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HERESIES ... EVEN AT CHURCH!

FIRST CORINTHIANS 11:17-19

"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 1st Corinthians 11:17-19

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON 1:

Bible Texts are living things!

Once the Lord "burdens" a heart with a Passage of Scripture, or sometimes "thrills" that heart with it, it's just a matter of time until that Paragraph of Holy Writ becomes nearly the sole focus of one's attention.

Such is the case with 1st Corinthians 11:17-19.

It's blunt and nearly harsh approach to Church "problems" is astounding! Yet, like all Scripture, it is "profitable" in every way!

"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

And this is inspired of the Holy Spirit too, every word!

Today we will merely begin.

Our first verse, 1st Corinthians 17, says: "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse."

The pronoun "this" I suspect is referring to what Paul is about to say, not what he's already preached. "Touto" is a neuter demonstrative pronoun, pointing to some special object in Paul's heart. His burden is for the Corinthian Christians, their spiritual well being. What he is soon to preach will draw some "good" out of a whole pool of "bad" in that Assembly, the most troublesome one Paul ever pastored.

The conjunction "now" is spelled "de" in Greek. In our King James New Testaments it is translated "now" 166 times! That's a lot! Yet it also carries the idea of "contrast" and is accordingly translated "but" 1237 more times! To be even more accurate in reporting the word's usage, "de" is expressed as "and" another 935 times too. It introduces the Paragraph Paul is about to write, probably with his pen smoking hot!

The verb "declare" is interesting. It fuses "aggello," meaning "to bring a message," and "para," meaning "alongside" a person! "Aggello," it its noun form, is our word "angel," a messenger of God by definition. Paul is preaching a sermon, putting it right down there where the Corinthians live, right beside them! "Paraggello" here is a present participle, serving as an adjective and describing Paul as he sternly cautions the saints at Corinth!

The word "praise" is "epaineo" and means "to commend" or "to laud" or "to approve" someone. One textbook even says it means "to applaud!" From these definitions you can deduce the fact that Paul is not pleased! Although "aineo" usually means to praise God, Paul always ending His praise with the Lord anyway! The terminal focus of Paul's commendation is always Deity! The man could eat a meal or simply drink some water, praising God every minute!

The verb "come together" is "sunerchomai," and indicates movement on the part of a group of people here. It's plural. However, it is not the lofty word that gives us "synagogue." It, "erchomai," just means "to come or go." The prefix "sun" means "together,"  or just "with" others. It looks to be a middle voice verb, non-existent in English. The subject is believed to be "changed" in this gathering process! Church services should do that in our lives, via the Word of God and the Spirit of God! Change us for the better! The present tense here means they habitually met in their services.

"Better" is "kreitton," being derived from "kratos," one of the Greek words for strength or power. It range of meaning includes: "to greater advantage," or perhaps "nobler," but most accurately "stronger or more powerfully." Whatever they are doing, all the fussing and wrangling, is robbing them of spiritual power!

And, conversely, "worse" is "hetton," meaning "inferior" or even "less." One source says "weaker," paralleling "kreitton" better. This also carries the added thought of being "defeated or conquered!" Its verb form suggests "being overcome" by an enemy, as in 2nd Peter 2:19.

Paul cannot say much good about the Corinthians here. Therefore he does not flatter them with empty words!

He will be truthful at all cost!

May God's Men today still do the same!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2:

We are Scripturally warned about it for sure.

"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." Proverbs 14:15

We sang about it as children.

"Be careful little ears what you hear! For your Father up above is looking down on you with love! Be careful little ears what you hear!"

We've even coined a word for it, "hearsay."

Still Paul writes to one of the Churches, "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it." 1st Corinthians 11:18

Yes, Paul had "heard" something!

We even know how he heard it! "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you." 1st Corinthians 1:11 just introduced us to Chloe, a lady Believer who was a part of the Church at Corinth. She is Paul's source!

