we see many things we could complain about. We thank God for people who might even stand against us because God has at least extended his own common grace to all and is working all things together.

that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you

Paul thanks God that in everything, all speech and knowledge, the Corinthians were enriched in Christ. The Corinthian church has experienced God’s particular grace. They were enriched through discipleship as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them. Paul pastored the church at Corinth for a-year-and-a-half. Through Paul’s preaching and teaching, the church grew in all knowledge and learned how to convey that knowledge to others. The reception and transmission of sound doctrine confirmed the testimony concerning Christ in the congregation.

Confirmation is a practice neglected in most protestant churches. Paul recognized that the congregation at Corinth had truly received the grace that is in Jesus because the congregation received and taught a true Gospel, even if most of its doctrine and practice was wrong. Each local church and individual is confirmed by a single standard, a correct understanding and proclamation of the testimony concerning Christ—not by eschatology, political stances, view of the eucharist, or any other doctrine or practice. A correct Gospel message is the difference between a true and false church, denomination, or religion. The Gospel message is the message by which we are confirmed—the fruit of our really being in Christ. We can have fellowship with congregations who take different doctrinal positions and have different practices than we do. Someone is not a false teacher because he teaches something different from someone else. The Gospel is what confirms Christians. If a local church or teacher does not proclaim the correct Gospel, there is no confirmation.

Original confirmation, receiving the Gospel and repenting, secures one’s salvation. False conversion happens when someone accepts a false gospel, merely takes on the Christian title, or converts to a religion rather than Christ; there is an absence of original confirmation.

so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The church at Corinth was in Christ and confirmed by her correct proclamation of the Gospel. Despite everything that is wrong with the church, her status in Christ produced an abundance of spiritual gifts and an anticipation for the return of Jesus Christ within the congregation. When a congregation is in Christ, not only is the Gospel present, but the people are not lacking in any gift. The gifts are not confirmation of salvation. They are given as a result of salvation—even to unhealthy local churches. Paul lists the spiritual gifts to which he is referring in Chapter 12, verses 7-10:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Each gift results from salvation because that is how the Holy Spirit manifests through the Christian church. I don’t think Paul’s list is exhaustive, and I will wait until we get to Chapter 12 to define each gift biblically with you. Here in Chapter 1, we see that the spiritual gifts are given to the whole church. The spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians are not the apostolic sign gifts that only belonged to the apostles. In Chapter 1, we realize three important facts about spiritual gifts. 1) They are not required for salvation and do not confirm one’s salvation. 2) They are not synonymous with the apostolic sign gifts. 3) They are the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the local church body.

Paul writes that Christ will also confirm the Christians at Corinth to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the church at Corinth is so unhealthy, Paul believes that Jesus Christ will make her blameless because her faith was confirmed. The saints, no matter how sinful or how incorrect their beliefs are, will be completed; they will not only be preserved but will persevere. If our Christianity is biblical, we have no reason to forsake our brothers and sisters in Christ who meet down the street because they have different beliefs or practices than we do. If they affirm the correct Gospel, they have been confirmed by Christ and are not forsaken by Him. They are family. Biblical Christianity, and the doctrines of grace we embrace, do not allow for cage-stage Calvinism or restlessness in the faith. If God perseveres his people, we can trust that He is making all of His people complete in His good timing according to His good providence. We love our brothers and sisters, reason with them concerning matters of faith and practice, and trust our Lord with their souls—and ours.

Faithfulness (v. 9)

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

When we talk about being in the faith, we talk about being in the faithfulness of God—who is our salvation, not some mere religion. God is the one through whom we were called into fellowship with Jesus Christ and made members of Christ’s church. Even though the Corinthians are experiencing a season of unfaithfulness to God, Paul reveals God as the faithful one. See, God’s love isn’t reckless; it’s steadfast and faithful. When we are reckless, He is faithful to His people.

We are encouraged to know that God is unconditionally and infinitely faithful to those He has called into fellowship with Jesus Christ. We are challenged to be faithful like God is faithful. If the church is the current appearance of Christ on this earth, church membership has everything to do with revealing who God is. Consider the following:

Worldly religionBiblical ChristianityNotes
IndividualisticCommunalIndividualism is another way people justify disloyalty and unfaithfulness. They are about themselves rather than the church Christ is building for Himself. This is why mere online viewing cannot replace the godly gathering. Everything about the church happens in community. I we can get the same thing out of church sitting at home watching it on television, then we are not participating as members of a church.
Church-hoppingDevotedIf our faithfulness testifies to God’s faithfulness, we would not church-hop from Sunday-to-Sunday or change churches every few years. We are people of loyal character because that is who God is. We cannot be loyal like God is without the covenant community.
Retreats when the church shows her wretchedness.Invests more to encourage and see others sanctified.Parents who are faithful to their children do not exile them because they do something wrong. They encourage and teach because family is loyalty.
Retreats when preferences are not met.Serves the sincere good of the church family.If we are loyal to others, we don’t care for them less because our preferences are not met. In fact, I preferences matter little.
Retreats because of hardship.Perseveres through hardship for the good of the body.Like Christ on the cross, we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
CompetitiveSupportiveWe consider others to be more important than ourselves, not having to compete for attention or status within the congregation or community. Churches or individuals who compete with other local churches or individuals are not loyal to their brothers and sisters. We are on the same team. Churches willing to steal members from other church discourage biblical living. We only compete by outdoing one another in love and humility.

Church membership, covenanting together, accomplishes Gospel purpose. Biblical church membership is one of the more important aspects of Christian living we can consider, and it’s not for wimps. It is not for people who are so concerned about themselves and their own pleasure. Biblical Christianity is a worldview that promotes loyalty in every arena of life—true brotherhood and sisterhood. True Christians don’t exile their children like Muslims do. Christian men forgive their wives for every transgression and pursue them even in the face of unfaithfulness. Christian women support their husbands. Christian children honor their parents even when they see their parent’s shortfalls. Christians dedicate themselves to encourage and stimulate the church on to love and good deeds. Too often, local churches and their pastors foster communities of unfaithfulness rather than faithfulness in order to look better than the other guy and attract larger audiences to their campuses. Scripture bids us be loyal servants to one another and our sister churches, not try to prove our superiority. Christ is the only superior one, and we are all humbled in His presence. If you are my brother or sister in Christ, you have my loyalty.

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