It is hard to believe that three little words can change the landscape of a company forever.
In 1988, with the help of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, Nike embarked on their now-famous slogan: “Just Do It.” From your neighborhood basketball court to the largest stars in most every sport, “Just Do it” reigns king for those looking to take their athletic greatness (at least in feel!) to the next level.
Slogans like “Just Do It” are the filter through which we interpret everything we experience.
In the New Testament, one teaching that was pronounced repeatedly to the same effect –but that is almost invisible today—is the picture of the local church. If the measure of a successful church according to the Bible is simply the programs, attendance, and building size, then we could say, like Nike, our efforts and advertising have been a worldwide success.
However, what is missing—and why we have missed the mark on this issue, I believe—is we define the church and its success not by corporate identity (“The Body of Christ”), but rather by individual preferences (“My church does this. What does yours do?”).
Shouldn’t the questions of “Why does the church exist? What is it there for?” be easily answered by pastors and members alike? The answer so often, though, is one of what the church does for us rather than what it is before God.
The church doesn’t exist for what it does for us—but rather what it does for God and His gloriously-purchased Bride through the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). According to Scripture, the church is the demonstration of the living, triune God in this fallen world for His glory. The local church is the voice of Jesus and an outpost of God’s kingdom.
What is the church to be like–both locally and universally? Here are some 3 simple points from the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3:15-17 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.16 Do you not know that you[a] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
10:5-6 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
This sounds very simple. But holiness is so strange to individual believers and more so to the church at large. Holiness, in one sense, is strangeness, not because we cannot become holy this side of heaven, but because we are becoming something we are not and God is.
The heart of holiness is that God’s people—those truly saved members of the church—are special to Him. This is, perhaps, why Paul uses chapter five to teach on church discipline and chapter six to teach on how are bodies are God’s temple.
God cares what is done in this life to the body. This is why He calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). Without any hesitation, Paul makes clear that all facets of corporate, not individual church life, are important, because of the holiness of God and His people.
1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
6:7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
Ironically, the separation of holiness the church of Corinth was to have from the world was actually separation from each other. The church was a mess! The fact they sued—or attempted to sue—each other in open court verifies this fact.
Even in the Lord’s Supper, they were divided!
11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part
In Paul’s day, the world couldn’t understand how or why Jews and Gentiles came together. The only reason they came together was because the Gospel bridged to be one united body. If we are to be a true local church, our unity must be around the essentials of the Christian faith, not just a shared interest or moral values.
8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
16:14 Let all that you do be done in love.
Have you ever noticed that Paul places a priority of prophecy over tongues? Why is that?
Because prophecy builds up the church, while tongues are more focused on one’s self. That goes exactly against the corporate attitude Paul is developing in the letter (See 1 Cor. 14:6-12).
Often, when it comes to “love” in 1 Corinthians, we quickly go to chapter 13. How many wedding ceremonies and sermons have been preached on this text! Yet, according to Paul, chapter 14 is just as much about love as chapter 13.
Perhaps Paul was most tender to this truth because he himself had been a persecutor of the church. What a miracle it is that God took one who had been a stark enemy of the church to be its biggest and greatest builder and cherisher!
Are you helping your church grow in holiness, unity, and love by your cherishing of the entire Body, instead of your individual preferences?