But...NOW... there are still problems. The glory doesn't shine that brightly sometimes. We still live in a fallen world that is not yet restored; we still have un-glorified bodies with sickness and sinful desires. Saints are not yet what we will be in experience. This allows room for imperfections in the church, upon which many are quick to pounce. Some react in disgust and self-righteousness, throwing rocks at the church from the outside. They bash churches that "aren't there yet." I know. I've been there.
With my reformed understanding of theology and passion for God's glory and truth in his church, I have looked with disdain on churches with shortcomings such as abuse of the spiritual gifts. But praise God for including the two letters to the Corinthian church in his holy word! Here is a church that abused the gifts (and then some...)! Here is an imperfect church (like mine) made up of imperfect Christians (like me)! How merciful of God to show us that the church had problems of this magnitude just a few years after Christ. This gives me hope. There will always be problems in churches...until the Day comes!
The question is, how do we respond to these problems? My past disdain was the wrong way to respond (and I'm still working on it by God's grace). Sure, there are some issues that are beyond fixing. A church can abandon the gospel altogether and cease to be a church. But most issues do not call for leaving a local church, if you are part of it. And no issues call for my harsh and unloving criticism!
The Apostle Paul responded to the Corinthian church with grace and love. Certainly he addressed the issues, for love does not mean sweeping things under the rug. He dealt with them - very sternly at times (instructing them to hand one of the members over to Satan because of unrepentent sin! - 1 Cor 5). But it was done in grace and love, with thanksgiving (1 Cor 1:3-4). In his 2 letters to them that we have in Scripture he dealt with a huge number of problems and sins. In 2nd Corinthians he even had to defend his ministry to them against a faction of the church that was rebelling against his leadership. But he doesn't write them off!
"Your restoration is what we pray for." 2 Cor 13:9b, ESV
"Finally, brothers...aim for restoration." 2 Cor 13:11b, ESV
Restoration! What a goal for a church that has problems! Not condemnation. Not giving up on our brothers and sisters. Not calling names and speaking evil of a church that is still preaching the gospel, but drifting in secondary theological points.
Praying for Restoration! Until Glorification!
Are you part of a church that needs restoration? Paul instructs us to aim for restoration and pray for restoration. And until restoration arrives, Love (1 Cor 13). There may be issues that need dealing with in love. There may even be church discipline needed, in love. But let's remember to whom the church belongs, and what his estimation of her is! He bled for the church, and so should we (1 John 3:16)!
Aim for restoration and pray for restoration, until glorification.