Sermon: “Sanctified, Enriched, and United in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:1–17)

by Feb 10, 2019Sermons0 comments

The church at Corinth was a mess. The Apostle Paul had planted this church (cf. Acts 18), but the reports he was receiving indicated that the church had drifted far from where they were when he left them. They had become proud, rebellious, schismatic, scandalous, and individualistic. In this letter, Paul must address many sensitive, painful issues, exhorting the Corinthians to return to the simple purity of the gospel, and to reform their lives accordingly. Still, while most of us may have been tempted to launch into criticisms, correction, and rebuke, Paul models apostolic love and wisdom. Instead, he begins in the salutation and thanksgiving of his letter to remind the Corinthians of the gracious work that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in their lives.

Only after reminding them to the holiness to which they have been called through their union with Jesus Christ does he exhort them, beginning with their divisions over teachers and baptisms. In this first section of his letter Paul begins with a call back to holiness in Christ that expresses itself through unity in the church. Indeed, Paul writes, personal fellowship with Christ demands nothing less than relational unity with Christ’s people. Or, to put this another way, in 1 Corinthians 1:1–17 we see that you cannot have the whole Christ without the whole Church.

”Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-17, ESV

May God bless the reading and hearing and preaching of his word as we consider it together this morning.

A few months ago, I went to the doctor for a what was a relatively routine physical examination. I was eager to get it done and most of this went just fine. Until it came time to use the stethoscope to listen to my heart, and the physician said, “hmmm”. You never want the physician to say, “hmmm” about anything about your examination especially when it concerns your heart.

Especially when it pertains to your heart. Then she informed me that I have an issue called an S-1. In case you’re not a physician, what that means, is that your heart is supposed to go ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom, and the first part of that ba-boom part is supposed to be united. Where is mine was split, so it was ba-ba-boom ba-ba-boom and that’s not so good. They said eventually, once I had done another test and they evaluated it, they said it’s not the bad thing we were worried it was. So, I can just go on the way with this heart issue.

What had happened was, apparently there valves in your heart, it’s been a long time since I took biology and anatomy, but apparently there are valves in your heart and there are a couple of them they’re supposed to close at the same time. My timing was off a little bit, so they were not closing at the same time, which apparently won’t kill me at the moment. I haven’t dropped dead even once yet, but it’s something to monitor into the future, I guess.

Now when things like this happen you get a diagnosis, you get sick, you pull a muscle you realize how many parts of your health you take for granted. Again even if you just pull a muscle and you think to yourself over the coming days, “I had no idea how often I was regularly using that muscle in the course of my normal daily activities because every time I do normal things suddenly I experienced a whole lot of pain.” It’s because we take so many things for granted.

The general health of our bodies, the health of our systems like our circulatory system, our respiratory system, our nervous system, all of the systems of our body even down to the organs of our body, even down to the various parts and components of those organs, in the tissues even down to the cells and components in the cells of our bodies. All of these things are held up by the word of our God’s power.

We take it all for granted so often until something goes wrong and we are reminded that our health is a gift from God and that he gives it to us until he wants to call us home. We are dependent upon him until and through that.

First Corinthians is a letter about the health of the body. Not the physical body so much, but the Apostle does have things to say about our physical body at the end of the book in 1st Corinthians 15. But the health of the body of Christ. In 1st Corinthians 12 we read that the body of Christ is made up of many members many individuals. Paul says is that you have different members who are like different organs or tissues that are malfunctioning, we take that for granted because that can cause deep problems in the church even if it is what seems to you like something on the other side of your body. However, you figure out at some point or another that you took that half for granted and how much it actually does affect you.

We start our study of this great letter this morning here’s the big idea of this first section of this passage of this letter are big idea is this:
You cannot have the whole Christ without the whole church.

We are going to see in the passage three callings:

    1. We are called to Holiness in Christ.
    2. We are called to fellowship with Christ.
    3. We are called to unity by Christ.

We are Called to Holiness in Christ.

”Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, ESV

Let’s look at this first section, the first three verses, where we received that Paul tells us. we are called to holiness in Christ. Just in the way that if you sat down to write a letter your letter would more or less look like my letter would look; dear so-and-so here’s what I want to tell you, sincerely me. There’s this general pattern that we used to write letters. In the ancient world there is also a general pattern that anyone who sat down to write a letter would also generally. In this letter, Paul is following that general pattern.
In ancient letters you would start by listing your name who you are as the sender of the letter. Then you would list the recipient who you intended this to reach. Then you would offer a general greeting to these people that you are writing too. Paul does this in versus one through three respectively.

