The Apostle Paul got a little chippy with the Corinthian church; as he wrote multiple letters to the assembly he planted in the province of Achaia, in southern Greece. Why? In doing a bit of profiling, we find a wealthy, gifted, self-sufficient, articulate, intellectual, antinomian group. In their ambitions, they also proved to be divided followers of men. They certainly struggled to submit to Paul’s apostolic authority. As with most churches, the strength of the Corinthian assembly exposed its weakness.
Today, ambitious men want to do great things for Jesus. They want more money and better attendance figures for Jesus. They create and implement world class church programs, “Got a hangnail? We have a group!” They market their local assemblies like a corporation, “Ok everyone, on the count of three, we are all going to hit the ‘checked in’ button on Facebook.” The typical American congregation is very Corinthian, and most of them would not consider that a negative assessment.
Sadly, the more Fortune 500 mega churches America produces, the faster the decline of the church in this nation, in almost every category of assessment. It is almost something we could dub, “The Corinthian-American curse.” The quest for stronger, healthier, bigger, livelier, intentional, relevant, hipster churches grants us wealthy, gifted, self-sufficient bodies that are shallow, man-centered, and proud.
Today’s American Church reminds me of the homosexual soccer player, Megan Rapinoe. She is a proud feminist, who has no need for a man. She paints her hair to draw the attention of would-be worshipers. She dresses up in her new fashion designs, and she represents that which stands in opposition to God. Her motive is to be a goddess, and in this, she has fallen prey to the wiles of the devil, as did the first woman (Gen 3:5)…as does today’s wayward church.
The feminist American church, led by an increasing number of lesbian pastors is proud and loud. Just for clarification, I am talking about mainline Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, and Pentecostals. The American church wants to be strong, healthy, wealthy, and attractive. Megan Rapinoe is rich, and so is the church, but in truth, both are poor, naked, and a bit blind to their situations (Rev 3). Neither of them takes correction well, either.
Paul presents us with a paradox, when it comes to strength and weakness. At times, he identified with the strong (Rom 15:1), and then insisted on ministering to the weak. All that we have is from God, and all that we have, belongs to God. Therefore, if we have abundance above our needs, we should be generous with those having less or nothing at all (1 Jn 3:16–17).
Paul’s position, as he presented it to the Corinthian church, was definitely a claim for weakness (1 Cor 1:25, 27; 4:10; 2 Cor 12:10; 13:9). His thesis was, “for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:10b).” What did he mean?
The Christian paradox, regarding weakness and strength, follows the divine paradox, “God has chosen the weak things of the world, to shame the things which are strong (1 Cor 1:27).” In this, Paul was separating himself from the proud Corinthians, who thought they were wise, prudent, distinguished, and strong (1 Cor 4:10).
As a man draws near to God and is identified as a Christian, he becomes despised and rejected by ambitious men (Is 53; Mt 10:38; 16:24). For many in the Corinthian church, Paul, with his claim to apostleship, thorn in his side, prison sentences, etc. was too much for them. He was not a gifted orator, in the ears of those Corinthians, privy to elevated rhetoric. Paul was not a man honored by the world (Jn 15:18).
When men in the church talk about “relevant,” “intentional,” and “elevated” church, their desire is to be recognized as significant in the world. Paul argued with the Corinthians over this issue. His ministry brought insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake (2 Cor 12:10). The Corinthians’ ministry did not. His ministry was an offense to many of his hearers. Their ministry was not. At the end of his second letter to them (probably his fourth, although we do not have the others), all he could do is pray that they would be made complete (2 Cor 13:9). What he meant was for God to take them down a notch or two…or ten.
The heretic who betrays Christ is never to be envied. He or she sells out to the devil for fame and fortune in the ministry. Church congregations that follow the heretic, sit each Sunday under the judgment of God, otherwise they would not be sitting under a heretic!
Does your church have a 90 year old woman at the piano, serving as the morning worship team? That is weak, which is good. Does your church have an attendance that need not be counted because it is so small? That is weak, which is good. Does your church have a man of God who loves the Word of God, rather than popular psychology, philosophy, politics, or story-telling? That is weak, which is good.
When the church is weak in the things of the world, then, it is strong in the Lord. Christ loves His little flock, the few who are chosen to receive the foolishness of God, which is wiser than the wisdom of men. Rejoice, if you are experiencing the day of small, weak things. These are a gift of God, to keep you humble and dependent upon your first love (Rev 2), the God-man you need in your spiritual life, who does not need to knock on the door of your local church because He is in her midst, being strong for her who is weak.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 1, 2022