Summary: This sermon introduces a study of 1 Cor. 12-14 in which we are trying to determine the signs and characteristics of a healthy church.
October 6, 2002 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
¡§How do you define ¡¥healthy¡¦?¡¨
How do you define ¡§healthy¡¨? Usually when I want to define something, I go to Webster¡¦s dictionary. I consider Webster to be the expert. Webster defines ¡§healthy¡¨ as ¡§having good health¡¨. That doesn¡¦t tell me a whole lot. So when the expert lets you down, you go to the next best experts ¡V your friends and ask them the same question. Friends, come on up here so you can give us your definitions of healthy. [bring up the 3 people that you have posed this question to ahead of time and ask them to give their short definitions] Most people when you ask them to explain ¡§healthy¡¨ to you, they will say something along the lines of ¡§free from sickness and disease¡¨. They might also include in that looking good. For example, a piece of fruit that looks good might be described as a healthy looking piece of fruit. Mixed in with all that, we might include a little bit of feeling good as a part of our definition. We go to the doctor, and he asks how we¡¦re doing. We answer, ¡§I think I¡¦m pretty healthy doc. I mean, I feel pretty good most of the time.¡¨
But there are problems with each one of those possible definitions of health. Just because I am free from sickness and disease does not mean that I am healthy. A person who has been shot is free from sickness and disease, but I doubt that we would classify them as healthy. A person that looks good is not necessarily healthy either. A healthy appearance is defined by the society that you live in. Our society seems to worship a thin frame, so a woman who has starved herself to wear size ¡§0¡¨ clothing is described as healthy. At the same time, many cultures value a woman who is of robust size and think that a thin woman is sickly. We know that neither extreme is healthy. And just because you feel good does not mean that you do not have a serious disease. How many times have we heard of someone going to her doctor for a routine check-up and discovering that her body was riddled with the deadly disease of cancer?
So how do you define healthy? Let me give you this as a working definition of health ¡V health is when all the parts of any given organism function together just as the designer intended with the result that they accomplish exactly what the designer planned. You can apply that definition to a car, a computer, an airplane, a family or a body. You can even apply that definition to a church. A healthy church is one where all the parts [that¡¦s us] of that church function together just as the Designer [who¡¦s our Designer ¡V God] intended with the result that they accomplish exactly what the Designer planned.
Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, further defined what goes on in a church that is healthy. We¡¦re going to deal with three of those characteristics over the next several months. They¡¦re in your note sheet. A healthy church is one where¡K
1. ¡Kevery saved person uses his/her gifts under the direction of the Holy Spirit to minister to one another and to point people to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 12)
2. ¡Kevery saved person uses his/her gifts with the sole motivation of love and judges the quality of their work by the amount of love that is manifested through it. (1 Cor. 13)
3. ¡Kevery saved person uses his/her gifts in an orderly and fitting way to build up the church and glorify God rather than building up and glorifying themselves. (1 Cor. 14)
A church like that is experiencing spiritual health and is therefore, effectively accomplishing everything that God intended for that church to do.
The church at Corinth was not a healthy church. There were all kinds of sin going on in the church, and for a church, sin is disease. There were divisions in the church. Everyone was doing his own thing for his own personal benefit rather than working for the benefit of the church. Divorce was rampant. A guy in the church was having a known sexual relationship with his stepmother and no one was questioning it or doing anything about it. When the church celebrated the Lord¡¦s Supper, people were getting drunk and exhibiting gluttony. And Christians were suing each other right and left whenever they felt that their rights had been violated. It was a mess! Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to the church so that he could be a spiritual doctor and get them back into good health.
Our task here though is not to point the finger at the 1st Baptist Church of Corinth. (actually, there were no Baptists back then) Our task is to use the same diagnostic tools that doctor Paul used to determine whether or not New Life Baptist Church is a healthy church. And if we determine that it is not, we want to discover how we can get it healthy again.