August 22, 2021

Church as a Team


During my time in seminary, I had one interesting professor, Dr. Felix, at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, his daughter just a couple of weeks ago became the most celebrated Olympic medalist, with 11 medals. At these particular games, she won 2 medals – one in individual 400 meter race, and one in 4×400 meter relay race. But, for me, and for many, most likely the medal for relay race is more valuable because is not just the endurance of one person, but the team spirit, strategy, and endurance of 4 people at once. All sports can be divided into two categories: individual sports and team sports. Although, we like to watch individual sports, when the team participates, and does it together, like in synchronized diving – it’s beautiful to watch.

It might be an oversimplification, but Christianity is first, and foremost a team sport! From the day one of our salvation, God places us on a team called a church. The ultimate goal is the team’s victory!

But we live in a world of individualism, which means that personal achievement is more important. The success of a country, company or the church is placed in the altar of personal success!

In the Bible, we find both sides of success.

Today’s text continues the theme of harmony in the church amid differences of opinion. It’s okay to have different views; it’s part of the Christian freedom. But these difference due to freedom need to be properly harmonized. Paul, developing this argument leads us toward two factors that help us work as a team. The first factor speaks of the inner motivation, and the second, speaks of the external factor. 

Read the text.

The first is love, which should be in the heart, and the second, is the reputation of the team. In other words, how we win the race is just as important as the victory itself.

I. Love

This is an internal motive (v. 15). If there is no love… conflicts.

A. In correct judgment (v. 13) judgment = decide (same Gr. Word)

If there is no love, we will judge. But here is another judgment – a deep investigation of how we can serve one another.

If I love the person, then in my heart I will feel the weakness or need of another person, and I will avoid any action that can hurt my neighbor. Love forces a person to be very attentive to what can be a stumbling block or a temptation for another. Why? If the brother stumbles, he will not be able to run his part of the relay, and then our team will not win the race!

Question: Are you aware of the situations when people are tempted or stumble because of you? If yes, love will make you think how to avoid it!!! At a certain stage, we decide that Irina would wear head covering…

B. In conviction about freedom (v. 14)

If there is no love, we are not free.

We need to clarify one word that is not in our text, but which is implied in (v. 16) – liberty or freedom!

(1 Cor. 8:9; 9:1, 19; 10:23, 29) – the freedom that every believer has. Our text says that this conviction comes when you have a close relationship with Christ! When a person not only learns about Christ, or speaks about Christ, but speaks to Christ. This is a life by faith in the words of Christ, in the truth. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). When we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, the words of Christ, this proves that we are HIS disciples (close relationship), and then liberation and freedom from sin begins. So, in the Lord, the understanding comes that food itself cannot be unclean. Yet, it can become impure. How? When the decision to eat does not stem from satisfaction in God, confidence in God, trust in God, joy and peace in God.

Two things that tempt us to compromise our conscience: 1) people’s approval, and 2) our flesh – we go against our beliefs, simply because our flesh wants. As a result, we go against conscience and sin.

Are you free? If yes, the following is for you. If not… we love you, and we will try to take a good care of you through the following text, but it is not for you.

C. In denial of freedom (v. 15)

Only when we are fully convinced that we are free are we able to give up our freedom! If not, we will grieve one another – this is pain that is not associated with ordinary irritation or annoyance, but with pangs of conscience. This word is used to describe Peter’s reaction when Christ asked him for the third time, “Do you love Me?” It is emotional pain mixed with sadness about failure.

“Do not destroy” – this is the most serious argument in the conversation about Christian freedom! A Christian who neglects the conscience of others, or even his own, and forces others or himself to go against it, leads them toward hardening of the heart and loss (Matt. 10:42 “will lose”).

Paul is strengthening his argument by speaking about Christ’s sufferings and death, as motivator to be considerate of the conscience of others. If Christ suffered and died for your brother’s sake, can’t you give up some of your comfort too? When was the list time your love for the brother led you to say no to your liberty, deny yourself that freedom?

II. Reputation

Reputation is how others perceive us. This is a kind of test for the attractiveness of Christianity (vv. 16, 18).

A. In the beauty of freedom (v. 16)

Confidence in freedom leads to the rejection of freedom, and this is what makes Christian freedom so attractive (not spoken evil of).

Why do we come to this conclusion? Three reasons: 1) The Gospel is named differently (15:20, 29) – it is the message of Christ, 2) “you regard as good”, something that belongs to them, 3) The already studied parallel text (1 Cor. 8-10) speaks of Christian freedom.

Ex. The husband’s loves of his wife. Many people talk about flowers or gifts given, or even time spent. But, true beauty begins to shine through when a husband, for the sake of his wife, sacrifices and renounces his rights, privileges. He marries her in the first place – it is the end of freedom

B. In the beauty of relationship with God (vv. 17-18)

The Trinity – The kingdom of God, we serve Christ, and we rejoice in the Holy Spirit.

What is this kingdom of God? It is not a place or material things like food and drink. When Christ taught his disciples to pray, He spoke about the Kingdom of God, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Your name, your kingdom come, your will be done…” – where God is sanctified, where His will is done, there is His kingdom! This is where righteousness, peace and joy are manifested!

What is it? This is salvation and sanctification of believers.

The imputed righteousness in salvation (Rom. 4:3) and sanctification (6:18-19).

Peace and joy in salvation (Rom. 5:1, and there are many examples of joy in the salvation of a sinner in the book of Acts), and sanctification (12:15; 15:13). Why is this important to note now? The lordship of Christ (v. 18)!!!

When pride and selfishness are replaced by righteousness, peace, and joy, such a person cannot condemn or despise others.

“approved by men” – commendable, means, the praise based on careful investigation, like a jeweler who carefully examined a piece of jewelry under a magnifying glass. Likewise, a person who lives in close relationship with God, after careful examination, is worthy of approval or praise!

A serious conclusion: if you do not have peace with people in the church – perhaps you have not yet received the righteousness of Christ, have not received the peace of God, have not acquired the joy of the Holy Spirit! Perhaps the fact that you are judging someone behind a closed door or despising someone is a sign of unbelief, you have no salvation…

C. In the beauty of relationship with one another (v. 19) love and reputation 

Gospel (v. 15) – Christ died FOR people, instead of sinners.

On October 8, 1871, Dwight L. Moody preached to the largest group of people he has ever preached in Chicago. His text was (Matt. 27:22) “What shall I do with Jesus, called Christ?” After he spoke very convincingly about Christ as Savior and Redeemer, he told people to take this text with them in order to return to it in their thinking during the coming week, and come back the next weekend in order to decide on what to do with Christ. That very night, after his sermon, the famous Chicago fire took place, that claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Reflecting back on that evening, Moody said that it was a big mistake, and since then he did not give people a week to think. Decide today what will you do with Christ and with the message of salvation.

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