Even though we see that Paul is following a pattern, he’s not just doing it thoughtlessly. This isn’t just sort of perfunctory well wishes that Paul says to get to the good stuff. Paul has something to say that’s very important that he says later in this letter. Here he’s setting that up, establishing the foundation of this letter.

Let’s look at the author. First, he says Paul, then he further defines who he is. Not as though there were multiple Pauls and Paul had to distinguish who he was. He’s telling us something about his identity, but about his relationship here. Paul’s telling us that he’s an apostle, “Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”

Paul, right out of the gates, asserts his authority in relationship to the church in Corinth. Apostleship symbolizes his authority over this church as he writes to them. Paul doesn’t always assert his authority as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, but later on we see in chapters four and nine that Paul’s apostleship is in question. So, Paul starts by setting it up by saying, “Understand what I’m going to say. I’m an apostle the Lord Jesus Christ so when I speak to you, I’m speaking as the personal representation of the Lord.”
Paul says another thing by listing Sosthenes as a co-author. He’s not only listing himself as an apostle but also a brother to Sosthenes thus by extension a brother to the Corinthians. Two postures that will see again and again in this letter one is the posture of an apostle to the church. The other is the posture of brother on equal footing with the church.

Paul is going to make use of both of these. In fact, there’s a disproportionate usage of brother the term in this letter as compared to Paul’s other letters. It’s particularly important to report that he’s both an apostle who has something to rebuke in this church. They also have to realize that he’s a brother who cares for them and walks alongside them. So that’s who’s writing this.

Let’s go to verse two. Who is supposed to receive this? We get the general definition when Paul says to the Church of God that is in Corinth. It’s interesting that it is the church of God. The church is God’s possession, it belongs to God. The church specifically in Corinth. It’s further to define who they are. It’s not that they are confused if they’re talking to us or the church across the street. There’s the church in Corinth and you understood that you were connected to one another.

Paul is saying something about who they are. He says first to those sanctified in Christ Jesus. This word for sanctify literally means to make holy; to those who are made holy in Christ Jesus. Charles Hodge says that if you really boil down what’s happening in the Old Testament where the Old Testament is talking about making someone or something holy, there are three elements to it. Number one, to be made holy something has to be cleansed from the pollutions and defilements of sin and death and uncleanness in this world. There’s a cleansing or purification process.

Number two, there’s atonement that has to be made. It’s not just that people are dirty and need to be cleaned, although that’s partially true. These pollutions have to be washed away. It’s also the case that as human beings we have sinned we are guilty and somehow that guilt has to be addressed and atoned for by sacrifice where the blood of someone or something is shed in your place for your guilt to be taken away. Pollutions have to be cleansed; your guilt has to be atoned for.

The third part of this is that you are actually set apart to the holy purposes and use of the Lord. No longer do you exist for your own purposes, for your own desires, for your own time and how you want to use it. Instead you are set apart as holy to the Lord, you are to his purposes for his use as he sees fit.

So what Paul is saying is that you, the church in Corinth, you have been made holy. He goes on to say you have been made holy in Christ Jesus. You have been united and connected in Christ Jesus to in such a way that such a way through your union with him he has taken upon himself your sins, your pollutions, your defilement, your guilt. Jesus Christ went to the cross and blood out and suffered and died for you so that your sins can be atoned for. And so that you can be a cleansed in his blood, your forgiveness, your cleansing, so that you are set apart holy for his purposes.

He goes on from there saying that it’s not only that you were sanctified, you were made whole in Christ Jesus. Then he says something else, you are called to be saints. You have a calling. This is where we get the idea for the section that we are called to holiness in Christ, because the word saint means holy ones.

So, it’s not just that you were made holy, you have this calling to be holy. So, in one sense your holiness is complete. You were sanctified in Christ Jesus. In another sense it’s just starting, and you have a calling on your life. You have been set apart to the holy purposes of the Lord and your calling now is to live that out wherever it’s not yet being lived out in your life.

Who are these saints? Good question. You may know that in the Roman Catholic Church the idea of being a saint is a very difficult thing and very few people attain to the standard of being a saint. In order to become a saint, it’s a very difficult process where we have to evaluate someone’s life and see all kinds of things, have they done any miracles and things like that. Only a very elite special forces division of Christianity is classified as saints.

That’s not how the New Testament uses the term saints. What Paul says is that it’s not just that there’s a couple of you in this midst that may rise to the list of being a saint. He says all of you, and this is all everyone else who’s also believer and Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve been called to be saints together. With all those who in every place, not just Corinth but every place, who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ both their Lord and ours.

The definition of a saint in the New Testament is someone who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does that mean? To call upon the name of someone, this refers to the idea of worship. We see this in the Old Testament and New Testament. To call upon the name of the Lord means to worship him.

