Summary: The church was designed to be an irresistible community. Yet people are not always drawn to it. How can we change that?
1. An Irresistible Community: 1 Corinthians
March 7, 2010
1 Corinthians: Unity and Division: (1:10-17)
1 Corinthians chapter 1 starting in verse 10. Last week we made our way through Paul’s introduction and greeting in his epistle to the Corinthians. It is apparent that Paul has some bond with this church even in the first few verses. Paul is thankful that his testimony was confirmed in the lives of the Corinthians.
Paul tends to be a passionate person. His zeal for God and love for the church are obviously seen throughout his writings. Paul truly loves the church, and he truly loves the people in the church. So our text today will reveal a definite passion and sort of desperate plea from Paul to the people of Corinth.
Since the Holy Spirit started working in the world it has worked toward one great purpose: to bring unity to the church. If you follow through the book of Acts to see when the Holy Spirit shows up and gives gifts to people it gave gifts so that the church would accept people of different groups. First it was to approve of Christianity as the path to God, then to the Samaritans as able to be part of the church, then even the gentiles. The Holy Spirit has been working since its arrival to bring the church to a unified relationship with God, and with each other. You can almost see Paul’s struggle as he writes this section. He has been working, pouring out himself for the church. It is by his blood, sweat, and tears that the church has been founded in many places and now: the church is caving in on itself. For Paul this is like watching his very own child destroy his or her life with bad decisions. The church in Corinth is Paul’s child. He lover her and cares for her like she were an actual child of his. So when he hears report that she is dividing and there is conflict in the church you know he is less than happy. You can almost feel Paul’s heart in this text: So let’s get started with verse 10:
1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
One of the major problems facing the Corinthian church is disunity. The Christians are loyal to different leaders and fighting among themselves about it. The reasons for these divisions are not stated explicitly nor are the nature of their disagreements. From verse 11 we learn that there are quarrels among those in the church. Paul’s appeal, his earnest request is for the church to be unified. In fact this is so important that Paul pleads with them in the name of the Lord Christ Jesus Himself. This is not the reluctant request of a timid man, this is a powerful besiege in the name of Jesus Himself. Paul is not only passionate about protecting church unity, Jesus is too. Unity is extremely important to God.
The church congregation in Corinth was divided into cliques. They split following different leaders. Paul rebukes this harshly. He states very strongly that believers ought to be one in mind and thought. He will go into more details in later verses as to why, so we will talk about that when we get there.
1Co 1:11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.
We do not know much if anything at all about Chloe’s identity or importance. In fact if it were not for the patriarchal culture of that day it would not even be clear if Chloe was a man or woman. Anyhow what appears to have happened is some members of Chloe’s household bumped into Paul while he was in Ephesus. These members may have mentioned the troubles in causal conversation as they just so happened to bump into Paul, or they may have left Corinth to find Paul and report these issues. Either way Paul gets the message. The church is quarrelling and divided.
Paul takes this division seriously and so he sits down and begins to pen an epistle to the church. After Paul’s greeting he moves right into his primary reason for righting. The most important issue on the agenda…church unity. Paul knows just how dangerous division can be, and he means to deal with it before it gets any worse. So straight off the papyrus Paul begins pleading, besieging the church to be unified.
1Co 1:12 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.”