More than likely, we all have been there... waiting in our seats for a meeting start. Everyone is already half situated, glancing at the clock anxiously every couple of minutes. Finally, the meeting time arrives, someone stands up and declares, "Now, let's get down to business!"
This is somewhat what I envision as Paul transitions abruptly from the first nine verses of 1 Corinthians to the "business" now at hand.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
Paul begins addressing this division by describing three things that unite us as Christians, or three things that we are to be united by. Paul is not teaching unity at the cost of doctrine, in fact, we will see exactly the opposite. It is doctrine that unites us, and it is doctrine that sets us apart.
THE FIRST thing we see that we are to be united by is the person of Jesus Christ. Paul wastes no time at all in calling out a serious division that had taken over this church. And Paul very strongly couches his discussion of this division within the larger context of Jesus Christ's authority. The title for Jesus that Paul uses here: "Our Lord Jesus Christ," is used to emphasize the complete authority of Jesus in passages where it is used.
Paul, citing the complete authority of Jesus Christ, calls the Corinthian church to be “perfectly joined together.” The word used here (katartizo) conveys the idea of repair, mending, setting in place, as in a dislocated limb. My two-year-old son dislocated his elbow a little while ago. I saw first-hand the incredible pain at even the slightest movement as my son lay perfectly still, no movement whatsoever, for fear of bringing on the pain of the dislocation. It was extremely painful to set that elbow back in place, but it was immensely surprising to see how quickly the pain when that which was divided was “perfectly joined together.” Schisms and divisions in the church can be just as debilitating and hindering to the work the church is trying to accomplish as that dislocated elbow was for my son.
Not only is Christ our authority, but Paul also emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 1:13, that Christ is our Saviour. “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” It is as unnatural for Christians to be divided is it is to believe that Christ was divided or that Paul could somehow have purchased our salvation!
In 1 Corinthians 1:17, thirdly, Paul draws out that Christ, our authority and our Saviour, is also the one who has commissioned each of us and together given us the task of reaching our world with the Gospel. We are not to emphasize and get hung up on personality; we are to lift up Christ and be united in what Jesus Christ has done for us!
SECONDLY, not only should we be united in Christ, but we are also to be united by the Cross. It is the cross, more than anything else in all of scripture, that reveals to us the power and wisdom of God.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,”
It is the cross that empowers our preaching. This doctrine of the cross alone is effective for salvation. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” There is no wisdom, religious or secular, that can explain away the power of God’s Word, the power of the Cross. Paul shows the Corinthians:
· How God has pronounced all worldly wisdom to be follow (vs. 19-20)
· Experience had proven the insufficiency of human wisdom to lead men to a saving knowledge of God (vs. 21)
· God has ordained the Gospel to the great means of salvation (vs. 21-25)
· Even the experience of the Corinthians themselves shows that it was not wisdom, power, or ability that secures salvation for men (vs. 26-30)
· It is all about God, not about me or you, and that should unite us, bind us together as we proclaim the power of God to a world that is powerless to come to God any other way.
Paul finishes out the first chapter of 1 Corinthians by pointing, THIRDLY, to the calling that these Corinthian believers had and how that ought to unite them.
- 1 Corinthians 1:26, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:”
We see this in salvation, not because God is being selective (2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord… is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”), but because God does not use wisdom, might, or nobility to call people to salvation. In service, just as in salvation, we are not called to be wise, mighty, or noble. We are not to focus on those abilities and talents that we may have. We are called to rely completely and only upon the power and wisdom of God!
- 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things that are wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
The Bible is very direct with its expectation of unity among the believers. Just look at Proverbs 6:16-19. Again, this is not unity at all costs, but rather unity around three very specific things: Christ, the Cross, and our Calling as believers.
· If someone is not right on Jesus, they cannot be right with God. There is no basis for unity with people that do not believe what the Bible teaches regarding Jesus Christ.
· If someone’s teaching about the cross is wrong or if they place more priority on something besides the cross alone for salvation, there is no basis for unity.
· If someone’s calling for life or ministry is in a different direction than that laid out in scripture as our purpose as Christians, there is no basis for unity.
Everything we are and everything we will be is because of Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:”
We must be united in one over-riding purpose of life: That God would be glorified!
- 1 Corinthians 1:31, “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”