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Part Five

The Believer’s Armor and the Spiritual Battle

Ephesians 6:11

Ephesians 6:10-20 presents the believer’s responsibility as we engage the enemy in the spiritual warfare which is faced by every believer. In order that we may be adequately prepared for the battle we are told in verse 11, to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” One of the “wiles” or “strategies” of the Devil is to cause division in the Body of Christ and therefore render it less effective in the spiritual battle against Satan’s forces.

Wile #4. Causing Division in the Body of Christ

Psalm 133:1; “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Is it possible to have unity in the church? After all, the church is made up of selfish sinners. It must be possible as we are given just that command in I Corinthians 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.” And in I Corinthians 12:25, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

The early Christian Church had this unity— for a while. In Acts, we read that the believers were with one accord; in 1:14; 2:1, resulting in 3,000 being saved (2:41), in 2:46, with joy, fellowship and church growth 2:46,47), in 4:24,32, praising God and sacrificial sharing of material things. Much can be accomplished for God when we are working in unity.

Then sin crept in. In Acts 5:1-11, we read of a couple who sold a possession, gave part of it to the Lord, but lied about the amount that they gave. God judged this sin by taking these two home before He normally would have done so. We have similar examples of pride and selfishness in our congregations today.

Among the purposes that God gave for the leaders in the church (Eph. 4:11) are “For the perfecting (adjusting or qualifying) of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith...” (Eph. 4:12,13). We are told that divisions are a result of carnality, by being controlled by the flesh and not by the Holy Spirit. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Cor. 3:3). Jesus warns us that a “house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25). Division causes destruction. Disunity is so serious that we are even told to, “…mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17; also Titus 3:10).

What is unity? Does it mean that we all have to think alike, act alike, or minister alike? Absolutely not! The twelfth chapter of I Corinthians clarifies these legitimate questions.

I Corinthians, Chapter 12

The letter of I Corinthians was written by Paul to the church that he had established there during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). The church was largely composed of Gentiles and had different problems than the primarily Jewish churches had been experiencing. The problems were not related to Jewish legalism or even primarily to heretical doctrine. The Corinthian believers were causing divisions in the body along with many of the other consequences of carnality (I Cor. 3:3; 11:18). There was no lack of spiritual gifts. The gifts were being misused (I Cor. 1:7; 14:1-40). The epistle’s main thrust is “Christian conduct,” or exhortation to “act like what you are.” They were to be examples to the world, not of the world. The church was to go into the world, not the world into the church. See also Eph.4:1; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10-16, Titus 3:8. If Believers “automatically” live a fruitful Christian life, this epistle need not to have been written.


Brief Overview of I Corinthians 12

Verse one introduces the subject of spiritual things (pneumatikon). “Gifts” is in Italics and is not in the original text. It has to do with things referring to the Spirit, the context also including spiritual gifts (charismata, v4,9,28,30,31).

V.4-6: Gifts have a unity in source.

V.7-10: Gifts have a unity in purpose.

V.12-31: The ramifications of one head and one body composed of many members, each with a different function.

“Unity” and “difference” seem to be key concepts in verses 4-6. Union is not unity and unity is not conformity. Unity is diversity in harmony. We tend to seek unity in conformity. Rather than encouraging each person’s uniqueness, we discourage it. This passage stresses unity in Christ but it is worked out in different gifts, different administrations and different manifesta­tions.

Different gifts - Same Spirit, v.4

Different administrations - Same Lord, v.5

Different operations - Same God, v.6

“Gift” = literally a gracious gift, seems also to apply to the gift of an enablement or talent as in Rom. 12:6-8. (See also I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6.

“Administration” = a service, such as waiting on a table. The same word from which we get our “deacon.”

“Opera­tion” = a working, a thing effected, same word as “working” in verse 10).

Each of us is to serve the same God, witness with the same Gospel, but to do it in the manner in which God has enabled us. These gifts are dispersed as God desires not as we desire (v. 11, 18, 28).

Some commentators also see the unity of the trinity in these verses.

Verses 12-31 stress that we each have different functions in the body. We are to work together for the betterment of the team, not just the individual members. This is for the purpose of honoring the Head of the body, Jesus (I Cor 6:19,20).  

The command in verse 31 to “covet earnestly the best gifts” could grammatically be either imperative or indicative. The context seems to demand the indicative mood instead of how it is usually translated. God just told them in three places that He makes the decisions on who gets which gifts, so it is unlikely that he is now telling them to seek a particular gift. He is probably saying that they have been desiring the best gifts (megas = greater or more magnificent, such as the showy display of tongues mentioned in chapter 14), but he will show them a more excellent way. The more excellent way is (chapter 13) exercise your gifts in divine love, (chapter 14) for the edification of the body. (Note how many times chapter 14 uses derivatives of the words “know” or “understand”).

