A few years ago, I applied for a job. After a couple of interviews, I was convinced I had stolen the heart of the employer. However, I guess a more qualified candidate walked in following my interview session—because the employer got sketchy and by the next week all communication had ceased to exist. There was never a follow-up, just awkward silence. Yet that silence screamed against the backdrop of the strong affirmational words I had received just days earlier. We all, at one point in our life, have been on the receiving end of mixed signals like this. Perhaps it was within your relational life (i.e.—somebody “strung” you along for a time) or maybe your experience was also within the professional circle of life. Despite the variety of scenarios possible, we can all affirm this: mixed signals are frustrating and misleading. When people lead you in one direction with their words and in another direction with their actions, that’s mixed signals. And naturally when people are misled, they begin to doubt the integrity and validity of those sending the message. I think this is perhaps Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 11. Let me explain briefly.
If you have ever delved much into the Corinthian letters then you already know, Corinth had some serious issues. Thus, I’m not terribly shocked when I read of the issue which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. I encourage you to read it on your own but for time sake here I’ll briefly summarize the setting. Apparently, the wealthier members of the church are eating their fill and getting drunk at the Lord’s supper (Communion). This is to such an extent that the poorer members of the church are left with nothing and are therefore technically excluded from participating. Paul doesn’t give much more detail, if any, about the setting but his words paint the picture of wealthier members mistreating the poorer members and abusing the Lord’s supper. His concern is obvious: the Corinthians administration of the Lord’s supper gives evidence of their prideful divisions. This is contrasted strongly with what The Lord’s supper is intended to remind us of. According to Paul, The Lord’s supper is instituted solely to remind us of the Lord’s sacrificial death for us (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). It’s a reminder that the Lord Jesus, in humility, came down and in submissive obedience to The Father went up on the bloody cross. It’s a reminder that Jesus took my place and my punishment for sin. It’s a reminder that Jesus clothes me in His righteousness. It’s a reminder that Jesus became what He was not, so that I could be declared what I was not—See 2 Corinthians 5:21. Overarching like a theological bridge, specifically in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, is the simple truth that the same Savior who died for me is the same Savior who died for you. It’s that age-old struggle of Christian unity that’s in view here. We are united through Christ to God, and we are also united to our brothers and sisters, whom Christ died for. The same Spirit who reconciles you to The Father is the same Spirit who reconciles you to each other. Paul is disgusted with the Corinthians behavior because the Lord’s supper is designed to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Instead, their behavior at the Lord’s table is a gross misrepresentation of the Gospel. They confess allegiance to the Lord who came in humility yet they seek superiority over one another. They claim a Savior who unites them to God by His sacrificial death yet they remain self-serving and divided among each other. They are sending mixed signals out into the world and this is not good.
Quick question. What kind of signals are you sending out into the world? What does your life proclaim to those around you? This isn’t popular much anymore, but it is important how you live your life. For when you live inconsistently with the Gospel you confess to believe, your actions mislead people. And when you mislead people you cause them to question the validity of the message you say has changed you. Just a few more lines. Yesterday I noticed a thread within a Facebook group I belong to. The group is titled, “Dissecting Scripture-Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” yet the content posted often only serves as a catalyst of wrongly dividing each other. The thread from yesterday was no different. The administrator of the group tossed out a theological question that is not a primary theological question yet one that has been answered in multiple ways throughout church history. Within hours sides were chosen, words were exchanged, and salvations were questioned. Brothers and sisters, we ought not to act in such ways. Instead of edifying one another, it is often the case that we tear down one another and act inconsistently with the Gospel. It’s sending mixed signals and impeding the mission of the church. How can we win souls for the kingdom while we set up little kingdoms of our own waging war against each other? It’s not just Facebook threads. It’s the Southern Baptist Convention upcoming presidential election that some have even speculated may divide the convention. Are you kidding me? What a terrible testimony that’ll give to a divisive unbelieving world. It’s the recent presidential election that set the conservative right against the progressive left. Newsflash, Jesus isn’t a white-haired conservative and he’s not a free-living hippie. He’s the Lord who humbly died sacrificially in our place. It breaks my heart to see such divisiveness at work among Christians today. It breaks my heart to see such mixed signals broadcasted out into the lost world. Listen, the point is that if you have truly believed the Gospel, it ought to change how you treat people. And when we live that out in or daily life it testifies to the truth and power of the Gospel message. There is much more to be said on this issue but my dinner is calling. I’ll end with this. What a testimony it would be for Christians of diverse backgrounds, politically/ socially/ educationally/ economically/ ethnically to lock arms in unity and proceed forward for the kingdom. You know unity is not uniformity. No masterpiece is only one color, but many colors blended together. In a world infiltrated with divisiveness, hatred, and pride what a bright light of Gospel hope it would be for Christians to lock arms in unity and walk in humility. Let us learn from the Corinthians so that when we come together it is not for the worse, but for the better. Don’t broadcast mixed signals with your life, but lead people to truth by living the truth out in your own life.