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A Puffed Up Church

A young man was being interviewed for a job. The employer held a glowing letter of reference and complimented the potential employee on such an impressive letter. With modesty came the reply, "I'm glad you liked it. I wrote it myself" Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), and it also goes before a lot of hot air. The world is filled with puffed up people who hold themselves in the highest esteem. But in 1' Corinthians 4, the apostle Paul is addressing a puffed up church! "Now some are puffed up" (verse 18; also verses 6, 19). The Greek word is phusioo (pronounced `foo-see-o'-o"), defined by Strong's Concordance as "blowing; to inflate, make proud (haughty); puff up." The Corinthians were a proud, haughty, puffed up bunch. They felt good about themselves. As a matter of fact, they felt better about themselves than the Lord did! They had written their own glowing letter of reference, had read it, and were very impressed with what it said. In 1st Corinthians 4:7-13 Paul gives a pointed portrayal of just how puffed up they were. They saw themselves as "full, rich, reigning as kings, wise, strong, distinguished." Study carefully and you will find this is a case where an inspired Bible writer uses sharp irony (an expression in which the intended meaning of the words is 'the opposite of their usual sense). Paul employs this technique in an effort to puncture their puffed-up pride and jerk them back to spiritual reality.

The point, of course, is not to suggest we ought to feel bad for feeling good about the church. The problem was not that the Corinthian church was rich and full. Christians, after all, enjoy what Paul called in another place the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). The problem at Corinth was what they were full of — themselves! Church pews can be occupied by puffed up people who, spiritually, have become as snug as a bug under a rug. Nice jobs, nice homes, a nice income, a nice building, a nice budget, nice preachers, nice elders, nice worship services, and a nice membership can puff us up with a sense of accomplishment and pride to the point that we become stagnant and complacent in our spiritual lives and work for the Lord. When this happens, we begin to "keep house for the Lord" instead of storming our neighbors and the world with the gospel. Words from Revelation 3:16-17 ought to puncture the pride of any Christian or congregation puffed up with self-conceit and pride — "5o then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." When we feel better about ourselves than the Lord does, we are puffed up with pride.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