If we would start using what God has given us, in love, for His glory and the edification of the church, most of our “division” problems would cease.

Some key concepts to be understood to help Christians maintain unity amongst the diversity of spiritual gifts (I Cor, 12:1-14:40):

1. We need knowledge (12:1), but not knowledge alone (8:1).

2. There are different types of gifts, ministries, and activities 12:4-6,29-30).

3. Gods’ Holy Spirit distributes them as He wills (12:11, 18, 28).

4. We are many members of one body. Each member is important and affects the whole (12:12-27) positively or negatively (12:26). Even the weaker members are necessary (12:22).

5. God composed the body how He pleased (12:18,24,28).

6. The one who exercises gifts without love “is nothing” (13:2).

7. There is no profit to the one who exercises gifts without love (13:3).

8. Love is permanent. The gifts are not (13:8). Prophecies and knowledge will fail. Tongues will cease of itself. The verb used here is in the middle voice, meaning that the subject will perform the action of the verb upon itself. A different verb that is used for the other two gifts is in the passive voice, meaning that the action will be performed upon the subject by an external means, probably referring to “that which is perfect” of verse 10. That is likely referring to after the time that Jesus sets up His future kingdom.

9. We should pursue love and desire spiritual things (14:1)

10. The gifts are not given to edify ourselves (14:2-4).

11. The gifts are given to edify the Church (14:4,12,26,31).

12. If it causes confusion in the Church, it is not of God (14:33,40).

13. In general, we should recognize that an unspiritual man can have gifts and can also put on a good show with no real profit just as the Corinthians had been doing. One function of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus (John 16:13,14). We should do the same (John 15:8).

Is It The Pastor’s Job?

He has the same responsibilities to exercise his gifts as we do, plus:

I Pet. 5:1-4; Feed (shepherd) the flock, be an ensample (example, pattern) to the flock.

I Tim. 3:1-7; Be an example and care for the Church.

Titus 1:6-9; Be an example and exhort and convince those who contradict.

Eph.4:11-16; Mature the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ.

The Pastor should not and cannot exercise your gifts. If you do not use your gifts, the body will become lopsided in its operation. God gave you something that is needed to balance out the ministry (I Cor. 12:22). God knew that various members of the body were necessary in order to function. How far would the Church of Christ progressed if every member of the body had been a gall bladder?

Could it be that our gifts simply need to be nurtured and stirred up? Late in Paul’s ministry he exhorts Timothy to not neglect (I Timothy 4:14), but to stir up the gift of God which was in him (II Timothy 1:6). This was probably referring to the gift of evangelism (II Tim. 4:5). Is there a parallel between this and the long-term baby believers mentioned in Hebrews 5:11-14, who should have been teachers (maybe they had that gift) but did not reach maturity because they did not “by reason of use have their senses exer­cised”? It is not a crime to start life as a baby but it is a tragedy to remain one when we should be mature and fruitful.

How to Cause Division

Probably most division is caused by sin that manifests itself in some form of gossip. Webster defines gossip as “idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others.” What is said may or may not be true, but it is not loving or edifying. Usually, we wish to elevate ourselves in other people’s eyes by putting someone else down. This is always someone who is not there to defend themselves or to correct any wrong statements made about them. When God tells us to let our light shine before men to glorify God (Matt. 5:16), He does not mean to blow out the other guys’ light so that ours will shine brighter. The third chapter of James gives us God’s thoughts concerning the misuse of the tongue.

How to Squelch Some Divisions

Matt. 18:15-17 tells us how to impede much of the progress of this type of problem. If the brother trespasses against you, talk to him privately (v.15). If he will not hear, take one or two more to be witnesses (v.16). If he still will not hear, take it to the church (v.17). If he still refuses to hear, he should be functionally treated as an unsaved person. We love the unsaved (Eph. 4:15). Part of the intent of Church discipline is the objective of restoration of the sinning believer. This will not always work because you cannot force your will upon someone else. You are accountable for your obedience, not his. If Church discipline were more often applied in a Biblical manner, there would be much less need for Church discipline to be applied. “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves: for charity  (love) shall cover the multitude of sins”. (I Peter 4:8). “And be ye kind one to another , tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32).

Psalm 133:1; “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

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