Removing the Wedge of Division
1 Corinthians • Sermon • Submitted
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Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
INTRO: Most of us do not like being corrected… we don’t like it privately, but we especially don’t like it publically.
When I was in elementary school, I remember times when the teacher would have to step out of class, leaving no adult to supervise. In these times, she would assign a class monitor- basically a student who she trusted to report on any misbehavior that took place while she was out. This student merely had to report to the teacher. So, then, before the end of the day, the teacher would deal with the transgressions of any student reported. Sometimes it would be individually, and other times she would openly address the misbehavior in front of the whole class.
Last week, when we began our study, I told you that much of this letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church is correcting behavior/ beliefs that were reported to him. This week, we see that there was a report given by Chloe’s people (v.11). We do not know much about Chloe or her people, but the mention of her name lets us know that the Corinthians knew who she was, thus this was a valid report. (Not an anonymous complaint.) The report entailed some significant issues in the church, including a report of division.
Sometimes division is a good thing- let’s say I had a big bucket of fried chicken and I decided I would divide the chicken among us- that would be a good thing. But, of course, that’s not the division that Chloe’s people reported.
Now, we must keep in mind that we are studying this section of Scripture in light of our study last week. We learned last week that God has supreme authority and the teaching of His Word carries the weight of His sovereignty. We learned our identity- that WE are the church- (saints remember?) We are all one body- redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and looking forward to an eternity in the sinless domain of God. And we learned that through God’s grace, He expects us to respond to His Word and the teaching thereof.
So, we enter our discussion today into the corrective teaching of the Apostle Paul. Let me say this: over the next several weeks, we will encounter God’s teaching on subjects that we struggle with. You may feel passionate about some things that are addressed. That’s ok. Just like the Corinthian Christians brought their passions and reputation into the church, so it is with every gathered body.
My prayer for us today- and over the next several weeks - is that we allow God’s Word to be applied to our lives through the power of His Spirit.
I truly believe that this year will be a pivotal year at LRBC. And I believe that we will face attacks from the enemy like perhaps never before. So, we need to learn from the experience of the Corinthian Church and open ourselves up to the treasure of God’s correction through His Word.
I invite you to use the sermon guide located in the bulletin and follow along/ make notes as we walk through this passage together. The sermon is titled “Removing the Wedge of Division”.
Let’s Dive in. The Apostle moves immediately to say:
The Church Must Be Unified (10)
The Church Must Be Unified (10)
Let’s Read v.10 again
Paul is urging the church as a whole, with God’s authority and our need to respond- to be unified.
Now, this does NOT mean that there won’t be disagreements of any sort. We are not being called to unity at the expense of truth.
We can look through Paul’s teachings and the teachings of Christ and recognize that there is no such call to abandon our thinking and just be apathetic so that there aren’t any hurt feelings or anything.
No, rather, this call to be unified is laid out by Paul in 2 distinct terms:
It is a call to agree, or say the same thing. In other words, in pursuit of truth, we agree that we stand upon God’s Word, agreeing that He is the authority and submitting ourselves to His teaching.
ILL: We have a doctrinal statement. It’s called the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. If you don’t know what’s in it, I can give you a copy. This is an umbrella confession that we are to be unified in. We believe that there is one God in 3 persons. We believe that Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, who put on humanity - lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose again! We believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We believe that we are gathered as a body to be on mission for God’s Kingdom. I could go on, but you get the idea.
We are called to be unified in our belief.
Further, there is a call that there be no divisions among the body. This is explained by Paul with the corresponding words- “be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment”
Here is the point: We are walking this life together, being made more like Jesus. We need each other to grow, and that only happens when we are striving for the same goal- holiness - with the same understanding of God’s call for His church.
For us, we can think of this unity like this:
At LRBC, we must have the same mission.
Our Constitution has a mission statement. Ultimately, and simply put, Scripture tells us that our mission is the Great Commission- to make disciples of all nations. We know that we exist to be Kingdom citizens and that involves teaching each other and those around us what Jesus has done and why it matters.
At LRBC, we must have the same priorities.
We all have ministries and programs we like- they might become our pet projects. But, if we don’t prioritize our focus, we will be all over the place. We will see some good things, but ultimately, we will exhaust volunteers and our impact will be minimal.
At LRBC, we must have the same strategy.
We need to agree upon how we go about accomplishing the mission. How do we make disciples? How do we minister to our community? How to we reach the unsaved with the hope of the Gospel?
Unity in the church does not mean that we don’t discuss and pray through things. It means that we bring these things forward, align ourselves under God’s Word and authority, and agree (have the same judgment) on how we move forward.
Discuss: What steps toward unity can we take as a church?
