Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 1: 10 - 17) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 15 March 2015.
I am reminded of the illustration by Emo Phillips: I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. So I ran over and said ‘Stop! Don’t do it!’ ‘Why shouldn’t I?’ he said. I said, ‘Well, there’s so much to live for!’ He said, ‘Like what?’ I said, ‘Well…are you religious or atheist?’ He said, ‘Religious.’ I said, ‘Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?’ He said, ‘Christian.’ I said, ‘Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?’ He said, ‘Protestant.’ I said, ‘Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?’ He said, ‘Baptist.’ I said, ‘Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist church of God or Baptist church of the Lord.’ He said, ‘Baptist church of God.’ I said, ‘Me too! Are you original Baptist of God or are you reformed Baptist church of God.’ He said, ‘Reformed Baptist church of God.’ I said, ‘Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist church of God, reformation 1879, or Reformed Baptist church of God, reformation of 1915?’ He said, ‘Reformed Baptist church of God, reformation of 1915.’ I said, ‘Die, heretic’ and pushed him off.
As we will see that is an apt warning to the church today.
The Corinthian church was very much like us - surrounded by a society that had no moral compass and was confronted by a religious maelstrom.
We are looking at this letter through the prism of grace and peace (verse 3) which only comes from the Father and the Son.
We have been looking at the following so far in this epistle: called holy by God, people gathered to call upon God, being recipients of God’s grace, being enriched by God as He gives us good gifts so that we can testify to others about Him, waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus, and above all the faithfulness of God.
These are all high things until we hit a bump – it is where the mindset of the world enters the church.
We will look at:
1. Causes of Divisions
2. Our Attitude to others
3. Being Christ-centred
1. Causes of Divisions
Division is, in summary, caused by the weakness of man and the wiles of Satan – but will unpack that!
The word ‘divisions’ does not mean schisms but dissensions, it does not mean splits but internal factions.
The first camp belonged to those following Apollos. This preacher had arrived at Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla had completed the conversion of this intelligent and eloquent Bible student from Alexandria so that he was no longer disciple of John the Baptist to becoming a fully-fledged follower of Christ. Apollos was recommended to move to Corinth to minister among Jewish population, where he was successful – but a party grew up around him without His approval.
This camp of Apollos could be seen as the more ‘progressive’ section – those that wanted to move ahead and into those mission fields that were open. They wanted things that were exciting as Apollos was eloquent and he had the Alexandrian methods of interpreting the Old Testament (probably allegorical). Apollos contrasted with poor presence and feeble diction of Paul with possible eyesight problem. We can see Paul thinking what others are saying ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’ (2 Corinthians 10: 10)
The second camp belonged to those following Paul – they knew where they were with him as they had came to know Christ under his ministry.
The third camp stated that they followed Peter, who was the older disciple and the leader of the original Twelve. He had probably not visited Corinth but he represented the mother church in Jerusalem. They wanted tradition as Peter was more inclined to listen to those wanting to introduce elements of Judaism (see Galatians 2: 11 – 16).
The last group might seem innocent and non-partisan in saying that following Christ, but ironically they had became a party in themselves. There is the temptation to become either ‘holier than thou’ or wanting to bury heads in sand without addressing the issue that the church is facing.
We may not follow particular people but there are still hobby horses that we might ride – pet doctrinal viewpoints that do not matter, ways that we might want done in our way; so in turn we in turn prevent God working in His way.
There was sense of pride and arrogance within the camps, all of which they were thinking that right.
In Galatians 5: 20, the causes of divisions can seen as a work of the flesh - discord, selfish ambitions, dissension (literally ‘variances’), factions, could also be the result of jealousy.