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Summary: Jesus wants us to abandon our compromised, self-centered involvement in the church and turn to the God-centered communal life He can use for His resolve. The purpose of the church is to reflect God’s character to the world.

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An African proverb says, "When elephants fight, grass gets trampled." Elephants do not throw their weight around for nothing. The average African elephant weighs 16,534 lbs. The largest elephant on record weighed about 24,000 pounds and was 13 feet tall! Wild elephants eat all types of vegetation, from grass and fruit to leaves and bark—about 220 to 440 pounds each day. They also drink about 30 gallons of water each day.

Building a church is hard enough without bigger-than-life characters causing a stampede. Often, there are conflicts, disagreements and misunderstandings. The church at Corinth had been nurtured by two of the world’s greatest evangelists: Paul and Apollos. Their individual followers were displeased with each other, disrespected each other, and distant from each other. This strained the fellowship in the church, neglected the work of the gospel, hurt the name of the church in the community, and destroyed any hope of possible reconciliation.

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The Church began as a singular, apostolic band of believers. In the last 2000 years, it has divided, and divided, and divided again. We’ve done some harm to the unified body Christ intended.

2. The history of Christendom is fraught with division. Believers trusting their own wisdom to the exclusion of another’s, and this ‘fight to be right’ divides the church. It did not begin with us; the church in Corinth had a similar problem. OYBT 1 Corinthians 1.

3. It’s tempting so see this passage as just a ‘fight to be right’, because we so easily identify with that in the contemporary church. But the problem in Corinth is not that simple, as we’ll see in the next few minutes.

[Jesus wants us to abandon our compromised, self-centered involvement in the church and turn to the God-centered communal life He can use for his resolve. The purpose of the church is to reflect God’s character to the world. When elephants fight, grass gets trampled.]

II. THE CHURCH: CALLED TO HOLINESS (10)

1. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

A. Paul considers them brothers and sisters based on their adoption into God’s family. In Christ, they are God’s children—joint heirs with Christ—therefore Paul’s (holy) siblings.

B. His appeal is in Christ’s name, not his own. Paul wants the believers in Corinth to know that being a child of God means behaving in a pattern of holiness.

2. Agree with one another in what you say…perfectly united in mind and thought.

A. Our first inclination is “no way!” We aren’t perfect people, but sinners saved by grace! God knows my flaws and shortcomings—he understands me. He accepts me. It’s OK.

B. Consider this: God brought us into fellowship with him through the blood of his own Son. He wanted us, who are unholy, to be holy—as He is holy. Christ accomplishes that for us, calling us (the church) to a holy lifestyle before God on His merit.

[The purpose of the church is to reflect God’s character to the world.]

III. THE CHURCH: CALLED TO UNITY (11-17)

1. (I have heard) there are quarrels among you.

A. The teachers are not the problem. Divisiveness in the body of believers is the problem—the teachers merely pawns in the debate. Nothing suggests the teachers were party to this quarreling.

B. The quarreling is in some way done in the name of ‘wisdom’. These young believers understand their salvation as the result of the wisdom they received from their teachers, leading them to a false doctrine—that salvation came from one’s own enlightenment.

2. Here’s the rub. If salvation comes from wisdom, the teacher who brings that wisdom must be the greatest of all teachers—otherwise my salvation may be ineffective.

A. This explains the arguments, “I follow Paul”, “I follow Apollos”, “I follow Cephas”, “I follow Christ”. It also explains Paul’s rebuttal: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

B. Evidently the value of one’s baptism was tied to the one who baptized, the likely result of the teacher-worship.

3. Paul wants the Corinthians to be knit together in the same mind and the same opinion. This does not mean that in the Christian faith unity demands uniformity; there are plenty of references to diversity in the New Testament. They must instead agree on the fundamental nature of the gospel.

4. We can be diverse in humanity, while united in theology. That is Paul’s argument.

[Jesus wants us to abandon our compromised, self-centered involvement in the church and turn to the God-centered communal life he can use for his purpose. The purpose of the church is to reflect God’s character to the world. When elephants fight, grass gets trampled.]

IV. THE CHURCH: CALLED TO REFLECT THE CHARACTER OF GOD

1. What do you know about God’s character? Here’s an exercise for this afternoon (it’s cold out anyway). List as many attributes of God’s character as you can that Scripture supports. Start each one on your list with “God”. For instance,

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