For the Corinthian Church, there were some specific challenges that led to division. Paul addresses them head on and apologetically. The church must be unified in order to be effective. Thus, Paul says
Unity is Compromised By Preference and Pride (11-13)
Unity is Compromised By Preference and Pride (11-13)
Let’s consider what is going on. Paul says in v. 12 (READ)
There were factions or schisms within the church. These factions were not theological in nature, but were fueled by individual preferences.
In Corinth, these were preferences for certain preachers/ leaders. Let’s look at how they were divided:
Some preferred the preaching of Paul, and thus set themselves apart as “Paul loyalists”
He was the original church-planter. He might represent a traditional preacher whose style appealed to a certain crowd. Maybe he dressed in a 3-piece suit, used a traditional pulpit, and preached from the KJV.
Then there were those who preferred the preaching of Apollos, and set themselves apart as “Apollos loyalists”.
Apollos was the guy after Paul… maybe younger with a different preaching style. Maybe he resonated more with a younger crowd. He might have even had spiked hair and wore skinny jeans. He may have used different methods of teaching and illustrations and walked up and down the aisles as he preached.
And then others liked the teaching of Cephas (that’s Peter) and separated themselves as “Peter loyalists”
We don’t know if Peter ever visited or not, but there were some who had either heard him or knew of him and had built a fan-base for him there. He might represent a visiting pastor or tv preacher. Perhaps he had a cool accent like Don Wilton and he kept his sermons to 20 minutes, which a number of people really liked.
Finally, there were those who claimed to prefer Christ’s teaching and further separated themselves from the others.
These were likely not ones trying to unify the others, but rather were those who considered themselves holier than the others. Some scholars believe they may have rejected teaching of the apostles because they ‘heard a word’ from Jesus themselves.
Now, we can see how that might also happen in a church today- it can happen with preferences for preachers/ speakers. It can happen in other areas too;
Look, I know that some here might have some of these preferences. You may prefer hymns to contemporary songs or visa versa. You may prefer 1 Sunday service packed out to 2 services that allow for growth. You prefer a particular translation of the Bible or you’d much rather listen to a TV preacher than to me.
But listen to how Paul addresses this: (READ v.13)
Jesus has not been chopped up into pieces. We cannot hold relics of Jesus here and there. We are either His or we are not. We are either preaching God’s Word or we are not. We are either worshiping our Lord or we are not. Because Christ is 1, so must His church be.
Paul said: I wasn’t the one who died for you. Did you forget? I didn’t baptize you in my name. Is not our life in Christ?
There was no room for celebrity culture here or preferential divide.
ILL: I have seen churches who, if their pastor is on vacation, many people refuse to come and gather on that Sunday. I’ve seen a pastor be called to serve another congregation, and people leave their church to follow him. I’ve seen people split up a church over music style. I’ve seen churches go to war amongst themselves over Bible translations and even carpet color.
Folks, what Paul is saying here is this:
We cannot let our preference outweigh and override the mission of the church.
The church must be unified. There are many things that can compromise that unity- pride and preference are root causes.
Discuss: What preferences divide the church? Do you have a preference that has begun to place a wedge between you and others?
For the Corinthian Church (And for us), this correction comes down to this:
The Key to Unity is the Gospel (14-17)
The Key to Unity is the Gospel (14-17)
Paul’s goal in planting churches and teaching was not to create a following for himself. He was not competing for a fan base or trying to bolster his reputation.
He didn’t judge his ministry over Facebook likes, podcast downloads, or Twitter trends.
Paul’s purpose and then and my purpose now is the Gospel mission. He says, it’s not about me… it’s never been about me. Just like it’s not about Apollos or Peter. It’s about Christ and Christ alone.
Listen again to v. 17 (READ)
He’s not minimizing baptism. But rather emphasizing the cross of Christ. He didn’t want credit for baptism because it took the emphasis off of the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Paul was not concerned with being trendy or popular. He didn’t brag about the numbers of baptisms he performed because he knew that it could be interpreted as boasting of his own ministry. He wasn’t hung up on being an eloquent speaker or with having witty illustrations. These things can trivialize the cross.
Rather, Paul wanted to be clear. Bold. Faithful.
He wasn’t trying to please people. He wasn’t trying to dance around sin in the life of the church. Instead, he was determined to speak the clear message of Jesus Christ.
As a church, we must know what we are about. We can be unified in music or style - and that’s great, but that is not what leads to life. If we are about anything other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are on the wrong path.
This message is as much for me as it is for any of you. My prayer is that we hear the Word of the Lord clearly.
I pray that we, as a church can identify and remove any wedges of division that may exist among us. Let us not trivialize the Gospel because we have a preference that differs with others. Instead, let us be united in Christ alone.
Discuss: Are there areas where divisions have trivialized the Gospel in your life? In the life of the church?