Summary: To split a church all we have to do is forget who died for us, to whom we belong, and what is our purpose and mission.
A. The story is told of a preacher who was delivering a children’s sermon about the need for unity.
1. He looked at the children and said emphatically, “God wants us to be one!”
2. On four year-old started to cry and protested, “I’ve already been one, I want to be five!”
B. Being “one” isn’t just a problem for children, it can be a challenge for all of us, adults included.
1. Lucy and Linus from the peanuts comic strip were in a deep conversation.
2. Linus was telling his big sister, “Charlie Brown says that brothers and sisters can learn to get along. He says they can get along the same way mature adults get along. And he says that adults can get along the same way that nations get along.”
3. Linus paused…“At this point the analogy breaks down.”
C. Getting along with each other and experiencing unity is not easy for us human beings.
1. Can you identify the source of this quote? – “A house divided cannot stand.”
2. You might remember that Abraham Lincoln used those words in the debates surrounding the Civil War conflict.
3. But as you may know, Abraham Lincoln did not originate that concept, nor those words.
4. In Mark 3:24,25, Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
5. Nowhere is it more important for us to experience peace and unity than in the church.
D. We are in our second lesson in our new series called “The Most Excellent Way,” which is a study of Paul’s letter called First Corinthians.
1. In last week’s lesson we discussed what life was like in Corinth at the time when Paul planted the church there in A.D. 50.
2. Corinth was a very wealthy and very immoral culture, but the Gospel was planted there and the church grew with great success.
3. Paul stayed there for 18 months, but then moved on to Ephesus.
4. Several years after leaving, Paul got word that the church was in trouble, there were many problems facing that young church.
5. So, Paul wrote them a series of letters to address the problems.
6. Nevertheless, one of the truths we rejoiced in last week is that in spite of all the problems in the life of the church in Corinth, Paul stilled considered them brothers and sisters.
7. They were still the church and Paul was still thankful for them in spite of all their problems.
8. The same should be true for us as we work with each other here at Wetzel Road.
E. Now, given all the problems at Corinth, where would one begin trying to deal with them?
1. Which problem should be addressed first?
2. When the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write this letter, He led Paul to first address the problem of division.
3. I think this is hardly coincidental or accidental, for if this problem was not resolved first, then most of the other problems discussed later in the letter either wouldn’t need to be addressed, or could not be effectively addressed without unity.
I. Assessing the Problem of Division
A. Paul revealed that he was aware of the problem through information he had received from members of Chloe’s household.
1. The specific identities of these people are unknown to us.
2. We know that the name “Chloe” is a woman’s name, and one often used among the “well-to-do”.
3. It seems reasonable to assume that she is a member of the church in Corinth, and that those in her household are either her children or servants, also likely Christians.
4. On the other hand, she may be a part of the church in Ephesus, and some from her household have traveled to Corinth and have returned with this news.
5. We really don’t know. What we do know is that what is reported to Paul is taken very seriously, so he regards it as not merely rumor.
6. I happen to think that Paul mentioned her household by name because those to whom he is writing are people who obviously respect her as well.
B. Paul identifies the problem as quarrels about allegiance to certain leaders.
1. He says, “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.’” (1:12)
2. In some respects, it is pointless to speculate concerning the differences of teaching or emphasis which were characteristic of the four groups identified here, because Paul doesn’t give us much information to work with.
3. But for illustrative purposes, I’d like us to spend a few minutes speculating on what the different parties aligned behind these leaders might have been embracing causing the divisions.