WE SHOULD REMEMBER WE ARE NOT ISLANDS UNTO OURSELVES
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
30 MAY 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Numbers 16:1-7, 18-24, 27, 31-35
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Have you noticed how everything in the physical world and universe interacts with one another?
Let's begin with our solar system.
The Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun at set distances.
If, for example, the Earth's distance from the sun varied more than it does now, our climate would change; and if that variance were great, life as we know it would cease to exist.
The atmosphere around the earth keeps in much of our heat, and protects us from being overheated.
Our land is watered because of the effect of the sun's energy upon liquid water: It vaporizes the water into the atmosphere, and then releases it as the moisture content increases and as the water vapor cools.
Without the sun and the water, plants would not grow; and plants also require carbon dioxide, which we and the other animals expel as we breathe. The plants in turn produce oxygen as a by-product of their growth.
Thus, we live by breathing the oxygen and eating the plant products.
And all of this came about because God made it so.
No one, or no thing, is an island unto itself. We were all made to interact with one another.
The congregations of the people of God are to be such interactive bodies, within themselves, as well as with other congregations and the world around them.
The power that makes this all possible comes from the Holy Spirit, for without His presence, things can easily fall into chaos.
In order to get a more specific picture of this interaction, we are going to look at two Scriptural passages that take place among congregations that had problems: one congregation listened; while in the other one, some of the people rebelled.
Our first example comes from Numbers 16:1 and following. Let's turn there, and see what took place within the congregation of the Israelites while they were in the wilderness some 3,500 years ago.
1. Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action,
2. and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown.
What this passage is telling us is that just because a leader, or several leaders, or even many leaders and people of renown, decide to do something, doesn't necessarily make it the proper thing to do.
3. And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
We must remember that disunity is not from God.
And because there is disunity, we must be very cautious; for either one side or the other, or perhaps both, are wrong; and we don't want to be responsible for spreading unrest.
We are to bring Godly peace.
And this is what Moses did.
4. When Moses heard this, he fell on his face;
5. and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself.
6. “Do this: take censers for yourselves, Korah and all your company,
7. and put fire in them, and lay incense upon them in the presence of the Lord tomorrow; and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the one who is holy. You have gone far enough, you sons of Levi!”
Moses' wisdom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, led him to say this, so that the tide of disunity would be stopped until the Lord Himself showed the people, as a whole, what He desired of them individually and collectively.
You can read this whole account at home at you leisure; but for now, let's skip down to verse 18.
18. So they each took his own censer and put fire on it, and laid incense on it; and they stood at the doorway of the tent of meeting, with Moses and Aaron.
19. Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.
At first glance, this might appear to be just what the people wanted, but we must wait for what the Lord wants.
20. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
21. “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.”
Oops! The people have made a grave mistake.
In their pride, they tried to get God to conform to their standards.
And the mass of the people just went along with them, like sheep being led to the slaughter.
22. But they [Moses and Aaron] fell on their faces, and said, “O God, Thou God of the spirit of all flesh, when one man sins, wilt Thou be angry with the entire congregation?”
23. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
24. “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ ”
This is the Lord's grace.
Note verse 27:
27. So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones.
Things don't seem to change with time. The masses of the people don’t really want to think for themselves; they want to be led around by someone else.
But when the tide seems to be changing, they flow with the new tide.
This is not the way God wants us to be. He has given each of us the ability to think for ourselves, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to be our guide.
But the leaders stood in their pride before the Lord.
Note what happened to them in verses 31-35:
31. Then it came about as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them split open;
32. and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah, with their possessions.
33. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
34. And all Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!”
35. Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.
So much for what happens to those who oppose the Lord.
Now let's look at what Paul told the Corinthian church, in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, about how we should be living together.
12. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Now, when Paul says this, he is not referring to the physical body of Jesus Christ, but the body of believers collectively as being the body of Christ.
13. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit [the Holy Spirit].
14. For the body [of Christ] is not one member, but many.
15. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18. But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20. But now there are many members, but one body.
This is what Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and the others forgot about. They wanted to be the head, too; and they rejected their assignment as the skeletal structure to support the head.
And without the skeletal structure to support the head, there would be no place for the rest of the body members to be attached, and the entire body would collapse.
Thus God had to step in and stop what was happening, so that the entire body would remember the horror of what took place, and not let it occur again.
We, too, have a Memorial Day to remember the horrors of wars, and those who died in them on both sides; yet we still have wars.
The body of the world has never really been joined together completely.
And neither has the Church.
21. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22. On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23. and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness,
24. whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
25. that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
What God has been trying to tell us for thousands of years is that we must first learn to love ourselves and all the members of our own body; that we would truly care for ourselves, both physically and spiritually, so that no harm would come upon us.
In the same light, we are to love and care for our own family and all its members, no matter what problems any of the members may have.
And we are to extend this love to the members of our community, and our political subdivisions, and to our whole nation, and even to the whole world, until it all becomes the body of Christ, not by force, but because of our love and compassion.
26. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
It takes only one person to stir up trouble and problems; but we must remember that it will never spread, unless others go along with it.
With our love and compassion, we can stop any problem.
With our love and compassion, we can comfort and redirect those who have gone astray, and protect the innocent.
With our love and compassion, we can truly mold and form a viable, living body that is useful to God and to ourselves.
Your Comments are welcome
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