February 26, 2017 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Miscellaneous

Topic: Gospel Living Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:10–17

We are beginning a series on things we see in the scripture that we want to be going on here at Real Life Church. We will focus on things we believe we should be strong in as a church. I am going to start with unity. The church is to be a place of unity. God wants this to be a place of unity. We want this to be a place of unity.

It is no fun coming to any gathering of people where there is conflict and quarreling. Many people do not look forward to family gatherings at holidays, because they know there will be tension and friction. Some spouses do not look forward to going home after work or having their spouse come home from work because there is an absence of unity. I used to hate going to meetings when I worked at Dee Zee years ago because of the finger pointing and blaming company problems on each other. This kind of atmosphere has no place in the church.

We start with unity because it is hard to do ANYTHING as a church without unity. It is tough to create an atmosphere of worship or celebration or joy without an atmosphere of unity. It is intimidating to use our spiritual gifts without love and acceptance of one another. It is hard to walk in the building on Sunday morning without unity.

Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity”. I think we all have experienced how sweet it is to be in real heart to heart unity with others. And we have all tasted how bitter or unpleasant it is when there is conflict.

In John 17 Jesus prayed that those who believe, “may all be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me”, and “May all of them be one... that the world may believe that you have sent me”. If the world is drawn to believe by our unity no wonder our unity is constantly under attack. Matthew Henry said, “Satan has always endeavored to stir up strife among Christians as one of his chief devices against the gospel”.

Paul said in Ephesians 4:6, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. For… “there is ONLY ONE body and ONLY ONE Spirit, just as you were called to ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and IN all”.

Our oneness is based on the fact that we all ACTUALLY ARE ONE. We may have different gifts. We may have different things we emphasize. We may have different convictions. But at a much deeper level we are all one in the Spirit.

Because the Spirit has given us a unity, we have to violate, or act against the Spirit in order to move into quarreling. It is not something from God.

The church is not just a gathering of independent people. It may look like we are all separate but we are NOT! The church it is a fellowship of people who share the deepest common bond. There is something deep in me that is connected to something deep in you. There is something in your spirit that is connected to the spirit of other believers. The Spirit of Christ is really in you and it is really in me.

This oneness is to result in relationships of true friendship, affection and love and peace with one another! We can’t just say we are one. We can’t just say we are brothers. We can’t just have a doctrine that says that. We actually have to have peaceful, affectionate, personal, non-divisive personal relationships with one another. Look at the way Peter closed his letter, “Greet one another with a kiss of love!” Look at how he addresses his people as “beloved”. There was oneness that was to be experienced!

Colossians 2:2 “My purpose is that they all may be encouraged in heart and UNITED IN LOVE…..” ESV says hearts being knit together in love.

This sounds good and it sounds like it should be easy. But unfortunately its not that simple. Different interpretations of scripture, the divisive tendency of human nature, different preferences and opinions can all cause division.

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul had a long list of things he wanted to correct about the way they functioned as a church. But he started right off with this issue of unity. I think he considered divisions among them as the most important issue that needed to be addressed.

Paul was not at the church himself but he had received a report that something was going on that harmed the unity of the body. In verse 11 he says, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you my brothers”. Paul did not want that going on! He immediately appeals for this to stop and for there to be no divisions among them.

Alissa gave me a book for Christmas about the defeat of the American Indians at the hands of the United States Army. One of the most interesting observations in the book was his theory that the Indians could have won IF they had recognized themselves as “Indians”. The white men saw them all as Indians, but they saw themselves as Cherokees, or Pawnee, or Navajo. They did not see themselves as ONE people. They were divided up into tribes who often were at war with each other as much as they were with the white man. Indians were wiping out other Indians to the degree that they could not effectively fight off the US Army.

The moment I read that I thought, “That is exactly what happens in the church”. Many Christians do not see themselves as “one people” in Christ. Instead they see themselves as belonging to Christian tribes who are at war with one another.

This is what happened at Corinth. The believers did NOT have a vision of themselves as ONE in Christ so they split into quarreling parties or tribes. Paul wrote, “There are quarrels among you…. “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Cephas, or I follow Christ”.