Think about this more simply, whenever you call upon someone’s name, whenever you appeal to them, you’re asking that person to do for you what you cannot do yourself. My children call upon my name all the time because there’s all kind of things they can’t do.
I hear Daddy and sometimes it’s significant and sometimes it’s not, such as “Daddy, Daddy I need you to see this thing that you won’t care about”. I go running because I need to do this thing for them. Sometimes they are calling upon me to do what they cannot do for themselves. Sometimes they do need me to reach something they cannot reach or do something they cannot do themselves. That’s why they call upon me.

When we call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in this context, Paul’s saying you’re calling on him and asking him to sanctify you. You’re asking for him to apply everything that he has accomplished in his life and in his death and in his resurrection and in his ascension to being seated at the right hand of the father to you. Not just that he’s done it, but that he said he will give it to you and whoever looks to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith. Recognizing that we can’t make ourselves righteous, but we are looking to Jesus to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. All those that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ are saints.

In the third verse Paul gives us the greeting. He says grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you don’t recognize that, you aren’t coming here quite early enough. It’s an encouragement to come early right when we start, because when I start, I greet you all by this phrase that Paul uses again and again. It’s a good word for the church to hear as we enter into worship.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The grace Paul is talking about is the foundation of our salvation, the source of all God’s blessings for us in Christ Jesus. It comes to the Father and from the Son. When we talk about peace there, we’re not talking about the beginning, but about the completion, the end, the perfection, the totality of God’s blessings for us in Jesus Christ. This little phrase covers the entirety of our salvation. Grace to you and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, this initial section this salutation of Paul to the Corinthian church looks more or less like all ancient letters would look. However, Paul is very specifically saying something here that we need to pay attention to. That in Christ, the grace of God calls sinners both to be sanctified and to live as saints. So, there are two applications to this.

      1. This is a call to be saints in Christ Jesus. The grace of God calls you to salvation this morning from wherever you are. The grace of God calls you to enter into God’s holiness wherever you come from this morning. Some of you are sitting there this morning saying, “Pastor, you don’t know where I’m coming from, you don’t know what’s in my life. You don’t know what skeletons are in the closet of my past. You don’t know where I was last night, where I was this morning before coming here. How can you tell me I can be holy before God?”

        The answer for you, as it is for all of us, is that you can’t be on your own. You can’t make yourself holy, you can’t sanctify yourself, you can’t take away the guilt from your life. You can’t set yourself apart for the holy uses of God, but the gospel announces that in God’s grace he sent his beloved son Jesus Christ into this world to be holy on your behalf. He sent him to live a holy life where you failed, to die the death of the curse of God against all unholiness instead of you having to go through it. This promise that you will be justified by faith in Jesus Christ is the promise that the God holds out to all people.

        The first application is to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of justification, that all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. What are you waiting for? Have you looked to him in faith? Are you trusting Jesus to do for you what you cannot do for yourself? Wherever you are coming this morning, there is no sin too wicked or defiled too beyond the blood of Christ Jesus.

        Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      2. Not only does God’s grace call you to be sanctified from where you are, but God’s grace, his love toward you in Christ Jesus, is so perfect that he refuses to leave you where you are. The grace of God is not an entitlement to continue in your misery, continue in your sin. God’s grace says come out of that. Not only are you sanctified in Jesus Christ, but you are called to be holy, called to be saints.

        Peter says it this way in 1 Peter 1:15, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” The Holy Spirit of God is supposed to transform and reconnect all that you do in all of your life, which is a work in progress. This is the doctrine of sanctification. Your justification is perfect in Christ and yet your holiness is not totally fully worked out and we are called to continue to work in out by the grace of God as God continues to work his holiness in us through Christ. You are both sanctified and called to continue growing as a saint.

We are called to holiness in Christ.

We are Called to Fellowship with Christ.

”4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, ESV

Right here from the beginning Paul has this major idea about holiness. If you are in Christ, you are called to be a saint not because of who you are but because of who Christ Jesus is for you. This raises an important question, who then is Christ for you? What he does, what is he doing, what will he do, why would he do any of this for you? This is where Paul turns in this second section, in verses four through nine.

So first we saw that we are called to holiness in Christ. In this next section we are called to fellowship with Christ. If you want to look at verse nine, this is where I’m taking that description from, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, we are called to be saints and we are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord. Typical of ancient letters, we have the greeting, the sender, the recipient, now we come to the thanksgiving. We are rushed westerners so we want to get right down to business, because why would you waste your time, but in the ancient letters you wouldn’t do that. There’s a hospitality to it where you would first give thanks to the person you would write to. You say why you are thankful for this relationship that you are furthering by writing to them.

