This week, Pastor Lonnie Arnold joined us and preached a powerful word on becoming an undivided church. The problem of division runs through the entire book for 1 Corinthians, similar to the division we see in the Christian church in American today. Pastor Lonnie shared how we need to identify what divides us and know how to apply the Gospel to each situation. Only then will we demonstrate the love through which the world will know that we are disciples of Christ.
1. The mask that divided the church: In many ways, Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth could have been written to the church in America. When we explore the problem of division in the Corinthian church and we compare it to division in the American church, we see similarities that make Paul’s letter relevant for where we are today.
Some of the topics the Corinthian church struggled with: leadership preferences, how to deal with sexual immorality, personal lawsuits, marriage, food sacrificed to idols, the Lord’s supper, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection of the dead.
2. Be United: The Corinthians had been influenced by the dominant opinions of culture, rather than the Gospel of Christ. They were also taking advice from voices of the culture. When we do this, it begins to erode our belief that Christ is enough, and that he provides all we need for life and godliness.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul set a spiritual goal in front of the Corinthian church. In short, Paul was calling the church to unity. I want you to:
- have no divisions among you,
- be united in the same mind and in the same judgment.
3. Division in the American church: Nowadays, Christians take pride in being a part of a particular denomination, group, or way of practicing Christianity. In addition to this, churches all across the country are largely racially segregated. Paul’s command to the church meant they needed to be intentional about agreeing with each other. It meant they had to work through theological issues, ministry issues, and personal issues, all with the intention of living in unity.
4. Be Christ-Centered: The worldly advice of the culture produced an elevation of personal opinions in the church, resulting in division in the church. When we believe that our personal opinions are more important than the Gospel, we will have ongoing conflict in the life of the church. The knowledge of the work of Christ in our lives reminds us to boast in the Lord, and not in our own opinions.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…”
The Power of God can transform an individual life, but also create a new community of transformed people who work together in unity (that’s what Paul desired for the Corinthian church), who move out into the community.
1 Corinthians 2:14
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
5. Be Humble: Don’t attach your primary identity to any person other than God because he is the only one who produces transformation in people’s live. It doesn’t come from Paul or Apollos, or any other church leader.
1 Corinthians 3:3-6
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
6. The mission of the church can only be accomplished through unity: Let’s be intentional about being unified, not only within this congregation, but with every Christian church in this region. Let’s be diligent to dismiss the wisdom of the culture and be Christ-centered in our thinking and living, know that it is the work of Christ on the cross that transforms lives and equips the church to be God’s servants in the world.
- Where does division show up in the Christian church in our culture today?
- Are there any labels you identify with that you’re elevating over your identity as a Christ-follower?
- Are there any areas of your life where you’re elevating your opinion over the Gospel?
- How can we be intentional and deliberate to be united in Christ?
- What is “the third option”, according to Paul?
- Think about your answer to discussion question #2. Are you elevating another label (Ex: Republican, Democrat, Baptist, Presbyterian, Non-charismatic, etc.) over being a Christ-follower? Repent this week, using the 4-R’s (Repent, Receive, Rebuke, Replace) and walk forward aligned with your true identity as a Christ-follower first.
- Are you boasting in anything other than Christ? Identify what it is and share your answer with a mentor or discipler this week.