Maybe it partly depends upon the person from whom we get the information! After all, some handle the truth more carefully than others. Psalm 15:2 talks about the person who "walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." He, or she in this case, can be trusted! It's largely a matter of discernment. "He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit." Proverbs 12:17

Plus, Paul enjoys here the added miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit! It is He Who dictates the words for 1st Corinthians, the whole Epistle! In fact, all of Paul's canonical writings!

Continuing his "list" of subjects to be addressed, Paul now approaches the issue of Church "problems." We know he's working from some kind of a list because he says so! "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman." That's back in 1st Corinthians 7:1.

Again, today's verse: "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it."

The adverbial qualifier "first of all," in Greek "proton," means "priority in time or place or order or importance." It's really an adjective form of "pro," but expressed in the superlative degree. "Now before anything else!" Or, "Chiefly!"

The verb "come together" is again "sunerchomai." It means "to convene," usually with a group of like minded brethren. This is a present participle in the middle voice, their gathering together impacts or changes their lives, for better or worse! Always that's true of a Church service!

Remember that "church" is "ecclesia," a "called out" assembly of individuals. Originally a secular word to the ancients, the Holy Spirit has cleaned it and sanctified it and made it into His word for "a congregation of saints who come to worship the Lord in spirit and truth!" Yes, a local Church is here indicated, at Corinth, in Greece.

The word "hear" is expressed as an indicative present active verb. Paul kept on hearing this, again and again apparently! "Akouo" is the Greek spelling, when transliterated anyway.

Now we come to perhaps the main word, "divisions." It's "schisma" and means a "split" in something, a "tear" or "rent" or "gap" in a thing. Our word schism is obviously a derivative. "Schizo" means "to break open" or "to divide."

The local Church is to be "in one mind and in one accord." Not split into many sects and contentious cliques and opposing groups!

Using a writing technique sometimes called "foreshadowing," Paul, back in 1st Corinthians 1:10, writes: "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." The noun "divisions" here is "schisma" in Greek. Paul is cautioning them about something he already knows is occurring in the Church. He occasionally does this.

Found only eight times in the Bible as a noun, "schism" can mean anything from a "tear" in a cloth ... all the way to "arguments and differences of opinion" among the people.

The best "schism" verse I can find is Matthew 27:51-53. At the death of Jesus ... "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." The verb is here capitalized for easier identification.

The preposition "among" is spelled "en." It usually denotes fixed position! These factions existed "inside" the Corinthians fellowship!

Paul knows these converts, too!

After all, he spent eighteen months with them, day by day preaching and teaching them God's Word! Luke tells us so. "And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." Acts 18:11

In fact, Paul knows them so well, he believes what he's heard about their infighting! At least, "partly" so! "Meros" means a "portion" of something. Or it can mean the "edges" of a surface, the extremities! Paul believes enough of the report he's been given to respond to such issues!

And do remember, some of these issues go beyond "Corinthian" versus "Corinthian" and extend to "Corinthians" versus "Paul" issues! There are here some real basic critical life-threatening problems for this little Church in southern Greece!

How will Paul deal with such things?

Come back tomorrow and we, Lord willing, shall see!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3:

When Paul talks about Church "problems," calling them "heresies" in 1st Corinthians 11:19, he makes an amazing statement.

Yet this statement can put a lot of issues, bad ones too, in perspective!

Notice this. "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Until we can further investigate the word "heresies," let's just acknowledge that the Greek word is "hairesis" and means a spirit of division, or a spirit of partisanship, or simply some form of disunion. Literally it means a "choosing" of one's own opinion, to the point of utterly excluding all others and their opinions! "To take for oneself!" To have very strong preferences about everything, not at all considering the feelings of one's brothers or sisters in Christ!

These are, as I've called them several times in this series of Bible Studies, church "problems, arguments or even splits!"

And we all know that absolutely nothing good can come from such things!

Or can it?

We do serve a God who can make "all things" work together for good, you know!