So, Paul is, as is typical of many of his letters, he says something like what he says in verse four, “I give thanks to my God always for you because …”. Here’s where things get interesting. Again, Paul doesn’t have the form letter of thanksgiving that he gives for churches. He’s telling us something specific that he wants this church to know because this is the information that’s going to become pertinent to the rest of this letter. We will see more of this in the coming weeks and months. In these few verses Paul lists out a past, present, future, description for the way that God has been at work in Corinth.

He starts with the past, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.” That happened. The grace of God was given to you in Christ Jesus. What does he mean by that? Paul tells us two ways that the grace of God was given to them in Christ Jesus. In verse five he says, “that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”

Paul is saying that part of the way the grace of God manifested himself among you is that you were given the gifts of speech and of knowledge. By speech, it refers to the gifts of prophesy, teaching, and tongues. Then he’s talking about knowledge and the gifts of discernment and doctrine. You can think about knowledge as the gift of content and speech how to communicate that content. He says you have all of those gifts. That’s the first way the grace of God has manifested himself in your midst.

The second way is found in verse six, “even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” He’s talking here about the reception of the gospel. Jesus Christ was preached and proclaimed in your midst. Then you believed upon him and you saw the gospel taking root in your lives. You saw people who lived entirely unholy lives washed and transformed by the gospel. You saw lives changed by the gospel. That’s the past. That’s what we all agree upon and have seen happen.

Verse seven takes us into the present. If all of this is true, where does this leave us? What is the status that this leaves us in in the present? Paul says, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift while you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are familiar with the Old Testament prophets, the day of the Lord was a big deal. It referred to the day of the coming judgement of God. It was a day of darkness and terror. The prophet Amos writes in 5:18-20

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
Why would you have the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, and not light,
19 as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?”, Amos 5:18-20, ESV

Notice here the day of the Lord that Paul is talking about here is the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, that’s in verse eight. The revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ will be the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are talking about the day when Jesus Christ returns as the righteous judge. That’s coming in the future. Until then you are not lacking in any spiritual gift. You are totally equipped for ministry and mission in the meantime.

Why does God do any of this? Paul tells us in verse nine, “God is faithful.” In other words, God is the definition of faithfulness. God is the standard by which all faithfulness is judged. Faithfulness is one of the great attributes of God. The characterizes faithfulness. What Paul says is that it is this faithful God who has called you into the fellowship of his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The calling here, you have been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s what is theologically called the effectual call. In theology there is a general call that God makes to all people everywhere. He proclaims the gospel to all people everywhere that all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ will be saved. But there is another call that is linked all the way into the roots of the faithfulness of God where this kind of call comes to someone to open their eyes, ears and hearts, to receive the call of the gospel and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

He says the way that you know that you will be sustained all the way to the end is the faithfulness of God. “The work that he has begun to do in you, he will be faithful to complete.” it is what Paul writes in Philippians 1:6. This is also something that Paul writes about in Romans 8:28-30. He talks about the faithfulness of God and what we should glean from this.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.Romans 8:28-30, ESV

There’s that unique effectual call that grips the mind and the heart and lifts our eyes to see the salvation in Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, our salvation rests in the faithfulness of God.

So, what should we glean from this? So, Paul says if you know this is true, you have all confidence, no matter what comes your way. Paul continues in Romans 8:31,

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day in God
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31-39, ESV

The love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is what Paul is talking about here when he says that we are called into the fellowship of God’s son, Jesus Christ our Lord. If we are called into that by the Lord God himself, who could possibly overturn that? No one and nothing in creation can.

What Paul gets at in the thanksgiving section is that he is giving thanks for the faithfulness of God in the lives of the Corinthian believers. So, he is saying because God is faithful, all those who believe in Jesus Christ may have confidence not only for today, but for all eternity into the future. If you know that God has begun to work, you may be certain that he will continue to work all the way into our glorification.

How do we apply this? This confidence that we are to have, because we know that Jesus Christ himself will sustain us until the end, guiltless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This confidence expresses itself in two ways. Number one we express our confidence by continuing to call upon the name of the Lord. Every day we fall short. Every day we cannot continue to sanctify ourselves. We cannot continue to muster up the grace needed to live out our calling as saints. So, we continue to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is just as necessary now as he ever will be.

The means by which Jesus Christ continues to sustain us is in the fact that we no longer lack any spiritual gift as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Use your spiritual gifts. What you were given is not just for you. It isn’t saying that each one of you individually is lacking nothing. But he’s saying that the entire church, all together, y’all or all y’all if you’re from the south. All y’all are lacking in nothing. Which means that the gifts that you have I need. And the gifts that you need I have. This works all the way across the church which is why the unity is of critical importance. Which is the final section that Paul turns to.

