Vol.XVII No.VI Pg.6
August 1980

Despise Ye The Church?

Robert F. Turner

"What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I praise you not" (1 Cor. 11:22).

After reading many articles, discussions and comments on the context of 1 Cor. 11:17-34, it seems to me that a basic principle is being overlooked. Some say the problem was that the Corinthians were confusing their common meal or "love feast" with the memorial of Christ's death. Other brethren argue that the error involved was that of making their meeting place into a place to eat. But the basic problem was that they had perverted their purpose in coming together. The Corinthians had "despised the church of God" by replacing their spiritual purpose with a material and social emphasis.

God, through His word, has given the church the authority to do certain things. The church is authorized to assemble and worship (1 Cor. 11:20; 14:23; Acts 20:7) and to pool its resources (1 Cor. 16:1,2) in order to accomplish certain ends (such as assisting saints in need, Rom. 15:25-f). The church is to "sound out the word" (1 Thess. 1:8) and to accomplish this; the church in Philippi assisted Paul in his efforts (Phil. 4:15). It is clearly pointed out in the New Testament that the church's assigned duties are of a spiritual nature. When we forget that t- the church has a distinctive and peculiar purpose and function, and begin operating in some other area, we have "despised the church of God." When brethren see to it that the emphasis of the church's activities is kept where God put it, many misapplications of 1 Cor. 11 would be eliminated. It is rightly argued that Paul was correcting a perversion of the Lord's Supper. But to claim "as long as the 'love feast' (common meal) is kept separate from the worship the church can build and equip 'fellowship halls''' is to misplace and pervert the spiritual function of the church. One brother wrote, "I'm not only 'agin' it (church financing of recreation and/or dining halls- ko), but I want to see book, chapter and verse where such is authorized." An honest look at 1 Cor. 11, 2 Pet. 2:13 and Jude 12 does not warrant the conclusion that "love feasts" are a function of the church.

Nor, on the other hand, can we say that 1 Cor. 11:22,34 forbids the use of the meeting place for any but spiritual activities. "Incidental uses of church property do not invalidate the basic scriptural principle by which the church remains a spiritual institution to administer to spiritual needs... In times of disaster (tornado, flood, etc.) a well-built, centrally located building may be the only shelter available to refugees. The use is temporary and incidental; we did not build for that purpose; and I do not believe such use would authorize anything" (R.F. Turner, P.T. 11-3).

The church has a purpose that is different from the local YMCA and any other civic or service organization. When we go beyond that assigned spiritual function, we "despise the church of God." Kevan O'Banion