Paul in today's verse is telling us that these "heresies" must come from time to time!

They "must" be, he says, writing under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit! I believe the Holy Ghost told him the very words to pen here! "For there must be heresies among you ...!"

Why would the Lord say such a thing?

Is there a ministry to the saints, even of Church difficulties and schisms?

Yes, says our Text!

Again, "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

The little verb used here for "must" is spelled "dei." It's pronounced like our word "die" however.

I find it 105 times in the New Testament.

One of the amazing facts concerning "dei" is that it's used in some critical passages! Here are some of them, with "dei" being capitalized and underlined.

Its first mention in the Bible: "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." Matthew 16:21 highlights the coming Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus! Important for sure!

Twelve year old Jesus: "And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Luke 2:49

Then later in our Lord's Life: "And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God ... for therefore am I sent." Luke 4:43

To that little tax collector: "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house." Luke 19:5

Fulfilled prophecy: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." Luke 24:44

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." John 3:7

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14-15 concerns salvation itself!

Here's worship: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24

God's very Will: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work," says Jesus in John 9:4.

Salvation again! "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:16

"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Acts 16:31

While other examples of course could be offered, these are enough to emphasize the critical importance of this little word "must!"

It is not generally used in a casual manner in the New Testament.

"Dei" is thought to have descended from the verb "deo," meaning "to chain or tie or bind" someone or something!

Then, when something MUST be done, it is a requirement! A necessity! A binding situation!

And even Church problems, all the way to the point of "heresies," must occur ... largely because of one great benefit they provide. "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Get ready!

These things will come!

And while God is not thrilled with them necessarily, they do fulfill one aspect of His Plan!

And that we will study, Lord willing, tomorrow.

Until then, do not allow church issues, difficult ones even, to distress you or depress you or cause you to diminish your zeal for the Lord and His work!

Rather, prepare to learn from these things ... ugly as they are!

"For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

It must be true!

It's in the Bible!

While not providing an excuse for sin, Paul is certainly giving us a unique view into one unusual classroom, a bickering church!

Even there God must be exalted!

And will be by those who are faithful and true to the Bible!

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4:

Paul talked about "heresies" in the Church!

He used the word specifically in his Corinthian Correspondence.

He even went so far, under Holy Spirit inspiration, as to say that "heresies" must occur from time to time.

Now it's true that he only gives one reason why this is so, but how many reasons do you need?

"For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 1st Corinthians 11:19

The noun "heresies" is spelled "hairesis" in Greek! When we anglicized the word, we just "borrowed" it from the ancient world, nearly letter for letter!

By dictionary definition "hairesis" means "dissensions arising from diversities of opinions and aims." In the New Testament the word is translated "sect" five times.

Peter spoke of "damnable heresies," such as denying the Lord Jesus Who is our Redeemer! See 2nd Peter 2:1.

Paul named them, "hairesis," as one of the works of the flesh. That's in Galatians 5:19-21.

And it's in the Book of Acts we find the Pharisees being called a "sect" of Judaism. Acts 26:5 is an example. Also the Sadducees were so labeled in Acts 5:17.

The Jews really looked upon the new "religion" of Christianity as a "sect," troublesome to the old ways of Moses! See Acts 24:5.

We know for sure that "heresies" or "sects" were existent in the Corinthian assembly. Plainly Paul confronts them: "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" 1st Corinthians 1:11-13

Contentions, strifes, wranglings!

One Greek scholar adds that a minor distinction can be detected between a "schism" and these "heresies." A schism, as its name implies, means a "tearing away" from the original body. Separation is implied! An absolute split! Leaving the Church fellowship! While a heresy might just involve very strong differences of opinion ... yet remaining in the local Church body.

By grammatical definition "heresies" come first, ultimately leading to "schisms" if God does not intervene.