We are Called to Unity by Christ.

In the last section, first Paul said we are called to holiness in Christ. Second, we were called to fellowship with Christ. In this final section he says we are called to unity by Christ. The word calling doesn’t appear clearly in our English translation, but in verse ten you see the word I appeal, or I exhort. That’s a compound word that means to call alongside of. Paul is saying that he is the coach coming alongside an athlete who is exhorting, correcting, teaching, encouraging.

When he is saying I appeal to you, I exhort you brothers. I’m on equal footing with you in all this. By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as an apostle who is a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, I appeal to you positively that all of you agree, negatively that there be no divisions among you, positively again that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. This isn’t bland sameness, but as David Garland writes, “They are to be like a chorus singing harmoniously from the same page of music, not like a cat’s concert with each howling his or her own cacophonous tune.” They are supposed to be more like our music team this morning, singing different parts together.

The problem is that there are divisions, as he says in verse ten. Don’t think of this as an entire splitting apart of the church. The word here for divisions is also used in Mark 1:19 when Jesus found James and John in their boats mending the tears in their nets. The whole cloth of a net and in that there are just little splits here and there and the cloth is divided from itself. Paul is saying that can’t be. Within the church there can’t be these little divisions, you must be united thinking the same thing, accomplishing the same thing together.

He goes on to say that the division seem to be involved around teaching, some people gravitate towards Paul or Silas or Cephas (that’s Peter) or Christ (that’s probably the people with the right answer but the wrong attitude.) He goes on to say that there are also issues with baptism. Then he makes a big deal about the fact that he didn’t baptize a bunch of people because Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel.

The issue that he gets to in verse thirteen. He says, “Is Christ divided?” The way the he phrases this, it’s expecting an affirmative answer. Is Christ really divided? He is because his body, the church is divided amongst itself. The next question is phrased with a negative expectation. Paul wasn’t crucified for you. Why would you divide among yourselves because Paul wasn’t crucified for you?

So Paul urges them, saying whatever division you have they are unimportant because either way, whether it’s over the teachers or the outward signs in worship, but if you just focus on those they are distracting you from the Lord Jesus Christ who is the focal point.

What Paul is saying is that you cannot have the whole Christ without the whole church. So, Paul then turns on this last verse, verse seventeen which is more of a transition to the next section. He says that the important thing for us to be united around, what must be at the top of our priority is the cross of Christ. Eloquent words and baptisms aren’t the issue, but the cross of Christ must not be emptied of its power.

When we see the cross of Jesus it overturns human wisdom and power. The cross magnifies the evilness of human sin, the righteousness of God against sin and the love and mercy of God for sinners. Here’s how to apply this.

Application

Ask yourself, in this church who do you gravitate toward? Who are the easy people to spend time with? The opposite of that is who are the people who it’s hard to spend time with, the ones you sort of find yourself inching back from? Here’s the issue. These little splits, whatever the issues are, splits turn into distance. You keep your distance as you are evaluating other people, distance turns into suspicion. Suspicion then turns into distrust. Distrust then turns into full out division.

So, here’s the question we have to be asking ourselves. Understand that there are lots of ways to divide, age splits such as too old or too young. Marital and family splits like too married, too unmarried, too many kids, not enough kids. There are socioeconomic splits, too rich or too poor. There are political splits, too Republican or too Democrat. There are racial and ethnic splits.

Jesus says that these things must not be so in his church. If any of these get elevated to the top priority, as important as the gospel is in addressing all the various aspects in our lives and callings, if we are arguing amongst ourselves about these things then Jesus Christ is demoted from his throne to be just one agreement amongst many. It might be natural to gravitate towards those who you feel most connected to, but it’s not accepted.

Here are a few ideas. Children, you know your friends who don’t have a lot of friends and are people who might be hard to get along with. Could you figure out ways to include those people in your games? Everyone else, could you find a way to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know well right after this service? Could you invite someone into your home for a meal? Could you honor someone very different from you by seeking their advice?

Paul’s point is that we cannot have fellowship with Christ (when Christ’s body is equipped with every gift, but the gifts are split up amongst different people) unless you have the whole church. So, brothers and sisters I appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, be in agreement with one another. Let there be no division among you. Be united in the same mind and the same judgement with one another.

Father, we pray that as we consider your word that you would unite us. Not with surface level unity, but with the unity that we have in Christ. We pray this in Jesus name and for his glory. Amen.

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