The problem was: the people in each group considered themselves better or more correct, or more spiritual, than other people because they associated themselves with a certain Christian leader. IE they became proud over the teacher they most identified with and fought with those who followed another teacher. Their church was like a boxing match with a fighter coming out of each corner!

It is like little boys getting together and saying “My dad is better than your dad”. It sounds rather innocent to say, I follow Paul, or I follow Apollos. But what they were really saying was ‘I am better than you because “my guy” is better than your guy!”. I am more right than you are because my guy is more right than your guy.

We don’t know the details but those in Paul’s group may have been saying Paul has started more churches. Or he has more understanding of the doctrines of grace and liberty. Remember Apollos had to be helped with his teaching. And Peter had to be corrected by Paul at Antioch. So we are of Paul, we stand by him.

Those in the group that followed Apollos may have said, “There is an eloquence and power when Apollos speaks that we don’t see in Paul. Acts 18:24 says Apollos “was an eloquent man, mighty in the scriptures”. Perhaps the more educated or the intellectuals gravitated to Apollos.

Other may have said, Peter is greater than either! He was among the 3 disciples closest to Jesus. He gave the sermon at Pentecost. He was a pillar of the first church at Jerusalem. Some at Corinth had trouble accepting Paul as an apostle. Perhaps it was some of them who said, “Peter should be the one we follow”.

Then some said, “The rest of the church is all wrong! WE follow Christ!” Which sound so right, EXCEPT they used their CORRECTNESS to look down on others. In saying “we are of Christ” they were saying to others, “You are not of Christ”, at least not is the same degree that WE are of Christ! How subtle pride can be!

The problem was not with Paul or Apollos or Peter, certainly not with Jesus. The problem was with people at Corinth fighting against one another, and quarreling with one another over who was right! What makes Church quarrels so difficult to snuff out, is because they are often about so called “spiritual matters”. I am sure that the groups at Corinth felt they were being VERY SPIRITUAL to adamantly cling to Paul or Peter or Apollos or Christ. It seems SO spiritual to have wars over spiritual things! But it is not!

Now there is a healthy sense in which we follow and appreciate those whose life and ministry have been a blessing to us. Perhaps you were saved through the work of a certain person or ministry. Or perhaps you have been blessed by the teaching of someone or their ministry or their books, etc. There is nothing wrong with that.

But what can happen is this: Even though we might say our devotion is to Christ, in reality it can be that our real devotion, is to a certain teacher, or author or theologian, or church doctrinal statement. That person can become the one you really think has the answers to the Christian life and theology. And before long that person or people associated with them become the only one you listen to. Then it so quickly can go from there, to my teacher or our group is right and everybody else is missing out.

Our challenges to unity may be different. Quarreling over who follows the better leader MAY not be an issue at all for most of us here. Quarrels could be over something like what temperature we keep the room at, or if we do or don’t like a particular song. The point is that ANY issue we come up with that divides into warring tribes or parties is not right!

*Paul deals with this quarreling at Corinth with 3 questions: Is Christ divided? WHATEVER the reason for a quarrel, this is the first question that everyone needs to stop and consider. Just as we cannot divide Christ, we should not be divided. CS Lewis said divorce is “more like having both your legs cut off than dissolving a business relationship”. It hurts so bad because there was a real union there. The same with divisions within the church. It hurts so bad because there is a real union that is being torn apart.

*Was Paul crucified for you? No matter how great you think a certain teacher, or theologian is, they have one great lack! Calvin or Arminius did not die for your sins. No living teacher today died for your sins. This question is to bring us to our senses about the vast difference between any human leader or teacher and Christ! This question is to jar us awake, to see the folly of being drug down into wars over men. Our oneness is in the One who was crucified for our sins.

*The third question was this: Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Baptism is a means of identifying your self with someone. Your identification is with Christ. No one at Corinth was baptized in the name of Paul! They were all baptized in the name of Christ. Paul did baptize some there. But he goes on to say he was thankful that he didn’t baptize more people at Corinth so people would not go around boasting that they were baptized by Paul, or baptized in his name. Baptism identified you with Jesus Christ, not anyone else! Or with any church.