There were such "heresies" in nearly every area of life, at Corinth I mean. "Heresies" over which Preachers they liked best! "Heresies" over what is sin and what is not! "Heresies" concerning marriage and divorce! "Heresies" involving what could and could not be eaten by the growing Christian! Certainly "heresies" existed when the Church participated in Communion, the Lord's Supper! Even "heresies" about the Resurrection of the dead, both the Lord's and ours! And, based on 1st Corinthians 16:1-2, maybe even "heresies" over money, the Church offerings week after week!

No wonder Paul wrote it, our current Text: "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 1st Corinthians 11:17-19

Read it again: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

If such problems are going to exist, it's only logical that some positions are RIGHT according to the Bible ... and all the others are WRONG!

And therein is found the benefit of "heresies," they help us know who is following the Word of God ... and who is following popular sentiment!

Lord willing, more tomorrow!

Until then, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:4, "Let God be true, but every man a liar." His way, the Lord's way, is always the right way!

"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." So say Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, both word for word!

Just watch the next time a "heresy" occurs in your Church, a "dissension" or "argument," just like oil and water separate, so will the Bible believing crowd and the politically correct crowd!

It will happen every time!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5:

At least when Church problems come ... "they which are approved will be made manifest among you."

The men and women at Church who really believe the Bible will prove their faith when the battles come!

Those who hate sin, truly believing in separation from ungodliness, will surface too!

Those who are loyal to the Lord, genuinely so, will stand up for what's right!

That's what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11:17-19. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Two words must be considered now.

These Church divisions and heresies lead to the downfall of some. But these folks probably were insincere and shallow anyway.

The same issues, however, lead to, the "approval" of others!

In every Church fight, every doctrinal battle, every confrontation over godly practice ... some will be "approved," while others will "fail" the very same test!

How else could we ever know who is real?

Without the pressure of occasional conflicts, Paul seems to be saying, we might never know who are the "A" students in God's School of Discipleship!

The word "approved" is really an adjective here, describing the ones who have stood against sin and compromise in the said local Church situation, whatever the "issue" may have been. "Dokimos" means "having successfully stood the test!" Having taken the exam and having received the highest grade! The term was used of metals that had passed through the fire, thereby achieving purity! It was also used of coins that had been analyzed and found to be genuine!

In 1st Corinthians 9:27, where Paul speaks of his fear of ever becoming a "castaway," he uses the word "adokimos," an unapproved one, one who failed the test!

Those at Church who fall into the filth and stench of these "heresies" and "divisions" are "castaways" then!

But those who refuse to be drawn into the whirlpool of lukewarmness, receive God's nod of approval!

"For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

The second word we need to study is "manifest." It is derived from "phaneros," having the idea of "shining brightly, easily seen, radiant and luminous!" Being another adjective, "manifest" is here augmented by the verb "may be made."

"Ginomai," or "may be made," is a Greek verb suggesting the act of "becoming, taking place, happening, or even being created!" Framed as a subjunctive, "ginomai" here implies that this "approval" is the highest and purest result to come from such heresies and divisions!  Its "middle" voice property also tells us that the "fight" has changed this approved one ... for the better!

The "better" spiritual state of the man who handled the heresy correctly is here, at the end of the Text, contrasted with those in Corinth, at the beginning of the Text, who were coming together "not for the better," but for the worse!

Thus, a literary device called "inclusio" here is used, our three-verse Passage starting and ending with the same thought!

Then, church divisions are used of God ... to prove the mettle of His Own Children!

Such battles will make us stronger or weaker!

Better or worse!

Approved or a failure!

Ready?

I'll guarantee you this.

A test is coming!

I long to be approved in the eyes of God!

Don't you?

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

CHURCH PROBLEMS, BAD AS THEY ARE, AT LEAST SHOW US WHO IS REAL AND GENUINE AND STRONG IN THEIR FAITH! STAY TRUE TO THE LORD ... AFTER ALL, IT IS HIS APPROVAL WE SEEK, NOT MAN'S!

 

 

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