There is a pressing need for unity within humanity, as well as a potential power within it for God’s Glory.
When Paul was confronted with a problematic group, among all the problems, the first one he addressed was the splits and quarrels among them (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). For Him, this is an issue to be dealt with first.
Why was there contention among them? Here are some reasons:
1. A man from Alexandria named Apollos was converted to become a believer. He was the second leader of their group in Corinth. Although “he was mighty in the Scriptures” and eloquent in public speaking, he had some deficiencies in teachings, which Aquila and Priscilla lovingly corrected.
2. Some of the believers in Corinth developed a special loyalty to Apollos which led to friction as some pledged loyalty to Paul, and some to others beyond. Some pledged loyalty to Cephas, some to Christ. But Paul rebuked them because such quarelling is unspiritual. The resulting problem is Factionalism/ Disunity.
As much as the ancient civilization of believer in Corinth need unity, so are we today in the post-modern times. Why?
1. Unity is attractive to many people today because many people are tired of divisions, uncertainty and confusion. That’s why one reason that cults thrive today is because they are united. There is power in being together.
2. This book tells us the reality of life, or even organizational life. Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up around them. Infants and children quarrel if they don’t get what they want. Friends fight, lovers quarrel, family members, businesses fight, nations fight even to the point of war. Indeed, divisions are real.
The SOURCE OF ALL FIGHTING IS THE SAME: MAN’S DEPRAVED, SELFISH NATURE.
1. There’s this truth about human nature- man is naturally sinful, selfish, self-willed. We are naturally egoistic. Even believers are not exempted to fall back into the self-centeredness.
2. The heart of all sin is the ego, the “I”… All men were born by Adam and Eve are naturally selfish and dominated by its chains, except those born again in Christ.
3. When sin is unrestrained, conflict, quarrels, are unstoppable.
4. James said, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). The cause for all conflicts, quarrels, and fighting is selfish desire
The Beauty of Unity
1. But if there is unity within a people, there is joy. Unity leads to joy. Disunity leads to despair.
2. Even the Savior Himself, in his high-priestly prayer, asked His Father that his people will be one (John 17:11, 21-23). His desire is to have a United People.
v.11 “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[a] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
3. When the people at Pentecost was united, they bore great fruit to the world and pleased and glorified God.
4. The first need of the Corinthian Church is Unity. It is also a need of many organizations today.
So Paul gives Basic principles of Unity:
1. One Identity: We are One Family
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1:10)”
a. Paul appeals to them as brothers. They are quarreling, but they are still his brothers and brothers to each other, and should be as one family in harmony. If there’s one group in the world that will stay together, that’s the family. If there’s someone who will accept you no matter what, that’s your family.
b. Our Identity is the Basis of Unity
c. The spiritual unity of our Master is to be manifested in the unity of each member in the local church.
d. Because we are one in fellowship with the Lord, we should be one in fellowship with each other.
e. Our unity in our Master is the basis of harmony with each other.
f. Our identity is the launching pad of our behavior. Our identity is the basis of unity.
g. We carry the Name all our lives. When we sin, complain or quarrel, we harm the name of Christ, our fellow believers. We dishonor the Lord.
h. The source of all unity is Jesus Christ Himself. We keep unity by living in the Spirit.
2. One Confession: Doctrinal Unity
a. “that you all agree”- Gk means that you all speak the same thing/confession. Speaking the same belief is the basis of uniting with one another. If there’s one thing that unites an organization, is the common belief to one particular confession, or creed or goal.
b. For a local church to be spiritually healthy, there must be doctrinal unity.
c. Some professing Christians will set aside the teaching of absolute truths because truth divides.
d. However, God’s truth are always in harmony. Truth does not contradict itself.
e. Paul appeals to them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ- that is His Word, His Will…
f. As a church, we are called to be in agreement with God’s revealed truth; not just in agreement to be a group with common interest.
3. One Spirit: Spirit-led Leaders
a. Of course, there will be minor disagreements from time to time… but they key to unity is always having godly leaders who are united in the will of the Spirit.
i. There will never be a perfect leader, but there will be Spirit-led leaders who lead the flock.
ii. We can only know a counterfeit if we know what is genuine.
iii. In the same way, a church must be led by people who are close to the Lord so they can discern things that are contrary to the Spirit of God.
iv. If such men lead, there is unity in faith and believes, and unity follows after.
v. “We request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
vi. In God’s design, children are to be under the rule of their parents. So as God’s people, are to be under the rule of God’s leaders.
vii. God’s people are to follow godly leaders given by God- not question or attack them.
1. Hebrews: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (13:17).
2. A member who strongly disagrees with his church leadership and policy not to mention doctrine, cannot be happy or productive in His own Christian life or be of any positive service to the congregation.
b. The purpose of unity is always for God’s glory. Unity brings blessings to the congregation and joy to the leaders.
4. One Pledge
a. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1:11-12)
b. One claimed loyalty to their former pastor, the other to their second pastor, the other group to the other Apostle, and the last had a self-righteous claim to belong to Christ. Paul seems to perceive that they were not in the right Spirit. Perhaps they didn’t see the need to belong to a human leader.
c. People clung to their favorites. It could be the natural way of a man to be loyal to the pastor/ leader who led them to Christ. But without God’s leading, such loyalty will divide us and will decrease our loyalty to other human leaders God has given. Self-willed exclusiveness becomes the enemy of unity.
d. The only cure for quarrelling is renewal of spirituality. It is best if they learn Scripture passages on carnality and sin.
5. One Priority: The Spread of the Gospel
a. I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. (1:14-17)
b. Crispus was the leader of the synagogue in Corinth
c. Gaius was probably the Corinthian “host”
d. Jesus did not baptize anyone personally (John 4:2).
e. Paul faced the danger of creating his own cult; and so he declared, I thank God… that no man should say you were baptized in my name.
f. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. This comment gives an interesting insight into the inspiration of Scripture. As an apostle writing the Word of God, Paul made no errors; but he was not omniscient.
g. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. He was not sent to start a cult of people baptized by him.
h. His calling was to preach the gospel and bring men to oneness in Christ, not in baptizing to create a faction around himself.