So if Christ is not divided, if no one else was crucified for our sins, and if we were baptized into Christ, then we must think and live and act in unity in Christ. Which brings us back to verse 10, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree with one another so that there be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”. Upon hearing of their disunity, Paul appeals to them to come together and not tear the body apart. In effect he said, “You are one in Christ, now act like it!!!

To agree means literally to say the same thing. You commit to be in agreement.

I don’t think Paul had in mind that Christians must have the same opinion on every issue. In fact he acknowledges that believers will have different convictions on what they eat or drink of whether they view certain days as holy or view everyday alike. But there is a sense in which we can all be in agreement and harmony with one another yet my have different opinions. For example in marriages there are some different ideas on how to discipline your kids or maybe on what they should be allowed to do or not do. Those can break out into arguments in front of your kids or you can talk through your differences and come to an agreement and a unity with each other and you present that unity to your kids. Your aim is to come to agreement! Not to take the position that there is two ways to do things, my way and the wrong way!

A commentator names Bensen said this verse means, “that you do not unnecessarily and unkindly contradict each other but rather maintain a peaceful and loving disposition toward each other...that there be no alienation of affection from each other.” He also said “we should delight to speak most, concerning those great and excellent things, in which as Christians, you cannot help but be agreed….”.

Matthew Henry said, “In the great things of religion be of one mind and where there is not unity of sentiment, still let there be unity of affection. Agreement in the greater things should extinguish divisions about the lesser”. We should agree on the essential truths of the gospel and where we differ we should still show a kind and loving spirit, and not back ourselves into the corner ready to come out fighting so to speak.

Key things to take away from this message. *The tearing apart of the body into factions is a spiritual problem and requires a spiritual solution. There are no steps or practical things to do.

Quarreling is a disposition (a tendency) we inherited from Adam not from Christ. It is part of the old man not the new man. Galatians 5 says the works of the flesh are evident; “strife, dissension, divisions”. It is something we must stand against just as we would against pornography, or adultery, or drunkenness.

Galatians 5:14,15 “For the whole law concerning human relationships is complied with in the one precept You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. But if you bite and devour one another in partisan strife, be careful that you and your whole fellowship are not consumed by one another”. The ultimate solution is that the flesh must be crucified and we must walk in the Spirit to live in the kind of oneness Christ calls us to.

*Unity is kept by spiritual revelation - by realizing we are part of Christ. He is my unity with you, and your unity with me. If we realized this, we would say I cannot fight with you over this. Christ himself is the supreme truth around which we gather and around which nothing can divide.

Only Christ is large enough, sufficient enough to keep us together. When Christ is big to us, when he is first in our affections, we can have the kind of unity Paul appeals for. IF our loyalty, our devotion, our love to him so supersedes our loyalty to any other man or theology, or church, then we can be one with each other. When we are overwhelmed with Christ we will enjoy overwhelming unity with each other. Being overwhelmed with Christ will put an end to our quarrels with each other.

*Divisions are healed when we turn our eyes upon the cross of Christ. Paul went on from this warning against divisions to talk about the cross. He said, “To US WHO ARE BEING SAVED the cross is the power of God. He concludes the chapter.. Therefore as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”. If we boast and rejoice and glory in Christ, and in the message of the cross, WE WILL NOT FALL INTO THE DEVIL’S TRAP OF FIGHTING OVER SECONDARY THINGS.

When you are tempted to speak with contempt about another Christian, or another group of Christians, that would be a good time to come again to the cross of Christ and look at what he did for you there, and what he did for that other person for whom Christ also was crucified. That is what enables us to walk together in the sweetness of Christian unity.

One final application: Unity is a matter of the heart. And it must start in your heart. You must DESIRE unity with your brothers. It must matter to you. Where this love of unity does not exist in the heart, or is viewed as a low priority, there will be friction and division. If this love of Christian unity has a large place in your hearts, there will be unity. What is in your heart? I can tell you this – in the heart of the new man he has created you to be, there is a desire for oneness! So put off the old and put on the new, and see how pleasant it is for brothers to live in unity!

More in Miscellaneous

February 25, 2024

Fearing God Cures The Fear of Man

February 11, 2024

Walking In The Fear Of The Lord

November 26, 2023

Give Thanks Always and For Everything

Join us Sunday at